Building an Offseason Whiteboard for Every Top 25 NBA Free Agent

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2017

Building an Offseason Whiteboard for Every Top 25 NBA Free Agent

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    Who says NBA teams are the only ones allowed to makeand then leakoffseason whiteboards? 

    Players have their say in how the summertime festivities unfold—well, at least free agents do. They deserve to have a whiteboard conveying their inner-most desires, so we're making one for them.

    Think of these as equal opportunity free-agent bucket lists. The magnifying glass isn't on what will happen, though that certainly comes into play; it's on what players should want to happen.

    Where do they fit in best? Who can give them the most money? Which team can offer them the best chance at luring Tim Duncan out of retirement?

    Cap situations will shape every player's top-three destinations. There will be long shots, because pipe dreams are fun, but each player won't have the Golden State Warriors headlining his wish list.

    We're also dealing with the best of the best, so the list of options is even more limited. Most of the top-25 names aren't angling to land in a noticeably worse situation.

    Our previous look at this summer's 50 best free agents is the baseline for the selection process. Certain rankings will change, but they're being plucked from that pool. This breakdown of each team's cap outlook is what we'll use to pin down every player's options.

25. Tony Snell (Restricted)

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    1. Milwaukee Bucks

    It's like Aristotle always said: "Why leave the team on which you shot a career-best 40.6 percent from three when it legitimately values your defensive contributions?"

    Someone else might have said that. Maybe it was Plato. Or Socrates. At any rate, Tony Snell is already in the perfect spot. The Milwaukee Bucks can match any offer he receives, and general manager John Hammond doesn't sound like someone ready to let him walk.

    "He's an outstanding guy and a guy we want to have as part of our team moving forward," he said of Snell, per the Associated Press (via Fox Sports). "He's about the right things. I think Tony wants to be here. We're hoping to bring him back. We're planning on him being with us next season."


    2. Phoenix Suns

    Imagine what the Phoenix Suns could do with a switchy wing playing beside Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker? At 25, Snell fits their undefined timeline and equips an offense that placed 29th in three-point-attempt rate to hoist more long balls.

    Phoenix can get more than $10 million in cap space while carrying all in-house holds. That won't be enough to sign Snell. (It's incredible that this is a thing.) Waiving Leandro Barbosa or renouncing the rights to restricted free agent Alex Len should open up enough cap space to lob an offer Milwaukee will have to at least think about before matching.  


    3. Brooklyn Nets

    Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson loves wings who shoot threes and guard across multiple positions. Snell would have the greenest light inside one of the NBA's fastest-paced systems and would get to form one of the most interesting perimeter trios next to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert.

    Plus, if the Nets don't turn into a salary-dumping ground for squads slinging first-round goodies as compensation, they'll be ableand perhaps willingto pay him more than just about anyone.

24. Kelly Olynyk (Restricted)

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    1. Boston Celtics

    Kelly Olynyk's minutes fluctuate with the Boston Celtics, and he'll never pry a starting slot from Al Horford. But it's a tough world out there for 7-footers, even ones who can shoot threes and provide secondary rim protection.

    Olynyk isn't too effective defending in space, and you can only get away with using him as a 4 when someone like Horford is beside him to swap certain assignments.

    In Boston, he can continue to be an effective reserve who makes people wonder whether he would excel in a more prominent role. Getting paid eight figures annually to perpetuate that mystique should most definitely be on his bucket list.


    2. Brooklyn Nets

    Brook Lopez turns 30 next April, just prior to entering free agency. The Nets don't have his replacement on the roster; there isn't a single big under contract beyond 2017-18, when Trevor Booker and Justin Hamilton also enter free agency.

    Olynyk would cede touches and status to Lopez next season, but Atkinson is generous with the minutes he divvies up among reserves. He's also an advocate of five-out lineups.

    As someone already shooting threes, Olynyk has built-in goodwill, and his passing, like Lopez's, will only improve under Atkinson. If the Nets are willing to pay what the Celtics won't, they're a good enough fit for him to relocate.


    3. Los Angeles Lakers

    Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson has said his focus is on next summer's free agency. Paul George is scheduled to hit the open market at that time (player option), but that's probably just a coincidence.

    It's possible Olynyk devolves into collateral damage of the Celtics' own superstar pursuits. If they renounce his rights and he becomes an unrestricted free agent, it won't cost as much to sign him. And while the Lakers have enough bigs with Tarik Black (non-guaranteed), Timofey Mozgov, Larry Nance Jr., Julius Randle and Ivica Zubac, not one has three-point range.

    Olynyk comes in and adds a new dynamic to the offense—a necessary one if head coach Luke Walton isn't yet ready to use Brandon Ingram at the 4.

    The price has to be right, particularly with Mozgov on the books, but the Lakers have a demand for what Olynyk supplies. And in this big-man market, that's enough to catch the 26-year-old's eye.

23. Patrick Patterson

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    1. Toronto Raptors

    Patrick Patterson won't ever have an expansive role with the Toronto Raptors, but that's fine. Staying put allows him to do things like shoot barely 40 percent from the field without incurring much hate.

    Besides, Toronto is where he's morphed into a plus-minus deity. Only Kyle Lowry was a bigger net positive during the regular season.

    The Raptors' cap situation is a mess, but they have Patterson's Bird rights, so they can soar over the cap to pay him market value. And if he's returning, you can bet one or both of DeMarre Carroll and Jonas Valanciunas won't be—which amounts to more playing time for him. 


    2. Milwaukee Bucks

    This is a reach, but it's also a perfect fit.

    Milwaukee won't have meaningful cap space unless Greg Monroe declines his $17.9 million player option. Given the tepid market for non-unicorns, it's unlikely he tests the waters. If he comes back, the Bucks will have to dump some combination of Matthew Dellavedova, Spencer Hawes (player option) and Mirza Teletovic for this to happen.

    And, make no mistake, this should happen. The Bucks can use depth up front with Jabari Parker recovering from another ACL injury. Patterson is like a hybrid version of Parker and Teletovic that defends three positions.

    Stick him on the court with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Malcolm Brogdon, a more polished Thon Maker and Khris Middleton and, woo baby, you have one of the most terrifyingly versatile fivesomes in the Eastern Conference.


