How the 2017 NBA Free Agency Can Create a New Title Contender

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After the NBA crowns another champion this season, the next few months are going to be very interesting. This up and coming free agency class, along with possible trades and acquisitions may finally allow a breakthrough team next season.  It is not going to be a quiet offseason, teams are sick of allowing Cleveland and Golden State to waltz through their conferences. This year’s free agency can be used to build a title contender. There is a load of talent and players that want to win bad enough and take the Cavs/Warriors down next season.

There will be teams that make smart moves to bolster their roster and some of them will the regret over spending on a mid-class free agent who does not produce. It has happens every off-season. A team will overpay. But this year is different due to the established All-Star talent that is available to every team in the league this year.

Here is a look at what we see as some of the top free agents and trade assets that could be on the move during this off-season. Their presence on certain teams could make a roster that can compete with the Cavs and Warriors.

Blake Griffin

The 28-year-old is a hardworking star that has the skill set to help any team that is on the edge of being a contender in 2018. Griffin is a liability as well though, due to his forever-lasting injury bug that typically seems to strike once a season. This season alone, the young star had midseason knee surgery and a toe injury that took him out of the playoffs. Even with the talent and flare that he will bring to his next team, it will be a gamble for whoever takes on a hefty contract.

There are still a few good years left in Griffin if he can stay healthy. He is no longer the highflying dunker he was when first in the league. But these following teams could easily benefit from a player like Griffin next season.

Boston Celtics

Griffin has had chance after chance to make it out of the Western conference, but the cursed Clipper franchise has yet to become a legit title contender. If he does choose to change teams, the Celtics will be at the top of his list. If the overall dollar is less important than winning to Blake, then going to Boston is the most reasonable free agent move for him.

As much as they want Gordon Hayward, they have a serviceable player already at the 3-spot in Jae Crowder. He is also on a much cheaper, friendlier contract in comparison to what Hayward would expect. After watching the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celts really are in need of a change at the 4-spot in their lineup. Griffin could come right into that position and take this team to the next level.

Danny Ainge would get that big star to place with Isaiah Thomas to go along with the number one overall pick in this year’s draft.

With the cheap contracts of young and talented players, the Celtics time to contend is now. Signing Blake Griffin would be the move that this team needs to make to go all in on becoming a title contender.

It is certainly possible for them to make this move by allowing their free agents to move on and make some other roster moves to free the money up. Griffin would also need to work with them in terms of taking a deal.

Blake may still choose the Hollywood glitz and glamour with a fat new contract over Boston. If he wants to contend for a championship on day one of next season, then the Celtics are the only team that can offer him that comfort.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Russell Westbrook needs help from anywhere he can get it if he wants his team to contend for a title against his two former teammates Kevin Durant (Warriors) and James Harden (Rockets). Griffin would bring that experience and the ability to score that Russ needs to be by his side.

It could be a possibility that Griffin chooses to return back home to Oklahoma and try to salvage the last few years of his career with a superstar like Westbrook. The Thunder would be able to take on a contract of Griffin’s size, but the Clippers, if they do choose to retain him, will have $175 million to offer.

This would be a stretch for Griffin, but they could offer him a nice contract as well as, playing alongside a player that set history last year. I believe playing with Russ could resurrect Blake’s career, he would have him playing at a different pace/level than ever before.

Gordon Hayward

Arguably, the best free agent on the maker, Hayward has been a quiet star in Utah and received a max extension two years ago. He has played in a stagnant, boring offense in Utah that does not allow any player to get gaudy numbers on a nightly basis. He has been able to show a variety of offensive skills that range from being a threat from deep to driving the ball. Hayward is an all-around player. Any team could benefit from his offensive and defensive talents. At only 27, he is going into his prime years to play for a contender and provide that boost some of these teams need to get to the top and win an NBA title.

It was never a thought that Hayward would be getting the attention and money that he is garnering this season, since his last test as a restricted free agent. Now he is the main man of this free agent class. Hayward is a smooth scorer that can distribute the ball, rebound, and play solid defense. He was averaging 24.1 points this season; along with a stat lines in shooting efficiency that are right on track with likes of Khawi Leonard. He is a legitimate player in every aspect of the game.

Another key selling point to Hayward that makes him standout over Blake Griffin as the most prized free agent is injuries. He has been able to stay healthy and injury free, especially in comparison to Blake who seems to be out every month. A team will feel much safer taking a risk on him over a player like Blake Griffin that has long list of injury reports.

So where can this young rising star go to make a difference?

