X

10 Moves That Make a Lot of Sense as NBA Free Agency Nears

David Aldridge@@daldridgetntTNT Analyst and Special Contributor to B/RJune 30, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 28:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder looks on prior to game six of the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 28, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

"I don't second-guess. I first-guess," former Fox/NBC NFL analyst and football coach John Madden would say.

That's what this is about.

Nobody knows what NBA players and teams will do when free agency begins at 12:01 a.m. ET Friday. This is about what they should do.

It will be unprecedented.

The explosion in television rights money paid to the league by ABC/ESPN and Turner Sports (my bosses) has created a system that we have never seen in the NBA. There has never been a circumstance like this in league history—so many teams that will have so much cap room, with the same relative number of players on which to spend it as before. The result will be a new system, one in which the definitions of "value" and "max player" go out the window, never to return.

With the cap for next season now at $94 million, every team has to spend at least 90 percent of the cap$84.6 millionon player salaries. Teams that do not spend to the floor are penalized, with the shortfall distributed to the players on that team. It will be impossible for every team to do so by spending intelligently on players.

After the first week of free agency, there will be teams with money to spend but few quality players to spend it on. Players who never dreamed of eight-figure paydays will get them. No one wants to be left holding the bag, with $20-30 million in cap space and very few quality players remaining. The first hours of free agency early Friday morning will be intense.

But don't be surprised if a lot of players also go for short deals, eyeing the jump in the cap for the 2017-18 season to an estimated $108 million—and it will almost certainly be higher than that, if the last few years are any guide. Revenue jumps during the season from increased attendance and other spikes in BRIBasketball Related Incomehave pushed the estimated cap numbers at the beginning of the year higher in each of the last three seasons (2014-15, '15-16, '16-17).

Superstars like Kevin Durant and LeBron James stand to earn tens of millions more if they sign two-year deals this summer with player options for 2017-18 and then opt out next summer. At that point, they'll be 10-year players eligible to receive 35 percent of their teams' respective caps.

That would mean they could sign five-year deals with their current teams that begin at $37.8 million in '17-18—and that's assuming the cap is at $108 million and not higher—and rise 4.5 percent in succeeding years.

Players like Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Jeff Teague, who have already completed seven NBA seasons but less than 10, will be eligible for up to 30 percent of their team's cap figure after next season, when they become free agents. Blake Griffin, Gordon Hayward and Greg Monroe will also be eligible for the 30 percent max after next season, when they complete their seventh years—Griffin was drafted in 2009 but missed the 2009-10 season with a knee injury.

Next year's potential free-agent class, which could also include Chris Paul, Andre Iguodala, Kyle Lowry, Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver, Andrew Bogut, Rudy Gay, J.J. Redick, Zach Randolph and Jrue Holiday, as well as Durant and James again, will be even wilder.

But for now, here are a few suggestions that are, humbly, the best fit of talent, team, scheme, direction and finances. Nine free-agent signings and one trade. Thank me later.

1. Kevin Durant should sign a 1/1 deal with Oklahoma City that keeps him in OKC next season, with the option to become a free agent again next summer.

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 30:  Russell Westbrook #0, Kevin Durant #35 and Steven Adams #12 of the Oklahoma City Thunder stand on the court in Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Aren
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

I almost typed "Kevin Durant should sign with Golden State." Almost. It's really close. It will not surprise me if he signs there. I never thought I'd feel that way, but up until a week ago, I never thought the Warriors wouldn't successfully defend their 2015 NBA championship. They looked like a budding dynasty.

Yet the Thunder, ironically, exposed Golden State's weaknesses even while losing to them in the Western Conference finals.

OKC should have finished the Warriors off, going up 3-1 in the series. But a brain cramp of a Game 6 at home set the Thunder up to fall in seven games. OKC has acted quickly to change the roster since then, trading Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic last week for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and rookie Domantas Sabonis.

The Warriors' loss to Cleveland was surely explainablethe suspension of Draymond Green for Game 5, the season-ending injury to Andrew Bogut that knocked him out of Games 6 and 7, and the otherworldly performance of James down the stretch of the series. But they did lose. They are still a great team, with more title runs in them, but no longer an intimidating one.

