The moment that the Cleveland Cavaliers have been dreading has finally arrived as the franchise’s best player of all-time once again left in free agency. However, many people weren’t surprised by LeBron James’ decision to leave this offseason. James accomplished his goal with Cleveland by winning a championship a couple of years ago and now he is going to the Lakers which is a team that gives him a better chance to win championships. James has carried the Cavs franchise for many years, but now many are wondering where the team goes next. The only real reliable player that the Cavaliers have is Kevin Love, but it is unclear whether he will still be with the team next season. Cleveland could decide to trade him and get some decent young players or draft picks in return. However, if the Cavaliers want to remain competitive at all then it is imperative that they keep Kevin Love since they don’t have much else. Cleveland did select point guard Collin Sexton in the 1st round of the draft this year, so he is the only player that the Cavaliers really have to build around. The rest of the players on the roster were just meant to be a supporting cast for LeBron James. Cleveland still has players like George Hill, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, and Kyle Korver under contract for next season. Those aren’t the types of players that can make Cleveland contenders even in a weak eastern conference. The Cavaliers should just try and trade those players and see if they can get anything in return for them. Only Kevin Love, Collin Sexton, and maybe Rodney Hood are players that the Cavaliers should keep, although the Cavaliers should do anything possible to rebuild and acquire some more talented young players. The reality is that the Cavaliers are basically nothing without LeBron because he was the one that carried the team to the finals last season. It is actually remarkable that the Cavaliers were able to make it that far considering the weak supporting cast that he had around him. Cleveland probably isn’t going to be a playoff contender without LeBron James even in a very weak eastern conference next season. The best option for the Cavaliers at this point might be to tank and draft the new face of the franchise. However, the problem is that the Cavaliers lose their 1st round pick in 2019 to the Hawks if Cleveland doesn’t have a top 10 selection. That gives Cleveland even more incentive to lose since it will slow down their rebuild even more if they lose their 1st round pick in 2019. It won’t be easy for the Cavaliers to win without LeBron James, but the team just needs to try and clear out their big contracts while also trying to acquire some new talented players.
1 Seed: Toronto Raptors(59-23) vs. 8 Seed: Washington Wizards(43-39)
The Toronto Raptors were clearly the better team this season and they were one of the best teams in the NBA throughout. However, the Wizards aren’t a typical 8 seed because they are a very dangerous team mostly because of their backcourt. The only reason that the Wizards fell so far in the standings was because all-star point guard John Wall was injured for awhile. However, Washington now has Wall back to go along with all-star shooting guard Bradley Beal. If Beal and Wall play like they are capable of then they could make this a very interesting series. The issue for the Wizards is that they will have to stop the even more dynamic backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Washington will not make it easy on the Raptors, but Toronto appears to be a deeper team which will make it tough for the Wizards to match.
Prediction: Raptors win in 6 games
2 Seed: Boston Celtics(55-27) vs. 7 Seed: Milwaukee Bucks(44-38)
Boston had a very good year, but it is difficult to see them making a deep playoff run since their star player Kyrie Irving is out for the season. Boston still has plenty of depth with quality players like Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown. If those players play well then Boston certainly has a chance to win this series even without Irving. However, it will be difficult to stop the core of players that Milwaukee has as they have 3 terrific players with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Eric Bledsoe. The Bucks need those players to play well because the team doesn’t have much depth behind them. Boston clearly has a deeper team, but Milwaukee has the star players that should carry the team. This series could go either way, although Irving’s injury will just be too difficult for the Celtics to overcome.
Prediction: Bucks win in 7 games
3 Seed: Philadelphia 76ers(52-30) vs. 6 Seed: Miami Heat(44-38)
The 76ers head into the playoffs as the hottest team in the NBA as they have won 16 games in a row. Philadelphia has plenty of really good players as they are led by Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, and JJ Redick right now. However, if Joel Embiid can return from his injury during this series then there is virtually no chance for Miami to advance. The Heat have plenty of good players as they had 9 players that averaged double digits in scoring per game. However, they will need star players Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, and Dwayne Wade to step up if the team even has a chance in this series. Miami had a good year, but the 76ers are just a much better team right now.
