NBA Free Agents 2015: Predictions for Top 20 Names on the Market

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistJune 27, 2015

NBA Free Agents 2015: Predictions for Top 20 Names on the Market

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    Goodbye, NBA draft. It's been real and fun, sometimes even real fun. But it's now free agency's turn to steal the show with rumors, big names and, most importantly, player movement.

    Free agency isn't the crapshoot the NBA draft is. Teams aren't predominantly dealing with inexperienced youngsters. They're giving chase to proven talents—many of them already superstars capable of shifting franchises' fortunes on a whim.

    Most of these megastuds don't leave their current digs. Free agency is, in most cases, set up so that incumbent outfits have the upper hand in recruiting and re-signing key pieces.

    But players do leave. And the mere possibility of that movement demands we take a stab at seeing which of this summer's free agents stay and which of them leave.

    No free agent is off limits, even if he's a lock to stay put. Rankings will be determined by looking at statistics, last season's performance and next season's potential. The latter is especially important. We want to forecast who among the stars of today will also be one of the best stars tomorrow.

    Predicted destinations are the result of parsing the rumor mill, considering various cap situations and identifying team needs and player fits. Common sense, foreign though it sometimes is, will also come into play.

    The Brooklyn Nets are capped out for the next couple of years, so they won't be offering anybody a max contract. The Philadelphia 76ers, while financially flexible, already have what seems like 65 bigs on the roster, so they won't invest $15 million per year (or more) in Greg Monroe. And so on and so forth.

    With those parameters as our guide, we journey onward, mapping out hypothetical situations that may soon end up as our reality.

20. Wesley Matthews

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Prediction: Re-signs with Portland Trail Blazers

    History tells us that players who rupture their Achilles—Chauncey Billups, Elton Brand, Kobe Bryant, etc.—are never the same. And yet, Wesley Matthews, even as he pushes 29, could be an exception.

    His game isn't based on explosion or sharp lateral movements. And though his defense will suffer in terms of raw quickness, his rehabilitated left Achilles won't slow him on the offensive end.

    More than 46 percent of Matthews' shot attempts came as spot-up three-pointers last season, of which he drilled 38.6 percent. That part of his game, while more important than ever in today's NBA, will be fine.

    As for whether Matthews is worth the $15 million per season he's after, per USA Today's Sam Amick, that's a different story. Three-and-D specialists aren't paid that much coin to begin with, and he's working his way back from a career-threatening injury.

    Eight figures is, without question, still within reach, especially if he stays in Portland. The Blazers already know how to use him on offense, and his familiarity with their system and point guard ensures his road to recovery won't be complicated by a tactical disconnect.

    Other suitors will make a play for someone fresh off averaging 15.9 points while shooting 38.9 percent from deep. But this is one of those situations where the best move for the team and player is no move at all.

19. Danny Green

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Prediction: Signs with New York Knicks

    Shortly after the San Antonio Spurs were eliminated from the playoffs by the Los Angeles Clippers, Danny Green posted a photo of him and his teammates on Instagram with the caption "#spur4life."

    Welp.

    Leaving San Antonio isn't standard practice for incumbent free agents. Green's NBA career was in jeopardy before he found head coach Gregg Popovich, and that 2014 championship ring he owns isn't a cheap knockoff.

    In this instance, though, it's the Spurs who will do, well, the spurning.

    Sources told ESPN.com's Chris Broussard and Marc Stein that San Antonio is the "most likely" destination for free-agent LaMarcus Aldridge. And, as previously outlined, a run at Aldridge will cost the Spurs two of Boris Diaw, Green and Tiago Splitter.

    Green is the easiest player to part ways with because he's a free agent—one who should be drawing interest from the Knicks.

    They will have upwards of $27 million in cap space this summer and need a three-and-D wing with championship pedigree. Green shot 44.4 percent on catch-and-shoot treys for 2014-15, making him an ideal complement to the ball-dominant Carmelo Anthony and rookie Kristaps Porzingis. He's also one of only six players over the last 30 years standing at 6'6" or shorter to average one block while appearing in 80 games.