    3. Chicago Bulls

    Picture the Bucks' cap situation. Add in more fluidity, and buh-oom: You have the Chicago Bulls. 

    How much money they have to spend entirely depends on Nikola Mirotic's restricted free agency, Rajon Rondo's non-guaranteed deal and Dwyane Wade's $23.8 million player option.

    Rondo is expected to be back, and Mirotic's hold won't be dropped unless some team throws a ton of money at him. So the Bulls won't have cash to burn unless Wade bails or they offload other contracts.

    Patterson's defensive adaptability is a worth flyer, though. He could flourish as the off-the-bounce, floor-spacing 4 head coach Fred Hoiberg has never been gifted, and he should keep the Bulls on his radar in case they end up being able to offer him way more than the mid-level exception.

22. C.J. Miles (Player Option)

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    1. Minnesota Timberwolves

    Someone get C.J. Miles to the Minnesota Timberwolves right now.

    Head coach/president/nails-on-a-chalkboard voiceover expert Tom Thibodeau needs a rangy wing to offset the defense he doesn't get from Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins. Loop in Shabazz Muhammad (restricted) here as well if Minnesota is ill-sighted enough to pay him this summer.

    Miles, at 6'6", can guards 2s, 3s and even some 4s. He also addresses the Timberwolves' glaring lack of three-point marksmanship. Of the 240 players who churned through 75 or more spot-up sets, he finished first in points scored per possession this season. 


    2. New York Knicks

    Although the New York Knicks must somersault through a lot of hoops to carve out significant cap space, they can almost effortlessly conjure between $12 million and $15 million in room—enough to give Miles an authentic offer.

    Whether he responds to their overtures is a different story. They figure to struggle recruiting quality free agents. Give them the time of day, and they might be able to finagle an above-market proposal.

    The Knicks desperately need players who don't recite the lyrics to Rebecca Black's "Friday" in their head on defense, and not even team president Phil Jackson can devalue the three-and-D potential of a Miles-Courtney Lee defensive pairing. OK, maybe he can.


    3. Indiana Pacers

    Look, if the Indiana Pacers offer Miles more money than any other suitor, he should absolutely re-sign. Otherwise, he needs to get the freaking frick out of Dodge.

    George is a goner after not making an All-NBA team. There's no point in a 30-year-old Miles latching on to an extensive rebuild.

21. Andre Roberson (Restricted)

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    1. Oklahoma City Thunder

    This isn't about the convenience attached to staying put in restricted free agency.

    Andre Roberson has turned into an all-world defender with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and while his jumper is broken, he'll never want for wide-open bunnies playing next to Russell Westbrook. He attempted more uncontested threes than Draymond Green, a byproduct of both his point guard and how defenses game plan around his jagged stroke.

    Also: It's about convenience.

    "Every indication we've had from Dre and from his people, his agent, is that he loves playing here," Thunder general manager Sam Presti said, per The Oklahoman's Brett Dawson. "And I've always said this to everybody before: When the player shows an interest in being here, it really exponentially helps your opportunity to get a contract done, if you would like to."

    So long as the Thunder are open to ignoring the possible luxury-tax implications and match whatever offer Roberson receives, he won't have a reason to play anywhere else.


    2. Phoenix Suns 

    Spoiler: The Suns will be linked to a great deal of high-end defensive wings. The fit is too perfect.

    Roberson doesn't jibe with them shooting more three-pointers, but teams won't suddenly start guarding him because he's switched locales. Bledsoe and Booker get into the lane enough to leave him free and clear.

    Slot him at the 3, and the Suns have a near-foolproof way of surviving on defense. He can assume every assignment Booker cannot and is more than capable of pitching in against opposing point guards. Creating enough money to sign him probably entails cutting bait with Len, but that should hardly be a deal-breaker.


    3. Indiana Pacers

    It'll be hard for the Pacers to put together consequential offseason directives without a resolution to the George situation. They will have cap space, but how do they spend it without knowing where their best player will be suiting up by the start of the season or the end of it?

    Targeting Roberson offers the best of both worlds. He's 25, so he can endure a thorough rebuild. If George is in Indiana for the long haul, Roberson lets him take off more plays on defense while promising an upgrade in those situations over Miles.

    Ponying up the money to scare off Oklahoma City demands Indiana part ways with Miles (or Jeff Teague), but that shouldn't be an issue. It makes more sense to invest heavily in the younger Roberson when your team doesn't have a distinct direction.

20. Nerlens Noel (Restricted)

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    1. Dallas Mavericks

    League executives told Sporting News' Sean Deveney that Nerlens Noel could command a deal worth "around $90 million," and that the Dallas Mavericks are prepared to match whatever offers he finds. This alone is enough for him to sit tight.

    It helps that Dallas is also a great fit, because it's not Philadelphia. Noel won't be jostling for position with other bigs. He'll be surrounded by four shooters at most times and afforded the freedom to explode toward the basket, unimpeded, off high screens.

    Noel shouldn't have to fight for a spot in the starting five, either. His time on the court with Dirk Nowitzki flashed enough punch on both sides of the floor to prevent head coach Rick Carlisle from permanently rolling out German Race Car-at-the-5 units to begin games.


    2. Boston Celtics

    Should the Celtics whiff on actual superstars, they'll have room to make Noel their defensive-rebounding savior.

    Head coach Brad Stevens typically curtails usage of dual-big lineups, but Al Horford shoots enough threes to make the offensive spacing work. And after getting tortured on the glass by Tristan Thompson in the playoffs again, he should welcome the help. 


    3. Dallas Mavericks

    No, this is not a typo. Sift through depth charts across the league, and you won't find many openings for expensive bigs who don't chuck threes.

    If the Mavericks are really prepared to hurl $90 million Noel's ways, he needn't shop around for a better offer. There won't be one.

19. J.J. Redick

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    1. Los Angeles Clippers

    Some league officials told the Los Angeles Times' Broderick Turner that J.J. Redick will leave the Los Angeles Clippers for another team that's willing to pay him $18 million or more per year. And good for him. He's been on a below-market deal for the last four seasons. Get paid, J.J.

