clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ranking the top 117 NBA free agents of 2016

New, comments

From Kevin Durant to Anderson Varejao, we rank every member of the lucky 2016 NBA free agent class.

Kevin Durant celebrates after beating the Mavericks Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Back in February, we debuted our list of the top 100 NBA free agents of 2016. Much has happened since then. As such, there are a massive amount of changes in this edition. Players who answered questions about their production firmly (Hassan Whiteside, Dion Waiters) moved up. Players who dropped off or didn’t capitalize on opportunities (Brandon Jennings, Boban Marjanovic) fell down.

Note that we included the full list of potential free agents, even those with team options we expect to be picked up, those with player options that have not yet been accepted or declined, those who could retire and those who are almost assuredly not leaving their teams. Everyone’s here for completion’s sake.

Some player blurbs are repeated from the earlier version of the list. Most are updated. With no further adieu, the top 117 NBA free agents of 2016.

1. Kevin Durant

Durant is one of the three best players in the world, he’s just 27 years old and he almost took the Thunder to the NBA Finals. He’s the most highly sought-after free agent not named LeBron James since Kobe Bryant in 2004. He fully recovered from the foot injuries that plagued 2014-15, and he’s either going to keep the Thunder in serious title contention or turn the team he lands on into an instant favorite. KD is the biggest story of the offseason, and it’s not 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. Johnson administration is too immense. There’s a thought that having completed his mission, LeBron will now seek to find 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. Andre Drummond

Restricted

5 years, $130 million deal with Detroit

Drummond is the best restricted free agent of the class, and there's little mystery that the Pistons will issue a maximum offer as early as possible. Drummond and Pistons boss Stan Van Gundy telegraphed their decision to hold off on a max Early Bird extension last October, fashioning it as similar to what the San Antonio Spurs did with Kawhi Leonard to preserve the cap space to sign LaMarcus Aldridge. Of course, given that the Spurs are the Spurs and the Pistons are the Pistons, many of us have doubts as to whether that will work out quite as well.

Still, the Pistons are in control and they won't let Drummond go, despite some concerns he loafs a bit too much for SVG's taste. He's a top-flight center and will be a bargain even at the max contract level, simply because his youth and lack of Rose Rule eligibility means his deal is limited to 25 percent of the cap. Drummond isn't going anywhere.

4. Mike Conley

5 years, $153 million deal with Memphis

It once seemed likely that Conley would re-up on a max deal in Memphis. After the Grizzlies fell apart down the stretch — just barely making the playoffs — as Marc Gasol, Conley and about every other full-time Grizzly suffered injuries, we’re not so sure. (Firing Dave Joerger after the season may or may not impact Conley’s decision, too.)

Conley figures to be a top target for the Spurs, the Bucks, the Mavericks, the Rockets and perhaps a few other teams. The Grizzlies are the favorite because of his long tenure and the extra guaranteed year Memphis can offer. But he just might be attainable.

5. Al Horford

4 years, $113 million with the Celtics

Horford just turned 30, but he doesn't have tons of mileage due to a longer college career and some injuries in the pros. He's a defensive maestro and a really solid offensive player that doesn't dominate in the lane but makes everything easier for his teammates nonetheless. He's Tim Duncan light. (Like, really light, but still.)

I'm convinced Miami will make a play for Horford if Durant doesn't make the jump. The Warriors, Blazers, Spurs and Mavericks figure to be in the mix. Phoenix would be an intriguing destination if not for Tyson Chandler’s presence. The Wizards should be pounding down Horford’s door.

Horford seems perfectly comfortable winning lots 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 in their 30s, Jeff Teague is gone and his ascending heir Dennis Schroeder is still batting to win Mike Budenholzer's trust. Few lawns are greener than what 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 deal with the Raptors

DeRozan's a clear candidate for a max deal, whether in Toronto or from one of the franchises desperate for talent. Yet DeRozan indicated that he won’t schedule advance meetings with any other clubs, only Toronto. That’s a strong indication he plans to stay north of the border and has received indications from the Raptors that they’ll pay what it takes.

If for some reason it doesn’t go according to plan, the Lakers will chase hard (they might anyway) and will throw a max contract his way. He’d be an instant talent infusion for a fully mediocre team.

Watch: DeMar DeRozan throws down on 7'2 Rudy Gobert

7. Dwyane Wade

The Heat came alive down the stretch and might have been a Hassan Whiteside injury away from the Eastern Conference Finals. After looking like potential trade bait in January, it’s become clear Wade doesn’t want to leave Miami and Pat Riley doesn’t want to lose him.

8. Hassan Whiteside

4 year max contract with the Heat

Whiteside is one of the more interesting free agents, both in terms of his absolute value and his fit on various teams. A lot is actually made of his need for structure and how nicely Miami’s veteran leadership worked. I don’t know that this is right; Whiteside isn’t a problem child. He’s just mighty weird. He broke out in Miami, but much of that was due to skill development and coaching. 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 top clubs like Golden State. It’s going to be an interesting few days for Whiteside.

