Massive free agency period on the cards in 2017 off-season
As the deadline for teams to sign players to extensions passes by for another year, the attention of front offices across the league now turns to those players who failed to secure a new contract for whatever reason. General managers throughout the NBA are finalising their spreadsheets in order to figure out who is available and who they can afford.
Perhaps the most attention this off-season will be focussed on the Golden State Warriors. They managed to re-sign MVP Stephen Curry to a 4 year, $134 million deal three weeks ago, but they will still have a lot on their plate once the season ends. Star acquisition Kevin Durant is reportedly leaning towards opting out of his $27.7 million player option for next season and exploring his free agency options.
Other than that, the Warriors also have Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West, Anderson Varejao, Zaza Pachulia, Ian Clark, James Michael McAdoo and Elliot Williams coming out of contract. If they want to keep the "big four" of Curry, Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green together, then they will probably have to sacrifice most of the players on that list.
It's the same situation they found themselves in when they wanted to sign Durant at the end of last season. They had to get rid of championship players Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli to make room for the arrival of the 2014 MVP.
Another team who could face a tricky off-season is the Los Angeles Clippers. Star Duo Chris Paul and Blake Griffin could both opt-out of players options for next season and become free agents. With their failure to make it past the Conference Semifinals since Paul arrived and with them struggling to hold on to the eighth seed this season, it's not implausible that 31 year old Paul could leave and join a contender in the hopes of winning that elusive championship.
There have been rumours floating around that Griffin would consider returning home to Oklahoma City to play alongside Russell Westbrook if Paul does leave the Clippers. It's unknown exactly how this might happen though as the Thunder really don't have the cap space to sign him or the assets to complete a sign-and-trade deal.
Sharpshooter JJ Redick will be an unrestricted free agent, as will Brandon Bass and Raymond Felton. Role players Luc Mbah a Moute and Marreese Speights have player options, whilst 39 year old veteran Paul Pierce will likely call an end to his illustrious career after this season as well.
One player who could possibly be forced to move on is Portland's Mason Plumlee. The Blazers have $122 million in guaranteed salaries next season already, and that is before they deal with the team options on Festus Ezeli, Noah Vonleh and Shabazz Napier. CJ McCollum's salary jumps by $20 million next season as he enters first year of the 4 year, $106 million extension extension that he signed last July.
Portland have nearly $87 million tied up between Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Allen Crabbe and Evan Turner. With another $33 million combined between Meyers Leonard, Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis. Unless billionaire owner Paul Allen is willing to pay exorbitant luxury tax penalties, it's hard to see Plumlee or Ezeli staying in Portland beyond this season. Perhaps they will look to move Crabbe and/or Turner on draft night to free up some cap flexibility.
There will be a nervous wait for fans of several smaller market teams as the likes of Kyle Lowry (Toronto), Gordon Hayward (Utah), Paul Millsap (Atlanta), Rudy Gay (Sacramento) and Danilo Gallinari (Denver) mull over their players options for next season. Veteran Dwyane Wade is expected to opt-in to his $23.8 million player option with the Bulls.
Denver, Boston, Phoenix and Brooklyn could be the biggest players in the free agent market, depending on how things work out. The Nuggets could have around $30 million to spend if Gallinari opts-out and leaves, whilst the Celtics would have enough to sign a max-level player if they let Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson and Gerald Green walk.
The Suns also have the possibility of landing a big fish if they decide not to match any offers that center Alex Len may receive. Bojan Bogdanovic is the only significant free agent that the Nets will have to deal with. They will be desperate to secure a big name free agent to pair with Brook Lopez and should have over $30 million to spend.
It is going to be fascinating to see what unfolds as this new era of "superteams" is upon us. Will Durant stay in Oakland or leave to be the big dog on his own team again? Will the Clippers implode if Chris Paul leaves? Who is going to grossly overpay Tyreke Evans and Greg Monroe? We'll have to wait and see..