    But that contract isn't coming from a team gearing up for a run at the Cleveland Cavaliers or Golden State Warriors. Most genuine contenders don't have that scratch. The ones who do aren't paying a soon-to-be 33-year-old that much for more than two years.

    Redick might as well hope he runs it back irrespective of the luxury-tax implications. The Clippers have his Bird rights and no way of replacing him, and he doesn't have a more competitive situation awaiting him outside Hollywood.


    2. Brooklyn Nets

    While talking with Chris Mannix on the The Vertical's NBA Draft Lottery Show, breaking-news overlord Adrian Wojnarowski said the Nets, Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers are all expected to have interest in Redick. Again: These are the types of teams that will shell out major dough for the free-agent sniper.

    The Nets loom as an interesting fit if general manager Sean Marks doesn't want to preserve cap space. They are years away from competing at a material level and adding Redick drives interest. He seamlessly transitions into Atkinson's motion offense and brings lethal shooting to a team that's probably disappointed it only ranked sixth in three-point tries per 100 possessions.

    If Redick is going to follow the money to a rebuilding squad, there isn't another option that can guarantee him more looks.


    3. Minnesota Timberwolves

    Assuming Redick doesn't mind leaving the comfy confines of Los Angeles for the more brutal climate in Minnesota, the Timberwolves are a solid match. 

    They need to shoot more threes, Redick is a better one-on-one defender than Muhammad, and they need to shoot more threes, Thibs will want to make the playoffs sooner rather than later, and they need to shoot more threes.

18. Andre Iguodala

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    1. Golden State Warriors

    Andre Iguodala's free agency won't be an issue if Kevin Durant signs a non-Bird max that safeguards the Warriors against renouncing the 2015 NBA Finals MVP, along with Shaun Livingston and a bunch of others.

    In the event Durant wants a full-blown max, Iguodala's return may still be easy-peasy. He's 33, and his career earnings will surpass $121 million after this season. He's right in that ring-chasing wheelhouse.

    Don't be surprised if he pulls a David West and leaves tens of millions of dollars on the table to win more rings than LeBron James.


    2. San Antonio Spurs

    We call this the reverse David West. Or the half-David West in reverse. Maybe we shouldn't call it anything at all.

    Other teams will pay more for Iguodala if he's leaving the Warriors. But joining the San Antonio Spurs at the $8.4 million mid-level exception—or slightly more if their own free agents peace out—flirts with offering the best of both worlds. He gets to contend while taking home more than packing peanuts.

    Best of all: San Antonio would be able to play Iguodala, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard at the same time—a tantalizing defensive triumvirate we didn't know we needed to see until right now.


    3. Minnesota Timberwolves

    Signing with the Timberwolves would be strictly a money play for Iguodala. They have a clear path toward Daddy Warbucks cap-space status and a blinding need for someone with his defensive tools.

    Miles and Redick are the better options if the Timberwolves are more focused on detonating from beyond the arc. But Iguodala, unlike either of them, can cover the enemy's best player on most nights without losing the individual battle. And at 30 and almost-33, respectively, neither Miles nor Redick is much better positioned to tap into the fountain of youth.

17. Joe Ingles (Restricted)

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    1. Utah Jazz

    Waiver wire-to-glorious riches stories are always complicated. 

    On the one hand, Joe Ingles, who couldn't stick with the Clippers before joining the Utah Jazz, has an opportunity to get Golden Opulence Sundae paid. Utah can match whatever money he gets elsewhere, but so much depends on Gordon Hayward's and George Hill's own forays into the talent pool.

    Will the Jazz pay Ingles top dollar if the others leave and they're thrust into a quasi-rebuild? Will they stomach the luxury-tax bill to retain him if everyone stays? He should chase the money and then let the Jazz make their decision.

    On the other hand, Utah is where Ingles first cracked the NBA's spotlight. He knows his playmaking, outside shooting and defensive chops will all be adequately accentuated where he is now. Why risk a mutually gainful marriage for a few million dollars per year?

    Either way you slice it, Ingles just belongs in Utah—even if he doesn't actually continue playing there.


    2. Miami Heat

    There were "whispers" back in March that the Miami Heat could lure Hayward out of Utah, according to the New York Daily News' Frank Isola. But Ingles makes more sense if, as he indicated at his year-end presser, team president Pat Riley is more interested in keeping the band together.

    The soon-to-be 30-year-old is essentially a toned-down version of Hayward. You won't want him running the offense as much, but you'll want him defending every rival's top scorer more.

    Station Ingles around Goran Dragic drives and pick-and-rolls, and the Heat will be in for deep-ball sprees. They can pay him market value without abandoning James Johnson if, as expected, Chris Bosh's deal gets wiped from the ledger, and Ingles is quietly a necessary insurance policy should Justise Winslow's jumper never develop.


    3. Minnesota Timberwolves

    Hopefully, you're not sick of reading about how much the Timberwolves need a deadeye shooter who does more than twiddle his thumbs on defense. They should be in contact with everyone of these Ingles-type free agents.

    The Australian is more Iguodala than Miles or Redick. He's not nearly as explosive, but he can orchestrate half-court offensive sets in a pinch, and his decision-making on defense approaches infallible.

    He should revel in the opportunity to join a burgeoning superpower as Thibodeau's go-to super sub—provided, of course, he's totally fine with infinite knee, ankle, foot, back and shoulder soreness.

16. JaMychal Green (Restricted)

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    1. Memphis Grizzlies

    Like Ingles, JaMychal Green's first choice should be to roll with the team that facilitated his breakout.

    Power forwards who won't flinch at switching pick-and-rolls or defending are all the rage—superseded only by wings who excel at the 4. Green won't have a problem. But the Memphis Grizzlies are his safe zone; he knows where he stands with them.

    Seeking out a larger role has its own appeal, but not every potential suitor comes with a Marc Gasol, who is both an ideal partner and safety net, and a turnover-averse Mike Conley to tie it all together.

    The role Memphis has manufactured for him is the one he's best suited for—that of a defensive cornerstone with limited offensive responsibility.


