In February, we released our list of the NBA’s Top 100 Free Agents of 2016. A lot has happened since then. as such, there are a lot of changes in this edition. Players who responded strongly to questions about their production (Hassan Whiteside, Dion Waiters) were promoted. players who quit or didn’t take chances (brandon jennings, boban marjanovic) fell.
Note that we include the full list of potential free agents, including those with team options that we expect to be picked, those with player options that haven’t yet been accepted or declined, those who might retire, and those who are almost out. they surely will be. don’t leave your equipment. everyone is here to complete.
some player blurbs are repeated from the previous version of the list. most are up to date. without further ado, the 117 best free agents in the nba of 2016.
1. kevin durant
durant is one of the three best players in the world, he is only 27 years old and he almost took the thunder to the nba finals. he’s the most coveted free agent not named lebron james since kobe bryant in 2004. he’s fully recovered from the foot injuries that plagued 2014-15, and he’ll keep the thunder in serious title contention or change the landing team. into an instant favourite. kd is the biggest story of the offseason, and it’s not even remotely close.
2. lebron james
after bringing a title to cleveland, lebron told reporters he’s not leaving. believe him. The emotional glory of beating the Warriors in Game 7 to give Northeast Ohio its first title since the Lyndon B. the johnson administration is too huge. There is an idea that having completed his mission, LeBron will now look for a way to play with his friends Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul. but the idea that lebron will leave cleveland right now to do that seems wrong.
3. andré drummond
5 years, $130 million deal with Detroit
Drummond is the best restricted free agent in the class, and there’s little mystery that the Pistons will issue a max offer as soon as possible. Drummond and Pistons boss Stan Van Gundy telegraphed his decision to postpone a maximum early booking extension last October, modeling it similarly to what the San Antonio Spurs did with Kawhi Leonard to preserve salary-cap space. to sign lamarcus aldridge. Of course, since the spurs are the spurs and the pistons are the pistons, many of us have doubts about whether that will work as well.
Still, the pistons are in control and won’t let go of drummond, despite some concerns, he slacks off too much for svg’s liking. he’s a top-tier center and will be a bargain even at the maximum contract level, simply because his youth and pink rule ineligibility mean his contract is capped at 25 percent of the cap. drummond is going nowhere.
4. mike conley
5 years, $153 million contract with memphis
It once seemed likely that conley would rehire a top offer in memphis. After the Grizzlies fell apart down the stretch, barely making the playoffs, as Marc Gasol, Conley and just about every other full-time Grizzly suffered injuries, we’re not so sure. (Firing dave joerger after the season may or may not affect conley’s decision as well).
conley seems to be a prime target for the spurs, bucks, mavericks, rockets and maybe a few other teams. The Grizzlies are the favorites because of their long tenure and the guaranteed extra year Memphis can offer. but he might be reachable.
5. to the horford
4 years, $113 million with the Celtics
horford just turned 30, but doesn’t have much mileage due to a longer college career and some injuries in the pros. he’s a really solid defensive master and offensive player who doesn’t dominate in lane but makes everything easier for his teammates. he is tim duncan light. (like, very light, but still).
i’m convinced miami will make a play for horford if durant doesn’t make the jump. warriors, blazers, spurs and rebels seem to be in the mix. Phoenix would be an intriguing destination were it not for the presence of Tyson Chandler. wizards should be knocking on horford’s door.
Horford seems perfectly comfortable winning a lot of games in Atlanta, but to be honest, the long-term viability of the roster is a question mark. Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver are 30 years old, Jeff Teague is gone, and his rising heir Dennis Schroeder is still struggling to earn Mike Budenholzer’s trust. Few lawns are greener than the ones Horford has in Atlanta, but wanderlust is natural, especially considering this will likely be Horford’s last massive contract.
