10 bold predictions for 2017 NBA free agency
2017 NBA free agency is nearly upon us. These 10 bold predictions should help these next couple of days pass quickly before the madness ensues.
It’s almost that time of the year. The time when the offseason craziness officially tips off in the NBA. Yes, that’s right — 2017 NBA free agency is almost here!
More than seasons past, it’s looking like there could be some significant movement this offseason. A number of big-name free agents are expected to at least test the market, with some seeming likely to seek out a change of scenery. Either way, it’s sure to be an exciting first few days of free agency.
Unfortunately, it’s not here quite yet. That’s why I’ve decided to put together a few “bold” predictions to keep things interesting while we wade through all of the rumors. The days leading up to July 1 will certainly offer us a lot of possibilities, but I wanted to take it a step further by looking at some unlikely but intriguing scenarios.
Just remember that these are bold predictions–they’re meant to push the limits of logic. There are a few in the mix that stand a decent chance of happening, but most offer long odds at best. It’s in your best interest to take them for what they are — brazen looks at how things could hypothetically play out when free agency begins.
With that out of the way, let’s dive right in. So here are my 10 bold predictions for 2017 NBA free agency, with the emphasis on big names making moves and some of the league’s most popular teams failing to make their presence felt.
Someone signs Andre Roberson to near-max deal
Every once in awhile, we see a team desperate to add talent dish out an overpriced deal. Just look at the Los Angeles Lakers and the contracts they gave to Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov last offseason. So why couldn’t a similar situation arise during 2017 free agency?
That’s what’s going to happen with Andre Roberson this year.
There’s a lot to like about Roberson, at least on the defensive end. He’s an outstanding defender out on the wing, which is well known throughout the NBA. That was made clear with his recent selection to the All-Defensive Second Team. However, there are also several holes to his game, specifically when it comes to shooting.
Roberson is not a legitimate offensive threat. Sure, he can knock down the occasional three and averaged 6.6 points per game this past season. At the same time, his true shooting percentage was only 51 percent, which isn’t exactly an impressive number.
That defensive prowess, though, will have him laughing all the way to the bank this offseason. While I wouldn’t go as far as saying he’ll get a max deal, someone is going to severely overpay for him. When that time comes, the rest of the league will laugh at the idiocy of the deal — and the huge financial hole said franchise is now in.
Paul Millsap decides to stay with Hawks
Since Paul Millsap opted out of his deal in late May, there’s been a ton of speculation on where he’d end up next. Teams such as the Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns have all been mentioned as potential landing spots for the veteran power forward.
It seems just about every team interested in making a splash this offseason is planning on giving Millsap a call when the new league year begins on July 1. And yet, it’ll be for naught when all is said and done.
That’s because I’m predicting Millsap will end up re-signing with the Hawks. Why is this considered a “bold” prediction? Well up to this point, it’s essentially been assumed he’d be taking his talents elsewhere. The team has reportedly prioritized bringing him back (via ESPN), but likely won’t be willing to pay what other potential suitors will.
A hometown discount isn’t out of the question, though. Even with Atlanta seemingly headed toward a rebuild, Millsap appears comfortable with the franchise. He hasn’t been one to jump from team to team, and that shouldn’t change in 2017.
Whether the Hawks fork up the dough or Millsap takes a paycut, look for the 32-year-old power forward to be back in Atlanta this upcoming season.
76ers offer Otto Porter a max deal, Wizards don’t match
Things are finally looking up for the Philadelphia 76ers. With Markelle Fultz now in town, nearly all of the pieces are in place for the Process to finally take full effect. However, there’s one piece missing at this point — a knockdown shooter on the wing.
They’ve already got the frontcourt taken care of between Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. Then there’s Ben Simmons and Fultz to round out the backcourt. So why not add Otto Porter Jr. to the equation to give this starting five a real boost in the scoring department?
That’s why Philly will step up and sign Porter to a max offer sheet when free agency begins. He’s a restricted free agent, so the Washington Wizards will be given the opportunity to match any offer. The only problem is they’re rather limited in terms of financial flexibility. Especially with re-signing John Wall a near-future necessity, it’s going to be difficult dishing out a max deal for Porter.
So they pass, allowing him to get on board with the 76ers. It would be a shocker, that’s for sure. The Wizards seem determined to bring him back, but that doesn’t mean they’ll pull the trigger when the time comes.