Prediction: 76ers win in 5 games
4 Seed: Indiana Pacers(48-34) vs. 5 Seed: Cleveland Cavaliers(50-32)
It was a year of turmoil for Cleveland as LeBron James had to basically carry the team on his own shoulders for the entire season. He will be expected to do the same in the playoffs as his supporting cast just hasn’t helped him out much. The Cavs really need Kevin Love to step up and play to his capability if the Cavaliers want to reach their full potential. Meanwhile, Indiana has been a very surprising team this year as they are led by star shooting guard Victor Oladipo. However, he has received some quality help from other players on the roster like Myles Turner, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Darren Collison. Indiana has some depth to cause Cleveland some trouble, but it will be difficult for them to stop LeBron James and Kevin Love which is why the Cavaliers will ultimately win this series.
Prediction: Cavaliers in 6 games
- Tyreke Evans – Current Team: Memphis Grizzlies – Projected Landing Spot: Philadelphia 76ers
Markelle Fultz hasn’t been healthy basically the entire season, so the 76ers have been seriously lacking depth at both guard positions. The 76ers need some more production at both guard positions and they especially need more production off of the bench. That is why Evans is the ideal fit for the 76ers. Evans is a terrific scorer and he would be a terrific rental to make sure that Philadelphia makes the playoffs this season. The 76ers would likely have to give up a 1st round pick in order to acquire Evans, but they would only likely give up their own non-lottery selection for Evans which would be worth it if the team makes the playoffs.
2. DeAndre Jordan – Current Team: Los Angeles Clippers – Projected Landing Spot: Cleveland Cavaliers
There are a few teams that could trade for DeAndre Jordan at the trade deadline, but the team that seems most likely to make a deal is Cleveland. The Cavaliers don’t have much at the center position right now as Tristan Thompson hasn’t been very productive this season. However, Jordan would provide the Cavs with an elite interior presence as he is terrific on the glass as well as being an elite defender. Cleveland probably won’t give up the 1st round pick from Brooklyn. However, the Cavaliers could give up their own 1st round pick as well as Thompson and Iman Shumpert. Maybe that would be enough to persuade the Clippers to move on from Jordan and his big contract.
3. Lou Williams – Current Team: Los Angeles Clippers – Projected Landing Spot: Boston Celtics
The Celtics one area of weakness is at the shooting guard position where Marcus Smart hasn’t been very effective this season. However, if the Celtics really want to win the East this year then they need to make a big splash via trade especially to find a new shooting guard. Lou Williams would be an ideal fit as he is a terrific scorer and he would provide an upgrade to a Boston lineup that is already filled with talent. Williams is a free agent after this season so he would likely just be a rental for the remainder of this season. However, if Boston sends Marcus Smart and another player or draft pick in a deal for Williams then the Clippers might be willing to trade him away.
4. Kemba Walker – Current Team: Charlotte Hornets – Projected Landing Spot: Indiana Pacers
Charlotte has been struggling even with Kemba Walker as their franchise cornerstone, but now rumors have it that they might be willing to move on from him. Walker is not just a rental player as he is under contract at a really modest price through the 2018-2019 season. It would certainly take a lot for the Hornets to trade away Walker, but if there is team that has the ability to acquire him then it would be the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers could include young players like T.J. Leaf and Myles Turner in a deal for Walker. However, they would likely have to include at least one 1st round pick and a young prospect along with veteran players like Darren Collison and Al Jefferson. Indiana has plenty of players that could entice the Hornets to trade away Walker, but it would take a huge package of players and picks in order to do so. Acquiring Walker would give the Pacers a dynamic duo in the backcourt for many years to come as the team already has proven shooting guard Victor Oladipo. This would be a risky trade to make for Indiana as they would likely have to give up some promising young players, but it would probably make the team better even long-term.
