Previewing the 20 Biggest Names on the 2017 NBA Free-Agent Market

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2017

Previewing the 20 Biggest Names on the 2017 NBA Free-Agent Market

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    Welcome to the big-name NBA free-agency primer that the world at large has yet to realize it cannot live without.

    To be clear, this is not a ranking of the best available players. Many of the inclusions will be among the most coveted free agents, but eligibility was more about blending relevance on the court with recognition off it. There was, in essence, a "which names are most likely to resonate with random non-basketball fans?" factor.

    Players who obviously aren't leaving their incumbent teams won't earn a spot. The same goes for those who hold team options and have non-guaranteed salaries for next season. 

    Those selected aren't necessarily flight risks, but their situations, for whatever reason, are interesting. How much are they worth? Should they even opt to explore free agency? Will their current team even want them back? Where could they land if they leave?

    Suggested destinations will take into account how much spending power a team can have relative to next year's $102 million salary-cap and $122 million luxury-tax projections. The number of potential suitors for each player will vary depending on how appealing he'll be on the open market.

Notable "We Ain't Going Anywhere, Ya Hear?" Exclusions

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    Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

    Can Stephen Curry begin to imagine leaving the Golden State Warriors as a free agent?

    "I can't," he told the Mercury News' Tim Kawakami in January. "Like I've said from Day 1 when I was first asked about free agency, this is a perfect place to play. Bay Area fans are amazing, our organization's amazing, we've put together an amazing team that's competing for championships every year.

    "There's really no reason that I can see right now that would draw me elsewhere."

     

    Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors (player option)

    Kevin Durant's MCL sprain doesn't change the complexion of his free agency. He can still get a raise by opting out, and the Warriors won't flinch at creating the cap space it takes to re-sign him.

    If Durant is feeling generous, he can agree to play out the final season of his contract in hopes it allows Golden State to retain fellow free agents Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. Whatever he does, he'll do it with the intention of staying put.

     

    Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs

    Retirement is the only thing that will prevent Manu Ginobili from starting next season with the San Antonio Spurs. And pushing 40, retirement is a genuine option, if not the most likely outcome.

    Please excuse me while I go cry tears of nostalgia and anticipatory sorrow.

     

    Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers (early termination option)

    Sources told Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler that Blake Griffin's return to the Los Angeles Clippers is "all but done." Free agency doesn't start for another few months, so things can always change. But even if the Clippers decide to blow up their Big Three, they'll do it via trade, either during the middle of next season or sometime thereafter.

    Letting Griffin, a top-20 player, walk for nothing isn't an option.

     

    Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks (team option)

    Dirk Nowitzki is in Ginobili's boat: He'll return to the Dallas Mavericks or not at all. 

    Since he signed a two-year deal last summer, we'll assume he eschews retirement for one more year. Dallas might decline his team option and re-sign him for far less to carve out more cap space, but that'll be the extent of Nowitzki's foray into free agency.

     

    Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers (early termination option)

    Chris Paul has "verbally" agreed to re-up with the Clippers, according to Kyler. This isn't a surprise. He's the most important member of the Big Three, even at 31, and Griffin has done the same.

    Any eventual divorce scenarios will play out on the trade market if and when the Clippers elect to hit reset.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons (restricted)

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    Precious minutes were spent agonizing over whether Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has the name power to make this list. Sidebar consults were sought. (Hypothetical) blood, sweat and tears were shed before, ultimately, a decision was reached: Caldwell-Pope belongs.

    Even if his brand recognition isn't the strongest yet, it'll get there. He's turned into the Detroit Pistons' best player, so a little projection is fine.

    Caldwell-Pope has added more than twice as much as value to Detroit's cause than any of his teammates, according NBA Math. His per-minute scoring is up, and he's shooting a career-best 37.3 percent from three-point range.