    Hear that? It's the sound of mutual infatuation brewing between the Knicks and the Spurs' New York native.

18. Reggie Jackson (Restricted)

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    Prediction: Re-signs with Detroit Pistons

    Reggie Jackson remains an iffy fit for the Pistons—a team trying to install a spread-heavy offense featuring one-in, four-out combinations and tons of three-point shooting.

    Coach and president Stan Van Gundy—the man who traded for Jackson in February—isn't even sold on him. CBS Sports' Ken Berger reported ahead of the draft that Detroit was prepared to move on from Jackson if Emmanuel Mudiay fell to it at No. 8.

    That didn't happen and with Brandon Jennings rehabilitating an Achilles injury, the Pistons are locked into Jackson.

    Surrounding shooters should help mitigate his turbulent outside touch. The Pistons traded for Ersan Ilyasova, rookie small forward Stanley Johnson is already a better three-point shooter than Josh Smith, and (spoiler) Greg Monroe's lane-clogging presence is good as gone.

    Steady amounts of drive-and-kicks will allow Jackson to attack the rim while setting up the trio of marksmen who will orbit the three-point line at all times. Jackson put in 36.4 percent of his long balls between March and season's end and nailed 45.2 percent of his spot-up threes as a member of the Pistons.

    Still, he converted just 34.7 percent of his looks outside 10 feet overall and has never even shot 34 percent from behind the rainbow.

    Re-signing him is a risk in the jump-shot spectacular known as the NBA, but it's one the Pistons have to take.

17. DeMarre Carroll

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    Prediction: Re-signs with Atlanta Hawks

    Two strong regular-season campaigns in Atlanta have put DeMarre Carroll in line for a massive raise. The Hawks are preparing to meet an asking price north of $50 million over the next four seasons, according to ESPN.com's Kevin Arnovitz, and it's not hard to see why.

    Carroll isn't just working off two breakout campaigns or a playoff push during which he averaged 14.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, two assists and 1.1 steals while drilling 40.3 percent of his treys. He has also established himself as the consummate system player.

    At 6'8", he can play either forward position and be tossed on the opposition's best perimeter threat. Rival scorers shot just 30.8 percent from three-point land when being defended by him last season, and he's deceptively strong—sturdy enough to battle traditional power forwards in the post.

    Plugging him into an offense—any offense—is a cinch. He has secondary playmaking potential and doesn't need the ball in his hands to serve as a threat. He drilled 41.1 percent of his spot-up treys during the regular season and 40.7 percent through the playoffs.

    Another team could come in and blow Carroll away with an offer the financially conscience Hawks are forced to refuse. This, however, presupposes that such an offer exists.

    Carroll led the Hawks in playoff win shares and is irreplaceable to a perimeter platoon that includes an aging Kyle Korver and injured Thabo Sefolosha. He isn't going anywhere.

16. Brandon Knight (Restricted)

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    Prediction: Re-signs with Phoenix Suns

    No need to make this complicated: Brandon Knight isn't going anywhere.

    Letting him go isn't an option for the Suns. They gave up the Los Angeles Lakers' 2016 top-three protected pick to get him and can match any contract he signs with another team.

    Knight is also a good fit for their dual-point guard backcourt as someone who can function on or off the ball. More than 20 percent of his shot attempts came as spot-up three-pointers last season, of which he hit 39.3 percent.

    Running him at shooting guard won't even put the Suns at a severe disadvantage. He is not Isaiah Thomas (5'9") or Eric Bledsoe (6'1"). He is 6'3" and, while not known for his defense, won't give up more than a couple of inches to opposing 2s.

15. Greg Monroe

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Prediction: Signs with Boston Celtics

    Bidding farewell to Monroe is the Pistons' most logical next step. Van Gundy has already subtly hinted at Monroe's departure, telling reporters he's "not entirely optimistic" that the Pistons will bring back the 25-year-old big man, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com).

