Beginning July 1, NBA teams will be looking to lure several free agents. Some of these free agents are talented enough to make or break franchises. For the sake of good order, we won’t be listing those free agents who have already announced their intentions.
For instance, while LeBron James is technically a free agent, he has announced that he will stay in Cleveland after bringing home the franchise’s first title. He will basically craft a new contract with the Cavs. Barring any major developments, Kevin Durant is likely signing with the Oklahoma City Thunder since it makes most sense financially. With a new salary cap kicking in, many teams now have the means to sign any player. Here are the top free agents for 2016:
1) Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons)—Averaging 16 points and nearly 15 rebounds per game last season ensures that Drummond will get a near maximum contract offer from the Pistons amounting to at least $20 million a year. As a restricted free agent, the Pistons have the chance to keep him and match the offer sheet of any team. Drummond has all the tools to become the next dominant big man but his free-throw shooting is the biggest impediment. With more and more teams opting to play small ball, Drummond will likely end up in a Pistons uniform next season.
2) Hassan Whiteside (Miami Heat) —Drafted 33rd in 2010 and almost forgotten, Whiteside was waived by Sacramento in 2012 and took the long route to get back in the NBA including a stint in China. The Heat, after being depleted by various injuries in 2014, took a chance on Whiteside and discovered a gem in the rough. Fast forward to this season and he has emerged as the league’s leading shotblocker. His other numbers (14.2 points and 11.8 rebounds) will be a huge upgrade at center for most teams in the league. He is reportedly being wooed by the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Lakers.
3) Al Horford (Atlanta Hawks)—Al Horford’s numbers won’t be impressive to most but he is arguably one of the most versatile big men in the league. Additionally, he does all the other things (e.g. shutting down the post, setting good screens, making mid-range jumpers, etc.) that help his team succeed. The Thunder are reportedly interested in making a run at the do-it-all center after trading away Serge Ibaka. Even if he is in his 30s, he will make a positive impact wherever he goes.
4) Nicolas Batum (Charlotte Hornets)—He is only one of five qualified players to average at least 14 points, six rebounds, and five assists during the regular season joining the rarefied field of James, Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. Batum is also a do-it-all player who actually plays defense and is considered the complete package. He will command a near max contract as an unrestricted free agent.
5) DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors)—He is their team’s leading scorer and model citizen but he really is a below-average defender who doesn’t shoot well from outside. The Raptors will try to keep DeRozan with Kyle Lowry as their core but stranger things have happened. The Raptors are on the verge of being a contender and their next moves will be crucial in deciding their future:
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Dirk Nowitzki, Mike Conley, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Bradley Beal