That leaves Washington one step further away from contending in the East. As for the 76ers, they’ve now rounded out their roster and appear to be that much closer to making a legitimate push for a playoff spot. That is, if everyone can stay healthy long enough to see the court together.
Washington replaces Porter with Joe Ingles
What do the Wizards do at small forward with Porter now out of the picture? Well, why not replace one restricted free agent with another?
Realistically, Joe Ingles is a much cheaper option on the wing. Obviously he’s not nearly as talented as Porter, but he’s an underrated role player who can make his presence felt when called upon. Re-watch the Los Angeles Clippers-Utah Jazz playoffs series from this past season if you don’t believe me.
What D.C. gets out of Ingles is a reliable shooter who also plays exceptional defense. He’s not going to stuff the stat sheet or make dozens of highlight-reel plays, but he wins with effort, tenacity and consistency.
More than anything, he’s comes at a reduced price without taking too big of a step down in terms of overall talent. He may not be the young, up-and-coming scorer that Porter was proving himself to be. And yet, he offers more than enough intrigue to help this Wizards team stay competitive in the near future.
I’m sorry, but not everyone can be winners during free agency. The Wizards losing Porter would be a big blow, but Ingles isn’t the worst consolation prize I could imagine. At least the Australian can sink open threes (44.1 percent from deep in 2016-17).
Clippers fail to re-sign any of their top three free agents
This is going to be a dangerous offseason for the Clippers. With three of their top players headed for free agency and another rumored to be on the trading block, Los Angeles could soon be in full-scale rebuild mode.
Well that’s what the future would hold if my “bold” prediction were to come true. In this case, I’m predicting that the Clippers fail to re-sign any of their star players when the market opens on July 1. Yes, that means Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick all jump ship.
They’ll lose all three, but it won’t be due to a lack of effort. Realistically, though, this franchise’s time in the spotlight has come and gone. They were once seen as contenders, but have failed to make it any further than the second round in six straight playoff appearances. For aging players like Paul and Redick, that’s not going to get them the ring they so desire.
With so many teams already lining up to pitch Paul and Griffin, anything is possible. They both appear interested in hearing what other teams have to say. And with the current state of this franchise, it’s not like they have a ton of motivation outside of money to stick around.
When the dust has settled, all three are gone and the Clippers are left with DeAndre Jordan as their lone star. It’s a sad tumble to the bottom for a team that seemed to close to the top not long ago.
Lakers don’t sign a single noteworthy player
We all know what the Lakers’ plan is right now. They’re doing their best to avoid bad contracts so that when 2018 free agency rolls around, they’ve got plenty of spending power. More specifically, they want the space to sign two max-contract players, LeBron James and Paul George.
But just how far will Magic Johnson go to create/maintain said cap space? Apparently further than many of us originally anticipated.
The Lakers already parted with D’Angelo Russell in order to rid themselves of Mozgov’s horrendous contract. There were allegedly other factors involved, but the salary dump seemed to be the sticking point. So why don’t we take it a step further and just assume Los Angeles doesn’t sign anyone of note this offseason?
I don’t think the roster is set in its current state. However, we could see Magic make some late-offseason signings of replacement-level players (like Thomas Robinson in 2016). They’re cheap, can be signed to one-year deals and won’t eat into the team’s 2017-18 cap space.
My guess is they’ll add a depth piece or two, especially considering the current lack of reliable backups at point guard and small forward. When all is said and done, though, the Lakers will not have made a single noteworthy signing. I guess that’s better than overspending on below-average/aging talent…
Chris Paul takes his talents to Houston
All of the rumors right now seem to indicate that the San Antonio Spurs lead the charge to sign Chris Paul. However, in the hypothetical world in which my “bold” predictions live, they decide to go in a different direction. More on that later.
For now, let’s focus on Paul in this hypothetical. He’s already said sayonara to the Clippers. The Spurs have politely passed on the 32-year-old point guard. So where does he go from here? It may seem he’s running out of options, but I can assure you that’s far from the case.
Story going online now: League sources tell me Houston has emerged as an increasingly serious threat to sign Chris Paul in free agency.
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 28, 2017
So he decides to join the Houston Rockets, who appear to be one piece away from true contender status. We saw how deadly their offense could be under the guidance of Mike D’Antoni, who turned this team into a powerhouse overnight. Although help at power forward will likely be prioritized, adding a star guard wouldn’t be the worst idea.