So Durant's potential signing with Golden State would no longer look like he's piling on, a superstar hunting a ring. Instead, it would look like a logical marriage of a lethal small forward giving size and scoring to a team that suddenly needed more of both than we all believed they did a month ago.

But I can't do it. The Thunder have done too much correctly over the years, up to and including the Ibaka deal, for Durant to walk.

Let's summarize:

  • OKC was crushed for dealing James Harden to the Houston Rockets in 2012, a deal many believe cost the Thunder a ring. Maybe it did. We'll never know. But the Thunder have continued to be a contender since Harden left. Harden, while individually successful, has not become the centerpiece of a true rival to OKC in Houston. And the trade netted OKC the draft pick that became Steven Adams—who, in three short seasons, has become one of the top four or five centers in the league.

Alonzo Adams/Associated Press
  • OKC wasn't crushed for trading Reggie Jackson in a three-team deal last year with the Detroit Pistons and Utah Jazz. Everyone in the league knew Jackson wanted to start and that the Thunder couldn't accommodate him. But OKC did get killed for matching the four-year, $70 million offer sheet the Portland Trail Blazers gave Enes Kanter, one of the players acquired for Jackson via Utah, last summer. Kanter responded with an outstanding season, improving his heretofore invisible defensive effort while carving up opposing bigs off the bench. Few teams have a one-two center punch as formidable as Adams and Kanter.

In the long run, the Ibaka deal makes sense for OKC, as he was going to ask for a max deal after next year. The Thunder have to keep their powder dry to accommodate potential max deals for Durant and Westbrook, with a likely max for Adams on the horizon (and Kanter's near-max deal already on the books). Oladipo provides insurance in case someone throws a huge deal at rising free agent Dion Waiters this summer. Ilyasova is a short-term fix at power forward while Sabonis and 2014 first-rounder Mitch McGary work as the heirs apparent.

Durant said the Ibaka trade was a "good deal," but Ibaka was a key piece to the Thunder the last few years—he was a friend—and Durant thrives on the close relationships he has with his teammates. And with Westbrook's future in OKC up in the air after next season, would Durant have to look (farther) west to see a brighter future?

Maybe. But he should take one more season to find out.

No one should doubt Durant's love for the 405. Oklahoma City has grown as the Thunder have developed into an NBA powereconomically, socially and in other important ways. But the fans, while deliriously supportive of the team, are protective as well. In the main, they leave Durant alone there. He is part of the community, yet not besieged by it, as he surely would be in a bigger city.

And even without Ibaka, the Thunder will be formidable next yearand angry. OKC knows it let a shot at the Finals and a potential ring get away—the Thunder's big lineup would have surely forced Cleveland to play its bigs more than it did against the Warriors, and OKC's bigs are superior. Teams often use playoff heartbreak the previous season to fuel them with missionary zeal the following year—the 2013-14 Spurs were the latest.

Durant should give it one more go with the Thunder. The Warriors aren't going anywhere. If OKC fails to launch again in the playoffs next year, he can still find affordable (for him) housing in the Bay long-term.

2. Mike Conley should sign with the Spurs.

Eric Gay/Associated Press

Memphis' new coach David Fizdale will be cross with me, but Conley has earned the right to play the Big Room, and the Spurs have the stage for him to shine. San Antonio has put everything in place for the post-Big Three era. The Spurs, again, benefited from some dubious drafting ahead of them in the first round of the 2016 NBA draft, adding Washington freshman Dejounte Murray with the 29th pick. Frankly, Conley is a better fit for the Spurs than Durant would be.

All-Stars Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge are San Antonio's future fulcrums, but the Spurs need a point guard who can take over for Tony Parker, who's still willing but at 34 no longer able to be a leading man.

Murray obviously isn't ready. The 28-year-old Conley has plenty left in the tank, and Parker has expressed a willingness to accept a new role in San Antonio at this point of his career.

Conley has become one of the league's top point guards in Memphis, increasingly adept as an offensive player while always keeping the turnovers down. On a team with next to no perimeter shooting over the years, he was a remarkably consistent shooter before falling to a career-low 42.2 percent this season. The Spurs also need a return to form from sharpshooter Danny Green next season to keep opponents honest against Leonard and Aldridge.

