NBA Free Agents 2016: Predictions for Top 20 Names on the Market

Josh Martin@@JoshMartinNBANBA Lead WriterJune 26, 2016

NBA Free Agents 2016: Predictions for Top 20 Names on the Market

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    Bedlam or boredom? This summer's NBA free-agent market figures to feature bits of both, in different ways.

    The influx of money from the league's new national TV deal (to which Turner Sports, Bleacher Report's parent company, is a party) is expected to sling salaries into the stratosphere. Just about every team will have enough cap space to dole out at least one max deal. In a class that's thin on top-tier talent, that could yield eight- and nine-figure takes for guys who'd be lucky to sniff half that cash in more balanced circumstances.

    For some, getting that kind of scratch will require switching teams. For others—many of this year's top free agents among them—the Association's new fiscal reality will only strengthen the incentives to stay put.

    Remember the last collective bargaining agreement, inked in the fall of 2011?

    That tilted the table further toward incumbent squads keeping the talent they've groomed. By rule, home teams can offer more money over more years to their own players than can potential poachers. So while there will be many millions of dollars more floating around the open market, the pull for top players to stick where they started will be stronger than ever.

    That could be the case for many of this year's top 20 free agents, listed herein from top to bottom and chosen according to recent production and potential future impact, with destination predictions for each.

LeBron James (F, UFA) Stays in Cleveland

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    Like the 2016 NBA draft, this year's free-agency period figures to be devoid of drama—at the top, anyway. LeBron James seems to have already taken himself out of the running.

    "I love it here in Cleveland. I have no intentions of leaving," James told's Dave McMenamin at the Cleveland Cavaliers' championship parade. "There are some technicalities to take care of I'll leave up to my agent. That's right from the horse's mouth."

    Among those technicalities: James could take home a higher salary in 2016-17 if he signs elsewhere or if he commits to a multiyear deal with the Cavs, per's Brian Windhorst.

    Financially, the difference would work out to about $3 million next season. Competitively, James has every reason to stay, personal ties aside. He led a flawed Cleveland roster to the greatest NBA Finals comeback in history.

    With some roster reshaping this summer, the Cavaliers could come back stronger than ever in 2016-17, with James and Kyrie Irving finding a comfortable equilibrium on the court. What king, in his right mind, would leave behind an opportunity to defend his crown? To this end, James is no Targaryen.

Kevin Durant (SF, UFA) Stays in Oklahoma City

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Kevin Durant has one thing on his mind this offseason.

    "I'm worried about basketball," he said, per's Royce Young. "That's what it is for me. It's a basketball decision."

    Durant went on to explain what he meant by "basketball decision:"

    Just who I'm going to be playing with and the people I'm going to be around every single day, that's what it's all about for me. You tend to hear about the market and the opportunities you can get off the basketball court, but I'm blessed, man, to be making what I make as a basketball player...I just want to hoop.

    Durant already knows the Thunder well and knows what they're capable of together. They came agonizingly close to a second NBA Finals appearance before surrendering a 3-1 series lead to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.

    The group around Durant will look decidedly different next season, courtesy of Oklahoma City's draft-day trade with the Orlando Magic. The Thunder are set to receive Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and the draft rights to Domantas Sabonis in exchange for shot-blocker Serge IbakaAs's Zach Lowe explained, the move could work well for OKC, with or without Durant:

    If he leaves, the Thunder have gotten younger and deeper, restocking themselves for a doomsday scenario in which both Durant and Westbrook bolt. If Durant stays, they've upgraded from [Dion] Waiters with a bulldog attacker who enjoys defense and can fit snugly in lots of roles—as a starter over Andre Roberson, a sixth man and a fixture in small-ball lineups.

    Chances are, this will look like window dressing around the bigger picture of Durant's return. If he wants to win with people he respects and maximize his earning potential, he won't find a better situation than the one right under his nose.

DeMar DeRozan (SG, UFA) Stays in Toronto

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    Want to know what DeMar DeRozan intends to do in free agency?

    "Ask my guy Kyle Lowry; he already knows the answer," DeRozan said during a recent appearance on Dan Le Batard's radio show, per Kevin Rashidi.

    And if Lowry, a two-time All-Star starter for the Toronto Raptors, knows it, what could it be other than DeRozan deciding to stay in Canada?

    According to's Tim MacMahon, DeRozan has no plans to meet with other teams. Instead, he'll work toward securing a deal with Toronto. The Raptors, for their part, seem eager to oblige.

