2016 NBA Free Agency is days away from beginning, and there are many good free agents out there. Because of this, there are also a lot of team’s that have or will have needs in various roles and positions. Here are the best basketball fits for the best players enterring the market.
- Unrestricted free agents only
Nicolas Batum – Los Angeles Clippers
Nicolas Batum enjoyed a resurgance year with the Charlotte Hornets, but that doesn’t mean Charlotte is his long term home. For one thing, the Hornets already have Michael Kidd Gilchrist coming back from injury to play Batum’s position. Marco Bellineli, another wing, was also acquired on draft day, and The Hornets also have to consider the development of Jeremy Lamb. Batum averaged 14.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game last year as a very versatile perimeter player. Batum can do just about anything on the court, and that is why he would be a good fit with the Clippers. They have not found their long term answer at small forward yet, and Jeff Green, Jamal Crawford, Luc Mbah A Moute, and Wesley Johnson (player option,) are all free agents at that position. Batum could really be what puts the Clippers over the edge if he can be the “glue guy” for LA.
Al Jefferson – San Antonio Spurs
Al Jefferson saw his role diminish over the course of his three years in Charlotte. His first year there, he averaged 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game as an elite big man. Last season, Jefferson averaged 12.0 points and 6.4 rebounds off the bench for Steve Clifford and the Hornets. Not only is the Jefferson-type player, a lumbering big man without an outside shot, fading out of the NBA, but Jefferson, at 31 years old, is beginning to fade out himself. The Spurs, however, could be just what Jefferson needs. Under the assumption that Tim Duncan is retiring, the Spurs have a hole at center. Not only is Duncan retiring (assumedly,) but Matt Bonner and David West are free agents. Even if Duncan isn’t retiring, his game has finally begun to take a toll under time. Duncan’s points, rebounds, and blocks per game were all at career lows by a considerable margin. Jefferson’s brilliance on the low block combined with Gregg Popovich’s coaching excellence is intriguing, and Jefferson (6’11” 280 pounds) could also be a good model for how to play with size for the 7’3″ 290 pound Boban Marjonovic. The Spurs already play a slow, and therefore big man friendly, pace, so all of this makes Jefferson a good fit.
Ty Lawson – Dallas Mavericks
Ty Lawson had a large decline from the 2015 season to the 2016. Lawson was supposed to be the answer at point guard for the Rockets, instead he was horrible. He started 12 games before being moved to the bench for the last 41 in Houston, where he only got 0.4 win shares (.017 per 48 minutes.) After signing with Indiana, Lawson’s production went up to .103 win shares per 48 minutes, and he had 8.7 assists per 36 minutes. Lawson was an unbelievable offensive point guard just one season and beforehand; he is 74th all-time in offensive rating. If any team can bring out the Lawson of old, it is Dallas. The Mavericks have recovered the careers of washed-up Raymond Felton, Devin Harris, J.J. Barea, Deron Williams, Amare Stoudemire, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Charlie Villanueva in recent years. There is no reason why they can’t do the same for Lawson. With Felton being a free agent, and Williams having a player option he could very well decline, Lawson would be a great replacement to run this fast paced offense.
Pau Gasol – Indiana Pacers
Pau Gasol still continues to amaze at the older age of 35. in 2015-2016, he averaged 16.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 2.0 blocks per game for the Chicago Bulls as their starting center. While Gasol’s numbers were a little misleading in terms of team impact because he couldn’t guard young and athletic big men well, Gasol still showed how great his post game and ability to use his 7’0″ 250 pound size are. Gasol has made it clear that returning to Chicago isn’t a priority, and Indiana is likely the best fit for him. The Pacers have no proven interior scorers. Myles Turner is promising, but by no means is he a go-to scorer, and Ian Mahinmi and Jordan Hill are both free agents. On Indiana, Gasol could be used as a game-changer in that the Pacers’ current big men (Turner, Lavoy Allen, and Thaddeus Young) are meant to play with pace, but if the Pacers need size, post scoring, or a veteran shot blocker, they have Gasol. For a team that finished 25th in offensive efficiency like Indiana in 2015-2016, Gasol could be highly utilized.
Joakim Noah – New York Knicks
Joakim Noah has declined significantly since his DPOY season in 2013-2014, but don’t mistake him for finished. Noah gives it his all on the court, and his 14.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists per 36 minutes are both great marks for a center. Noah’s impact on the team showed after they started 22-12 with Noah healthy for the most part, and finished 20-28 without him. The New York Knicks, in efforts led by newly acquired Derrick Rose, have expressed interest in signing Noah. Rose and Noah played great together in Chicago, and with scorers like Rose, Carmelo Anthony, and Kristaps Porzingis, Noah’s pass first tendencies will be welcomed. Noah’s defensive anchoring instincts and skills will also help a lot. The Knicks got rid of Robin Lopez in the deal to get Rose, and Kevin Seraphin is a free agent as well, so Noah could definitely be good on the Knicks in a big role.