9. Dwight Howard

3 year, $70 million contract with Atlanta

Howard has fallen off so completely the Rockets were more or less begging him to opt out of a $23 million option. He complied. He’s still a strong enough defender when healthy to earn a massive contract. Even the Warriors can attest to the importance of good centers, as their Game 7 struggles without Andrew Bogut helped lose them the Finals.

Howard’s a good contender for a short deal, though he might seek a slightly lower annual figure to cash out fully one last time. Will anyone be desperate enough to give him four years, $100 million? There’s a lot of cap space out there.

10. Dirk Nowitzki

Nowitzki is never going anywhere. The Mavericks never take anything for granted. Despite reports the Warriors are interested in pursuing Nowitzki, the odds Dirk leaves Dallas seem so small. Expect a two-year deal at eight figures annually to stay in Texas.

11. Nicolas Batum

5 years, $120 million deal with the Hornets

Batum is the best wing attainable to a wide swath of teams. But how good is he? He’s not quite an All-Star level performer, but he was by most measures the best player on a really good Charlotte team. His mix of playmaking and defense is valuable, and he has good size and is pretty strong despite a wiry frame. He’s certainly a max player in the old cap landscape; we’ll see soon enough how many teams think he’s worth more than $25 million a year in the new landscape.

12. Tim Duncan

Player option

He’s not going anywhere except perhaps into retirement. UPDATE: He picked up his player option, but could still retire. All that means is he officially won't be a free agent regardless.

13. Bradley Beal

Restricted

5 years, $130 million deal with the Wizards

Too high for an oft-injured player? Perhaps. He’s also just 23 years old, scored 20 points per 36 minutes last year and is a shade under 40 percent on three-pointers for his career. He’s not only a very intriguing target for a wide swath of teams, but he’s almost assuredly a max player, healthy or not.

14. Harrison Barnes

Restricted

Mavericks plan to offer a 4 year, $94 million offer sheet

Ditto? Not exactly. Barnes is a year older than Beal, has scored much less and is a step below Beal in terms of shooting (though the numbers of 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 cog in the greatest regular season team ever.

If the Warriors don’t land Durant, they almost have to retain Barnes. Andre Iguodala is aging, and the Cavaliers and Thunder both proved the Warriors’ margin is slimmer than you’d think. (Cleveland proved there is no margin, actually.) Barnes is a cap-killer for a team like Golden State, but at a certain point there are no other options.

15. Chandler Parsons

4 years, $94 million with the Grizzlies

Parsons’ injury history is rough. He’s 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 near 40 percent three-point shooter with size, a low demand for shots and good defensive instincts. A max contract is going to make whoever signs him nervous, but he could definitely live up to it.

16. Kent Bazemore

4 years, $70 million with the Hawks

Bazemore’s shooting fell off down the stretch of the season, but he’s a quality defender and a decent supplemental scorer — the poor man’s Barnes. It’s not clear which direction the Hawks are headed, so Bazemore might very well be available for teams looking to shore up their wing situations.

17. Bismack Biyombo

4 years, around $70 million with the Magic

Biyombo’s playoff performance guaranteed a massive payday, quite possibly from Toronto. He’ll turn 24 before the season, and he provides excellent shotblocking and rim defense as a third big man. Should reserve bigs earn $15 million a year? In the new NBA, anything is possible.

18. Pau Gasol

One of the few All-Star big men available in free agency. Also, he’ll turn 36 in July. He’ll be sought after by teams fighting for the title.

19. Marvin Williams

4 years, $54.5 million with the Hornets

Williams had a strong season for Charlotte, but shooting 40 percent from long-range for the first time that late in your career screams fluke. (He shot 39 percent in the lockout season but otherwise hadn’t hit better than 36 percent from range.) He’s not much of a playmaker but defends well at two positions and could be a small-ball center for the right (brave team). He shall get paid.

20. Festus Ezeli

Restricted

A disastrous postseason distracts us from the fact that Ezeli is one of the more fleet-footed true centers available and that he averaged 15-12-2 per 36 minutes this season. As with Howard, centers are still important enough that a team will throw loads of money at Ezeli, whether it’s a smart decision or not.

21. Joakim Noah

4 years, $72 million with the Knicks

An important question this July: is Noah toast, or is he just diminished? He’s an eight-figure dice roll nonetheless.

22. Jordan Clarkson

4 years, $50 million deal with the Lakers

Restricted

A solid young combo guard, the type every team (including the Cavaliers and Warriors) could use. His restricted status means the Lakers can elect to keep him. As a two-year restricted free agent, the amount he 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

Restricted

5 years, $85 million with the Magic

Trading Victor Oladipo to Oklahoma City makes it more likely the Magic pay to keep Fournier, though that might depend on whether Orlando lands one of its more high-profile free agent targets (like Parsons). Fournier shot 40 percent from deep last season and scored 17 points per 36 minutes. A solid two-guard option at age 23.

