We are in for a wild fucking ride this NBA offseason. Every one of the other 29 teams in the NBA have one goal in mind: catch the Warriors. Some teams are in a much better position than others to get there sooner rather than later. The draft helped some teams. The Sixers and Lakers got their facilitators of the future in Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball. Trades will help some teams too. Just about everyone has an offer on the table for Paul George. But in the modern NBA, the best way to improve your team fast is to sign a max free agent. And this free agent class is a fairly large one. Let’s go through where each of them may land, or at least would fit well. The top two free agents are Kevin Durant and Steph Curry, but they are largely expected to remain with the Warriors. Why would they leave? Here are the rest of the top free agents and where they may end up.
Sometimes, the best move for a free agent is staying put. Gordon Hayward has a good situation in Utah. He, George Hill, and Rudy Gobert have a very solid core with many versatile role players around them. Defensively, the Jazz are elite and are capable at the offensive end as will. They are steadily improving under breakout head coach Quinn Snyder. However, there are large enough question marks in Utah for Hayward to consider a move. George Hill may be out the door (we’ll talk about him later on) and that would leave the point guard position as a hole. Maybe Donte Exum takes over that spot, but he has no experience as a starting NBA point guard. Also, even if George Hill stays, the Jazz still are far off from the Warriors. Hayward may look to move east.
REUNITED AND IT FEELS SO GOOD! REUNITED CAUSE WE UNDERSTOOD! Yes that’s right, Gordon Hayward and his college coach at Butler, Brad Stevens, may be together once again. “BUT JUSTIN, GORDON HAYWARD HAS PLAYED LONGER FOR QUINN SNYDER THAN HE DID AT BUTLER FOR BRAD STEVENS”. True, but Hayward and Stevens made back to back NCAA National Championship games together. Hayward and Quinn got swept in the second round. Hayward knows he will have a better path to the finals and will fit better in Stevens’s system. Especially when the Celtics are reportedly in position to trade for Paul George after signing Hayward, according to NBA insiders, such as The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Celtics could really use someone besides Isaiah Thomas that can create their own shot. And Gordon Hayward is a somewhat capable defender as well. I’d say he’s an all-around upgrade over Jae Crowder. (Let’s not forget that we cheered his name last year and Jae got pissed.)
NBA insider Marc Stein reported that Miami has a much of a chance as Boston of prying Hayward from Utah. Pat Riley always seems to get his shot to meet with free agents, as he should, the guy is a legend. An asshole in my opinion, but a legend nonetheless. Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside with Hayward would be just as good of a core as the one in Utah. And, sorry Jazz fans but we all know that #NightLife is better in South Beach than Salt Lake City. Just ask my fellow writers who spent a spring break down there. If Hayward has the mentality of “ehhh, fuck it nobody is beating the Warriors”, he could have a blast in Miami.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook needs some help. Blake Griffin may realize he isn’t winning anything on the Clippers. This could be a lethal pairing. New Lob City. It may be tough to make the money work for OKC if Russ signs the super-max, considering how much they gave Oladipo and Adams. But if Sam Presti can pull it off, Griffin could be a great pairing in the front court with Adams, those are two big dudes. Offensively, Griffin would take some of the load off of Westbrook’s shoulders. If this happens, no rim would be safe with the Thunder in the building. These two can both throw down.
Blake Griffin appears to be plan B for the green if they strike out on Hayward. And it makes sense. Although Griffin isn’t as great of a shooter or shot creator as Hayward, he could be a good inside presence while Al Horford spreads the floor more. He also immediately helps, but granted doesn’t completely fix, the defensive rebounding woes the Celtics struggled with last season. Griffin also doesn’t create a log jam at the 2-3 positions that Hayward would. The Celtics are reportedly trying to get Paul George, and already have Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. This is all assuming that Crowder is already gone.
The Nuggets reportedly want to upgrade at the power forward position. Alongside Jokic, Griffin could put up monster numbers for Denver. Both big men are very skilled passers. Denver made a very late surge and crept toward the postseason, coming up short behind the Trailblazers. Just based on the additonal talent, Griffin could spring Denver to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
Los Angeles Clippers
Let’s not jump the gun, Chris Paul could stay put, especially if Blake does too. But both he and Blake will have alot of suitors. Do the Clippers really want to run it back again? Year after year after year they make the playoffs and collapse because of injuries or something unfortunate. A change of scenery might do them some good, but they also might feel like when healthy they are so close so why not. Could Chris Paul also stay with the hope of getting a certain Banana Boat crew to come join him in LA?