    Head coach Stan Van Gundy has him running slightly more pick-and-rolls (3.9 per game) than last season (3.4), and Caldwell-Pope's improved assist rate belies this uptick in responsibility. He still shoots too many long twos and is driving to the basket less, but the extra polish on his spot-up form helps offset the difference. Surround him with fewer ball-dominators, and his shot selection will improve.

    Some team will throw the 24-year-old max money. Not that it matters. Though the Pistons shopped him leading into the trade deadline, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein, they cannot let their most important player walk for nothing. They'll match any offer sheet he signs.

    Possible Landing Spots: Pistons, Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers

Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets (Player Option)

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    As is a February tradition, the Denver Nuggets entertained offers for Danilo Gallinari ahead of the trade deadline, according to NBA.com's David Aldridge. While he wasn't moved, his place within their big picture remains iffy.

    The Nuggets have all the wings and still need a legitimate star. They have money to burn but shouldn't be getting into Gallinari, a fringe star at his peak, for more than the $16.1 million he's owed next season.

    Teams with a star or two already on the roster won't run into the same dilemma. Gallinari is best with the ball in his hands, but he knows how to effectively exist between being a featured option and complementary sniper.

    His free-throw rate is unprecedented for non-bigs with such modest usage. The last wing to match his charity-stripe frequency while averaging at least 30 minutes per game and a usage rate south of 20 was himself, in 2010-11. After that, you must go back to Detlef Schrempf, in 1990-91, to find a peer.

    Combine this self-sufficiency with Gallinari's 39.6 percent success rate on catch-and-shoot triples, and, in the words of Carl Weathers, "Baby, you got a stew going."

    High-end plug-and-play weapons are hard to find. That Gallinari can almost seamlessly slither between the 3 and 4 without imploding on defense makes it easier for suitors to try prying him out of Denver. If he opts out of his contract, he becomes both a flight risk and candidate to short-term max money.

    Possible Landing Spots: Nuggets, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns

Pau Gasol, San Antonio Spurs (Player Option)

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    Pau Gasol is still relevant at 36, which is wild. He's also coming off the bench, behind super-sub-turned-starter Dewayne Dedmon, following his return from a fractured left ring finger.

    Being relegated to backup duty could factor into whether Gasol exercises his player option for 2017-18.

    Then again, maybe not.

    "I think [Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich] is trying to do a good job of putting the best lineups and how they work together and also maximizing everyone's talents," he said, per ESPN.com's Michael C. Wright. "With the second unit, I have more opportunities to score, to play my game. With the first unit, it's a little more limited...my options."

    Most players on the verge of turning 37 (Gasol does so on July 6) wouldn't opt out of a $16.2 million salary. But Gasol isn't most elder statesmen. He's still routinely playing 25 minutes a night, and his output has hardly suffered amid a downtick in usage.

    DeMarcus Cousins and Nikola Vucevic are the only other everyday players clearing 15 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and one block per 36 minutes. Gasol will have an opportunity to guarantee himself more money over a long-term contract.

    Even then, though, he'll barely register as a flight risk. He'll opt out of his deal and re-sign with the Spurs for less in the name of chasing Chris Paul cap flexibility before leaving for an inferior situation.

    Possible Landing Spots: Spurs...and, well, Spurs

Rudy Gay, Sacramento Kings (Player Option)

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    Rudy Gay may be hesitant to pass on next season's $14.3 million salary after suffering a tear in his left Achilles tendon, but when the alternative is sticking with a DeMarcus Cousins-less Sacramento Kings team, you never know.

    Gay can't even bank on opting in and forcing a trade. The Kings are too much of a wild card. As ESPN.com's Kevin Arnovitz wrote in January:

    Multiple sources say that Gay, who tore his left Achilles tendon on Jan. 18, has remained with the team rather than being dealt away because [Kings owner Vivek] Ranadive believes deeply that the small forward would not leave Sacramento; this despite Gay's stated decision -- before his current injury -- to opt out of his contract next summer and his desire to be elsewhere as soon as possible, a sentiment expressed to the organization repeatedly.