5. Rodney Hood – Current Team: Utah Jazz – Projected Landing Spot: Detroit Pistons
Rodney Hood is having the best season of his young career as he is averaging a career-high 16.4 points per game for the Jazz. However, the Jazz have a somewhat crowded backcourt which means there isn’t too much of a role for Hood. One team that could really use Hood is the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons have a major need at shooting guard after trading away Avery Bradley in the Blake Griffin deal. Hood would provide a significant upgrade at shooting guard for Detroit and he is under contract through the 2018 season so he wouldn’t just be a rental player for the team. The one player that Detroit could trade to Utah in this deal is young small forward Stanley Johnson who is only 21 years old. Johnson has tons of upside, but he has yet to make a real impact as an NBA player. Utah has a need at small forward and maybe they could develop Johnson into the player that many people thought he would be. Either way, Hood would be a great addition for Detroit as they try to make a playoff run in the eastern conference. However, we’ll see if the Jazz would be willing just to accept Johnson in a deal for Hood or if they would want something else from the Pistons in return.
Atlanta Hawks – Paul Millsap – Power Forward – 2016 Stats: 18.1 PPG and 7.7 RPG
Paul Millsap is one of the best free agents available this offseason and he is by far the best player that the Hawks have. Atlanta isn’t a very good team with Millsap, but without him the Hawks likely aren’t even a playoff contender. If Atlanta doesn’t re-sign Millsap then it could be the beginning of a very lengthy rebuild for the Hawks.
Boston Celtics – Kelly Olynyk – Center – 2016 Stats: 9 PPG and 4.8 RPG
Kelly Olynyk isn’t a starter for the Celtics, but he is perhaps the most important role player that the team has on their roster. Olynyk is still only 26 years old and even though he won’t make a huge impact when he’s on the floor he still is a player that they must retain for depth purposes. Olynyk is a restricted free agent this offseason so I’d be shocked if the Celtics let him go especially if he doesn’t cost much money.
Brooklyn Nets – Randy Foye – Shooting Guard – 2016 Stats: 5.2 PPG and 2.2 RPG
Randy Foye is the only pending free agent for the Nets this offseason so I obviously had to pick him as the player that the team must re-sign. Foye won’t provide much besides a good 3-point shooter for the team off the bench. Foye is worth keeping around for the Nets since he’ll be a valuable veteran presence for a very young Nets team that is in a very lengthy rebuild right now.
Charlotte Hornets – Christian Wood – Power Forward – 2016 Stats: 2.7 PPG and 2.2 RPG
It won’t hurt the Hornets if they don’t re-sign Wood since he is basically a benchwarmer for the team. However, Wood is only 21 years old and he was projected to be a 1st round pick in the 2015 NBA draft before he ultimately went undrafted. Wood just needs an opportunity to show his talent and he would be really cheap for the Hornets to re-sign this offseason. We’ll see if Charlotte chooses to keep him around, but he is worth keeping since he is a young player with some potential to be a decent role player for the team.
Chicago Bulls – Nikola Mirotic – Power Forward – 2016 Stats: 10.6 PPG and 5.5 RPG
Nikola Mirotic isn’t a starter for the Bulls, but he has been the most productive role player that the team has. Mirotic is a consistent player as he has averaged double digits in scoring during his first 3 seasons in the NBA. Also, he is still only 26 years old which means he could be a productive player for the Bulls for many years to come. The good news is that Mirotic is only a restricted free agent which means Chicago has a very good chance of bringing him back since they have his exclusive negotiating rights.
Cleveland Cavaliers – Deron Williams – Point Guard – 2016 Stats: 11 PPG and 5.6 APG
Deron Williams came to the Cavaliers from the Mavericks during the 2016 season and he was still a productive point guard despite seeing his role reduced from being a starter to a role player with the Cavaliers. Williams could probably be a decent starting point guard for a non-contending team, but if he wants to win then the Cavaliers definitely give him the best chance of doing so. However, he will have to embrace his role as a backup point guard since Kyrie Irving is clearly the point guard of the present and future for Cleveland. It might not be easy for Cleveland to re-sign Williams given their current cap situation and he might have better offers from other teams. However, Williams is a productive role player that Cleveland can’t afford to lose.