    "Our No. 1 goal is to bring DeMar back here," Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri told reporters. "We feel great that he wants to come back to our organization."

Andre Drummond (C, RFA) Stays in Detroit

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    Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

    As a restricted free agent, Andre Drummond won't have much say in his future just yet. All signs point to the Detroit Pistons maxing him out as soon as the clock strikes midnight July 1.

    "No hesitation," Pistons owner Tom Gores said, after Detroit's loss in the first round of the playoffs, of rewarding Drummond this summer, per's Nick Friedell. "Come on, look at all the big guys in the league. Come on."

    Since then, the Pistons have only strengthened their commitment to Drummond as a franchise cornerstone. The team has sent assistant coach Malik Allen, assistant strength and conditioning coach Jordan Sabourin and coaching assistant Aaron Gray to Santa Barbara, California, to work with the All-Star center, per's Keith Langlois.

    As president of basketball operations and head coach Stan Van Gundy told Langlois:

    That's something we've made a commitment to again, something Tom has made a commitment to—not just with Andre but with all of our players. I don't think you could put in much more time with our coaches and strength coaches being out, seeing our players wherever they are, than we are. It takes a big commitment on Tom's end for us to do that, but he understands the importance of helping these guys grow and develop.

    Given the wild success he's enjoyed in the world of private equity, Gores doesn't seem the sort to throw his money away willy-nilly. In Drummond's case, the investment spent on his improvement this offseason doesn't figure to be an exception.

Hassan Whiteside (C, UFA) Stays in Miami

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    Two years ago, Hassan Whiteside was a basketball vagabond—a talented 7-footer who'd flunked out of the NBA and spent two years scouring the globe for on-court work.

    Now, he'll be one of the Association's most wanted men in free agency.

    The Golden State Warriors have him on their short list, per the Bay Area News Group's Marcus Thompson II. So do the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers, according to's Tim MacMahon and Marc Stein.

    For all that interest, though, Whiteside may still prefer a future on South Beach. As the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson reported, a friend of the big man's "said Whiteside prefers to stay with the Heat if all things are equal financially."

    Whiteside might not find such pay equality in Miami—because he's been under contract with the Heat for less than two years, they can't exceed the salary cap to re-sign him. And with Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng also up for new deals, finding enough space for all of Miami's key players—or saving enough to bring in another big piece—will be a challenge.

    That being said, Heat president Pat Riley said, per MacMahon and Stein, that Whiteside is the team's "No. 1 priority, period. He's a game-changer, and I don't even think he's reached his real ceiling in a couple of areas in his game."

    If Riley is that set on keeping Whiteside around, he'll figure out how to get his way, cap gymnastics and all.

Al Horford (PF, UFA) Stays in Atlanta

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    Outside of Kevin Durant, Al Horford might have the longest list of suitors for his services. 

    Sporting News' Sean Deveney reported in May that the Houston Rockets would be hot after Horford.'s Marc Stein listed the Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers as potential landing spots for the four-time All-Star. Even the Golden State Warriors could get involved, per the Bay Area News Group's Marcus Thompson II.

    But can those other clubs overcome the advantages working in the Atlanta Hawks' favor? 

    "I've set up here with my family. We all live here. We live here in the summer. We live here year-round," Horford said after the Hawks were swept in the second round of the playoffs in May, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Chris Vivlamore"I'm very grateful for all the people here. They have taken me in from the very first day, even though I was a [Florida] Gator. They loved me. I really love the city."

    Two days later, Horford shared additional information, also per Vivlamore:

    Sometimes you think that another place is going to be better for you and it's going to be great, and then you turn around and it's not. Everybody has to experience their own things. I know, and I believe in my heart, that this is a special place, and I feel like the way the Hawks organization is going, it's going in the right direction. People should want to be a part of this.

    If Atlanta's trade of Jeff Teague and selection of two wings (Taurean Prince and DeAndre' Bembry) in the first round of Thursday's draft are any indication, the team will be looking to lure another big-time player to pair with Horford.

    The money will be there for both, but especially for Horford. Per Vivlamore, the 30-year-old could sign a five-year deal with the Hawks worth around $150 million or settle for a four-year deal in the $111 million range elsewhere. Check and mate.

Mike Conley (PG, UFA) Signs with the Mavericks

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    Money could be a major factor for Mike Conley. At his age (he turns 29 in October) and because his 2015-16 ended with a torn Achilles, he would do well to take a five-year, $153 million deal with the Memphis Grizzlies—as opposed to a four-year, $114 million contract elsewhere—if that offer comes around. 