    Suitors won't offer him as much money this side of an Achilles injury. He's on the wrong end of 30, and this type of setback can be career-altering. But he was averaging 18.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while putting down 37.2 percent of his triples before going down. That performance will carry cachet.

    It only helps that Gay played his butt off on defense and thrived away from the ball on offense—attributes portending a smooth transition to role-player status. Almost half of his buckets came off assists, and his 38.4 percent conversion rate on spot-up treys will translate to a team with other lead ball-handlers.

    For Gay, the safest, most effective way out of Sacramento is still by his own hand. If that entails him taking a one-year pay cut to prove his mettle on a contender, then so be it.

    Possible Landing Spots: Kings (if he opts in), Clippers, Indiana Pacers, Orlando Magic

Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz (Player Option)

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    Gordon Hayward is going to be a top-three free agent. The competition for his services should be fierce. It should take him ample time to pin down his best options and make a decision. The process will be complicated. 

    Or, ya know, incredibly simple.

    As The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor explained, Hayward will have eyes for just two teams:

    Virtually any team with cap space should pursue Hayward, but considering his desire to contend for a title, it's difficult to pinpoint a situation better than the one he's in now. The only realistic team with max cap space and a less treacherous road to the NBA Finals than the [Utah] Jazz is the [Boston] Celtics. Brad Stevens coached Gordon Hayward for two years at Butler and the two have a bond that extends back to Hayward's high school days. There have been rumblings about the duo reuniting ever since Stevens took the Celtics job in 2013; if there's one looming threat to Utah for Hayward, it's Boston.

    Utah is a burgeoning beast and can offer Hayward more money and years than any other admirer. But Boston is a progressing power as well. Team president Danny Ainge won't have to obliterate the core to manufacture max space, and the Eastern Conference's road to the NBA Finals leads only through the Cleveland Cavaliers, as opposed to the Houston Rockets, Clippers, Spurs and Warriors.

    If, for some reason, Hayward is feeling particularly flighty, he'll have his pick of the litter. LeBron James is the lone wing eclipsing 20 points per game while matching Hayward's assist (18.5) and three-point (38.7) percentages. No team with the requisite wiggle room will flinch at giving him a max deal.

    Possible Landing Spots: Jazz, Celtics

George Hill, Utah Jazz

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    It's not a big deal that the Jazz failed to reach a contract extension with George Hill. Unless he was offering to sign at a steep discount, they couldn't lock him up without knowing what Hayward is doing.

    Hill, for his part, has no reason to accept below-market value...because the market might decide he's worth a max deal.

    Point guard remains an unfathomably deep position, but teams want floor generals who can switch between both backcourt assignments on defense and deliver hyper-efficient offense. Hill's importance to the Jazz speaks for itself:

    Jazz:Offensive Rating (Rank)Defensive Rating (Rank)Net Rating (Rank)
    With Hill111.2 (No. 3)99.0 (No. 1)12.2 (No. 1)
    Without Hill104.4 (No. 18)103.5 (No. 3)0.9 (No. 11)

    Various injuries have limited Hill to under 40 appearances through the first 80 percent of the season. That works against someone who's on the wrong side of 30. But the Jazz, knowing they remain a net positive without him, must weigh that more than anyone else.

    Mike Conley, Goran Dragic, Kyle Lowry and Chris Paul are the only players notching at least 17 points per game while rivaling Hill's assist (23.4) and three-point (40.9) rates. Enemy general managers will break open their piggy banks to woo him. It's on the Jazz to determine whether they can pay him like a star.

    Possible Landing Spots: Jazz, Magic, Denver Nuggets

Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans

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    Jrue Holiday was supposed to make for a terrific free-agency enigma. He plays like an All-Star candidate when healthy, but this is the first time his availability hasn't been hampered by injuries since joining the New Orleans Pelicans in 2013-14.

    Would that scare teams off? Would his 15.9 points and 7.2 assists per game, plus a 37.1 percent three-point clip, prompt courtiers to throw caution out the window?