Dallas Mavericks – Nerlens Noel – Center – 2016 Stats: 8.7 PPG and 5.8 RPG
Nerlens Noel hasn’t been the dominant center that many people thought that he would be when he entered the NBA. However, the good news is that Noel is only 23 years old and he is still a really talented player that could develop into a great player for the Mavericks. Dallas gave up a lot in order to acquire Noel and I’m sure they’ll do anything to make sure that he is the franchise centerpiece for many years to come.
Denver Nuggets – Danilo Gallinari – Small Forward – 2016 Stats: 18.2 PPG and 5.1 RPG
The Denver Nuggets have plenty of young talent on their roster, but perhaps no player is more important to them than Danilo Gallinari. He isn’t a flashy player, but he does many things well including scoring points and he is still only 28 years old. Gallinari will be one of the top 2nd-tier free agents available in this free agent class which means he’ll likely receive a big contract. The good news is that the Nuggets have as much financial flexibility as any other team, but the question is how much they will bid in order to retain him. Gallinari has been a very good starter for the Nuggets for many years and it would be a big loss if he were to leave in free agency.
Detroit Pistons – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Shooting Guard – 2016 Stats: 13.8 PPG and 3.3 RPG
Detroit has a really young and talented backcourt with point guard Reggie Jackson and shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Caldwell-Pope is only 24 years old and he is only getting better. Caldwell-Pope isn’t a great starter, but he knows how to score effectively despite being just an average to below average shooter. The Pistons could find a better shooting guard than him, but without him the Pistons would be lost since they don’t have much depth at the position behind him.
Golden State Warriors – Stephen Curry – Point Guard – 2016 Stats: 25.3 PPG and 6.6 APG
When Golden State drafted Stephen Curry with the 7th overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft the team wasn’t even close to the playoffs. However, Curry has turned around the franchise from a non-playoff team into a championship contender every season. Curry is one of the best shooters in the history of the NBA and he is also one of the best players overall in the NBA today as evidenced by winning the NBA MVP in 2015 and 2016. Golden State would probably still be a playoff team without him, but Curry is the player that the franchise revolves around and they would be a much worse team without him. There will probably be many teams that would try to sign Curry, although the Warriors will likely do anything it takes to re-sign him this offseason.
Houston Rockets – Nene Hilario – Center – 2016 Stats: 9.1 PPG and 4.2 RPG
Nene isn’t a quality starting center like he used to be, but he is still a very productive role player for the Houston Rockets. He isn’t a good shooter, although he is a player that dominates the paint and has a high field goal percentage because he almost always takes high percentage shots in the paint area. The only concern for him is that he is 34 years old, so his time in the NBA seems to be winding down. However, the Rockets could re-sign him at a cheap price and that would be important to do so since he is a very key player off the bench.
Indiana Pacers – Jeff Teague – Point Guard – 2016 Stats: 15.3 PPG and 7.8 APG
Jeff Teague continues to be one of the most productive players in the NBA currently and Indiana is a team that doesn’t have many quality players other than Teague and Paul George. The Pacers will likely lose George soon which means that it is even more important that the Pacers do everything they can in order to re-sign Teague. Teague is a really good scorer and he also does a good job of controlling Indiana’s offense. He will almost certainly receive quality offers from other teams, but Indiana absolutely must retain him this offseason.
Los Angeles Clippers – J.J. Redick – Shooting Guard – 2016 Stats: 15 PPG and 2.2 RPG
When people think of the Los Angeles Clippers they usually think of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan. However, there is one player that might be just as valuable as those guys and that is J.J. Redick. Redick is a tremendous 3-point shooter and he is a really good scorer overall, but his consistent play has often been overshadowed by the other 3 players listed above. Redick will likely want a major pay raise this offseason which will make it very difficult for the Clippers to bring him back. Redick is one of the best shooters in the NBA and the Clippers just wouldn’t be nearly the same team without him.