    But according to Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler, Conley's decision could be swung by factors other than finances:

    Sources close to Conley's camp said recently that Conley is more open to new situations than anyone in Memphis would be comfortable with. The narrative from those sources is that Conley is concerned that the Grizzlies cannot add enough to the roster to get them seriously into championship status and if that does not happen, he's not willing to tie his career to Memphis in the long-term.

    The Grizzlies have never been much of a free-agent destination. The Dallas Mavericks have had their struggles in that department, too, but won't let those dissuade them from pursuing Conley this summer, per's Tim MacMahon and Marc Stein.

    While Conley would have to consider playing for unproven head coach David Fizdale should he re-up with Memphis, he could join one of the game's pre-eminent schemers in Big D. As MacMahon and Stein revealed, "Conley's interest in Dallas is in large part due to his respect for Mavs [head] coach Rick Carlisle."

    Don't be surprised, then, if the Mavericks finally land a big fish in free agency, with Conley jumping on to try to make the most of Dirk Nowitzki's last NBA days.

Dwight Howard (C, UFA) Signs with the Hornets

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    In April,'s Calvin Watkins highlighted four "favorites" in Dwight Howard's free-agent sweepstakes: the Orlando Magic, Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Trail Blazers and Charlotte Hornets.

    The list seems to have shifted (and shrunk) since then. According to Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler, "The Magic don't want it, and I am not sure Dwight does either."

    The Bucks spent their lottery pick on a 7-footer (Thon Maker) and have yet to unload another pricey big (Greg Monroe).

    "Just because Portland's on Howard's short list, it doesn't mean that Howard has to be on Portland's short list," former NBA head coach Herb Brown said to John Canzano on The Bald Faced Truth (h/t the Oregonian). "I'm a little afraid of that."

    The New York Knicks and Dallas Mavericks could get involved, but both may be more inclined to spend their cap space more judiciously elsewhere. That leaves the Hornets—a team that makes sense for Howard on several levels.

    Charlotte head coach Steve Clifford was a Howard confidant in Orlando and Los Angeles. The Hornets are located about as close to Howard's hometown of Atlanta as he'll find without suiting up for the Hawks. Their owner, Michael Jordan, has encouraged the front office to aggressively pursue stars and has willingly opened his checkbook for damaged goods with recognizable names (i.e., Al Jefferson and Lance Stephenson).

    And their roster, with Jefferson bound for free agency plus incumbents Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky, could use an upgrade at center. For all his faults, Howard would give Charlotte the free-agent coup it needs to take that all-important next step toward winning a playoff series.

Bradley Beal (SG, RFA) Stays in Washington

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    Bradley Beal's sordid history of stress injuries in his right leg won't likely keep him from swimming in that new TV money this summer. According to the Washington Post's Jorge Castillo, the Washington Wizards are expected to sign the restricted free agent to a five-year max deal once the league softly re-opens for business July 1. 

    If the cap indeed comes in at $94 million, Beal would start his next contract at a salary of around $23 million—pretty good for a guy who's missed more than 20 games per season on average since he arrived in the NBA.

    Beal, for his part, has been hard at work this summer to make that investment worth Washington's while. He's been in Los Angeles undergoing therapy on that pesky right fibula and sharpening his game with trainer Drew Hanlen.

    If Beal can stay healthy, he should have ample opportunity to repay the Wizards in spades. He's already shined as a sharpshooter next to John Wall, knocking down 39.6 percent of his threes combined between the regular season and playoffs. Over the past two years, he's improved his on-ball work, as well.

    With his 23rd birthday on Tuesday, Beal should have his best days of basketball ahead of him. Those will come at a steep cost for Washington, but it will be more than justifiable if the team leaps forward under new head coach Scott Brooks.

Dwyane Wade (SG, UFA) Stays in Miami

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    All signs point to Dwyane Wade returning to the Miami Heat for a 14th tour of duty.

    "I don't want to be on the market at all," Wade said two days after the Heat were ousted from the Eastern Conference Semifinals by the Toronto Raptors, per the Palm Beach Post's Dave George. "I'm not curious at all. I want to get to it [with the Heat]. I want to be able to sign my deal and move on and not have to deal with any rumors, any free agency, any this, any that. This is where I want to end my career. So we'll figure it out."