    This push and pull might not matter.

    The Pelicans have set his market by trading for DeMarcus Cousins. They don't have the scratch to replace him while fleshing out the rest of the roster and are prepared to offer him a "near-max deal," according to Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler.

    New Orleans would essentially be paying Holiday for long-term concessions he'll need to make besides Anthony Davis and Cousins. He's averaging more field-goal attempts per game since the trade (14.1), but his efficiency has plummeted. As the team adjusts to its new makeup, his role will invariably change.

    Potential suitors were always going to have to outbid the Pelicans for Holiday's services. At this point, anything less than a max contract won't get the job done. And even that might not be enough. 

    Possible Landing Spots: Pelicans, Mavericks, New York Knicks

Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors

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    Andre Iguodala's future with Golden State is in peril.

    Kevin Durant has a player option for next season, and the Warriors don't own his Bird rights. They'll need to re-sign him using cap space if he's looking for a max deal, in which case they won't be able to float both Shaun Livingston's ($11 million) and Iguodala's ($16.9 million) own free-agent holds.

    "But Durant could nix that issue by taking a starting salary of $31.8 million—a 20 percent increase from this season, but about $4 million less than his projected max," the Bay Area News Group's Anthony Slater wrote. "That would allow the Warriors to sign him under his non-Bird rights, freeing them to go over the cap to retain Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala."

    Both Livingston and Iguodala could sign below-market deals emblematic of classic over-30 ring-chasers. But it's hard to see them taking drastic pay cuts when they can get much more from other teams.

    At 33, Iguodala is the more likely of the two to pull a David West, and even he's going to be a hot commodity. He has handled the transition from cornerstone to role player admirably and seamlessly—a la Vince Carter. His accuracy on catch-and-shoot triples has dipped (34.4 percent), but he shoots a jillion percent around the rim (OK, 76 percent) and still rates as a demonstrative plus on defense, per NBA Math

    Plop Iguodala into almost any rotation, and he'll fit. There will be teams ready to pay him handsomely in the short term for his defense and on- and off-ball playmaking. So even if the Warriors can retain his cap hold, they may find out Iguodala is too pricey to keep.

    Possible Landing Spots: Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets

Kyle Korver, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    The Cavaliers knew the risk when they forked over a 2019 first-round pick to get Kyle Korver from the Atlanta Hawks: He might be a rental.

    Cleveland will blow past next season's luxury-tax line even without Korver. LeBron James won't care, but journeying deeper into the red for a then-36-year-old could be hard—particularly if this year ends with another team winning the title.

    For what it's worth, Korver doesn't sound like a guy plotting his escape, per ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin:

    I think everyone talks about championships. Everyone wants to win a championship. But not many people are [about the team]. They want to win a championship doing it their way, you know what I mean? Like, 'I want to win a championship, but I want to get mine along the way.' And I think this team really understands sacrificing yourself and preparing every day and what you have to do to your mind, body and spirit to be sharp through June. I've been around. I've been on some really good teams, but this team really gets it.

    Korver's offensive game has and will continue to age well. Most of his looks come as standstill triples, on which he's shooting 44.6 percent, and he doesn't need to run off 50 screens to get open if he's playing beside incisive drivers.

    That's going to the pique the attention of roughly every team with cap space. Cleveland is the favorite to keep him, but what if Houston decides to quadruple-down on its offensive model? Or, better yet, what if San Antonio is ready to make up for never getting Ray Allen to come out of retirement?

    Possible Landing Spots: Cavaliers, Spurs, Rockets

Serge Ibaka, Toronto Raptors

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    Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri didn't trade for Serge Ibaka with the intention of losing him.

    "I think it's extremely important [to re-sign him]," he said, per TSN's Josh Lewenberg. "It's really important that we're able to do that."