Boston Celtics

Since the beginning of the season, it was known that the Celtics wanted to make a strong run at Gordon Hayward in free agency. He will be their primary target throughout the summer, but the pieces will have to fall into place perfectly.

At the mention of his name, it seems like a perfect fit and the long awaited marquee player they need. Other than Isaiah Thomas, they did not have a solidified and consistent scoring option. Hayward also fits right into the young core group of players that Boston has been building around. They can develop into a long-term contender and stay intact for years to come.

Gordon Hayward is the player that I see most likely to join the Celtics next year. He has numerous reason to choose the Celts over any other team that will pursue him this offseason. They are a perfect fit for Hayward and vice versa. Coach Brad Stevens was Hayward’s coach at Butler when they went onto a Cinderella run to the NCAA Finals. They had a fantastic relationship and we are sure that has continued through the years.

Indiana Pacers

The Pacers is another team where Hayward has ties, can make a difference, and win if they can get a core group of players on their roster. He is an Indiana native, which could be the main motivator for him to sign here. There are also rumors that Paul George has been trying to recruit Hayward to the Pacers, but George may not be there in the end of it all.

As much as Indiana fans would love to see their hometown boy come back, it is very unlikely to happen. There are too many questions in Indiana. The biggest one being if PG-13 will leave after next season or be traded. If he has a choice between the Pacers who barely made the playoffs or playing for his former college coach, there is no doubt Boston has every advantage, plus they are built to win now.

Kyle Lowry

Another season, another loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs. Lowry is ready to move on and take a shot with another team. He has not been able to stay healthy in Toronto or take that next step. The Raptors have already made statements around making changes and a “culture reset”. This is where they can start.

There is one massive barrier to Lowry wanting to leave the Raptors, if they do offer him a max contract, and that is the money! As a 10 year plus NBA veteran, he is eligible to sign a five-year deal worth upward of $200 million that could equate to about $40 million a season. A hard offer to turn down. If they do choose to part ways, these are the best teams that could make an attempt to sign Lowry:

Indiana Pacers

Indiana needs to do something in order to keep PG-13 happy and interested at all in returning as free agent after next season. If they do not make any moves this year there is no chance they can keep their super star in Paul George. He wants to win and needs the pieces around him to do so.

If they can get Lowry to stay within the conference and team up with George then it will be a huge shift in the East. The Pacers cannot come close to touching the deal Toronto can offer him but they may not even consider offering him the over $150 million due to his injuries and age.

The Raptors cannot be that ignorant to spend so much on an aging, injury prone player. Lowry has given them some solid years but there is no need for them to spend that sort of money, especially after being swept by the Cavs.

Paul Millsap

At 32, Paul Millsap had a terrific season with the Atlanta Hawks but may have teams worried about a large investment in him. Millsap seems to be fine though and has never had any major injuries to concern teams. He is a forward that can do it all and is an asset any team could use. He has improved his perimeter game, is a lock-down defender, and can be a solid rebounder. He is a player that wants to win and leaves it all on the court to do so.

The Hawks are going to want to retain his services but they may be strapped for cap space to keep him. They have a huge chunk of Dwight Howard’s contract remaining that may keep them from signing Millsap this offseason. If they can’t keep him, look for a ton of teams to try reeling him in. If I were to pick one team that will offer him big money it would be the:

Denver Nuggets

This team wants to contend but they are missing those key veterans that can take this team and lead them. They were extremely active during the trade deadline and look to continue improve their lineup via free agency.

They need a skilled power forward that can play alongside their skilled rising star Nikola Jokic and Millsap can be that player. His wingmen in Faried and Plumlee were less than perfect and the Nuggets to build around this kid ASAP.

Insert a talent like Paul Millsap, who has been a super star in this league that has always flown under the radar.

Jokic is an offensive threat that would benefit from having a do it all player like Millsap around him. I really do believe that Denver wants to become a winner, and with their trade back in February, they have the space to make some big acquisitions.

The signing of Millsap, along with some other solid free agent pickups, could give them a dangerous starting lineup.

Chris Paul (Players Option)

At 32, he has a ton of minutes on his legs and is not getting any younger. It does not seem that Paul has shown any signs of slowing down, but no one wants to spend a ton on Paul. The biggest concern around him is definitely his inability to have success in the playoffs. He has struggled when the lights are on him to perform on the big stage, not being able to will his team into an NBA Final.