    The Pistons now have a floor-spacing 4 in Ilyasova and don't need to invest 10s of millions of dollars in a player who makes little sense slotted next to fellow post-presence Andre Drummond in Van Gundy's offense.

    Pinpointing Monroe's next destination is, in turn, difficult. He can't play the 4 in today's league because he doesn't stroke three-pointers. More than 89 percent of his shot attempts came within eight feet of the hoop last season, and he posted a sub-36 percent clip between eight and 24 feet.

    Center is clearly his best position. He is a raging bull on the glass and posted a 26.8 player efficiency rating at the 5 during his Detroit swan song, according to 82games.com.

    But Monroe doesn't protect the rim or defend especially well. Of the 83 players to face at least five shots at the iron per game, he ranked 72nd in opponent shooting percentage.

    Ideally, he needs to be part of a team with shooters already in the frontcourt and with strong defensive presences on the perimeter. The Celtics have floor-spacing forwards in Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk and quality defenders in Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Evan Turner.

    They also have cap space and, according to Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler, a soft spot for the one they call "Moose."

14. Tobias Harris (Restricted)

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    Prediction: Signs with Detroit Pistons

    Things aren't looking so good for Tobias Harris' future with the Orlando Magic. He's a restricted free agent, so they can match any offer he receives. But they no longer have a need to invest eight figures annually in him after drafting Mario Hezonja.

    Evan Fournier, Maurice Harkless and Hezonja give the Magic a battalion of swingmen. It's the same story at power forward; Channing Frye, Aaron Gordon, Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O'Quinn (qualifying offer) can all soak up time at the 4.

    Trying to squeeze Harris, a combo forward, into that rotation will be tricky. He may be the absolute best option, but the Magic aren't in a position to be doling out max-level money without an impromptu roster-razing.

    If the Pistons renounce the rights to Monroe, they will have, at most, $50 million committed to next season's roster, even after factoring in Ilyasova's and Johnson's salaries, Jackson's pre-deal cap hit and the necessary minimum holds ($525,093 for every roster spot under the league minimum of 12).

    Next season's salary cap stands at $67.1 million, per Draft Express' Jonathan Givony, allotting the Pistons more than enough room to enter this conversation. And they should enter it.

    Harris stands at 6'8" and banged in 38 percent of his spot-up three-balls last season. Van Gundy can trot him out at power forward alongside Drummond and Johnson—a frontcourt formation teeming with possibility on both ends. Ilyasova, meanwhile, can go full Ryan Anderson circa Orlando and come off the bench as Detroit's sixth man.

    Please take a moment to hail the NBA's newest (hypothetical) playoff contender.

13. Khris Middleton (Restricted)

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    Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

    Prediction: Re-signs with Milwaukee Bucks

    Interested suitors can look at Khris Middleton. They can hand him an offer sheet. They can even expect him to sign said offer sheet.

    They just shouldn't bank on him playing elsewhere next season. He'll still be a member of the Bucks.

    The logic here is twofold. First, the Bucks aren't going to replace Middleton, or even come close to replacing him. He's the Swiss Army knife of Swiss Army knives.

    Just look at his positional minute splits from last season. Note that totals don't always add up to 100:

    % Minutes PlayedPGSGSFPFC
    Regular SeasonN/A1514682
    PlayoffsN/A91180N/A

    Equally important, Middleton's cap hold is only $2.7 million until he inks a new deal. So long as he holds off on signing an offer sheet, the Bucks can pursue big-name free agents and then go over the salary cap to re-sign him—an offseason tool they fully intend to utilize.

    NBA officials told the Los Angeles Times' Broderick Turner the Bucks will be among the teams pursuing DeAndre Jordan. Signing the Clippers' skyscraper is a long shot, but he's the kind of acquisition they can chase.