San Antonio Spurs
Man, I would love to see this happen. Chris Paul going to the Spurs alongside Kawhi Leonard and Lamarcus Aldridge would be the closest thing to a challenger to the Warriors in the Western Conference. Let’s not forget the Spurs were up 23 in the third quarter of game 1 WCF before Kawhi was taken out by Zaza. CP3 seems like the perfect player for Pop. He plays defense at an elite level, makes smart decisions all over the court, and is both an elite passer and scorer. The money might be tough to work through and Aldridge may actually have to go because of this, but still CP3 in San Antonio would be a force to be reckoned with.
New Orleans Pelicans
By all accounts, the Pelicans will move on from Jrue Holiday at point guard. And Tim Frazier, no disrespect, isn’t the best option as a starter. A homecoming would be a nice story for CP3 and he would have the tools to make another Lob City in Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins. That threesome could potentially make a nice run at something. The Pelicans are in need of a facilitator and outside shooter, both of which Paul is. But can he pass up staying in LA or playing for Pop?
Toronto Raptors (?)
It’s unclear if Kyle Lowry wants to stay, as I’ve heard polar opposite ends of the spectrum. Kyle Lowry seems to like it there and he is best friends with backcourt mate Demar Derozan. But have the Raps peaked? They added PJ Tucker and Serge Ibaka at the deadline and still got smacked by the Cavs. Just like the West wants to get away from the Warriors, Lowry might be sick of getting tossed around by Lebron and the Cavs. But, he also could stay and hope that Toronto lands another star to get them over the hump.
San Antonio Spurs
It has not really been reported, but I would think if the Chris Paul thing doesn’t work out, the Spurs could be interested in Kyle Lowry. He is a great point guard and ideally, I think Pop wants to move Tony Parker to the bench. For all the same reasons I listed for Paul to go to the Spurs, Lowry could excel as well. He is not as good as Chris Paul, but he is still an elite point guard the Spurs may look to add if they can’t pry Paul.
Apparently, the Wolves are all set with Ricky Rubio and want a different point guard (can’t blame them). Combining Lowry, who shouldn’t be the number one option with Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl Anthony-Towns would be something special. Like, one of the top seeds in the west special. I don’t know if this team could beat the Warriors, but it may be able to stick together long enough in the players’ prime to outlast them.
The Rockets want to add another star around Harden. And Millsap, a jack of all trades all-star caliber big man could be just the guy. He played very well in Atlanta, but there is a mutual feeling that he will not be staying there. But his defense and scoring helps Houston on both ends. Harden and Millsap could make some noise out west.
Much for the same reasons as they are interested in Blake Griffin, Denver is also rumored to be pursuing Paul Millsap. He is a better outside shooter than Griffin and may even be a more versatile and lethal front court pairing alongside Jokic. I think this may be where he ends up. Paul Millsap in Denver just sort of makes sense in a very solid way.
There is reportedly a mutual interest for Ibaka and the Raptors to stay together, but the $$$ are a question mark. He anchors their defense and provides a nice secondary or tertiary scoring option. Serge isn’t the elite defender he once was, but is still a good rim protector and decent rebounder, and the Raptors could use both from him next season.
That could be an elite defensive frontcourt with Hassan Whiteside, but one that could be limited shooting in today’s league. But still, if he is available the Heat may go get him anyways. They could have the space to add Ibaka in addition to Hayward, which would be a very nice offseason for the Heat.
Without getting too repetitive, Denver wants a better power forward than Faried. Ibaka could be the third choice for the Nuggets if they lose out on Griffin and Millsap.
Short and sweet: if Hayward stays, Hill may very well too. He would be looking to improve a team on the rise.
San Antonio Spurs
It feels like ages ago, but George Hill was once a Spur. He was traded for Kawhi and I bet is salty he never got to play with him. Maybe he will take matters into his own hands and makes it happen. He is a very solid point guard that the Spurs could pick up for less than the max if Chris Paul doesn’t happen.
If they tempt him with more money than any other suitors, Hill could end up in Sac-town and be a great veteran mentor to Dearon Fox. This isn’t a raging rumor, but it has been noted that this is a possiblity. Hill at least provides Sacramento with some stability. He isn’t a top 10 point guard in the league, but you know what you are getting with Hill, and Sacramento could use that.