Every July a team in the NBA hopes to shift the balance of power by bringing in a big name free agent and this off-season will be no different. There may not be a long list of superstar players in this year’s class but this is the deepest free agent pool we’ve have in quite some time and with all the cap space available this July coupled with the jump expected in 2016, it’s going to make for a very intriguing off-season.
This free agency special targets a specific crop of players and list what would be the best fit for their talents and the team’s needs but also indicate who they will likely ultimately sign with.
Marc Gasol – San Antonio Spurs
The chances of Gasol leaving Memphis were slim a month ago and they’re even lesser now that he will reportedly meet with only the Grizzlies while overseas in Spain. That being said, an organization like the Spurs with one more year of Tim Duncan and then a Kawhi Leonard/Tony Parker pair to team up with is an excellent trio going forward. You couple that with the expanding cap space and just the way this franchise has been run by R.C. Buford and it’s hard to imagine you wouldn’t be a consistent championship contender.
All of that seems to be somewhat of a pipe dream, let’s just hope for Gasol’s sake they could find a couple of shooters to help their offense.
Realistic landing spot: Memphis Grizzlies
LaMarcus Aldridge – San Antonio Spurs
Much like Gasol, Aldridge would be a great fit in San Antonio and some could even argue a better fit than Marc for the simple fact of he being a true power forward whereas both Tim Duncan and Gasol are centers. The other ingredient that has somewhat been missing for the Spurs since Duncan has continued past his prime is a scoring threat like LaMarcus. Tony Parker has had some moments where he’s seemed unstoppable over stretches in a game, but Aldridge is kind of unstoppable all the time. LaMarcus has averaged 22.2 points per game over the last five seasons and posted a double-double average each of the last two seasons. At six-foot-eleven with a nearly automatic mid-range game, LMA could do wonders in San Antonio next season and beyond.
With the Blazers shaking things up by trading away Nicolas Batum and the strong possibility of losing Wesley Matthews, it’s hard to imagine a reason why Aldridge would opt to return to Portland when there will be championship organizations seeking his services.
Realistic landing spot: San Antonio Spurs/Portland Trail Blazers
Kevin Love – Portland Trail Blazers
For the record, I don’t really believe Kevin Love will leave Cleveland this off-season. He very well may do so next July when the salary cap makes a big jump, but I see him returning. That being said, Love can sign a one-and-one contract with plenty of teams next season and why not seek an opportunity in Portland with a dynamic Damian Lillard alongside him? Especially considering the obvious fit he wasn’t in Cleveland this season. Love would return to personal glory as a focal point in Portland’s offense and while he may not be a championship contender in year one, the Blazers would have a very good chance in returning to the playoffs and accelerating that process next July when the cap takes a significant jump.
The more likely scenario is Love signing a one-year deal with a player option in Cleveland and perhaps testing the market after a potential NBA Championship under his belt.
Realistic landing spot: Cleveland Cavaliers
Paul Millsap – Houston Rockets
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey would have to get creative in order to have enough cap space to bring in a player like Millsap, but seeing that he dealt both Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik last off-season I refuse to put anything past him. Trading away Trevor Ariza and Terrence Jones would be a start for Morey as they would free up over ten-million in cap space by doing so. As we all saw, the Rockets aren’t very far away after a run to the western conference finals, but one of their glaring weaknesses was the lack of a second scoring option.
That’s where Paul Millsap comes in.
James Harden doesn’t need another player who can fill it up like he does, but a secondary option that can give you about 17 points per night (Millsap averaged 17.3 over his last two seasons in Atlanta) is all they really need. And the other positive with Millsap is that he’s a very solid stretch-four which is something the league covets now. He has vastly improved his overall game over the course of his career and has now become a reliable three-point shooter as he’s taken just under three attempts per game his last two seasons and made them at a 35.7 percent clip. A perfect fit for Houston.
Morey may be saying he expects a quiet summer, but he’s as slick as it gets in an NBA front office. Sort of like the New York Yankees with their free agent spending over the years, I’ve learned not to count out Morey until the player signs on the dotted line elsewhere.
Realistic landing spot: Atlanta Hawks
DeAndre Jordan – Atlanta Hawks
This is another scenario that I would like to see happen but certainly don’t expect it to. I don’t like DeAndre Jordan at the price tag he’s expected to command but there’s no doubt about his defensive and athletic abilities. Easily the best rebounder and rim protector in the league, Jordan would provide something that the Hawks sorely lacked in this year’s postseason as they were getting beat down by Cleveland’s frontline of Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson. Losing a Paul Millsap is nothing to sneeze at, but this Hawks team may actually benefit from moving Al Horford to the power forward spot and sliding Jordan in at center.
