Merely just hours after this summer’s free agency started, some of the most coveted free agents have already been copped by teams.
Steph Curry re-signed with Golden State for a historic supermax deal worth 201 million dollars. Blake Griffin stayed in Los Angeles. Patty Mills remained in San Antonio. The Clippers didn’t let Chris Paul just walk away and traded him to Houston to get assets in return. Jeff Teague went to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
But the headliner on free agency opening day was actually Paul George getting traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, in a move that will pair him with newly-crowned NBA MVP Russell Westbrook.
While not a free agent signing, the trade done could lead to dominos falling as teams pursued George with hopes of having other players come to join them to form a formidable group that could challenge the superpowers in the league. George going to OKC might influence the decisions of free agents and teams alike.
Anyway, with some of the best names in free agency already gone and a few more not really expected to switch team uniforms like Kevin Durant, here are some of the remaining FAs that squads might want to look at, divided into tiers.
1. Come to Boston chants recipient – Gordon Hayward
That’s right, let the meetings commence. Hayward had a breakout season for Utah, leading them to the post-season with a 51-win record and making the all-star selection in the process. Hayward can choose to stay, but right now, George Hill, also a key player in Utah’s run to the playoffs, is also the free agent.
Boston and Miami are interested (and have the cap space) to sign Hayward, and with George and Jimmy Butler both in the Western Conference now, it could be enticing for Hayward to bolt out and join last year’s Eastern Conference top seeds for a deep playoff run. It would be much easier to do that in the East now as the West is stacked with contenders like Golden State, San Antonio, and now Houston and OKC after Chris Paul and Paul George trades.
Especially after the Celtics failed to land Butler, George, and Griffin, Hayward probably is their last hope if they want to boost their chances of winning faring better in another potential showdown against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
2. Veteran win-now pieces – Paul Millsap, George Hill
Will it be a change of scenery for Millsap this season? It’s been relatively silent so far regarding the veteran forward, but he could definitely be of help to other teams wishing to make the playoffs or playoff teams wanting to become better.
The Denver Nuggets come to mind. With Danilo Gallinari’s contract over, Millsap would be a good replacement at the stretch-four spot. The Nuggets even have enough cap space to sign another player, probably a George Hill or JJ Redick (though it might create a logjam in the backcourt positions with guys like Will Barton, Jamal Murray, Jameer Nelson, and Gary Harris). The Nuggets narrowly missed the playoffs last year, and adding Millsap and/or another quality guy might get them to the post-season.
Another front-runner for Millsap are the Timberwolves. Tom Thibodeau is surely going all in after landing Butler and essentially getting Teague for the departed Ricky Rubio. If they get Millsap, they will another player who is ready to win now. The Wolves may have to figure out what to do with Gorgui Dieng or Cole Aldrich to avoid complications rotation and cap space-wise.
Hill can upgrade the backcourt of any team who is interested in getting him, as he has shown after a solid season being the premier guard for the Jazz which made the playoffs. The Spurs have shown interest, but after keeping Mills, the Nuggets might be in a good position to covet Hill.
3. Anybody else want a sharpshooter? – JJ Redick
Redick received over 20 percent of Chris Paul’s passes in the 2016-17 season, just second behind Griffin’s 36 percent. Now Paul is gone, so, you know, maybe Redick wants a new playmaker/team to set him up for open looks.
It makes sense for the Sixers, which are reportedly meeting with him, because they have a ton of guys still on small contracts. They have a handful of bigs so Redick would give them space and three-point shooting.
Maybe he gets convinced by the *coughs* Cavs to be Kyle Korver’s (who is a free agent) replacement for a smaller offer but for a better shot at advancing past the second round of the… oh yeah he did that with the Orlando Magic. Nevermind.
4. Andre Iguodala and Andre Iguodala replacement Rudy Gay
The Spurs are making a run for Iguodala but it is not likely the 2015 NBA Finals MVP will leave the Warriors. Either way, the teams can go for Gay if Iguodala becomes unavailable.
5. Role players galore – Zach Randolph, Joe Ingles, CJ Miles, Thabo Sefolosha, PJ Tucker, Ersan Ilyasova, Danilo Gallinari
Need another big? Or maybe another stretch four for your team who can provide an additional 10 points a game? How about an all-around small forward who can drive, shoot, playmake? How about some wing defenders to shore up some holes on the defensive side of things? These are some of the other available FAs right now.
Others who most probably wouldn’t leave their current teams:
Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry
It makes the most sense for both to stay. Though they got swept by the Cavaliers in the East semis last playoffs, the Raptors didn’t really have much time together at full strength with various injuries. Plus it’s the East, unless Ibaka gets convinced at the thought of playing alongside James Harden and Chris Paul and if Lowry finds a new home which could put him in a position to achieve the same things they — as the Raptors — did over the past three seasons. Maybe another full year together would make them better.
Photos from Getty