    2. Boston Celtics

    If you're going to dissolve your alliance with Gasol, you might as well join his carbon copy: Al Horford. 

    There won't be a steep learning curve for Green in Boston. Horford puts the ball on the floor more than Gasol, and the Celtics are deeper on the wings than the Grizzlies.

    All of those deviations simplify Green's offensive identity; he gets to spot up beyond the arc and pursue second-chance opportunities while mixing in the occasional drive or pump-and-dump.

    Boston should have the cap space to field an offer sheet that makes Memphis uncomfortable. More importantly, the rotation needs a physical presence like Green. He grabbed 21.1 percent of opponent misses when in the game this season, a mark that would have led the Celtics and dwarfed the defensive-rebounding performance of everyone in the starting lineup.


    3. Miami Heat

    Miami has to be careful when sussing out frontcourt brothers for Hassan Whiteside.

    Serge Ibaka is appealing, for instance, because the pair would set the record for blocks that clear the seventh row of the stands. But Whiteside's primary running mate must have the ability to switch pick-and-rolls, because he can't. 

    Green can, usually without issue. And he hit enough of his threes (37.9 percent) to justify more volume and, by extension, an offensive work space that won't cramp Whiteside's style.

    Keeping James Johnson takes priority over signing Green, whose game is similar, but the Heat's coaching staff is no stranger for extracting the most out of would-be projects. They should interest him, and he them, if only because he's light years ahead of the other grinders they typically take in.

    Oh, and unlike Johnson, he won't be in his mid-30s by the end of his next contract.

15. James Johnson

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    1. Miami Heat

    The Heat would be listed higher on Green's wish list if James Johnson weren't so high on theirs. He was everything to them—often literally.

    Johnson jump-started pick-and-rolls, super-charged fast breaks, defended forwards, played center and even canned a career-best 34 percent of his threes. Just one other player tallied as many points (975), assists (276), steals (76), blocks (86) and made threebies (87): DeMarcus Cousins.

    Neither side should want this party to end. Miami is where Johnson became more than an infrequently used journeyman, and the Heat cannot afford to lose the player who brought more statistical value to their feel-good cause than anyone other than Dragic, according to NBA Math's Total Points Added.


    2. Denver Nuggets

    Nikola Jokic needs a partner in crime like Johnson—a small-ball 4 as versatile as himself.

    Out of all the collaborators the Denver Nuggets have paraded in front of Jokic, not one fits this bill. Jusuf Nurkic never did enough on defense, Mason Plumlee doesn't have the jumper to maximize a center with eyes in the back of his head and Kenneth Faried's imperfections are the love child of Nurkic's and Plumlee's flaws.

    Danilo Gallinari is the closest Denver has come to Johnson, but that's not saying much. His defense is unreliable at its kindest.

    Here's a novel idea—sign the actual Johnson. The Nuggets can afford any free agent they please if they're not interested in paying Gallinari (player option). If there's a team positioned to test the depth of the Heat's pockets, it's them.


    3. Boston Celtics

    The Celtics have a void on the defensive glass, a head coach who can incorporate all-everything bigs without working himself into a tizzy and lots of cap space.

    So, yes, they should interest Johnson.

    Granted, he doesn't address their issues on the glass nearly as well. But his across-the-board aptitudes let the Celtics go bigger for longer without compromising their switchability. That's not a luxury they have with Amir Johnson.

14. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Restricted)

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    1. Brooklyn Nets

    Encouraging a restricted free agent to embrace wandering eyes feels pointless. Incumbent teams can match everything, and a source told the Detroit Free Press' Vince Ellis the Detroit Pistons will pay whatever it takes to keep Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

    But this isn't an entirely futile process. Caldwell-Pope isn't a superstar. And this isn't a Bradley Beal-type situation. The Pistons are hamstrung financially and won't just peddle a max offer out of goodwill or a fear of inevitability. They're more likely to let the market dictate Caldwell-Pope's worth, then go from there.

    On the off-chance his initial offer compels the Pistons to pass, Caldwell-Pope needs to latch onto the right team. That's the Nets in this case.

    They have the cap space to dole out a max offer sheet, and Atkinson will have him running more pick-and-rolls than Pistons coach and president Stan Van Gundy. Even his defensive assignments will get easier—a direct result of syncing up with Hollis-Jefferson and LeVert.


    2. Detroit Pistons

    Back to reality.

    Detroit isn't a bad situation for Caldwell-Pope. Van Gundy knows he's the team's most important defender, and he saw more time as the primary ball-handler during a season in which Reggie Jackson never looked right.

    The offense is unpredictable and often clunky, but Caldwell-Pope still nailed a personal-best 35 percent of his threes amid career-high volume.

    Swap out Jackson, Tobias Harris or Markieff Morris for a more proven off-ball threat, and Caldwell-Pope's offensive stock takes off. And with the way this roster underachieved in 2016-17, it seems like only a matter of time before Van Gundy pivots into something else.

    In the meantime, there are things much worse for Caldwell-Pope than sticking with the team that helped push him into the max-contract discussion.


    3. Phoenix Suns

    The Suns would be even more appealing to Caldwell-Pope if there were an opportunity for him to be a lead ball-handler. But there isn't—not with Bledsoe and Booker running the show.

    Still, Phoenix can plug Caldwell-Pope into a role almost identical to what he's done in Boston. He'll guard the players Booker cannot, drain threes off the catch and, depending on what the Suns have in store for Brandon Knight, see some time as the quarterback in second units.

    One thing Phoenix has that Detroit does not: adaptability on the frontline. Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss are raw, and Tyson Chandler is old. But none of them command a certain number of touches in the post, leaving more available shots for those on the wings.

13. Jeff Teague

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    1. Dallas Mavericks

    Pick-and-rolls with Noel? Pick-and-pops with Dirk? Drive-and-kicks with Seth Curry and Wesley Matthews? Tunisian-themed pregame handshakes with Salah Mejri?

    Coffee breaks whenever Harrison Barnes posts up or goes one-on-one? 

    Jeff Teague belongs in Dallas. The Mavericks need a point guard. Owner Mark Cuban has been open about that. Dallas can summon more than $20 million in spending power by declining Nowitzki's team option (with the intention of re-signing him at a discount) and jettisoning Devin Harris.