    Miami president Pat Riley seems to feel the same way.

    "Compensation to a player is not just a way to get paid and to live your life," Riley said, per George. "Compensation to a player is about recognition and respect and place. We know where he belongs. ... He's a lifer. What he's done in this city over the last 13 years is irreplaceable, and so we're going to do the right thing. There's no doubt.”

    According to the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson, those good tidings could net Wade $15 to $20 million next season, with the Heat hoping to sign him for one year and negotiate a new deal in 2017.

    For what it's worth, Wade would probably have a hard time finding that kind of dough elsewhere. Few teams in the market would be eager to sign a 34-year-old swingman with bad knees who's bad from three-point range (15.9 percent last season), let alone at an eight-figure rate.

Nicolas Batum (SF, UFA) Stays in Charlotte

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    According to the Bay Area News Group's Marcus Thompson II, Nicolas Batum could be the Golden State Warriors' plan B if Kevin Durant decides to sign elsewhere.

    That is, if Batum himself hasn't inked a new deal by the time Durant puts pen to paper. 

    According to, the 27-year-old wing wants to hammer out a new deal in time to compete with the French national team in the 2016 Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which runs July 4-10. Durant, per The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski, could deliberate up until July 9, when he's due to leave for a publicity tour in Asia.

    The Charlotte Hornets, Batum's incumbent squad, won't wait to make Batum an offer. 

    "We hope to meet with him as soon as free agency starts," Hornets general manager Rich Cho said June 17, per the Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell. "Our goal is to get something done with him."

    This was six weeks after Cho said Batum would be the Hornets' "No. 1 offseason priority" at his season-ending press conference.

    Assuming Charlotte makes use of the extra money and years it can offer Batum, the two parties should be able to put a bow on their business in short order.

Harrison Barnes (SF, RFA) Stays in Golden State

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    Associated Press

    According to the Bay Area News Group's Marcus Thompson II, the Golden State Warriors will pursue wings other than Harrison Barnes. But they won't forget what their restricted free agent brings to the table.

    "To be sure, the Warriors are not going to throw Barnes away," Thompson wrote. "His ill-timed slump in the NBA Finals hasn't wiped away his defensive versatility and his well-timed big games leading up to the Finals."

    Golden State general manager Bob Myers reiterated as much Thursday, when he told the San Francisco Chronicle's Rusty Simmons: 

    I know we're all measured in those [NBA Finals] moments, but both of those guys [Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli] have been great for us and have helped us get where we are. You can't forget all the things they did to get us here. We're going to be careful how we evaluate things and not evaluate things on one game or four games or six games. We're going to evaluate it on the entire career and a lot of things that we know about people that maybe somebody else doesn't.

    Barnes could cost the Warriors upward of $20 million per season, but as much as he struggled down the stretch of the Finals, he was arguably the most consistent contributor as the team took a 3-1 lead. Golden State will have the right to match any offer that comes his way and could do much worse than retain the fourth wheel of a vehicle that rode to 73 wins and within spitting distance of a second straight title.

    That could change, though, if Barnes really wants to skip town, per Sporting News' Sean Deveney

    The one possible scenario in which Barnes leaves, the source said, would be if he approached the Warriors front office with a request to be elsewhere. If Barnes determines he would like to have a chance to be a more featured part of an offense, the Warriors would likely honor that — especially if a sign-and-trade deal could be worked out.

    Short of that—or Kevin Durant and/or Nicolas Batum moving to the Bay Area—look for Barnes to be back in a Golden State uniform next season.

Dirk Nowitzki (PF, UFA) Stays in Dallas

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    The reviews are in on Tim Kawakami's report for the East Bay Times that the Golden State Warriors could chase Dirk Nowitzki this summer. So far, things are looking up on that front for the Dallas Mavericks.

    • "I don't think the Big German is going anywhere."
      • —Mavericks guard Devin Harris, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Dwain Price
    • "I think he'll stay with the Mavs. He's a guy that's very loyal to Dallas and loves it down there, as well as his family, so I think he'll stay with the Mavs."
    • "I think it's a slim-to-none chance that he goes to Golden State."
      • —Former Mavericks guard Jason Terry, to NBA Today host Justin Termine
    • "The only way I would ever leave is, like I've always said, if we start five rookies."

    Does any of that sound like Dirk is leaving Dallas?

Luol Deng (F, UFA) Signs with the Raptors

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    If money were no object, Luol Deng might stay with the Miami Heat. If he could play more minutes at power forward, too, he'd practically be a lock to stick around.