I don’t think it would benefit Jordan at all if he went to a team that didn’t have a good passing point guard. I think Chris Paul helped his game considerably and DeAndre needs to consider that wherever he plans on going. Dallas doesn’t seem like a good fit at all.
Realistic landing spot: Los Angeles Clippers/Dallas Mavericks
Greg Monroe – Milwaukee Bucks
Recent reports of Greg Monroe wanting to go to a team “ready to win” makes his seemingly inevitable signing with the New York Knicks not so much of a guarantee anymore. The Knicks would still be a very good fit for Monroe, but if he really wants to be a part of a good up-and-coming team than the Milwaukee Bucks would be a no-brainer for him. The Bucks could already be a candidate for 50-wins next season with a healthy Jabari Parker and an expected Khris Middleton re-sign. Add Monroe to a team with those two plus Michael Carter-Williams and Giannis Antetokounmpo? Monroe would be the oldest player in that starting lineup at age 25 on a team that already took a 26-win jump a year ago.
Ultimately I think the fit in the Knicks offense, the possibility of playing with Carmelo Anthony and the allure of playing in New York may be too much for Monroe to pass up. No disrespect to Milwaukee, but a young kid choosing between the two places to live? That could be the difference.
Realistic landing spot: New York Knicks
Brook Lopez – Milwaukee Bucks
Former Brooklyn Nets head coach Jason Kidd, now of course with Milwaukee, has been rumored to be interested in bringing Brook Lopez on board. Now if you told me they’d be adding a player of Lopez’s offensive abilities without the injury history he has I’d say it would be a home run signing. But his nagging foot injury, lack of defense and reported asking price – three years, $60 million – is too much for my taste. Those factors aside, as mentioned previously with Greg Monroe, Lopez would be a nice fit on this young Bucks team in need of a low-post scoring presence.
Ultimately it’s hard for me to see anyone willing to give Lopez that kind of money outside of the desperate Brooklyn Nets. That organization should be thrilled he declined his player option and slam the door shut as he walked out, but Billy King is one of the worst general managers in the league and his owner may even somehow be worse. Expect Brook back in Brooklyn and on the shelf again at some point over the next two seasons.
Realistic landing spot: Brooklyn Nets
Wesley Matthews – Memphis Grizzlies
Jeff Green picking up his $9.2 million player option made this a tough get. The Grizzlies are in desperate need of shooting and Green does not provide that at all. After they presumably re-sign Marc Gasol and add his $20 million to the cap, they’d be left with approximately six million to try and sign someone. That wouldn’t be enough to land a Wesley Matthews but trading away Courtney Lee’s $5.4 million could open that door? I’d suggest trading Green but I don’t know who would want a player getting paid about five million too much and provides incredibly inefficient offense and not very good defense. Doesn’t sound like a great mix, does it?
Matthews would be a great fit in Memphis, he grinds it out with the best of them and a defensive pairing on the wing of Tony Allen and Wesley Matthews would be a nightmare for opposing players. This is one move I really hope to see because Memphis isn’t far off from title contention. They just need to surround their trio with some shooters.
There’s no real frontrunner at the moment for Matthews. Some have speculated the Knicks as an option, but if they’re seeking Arron Afflalo that would of course take Wes out of the running. A team like Toronto could really use a guy like him. Terrence Ross has been a bust and DeMar DeRozan is a good player but not a great shooter. Going to the east and playing with a team that’s won back-to-back division titles could entice Matthews.
Realistic landing spot: Toronto Raptors
Monta Ellis – Indiana Pacers
Ellis has had to somewhat revive his reputation in Dallas and as a result he’s come at a bargain price of just over $16 million combined over the last two seasons. Now he’s looking for a sizable increase. Monta is an underrated scorer in this league as he’s averaged 19.3 points over the course of his ten-year NBA career. The Pacers are in desperate need of some scoring help and reports are they are interested in Ellis.
Indiana was fortunate enough to see David West opt-out of his $12.6 million number for next season but didn’t receive the same luck with Roy Hibbert and his $15.5 million. The Pacers are almost rebuilding on the fly here and it started on draft night with the selection of Myles Turner. They may not return to the conference finals next season even with a healthy Paul George, but they’ll get back in the playoffs if they can add Ellis. George, Ellis and Turner to go with almost $40 million in cap space when the summer of 2016 hits and one of the league’s best coaches in Frank Vogel, the Pacers would be back in contention in very short order.