Chandler Parsons – New Orleans Pelicans
Chandler Parsons came to Dallas under expectations of being a 2nd star. Parsons has been more of a 3rd star kind of player with 14.8 points per game and 39.5% three point shooting on a fast paced team. Parsons has been fair as a Maverick, but both parties would be best with a split. The Mavericks would be better off because Justin Anderson is younger, and a better defender than Parsons, and Parsons would be better off because there are teams out there that would utilize him more. The Pelicans are one of these teams. Anthony Davis needs help in New Orleans, and they have moeny to spend with Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, and others off the books after this season. Drafting Buddy Hield was a good start, but the Pelicans desperately need a small forward, and Parsons would fit in well.
Luol Deng – Houston Rockets
Luol Deng had a good year for the Heat, and he got even better in the playoffs. Deng thrived when switching to the stretch four down the stretch of last season. His averages went from 10.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per game before the all-star break to 15.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game after. Deng played excellently on both sides of the ball, but it was only after Chris Bosh went down with injury. With Bosh returning, many free agents for the Heat to re-sign, and Justise Winslow progressing in his development, Deng likely won’t be prioritzed as highly by the Heat as a team like the Rockets. The Rockets are going to have a lot of money to spend with Howard’s contract off the books, and they also have a need for a power forward with Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas becoming free agents as well.
Joe Johnson – Sacramento Kings
Joe Johnson showed he could still be effective for the Heat last season. He averaged 13.4 points, 3.6 assists, and 2.8 rebounds per game on 51.8% shooting and 41.7% from three. Those are great marks for the veteran, but like it was with Deng, the Heat have a lot to do this offseason and not much money to work with. The Sacramento Kings would be a great fit for Johnson. Usually veteran types like Johnson flock to winning teams, but Johnson could be a starter for the Kings and possibly even be the guy who pushes them back into the playoffs. Johnson could finally be that stability at shooting guard theyve needed. Ben McLemore and Malachi Richardson are both unproven, and McLemore is on the path of a bust.
Ryan Anderson – Brooklyn Nets
Ryan Anderson is definitely one of the NBA’s more underrated players. He averaged 17.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game off the bench for the Pelicans while shooting 36.6% from three. Anderson has also shown he can start, however, as he averaged 16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game for the Orlando Magic in 2011-2012 while shooting 39.3% from three. Anderson got 8.9 win shares that season (.219 per 48 minutes,) and has shown he can play at a very high level. New Orleans has no plans to move him off the bench should he re-sign, whereas there are a lot of teams he could start for. Brooklyn is one of those teams, who Anderson could not only start for, but star for. After Brook Lopez, the team really has no locks as a high level starter. Anderson was originally drafted by the Nets franchise in the 2nd round in 2008, and he has experience playing with Lopez. The Nets would likely give some big money to Anderson, who, at 28 years old, is likely earning his last big contract should he sign long term.
Eric Gordon – Orlando Magic
Eric Gordon has had difficulty staying healthy since he signed with New Orleans, but he still has the ability to be a 20 point scorer on any given night. Gordon had 13 twenty-point and two thirty-point games last season, and he averaged 15.2 points per game overall. Gordon still has a great three point shot. He shot 38.4% from deep last season which is consistent with his 38.3% career mark on threes. The Pelicans drafted Buddy Hield this year, which is a sign that Gordon’s days as a Pelican are numbered. If Gordon wants a chance to be a scorer again, then the Magic are his best bet. They have a great young team with the newly hired Frank Vogel as coach. Vogel does a great job maximizing potential into talent as he proved with Indiana the past two seasons. Gordon would fit nicely with the raw Elfrid Payton at point guard, Serge Ibaka and Aaron Gordon at power forward, Nikola Vucevic and Dewayne Dedmon at center, and Evan Fournier and Mario Hezonja at the wings.
Brandon Jennings -Atlanta Hawks
Brandon Jennings has had somewhat of a disappointing career after he got off to such a good start. Jennings was on pace to turn into a superstar after being number one in the 2008 high school recruiting class which had great players like Greg Monroe, DeMar Derozan, Ed Davis, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Kemba Walker, Tyreke Evans, and others. 40% is considered pretty inefficient shooting already, and Jennings has only hit that mark twice for a whole season in a seven year career. His three point shooting is somewhat efficient at 35.0%, but Jennings has a problem with shot selection. Orlando might choose to offer Jennings an extension, but Jennings would be best taking his talents as a shot creator and playmaker to Atlanta, where they specialize in efficiency (6th in 2014-2015 with very similar roster,) and are in need of a back-up point guard for Dennis Schroder. Schroder himself has been a back-up his whole career, and it is unknown how he will handle the starting line-up with Jeff Teague gone. Jennings provides insurance for the Hawks with Teague and also Kirk Hinrich gone, and a spark off the bench.