    Teague won't cost as much as Jrue Holiday, and he's played off George and Paul Millsap enough to be comfortable with a shape-shifting job description.

    More than anything: Joining whatever Dallas is building beats the hell out of waiting for Indiana to tear it all down.


    2. Indiana Pacers

    Loki doesn't know what he's talking about. Sentiment matters. 

    Teague was born in Indiana. He attended high school in Indiana. The pull to continue playing at home might call to him on a profound level. Maybe the Pacers will offer him the fifth year no other team can. Perhaps George decides purple and gold jerseys clash with his conservative sneaker colorways. 

    Change is on the horizon in Indiana no matter what. Larry Bird already stepped down as team president, and the Pacers have a mini-rebuild on their hands even if George stays. The uncertainty that comes with this isn't ideal, but there aren't many could-be contenders with near-max cap space and openings at point guard.


    3. Philadelphia 76ers

    The Sixers are in a weird spot. Their best point guard is T.J. McConnell, which suggests they need an upgrade. But they don't actually have the touches for a point guard.

    Joel Embiid must be fed when he returns, and Ben Simmons will serve as the foremost playmaker until he figures out how to play off the ball. If the Sixers are going to allocate some of their unrivaled cap space to a floor general, it should be one who needn't dominate the action at every turn.

    Teague drilled more than 37 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes this season, so he can be groomed for more off-ball work. At 28, his prime won't intersect with Philly's window, but Kyle Lowry's won't either, and the Sixers are interested in signing him, per's Keith Pompey. At least Teague is younger and cheaper.

12. Danilo Gallinari (Player Option)

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    1. Miami Heat

    Another self-sufficient scorer who can thrive launching off the catch is exactly what the Heat need. And Gallinari fits that description to a T.

    More than 42 percent of his field-goal attempts came as spot-up opportunities, but he shot a respectable 46.3 percent when using between two and six dribbles and has no trouble drawing fouls off the bounce. With him, the Heat don't have to worry about offensive malaises during Dragic's stays on the bench.

    Hayward is more of a difference-maker than Gallinari—particularly as a distributor and defender. But his price tag will reflect as much. Gallinari will be cheaper; he shouldn't cost too much more than his $16.1 million player option.

    There's a solid chance they can bring him in while remaining flexible enough to retain Johnson. And no matter what the Heat look like next season, they'll have more touches for Gallinari than the wing-loaded, Jokic-piloted Nuggets.


    2. Chicago Bulls

    If Wade leaves, the Bulls will have an opening for another shot creator. If they pass on re-signing Mirotic, they'll need extra firepower at the 4.

    Gallinari should be up for filling both potential vacancies. Jimmy Butler needs someone to alleviate the energy he expends on offense and the Italian is a better complement than Wade. He's not demonstratively more effective on the less glamorous end, but he can play off anyone.

    And like Miami, Chicago has more room than Denver to let him freelance in the halfcourt. That won't change, even if Rondo remains a prominent part of the rotation.


    3. Denver Nuggets

    There's nothing horribly off about Gallinari's fit with the Nuggets; they work together. But Gallinari's usage took a dive this year, and it's not going to climb in the coming seasons. 

    Gary Harris and Jamal Murray will only command more touches as they progress, and no one should be eating into Jokic's share of the offense. Emmanuel Mudiay factors into the pecking as long as he's on the roster, too.

    The Nuggets can float Gallinari's free-agent hold and still afford to add impactful talent to their budding beast, but that doesn't move the needle nearly as much as pursuing a star. They can't do that with him on the books, unless they pawn off Faried's or Wilson Chandler's contract.

    Even then, Gallinari should aim to end up somewhere he can be a featured option before considering a return to Denver.

11. George HIll

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    1. Utah Jazz

    "I told him if he gets a crazy offer somewhere else and we helped him get that offer, 'You're not going to get one poor thought, much less a word (from us)' if he were to go," Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said of George Hill, per the Deseret News' Mike Sorensen. "He helped us."

    If you try hard, you can hear Hill's heart melting.

    Money will be a driving force behind Hill's free agency. He has never been paid like a star, and the lingering effects of last summer's salary-cap boom will enable some teams to lavish certain standouts with near-max contracts.

    But Hill found his niche in Utah, even as he labored through injuries that limited him to 49 outings—a balanced role that blended standstill shooting with offensive control.

    As Lindsey alluded to, the Jazz put Hill in a situation to garner over-the-moon offers. He shouldn't want to switch digs if they can sniff the green he'll get elsewhere...


    2. San Antonio Spurs

    ...unless the Spurs come calling with the necessary cap space.

    Chris Paul-to-San Antonio conspiracies are fun, but the salary-cap gymnastics attached to chiseling out max money are extensive.

    Hill is a happy medium. He won't cost top dollar but is a clear upgrade over Tony Parker and Patty Mills, the latter of whom is better off as a secondary guard.

    Reuniting Hill with his former team just feels right. And there's something poetic about him lining up next to Kawhi Leonard, the player for whom he was traded. 


    3. Philadelphia 76ers

    Everything that applies to Teague comes into play here. The Sixers need someone who's half game manager, half off-guard. Hill has thrived next to ball-dominant types his entire career, including his inaugural season in Utah. 

    Similar to Lowry and Teague, the 31-year-old Hill's window doesn't perfectly align with Philly's rebuild. But team president Bryan Colangelo appears bent on adding veteran talent. (Those Jerryd Bayless and Gerald Henderson deals last summer were something).

    Hill brings that win-now flavor without denting the bottom line to Lowryish degrees.

10. Serge Ibaka

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    1. Toronto Raptors

    Why rail against what's already been agreed upon?

    Sources told Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler a new deal between Serge Ibaka and the Raptors that pays him in in the neighborhood of $20 million per year is "basically done." This is fine.

    Ibaka is exactly who Toronto traded for: a dependable three-point shooter, unremarkable rebounder and sometimes shot-swatter.

    General manager Masai Ujiri must decide how to make up for Ibaka's limitations on the defensive end. He can't guard in space like other contemporary bigs, and his blocks don't always translate to good rim protection.