    This doesn't bode well for some of Toronto's other players, both free agents and locked-up incumbents. Shelling out max money for Kyle Lowry should be a no-brainer, but the Raptors' payroll will soar past $130 million if they keep everyone's cap holds. It will climb even higher once their free agents put pen to paper on new deals.

    Collateral damage will be incurred in numerous forms. DeMarre Carroll, Cory Joseph and Jonas Valanciunas will spend the first part of the offseason linked to salary-dumping ploys, while Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker become instant flight risks.

    Ibaka's foray into free agency will be less of a concern if the Raptors pay whatever it takes to bankroll his return. That seems like another no-brainer, until you consider it might take a max contract.

    Since arriving in Toronto, Ibaka is averaging 16.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks on 47.4 percent shooting—including a 45.5 percent knockdown rate from downtown. His development reached its apex two years ago, but he has a little unicorn in him; Kristaps Porzingis and Brook Lopez are the only other players averaging one three-point make per game with a block rate better than four.

    Sticking with the Raptors remains the most likely outcome, but there will be enough money floating around for summertime aggressors to coax Ujiri into some bank-busting decisions.

    Possible Landing Spots: Raptors, Celtics, Nuggets

Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors (Player Option)

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    Kyle Lowry has been sidelined since the end of the All-Star break after having surgery on his right wrist—an injury that, apparently, has been a long time coming.

    "From what I've been told, it's a 10-year process," Lowry said, per the Toronto Sun's Mike Ganter. "It's a long process of wear and tear, and bumping and grinding, and hitting guys. It's a little bit of wear and tear."

    Fortunately for Lowry, this setback won't cost him any money in free agency. He could fail to return before the playoffs or lay an egg in the postseason, and it wouldn't matter. 

    The soon-to-be 31-year-old has been the best guard in the Eastern Conference, ahead of even Jimmy Butler. He's averaging a career-high 22.8 points, draining threes at a personal-best 41.7 percent clip and scrapping on the defensive end. Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James are the only players in the East who have added more value to their team's charge, according to NBA Math's Total Points Added.

    Giving max money to guards on the wrong side of 30 comes with inherent risks. Lowry transcends that downside. His conditioning issues are anecdotal remnants of the past; he leads the NBA in minutes per game, and volume spot-up shooting will extend his career.

    Basically, if the Raptors don't offer Lowry max money, another team will. ESPN.com's Zach Lowe said during a December episode of the Lowe Post podcast that Lowry's hometown Sixers are going to give him a look (via Hoops Rumors), and the only way they or anybody else gets him is if they're paying him what Toronto might not (but probably will).

    Possible Landing Spots: Raptors, Nuggets, Sixers

Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks (Player Option)

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    General manager Wes Wilcox told The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski that re-signing Paul Millsap is the Atlanta Hawks' top priority—as it should be.

    Backing up the max-contract truck for a 32-year-old marries the Hawks to their current core in an almost irreversible way. But they have no choice.

    Al Horford's departure was partially, if ineffectively, masked by Dwight Howard's arrival. There will be no buffer if Millsap bolts. Dennis Schroder's salary hits $15.5 million next season, and cap holds on free agents Tim Hardaway Jr. (restricted), Mike Muscala and Thabo Sefolosha limit Atlanta's flexibility regardless of what happens with Millsap.

    Losing two top-20 players without compensation is not the way to begin a rebuild. 

    Millsap might command or accept less than the max, but he doesn't need to settle. This is the fourth straight season through which he's averaging at least 16 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Three other players have done the same three times during this span: DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. No one else has done it four times.

    Maybe a four-year max will be off the table both inside and outside Atlanta. But, at minimum, you can bet Millsap won't have to look hard for a two- or three-season deal that pays him the 35(ish) percent of the salary cap to which he's entitled.

    Possible Landing Spots: Hawks, Nets, Nuggets

Greg Monroe, Milwaukee Bucks (Player Option)

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    When Greg Monroe first signed his three-year, $50 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2015, it seemed like he would forgo the final season, valued at $17.9 million, to test free agency once again.

