Hoopscritic Free Agency Round table

 

Where will Kevin Durant take his talents this offseason? Where should Kevin Durant take his talents this offseason?

Brian Geltzeiler

Durant will stay right where he is in OKC.  The financial benefits are too great and OKC represents his best chance to win a title next season.  He’ll sign a 2 year deal with a one year opt out so he can be a free agent with 10 years of service time and get a max contract in the summer of 17 at 35% of a much higher cap….

Oliver Maroney

I think he just wants to go through the process. Players like to be wanted and I don’t think Durant is much different from other players in that regard. I think he knows where he wants to be, but wants to be “sure” of it. Similar to car shopping, you go in knowing what you’d like but want to test drive the options, just to know that you’re not “‘missing out”.

1B. I think it would be wise of Durant to stay for a one year deal, with another year as a player option. Not only will this allow him the freedom, but will ensure he doesn’t get stuck if Westbrook were to leave. Kevin Durant will become this generations’ Kobe Bryant if he were to stay with one team his entire career. Will he? I don’t know. But he’s got a top-five player to play alongside, a coach that was in his first NBA season, and a city that he completely immersed himself in. Based on the options and what’s available, I don’t see much of a reason to risk his brand especially with the chance of a title elsewhere not guaranteed.

Besides that, I think Durant has an affection for Russell Westbrook, similar to that of a brother. Originally, back when they first had this team in Oklahoma City, I didn’t think Westbrook and Durant would work. But now? I think they look like they enjoy each other and playing together. I get the idea that Durant is somewhat of a big brother to Russ, that he feels obligated to help his friend and colleague.

Robert Tarlanian

The space between ‘will’ and ‘should,’ as it pertains to Durant’s free agency decision, ultimately revolves around what the 27-year old wants out of the prime of his career. If simply winning as much and as often as possible is his only concern, Golden State is firmly the leader in the ‘should’ clubhouse. However, as is often the case with superstars of Kevin Durant’s caliber, the tangibility of winning offers intangible layers to a player’s legacy—the story that will outlive both him and his career. And for this reason, I suspect Durant goes into free agency looking for reasons to stick around and make it work with, rather than to leave, the Thunder. Oklahoma City is where Kevin Durant’s story began, where it holds the most weight, and where, if all goes well, it ought to reside for years and years to come.

Justin Salkin

Kevin Durant will stay in Oklahoma City, and I believe he will stay there on a full five year deal, rather than the likely more profitable and more discussed “1+1.”  Durant seemingly does not like going through the free agency process, and he did have a significant foot injury that at least places some risk on him at not executing a five year deal right now. He likes Oklahoma, clearly can win there, and will commit this summer. As for what he should do, Golden State is the clear answer. Durant will play for the league’s preeminent title favorite for the foreseeable future if he makes that choice. And at the end of the day, while we like to say we value loyalty and that joining an already excellent franchise can harm a legacy, Durant will (fairly or not) be judged on championships and playoff success as his career progresses — not his loyalty. The best path to success comes in Golden State.

Jaime Oppenheim

I think he’ll stay in Oklahoma City, but that thought makes me uneasy. It feels like there’s always something negative happening behind the scenes with the Thunder. You need “feel good” vibes to win a title, and those seem hard to come by in that organization.

Ironically enough, before the Ibaka trade, I would’ve said Durant should go to Orlando.  It’s possible I’m conflating “most fun” with “best decision”, but when you combine Florida’s tax laws with the pieces on Orlando’s roster and their flexibility to get much better in a hurry, you had an almost ideal situation. Dallas is now maybe the best non-Oklahoma City option; simply on the grounds they know how to win.

Aaron Asmus

Durant will and should stay in OKC on the 1-1 deal to give it one more shot with Westbrook. It makes the most sense for him from all angles. Financially, he’ll be in line to make 35% of the cap with 10 years of service after he signs a 2 year deal with a player option. From a winning perspective, no team he goes to will be able to gel and get to full strength with Durant like the built-in chemistry already on the Thunder. He and Westbrook will give it one more go and the addition of Oladipo will finally give them the scoring relief they’ve been searching for since the Harden trade.