He is comfortable in LA, but does he need to get out of the city of Angels into a system that will help him win at the next level? He should be getting offers from numerous contenders and he should at least listen to what they have to offer. If he is to go anywhere, it will be to a team that has been able to beat Golden State and looked to have game one against them wrapped up. That team would be the:

San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs need help and it was evident during their series against the Warriors. They were dominated and left with a depleted roster. Chris Paul could join the likes of Khawi Leonard and Marcus Aldridge to make a solid big three. As good as Tony Parker has been, he is getting older and a starting role is looking less and less likely for him. He could service the Spurs off the bench.

If Paul were to join the Spurs, it would give them a legit lineup with some solid bench players and backups. They are likely to lose Manu Ginobli to retirement. Tony Parker is coming off an injury and they need a boost to get past Golden State.

If the Spurs signed Paul, Parker would likely come off the bench giving him the decreased minutes he needs at his age. It is likely that Patty Mills will go elsewhere, allowing the Spurs to make a potential move for Paul.

Derrick Rose

Rose is coming off a solid season with the NY Knicks but the results were far from what he had considered a “superteam” before the season started. He was on a mess of a team with Phil Jackson causing complete and utter chaos all season long. It is likely Rose will want to get out of that mess.

He averaged 18.0 points per game this season and looked to be getting back into the form he once played at before his injuries. There are quite a few teams that could still use his skill set and if placed on the right team he could get back into MVP form.

New Orleans Pelicans

Last season the Pelicans made a “win now” move by picking up DeMarcus Cousin via trade from the Kings. That experiment did not pan out well and they soon found out that more pieces would be needed to put around Cousins and Anthony Davis.

Derrick Rose would be an ideal piece to this Pelican puzzle that will take them to the top. There is not another combination of players in the league similar to Davis and Cousins. Adding the veteran to this roster could quickly turn them into a contender.

Rose would benefit playing with such versatile big men, who can shoot, pass, and play D. He really could be the glue that can hold this team together. They will likely be losing Jrue Holiday, giving them some cap space to work with Rose on a contract.

Other Serviceable Free Agents

Dwayne Wade

He would be in our top five any other year, but Wade is no longer a cornerstone to a franchise. He is a serviceable role player that still has a ton left to offer. He showed flashes of brilliance in Chicago having stretches of making tough shots and hard takes to the basket.

In reality, Wade will not get a ton of offers from legit contenders considering his age and price tag. He has a nice option and it would be financially smart for him to stick it out in Chicago, but he was also part of a pretty sloppy first year there. He may decide to move on from Chicago, especially if they are looking to rebuild their roster this season.

When Wade joined the Bulls they were considered a legit contender, but they struggled during the regular season barely making the playoffs. Once they made into the post season, it seemed they may have a chance to take down the Celtics but after an injury to Rajon Rondo everything changed.

If Wade decides to move on from Chicago where could he go?

I am going to continue my crush on the Denver Nuggets as they continue to build a winner, especially if they lose Danilo Gallinari. There is a strong chance they try to gain the assistance of Dwayne Wade. They will need to get a scorer from the wing and need to continue building some veteran presence that knows how to win around their young guards.

Jrue Holiday

When healthy, Jrue Holiday is one of my favorite point guards in the NBA. After he returned to the Pelicans lineup after missing the first 12 games of the season, he was a noticeable asset to their team that they would like to keep.

The likely outcome is he will not be returning the Pelicans with so many other teams in need of a new point guard. Holiday is such a talented player when healthy, he has the ability to score, make plays, and his hardnosed defense is frustrating. On top of these talents, he also possess a high-energy motor that could boost any teams’ roster immediately.

New York Knicks

The Knicks must revamp their roster and figure it out soon. They may choose to waste their money on Derrick Rose, but if they were smart, it would be easy to pass on it. Take on a younger and talented PG in Holiday that can instantly bolster the lineup.

It is also fitting that Jrue would be able to play with his younger brother Justin and possibly change this Knicks team around.

There will be some changes before the season starts on this team, but more than likely, Holiday will be teaming up with at least Kristaps Porzingis, possibly Carmelo or pieces involved in a trade for him. He could at least provide enough spark to take this team into the playoffs, if the dysfunction can be fixed.

Possible Stars available via Trades in 2017

Carmelo Anthony

Is there any bigger player in the NBA who is more likely to move than Carmelo Anthony? He has been on the move for months now. It is pure speculation and his no trade clause certainly throws a huge barrier in front of Phil Jackson trying to get rid of him. He seems desperate to move on from Melo, but can he?

Anthony was once a prolific scorer. He once led the league in scoring. Now, he is pushing 33 years old and seems to be more of a curse than cure for teams. It may take a new team for Anthony to overcome this past season of being under the shadows of Phil. But he needs to want to be there. He averaged 22.4 points per game this past season, at times looking to have what it takes to lead a team into the playoffs, but let’s face it, he will never be a player to build a team around. Just a piece to the puzzle.