    Now? We don't really know.

    Monroe's on-court appeal has plunged as the NBA gravitates more and more away from plodding bigs who don't shoot threes or protect the rim. One executive told the Journal Times' Gery Woelfel ahead of the trade deadline that Milwaukee wouldn't be able to deal him for a first-round pick. Sure enough, he stayed put.

    That player option didn't help matters. Buyers don't want to ship out real assets for a guy who can leave in a few months. At the same, they might not have wanted him to opt in. Almost $18 million is a lot to pay someone, even in the new cap climate, who hasn't started a single game this season.

    Granted, Monroe's place within the Bucks rotation isn't an indictment of his performance. His per-minute production is right where it's been since 2014-15, and he looks exceedingly comfortable on the defensive end. His rim protection is still choppy—especially on rotations. But no big on the team is better at guarding post-ups, and he joins Giannis Antetokounmpo and John Henson as Milwaukee's only defensive positives, per NBA Math.

    In the end, Monroe's decision comes down to whether he can net substantially more money over additional years, perhaps still as a sixth man, than he's owed next season. The reflexive answer is, yes, he can. Yet, with his game being what it is—decidedly old-school—we can't be sure.

    Possible Landing Spots: Bucks (if he opts in), Mavericks, Rockets (Nene replacement)

Nerlens Noel, Dallas Mavericks (restricted)

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    Nerlens Noel went from one of the most obtainable restricted free agents to, well, just another restricted free agent after being traded to Dallas.

    The Mavericks have been after their center of the future for approximately forever. Noel is the closest they've come, because he, unlike Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan in years past, is actually on their team. 

    Head coach Rick Carlisle's offense is made for bigs like this—high-energy, rim-running skyscrapers who have the IQ necessary to make passes on the move. Noel is reacting a beat slower, but that's expected when learning a new system concocted by one of the NBA's most brilliant minds.

    There are moments—tons of them—when it all comes together. The Mavericks often look unguardable spacing the floor around their blossoming diver, and they're hanging tough defensively even as Noel struggles to make the right reads in his new digs. They're a plus-13.5 points per 100 possessions with him in the game—the second-highest mark of anyone on the team since the trade deadline.

    Still, the situation is not without its hiccups. Noel has spent most of time in Dallas coming off the bench, a dynamic that becomes untenable when he's making eight figures per year. 

    Carlisle is against bringing Dirk Nowitzki off the pine, per ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon. Will that change next season? Will Seth Curry get the boot? Yogi Ferrell? 

    Dallas' depth-chart scramble is grounds for a team to swoop in with an offer well above market value—perhaps a max deal. And at that price point, the Mavericks will have to think long and hard about committing to a promising player they've yet to make room for in the starting five.

    Possible Landing Spots: Mavericks, Celtics

Otto Porter, Washington Wizards (Restricted)

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    Which team will be the one to tie up its cap space with a max-offer sheet for Otto Porter in hopes the Washington Wizards don't match?

    Will it be you, Brooklyn? How about you, Philly? Don't worry, Miami; we haven't forgotten about you. Nor you, Phoenix. 

    Washington knows Porter is getting a max offer. It has been one of the Association's worst-kept secrets for months. He's aiding that transparency by averaging career-highs almost across the board as he turns into one of the game's most complete talents.

    Porter is now switching regularly on pick-and-rolls. More than half of his field-goal attempts come off the catch, but he's shooting better than 52 percent on drives. And among the 165 players who have seen at least 125 spot-up looks, his effective field-goal percentage (66.1) ranks fifth, just behind the fourth-place Stephen Curry (66.2).

    That puts the Wizards in a tough position. Porter's pre-contract hold ($11.2 million) still drags them past the cap. They'll be hard-pressed to re-sign him and improve the team. But they trimmed money off the bottom line by sending a first-round pick and Andrew Nicholson to the Nets. They wouldn't have done that if there was even a shadow of a doubt about funding Porter's next deal.