Dirk Nowitzki – Dallas Mavericks
Dirk Nowitzki continues to amaze as he gets older. As a 37 year old, Nowitzki played 75 games, and he averaged 18.3 points and 6.5 rebounds on 44.8% shooting and 36.8% from three. Nowitzki has played his entire career for the Mavericks after they traded for him on draft day in the famous ‘Dirk for Tractor Taylor’ trade, so there is no reason for Nowitzki to taint his legacy by leaving Dallas for a better team when Nowitzki has already won a ring. Nowitzki should just cement his legacy for years to come as the best Maverick of all time, and hopefully Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle can put a good team around him.
Mike Conley – Chicago Bulls
Mike Conley had another good year as the point guard for the Memphis Grizzlies before he got injured in 2015-2016. He averaged 15.3 points and 6.1 assists for them. After he got injured, along with a lot of his teammates, the Grizzlies concerns, however, began to materialize. This team was in the bottom half in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and their core is only getting older. Marc Gasol is 31, Tony Allen and Zach Randolph are 34, Matt Barnes is 37, and even Vince Carter is 39. Those players and Conley accounted for 63% of the Grizzlies’ scoring average, and they’re all on the decline. Now is the time to hop ship for the Grizzlies, especially with head coach Dave Joeger fired. The Bulls have a lot of good young pieces with Jimmy Butler, Denzel Valentine, Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott, E’Twaun Moore, Jerian Grant, Bobby Portis, Cristiano Felicio, and Spencer Dinwiddie. Conley could be this team’s point guard with Derrick Rose traded. There is definitely an opening at that position for the moment.
Dwyane Wade – Miami Heat
Dwyane Wade is still playing at a high level despite all of his injuries and aging. Wade had another all-star season, and he averaged 21.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game on 46.9% shooting and 52.2% from there. Wade has been with the Heat his whole career after they believed in him enough to select him 5th overall in 2003, and there is no reason for him to leave. Miami has the cap space to re-sign him, and Pat Riley has shown time and time again the ability to surround Wade with a competitive team. Wade and the Heat have won three championships together, and there’s no reason for Wade to leave a history like that.
Rajon Rondo – Memphis Grizzlies
Rajon Rondo has had a difficult time returning to his pre-injury all-star form, but last season was definitely a step in the right direction. Rondo averaged 11.9 points, 11.7 assists, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.0 steals per game on 45.4% shooting and 36.5% from three. Those are fantastic numbers from a player, and while his team wasn’t as successful as Rondo was on an individual level, Rondo showed he could play. The Kings may choose to keep him, but they already have Darren Collison at the point and Seth Curry to back him up. Rondo would be a great fit in Memphis both in a basketball sense and mentally. If Mike Conley leaves, there is a wide open hole at point guard, and Rondo is the guy. Mentally, Rondo’s own toughness fits in with Memphis’ grit. Rondo has been criticized, just like Zach Randolph, Lance Stephenson, and Vince Carter. The whole team plays with a chip on its shoulder, really, and Rondo would fit right in. Playing with a great distributor like Rondo would help the perimeter players too. Jordan Adams, Tony Allen, who has experience playing with Rondo, and P.J. Hairston all stand to benefit.
Dwight Howard – Atlanta Hawks
Dwight Howard has just about moved on from Houston. Howard’s 13.7 points per game last season were the lowest since his rookie year despite the fact that this was the most healthy he has been since 2012-2013. Howard, also with 11.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game is still a premier center in the NBA, but his attitude has been a problem. The Rockets have been grooming Howard’s replacement, Clint Capela, for a few years now, and they would likely want to begin using him in the starting line-up. If Al Horford leaves Atlanta, then the Hawks should definitely pursue Howard. Atlanta is Howard’s hometown, and they could use a traditional center. This Hawks team is filled with shooters like Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, Mike Scott, and others. As a team, Atlanta was 6th in made threes in 2015-2016. Those are the kinds of teams Howard thrives on.
Al Horford – Toronto Raptors
Al Horford has been great his whole career, and this last season was his fourth appearance on the all-star team after posting 15.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game on 50.5% shooting. Horford also got 9.4 win shares for the Hawks, and had offensive and defensive ratings of 113 and 101. Horford was a power forward coming out of college, and at 6’10,” that’s what he was projected to play in the pros. So far, however, the Hawks have played Horford at center for the most part, and with Paul Millsap signed long term, that won’t change. On Toronto, a very good team (56 wins and conference finals in 2016) already with Jonas Valanciunas at center, Horford could play his natural position. The Raptors would have to move Patrick Patterson and Terrence Ross for cap space, but for an all-star like Horford, it is worth it.