    Though re-signing Patterson is the best move, the subsequent tax bill will be astronomical if Ujiri doesn't trim other fat off the books.

    But that's a Raptors problem. For Ibaka, he won't enjoy a betteror more easily masteredrole somewhere else.

    Lowry, assuming he returns, and DeMar DeRozan will draw defenses away from him on almost every drive, and Toronto gave him plenty of time at center, where he's still an offensive mismatch.


    2. Boston Celtics

    Ibaka isn't the big you sign to bolster your presence on the glass, but Horford and he can mesh on both sides of the court.

    Horford would function like Boston's other playmakers, flinging passes to Ibaka on the move, in addition to handling a majority of switches on defense.

    The quality of Ibaka's looks on the Celtics would be right in line with what he'll get from the Raptors. Stevens might even be able to coax off-the-dribble production out of him.

    He wouldn't be Boston's first or second call, but if the superstar well dries up and Ibaka remains unsigned, it has the surrounding personnel to squeeze him into the rotation. The timing, in fact, couldn't be more perfect with both Johnson and Olynyk ticketed for free agency themselves.


    3. Denver Nuggets

    Plopping Ibaka next to Jokic does wonders for the Nuggets' offense. He won't attack off the catch like Chandler or Gallinari, but he has more range than Faried or Plumlee.

    He buried 38.3 percent of his spot-up treys during the regular season, and his efficiency will only climb with Jokic throwing him impossibly angled strikes all night.

    Plumlee is the better overall defender, but he's not the answer to defending power forwards. Ibaka can still be a nuisance around the rim, and Jokic's pick-and-roll coverage should improve with time. The two have the tools to be a successful duo if given the chance.

9. Jrue Holiday

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    1. New Orleans Pelicans

    Kyler heard back in February the New Orleans Pelicans were "prepared to do a max or near-max deal" for Jrue Holiday, and they didn't appear to shift their stance at year's end.

    General manager Dell Demps told reporters after the season:

    "Jrue's been with us for four years. We love Jrue. We love his family. Obviously we'd like to have him back. He's got a tough decision to make. We're going to let that process play out. He's one of my favorite players. He's a two-way player and he's a phenomenal person. We really enjoyed having him here."

    Aspects of Holiday's fit with New Orleans are bizarre. He'll spend ample time playing off DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, and there won't be too much room for him to maneuver in the paint until New Orleans gets better shooters.

    Returning is convenient—more than it is for many other incumbents. The Pelicans have neither the money nor time to build around Cousins (free agent in 2018) and Davis from scratch.

    If they won't fork over the full max, they'll come close it—perhaps while offering a fifth year Holiday would be hard-pressed to turn away.


    2. Dallas Mavericks

    Certain "members of the Mavericks organization" consider Holiday a top target target this summer, according to's Ian Begley.

    Dallas cannot compete with a max offer from New Orleans, which would pay Holiday a little more than $30 million in Year 1, but it can join the sweepstakes if his price point falls somewhere between $20 million and $25 million per season. 

    It's easy to envision Holiday directing an offense with a rim-running Noel and a host of shooters orbiting the arc.

    His shooting did dip this season; he converted just 30.4 percent of his spot-up threes and 33.3 percent of his uncontested triples. But there was an adjustment period after the Cousins trade. He was much better off the catch before the All-Star break, and Dallas' lineups create more natural space.

    At the bare minimum, the Mavericks can guarantee more room to drive.


    3. San Antonio Spurs

    Yes, the Spurs. Again. For another point guard. Their backcourt situation is weirder than ever with Mills prepping for free agency and an over-the-hill Parker entering the final year of his deal recovering from a torn left quad.

    Every point guard interested in unending relevance should have them on their free-agent bucket list—and that goes double for those who aren't max-contract formalities. Holiday might be, because the Pelicans are desperate. But the Spurs won't need to dredge up as much cap space for him as they would Paul or Lowry.

    To be clear: The hurtles aren't going anywhere. Two of LaMarcus Aldridge, Danny Green, Pau Gasol (player option) and Tony Parker are out if the Spurs want to add a household name—and that's after ditching most of their own free agents.

    But if they do go this complex route, Holiday shouldlike everyone elsewant to play on the team known for extending careers and maximizing skill sets.

8. Otto Porter (Restricted)

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    1. Washington Wizards

    Otto Porter is a max-contract lock. If the Washington Wizards aren't the team to initially offer it, they'll most certainly match the squad that does. 

    That doesn't mean they have to be Porter's best fit. It just so happens that they are. 

    After all, as a general guideline for life, it's not all that wise to abandon John Wall when uncontested jumpers are the meat and potatoes of your offensive output.


    2. Philadelphia 76ers

    At 23, going on 24, Porter can let himself be seduced by squads not yet in playoff contention. He has the time and the Sixers have the money. They can max him out without even thinking.

    Just think: Philly could draft Kansas' Josh Jackson with the third overall pick in this year's draft, sign Porter and then throw out both alongside Robert Covington. Good luck getting a clean look at the basket with those three up in your grill.

    Washington will go Benjamin-for-Benjamin with Philly and blah, blah, blah. Porter isn't going anywhere. We get it. But dreamers dream.


    3. Minnesota Timberwolves

    It's like the Timberwolves' greatest pitfalls exist only for Porter to solve them. They need a combo forward who dances between defensive tasks and swishes long balls with frequency.

    Covering up for LaVine and Wiggins is a significant undertaking for Porter, but Wall and Bradley Beal don't always make life easy on him. Money is the bigger hangup.

    Minnesota can drum up slightly more than $22 million in space by showing Muhammad and Brandon Rush the door. That falls a few million short of Porter's max ($25.3 million), so Thibs will have to find a new home for Cole Aldrich's deal if he's serious about putting the screws to Washington.

    He'll also have to reconcile (possibly) paying Porter when LaVine and Wiggins will be on new contracts by 2018-19, but that's a mathematical conundrum for Future Thibs. Present-day Thibs should want Porter to want his team. 

7. Paul Millsap

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    1. Denver Nuggets

    Millsap is in a touchy spot. He's 32, seemingly on the back end of his prime, but he still has "Max-Contract Material" written all over him.