    Other teams have to max out Porter anyway, because that's the game. Capped-out cores are scary. The Wizards could change their mind (they won't). Worst-case scenario, you deprive yourself of spending power for 72 hours. Best-case scenario, you unexpectedly land a top-25 player.

    Possible Landing Spots: Wizards, Nets, Sixers, Suns

J.J. Redick, Los Angeles Clippers

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    J.J. Redick came oh-so-close to joining Blake Griffin and Chris Paul in the "Not Happening" folder. His return to the Clippers, like those of his roundball brethren, is believed to be a done deal, according to Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler.

    Bending to this view for stars is obligatory. It's different for role players.

    Full-blown maxes for someone with Paul's experience (10-plus years) start at around 35 percent of salary cap—about $35.7 million in this case. Players with Griffin's tenure (seven to nine years) can get approximately 30 percent of the cap, or $30.6 million. (These numbers are inexact until the salary cap is finalized, but they're a good baseline.)

    Tack on this extra $66.3 million to the Clippers' $57.4 million in guaranteed commitments, and they're at $126 million, just past the luxury tax. Redick's hold ($11.1 million) lugs that number to $137.1 million—all before the Clippers address the free agencies of Ray Felton, Luc Mbah a Moute (player option) and Marreese Speights (player option).

    Pushing 33 (he turns that on June 24), Redick won't enter the conversation for a surprise max contract. But he's a perky defender who's shooting better than 41 percent from beyond the arc for his career. There's a chance he costs more per year than his $11.1 million hold. 

    Either way, the Clippers' core is about to get ridiculously expensive. And since they can't spin Griffin and Paul leaving for nothing, Redick defaults to flight-risk status.

    Possible Landing Spots: Clippers, Mavericks, Rockets, Spurs

Derrick Rose, New York Knicks

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    Mere days after Derrick Rose disappeared prior to the Knicks' Jan. 9 matchup with the Pelicans, ESPN.com's Ian Begley brought word that the point guard would be looking for a max contract in free agency. 

    He's not going to get it. 

    Certain sectors of Rose's fans are blinded by his 17.9 points and 4.5 points per game. They see him drive and sometimes score, and they think he's back. They think he's good. Rose might work as a second-unit headliner—that jittery wind-up toy whose sole job is to attack the heart of defenses. But he is neither star nor, right now, starter material—not at the point guard position. He doesn't check enough boxes.

    Does he shoot threes? Nope. He is barely launching one per game and hits just 22.4 percent of what he takes.

    Can he make his teammates better? Not relative to other floor generals. Rose is one of 37 guards averaging at least 20 minutes and 45 passes per game. Among this group, he ranks 34th in adjusted assist-to-pass ratio (10.9)—the percentage of a player’s passes that are assists, "hockey assists" or result in free throws.

    Is he a good defender? To put it kindly, not even close. He rates as the worst stopper on one of the league's crummiest defensive teams, according to NBA Math.

    So no, he isn't going to get a max deal. And whatever he does get, it won't be coming from the Knicks. This has been a match forged in basketball hell, and neither side should want it to endure beyond this season.

    Possible Landing Spots: Kings, Mavericks, Magic

Jeff Teague, Indiana Pacers

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    Jeff Teague was born in Indiana. He attended high school at Pike in Indianapolis. It would seem that he's long for the Pacers. He's home and playing with a top-25 player in Paul George

    Money being equal, why leave?

    Perhaps because he may not always be playing with George or because team president Larry Bird decides to steer the franchise in another direction—toward an extensive rebuild.

    George isn't slated for free agency until 2018 (player option), but his future is coming to a head soon. If he doesn't make an All-NBA squad—a legitimate, if probable, possibility—he's not eligible for the Designated Player Exception. And if the Pacers aren't able to sell him on a five-year extension worth more than $200 million, they'll have to entertain trading him.