    The Bucks have a chance to make significant upgrades while also keeping Middleton. There is no discernible reason for either side to want out of this relationship.

12. Goran Dragic (Player Option)

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    Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

    Prediction: Re-Signs With Miami Heat

    Picture this: You're 29, living in Miami and, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, about to be pitched on the prospect of earning between $90 million and $100 million over the next five years.

    Are you leaving?

    Absolutely not. And Goran Dragic won't either. The only way he leaves is if the Heat lowball him in contract talks, which, after forking over two first-rounders for him, they just aren't going to do.

    It helps that the Heat aren't the spitting image of the Sacramento Kings' daily tire fire. Chris Bosh will be healthy next season; Hassan Whiteside blocks all the shots and grabs all the rebounds; Justise Winslow, a top-five talent, fell into Miami's clutches at No. 10 in the draft; Pat Riley exists only to win championships and style his hair like a mob boss; and, if all goes according to plan, Dwyane Wade will be Dragic's backcourt sidekick.

    Even if Luol Deng (player option) jumps ship in free agency, that's a playoff-bound core in the Eastern Conference. And Dragic has been to the postseason just once through his first seven seasons.

    Miami is the place for him.

11. Dwyane Wade (Player Option)

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    Joel Auerbach/Associated Press

    Prediction: Re-signs with Miami Heat

    Raise your hand if you thought Wade would project as a bigger free-agent flight risk than Dragic.

    Wade is the Heat. All 12 of his NBA seasons have been spent in Miami, he's won three championships for the franchise, and his value to the fanbase and organization is equal parts business and emotion. His return to the Heat should be among the biggest offseason formalities ever.

    Rumors continue to fly off the cuff anyway, though.

    Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick did a masterful job of breaking down purported tensions between the Heat and Wade. The gist of the dilemma at hand is that Wade apparently wants to opt out of the last year of his deal and sign a longer, more lucrative contract. The Heat would rather he play out his contract and re-sign next summer or once again put pen to paper on a steeply discounted pact.

    All of this sounds uglier and more problematic than it actually is. Riley downplayed the issue after the draft.

    "That hasn't been expressed to us," he said when asked about Wade's reported displeasure with the team, per Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post.

    "We respect him," he added. "We want him back for the rest of his career. That's obvious. We'll do everything to make that happen."

    Although Wade isn't going to headline a championship contender on his own at 33 years old, he remains important to the Heat's future. He's a fabulous free-agent recruiter (see: Miami's 2010-11 offseason), and he posted the sixth-highest PER of any qualified guard last season.

    Don't count on Wade leaving or Miami letting him walk. Bank on the Heat and the face of their franchise finding some financial middle ground instead.

10. Paul Millsap

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    Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

    Prediction: Signs with Toronto Raptors

    Only one player has averaged at least 16.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, three assists and 1.5 steals in each of the last two seasons: Paul Millsap. He finished second on the Hawks in regular-season win shares and, as a stretch 4 who isn't a defensive liability, he cannot be readily replaced on the open market.

    Any theory behind his departure from Atlanta begins and ends with money. Millsap and Carroll will both command crazy deals, and the Hawks do not own their Bird rights, so they cannot go over the cap to re-sign them.

    Thus, as Arnovitz underscored, the Hawks will have to choose:

    The Hawks' success this season has made this a slightly more difficult question to answer than it was six months ago because Millsap and Carroll are now at their peak values.

    After all the accounting for cap holds and their first-round pick (No. 15 overall) in this June's draft, the Hawks figure to have approximately $23 million under the salary cap for those signings. Will that get it done? The sense both inside the Hawks and around the league is "not anymore."

    Draft-day trades will help drive that $23 million figure up past $25 million. But that still may not be enough to split between the two, thereby demanding the Hawks part ways with one.

    Millsap, in a vacuum, is clearly the more indispensable player. But he, unlike Carroll, is on the wrong side of 30 and will likely end up costing more money. The Hawks have greater incentive to make a long-term investment in Carroll.

