Cleat Geeks

NBA Free Agency 2016 Part 1; Big Fish & Former Franchise Players

The conclusion of the NBA season and the draft brings forth our next big event: Free Agency. Free Agency season kicks of July 1, and it brings with it the endless possibilities for the 30 teams in the league. Let’s examine where the big fish can land, as well as key role players, who have the opportunity to latch on with a contender, perhaps for the final time in their career.

THE BIG FISH:

1. LeBron JamesLeBronJamesEnteringThe Kingdom

On the heels of what is arguably the greatest performances in NBA Finals history, conventional wisdom and popular opinion have James returning to Cleveland for his fourteenth season. The Cavs will be the favorites in the East, and with the emergence of Kyrie Irving it is hard to imagine LeBron finding a better sidekick. The smart money is on LeBron inking another one year deal and cashing in the following year on one of the largest contracts in NBA history.

Prediction: James signs one year deal somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 M and returns to the Cavs.

2. Kevin Durant

Kevin-DurantMuch has been made about Durant and his desire to embrace the free agency process. He has scheduled preliminary meetings with the Spurs, Warriors, and Thunder. Less likely scenarios, such as heading West to the Lakers, or going East and landing in Boston, are also possible. Following a season in which the Thunder were one win away from the Finals, common sense would suggest Durant heads back to OKC. Combine this with the fact that GM Sam Presti pulled off a draft day trade to strengthen an already elite roster, Durant’s contract for next year in OKC is all but a done deal.

Prediction: Durant milks the free agency process, soaks up the adulation of all his suitors, and returns to the Thunder. Much like LeBron, Durant will sign a one year deal for roughly $25 M and look to cash in during the summer of 2017.

FORMER FRANCHISE PLAYERS LOOKING FOR ONE LAST SHOT WITH A CONTENDER:

1. Dwyane Wade

Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Wade is one of the most popular guys in the league, with friends seemingly in every NBA city. The Heat look to be more than one piece away, as their roster continues to age and show signs of deterioration. Loyalty to Pat Riley and the Heat organization could land him back in South Beach, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we see Wade in something other than red and white next season.

Prediction: The pursuits of friends the likes of LeBron James land Wade in Northeast Ohio for a heavily discounted salary. I could see Wade signing a 2 year $30 M deal in hopes of securing his fourth ring.DwightHowardRockets

2. Dwight Howard

Howard’s diminishing skill set and lack of a role in the offense have Dwight on the first flight out of Houston. Mike D’Antoni coming aboard as the Rockets new head coach was the final nail in the coffin. Howard for one reason or another still believes that he is one of the top centers in the league. He will be hell-bent on proving this delusion next season.

Prediction: Howard waffles between New York and Dallas. The lack of opportunities on offense in New York will tip the scales to Dallas. Mark Cuban loves overpaying for bigs, so this may be a match made in heaven. Howard signs for somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 years $51 M and cashes in on his last big payday.

Photo by: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Photo by: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

3. Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk is similar to Wade in his loyalty to his organization. Nowitzki has played in Dallas since 1999, making him a dinosaur by league standards. Dirk never got the chance to defend his title in 2011, as Mark Cuban effectively blew the team up the following season. Dirk has taken home town discounts in Dallas recently, only to see the quality of the team around him fall short of elite.

Prediction: Dirk has an internal struggle leaving Dallas, but chooses to part ways with the Mavs. There will be no shortage of suitors for Dirk, as he will likely come relatively cheap by league standards. Nowitzki lands in the bay with Golden State, to the tune of 2 years $30 M.

4. Joakim Noah

JoakimNoahNoah has been beleaguered with injuries the past few seasons. Coaching and philosophy changes in Chicago have left the passionate Noah frustrated with the organization. The Derrick Rose trade brings in a younger Robin Lopez to fill the 5 spot for Fred Hoiberg and company. Free agent Pao Gasol is also not likely to return.

Prediction: Noah, a Brooklyn native, rejoins forces with his great friend Derrick Rose in NYC. The Knicks have a hole at the 5 and will most likely miss out on the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. Noah becomes the perfect glue guy for the reloading Knicks, signing a short 3 year $35 M deal.

Free agency is when pretenders become contenders, aging stars say goodbye to the organizations they once ruled, and bottom feeders of the league swing and miss on the big fish. With less than a week until the dominoes start falling.

Be on the lookout for Part 2 of my Free Agency coverage, where we will look at the younger players as well as some Restricted Free Agents.

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