NBA free agency has become almost as big of a spectacle as the regular season itself, and that will be the case again this year with a loaded class of available players. Nearly every team in the league also has a lot of money to spend given the huge salary cap increase, meaning these players will have plenty of suitors. While Kevin Durant is the biggest name available on the open market, it appears that he will re-sign with the Thunder. Here are the top seven free agents that we expect to change teams this offseason - and where they'll sign.
Whiteside became one of the most dominant big men in the NBA this past season, leading the league in blocks (3.7 per game) while averaging a double-double (14.2 ppg, 11.8 rpg) for the second straight year. As a result, Whiteside is due for a BIG upgrade in pay from the two-year, $1.75 million contract he signed with the Miami Heat in 2014.
The Lakers have more cap space than anyone this summer. They also need a rim protector, and Whiteside loves the idea of playing in Hollywood. The goal for Los Angeles this offseason is to bring in two top-level players, and selling Whiteside on all of that potential - while continuing the tradition of Lakers big men (which is a stretch, but they'll pitch him that) - should be enough for him to sign a max contract with LA.
The 30-year old big man is one of the most versatile players in the league, possessing the strength to play center, while his athleticism and shooting ability allow him to also play power forward. He averaged over 15 points and seven boards last year, figures in line with his career averages. He's in line for a max-level deal or at least close to it.
If Horford wants to chase a title, there might not be a better (realistic) landing spot than Boston. The Celtics lack a true big man, something Horford could provide. Isaiah Thomas and Horford could be deadly on the pick-and-roll, putting the Celtics another step closer to being a title contender.
Dwight Howard is not happy playing for the Rockets and all signs point to him opting out of his contract after the season to become a free agent. He is on the downside of his career and has developed a reputation for being a locker room cancer, but he is still an excellent rebounder and a rim protector.
Howard's hometown team nearly traded for him at the deadline, but ultimately decided to hold onto their current pieces. However, it's clear the Hawks are looking to move on from their current core group of players, and with over $30 million in cap space this summer, they have the funds to add Howard.
Atlanta will ramp up their pursuit of Howard if they can't re-sign Horford. Assuming Horford bolts for Boston, this is where Dwight will land. If Horford is back with the Hawks, the Celtics could turn to Howard.
Conley has been one of the most underrated players in the league for several years, and in a weak market for point guards, every team who has a need a the position will be throwing boatloads of money at him. A good shooter, Conley is noted for his defense, leadership and smart decision-making.
Conley has been linked to New York for the past two years now, and he is priority No. 1 for the Knicks. It seems like a foregone conclusion that Conley will depart the aging and diminished Grizzlies, and New York is prepared to throw a ton of money at him to fill their desperate need for a point guard.
Barnes wants more money than what the Warriors seem willing to offer him, and though they've said they would match any offer for him, they've also said they will respect his wishes if he wants to join another team.
As someone who has always been very concerned about their personal "brand", Barnes will be intrigued by playing with an expanded role in Hollywood. He is the kind of versatile wing player that would fit in perfectly with the Lakers' current roster, and the chance to continue playing for Luke Walton is certainly appealing to Barnes.
Noah is reportedly fed up with Chicago's front office and wants to leave. The 31-year-old isn't he player he once was, but he can still provide plenty of value in a defensive and leadership role.
Former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is now in Minnesota, and Noah flourished under Thibs. Noah could be an alternate starter in Minnesota next to Karl-Anthony Towns, and would provide perhaps the most exciting young team in the league with another strong veteran leader with Kevin Garnett.
Still just 23 years old, Biyombo flashed a ton of potential as as elite rebounder and shot-blocker during Toronto's playoff run. That skyrocketed his value in free agency this summer, and he's likely due for a huge pay raise - which the Raptors can't afford.
Dallas has been pursuing a defensive big man to pair with Dirk Nowitzki every since Tyson Chandler left, and assuming they strike out on Whiteside, they'll turn their attention to Biyombo. Look for them to simply outbid everyone else for him.
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