    Plus, the Toronto Raptors are in need of a floor-spacing power forward. The 4 spot was statistically tied for their worst position last season, according to 82games.com, and they're nearing max-contract capacity after trading Greivis Vasquez to the Bucks.

    Giving chase to an All-Star who can make an impact on both ends of the floor just makes sense.

9. DeAndre Jordan

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Prediction: Re-signs with Los Angeles Clippers

    Four teams, including the Clippers, plan on dropping by Jordan's crib when free agency begins, per Turner: Dallas Mavericks, Clippers, Lakers and Bucks. They will all leave his humble abode feeling good about their sales pitches.

    Especially the Clippers since he's a virtual lock to stay with them.

    Outside teams can only offer Jordan a four-year max. The Clippers can throw him a five-year deal worth north of $100 million, and he knows they're still in line to compete for one of the West's top three playoff seeds every year.

    We in the common sense business call this a "no-brainer."

    Having missed just two games over the last half-decade, Jordan is certainly a candidate to ink a two-year deal with the option of re-exploring free agency when the salary cap explodes in 2016. Yet, even if he does that, re-signing with the Clippers still guarantees him the most possible money—assuming, of course, they'll actually hand him a max deal now and/or later.

    Which they will.

    Jordan is now the only qualified player to ever maintain a rebounding percentage of 24 and block percentage of five in the same season. That's all the perspective one needs to deliver this verdict.

8. Draymond Green (Restricted)

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    Noah Graham/Getty Images

    Prediction: Re-signs with Golden State Warriors

    Draymond Green and the Golden State Warriors just won a championship together. According to the should-have-been Defensive Player of the Year, they're not nearing a breakup of any kind.

    “I’ll be here,” Green said of returning to Oakland next season, per the Mercury News' Tim Kawakami. “I love this group of guys.”

    Cost has long been the only potential issue surrounding Green's restricted free agency. Is he worth a max contract, or is he simply the product of a transcendently deep Warriors squad?

    It doesn't matter either way. He's getting a max deal, and he deserves one. That much became clear during Golden State's championship run.

    Three players have averaged 10 rebounds, five assists, 1.5 steals and one block through at least 15 postseason contests: Larry Bird, LeBron James and Green.

    Through 21 playoff contests, the Warriors were only a net negative without one player: Green.

7. Tim Duncan

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Prediction: Re-signs with San Antonio Spurs

    Welcome to Formality City. Population: Tim Duncan.

    Eighteen years and five championships into his Spurs career, Duncan isn't even close to a flight risk. Contacting him at the start of free agency would be a waste of time and a good carrier pigeon.

    Really, there are only two questions worth asking when it comes to Duncan. The first: How much of a discount will he give the Spurs?

    Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News has our backs here. League executives told him that they "believe the Spurs will offer Duncan a two-year contract that begins between $6 million and $7 million." 

    Accepting such a deal will help the Spurs pursue premier free agents. It also means that come next season, we could be living in a world where J.R. Smith is cutting bigger paychecks than Duncan.

    Second question: Why is a 39-year-old Duncan inside the top 10 placed ahead of talent more than 10 years his junior?

    Answer: He just became the first player to ever average at least 13.5 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks while seeing fewer than 30 minutes per game.

6. Jimmy Butler (Restricted)

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    Prediction: Re-signs with Chicago Bulls

    Rolling the dice on himself is the best bet Jimmy Butler has ever made.

    After resisting the Bulls' contract extension overtures last summer, he went on to earn a max deal this summer, joining DeMarcus Cousins, James Harden, James and Russell Westbrook as the only players to clear 20 points, 5.5 rebounds, three assists and 1.5 steals last season. He also led Chicago in win shares.

    Butler's apparent desire, according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowsi, to sign a short-term contract and reach unrestricted free agency sooner than 2019 or 2020 could make for some offseason drama. So too could rumors of a rift between Derrick Rose and Butler, per the Chicago Sun-Times Joe Cowley

    None of that, however, makes Butler's return any less likely. The Bulls can still match any offer sheet he signs, and Butler is still Chicago's franchise cornerstone.