Realistic landing spot: Indiana Pacers
DeMarre Caroll – Memphis Grizzlies
Much like Wesley Matthews, Carroll would be a great fit in Memphis. He’s almost like a Tony Allen who can shoot which is scary. Carroll isn’t the defender Allen is of course but seems like the prototypical Grizzlies player at the “Grind House.” But as mentioned with Matthews, Jeff Green opting-in severely damaged their hopes of adding a legitimate shooting wing player that they so desperately need. And to boot, Carroll may be looking for something in the range of four-years, $50 million. Probably not something Memphis is looking to do.
Detroit on the other hand is looking for a small forward and preferably one that can shoot so Stan Van Gundy can surround Andre Drummond with outside threats like he did with Dwight Howard in Orlando. They’ll have just under $17 million in cap space this summer, more than enough to bring in Carroll.
Realistic landing spot: Detroit Pistons
Arron Afflalo – New York Knicks
Reports started surfacing quickly of the Knicks interest in Afflalo and I’m not sure there’s a better fit for the eight-year NBA veteran. It’s a huge hole that needs to be filled for New York and Afflalo is one of the better well-rounded shooting guards available this off-season. Afflalo isn’t just a 3-and-D player, he has the ability of creating his own shot and has proven to be a capable scorer in this league averaging 16.7 points in his three seasons prior to 2014-15 where he was eventually traded to Portland in an effort to provide depth before injuring his shoulder in April. Afflalo of course won’t be needed to score at that rate with Carmelo Anthony and potentially Greg Monroe, but he’s a significantly bigger threat than a Danny Green would be who is strictly a catch-and-shoot offensive player.
Realistic landing spot: New York Knicks
Rajon Rondo – Sacramento Kings
This contract season probably couldn’t have gone worse for Rondo. He was starting to show some resemblance to the Rondo of old before being traded in Boston (8.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 10.8 assists) but his time in Dallas was a complete disaster. The rift with head coach Rick Carlisle and ultimate dismissal from the team in the playoffs was well documented. And for a while it was presumed that after all this Rondo could end up in Los Angeles with the Lakers, but after drafting D’Angelo Russell it’s hard to see that as a possibility.
With both DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay in Sacramento, I don’t think a scoring point guard is what this team needs. A player with the ability of Rondo who certainly knows how to run an offense and put his teammates in the best position to score could be worth the gamble for just one season. Of course he and George Karl could clash, especially since Karl is the type of guy who would backstab his own players, but in an effort to change your fortunes and take a chance on who used to be one of the most impactful players in the league has to be worth the gamble for a season, right? A lineup of Rondo, Ben McLemore, Rudy Gay, Willie Cauley-Stein and DeMarcus Cousins has some very high potential, doesn’t it?
Realistic landing spot: Unknown
Danny Green – Indiana Pacers
Green may be the most likely free agent to get overpaid this off-season. The definition of 3-and-D, he most certainly provides value to a team looking for players who play within the team concept. And what better of an organization to come from than San Antonio, right?
That’s probably what the Milwaukee Bucks thought when they signed Gary Neal in the summer of 2013 and he has since been traded twice. Granted Neal didn’t receive a hefty pay-day – just $6.5 million over two seasons – but Green might. With the cap jumping up in 2016, there are tons of players looking for substantially more than their worth to make up the difference in two years. And when you have players like Ed Davis seeking 8-9 million, you’d have to imagine Green tries to at least get ten, right?
I don’t doubt that he’ll be able to help a good team and serve as a solid role player, but Green is basically a Steve Novak who can play defense and I just have a hard time paying players who are completely taken out of a game if you face-guard them. I need a little bit more if I’m going to pay you an eight-figure salary.
Indiana would be a nice landing spot for Green but if they sign Monta Ellis then they won’t have enough to bring him in as well. With the Spurs intending to re-sign Kawhi Leonard and add a big gun like LaMarcus Aldridge I don’t see Green going back there, either. So as previously mentioned with Wesley Matthews, Toronto should be in the market for a shooting guard and could be a nice fit there. Detroit could be a destination as well.
Realistic landing spot: Toronto Raptors/Detroit Pistons
Expect a lot of movement this July and a lot of short-term contracts since everyone is bracing for the cap jump in 2016. If I had to take a guess, I’d say at least eight of the thirteen free agents listed in this blog will be on new teams come October.
Let the fun begin.
Featured image: metro.us