    "In 2016-17, Millsap ranked 14th overall in RPM [Real Plus-Minus], trailing only Draymond Green at his position," Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes wrote. "He posted career highs in points (18.1) and assists (3.7) while producing a free-throw rate higher than any since his days as a one-dimensional banger underneath...way back in 2008-09."

    Only a handful of teams can max him out without worrying about how they'll flesh out the roster around him. The Nuggets are one of them; the roster is already fleshed out. They have a 22-year-old superstar in Jokic, a reasonably priced Chandler and Will Barton and a bundle of prospects well-positioned for imminent breakouts. 

    Head to Denver, and Millsap gets to aim for the playoffs now while setting himself up for a cushy gig on a team built to contend past his prime.


    2. Miami Heat

    Like the Nuggets, the Heat have the right mix of up-and-comers (Winslow, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, Rodney McGruder) to go with more established performers (Dragic, Whiteside). Join them, and Millsap enjoys a more open-ended window—one that isn't bound to LeBron's Cavaliers but also isn't exclusively built to wait them out.

    Offering him a max contract costs the Heat James Johnson. Waiving Wayne Ellington and finding a new home for Josh McRoberts might leave enough room for both if Millsap takes a little less, but the prospect of losing Johnson shouldn't derail Miami's theoretical interest.

    Millsap isn't that much older than Johnson but has been one of the best two-way gems in the league for far longer. 


    3. Atlanta Hawks

    Don't take Millsap exercising his right to enter free agency, as first reported by The Vertical's Shams Charania, to mean he's done with the Atlanta Hawks. He's not.

    “Eventually I probably will opt out, yes," he said at his end-of-season media availability, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Chris Vivlamore. "But I want to be here. I think talks have been pretty good, so we’ll see what happens.”

    Playing for the Hawks has been good for Millsap's career. Head coach Mike Budenholzer unlocked a version of him that was seldom prevalent in Utah. That matters.

    So, too, does the Hawks' obsession with avoiding a full-scale rebuild. They would have dealt Millsap at the trade deadline if they were going to hit the reset button and can't spin losing another star for nothing in back-to-back summers (see: Horford, Al).

    They may shell out whatever it takes to keep him, if only because losing him is a nightmare alternative. That desperation, plus the familiarity factor, should pique Millsap's interest.

6. Blake Griffin (Early Termination Option)

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    1. Miami Heat

    Blake Griffin's time with the Clippers has run its course. They can pay him more than anyone, but they're not getting over the hump with Golden State and San Antonio in their way.

    Going through the Cavaliers isn't the lesser of two evils. Overall, though, the East isn't as deep as the West, and Griffin won't need a grace period before he vaults the Heat into the conversation for second place. Playing off Dragic will be the same as, if not easier than, operating off Paul, and there's not much difference between Whiteside and DeAndre Jordan—except that the former is entitled to more post-ups.

    Miami won't have truckloads of cash to spend on other free agents with Griffin in the fold, but its cap situation won't be anywhere near as dire as Los Angeles' money pit. And Riley, for his part, has been far more adept at unearthing talented nobodies than Clippers coach and president Doc Rivers.


    2. Los Angeles Clippers

    Well, duh.

    Rattling off 50-plus win seasons and consistently contending for homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs isn't as much of a failure as it's being made out to be. Griffin, Jordan and Paul form one of the Association's best one-two-three punches.

    Sure, Griffin could use a change of scenery—a chance to make his own name, again, without Paul. But the Clippers seem prepared to hang a five-year max in front him, according to Turner. Since there's no idiot-proof path past the Cavaliers, Spurs and Warriors elsewhere, the financial security and treadmill of 50-win seasons Los Angeles can assure him carries real cachet.

    Some of that changes if Paul, Redick and/or Luc Mbah a Moute purchase a one-way ticket out of town, but Griffin, at 28, can still be the focal point of a project. The roster he returns to might not even matter. With his injury history, passing on a five-year max poses a legitimate risk.


    3. Denver Nuggets

    The Nuggets need a star to pair with Jokic. End of story. The who isn't important. Sign one, and figure out the rest later. 

    Griffin and Jokic wouldn't intimidate opposing offenses. They'll both struggle shimmying between frontcourt assignments. But Denver's offensive potential with two dynamite passing bigs who have enough range to stretch defenses is off the charts.

    While the Celtics might initially appeal more to Griffin, he won't be responsible for reinventing the Nuggets' presence on the defensive glass. They, too, have the assets to broker a blockbuster trade, and more incentive to do so when they're not sitting on a collection of top-three selections gifted to them by the Nets.

5. Gordon Hayward (Player Option)

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    1. Utah Jazz

    "It goes without saying that every fiber of our collective soul as the Utah Jazz want him back," Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey said, per Sorensen. "We think it's a great fit. You can't force a marriage, it's got to be both ways. But we're very comfortable with where we're at."

    Sorry, but how could Hayward leave a team so emotionally invested in him? Any resentment he harbors for how extension talks broke down in 2013 have likely faded, and Utah's core is just starting to come together.

    Suffering a sweep at the hands of the Warriors is a crummy way to end the year, and the Jazz have been anything other than billboards for good health these last two years. But this is Hayward's team. He's already the third-best player in franchise history, and playing in Utahfor a team so often dressed in obscurityhasn't kept from him registering on the national radar. 

    Things would be different if there were an obviously better alternative, but that contingency plan doesn't exist—not even in Boston. Think about the Eastern Conference Finals. What about the Celtics' performance would make Hayward think "Oh, I need to join them right freaking now so we can forge a dynasty against which LeBron himself cowers in fear?"


    2. Boston Celtics

    (Puts on hypocrisy hat.)

    If Hayward is ready to move on from the Jazz, he should land with the Celtics. They're the rare contender with cap space, and he played for Stevens at Butler.

    They're also sitting on enough assets to trade for another star. Or they can let Jaylen Brown and this year's No. 1 pick develop, use Brooklyn's 2018 selection on another potential superstar and bide time until the fusion-powered engine where James' mortal soul is supposed to be runs out of juice.

