There’s no guarantee we’ll see a superstar swap teams during 2017 NBA Free Agency, but these big-name players are most likely to be wearing a different jersey next season.
As you probably already know, a number of superstars are set to hit the open market this offseason. While that doesn’t necessarily mean 2017 NBA Free Agency is going to be a feeding frenzy, it certainly opens the door for some big shifts in the league’s landscape.
The reason so many big names will be available is because of the ever-rising salary cap. With most stars building player options into their contracts, it provides an opportunity for them to cash in on a rising max year after year. That’s why players such as Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin could theoretically be available come July.
Unfortunately, as we all know, that doesn’t mean much movement should be expected. Typically, these declined player options are nothing more than a formality. More often than not, a re-signing is inevitable. However, as we saw last offseason, superstars can opt to swap jerseys if the situation is right. I’m sure Durant can attest to that.
So how much activity can we expect during 2017 NBA Free Agency? It’s unclear at this point, but we can speculate on the stars who may actually try to find themselves a new home.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the five superstars most likely to take their talents elsewhere this offseason. That doesn’t necessarily mean the odds are in favor of them leaving–just that they stand the best chance of moving on in 2017.
There’s a reason Durant is first on this list — the chances aren’t high he ditches the Warriors after only one season. However, as we saw last offseason, it’s not out of the question for him to stick it to the status quo and sign somewhere unexpected.
Let’s play the what-if game and say the Warriors win it all this season. That gives Durant the ring he had his sights set on when he signed with Golden State in the first place. Could this become a LeBron James situation where he leaves his original team in pursuit of a ring, then returns home once the hardware is his?
It’s unlikely, but not out of the question. Durant showed the ability to spurn public expectation last year, and may choose to do so again. Sure, he’s said up to this point that he doesn’t “plan on going anywhere else” (via the Warriors Plus Minus Podcast). As we all know, a lot can change in a very short amount of time, especially in the sports world.
So yes, as crazy as it may seem, there’s a small chance Durant ends his stay in the Bay Area after only one year. Especially with Durant, Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston all slated to be free agents, there’s a slim chance Durant opts to make himself available if others jump ship. I wouldn’t place any large wagers on it if I were you, though.
Dwyane Wade’s first year back in the Windy City did not go as planned. Although the Bulls aren’t currently in the playoffs, the entire 2016-17 season was characterized by chemistry issues and inner turmoil. Is that really the situation Wade wants to be in as his illustrious career winds down?
I don’t think so.
Luckily for him, there should still be plenty of options if he hits the open market this offseason. Chances are he’ll decline his player option in hopes of striking one more massive deal. When that happens, I’m guessing several teams will be looking to him as the final piece to a contending puzzle. That’ll make staying in his hometown of Chicago a difficult option to select.
Maybe the Cleveland Cavaliers find some cap space to reunite him with LeBron James? Or maybe the Boston Celtics promise him a ring if he takes his talents to the Northeast? Who knows what lies ahead for Wade–I’m sure it’ll be an interesting offseason for him regardless.
When it all comes down to it, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wade end his time with the Bulls early. I’m sure it was great playing where he grew up, but it’s a volatile situation that likely won’t end well. Chicago may unload Jimmy Butler this offseason and watch Wade walk away after one disappointing year. That is, unless they keep this playoff momentum rolling….
Leading up to the 2017 trade deadline, there was a lot of talk about Paul Millsap being dealt. Although the Hawks eventually claimed they wouldn’t be moving him, that likely came as a result of not receiving the types of offers they were hoping for.
Now, Atlanta runs the risk of watching him walk and getting nothing in return. I’m sure they’ll do everything they can to get him back under contract, and there’s a decent chance they succeed. However, with the recent efforts they made to trade him away, I wouldn’t be surprised if Millsap decided to take his talents elsewhere.
Despite his 32 years of age, Millsap still looks like he’s got a few outstanding years left in him. While some wouldn’t exactly categorize him as a superstar, his well-rounded skill set and ability to dominate on either end of the court will entice plenty of teams this offseason.
The Hawks definitely did themselves a disservice by shopping Millsap earlier this year. They may have the ability to offer the most money and years in a new deal, but don’t be surprised if the veteran forward seriously considers finding a new home. There will absolutely be other suitors out there, with some likely offering more contender potential than Atlanta.
Unlike Durant, Blake Griffin wasn’t too happy when recently asked about his pending free agency. Instead of reassuring the media of his eventual return, he seemed to get defensive, insisting that he wouldn’t comment on a decision he couldn’t yet make (via OC Register).
That’s why I’m leaning towards him seeing if the grass is greener elsewhere this offseason. One team that was mentioned often as a potential landing spot prior to the trade deadline was Boston. The team apparently made a significant effort to get a deal done, but couldn’t come to terms with the Clippers before the deadline passed.
As luck would have it, the Celtics may now have the opportunity to get Griffin without having to part with other assets. They’d have to maneuver to create the cap space needed to sign the athletic forward, but shouldn’t have too much trouble doing so. The pending free agencies of Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko will certainly help.
Unless the Clippers make a deep playoff run this offseason, I would expect Griffin to at least test the waters. While Los Angeles can offer the most money, there’s a decent chance the former No. 1 overall pick wants a ring before he hangs them up. Based on the current state of the Clippers, the window is closing quickly for that to happen.
I know Carmelo Anthony technically isn’t a free agent this offseason. However, he is a superstar and he is extremely likely to swap teams in 2017, so it only seems right to put him atop this list, especially when you consider so many of the other names on it are iffy at best to jump ship.
Prior to season’s end, there was already a lot of talk about Carmelo leaving. Leading up to the trade deadline, almost all of the discussion centered around him waiving his no-trade clause and finding a new home elsewhere. Although that never happened, it’s nowhere near off the table heading into the offseason.
In fact, it may even be more likely at this point. Things have gotten so bad behind closed doors that Phil Jackson is now publicly saying Anthony belongs elsewhere. Or, as Mike Vorkunov quoted, Jackson claimed he’d be “better off somewhere else.” Very blunt words from the Zen Master, if his actions even still warrant the nickname.
Either way, it appears this relationship is headed toward an inevitable and ugly divorce. It’s been a great seven years watching Carmelo tear it up in the Big Apple, but it’s time for him to don a new uniform. Look for him to waive his no-trade clause and Jackson to find a trade partner, even if the compensation doesn’t match the talent the Knicks are unloading.