6. demar derozan
5 years, $145 million settlement with raptors
derozan is a clear candidate for a max deal, whether it be in toronto or one of the franchises desperate for talent. however, derozan indicated that he will not schedule any advance meetings with any other club, only toronto. that’s a strong indication that he plans to stay north of the border and has received indications from the birds of prey that they will pay whatever it takes.
If for some reason it doesn’t go as planned, the Lakers will come after him hard (they might anyway) and throw him a max contract. it would be an instant talent infusion for a totally lackluster team.
look: demar derozan takes down 7’2 rudy gobert
7. dwyane wade
the heat came to life down the stretch and it could have been a hassan whiteside injury away from the eastern conference finals. After looking like potential commercial bait in January, it became clear that Wade doesn’t want to leave Miami and Pat Riley doesn’t want to lose him.
8. hassan whiteside
maximum contract of 4 years with the heat
whiteside is one of the most interesting free agents, both in terms of his absolute value and his fit with various teams. Actually, there’s a lot of talk about his need for structure and how well Miami’s veteran leadership worked. I don’t know if this is correct; whiteside is not a problem child. he is very rare. he broke out in miami, but a lot of that was down to skill development and training. Erik Spoelstra isn’t the only good coach in the NBA, so Whiteside could work elsewhere.
The usual free agent suspects apply here, but so do some major clubs like golden state. It’s going to be an interesting few days for whiteside.
9. dwight howard
3 years, $70 million contract with Atlanta
howard has dropped so completely that the rockets were more or less begging him to opt out of a $23 million option. he delivered is still a strong enough defender when he’s healthy to win a massive contract. Even Warriors can attest to the importance of good crosses, as their struggles in Game 7 without Andrew Bogut helped them lose the final.
howard is a good contender for a short deal, though he could look for a slightly lower annual figure to cash out one last time. Will anyone be desperate enough to give him four years, $100 million? there is a lot of space available.
10. dirk nowitzki
nowitzki never goes anywhere. nonconformists never take anything for granted. Despite reports that the Warriors are interested in pursuing Nowitzki, the odds of Dirk leaving Dallas seem slim. He expects a two-year, eight-figure-a-year contract to stay in Texas.
11. Nicholas Batum
5 years, $120 million deal with the Hornets
batum is the best attainable wing for a wide swath of teams. but how cool is he? he’s not a star level player, but he was, in most cases, the best player on a very good charlotte team. his combination of plays and defense is valuable, he has good size and is quite strong despite his strong build. he certainly is a top player in the old cap scene; We’ll soon see how many teams think he’s worth more than $25 million a year in the new landscape.
12. Tim Duncan
He’s not going anywhere, except maybe retirement. update: he chose his player option, but he could still retire. all that means is that he won’t officially be a free agent after all.
13. bradley beal
5 years, $130 million deal with wizards
too high for a player who is frequently injured? maybe. he, too, is only 23 years old, scored 20 points in 36 minutes last year and is just under 40 percent shooting from 3-point range for his career. Not only is he a very intriguing target for a wide swath of teams, but he’s almost certainly a top player, healthy or not.
14. harrison barnes
mavericks plan to offer offer sheet of $94 million over 4 years
ditto? not quite. Barnes is a year older than Beal, he has scored far less and is a step below Beal in terms of shooting (although the numbers the past two seasons have been nearly identical). But Barnes is also an NBA champion, a combo forward in a league in love with them, and a key player on the greatest regular-season team of all time.
If the warriors don’t land for long, they almost have to hold barnes. Andre Iguodala is getting old, and Knights and Thunder proved that the warriors’ margin is narrower than you think. (cleveland showed that there is no margin, really). barnes is a cap killer for a team like golden state, but at a certain point there are no other options.
4 years, $94 million with the grizzlies
parsons’ injury history is tough. he has been unavailable for most of the past two postseasons and has missed about a quarter of the past two regular seasons. but at this point he’s a close to 40 percent 3-point shooter with size, low shooting demand and good defensive instincts. a maximum contract will make whoever signs it nervous, but he could definitely be up to the task.