After Lebron James and Kevin Durant, who are the top three available free agents?

Brian Geltzeiler

Al Horford, Demar DeRozan and Hassan Whiteside.

Oliver Maroney

This is a really interesting idea. I think Hassan Whiteside, Dwight Howard, and Mike Conley are the three best free agents behind those two. Whiteside is young, extremely talented, and still fits with most every team in the league.

Dwight Howard however, has probably more red flags than any other free agent, but the reason I like him is because he’s on his “last stand”. A statistical 14 point, 12 rebound player, Howard has knowingly got tons of issues, but his ability to pick-and-roll, as well as dominate the post, gives you reason to believe he’s a diamond in the rough. Question marks surround him, but he’s got that “contract year” vibe, because I think everyone knows this is his last chance to prove his worth.

Conley is just a very good, sound, point guard. He doesn’t make mistakes, plays great defense, and has to be a great locker room guy. I don’t know a team that wouldn’t want Conley on their roster because of his versatility and track record. Although a little injury prone, Conley still has a lot to give and could be a piece for a championship contender.

Robert Tarlanian

Though his offensive inefficiency presently renders him inferior to his peers in this category, I’ll begin with Andre Drummond for the simple fact that the bulk of his (cheaper) max contract will be paid out for a 24-27-year old, while the likes of Al Horford, Dwight Howard, and Mike Conley will eat up major portions of salary sheets all the way through their early-30s. 26-year old Hassan Whiteside lands second on this list for similar reasons. While concerns about his maturity, his unselfishness (or lack thereof), and motivations as a basketball player exist, the young big man not only qualifies for less money than the aforementioned veteran stars on the market, but his contract stretches no further than what should be the four or five sure-fire prime years of his career. Lastly, DeMar DeRozan rounds out the list, edging out aging veterans and risky youngsters on the back of his most recent regular season campaign. Having proven to be a consistent source of offense night in and night out in the regular season, the USC product, despite a shaky jumper and an equally flimsy playoff track record, offers greater reliability over the life of his contract than do any others in consideration for the third spot on this list.

Justin Salkin

DeMar DeRozan, Al Horford, and Mike Conley: DeRozan is an all-star at shooting guard where there is not as much talent as some other positions. He was the second best player on a 56 win team that has earned home court in the last three postseasons. While he can get isolation heavy his shot selection has improved. Horford is a very good versatile big. Given his mainstay status in the playoffs as a Hawk, his ability to be a significant component for a winner is clear. His game also figures to age well compared to other players his age. Conley is excellent defensively, which has huge value at point guard: in any sport, it is huge to be skilled at stopping the primary weapon of competitors, and with so many guard heavy offensive attacks, Conley’s defense provides huge value. His offensive game is also productive and he has hit critical playoff shots. Other than the recent Achilles injury he has been healthy. Hassan Whiteside is too overrated defensively, and struggles too much in bigger lineups, to make the list; Andre Drummond is simply not available.

Jaime Oppenheim

I’m going to lean heavily on the term “available” and omit Demar DeRozan and the restricted free agent crowd. After that, you’re more or less left with Al Horford, Mike Conley and Nic Batum.

Good luck.

Aaron Asmus

Batum, Horford and Whiteside. Drummond would be here, but there’s absolutely no chance the Pistons let him leave.

I value the two-way potential of Batum, Horford and Whiteside and the fact that we can pencil them in for their normal production throughout their contracts. There also isn’t a system/team that they wouldn’t be able to step right in and improve immediately.

Which free agent slated to receive max or near-max money will prove to be the biggest disappointment?