At this point, the Rockets don’t have a ton of cap space to work with. However, with Ryan Anderson, Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams all rumored to be on the trading block, they could make room for a star soon. Once a trade goes down, they’ll have enough space under the cap to secure the talents of Paul.
It would be a bold move, but a terrific one. The Rockets need that one final piece to put them over the top. CP3 would be just what the doctor ordered.
Blake Griffin joins Russell Westbrook in OKC
As unreal as Russell Westbrook was this past season, the Thunder aren’t going to be a truly competitive team in this current state. They need another star who can help the reigning MVP carry the load. That’s where Blake Griffin comes into the equation.
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Going along with my previous prediction, Griffin decides he’s had enough of the Clippers. He’s ready to compete for a title, and it clearly isn’t happening in Los Angeles. However, his options will be limited once Paul signs with the Rockets and the next prediction comes to fruition. So he decides to take his talents to Oklahoma to play alongside Westbrook.
It just so happens the Thunder have a significant weakness at power forward. While Taj Gibson is a capable starter, he’s little more than an average option at the 4-spot. Replacing him with Griffin, however, would certainly up the ante in Oklahoma City.
The obvious issue for the Thunder is cap space (or lack thereof). The team has very little spending power, with so much money tied up between Westbrook, Victor Oladipo and their two big men. Even if they were to unload Enes Kanter, making the financials work would still be difficult. However, if Griffin were seriously interested, I’m sure the front office could figure something out.
Griffin was born in Oklahoma City and played his college ball for the Sooners. With the recurring narrative of “returning home” all too prevalent in today’s NBA, this one just makes too much sense.
Gordon Hayward reunites with Brad Stevens in Boston
Okay, so this probably isn’t the boldest of predictions. In fact, the Celtics are apparently trying to make this happen right now (via Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski) However, seeing as the general consensus is Hayward will re-sign with Utah, it seems worthy of a spot on this list.
So here it is — Hayward will turn his back on the Jazz and sign with the Celtics, reuniting him with his college coach Brad Stevens in the process. The two did plenty of damage during their time together at Butler, so Round 2 of this duo only seems right, right?
More importantly, it puts Boston in position to give the Cleveland Cavaliers a run for their money. Although the Celtics ended up with the best regular-season record in the East, they looked overmatched during the Eastern Conference Finals. Having another star on the roster, though, could make life a lot easier — especially during the playoffs.
The one issue is it would likely take some significant maneuvering to create the space to bring aboard Hayward. That would probably include letting all of their pending free agents walk, which would thin the depth of this roster a bit.
In the end, though, adding another star is what matters to Boston. The Celtics can’t keep settling for second place in the East, and hitting a home run during free agency would help that cause. A Hayward-Stevens reunion could have drastic effects on the Eastern Conference landscape.
Stephen Curry shocks the world, signs with Spurs
Now here’s the bomb of a bold prediction I’ve been waiting to drop.
We’ve heard all of the talk about the San Antonio Spurs targeting a new star point guard to replace Tony Parker. Paul has been at the center of the conversation, but that doesn’t mean he’s the only player in the Spurs’ crosshairs.
So let’s imagine a world where Stephen Curry starts to think about his options. Sure, he could stick with the Golden State Warriors and keep the band together. Maybe they’ll win a couple more rings before salaries become too difficult to balance. Or maybe he decides he’s already got two, and it’s time for a new challenge?
In the latter case, maybe taking his talents to San Antonio is the way to go. He lands with another top contender that needs a new superstar guard, and already has an outstanding supporting cast. He also gets to learn from Gregg Popovich, arguably the NBA’s best head coach. It may not be Golden State, but it’s a terrific alternative.
It would be a low blow for the Warriors, who seem safe to assume Curry will be back in 2017-18. Even Kevin Durant has offered to take a pay cut in order to allow for other free agents to be re-signed. Then again, most people were caught off guard when Durant came to the Bay Area in the first place. What’s to stop Curry from pulling the same shenanigans one year later?
I know there’s about a 99.9 percent chance this doesn’t happen. Worrying about the odds, though, isn’t a part of my process when coming up with bold predictions. If Curry really wanted to turn the league on its head, he’d spurn the Warriors and sign with the Spurs.