He still has three years at $78.7 million remaining on his contract with the Knicks, but there are teams out there that are going to make a run for him.

Where can Melo go?

  • LA Clippers

Look for Carmelo to move on from NY, possibly to the opposite side of the country to LA. He needs the change with everything going on in his career and private life. If the Clippers can lockup, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, they need to add a scorer. Melo could be their man and the Clippers could be the team to finally win with Anthony on their roster, since his time in Denver.

Paul George

Paul George is almost destined to leave Indiana. If not now, then in free agency after 2018. The Pacers need to listen to any offer they receive for PG-13 because next year he is going to opt-out and head to the land of the Lakers. Since returning from a horrific leg injury in the last Olympics, George has been stellar. The 26-year-old had one of his best seasons in 2016-17, averaging 23.7 points per game on 46.1% shooting and 39.3% from long-range.

All of the rumors point to George signing with the LA Lakers as a free agent, which allows the Pacers decision to move him a little easier with the right offer. If he is traded, it will be hard for a team to give up much, unless they feel George will stick around for more than one season.

Where can Paul George end up?

  • Chicago Bulls

Listen, there is no way the Lakers are going to give up any assets if they plan on just signing George after the season. So, another team will have to be willing to give up the goods in order to have him on their roster. The Bulls have a few options to make this happen, but it is a longshot.

Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler is such a talented player and a relentless defensive player that plays hard every minute. He is fast, strong, and plays a high energy style of game. He can make the tough-shots and be a go to player on any team. Butler needs help, we get that he was given Dwayne Wade and Rajon Rondo last season but they did not mesh. They are both aging stars that are no longer the “super stars” they once were.  He needs some young talent around him.

Excluding his skills, Butler’s contract is as team friendly as you get, a deal worth less than $20 million per season through 2020. This would allow a team to take him without any major salary cap issues or having to move major pieces to their roster, if the trade goes down right.

Butler is traded to the?

  • Boston Celtics

in a deal that will involve Avery Bradley, Jaylen Brown and the Number 1 overall pick in the year’s draft. We know that sounds like a ton to give up but Danny Ainge could get desperate if Hayward and Griffin pass on them. If they do, then the Celts need to make a move that will improve their roster and this could be the answer.

Surprise team

  • Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers will more than likely have a quite a bit of media surrounding their first round pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, as they are expected to be picking Lonzo Ball and his father LaVar will be right behind him. If anyone can handle the circus that will surround this young star, it is the Lakers.

This organization wants to be good again and contend for another title sooner rather than later. They have a young coach that knows how to win; all he needs is the pieces to coach. Walton will want be able to assemble his own team and lead them to a successful season, if everything goes as planned for the young Coach and his new boss Magic Johnson.

So how do the Lakers become contenders?

They have a ton of young prospects that they are willing to move and as of today the new big man on Campus, Magic Johnson has made it clear everyone other than Brandon Ingram is on the block. Johnson is ready to make this team a contender now and is willing to make blockbuster trades to so.

If Magic is too impatient to wait another season for Paul George, he may trade away some valuable assets such as D’Angelo Russell and other young stars to get this transition started. Another possible trade would be for Jimmy Butler and trying to sign Blake Griffin.

I really like the prospective trades and talent that Magic Johnson is going to have as a starting piece. He can make a lot of moves and signings that many of us are not expecting, taking a big free agent into turning this longtime dynasty around.

Our 2018 NBA Finals matchup

The San Antonio Spurs will face off against the Boston Celtics, if this off-season goes as planned for each team. The Spurs had the Warriors number, up by over 20 in game 1 of the Western Conference Finals but the loss of Khawi Leonard was too much to handle.

The Celtics were the Eastern Conference Champs, a team that any basketball person can see are just one piece away from being a legitimate title contender.

As hard as it is to imagine any other teams competing in the NBA finals, it needs to happen for the game. This will never be the case unless some of these teams make the moves to improve, allowing themselves the best possible lineup.

As a basketball fan, this league needs new title contenders to play for the championship next year. It is getting boring. LeBron has made it to seven straight finals and the Warriors and Cavs have met in three consecutive. So other than the fans of these two teams, everyone else is hoping for a new team to turn into a contender come the 2018 NBA season.

Who do you think can take over in the Western and Eastern Conferences next season?

Keep checking back as we continue our coverage of free agency and the NBA Draft in the upcoming months. There will certainly be many more moves made that are not listed here that could change the landscape of every team.

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