    Irrespective of what's happening behind the scenes, Butler will be in a Bulls uniform next season.

5. Kevin Love (Player Option)

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    Brian Babineau/Getty Images

    Prediction: Re-signs with Cleveland Cavaliers

    Shoulder surgery kept Kevin Love sidelined for most of the Cavaliers' NBA Finals run and, in the process, opened the rumor mill's floodgates.

    Opting out of his contract has only heightened speculation—even though it's a financially driven decision, and even though he, per Northeast Ohio Media Group's Chris Haynes, has repeatedly said things like, "I plan on being here."

    Folks tend to focus on the downside instead—the convenient information that better fits the more polarizing slant.

    James won't recruit Love to stay, according to Haynes. Love just posted his lowest usage rate since he was a rookie. He's playing third fiddle to James and Kyrie Irving when he could be the No. 1 or No. 2 option on the Celtics, Lakers or Knicks. The Cavaliers finished two victories shy of a title without him.

    That's the fodder-fueling conjecture. Cleveland's tenuous financial situation is no friend of peace and quiet either, as Grantland's Zach Lowe previously explained:

    Love is still valuable to the Cavaliers, but it becomes a question of resources: Can you really give max contracts to three players — LeBron, Love, and Tristan Thompson — who should all play heavy minutes at power forward, and with two other rotation big men already on the books? Doing so would put Cleveland in the ballpark of the biggest luxury-tax bill in league history next season, and when you lap Mikhail Prokhorov’s embarrassing Brooklyn debts, you’ve really done something. Splurging on everyone could even imperil Cleveland’s ability to add talent as the cap rises in 2016 and 2017.

    Keeping the Cavaliers together could be historically expensive. And sure, Love will have other suitors. But the most likely scenario still includes him returning.

    For starters, while the Cavaliers are good without Love, they're better with him. They were a plus-1.9 per 100 possessions without him during the playoffs, compared to a plus-17.4 with him. Had he been healthy, maybe they would have beaten the Warriors and won a title.

    There's also little to be gained from disbanding after one season. Love's public image will take a powerful hit if he goes back on his word, and the Cavaliers will look utterly foolish for trading a future megastar in Andrew Wiggins for a one-year rental.

    Short-term scenarios are most definitely on the table. Love is only 26 and, like James, stands to make more money by setting himself up for another free-agency jaunt next summer.

    Just know that every possible scenario, long or short term, includes Love remaining in Cleveland through at least 2015-16.

4. Kawhi Leonard (Restricted)

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Prediction: Re-signs with San Antonio Spurs

    Hey! Formality City has its second resident.

    Kawhi Leonard isn't leaving the Spurs. They have the right to match any offer he receives, and he's already won a championship, Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year with them, all before turning 24.

    To simplify matters even further, Leonard is, unequivocally, the Spurs' most important player.

    They outscored opponents by 12 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor last season, a net rating higher than that of the reigning champion Warriors and one that nearly exceeded those of Duncan and Tony Parker combined (plus-12.4).

    You have a better chance of winning a wine-imbibing contest with Popovich than another team does of prying Leonard out of San Antonio.

3. LaMarcus Aldridge

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    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Prediction: Signs with San Antonio Spurs

    A word of advice: Beware of the Spurs next season—just like every other season.

    Erik Gundersen of the Columbian has heard that Aldridge already informed the Blazers he will be signing elsewhere over the summer. Aldridge denied the rumor through general manager Neil Olshey, per CSNNW, but that rebuttal is futile given what the Blazers have done of late.

    Trading Nicolas Batum for Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh—a power forward, just like Aldridge—has the look and feel of a team gearing up for a full-blown rebuild, not one that's preparing to re-sign a soon-to-be 30-year-old All-Star.

