Now that the NBA finals have wrapped up, it is officially the off-season. NBA free agency begins July 1, but contracts cannot be signed until July 6. Teams and players can start to reach verbal agreements on July 1.
This off-season marks the first time teams will be able to award “super-max” contracts to superstar players. These contracts are more officially referred to as the designated-player exception. Teams can offer these contracts to certain players based on a plethora of factors including being named to an All-NBA team.
Heavy scoured the list of NBA free agents to come up with our rankings for the top free agents. Readers will notice Kevin Durant is absent from the list, even though he will technically become a free agent. Durant’s camp has assured fans he plans to remain in Golden State, so he is not listed in our rankings.
Tyreke Evans, Greg Monroe, Dwyane Wade, Kyle Korver, Serge Ibaka and Danilo Gallinari just missed making it into our top free agent list.
One thing teams will be weighing heavily as they look at this group of free agents is risk versus reward. Many of the top free agents have battled injuries, and it will be worth watching how willing teams are to pay top dollar for these players.
Here’s a look at Heavy’s top ten NBA free agents for 2017.
No. 1 PG Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
Curry tops the list of free agents, but there are no signs Curry is going anywhere. All indications are the Warriors are prepared to offer Curry a super-max contract, a provision in the new CBA allowing teams to have the upper-hand to retain their star players.
The Warriors are allowed to pay Curry more than any other team by a considerable margin under the new Designated Veteran Player (DVP) deal. According to Forbes, the deal would be worth more than $200 million. It would be shocking if something falls through, and Curry takes meetings with other teams on the open market.
No. 2 SF Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz
Expect the “Gordon to the Celtics” rumors to heat up as free agency nears. Hayward was coached by Brad Stevens during his time at Butler, and their relationship dates back to when Hayward was an under-recruited high schooler.
Whether that is enough to entice Hayward to Boston remains to be seen. Basketball Insiders’ Steve Kyler reported Hayward has a 60 percent chance of staying with the Jazz. Look for Hayward to think long and hard about Boston. With the draft capital the Celtics have from their previous deal with the Nets, Boston is capable of adding additional pieces to their solid core in an attempt to build a championship-caliber team.
No. 3 PG Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
Lowry had been linked to the Sixers, but this seems unlikely after Philly drafted Markelle Fultz. The Raptors have been unable to have postseason success, despite consistently playing well in the regular season. Will Lowry look to go another few rounds with DeMar DeRozan, or start a new chapter elsewhere? Lowry averaged 22.4 points, seven assists and 4.8 rebounds during the 2016-17 season.
No. 4 PF Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Griffin’s free agency will serve as an interesting case study. He has not played more than 70 games in a season since 2013-14. Griffin played in just 61 games last season and 35 games in the 2015-16 season. Either the Clippers or a new team will take on significant risk in signing him to the type of contract he will command in the new NBA economy.
Griffin’s production on the court has not wavered. His averages have consistently hovered around 21 points and eight rebounds. The challenge is the frequency teams can expect this production given Griffin’s injury history.
No. 5 PG Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
ESPN’s Marc Stein reported Paul will consider the Spurs in free agency, and the team is likely to secure a meeting with Paul once free agency hits. The bigger question is how much the Spurs are willing to pay the 32-year-old point guard. It is a big off-season for the Clippers with three prominent members of their core entering free agency. Los Angeles has a choice to blow up a team that has had little postseason success, or continue to try to build around their current core.
Citing an unnamed executive, The Los Angeles Times reported Paul also plans to meet with the Rockets and Nuggets.
No. 6 SF Otto Porter Jr., Washington Wizards
Porter is not a household name like some of the other players on this list, but has more potential than most players. He is just 24 years old and has improved his three-point shooting in every season he has been in the league. Porter shot over 43 percent from behind the arc last season.
The challenge for other teams is Porter is a restricted free agent meaning the Wizards can match any offer. Teams may be reluctant to tie up their money in free agency in the restricted free agency process.
No. 7 C Nerlens Noel, Dallas Mavericks
Scout.com reported there are multiple teams willing to offer Noel a max contract this off-season. Noel will be a restricted free agent meaning the Mavs will likely have to give Noel a max deal if they wish to keep the big man they acquired prior to the trade deadline.
Noel entered the league after recovering from an injury, and has had trouble staying on the court since becoming a pro. He played in 51 games last season and 67 games during the 2015-16 season. When Noel is playing at his best, he is running the floor, blocking shots and scoring around the rim.
Given the amount of aging veterans on the market this year, there will be plenty of teams willing to take a chance on Noel who is just 23 years old.
No. 8 PG Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Hornets
Like so many top free agents, Holiday has struggled to stay on the basketball court. The last time Holiday played 70 or more games was during the 2012-13 season. Over the last four seasons, Holiday has played in 67, 65, 40 and 34 games. When healthy, Holiday is an adequate shooter with solid court vision.
At just 26, plenty of teams will be willing to gamble on Holiday’s health. Holiday averaged 15.4 points and 7.3 assists last season.
No. 9 SF Rudy Gay, Sacramento Kings
What will NBA teams do with Rudy Gay? He missed most of the season with a ruptured Achilles playing in only 30 games last season. Here’s a rundown of Gay’s game log in the previous four seasons: 70, 68, 55 and 18. It is not a great track record for a free agent in his thirties.
Gay has always been able to contribute in multiple ways. He averaged 18.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting 37 percent from the three-point line prior to his latest injury. Given the current NBA climate, some team will likely over-spend to sign Gay. The question is what team it will be. After ridding themselves of DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings would be wise to turn to their young players rather than re-sign Gay.
No. 10 PF Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks
Millsap has been in the league 11 seasons, but still has plenty left in the tank. He averaged 18 points and 7.7 rebounds last season. The bigger question is how much the league is willing to pay for a 32-year-old big man whose game is best suited for around the basket.
Al Horford proved last off-season there is still money to be had for solid veteran big men. It will be worth watching how big of a deal Millsap can land.