Brian Geltzeiler

Mike Conley. Age and injuries are accumulating and he’s going to be looking for a huge annual salary based upon the relatively cheap deal he’s coming out of

Oliver Maroney

Depends on what player lands where. I don’t think i could say one player could be the biggest disappointment. I think it’s quite obvious that Barnes has his flaws, could be the biggest bust depending on where he lands. But then again, so could Chandler Parsons (mostly injury worries for me), Dwight Howard, or any of the others. The guys I really worry about though; are players who overachieved last season. Players who thrived in a system or a way of playing and were hidden until the past season, a breakout player. Allen Crabbe is a guy that I love, but feel could be overpaid due to his restricted free agency tag.

Robert Tarlanian

Harrison Barnes. Though he offers a few of the virtues that teams covet from a three/small-ball-four in a prototypical sense, he rarely displays the kind of confidence, fortitude, and in-between game necessary to leverage those types of theoretical attributes and serve as a consistent threat to opposing defenses. Ultimately, it seems that such relatively hollow promise is enough to garner a max contract in the current NBA climate, but it seems sanguine at best to figure that Barnes produces consistently enough to warrant a four-year max contract.

Justin Salkin

Harrison Barnes. Players with tantalizing potential, restricted free agents, and players who have won all get overpaid. Barnes meets the whole trio of factors. His offensive game is rather limited, and while he has shown flashes of the ability to do more, he has not done so consistently and it has been four NBA years for him. Barnes functioned well as a fifth starter in Golden State, but if he is snagged away, whoever acquires him will be paying max money to ask him to step into a much larger role that it is not clear he can step into. Some restricted free agents benefit by leaving a bad situation or developing in the same one. Barnes would be going to a worse situation and expected to do a lot with much less support, and probably a lesser system.

Jaime Oppenheim

Omitting Durant, James, DeRozan and Drummond, all of them. In fact, I’ll take it one step further: minus the four players I just mentioned, and anyone signing for less than $6 million a year, nearly every free agent signed this year will be a massive disappointment.

This free agent class is weak, but almost every team has gobs of cap space available, making this summer the biggest players’ market we’ve ever seen. Agents will make owners feel the way owners make fans feel when they charge $12 for beer.

The smartest thing an NBA GM can do come July 1 is board a flight for Bali and spend two weeks learning to surf. The second smartest thing they can do is trade for other teams’ unwanted contracts.

Aaron Asmus

There isn’t a certain free agent I think will bust, but players like Bismack Biyombo, Allen Crabbe, Harrison Barnes and Jordan Clarkson are going to be paid like key cornerstone pieces when we aren’t really sure what their potential is long-term. I think they all have the potential to be quality players, but we aren’t used to seeing a $15mil+/year price-tag to find out.

Which free agent will prove to be the biggest bargain?

Brian Geltzeiler

Dwight Howard.  Too much of last year’s Houston fiasco is being laid at Dwight’s feet.  He still has a ton left to offer on the court and still can be a dominant force at both rims.  The difficulties with getting along with fellow teammates have lowered his market value to where it’s not commensurate with his on court performance relative to the new financial environment

Oliver Maroney

Kevin Durant is obvious here. But if we’re going dark horses; Allen Crabbe or Dwight Howard, both could be extreme playmakers depending on where they go. Crabbe mostly due to the price (depending on that he commands), Dwight due to his skills and bringing back his near MVP level play.

Robert Tarlanian

Truthfully, a player of Kevin Durant’s caliber occupies this space regardless of how much money he commands on a year-to-year basis. However, beyond such an obvious pick, I like Allen Crabbe as a young, relatively cheap option who promises to provide valuable offense off of the bench–to the tune of near-40% shooting from behind the arc, impressive efficiency around the bucket, and an invaluably low turnover rate.

