X

2016 NBA Free Agents: Updated Predictions Following the Draft

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2016

Kevin Durant and other 2016 free agents were impacted by moves made during the NBA draft.
Kevin Durant and other 2016 free agents were impacted by moves made during the NBA draft.Associated Press

The 2016 NBA draft, though somewhat predictable at the top, created a tidal wave of change in how free agency will play out.

It looked easy to pen in notable free agents to big teams and call it a day. The fates of guys such as Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo and others didn't seem wildly tied to the draft going into it.

It turns out they were.

With the next generation of talent slotted into place, it's time to re-evaluate the fates of some notable free agents.

Rajon Rondo

This seemed simple before the Chicago Bulls went and shipped Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks, a move the Knicks confirmed on Twitter.

With the move, one of Rondo's top destinations, if not the top one, evaporated.

That leaves Rondo with not much in the way of suitors. It sounds harsh, but the 2016 draft class was loaded with guard talent.

While this isn't meant to suggest Rondo is a terrible option, he is 30 years old. The saving grace is he tied a career high with 11.7 assists per game last year while playing with DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings.

The limited market might mean Rondo's best bet is a return to the Kings, something The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears hinted at:

Marc J. Spears @MarcJSpearsESPN

Speaking of Kings, source said their free agent Rajon Rondo is open to staying but also had interest in Knicks & Nets. Rose to NY kills that

If Rondo wants some continuity and to perhaps contend for a title in a few years, he's not going to bail for the Brooklyn Nets, a team with zilch in the way of notable talent outside of Brook Lopez.

No, Rondo won't want to leave the Kings now, not while getting to lean on big men such as Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein.

Prediction: Rondo re-signs with the Kings.

Joakim Noah

Joakim Noah didn't have the best split with the Bulls this season, appearing in just 29 games while seeing his role significantly reduced.

There's no chance he returns to the Windy City, something the Rose trade also had a strong impact on.

Rose told the media he'd like to see Noah join the Knicks, as K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune relayed:

K.C. Johnson @KCJHoop

Rose on recruiting Noah to the Knicks: "I want him. He knows that. I think his family knows that. I think everyone knows that."

Before, it might have been easy to see Noah joining a center-needy team such as the Washington Wizards or perhaps heading to the Western Conference to help a team such as the Houston Rockets.

The options seemed endless. But the Rose trade—even before the point guard's comments—made New York seem like the top destination since the team lost starting center Robin Lopez in the deal.

At 31 years old, Noah can still be the defensive enforcer the Knicks need, and reuniting with Rose has to be the most alluring option on the table.

Prediction: Noah signs with the Knicks.

Dwight Howard

Howard isn't joining the Knicks.

There, that was easy, and it's out of the way. It doesn't make sense for the Knicks to blow a max contract on Howard when they can grab a rotational guy such as Noah and otherwise play a small-ball lineup with Kristaps Porzingis at center.

But a draft-day trade between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Orlando Magic seems to have killed any hope that Howard would return to the latter.

In the deal, the Magic acquired power forward Serge Ibaka, and George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel put it best:

George Diaz @georgediaz

Best part of Serge Ibaka deal: No chance the Orlando Magic will get back with Dwight Howard #nba https://t.co/E6z2Z0xJyq

Orlando got a shot-blocker it can put next to either Aaron Gordon in a small lineup or Nikola Vucevic in the usual deployment.

How about an unexpected contender such as the Dallas Mavericks? The team has Chandler Parsons and Dirk Nowitzki heading to free agency, meaning owner Mark Cuban has plenty of cash to spend this summer. Presuming Nowitzki stays around, Cuban won't blink at throwing max cash and whatever promises Howard demands at the star center's feet.

Eliminating the odd platoon of Zaza Pachulia, David Lee and A.J. Hammons in order to chase a title sounds like a Cuban-esque move.

Prediction: Howard signs with the Mavericks.

Kevin Durant

The Thunder might have killed any notion that Kevin Durant will leave the team this summer. 

Dishing Ibaka may sound like a bad move at first, or perhaps an insurance policy concocted by a front office hoping to stand in a strong position if Durant leaves town.

In reality, Ibaka was growing out of favor within the team's lineups and is entering the final year of his deal. ESPN.com's Royce Young reported the Thunder made the trade in the hopes of convincing Durant to stick with the team.

In return, the Thunder got guard Victor Oladipo, a budding star who posted averages of 16.0 points and 3.9 assists per game last year and has at least one important fan, as Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman explained:

Anthony Slater @anthonyVslater

FWIW Kevin Durant once said of Oladipo: "He reminds me a lot of Dwyane Wade in his body, his athleticism and how he gets to the basket"

A Russell Westbrook-Oladipo-Durant lineup would be downright scary—and Durant knows it. Not only can the Thunder run an epic small-ball lineup to counter the Golden State Warriors, but they also got the No. 11 pick in the draft, which they used on center Domantas Sabonis, another upgrade at a position of need.

Many will argue Durant should leave and sign here or there, but the Thunder went out of their way to post a convincing rebuttal. Durant has unfinished business with the Thunder, a team that's already better than the one that almost made it to the NBA Finals this year.

Prediction: Durant re-signs with the Thunder.

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

Follow Chris_Roling on Twitter

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.