    "I've been in this situation before when I came here," Deng told the Miami Herald's Manny Navarro. "I remember choosing here, and it wasn't really the financial [part that drew me]. It was really the fact I wanted to be comfortable and be somewhere where what I do is appreciated."

    The Heat will be hard-pressed to fully appreciate Deng's skills if Chris Bosh rebounds from a second bout with blood clots to reclaim his spot at power forward. Miami also will not be able to pay Deng the going rate if it re-signs Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside, let alone if it delves deep into this summer's free-agent market.

    Deng, then, may have little choice but to take his talents elsewhere. And what better fit than the Toronto Raptors? He saw firsthand what they are capable of in the Heat's seven-game defeat at the hands of Canada's team in the second round of the playoffs. He also knows Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri well from their travels together on behalf of Basketball Without Borders.

    In terms of fit, Toronto should have plenty of playing time to dispense at power forward, where Deng, at 31 and in a downsizing league, is now best suited. He'd be a huge upgrade over the merry-go-round of underwhelming options (i.e., Luis Scola, James Johnson, Patrick Patterson) from this past season.

    Squeezing in Deng's contract could be tricky, but if the Raptors time things right, they could sign Deng to an eight-figure deal first, then exceed the salary cap to keep DeMar DeRozan.

Chandler Parsons (SF, UFA) Signs with the Magic

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    Chandler Parsons opted out of his contract with the Dallas Mavericks, and according to's Tim MacMahon, the team doesn't intend to lure him back with a max contract.

    Dallas' stance is a sensible one in light of the knee injuries that marred Parsons' two seasons with the Mavericks. But that doesn't mean another team won't swoop in with a sweeter deal.

    That team, per Sporting News' Sean Deveney, could be the Orlando Magic:

    The Magic's strategy, a source told Sporting News recently, will involve luring former Florida Gators back to Central Florida. That means former Gator champs Joakim Noah and Al Horford, but also includes Mavericks small forward Chandler Parsons, who will be a free agent this summer, too.

    Orlando might then see Parsons' value not just as a player but also as a recruiter. In 2013, he helped convince Dwight Howard to sign with the Houston Rockets. Last summer, he nearly pulled the same trick with DeAndre Jordan in Dallas.

    For Parsons' purposes, joining the Magic would mark a homecoming of sorts. He's a native of nearby Casselberry and went to high school in Winter Park, one of Orlando's more prominent suburbs.

    The fit wouldn't be perfect, with Serge Ibaka already having joined Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon in a crowded frontcourt. But if the Magic decide to move on from Evan Fournier, Parsons could comfortable fill either starting wing spot.

Pau Gasol (PF, UFA) Signs with the Spurs

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    If Pau Gasol wants to reunite with Phil Jackson, he could probably score a short-term deal with the New York Knicks. But if he wants to win a title, he'd do well to seek shelter with the San Antonio Spurs.

    "I think so," Marc Gasol said when asked by AS' Manuel de la Torre Sanz if the Spurs were the best fit for his brother (as translated by Hoops Hype). "What the franchise represents, how the franchise works, how the club treats the players, the winning culture."

    Pau's brother is on-point here, though the elder Gasol's decision could hinge on something well beyond his control: Tim Duncan's future.

    If Duncan returns for his 20th season, there won't be a starting spot for Gasol in San Antonio, and the Spaniard has never taken well to coming off the bench, as anyone who watched him bristle under Mike D'Antoni's watch in Los Angeles could corroborate.

    Should Duncan call it a career, though, Gasol would be a superb stopgap at center. His skill, smarts and attitude all fit the profile of the prototypical Gregg Popovich disciple to a T.

    And if competing at the highest level is chief on the 35-year-old's agenda, he can't do much better than join a squad that, even after winning a franchise-record 67 regular-season games, could use another able scorer to hang with the best in the West.

Ryan Anderson (PF, UFA) Signs with the Rockets

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    From the moment he signed Dwight Howard in July 2013, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has been hard after a player of Ryan Anderson's size and shooting ability to pair with his All-Star center.

    Howard is (probably) gone now, but that doesn't mean Morey's pursuit of Anderson and his ilk is over. With Mike D'Antoni stepping in as head coach, the Rockets may need someone to spread the floor at that spot more than ever. After all, it was D'Antoni who popularized the modern model for power forwards when he slid Shawn Marion up a spot with the Phoenix Suns in the mid-2000s.