The Spurs will meet with Durant, of courseyou have to take that call. And, of course, if he says yes, you figure everything out later. But a player like Conley, who is used to playing in an inside-out system, would mesh better with a guy like Aldridge, who has to get mid-post toucheswhere Durant does most of his deadly work in the half-court area.

By contrast, Conley isn't a three-point shooter (37.3 career three-point percentage), but his presence at the point would alleviate some of that potential tension. He played in a system in Memphis where he got the ball to the bigs and played off them. I can't imagine he would have a problem doing the same in San Antonio.

3. Hassan Whiteside should sign with the Blazers.

TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 5, 2016:  Hassan Whiteside #21 of the Miami Heat drives to the basket against the Toronto Raptors during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semi Finals at Air Canada Centre on May 5, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. NOTE TO USER: Us
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

"High Risk! High Reward!," one Eastern Conference exec texted Tuesday about the mercurial 27-year-old. His massive pluses as a shot-blocker (3.7 blocks per game in 2015-16), an emerging screen/roll force on offense and a rebounding presence (11.8 rebounds per game, third in NBA) who was top-10 in PER are tempered by potential flags redder than Bear Bryant's neck during August three-a-days (lack of attention to detail, consistent foul trouble and chippiness that has led to unnecessary altercations with opposing players the last few seasons).

But talent that relatively young, with few NBA miles on his tires (though Whiteside had played all over the world since being released by Sacramento in 2012), does not appear unrestricted on the market very often. With all the cap room in the system, Whiteside will be in play in any number of cities. The Blazers, by a hair over the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers, would be the best landing spot for him.

Whiteside makes no bones that he wants to be one of the focal points of an offense, something that hasn't happened for him in Miami. He wouldn't be the first or second option in Portlandthat's reserved for guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. But he could live at the front of the rim playing off them, flowing to the basket for lobs and easy dunks off the Blazers' guards as he often did in Miami. In transition, he could also kill on duck-ins as defenses scramble to find all of Portland's three-point shooters.

Any team signing him will have to factor in how much credit Whiteside gets for maturing and dedicating himself to his craft, and how much of his success is due to the maniacal work ethic of the Heat organization. Whiteside got tough love and fundamentals from team executive/former Heat legend Alonzo Mourning and Heat assistant coach Juwan Howard on an almost daily basis. He shouldn't go somewhere where he's expected to be "the guy."

The Lakers have a proud history with centers, but their current group is too young and too easily led astray (*cough D'Angelo Russell cough*). True leadershipsetting examples on and off the court that teammates want to followis not yet in Whiteside's tool bag. And while the Rockets could use Whiteside in the middle, it's hard to see a good fit between new coach Mike D'Antoni and him. D'Antoni has done best with a mobile center who helps stretch the floor. That's not Whiteside's forte.

He would do better in a place like Portland, where quirkiness is celebrated outside of the Moda Center, but accountability is demanded inside. Portland has been hot on the trail of young big men the last few years, coming close to getting the Indiana Pacers' Roy Hibbert and signing the Oklahoma City Thunder's Kanter to an offer sheet that was matched.

That would not be an issue with Whiteside, who is unrestricted. Because Whiteside signed a two-year deal with Miami after his rookie deal ended, the Heat have no ability to match a contract offer from another team. It's totally up to him.

The Blazers are very well-coached by Terry Stotts, with outstanding assistants in Nate Tibbetts and David Vanterpool, both likely head coaches in the near future. They develop players and make them better. On a team with young veterans and top-down stability, Whiteside could grow and assume greater responsibilities as the years went on.

The Blazers gave Golden State all it wanted in the Western Conference Semifinals, losing a very competitive 4-1 series. But Portland couldn't punish the Warriors inside enoughin the deciding game, the Warriors outscored Portland 42-30 in the paint. And Portland was way too mediocre defensively (20th in points allowed, 21st in defensive rating, 16th in field-goal percentage allowed, 12th in two-point percentage allowed) to be a true contender. Those numbers weren't all the fault of Blazers centers Mason Plumlee or Meyers Leonard, of course, but Whiteside would alleviate a lot of those problems.