Los Angeles Lakers – Nick Young – Shooting Guard – 2016 Stats: 13.2 PPG and 2.3 RPG
Nick Young has seemed to be more of a problem than a solution for the Lakers in recent years, but he is still a good shooter and that will be difficult for the Lakers to replace if he leaves. The Lakers recently traded away young shooting guard D’Angelo Russell which makes it more important for the Lakers to re-sign Young. They have basically no depth at shooting guard behind Young and even if Young isn’t a starter moving forward they still should at least re-sign him as a key role player.
Memphis Grizzlies – Zach Randolph – Power Forward – 2016 Stats: 14.1 PPG and 8.2 RPG
Zach Randolph is one of the most underrated players in the NBA and he might even be the most important player that the Grizzlies have. Randolph is one of the most physical players in the NBA and that is the identity that the Grizzlies want. Randolph isn’t the same dominant force that he once was, but he is still a really good power forward in the NBA. He is 35 years old, so the Grizzlies will have to find him a replacement sometime soon, but they need to make sure that he finishes his career in Memphis.
Miami Heat – Dion Waiters – Shooting Guard – 2016 Stats: 15.8 PPG and 4.3 APG
Dion Waiters hasn’t been an elite player like some expected when he was drafted a few years ago, but he proved last year for Miami that he can be a good starting shooting guard in the NBA. Waiters had big shoes to fill after the departure of Dwayne Wade and Waiters certainly didn’t do a bad job as Wade’s replacement. Waiters is also only 25 years old, so he could be a key piece to Miami’s future. The Heat have many needs left on their roster and they can’t afford to let Waiters depart in free agency.
Milwaukee Bucks – Michael Beasley – Small Forward – 2016 Stats: 9.4 PPG and 3.5 RPG
Michael Beasley hasn’t been a star player like many people had hoped after he was selected 2nd overall in the 2008 NBA draft. However, he has become a very reliable role player especially with the Milwaukee Bucks in limited playing time last season. Beasley is a very good scorer and he was a key player in their playoff run last season. Beasley could be a starter for Milwaukee and he certainly deserves more playing time. However, the Bucks would be silly to let a productive player like Beasley go in free agency.
Minnesota Timberwolves – Shabazz Muhammad – Small Forward – 2016 Stats: 9.9 PPG and 2.8 RPG
Shabazz Muhammad is a tremendously talented player that has yet to receive extended playing time because of the amount of talent on the Timberwolves roster. Muhammad has proven that he can be an effective role player as he had 9.9 PPG in just under 20 minutes per game. Muhammad is a restricted free agent, so the Timberwolves should definitely be able to bring him back and that would be wise since he is their best role player.
New Orleans Pelicans – Jrue Holiday – Point Guard – 2016 Stats: 15.4 PPG and 7.3 APG
It is difficult to find starting point guards in the NBA that can score as effectively as Holiday can. However, Holiday is also an effective passer as well which makes him a very well-rounded player. Holiday will surely have many offers from other teams in free agency because there aren’t many free agent point guards as talented as Holiday is. The Pelicans need to do anything necessary in order to re-sign Holiday because they likely won’t be able to acquire a point guard better than him.
New York Knicks – Derrick Rose – Point Guard – 2016 Stats: 18 PPG and 4.4 APG
The New York Knicks had a disappointing season in 2016, but the performance from Derrick Rose overall was a bright spot for the team. Rose is more of a shooting guard because he isn’t a great passer, but he certainly has the ability to score points in bunches. Rose was an NBA MVP not too long ago with Chicago, but he hasn’t been the same player ever since his devastating knee injury years ago. Rose will generate tons of interest in free agency from other teams and it might be difficult for the Knicks to keep him. However, if New York loses Rose in free agency then it would be a big setback for the Knicks.
Oklahoma City Thunder – Taj Gibson – Power Forward – 2016 Stats: 10.8 PPG and 6.3 RPG
Taj Gibson came to Oklahoma City this past season from Chicago via a trade and he went on to start 16 games for the Thunder while averaging 9 points per game. Gibson was a big upgrade over what Oklahoma City had at the power forward position and if the Thunder lose him in free agency then it would be a big loss for the team. Gibson isn’t a flashy player, yet he is very reliable and consistent and that is exactly why the Thunder need to re-sign him at least as a role player.