    Anderson's stroke (37.7 percent from three-point range in his career) would help open driving lanes for James Harden in D'Antoni's pick-and-roll offense, assuming he aims to recreate it in Space City.

    As of mid-May, the Rockets had their sights set on Anderson in free agency, per Sporting News' Sean Deveney. That was before Houston had D'Antoni under contract.

    Now that he's aboard, it makes even more sense to pursue Anderson's services.

Rajon Rondo (PG, UFA) Signs with the Nets

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    According to multiple reports, including those from Marc J. Spears of ESPN's The Undefeated and Anthony Puccio of SB Nation, Rajon Rondo wants to play ball in the Big Apple. Derrick Rose's arrival put a crimp in those plans, but it didn't squelch them entirely.

    This summer, the Brooklyn Nets will be long on cap space but short on sturdy options at point guard.

    Jarrett Jack is coming off a torn ACL. Isaiah Whitehead, the Nets' pick at No. 42 on Thursday, is a rookie, though Sergio Rodriguez could be leaving Europe for an NBA return in Brooklyn, per international basketball reporter David Pick. Shane Larkin, who finished last season as the Nets' starting floor general, has already opted out of his contract.

    Rondo would be Brooklyn's best option at that spot. This past season, he led the league in assists (11.7 per game), finished third in triple-doubles (six) and shot a respectable 36.5 percent from three-point range for the perpetually dysfunctional Sacramento Kings.

    With Thaddeus Young off to Indiana and the Nets' next two first-round picks tied up with the Boston Celtics, however, New York's other team figures to stink for some time. But Rondo's presence, along with Brook Lopez's steady production, could make basketball in Brooklyn bearable.

    And if the money is right, Rondo, 30, would be wise to grab what he can while his services are still in demand.

Joakim Noah (C, UFA) Signs with the Knicks

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    Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

    Among players who might actually switch teams this summer, there may be no bigger no-brainer than Joakim Noah joining the New York Knicks.

    For starters, the two-time All-Star and 2013-14 Defensive Player of the Year is a personal favorite of new Knicks point guard Derrick Rose.

    "Oh, I want him," Rose said at his introductory press conference, per the New York Daily News' Stefan Bondy. "He knows that. I think his family knows that. I think everybody knows that."

    Noah, a New York native, probably wouldn't shy away from joining his former Chicago Bulls running mate in his hometown.

    And the Knicks would not turn away a player of Noah's talents at the right price if he's healthy. With Robin Lopez in Chicago, they could use another big body to play center, lest they subject Kristaps Porzingis to a nightly pounding at that spot.

    And if Phil Jackson intends for New York to run the triangle offense in some capacity, he should find Noah's abilities as a low-post passer to be a perfect fit.

Jordan Clarkson (SG, RFA) Stays in Los Angeles

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    Jordan Clarkson is in an unusual position.

    The Los Angeles Laker will be a free agent July 1, just two years after arriving in the NBA. At 24, he's also older than most guys coming off their sophomore seasons these days. Financially speaking, Clarkson's first foray into free agency will be more restricted than most. As the Los Angeles Times' Eric Pincus explained:

    After Clarkson's second season in the league, the Lakers will hold his early Bird rights, which enable the team to spend up to $6 million, and $26.7 million over four seasons, to retain him.

    That figure is presumably below Clarkson's market value, but because he is restricted and the Lakers only hold his early Bird rights, the Arenas rule applies—limiting what other teams can offer Clarkson to just $5.6 million for the 2016-17 season.

    While another franchise can pay him up to $5.9 million in the second year, his salary for the third and fourth seasons could jump significantly, to $22.7 million and $23.6 million for a total of $57.8 million—or $14.5 million on average.

    In short, Los Angeles could keep Clarkson, an up-and-coming talent, at a relative bargain for the next two seasons, with wonky raises to come thereafter. Since he's a restricted free agent, the Lakers can wait to see what other teams offer before moving to match it themselves.

    Clarkson may not grow into a star among a young core of D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram, but he could be a valuable, versatile piece of the puzzle going forward. And Clarkson, for his part, would prefer to stick around.

    "So, I want to be here in L.A.," Clarkson told Bleacher Report's Michael Pina in May. "This is the place where I want to call home, so I'm just in the gym and working. That's all I can control—myself getting better. If I end up somewhere else or I stay in L.A., that's what I'd love to do."

    Josh Martin covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.


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