Justin Salkin

This question can be perceived many different ways. Given the likely intent of the question, the player most likely to be a bargain from those who truly get paid is Marvin Williams. He may not be the shooter he was last year but has a nice offensive game, plays solid defense at the 3 and 4, and thrives in the new NBA landscape. He will not get the mega contracts some younger players get but for at least two years will be close to as productive. Answering this another way, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, and Dwyane Wade (in that order) fit the bargain bill as it is possible, especially with Gasol, that they take big discounts to join winners. Answering this question in a more practical way, the answer really is Kevin Durant and LeBron James, because artificial max contract limits strongly benefit teams who get actual max players by compressing the market. LeBron figures to make $27.5 million next year, Durant $26.6 million. Matching salaries with non max players, would you trade Khris Middleton and Thaddeus Young for one of them? Brandon Knight and Robin Lopez? And those salaries match under LAST summer’s numbers; this summer’s middle class deals will be even bigger. The artificial max makes team building tough and is damaging to teams without a max talent by free agency or the draft. That makes LeBron and Durant the best value deals out there.

Jaime Oppenheim

LeBron and Durant will be the two biggest bargains. After that, no one will end up being a good value. This summer is going to be a bloodbath. Agents will make the Red Wedding look like a mere paper cut in comparison.

Aaron Asmus

Pau Gasol. It won’t break the bank to sign him as he’s already on record saying he’d be willing to take a discount for another shot at a ring. He’s shown he still has a lot left in the tank coming off an all-star appearance and elite rebounding and offensive numbers. There are a lot of teams where he could be the piece that puts them over the top and he likely won’t cost more than $12mil/year.

If their pursuit of Kevin Durant fails, whom should the Golden State Warriors key in on this offseason?

Brian Geltzeiler

If Golden State doesn’t get Durant, they should either wherever offer sheet Barnes gets or look to sign Howard.  If they could get someone to take the last year of Andrew Bogut’s contract and get Howard for the same money or less than it would take to re-sign Barnes, all of their problems are solved.  Howard would be the perfect antidote to Tristan Thompson.

Oliver Maroney

Golden State should really go after Batum. Batum fits that system like a glove and could be an extreme talent in Golden State. The other interesting option that I pondered was Kevin Love. I understand that K-Love was proven to be ineffective in the Finals, but his game solidly fits with a team like the Warriors, and for the right price? I think Cleveland would deal him. But would it be to the Warriors? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t put anything past Mr. Gilbert.

Robert Tarlanian

While I’d qualify the option with a meeting to clarify the big man’s willingness to fulfill a very pointed role in Golden State—the kind that trusts him to defend the rim, move his feet in the pick-and-roll, set screens, pin-downs, and make hard cuts to the rim—I like Dwight Howard as a rim-runner on the kind of team capable of leveraging such a threat with incredible floor spacing and all-around offensive potency.

Jaime Oppenheim

They’ve got to figure out what to do about Harrison Barnes, which is the most complicated problem facing any team this summer. His production is worth only half the value of his pedigree, but he defends, he’s versatile and the Warriors don’t have to worry about him fitting in.

The Warriors have done a decent job preparing for life after Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala in the last two drafts, picking up Kevon Looney, Damian Jones and Patrick McCaw. They still need another athletic big, though, especially if Festus Ezeli signs elsewhere.

Justin Salkin

For starters, the Warriors need to keep Barnes if they lose out on Durant; my reservations about him stem around his ability to help a lesser franchise, but he obviously fits well in Golden State.  A 73-9 team should keep things together, not let players go for flexibility. Allowing pieces like Barnes to leave to add Durant is worth it, but if Durant does not come onboard, the Warriors should keep their rotation players intact. As for alternative free agents, the Warriors are in a position where they can get talented veterans to take less money to join them. Joakim Noah would be a great target. The beauty of the Warriors is their excellent movement and passing. Noah is one of the best bigs there is. And, if Bogut or Ezeli leave or sustain injury issues (both are possible), he can more than fill in — especially for Ezeli.

Aaron Asmus

I don’t think there’s a better fit out of anyone in FA for the Warriors, including Durant, than what Batum can bring. Durant is the obvious talent upgrade, but it would take some serious time and game adjustment from everyone on the Warriors to fit Durant into what they do. Batum would fit flawlessly with his ability to defend multiple positions, space the floor, run the break and add another quality playmaker to a team chalk-full of them.  There’s something to be said for improving on the formula of a 73-win team that was minutes away from a championship.

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