    Whatever route they take, Hayward reaps the benefits of competing now, without wondering whether he'll be on a squad good enough down the road to capitalize on James' eventual decline.


    3. San Antonio Spurs

    Almost everyone will expect the Spurs to peruse the point guard ranks if they go through the trouble of wheeling and dealing their way to max space. But they have a 20-year-old Dejounte Murray in tow, and Hayward can be a glorified point guard.

    Whittle out enough space without using Green as collateral damage, and the Spurs have the perimeter clout to run roughshod over the rest of the league. Hayward and Leonard can play off one another on offense, while rotating assignments at the other end. 

    Diving down this rabbit hole would consist of San Antonio playing small, with Hayward soaking up most of the minutes at power forward. But that's the direction in which the NBA is headed, and Hayward logged close to 30 percent of his minutes at the 4 this season.

    If the Spurs are ready to pivot away from their assortment of aging bigs, both they and Hayward should want to plunge into this.

4. Kyle Lowry

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    1. San Antonio Spurs

    "They've got LeBron James," Lowry told The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski after Cleveland's Game 3 destruction of Toronto. "Nobody's closing the gap on him. I mean, that's it right there."

    "Late-season rumbles that Kyle Lowry will give legit thought to a free-agent switch to the West are sure to rise in volume after this series," ESPN NBA Insider Marc Stein wrote.

    "I want a ring," Lowry told reporters at his exit presser. "That's all that drives me. I want to just get better, I want to have fun, I want to win a ring."

    Enough messing around. Lowry should see if the Spurs can/are willing to dig up near-max money (his Year 1 salary can be up to $35.4 million) and board the forever-relevant bandwagon.

    His selling point: He's more accustomed to playing off the ball than Paul, and after teaming up with DeMar DeRozan, he won't take exception to letting Leonard eat.


    2. Toronto Raptors

    Now that our feet are back on solid ground, this is the most likely outcome.

    The Raptors aren't chopped liver, even if they look like that against the Cavaliers. They're more likely to play deep into the postseason than any semi-realistic option outside San Antonio, and Ujiri can tempt Lowry with a fifth year of guaranteed money.

    Price could be an issue; then again, maybe not. Another team will offer Lowry a four-year max, and the Raptors shouldn't be losing him for nothing. If they're looking to shave some money off the top, they'll have to wield that fifth year.

    Neither one of those scenarios is a letdown. Point guards aren't known for maintaining superstar status into their mid-30s, but Lowry's game isn't predicated on otherworldly athleticism.

    Toronto is where he's blossomed into an alpha dog at his position, and there's no shame in winning 45-plus games before bowing out in the second round or conference finals for the rest of your days.


    3. Philadelphia 76ers

    Logistically speaking, Philadelphia and Lowry aren't a match. They're the furthest thing from it. But the Sixers are prepared to make a lucrative run at the Philly native anyway, according to's Keith Pompey.

    Never mind the ring. If you're being offered $35-plus million per year to come home and hang out with Joel Embiid on a daily basis, you've found a potential fit.

3. Chris Paul (Early Termination Option)

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    1. Los Angeles Clippers

    Sources told Turner the Clippers "hope to re-sign Paul for the maximum deal, which suggests they're ready to dole out a five-year pact worth slightly more than $200 million. Paul could take a pay cut to play somewhere else, but he's the president of the National Basketball Players Association that collectively bargained to move the goalposts on the over-36 rule.

    Is he really about to gloss over a change that was made specifically with players like him in mind?

    Competitive teams cannot afford his max. He'll be looking at a rendezvous with lower-rung squads like the Nuggets, Sixers, Nets, et al. if he wants to leave the Clippers and get every dime he's allowed.


    2. San Antonio Spurs

    Hello again, San Antonio.

    Paul's arrival would spell an adjustment period for Leonard, but he thrived predominantly off the ball before transforming into a superstar. And Paul can seemingly shoot 40 percent from downtown at will. They'd make it work.

    If the Spurs bust up their roster to join the free-agent fray, they have to be on Paul's radar. That's the rule. Or something.


    3. Cleveland Cavaliers

    Someone needed to float the Paul-for-Kyrie Irving and filler sign-and-trade scenario—you know, just in case the Cavaliers get blasted by the Warriors in the Finals and have the urge to overreact.

2. Stephen Curry

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    1. Golden State Warriors

    After his four-year, $48 million contract turned into the NBA's best bargain, Curry can now sign a five-season, $205 million pact. He shouldn't go anywhere else out of sheer principle. 

    I guess the Warriors being perfectly positioned to contend for the next five to eight championships is a pretty good reason to stay, too.


    2. Golden State Warriors

    In November, the Charlotte Observer's Scott Fowler asked Curry "point blank" if he would consider joining his hometown Charlotte Hornets (he attended high school in Charlotte).

    "I don't know," he said.

    Three words are not a lot to go on. Read between the lines, however, and you find out he's saying "Lol, you really think I'm going to abandon Patrick McCaw like that?"


    3. Golden State Warriors

    Think about how many unflattering Snapchats Draymond Green would send to Curry if he even kind of, sort of thought the Warriors weren't the only team for him.

1. Kevin Durant (Player Option)

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    1. Golden State Warriors

    "I made the 100 percent correct decision, win or lose," Durant told The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears of joining the Warriors last summer. "I feel like this is the place I was supposed to be."

    Hold up. Durant is happy about playing for a 67-win team with four All-Stars in their primes that's set up to chase championships for the better part of decade.



    2. Golden State Warriors

    Controversial, I know. 

    Durant notched a true shooting percentage of 65.1 during the regular season. That's the best of his career, but it's less than 65.2. 

    Fortunately for the Warriors, Kevon Looney is under contract next season. Durant isn't about to sign with a team that doesn't have Looney under contract next season.


    3. Golden State Warriors

    This came down to a toss-up between the Warriors and the Sacramento Kings. In the end, the chance to put the finishing touches on a dynasty with Golden State just edged out the opportunity to join one of the most self-sabotaging franchises in professional sports. 


    Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale) and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast co-hosted by B/R's Andrew Bailey.

    Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference or Team salary information via Basketball Insider.