4. DeMar DeRozan should re-sign with Toronto.

TORONTO, ON - MAY 27:  DeMar DeRozan #10 of the Toronto Raptors walks up court in Game Six of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Air Canada Centre on May 27, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

The Raptors star, free agent to be and L.A. native has been linked to the Lakers for the longest time. However, with the Lakers taking Brandon Ingram in the draft last week, their long-term wing needs aren't as great. Even if Ingram ultimately is a 3 in the pros, the Lakers still have Jordan Clarkson at the 2, who has a chance to be a very productive pro and who is likely to stay in L.A. as an Arenas Provision free agent (meaning, basically, the Lakers can match any offer Clarkson gets on the market).

DeRozan took a major step up last season, teaming with fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry to lead the Raptors to the Eastern Conference Finals after some past ordinary playoff performances. He's the top 2-guard available this summer. But there's no place where he would do better than alongside Lowry. They've grown together, faced adversity together and come out strong together. It would be a shame to break that up to go someplace that is in the nascent stages of rebuilding.

5. Al Horford should sign with the Celtics in a sign-and-trade deal.

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 8: Al Horford #15 of the Atlanta Hawks goes for the layup against the Cleveland Cavaliers during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs on May 8, 2016 at Philips Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

In this scenario, Boston sends Amir Johnson, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, the rights to Demetrius Jackson and a 2018 first-round pick to the Hawks.

Horford, per sources, wants to see the Hawks improve the team's roster before committing to a long-term deal with Atlanta. The Hawks have reason to believe they'll be able to do just that. The predraft, three-team trade that sent Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers netted Atlanta the 12th pick (via the Utah Jazz) in the first round—Baylor's Taurean Prince—was the first step.

But despite having solid ownership, management and coaching, with a recent history of playoff progressionother than when they play Clevelandthe Hawks remain the longest of long shots to land Durant. As of Wednesday night, he hadn't even agreed to a meeting with the team. That would leave Atlanta native Dwight Howard, who will meet with the Hawks and Celtics, and who certainly would help.

But if Howard plays center, who plays power forward? Horford or Paul Millsap? And if Millsap, the current starter at the 4, moves to the 3, that would seem to mean the end of the road for Kent Bazemore in Atlanta.

A lot of questions. And if Howard doesn't sign with the Hawks, the 30-year-old Horford is going to start looking around. Boston would be a logical and desirable destination for the four-time All-Star, who played in all 82 games last season for the first time in his career. A sign-and-trade would allow Horford to cash in on a full max dealfour years and $118.2 millionin Boston. But even assuming a max deal for Horford, Boston would still be able to go after another high-level free agent.

At some point, Boston has to start getting rid of its player surplus, and adding a player of Horford's caliber will have the added affect of luring that third premier player in free agency, either this summer or next, to tilt the board. Think of it as the Ray Allen 2.0 Effect.

Horford would make sense with the Celtics. His versatility on offense would give Brad Stevens all kinds of options and provide a hub for Boston to play through. He would be a lethal pick-and-pop guy with fellow All-Star Isaiah Thomas. Horford is also an iso option for Boston (other than the diminutive Thomas in crunch time), a roller for Boston's deep cast of guards and a playmaking/stretch 5 who made 88 3-pointers last seasoneight times his previous season high.

Horford rebounds. Defensively, he's better than advertised, capable of huge blocked shots and more than capable of defending screen-and-roll sets. He's a high-character guy who would make any team's locker room better. In that way, he'd fit right in with the Celtics, whose seemingly quixotic pursuit of star players to replace the Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen continues.

Boston tried yet again to use its draft picks as part of trade packages before the draft, with no success. So the Celtics took another handful of young players, with no hope of being able to play them all. A sign-and-trade with the Hawks would allow Boston to pare its roster while also providing Atlanta with potential starters at center and small forward in Johnson (if Atlanta can't land Howard) and Crowder, a young point guard in Jackson to play behind Dennis Schroder, an intriguing two-way player in Smart and that 2018 pick.

I'm pretty sure Boston won't surrender the 2017 first-rounder it'll get from Brooklyn, but Atlanta would be right to hold out for the 2018 first Boston also gets from Brooklyn. The Nets will almost certainly still be lottery-bound by then.