    Blame the Lakers. George's preference is to win a title with Indiana, but he'll flee for Hollywood if Bird hasn't turned the team into a title contender, according to USA Today's Sam Amick. That's unrealistic for the Pacers, who epitomize mediocrity. And if they have to move him, underwriting the next contract of a point guard who turns 28 in June runs counter to a rebuild.

    Things change if the Pacers believe George is in for the long haul. Teague's efficiency from three-point range and around the basket is down, but he's still Indiana's most important offensive player. His assist percentage has jumped, and he's adding more offensive value per 100 possessions than Toronto gets from DeMar DeRozan.

    Wherever Teague ends up, he's going to get paid—not max money, but close to it.

    Possible Landing Spots: Pacers, Kings, Magic, Mavericks, Sixers

Dwyane Wade, Chicago Bulls (Player Option)

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    Dwyane Wade can still basketball.

    Assuming his numbers hold, he'll join Clyde Drexler as the only players in NBA history to average at least 18 points, four assists and 1.5 steals per game after their 35th birthday. His field-goal percentage is a personal worst (43.3), but he's shooting more threes and playing better defense than he did during his last few seasons in Miami (you can thank Jimmy Butler for making life easier).

    And yet, if making a lot of money is Wade's primary objective, he shouldn't opt out of his deal. Teams aren't going to match the $23.8 million he'll get from the Chicago Bulls. Even the Nuggets have moved beyond paying him for his name power. It will take him two years, maybe more, to recoup all that money with another squad.

    The Bulls are doing their darnedest to devise an awkward situation, though. They've been toeing the line between rebuilding and competing for a while and could pivot entirely toward the former on a whim. And Wade already told ESPN.com's Nick Friedell he didn't sign up for that:

    At the end of the year, you sit back and see what the team is, what direction they're going in. I would be a liar to say that I want to play on a team with all 21-year-olds. You know what I mean? And be a part of the future building. I would be a fool to say that. But you also want to be in the best position for what you think is for you at that time, too.

    One of the main reasons I'm here is Jimmy. He's the one who called me and got me to come here. So that's a big part of my decision and everything else, is what Jimmy's doing, what his future looks like and all that. And I've made it very clear. So I have no idea from that standpoint. You just have to wait and see and then see what works out.

    Taking a huge pay cut to play for a championship contender is the natural next step if Wade leaves Chicago. Still, he surprised us once by taking the money (and going home). He could catch us off guard again.

    Possible Landing Spots: Bulls, Cavaliers, Nuggets

Dion Waiters, Miami Heat (Player Option)

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    Dion Waiters is hightailing his way toward the lucrative deal he couldn't get last summer.

    As ESPN.com's Zach Lowe wrote: 

    America's favorite chucker hasn't changed that much. He's shooting 42 percent, and his accuracy on those beloved long 2s has barely ticked up. He still calls for the ball with the petulance of a greedy toddler, and screams "And-one!" on misses. A lot of his improvement comes down to shooting 42 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s, up from 38 percent last season. If that dips, he looks almost like the same unwanted miscreant.

    But consider this: Waiters fell ass-backward into the bigger role for which he yearned, and didn't lose his damned mind. He has nudged his game in healthier directions: He's averaging 11 drives per game, sixth-most in the league, and more than double his average from last season in about the same number of minutes.

    Waiters' assist percentage is the highest of his career and has more than doubled since last season. His 39.1 percent three-point clip has come within an offense that spent a large portion of the year struggling to generate high-quality outside looks, and he's playing almost serviceable defense against starters.

    This is the closest Waiters has come to shedding his "uninhibited gunner" label. The stigma persists, and it will adversely impact the offers he fields. But he finally looks like someone who can be a semi-featured option on an above-average basketball outfit.

    And this, too, should be reflected in the next deal he signs—even if his market once again wants for believers.

    Possible Landing Spots: Heat, Sixers

     

    Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale) and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast co-hosted by B/R's Andrew Bailey.

    Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference or NBA.com and accurate leading into games on March 8. Team salary information via Basketball Insiders.