With the 2016-2017 season in the books, it is time to quickly flip the page to the 2017-2018 season. The NBA champion Golden State Warriors were crowned in early June, but the league picks right back up with the draft on June 22nd. After the draft, just nine days later, NBA free agency will commence.
This is the total opposite model from the NFL, as their free agency occurs two months prior to the draft. I prefer the NBA model because I like the idea of drafting the best possible player for your team and then filling out the rest your roster through free agency and trades.
At this point, the NBA offseason almost has zero impact in the grand scheme of things since you already know the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers will be back in the NBA Finals for the fourth year in a row, barring injury. Teams can either go two routes, improve now to try and contend, or start planning for 2-3 years. For the teams who want to contend, that isn’t going to stop teams from trying to improve and to put out the best product on the court.
For the teams that decide they are going to put the best team out on the court, they will be enticed to sign players from this free agency class. Here are a few possible landing spots for three of this year’s biggest names in free agency.
Gordon Hayward To The Boston Celtics
The stars align almost perfectly. The Celtics desperately need another All-Star in order to even attempt to challenge the Cavs in the East. They have plenty of guards with the rotation of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, and the soon-to-be Celtic Markelle Fultz. In the frontcourt, they are committed to Al Horford, and have depth with Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk. Their weakness is their wing play, which is where Hayward comes in.
Hayward and head coach Brad Stevens have a long and special relationship, as Stevens was the first coach to recruit the teenage Hayward when he was at Butler University. Hayward was the best player on Butler’s 2010 NCAA Final team, where they lost to Duke in a very close game. Stevens, then 33, became the youngest coach since Bobby Knight in 1973 to lead his team to the Final Four, and the smallest school (4,200 enrollment) to make the Final Four.
Hayward missed out on his mega-extension when he didn’t make an All-NBA team, so his chances of leaving Utah became even stronger. They are building a nice team out west in Utah, but it’s very likely Hayward joins a legendary franchise in the Celtics to reunite with the first coach who believed in him, and also happens to be perhaps the second-best coach in the NBA.
Chris Paul To The San Antonio Spurs
For hardcore basketball nerds, this seems like a match made in heaven. Would Chris Paul signing up to play with Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, and most importantly, head coach Gregg Popovich, put them on par with the Warriors? No. However, it would make for one of the smartest and most in-depth basketball mind trios we’ve seen in basketball in a long-time with Paul, Leonard, and Popovich. The Spurs have proved they have impeccable ball movement without a lot of All-Star talent on their roster. Paul is the best point guard of his generation and would flourish in the Spurs’ system.
The Clippers haven’t accomplished anything with the core of Paul, Blake Griffin (who is also a free agent), and DeAndre Jordan, so there’s a chance that either Paul or the Clippers, or possibly both, may believe it’s time to move on. The Clippers can offer CP3 a max contract of $205 million over five years, so if the Clippers do indeed want to commit to him, he would be leaving an absurd contract on the table. The Spurs’ contract is nothing to pass at, as it would come in at $152 million over four years. The current odds Paul stays with the Clippers is 1/9, but with 1/9 odds that he leaves, and especially with the tempation of joining such a respectable franchise like the Spurs, it’s not a bad bet at all.
Dwyane Wade to the Cleveland Cavaliers
Dwyane Wade left the only team he ever knew in the Miami Heat when he was angered by their initial offer last offseason. He went back to his hometown when he signed a two-year, $47 million contract with the Chicago Bulls last season, but with an player option for next season, it could be just a one-year deal.
Wade was sending a message to the Heat when he left last season. He took less money in order for the team to sign LeBron James and Chris Bosh, and even though it obviously benefited him and his legacy, he felt like it was time for the Heat to do right by him. I know it sounds ridiculous because of the amount of money these guys make on and off the court, but that’s that sentiment around Wade and the Heat.
Wade cashed in a $23.5 million last season to play with a boring and dramatic Bulls team. He has made over $176 million in NBA career earnings. He has made his money, and then some.
Now it’s time to try and win one more ring with his buddy LeBron.
I’m not sure how Wade’s skills helps them defeat the Warriors, especially since he will turn 36 years old next season. The Cavaliers bench is abysmal and was extremely exploited by the Warriors whenever LeBron took a quick breather. If LeBron can convince one of his best friends in the world to take the minimum in order to give his team the desperate depth they need, it could happen. You have to figure this would be Wade’s last stop of his career, unless he goes back to Miami for one year. Wade trying to help LeBron win another ring would be a fitting final chapter in his career.