6. The Lakers should sign Ryan Anderson and Bismack Biyombo ($14 million first-year salary for Anderson; $11 million first-year salary for Biyombo).

TORONTO, ON - MAY 27:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers goes up against Bismack Biyombo #8 of the Toronto Raptors in the second quarter in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre on May 27, 20
Mark Blinch/Getty Images

New coach Luke Walton wants his team to play with a joy like the Warriors did while he was Steve Kerr's top assistant there the past two seasons. He doesn't have the talent that Kerr has, but by signing Anderson and Biyombo, his Lakers could at least play in similar ways.

Anderson is not the playmaker or defender that Draymond Green is, but he's a superior shooter (career 37.7 percent on three-pointers) and has always stuck his nose in and tried to rebound. The Lakers were dreadful from outside last season, ranking last in the NBA in three-point percentage (31.7 percent). For guards Russell or Clarkson to ever have any room to operate going forward in the post-Kobe Bryant era, having players like rookie Brandon Ingram and Anderson on the floor will be vital. And Anderson is just 28.

Biyombo is just 23 and would be able to grow with Russell, Clarkson, Ingram and Julius Randle. He was a part-time starter and valuable contributor to the Raptors all season. In the playoffs, Biyombo filled in for the injured Jonas Valanciunas, the usual starter, against Miami and Cleveland. Biyombo thrived during that stretch, averaging 8.2 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 10 starts. That included back-to-back monster games on the glass in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cavaliers26 rebounds and 14 rebounds in Games 3 and 4, respectively.

But Biyombo would help the Lakers at the offensive end as well as defensively.

SI.com's Ben Golliver took a detailed look at the very deep free-agent center class this year and found that Biyombo was one of the best-passing big men available. The ball doesn't stick when he's on the floor. That's music to Walton's ears as he's trying to get the ball from one side of the floor to the other as the Warriors do. While someone like Whiteside would have more scoring potential for the Lakers, Biyombo would be a better fit.

7. Dwight Howard should sign with the Hornets.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN -  APRIL 11: Dwight Howard #12 of the Houston Rockets warms up before the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on April 11, 2016 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by d
David Sherman/Getty Images

Charlotte's top priority is re-signing forward Nicolas Batum. But the Hornets have other free agents that they'd like to keepJeremy Lin, Courtney Lee and Marvin Williamsand it will be hard to do. (Al Jefferson is not as high a priority.)

If the Hornets can keep Batum, they'll still need a center who is active enough defensively to rebound, block shots and get them out on the break, but capable and mobile enough offensively not to get in the way and be able to finish. Even after all of his injuries, Howard is still very capable of doing both.

It is easy to pile on Howard. He struggled playing next to James Harden for long stretches in Houston the past two seasons after coming there in 2014 as the Rockets' big free-agent splash signing. But Howard won't be 31 until December. He was second in the league in field-goal percentage (62.0 percent) and was tied for third in rebounds per game (11.8).

He may not be a No. 1 offensive option any more, but he could be a hell of a No. 3 in Charlotte behind Kemba Walker and Batum, both playmakers who played extremely well together and made it almost impossible for defenses to load up on one side or the other of the floor. At 6'8", Batum also has easier sightlines for entry passes, a seemingly simple skill that was frequently a problem for Howard's point guards in Houston.

8. The Wizards, with their $31 million in cap room, should sign Chandler Parsons (first year, $19 million), Darrell Arthur (first year, $7 million) and Czech guard and 2012 second-rounder Tomas Satoransky (first year, $5 million).

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 14: Chandler Parsons #25 of the Dallas Mavericks handles the ball during the game against the Charlotte Hornets on March 14, 2016 at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and
Kent Smith/Getty Images

Spurned by Durant, the Wizards need to move on. Adding three players with that loot Washington saved for KD would give the Wizards a chance to compete quickly again in the Eastern Conference.

Washington wants to take a crack at Charlotte's Nicolas Batum but is increasingly of the belief he's staying with the Hornets. So Parsonswho is obviously not Durantis the kind of athletic 3-4 who could help Washington in a number of ways. He would give the Wizards great versatility, allowing them to mix and match among their forward rotation—Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and second-year man Kelly Oubre.