    With Stein and Broussard also hearing that San Antonio is Aldridge's "most likely" destination, the writing appears to be on the wall: Aldridge to the Spurs is happening.

    Signing him will end up costing the Spurs two of Green, Diaw and Splitter—a price they should be willing to pay. Aldridge ensures their title window stays open through next season and into the far-off future, where Duncan and Manu Ginobili are retired, Leonard is cycling through All-Star appearances like lollipops and Popovich spends his days making inappropriate Diaw jokes while chillaxing at his favorite cigar lounge.

    Perhaps that sounds too good to be true, which, given the subject matter, would be fitting.

    Too good to be true is San Antonio's reality.

2. Marc Gasol

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    Noah Graham/Getty Images

    Prediction: Re-signs with Memphis Grizzlies or Signs with the Los Angeles Lakers

    Meet our lone exception.

    Marc Gasol's rumor mill isn't alive with speculation. The most cryptic sign out there is an interview he did for Catalan radio station RAC1, in which he said, per EuroHoops.net:

    The reality for me at the moment is Memphis. I got there when I was 16 and I’m 30 years old. It’s important for me, personally and in sports terms. I’m in front of an important decision for the upcoming 4 or 5 years. I’ll take it quietly, without drama. There are many things to evaluate: personal goals, the ring… The city isn’t so important like it was in Pau’s case. My brother had other needs. People with sons know how this works. I don’t have time to go to the opera, or to the theater. New York is nice but it was very cold during the All Star Game. San Antonio, L.A, Atlanta… there’s good things everywhere. I have a simple life: at home, the arena, the supermarket. Memphis is quiet. In Fort Yukon, Alaska, I would also be happy.

    Vague much?

    Gasol is probably just keeping his options open, like any free agent. Most signs still point to him remaining in Memphis, according to Wojnarowski, and the Grizzlies have made a concerted effort to upgrade the roster. Matt Barnes is already in town, and they now have Danilo Gallinari in their sights, per Stein.

    Diversifying the roster could also just be the Grizzlies' way of preparing for life without Gasol. Big men aren't the best players on championship teams anymore, not even towers with Gasol's combination skill set.

    Zach Randolph is on a cap-friendly deal and posted a 24.6 PER at center last season, according to 82games.com. And Gasol has reached a point where he's more valuable offensively than defensively.

    Both sides could feasibly agree to part ways, with the Grizzlies looking to funnel their cap space into more athletic and explosive talent, and Gasol latching on to a team bereft of big men.

    That brings us to the Lakers' bugaboo. They will have tons of cap space and selected D'Angelo Russell with the No. 2 pick instead of Jahlil Okafor, leaving a gaping hole up front that neither Ed Davis (opted out) nor Jordan Hill (team option) is fit to fill.

    This could mean the Lakers just love Russell. Or it could mean they're supremely confident in their ability to whisk one of this summer's free-agent behemoths, such as Gasol, off his feet.

1. LeBron James (Player Option)

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Predictions: Re-signs with Cleveland Cavaliers

    Talk about your anti-climatic endings.

    Predicting that high-profile superstars will switch teams is sexy. Sadly, James' foray into free agency is about as un-sexy as forays into free agency can get.

    This isn't 2010 or 2014. He isn't changing teams. Opting out of his contract is a financial decision, one that sets him up to sign another short-term deal and explore free agency again in 2016 when the salary cap skyrockets.

    Sources told Haynes that James will take a "wait-and-see approach" to his offseason exploits, monitoring the Cavaliers as they attempt to upkeep and improve a roster that navigated its way within two victories of a championship last season.

    Yet, regardless of what the Cavaliers do or don't do, this entire process can end only one way: with James still in Cleveland, in possession of unparalleled power, trying once more to pilot his team toward its first title.

    Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com unless otherwise cited. Salary information via Basketball Insiders and Larry Coon's CBA FAQ. Draft-pick commitments from RealGM.

    Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @danfavale.