NBA Free Agents 2017: Latest Rumors and Predictions for Market's Top Names

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJune 13, 2017

Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) brings the ball up court in the second half during an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, in Salt Lake City. The Jazz won 104-88. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

NBA free agency once again looks set to reshape the league.

It sounds like hyperbole when looking at the last few years of free agency and comparing it to this year's class set to hit market. But it's not fair to compare anything to the last few years when LeBron James went back to Cleveland and Kevin Durant chose the Golden State Warriors.

This year boasts superstars such as Gordon Hayward, guys who might not have the same star power but have the same ability to tip the scales of power in conferences.

And if all else fails, the rumor mill has already started talking about LeBron's trip into free agency.

Let's take a look at the top free-agent rumblings making the rounds.

An Unexpected Suitor for Hayward Emerges

Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Leave it to Pat Riley to make off like a bandit after coming out of nowhere in free agency.

The Miami Heat's head man lured LeBron to Miami in the first place. He's since built a bit of a quagmire, though the Chris Bosh situation couldn't be helped, and he's still managed to unearth a star like Hassan Whiteside.

Now Riley might land Hayward.

A source told Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald the interest is there: "But a source connected with Hayward said this morning that Hayward now has interest in the Heat, as well as other teams."

The idea Hayward wants to leave the Utah Jazz is rather stunning given the franchise's ascension even in the deep Western Conference this year. He's playing alongside other breakouts such as Rudy Gobert, and if it's not about competing, he's going to make comparable money if he sticks in Utah.

Hayward can go pretty much wherever he wants that'll have him after another strong season in which he posted career highs in points (21.9), rebounds (5.4), shooting from the floor (47.1 percent) and even shot 39.8 percent from deep.

For a team like the Heat, there's nothing quite like getting an elite offensive player like Hayward while he's only 27 years old. He'd still get on the floor with Justise Winslow, and in tandem with Whiteside, the team would probably contend for the Eastern Conference right away.

When it comes time to make a prediction, though, it's still hard to shake the feeling Hayward will flirt around to see what's out there and then return to the Jazz. His team just won 51 games in the Western Conference, and he's been a critical part of the success. His going somewhere else doesn't suddenly thwart the superteams playing in the Finals right now, so he'll think it best to stick it out with a team built over the long term the right way.

Prediction: Hayward re-signs with the Jazz

Minnesota's Point Guard Hunt

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

It's a badly-kept secret the Minnesota Timberwolves want to upgrade at point guard this offseason.

Ricky Rubio is a regular on the trade rumors market (go ahead and encourage the avalanche by doing a quick Google search), No. 5 pick Kris Dunn only averaged 3.8 points last year, and backcourt depth overall isn't exactly a strong point of the roster.

This need identified, it doesn't come as a surprise to hear the Timberwolves will target names such as Jrue Holiday, George Hill and Jeff Teague, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (via RealGM).

It's an interesting bunch, to say the least. Jrue Holiday is all of 27 years old and shouldn't cost a premium given the injuries he's battled over the years. To his credit, last year he averaged 32.7 minutes—his most in a season since 2012-13—over 61 games and averaged 15.4 points and 7.3 assists.

George Hill broke out next to Hayward last year, averaging a career-best 16.9 points per game, yet only appeared in 49 contests. As for Jeff Teague, he did what was asked of him over the course of his first year with the Indiana Pacers, averaging 15.3 points and 7.8 assists per game.

The Timberwolves are coming close to playing with fire here from an injury standpoint, and Holiday is the youngest of the three at this point. But if the goal is to give Dunn most of the playing time so he can develop alongside the team's young core, it's hard to go wrong.

The problem is Holiday apparently wants a max deal over four years, according to Marc J. Spears of The Vertical. And the Pacers probably aren't going to let Teague walk because they want to do everything possible to keep Paul George in town.

This leaves Hill, who has Dante Exum breathing down his neck, and the Jazz will focus most of their attention on retaining Hayward. Look for the Timberwolves to jump all over the opening.

Prediction: Timberwolves sign George Hill

          

The King's Trip to Free Agency

Yes, LeBron doesn't hit the open market until 2018. No, that doesn't make his future any less relevant now, not when teams enter holding patterns and let superstars yet to hit the market for years and years impact their rebuilding plans. (Remember how many teams tanked while hoping to win "The Decision"?)

And oh what the future might hold. According to sources who spoke with The Ringer's Kevin O’Connor, LeBron might prefer to target the Los Angeles Clippers or Los Angeles Lakers in 2018.

"Multiple league sources I’ve spoken to think the Lakers or Clippers are viable destinations for King James. Jalen Rose said this week on First Take that he expects LeBron to make a move from Cleveland to California, where he already owns a house 30 minutes away from Staples Center," O’Connor wrote. 

It's interesting to connect James to Los Angeles over a house considering the global icon is bound to own homes in any market. Why stay at a hotel when you can host the whole team at the crib?

Kidding aside, the report mentions sources. But it's hard to see James fitting with the Clippers, a team that doesn't seem ready to give up on Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

The Lakers are a tad more interesting given an incoming No. 2 pick, D'Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram and others. But the idea of LeBron joining the Lakers and working under Kobe Bryant's shadow is hard to fathom.

Cleveland is home, and Miami was a great destination for a superteam without a Bryant-esque shadow. The Lakers are an interesting future-looking team, but LeBron's headed right for the age of 35 and wants to pair with other surefire superstars, not hope a young core can start compensating for his inevitable decline.

When a generational player like LeBron actually starts hitting a decline is impossible to say. But he's about legacy at this point, and heading West doesn't accomplish much for it. If he leaves Cleveland twice and fails elsewhere the second time, it's going to hurt.

Prediction: LeBron re-signs with the Cavaliers in 2018

       

All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.