Washington has a potential starting five in place, with Porter and Morris flanking center Marcin Gortat alongside John Wall and Bradley Beal, whom the Wizards will sign to a max extension after they're done adding to the roster. But the Wizards should not make the mistake of overrating their projected starting five. To get back to the playoffs next year, they need to add more talent, not just sign minimum guys to fill out their bench.

Parsons has two well-known liabilities:

  1. A history of injuries throughout his career, including separate injuries to his right knee the last two seasons and microfracture surgery a year ago.
  2. Inconsistent-at-best defense.

But Parsons is worth taking a risk on. He left Houston three seasons ago seeking a bigger role on a team, and such a role could be possible in Washington, which needs a small forward who can knock down three-pointers (especially with Morris on the floor) to spread the court for Wall. And Parsons could help Washington immensely as a secondary ball-handler.

A career 38.0 percent shooter behind the arc, Parsons shot a career-best 41.4 percent on three-pointers last year and was also top-10 among small forwards in PER last season. Splitting the forward minutes between Parsons, Porter and Morris would give the Wizards time to bring along Oubre more methodically.

According to J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic, Washington has targeted Denver's Arthur, who has become a pretty solid stretch 4 since tearing his Achilles in 2011. The pursuit makes sense. Last season, he shot 38.5 percent on three-pointers, and he could play some center as well coming off the bench.

The Wizards have been trying to convince Satoransky to come over this season instead of remaining another year playing for FC Barcelona in the Spanish League, one of the best in the world. The 6'7" combo guard has become a solid player for Barcelona but just signed a contract extension a couple of months ago. He probably would cost less to bring over than it would cost for the Wizards to re-sign backup Ramon Sessions, coming off a solid season and looking for some security.

None of these three players are over 28. They could all grow together with the Wizards' returning core of Wall, Beal, Porter, Morris and Oubre.

9. The Mavericks should sign Luol Deng ($12 million first year).

MIAMI, FL - MAY 9: Luol Deng #9 of the Miami Heat shoots the ball against the Toronto Raptors in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at AmericanAirlines Arena on May 9, 2016 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agree
Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

Dallas could certainly go after someone like Atlanta's Kent Bazemore to step into the starting small forward job if Parsons leaves. But Bazemore is likely to cost more than Deng, who had two decent seasons in Miami after signing as a free agent in 2014. Given Dirk Nowitzki's standing with the team, and owner Mark Cuban's hope to give Dirk the best possible chance to compete in the playoffs, the guess here is the older, more experienced Deng would be preferred.

Dallas has significant cap space and is going hard after Conley too after Deron Williams opted out of his contract last week.

Deng played some 4 in Miami, especially after the Heat signed Joe Johnson following his buyout in Brooklyn. It's possible to see the Mavs' playing some lineups with Deng at power forward and either Nowitzki or Dwight Powell at center. In more traditional lineups, with Deng at the 3 and Nowitzki at the 4, Dallas would have switchability (is that a word?) defensively for those nights when Dirk has a tough matchup.

10. The Suns should trade Tyson Chandler to the Miami Heat for a protected 2018 second-round pick and cash—if the Heat don't get either Durant to sign or Whiteside to re-sign.

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 13:  Pat Riley of the Miami Heat attends a game against the Denver Nuggets on July 13, 2015 at The Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photogra
Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

There's no point for Phoenix to do anything but fully commit to the rebuild it started a couple of seasons ago. Keeping Chandler does nothing but take minutes away from Alex Len, who's showing signs of being worth the fifth pick in 2013. With Whiteside looking for a max payday, the $13 million average over three years Miami would pay Chandler would be a bargain by comparison.

Chandler is 33 and not quite the defensive force he was a couple of seasons ago. Still, he remains a very smart and durable big man who would fit right in with the Heat and give them a legit starter if Whiteside departs. Dwyane Wade's free agency is a potential stumbling block, with the free-agent guard counting $30 million in a cap hold on the team's cap until his status is resolved.

But as the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Ira Winderman pointed out, Miami could take the unusual step of renouncing its rights to Wade, freeing up cap space to go after other free agents. The Heat would still be able to re-sign Wade but would have to do it with whatever remaining cap space it had after other signings.

Stats courtesy of NBA.com and ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.

Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can email him here and follow him on Twitter.

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.