DeMar Derozan – Toronto Raptors
DeMar Derozan had a resurgance year in 2015-2016. He averaged 23.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.0 steals per game on 44.6% shooting and a career high 33.8% on threes. Those assists and scoring marks were career highs as well, and his field goal percentage was the highest since the 2010-2011 season. Derozan then led the Raptors, with Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas, to a frnachise-best 56 win regular season, and a franchise-first conference finals appearance in the post season. Derozan did this on a relatively modest 9.5 million dollar per year deal, and he is looking to cash in this summer. Derozan will have a lot of draw towards other teams, particularly his hometown Lakers, but he should absolutely stay in Toronto. The Raptors showed that they can beat the best in the East. They beat a tough Pacers team even with Paul George on fire while his own team struggled from the field, they beat a star-studded Miami team, and they won two games against the eventual champions the Cleveland Cavaliers. Those last two series were played without Valanciunas. Derozan is the leading scorer on a conference powerhouse, there is simply no reason for him to leave at this point in his career.
Hassan Whiteside – Los Angeles Lakers
Hassan Whiteside has developed into one of the best centers in the league. He averaged 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 3.7 blocks (1st in league) last season. Whiteside got 10.3 win shares (.233 per 48 minutes) in the 2015-2016 season. Along with blocks, Whiteside also led the league in defensive rating at 95, and his offensive rating was pretty darn good as well at 117. Whiteside did all of this in just 29.1 minutes per game, and off the bench for 30 of his 73 games played. While he has the Heat to thank dearly for providing the opportunity for him to play, his play on a sub-million dollar contract was off the charts amazing. Whiteside is going to cash in big this summer, but he needs to choose the right team. Miami has already shown that they are comfortable bringing him off the bench, and they did not even play him 30 minutes per game. With Chris Bosh coming back from injury, there is no reason that this would change. The Lakers, on the other hand, are the perfect fit. They need a center and interior defender, and they have a great young core of D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, and Julius Randle to surround Whiteside. New Lakers coach Luke Walton has a championship pedigree, and has played with and coached great NBA big men like Shaquille O’Neal, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Dwight Howard, and Andrew Bogut. The Lakers have plenty of cash to get Whiteside, and the perfect opportunity for him to make it big time in NBA stardom.
LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James did it. He finally delivered on his promise to win the city of Cleveland a championship, and he did it. Not only did he win it all, but he did so against the team with the greatest regular season record in NBA history. While the circumstances were suspect on the NBA’s part, with a questionable Draymond Green suspension and Stephen Curry having fouls called on him for plays that the Cavaliers seemingly got away with, as well as the fact that star center Andrew Bogut was injured. Still though, LeBron beat a very good team on the biggest stage in the basketball world, and followed through on his promise behind NBA Finals’ series avergaes of 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.6 steals, and 2.3 blocks per game on 49.4% shooting and 37.1% from three. It simply was a dominant performance. LeBron now faces a decision. He opted out of the last year of his contract to become a free agent, and at age 31, this is likely LeBron’s last maximum long-term deal. Just about every team in the league would do just about anything to have James on their roster, but James should stick with Cleveland. Their roster is suited towards James’ playing style already, and if they beat one of the best teams ever in Golden State, then the old addage “don’t fix what ain’t broke” comes into play. If James can keep delivering championships and finals appearances to his hometown team, there is no reason for him to leave.
Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant had a very good comeback season after his injury plagued 2014-2015 campaign. Durant averaged 28.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game on 50.5% shooting and 38.7% from three. It is very hard to guard a player like Durant; a natual scorer with incredible length. He also led the playoffs in scoring average with 28.4 points per game. Like with James, Durant is going to garner incredible offers, and teams are going to throw themselves at Durant – the Wizards already went as far as to hire Durant’s old coach Scott Brooks. Despite these offers, and some of them are tempting, the Thunder are the best place for Durant. The Thunder showed they could compete even in a historically good Western Conference. The Warriors and Spurs won 73 and 67 games in the regular season respectively. The Thunder were up on Golden State 3-1, and they straight up beat the Spurs 4-2 in the playoffs. The Thunder showed they could beat the rest of the West with their roster, and there is a chance it got even better with the Serge Ibaka trade. With Durant and Westbrook enterring the prime of their careers, and their younger guys like Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Victor Oladipo, Andre Roberson, Cameron Payne, Mitch McGary, Josh Huestis, and Domantas Sabonis all developing, Durant should absolutley stick with OKC.