16. kent bazemore
4 years, $70 million with the falcons
Bazemore’s shots fell off in the stretch of the season, but he’s a quality defender and a decent supplemental scorer – the barnes of the poor. It’s unclear which way the Falcons are heading, so bazemore could well be available for teams looking to shore up their wide situations.
17. bismack biyombo
4 years, about $70 million with the magic
biyombo’s performance in the playoffs guaranteed a big payday, quite possibly from toronto. he will turn 24 before the season, and he provides excellent shot blocking and rim defense as a third big man. should reserve greats make $15 million a year? In the new NBA, anything is possible.
18. pau gasol
One of the few star big men available in free agency. In addition, he will turn 36 in July. will be sought after by teams fighting for the title.
4 years, $54.5 million with the Hornets
williams had a good season for charlotte, but shooting 40 percent from long range for the first time late in his career is a fluke. him (he shot 39 percent in lockout season, but otherwise hadn’t shot more than 36 percent from range). he is not a great playmaker but he defends well in two positions and could be a small ball center for the right (brave team). he will be paid.
20. festus ezeli
A disastrous postseason distracts from the fact that ezeli is one of the fastest true centers available, averaging 15-12-2 in 36 minutes this season. As with Howard, centers are still important enough for a team to throw a lot of money at ezeli, whether it’s a smart move or not.
21. joaquin noah
4 years, $72 million with the Knicks
an important question this july: is noah fried or is he just diminished? however, it is an eight figure dice roll.
22. jordan clarkson
4 years, $50 million contract with the Lakers
A young, solid combo shooting guard, the kind that all teams (knights and warriors included) could use. his restricted status means the Lakers can choose to keep him. As a two-year restricted free agent, the amount you can sign on an offer sheet is limited. it might be in his interest to sign his qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent in a year. otherwise, there’s virtually no scenario in which the Lakers lose him.
23. evan fournier
5 years, $85 million with the magic
Trading victor oladipo to oklahoma city makes the magic pay more likely to stick with fournier, though that could hinge on whether orlando lands one of his higher-profile free-agent targets (like parsons). Fournier shot 40 percent from deep last season and scored 17 points in 36 minutes. a solid two-guard option at age 23.
24. waiters dion
acquiring oladipo makes it less likely that thunder will hold back bartenders: oladipo is still cheap, while bartenders will be expensive. however, he was a good third guard for okc down the stretch and in the playoffs. his inconsistent deep shooting, lack of passing intuition and iffy defense, plus those famous demands for the ball, will significantly dampen free-agent interest, but he’s probably still in line for four years, $40 million. this is a new nba, y’all.
25. eric gordon
4 years, $53 million with the rockets
go to the extreme. Gordon played in only 65 percent of his team’s games during his career and only 56 percent of them over five years in New Orleans. that’s not good. but when he does play, he shoots 38 percent from 3-point range and scores about 18 points every 36 minutes. If his medical goes well and you have faith in your training staff and lucky stars, Gordon could really work for you. or he could play 50 games and finish the season. flip a coin.
26. ryan anderson
4 years, $80 million with the rockets
Anderson is a stretching four with no defense who hasn’t thrown particularly well from deep the past two seasons. he’ll get eight figures pretty easily, but without that deep punch he’s not particularly useful, is he? He seems destined to return to his hometown of Sacramento, despite everything.
27. evan turner
4 years, $70 million with the pioneers
Someone is going to convince Evan Turner to pay $45 million over three seasons.
28. allen crab
Blazers are on such a clean budget, they could justify paying crabbe whatever it takes. Crabe’s combination of youth (24) and 3-point shooting (39 percent shooting) makes him a very attractive target for many teams with wide needs.