Orlando Magic – Jeff Green – Small Forward – 2016 Stats: 9.2 PPG and 3.1 RPG
Jeff Green isn’t a quality starting small forward like he once was when he was with the Celtics. However, Green provides veteran leadership on a young Orlando team and he is also a consistent role player off the bench. Green provides much needed depth at small forward/power forward for the Magic and without him they will lack a key versatile player at both of those positions.
Philadelphia 76ers – Sergio Rodriguez – Point Guard – 2016 Stats: 7.8 PPG and 5.1 APG
Sergio Rodriguez made his debut in the NBA in 2006 with Portland and his first NBA stint lasted through the 2009 season without much success. However, he attempted an NBA comeback last season with the 76ers and he had a career year in both points per game and assists per game. Rodriguez isn’t a great scorer, but he proved that he can be a very good passer which is what makes him a decent backup point guard for Philadelphia. He is worth keeping around because of his valuable experience and passing skills. Also, he shouldn’t cost much at all which should make it very easy for the 76ers to retain him.
Phoenix Suns – Alex Len – Center – 2016 Stats: 8 PPG and 6.6 RPG
Alex Len is a big center that at 24 years old has yet to really reach his full potential as a starting center in the NBA. Len is a solid rebounder and he isn’t a great shooter, so he is at his best when he takes shots from inside the paint. He will never be a great offensive player, but he has been a quality role player for the Suns ever since being drafted in 2013. Len is a restricted free agent, so the Suns will be able to re-sign him if they want and they hope that he can become the full-time starting center very soon.
Portland Trail Blazers(They have no free agents)
Sacramento Kings – Rudy Gay – Small Forward – 2016 Stats: 18.7 PPG and 6.3 RPG
Rudy Gay has been one of the most underrated players in the NBA for many years and he does many things really well including scoring points and grabbing rebounds. The Kings really need to re-sign Gay since they have no other proven scorers on the roster at the moment. He will likely receive a lot of offers maybe even from contending teams, so it will probably be tough for the Kings to re-sign him this offseason. However, Sacramento really needs him back because they would basically have nothing without him.
San Antonio Spurs – Pau Gasol – Power Forward – 2016 Stats: 12.4 PPG and 7.8 RPG
The Spurs had a really good frontcourt last season with LaMarcus Aldridge at power forward and Pau Gasol at center. However, Gasol might be going elsewhere this offseason as he will surely have plenty of offers from contending teams despite being 36 years old. San Antonio will try to bring Gasol back at least as a role player at this point in his career, although the Spurs might not have the cap space necessary to be able to re-sign him.
Toronto Raptors – Kyle Lowry – Point Guard – 2016 Stats: 22.4 PPG and 7 APG
Kyle Lowry is going to get a big contract this offseason wherever he goes after he had a career high in points for the Raptors last season with 22.4 points per game. Lowry is a terrific shooter and he also rebounds and passes the ball very well. He is one of the top point guards in the NBA today and the Raptors might not even be a playoff team without him. Toronto needs to do whatever it takes in order to re-sign Lowry, although it is certainly a possibility that he signs elsewhere.
Utah Jazz – George Hill – Point Guard – 2016 Stats: 16.9 PPG and 4.1 APG
George Hill has been in the NBA for awhile as he is now 31 years old, but he certainly majorly improved his free agent stock during his one season in Utah as he averaged 16.9 points per game in 2016. He has never been much of a passer, but he is a point guard that really scores points effectively and he plays solid defense as well. Hill will have plenty of teams that want to sign him this offseason and we’ll see how much the Jazz are willing to bid in order to keep him.
Washington Wizards – Brandon Jennings – Point Guard – 2016 Stats: 7.1 PPG and 4.9 APG
Brandon Jennings used to be a very good starting point guard with Milwaukee and Detroit several years ago. However, the last couple of years he has been with 4 different teams and he has been limited to being a role player. Jennings is still a good passer, but for some reason his shooting has regressed over the past few seasons. Still, Jennings is a very good role player option for Washington and he should come at a cheap price so the team should definitely re-sign him.