by Rob Joyce
The NBA offseason is just weeks old, and there’s already been as much drama (maybe even more!) than the actual season provided. From a swap of top-three picks to rumored trades of Kristaps Porzingis and Paul George to actual trades featuring Jimmy Butler, D’Angelo Russell and Dwight Howard, rumors are flying and now phase two begins. Beginning 12:01 on July 1 the free agency period begins, as plenty of big names could be on the move.
While some players could opt out or are otherwise available to sign elsewhere, the likes of Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry aren’t going anywhere. Of the people that are likely to move on, here are the five most notable:
5) Blake Griffin:
After opting out of his contract and hitting the market, Griffin’s brand is far more effective than his game at the moment. The 28-year-old has missed 83 games the last three seasons, continuing a cautionary trend that’s lasted the duration of his career. His offensive numbers are still there (21.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game last year) but if a team is going to throw gobs of money at a power forward who has a limited outside game, they best be sure they’re getting someone who can stay on the court.
4) Paul Millsap:
It’s the second time in three years that Millsap is hitting free agency after he opted out of his contract for next season. The Hawks’ trade of Dwight Howard showed a clear shift towards a rebuild, with a new general manager (Travis Schlenk) in town. At 32 it’s his last chance for a big contract, and it appears the Nuggets and Kings are willing to pay him as such.
3) Kyle Lowry:
The Raptors’ point guard had a parabolic career arc, hitting his productive peak at the same time as his physical prime. That’s earned him a big payday in theory, and signs point to him staying in Toronto. The only red flag is that, at 31, the end of any big-money contract given to Lowry could look bad. If he’s going to make over $30 million at age 35 or 36, will he be worth it? For someone, he almost assuredly will.
2) Chris Paul:
Like Griffin, Chris Paul told the Clippers he’s declining a 2017-18 player option to become a free agent. Paul is a Hall of Fame talent, a nine-time NBA All-Star and an eight-time All-NBA performer, perhaps the best true point guard of this generation. Yet the overwhelming red mark on his resume is that he’s never gotten out of the second round. Rumors are flying that he’s interested in the Spurs, which would obviously help his cause for chasing a ring.
1) Gordon Hayward:
The 27-year-old worked his way to stardom with the Jazz, justifying the max extension he received two years ago. Now after taking Utah to the playoffs for the first time since 2012 he could bolt from Salt Lake City, with Boston and Miami as the two most-hotly rumored destinations. Despite winning 51 games, they were swept by Golden State in the second round, making it abundantly clear that the Jazz need to keep Hayward, but also give him more help. That’s unlikely, making Hayward the most highly-coveted free agent available.