29. shaun livingston
partial guarantee ($3 million)
livingston will most likely not be a free agent. If Golden State needs to open up cap space to acquire Durant or another star, Livingston’s contract would be a snap to negotiate. in fact, the warriors might even get a benefit from trading it if it comes down to it.
watch: shaun livingston’s journey from horrific injury to nba finals
3-year, $36 million deal with the networks
made a lot of money down the stretch and made the playoffs. he could end up as a highly paid sixth man or a well-paid starting point guard.
31. courtney lee
4 years, $50 million with the Knicks
There is already talk that the kings want to persecute him. Lee turns 31 before the season, but he’s known for a really solid two-guard defense and is a deep shooter 38 percent of his career. a good fit in many places.
32. luol deng
4 years, $72 million with the Lakers
is deng’s future a small ball power forward? that certainly worked late in the year in miami.
33. jr blacksmith
I don’t know if he’s found a shirt yet. however, they are paying you. one way or another.
34. round crack
2 years, $28 million with Chicago
there are few better quarterbacks in the nba. however, there are about 400 better shooters and 250 better defenders.
35. arron afflalo
2 years, $25 million with the kings
after a disastrous season in new york and a rocky finish in portland before that, it will be interesting to see how much value teams place on afflalo. It should be noted that he is only so high up the rankings because this is a fantastically shallow free agent market.
36. emir johnson
totally without warranty
A rare specialist that provides some interesting defensive flexibility. you need to find a good place to stay relevant. Boston can also simply guarantee his $12 million contract for next season.
37. tyler johnson
4 years, $50 million with the networks (heat can match)
miami shouldn’t have to pay much to keep johnson, but if the heat is biased with other free agents, there’s a chance a rival will slip in and nab him. he is a legit nba guard.
38. matthew dellavedova
Dellavedova agreed to a four-year, $38 million offer sheet with the dollars. cavs have the option to pair.
A three-and-d point guard happy to come off the bench? he’s going to make $10 million a year.
39. boban marjanovic
40. Robert Covington
totally without warranty
Covington has a non-guaranteed deal, but he’s profitable enough (and the Sixers are hungry enough for talent) that he’s highly unlikely to become a free agent.
41. ian mahinmi
4 years, $64 million with the wizards
mahinmi is one of the best affordable first defense centers to be available.
42. brandon jennings
ugh, what a bad ending in orlando with old friend scott skiles. Jennings might need a special rondo (a 1-year deal to rejuvenate his value).
43. jose johnson
2 years, $22 million with jazz
joe jesus gave miami quite a bit, but it turns out he probably should have picked the cavaliers after all. maybe this summer if smith takes a payday elsewhere?
1 year, $10 million with the Mavericks
williams had a fairly interesting season with dallas. smart teams will be skeptical that he can improve on that or even keep it at a price that isn’t a bargain.
45. to jefferson
3 years, $30 million with pacemaker
It is not the most glorious twilight for Jefferson, but he is a veteran of great character and could extend his career as Luis Scola has done.
46. jamal crawford
3 years, $42 million with the Clippers
hey, jamal crawford is a free agent!
47. jose richardson
totally without warranty
richardson is on a non-guaranteed contract, and he’s likely to return to miami unless the heat really has to cut all salaries to bring in top free agents. It’s cheap and effective and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t continue his career in South Beach.
48. jared sullinger
sullinger is a solid producer, but when the dominant narrative about you at every training camp is how out of shape you come in, that doesn’t create positive energy around your free agency. But the numbers are attractive and some team will throw a nice offer sheet in Sullinger’s way. it will be interesting to see how boston, with eyes on the stars, tackles this.
49. ersan ilyasova
partial guarantee ($400,000)
The Thunder can opt to release Ilyasova before July 1 and save $8 million from her $8.4 million contract. they’ll have to do it before they know if Durant is going to go and before they know what other greats they’re bringing to market. I would keep it. if available, figure he’ll earn a similar salary for a few years.
50. jared dudley
3 years, $30 million with phoenix
dudley will definitely draw a lot of interest as a small-ball shooting power forward.
51. boris diaw ($3 million guaranteed): when you lose gregg popovich, there’s not much hope. someone will still throw some money his way if the spurs let him go. Big men passing by are in fashion.
52. timofey mozgov: oof, it wasn’t a great contract year there, timo.
4 years, $64 million with the Lakers
53. mirza teletovic: this is his annual reminder that teletovic is pretty old (30) for an nba newcomer. however, he is a good shooter and a third-choice scorer.
3 years, $30 million with the dollars
54. marreese speaks
55. jordan hill: jordan hill can do some things.
56. manu ginobili: is still manu ginobili.
58. roy hibbert: who will be the brave gm who will try to (make his trainer) fix roy hibbert?
59. dwight powell (restricted)
4 years, $37 million with the Mavericks
60. derrick williams: not happening. he is what he is.
61. joffrey lauvergne (totally unguaranteed): denver will likely guarantee his contract.
62. zaza patchouli
63. david west: so much for chasing the ring.
64. Greivis Vasquez: If he’s healthy, he’s a totally fun backup point guard.
65. jerryd bayless
3 years, $27 million with philadelphia
66. antonio tomorrow
67. green jeff: green jeff.
1 year, $15 million contract with orlando
68. donatas motiejunas (restricted): a wonderful candidate for the old qualifying offer.
69. luis scola: almost done.
70. terrence jones (restricted): what do you think of terrence jones?
71. meyers leonard (restricted): in theory, could still become channing frye.
72. mario chalmers
73. mo harkless (restricted): maybe?
74. ish smith: is still the best guard in philadelphia.
3 years, 18 million with the pistons
75. gerald henderson
76. rivers of austin
3 years, $35 million with the clippers
77. jarrett jack ($500k guaranteed): free jarrett jack!
78. jon leuer
4 years, $42 million with the pistons
79. ian clark (restricted): time to see what ian clark can do out of the shadows of the splash brothers.
80. mo williams
81. e’twaun moore: sleeper free agent. totally unrestricted so you could be caught very early. (he did).
4 years, $34 million contract with new orleans
82. salah mejri (totally not guaranteed): Mavericks are likely to keep him close.
83. richard jefferson: don’t quit yet rj! you have many more snapshots to give.
84. aaron brooks
85. jose smith
86. darrell arthur
3 years, $23 million denver deal
87. Jason Thompson
88. jonathan simmons (totally no guarantee): cheap so spurs will keep him around.
89. cast thomas: no restrictions. I don’t think he’s as good as moore, but he could find himself in a situation similar to a sleeper who gets locked in while the teams are in the initial fight.
90. leandro barbosa
91. solomon hill: really helped himself in the playoffs. but he can’t shoot, pass or rebound.
4 years, $48 million with new orleans
92. norris cole
93. Andrew Nicholson
4 years, $26 million with the wizards
94. marcus thornton
95. langston galloway (restricted): there are worse backup point guards in the nba.
96. james michael mcadoo (restricted)
97. luc richard mbah a moute
98. matt barnes
2 years, $12 million with the kings
99. david reads
100. o.j. mayonnaise
banned for two years after violating nba anti-drug protocol
101. trevor booker
2 years, $18.5 million with the networks
102. Gerald Green
103. pj tucker
104. jonas jerebko (fully unsecured)
105. wesley johnson
3 years, $18 million with the Clippers
106. jamychal green (fully not guaranteed): memphis will surely keep you close.
107. kevin martin
108. lance stephenson (team option): no.
109. chase budinger
110. ty lawson
111. ryan kelly (restricted): I tend to think the Lakers may not extend the qualifying offer or may revoke it if a top free agent expresses any interest.
112. James Johnson
113. kris humphries
114. Jason Terry
115. kevin serafin
116. plumlee miles (restricted)
117. anderson varejao
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