24. Dion Waiters

Restricted

The Oladipo acquisition makes it less likely the Thunder retain Waiters — Oladipo is still cheap, while Waiters will be expensive. He was a nice third guard for OKC down the stretch and into the playoffs, though. His inconsistent deep shooting, lack of passing intuition and iffy defense — plus those famous demands for the ball — will dampen free agent interest significantly, but he’s probably still in line for four years, $40 million. This is a brand new NBA, y’all.

25. Eric Gordon

4 years, $53 million with the Rockets

Beal to the extreme. Gordon’s played in only 65 percent of his teams’ games over his career and just 56 percent of them over five years in New Orleans. That’s ... not good. But when he does play, he shoots 38 percent from three and scores about 18 points per 36 minutes. If his medical exam checks out and you have faith in your training staff and lucky stars, Gordon could really work out for you. Or he could play 50 games and call it a season. Flip a coin.

26. Ryan Anderson

4 years, $80 million with the Rockets

Anderson is a no-defense stretch-four who hasn’t shot particularly well from deep over the past two seasons. He’ll get eight figures rather easily, but without that deep stroke he’s not particularly useful, is he? He seems destined to return to his hometown of Sacramento, regardless.

27. Evan Turner

4 years, $70 million with the Trail Blazers

Someone is going to talk himself into Evan Turner at $45 million over three seasons.

28. Allen Crabbe

Restricted

The Blazers have such a clean cap sheet that they could justify paying Crabbe whatever it takes. Crabbe’s combination of youth (24) and three-point shooting (39 percent career) makes him a very attractive target for a lot of teams with wing needs.

29. Shaun Livingston

Partial guarantee ($3 million)

Odds are Livingston won’t be a free agent. If Golden State needs to open up cap space to acquire Durant or another star, Livingston’s contract would be dead simple to trade. In fact, the Warriors might even be able to get an asset out of trading him if it comes down to that.

Watch: Shaun Livingston's journey from horrific injury to the NBA Finals

30. Jeremy Lin

3 year, $36 million deal with the Nets

He made himself a lot of money down the stretch and into the playoffs. He could end up as a very well-paid sixth man or a well-paid starting point guard.

31. Courtney Lee

4 years, $50 million with the Knicks

There’s already talk that the Kings want to chase him. Lee turns 31 before the season, but he’s known for really solid two-guard defense and he’s a career 38 percent deep shooter. A good fit in lots of places.

32. Luol Deng

4 years, $72 million with the Lakers

Is Deng’s future as a small-ball power forward? That certainly worked out late in the year in Miami.

33. J.R. Smith

No word on whether he’s found a shirt yet. He’s getting paid, though. One way or another.

34. Rajon Rondo

2 years, $28 million with Chicago

There are few better passers in the NBA. There are about 400 better shooters and 250 better defenders, though.

35. Arron Afflalo

2 years, $25 million with the Kings

After a disaster season in New York and a rough finish in Portland before that, it’ll be interesting to see how much value teams place on Afflalo. It should be noted he’s only this high in the rankings because this is a fantastically shallow free agent market.

36. Amir Johnson

Fully unguaranteed

An odd specialist who provides some interesting defensive flexibility. He needs to find a good spot to stay relevant. Boston can also simply guarantee his $12 million contract for next season.

37. Tyler Johnson

Restricted

4 years, $50 million with the Nets (Heat can match)

Miami shouldn’t have to pay much to retain Johnson, but if the Heat are predisposed with other free agents, there’s an opportunity for a rival to slip in and poach him. He’s a legit NBA guard.

38. Matthew Dellavedova

Restricted

Dellavedova has agreed to a four-year, $38 million offer sheet with the Bucks. The Cavs have the option to match.

A three-and-D point guard happy to come off the bench? He’s going to make $10 million a year.

39. Boban Marjanovic

Restricted

Boban!

40. Robert Covington

Fully unguaranteed

Covington’s on a non-guaranteed deal, but he’s cost-effective enough (and the Sixers are talent-starved enough) that he’s extremely unlikely to become a free agent.

41. Ian Mahinmi

4 years, $64 million with the Wizards

Mahinmi is one of the better affordable defense-first centers who will be available.

42. Brandon Jennings

Oof, what a bad finish in Orlando under old friend Scott Skiles. Jennings might need to take a Rondo special (a 1-year deal with which to rejuvenate his value).

43. Joe Johnson

2 years, $22 million with the Jazz

Joe Jesus gave Miami quite a bit, but as it turns out he probably ought to have chosen the Cavaliers after all. Maybe this summer if Smith takes a payday elsewhere?

44. Deron Williams

1 year, $10 million with the Mavericks

Williams had a mildly interesting season with Dallas. Smart teams will be skeptical he can improve upon that or even keep it up at anything but a bargain price.

45. Al Jefferson

3 years, $30 million with Pacers

Not the most glorious twilight for Jefferson, but he’s a high-character veteran and could extend his career out much like Luis Scola has.

46. Jamal Crawford

3 years, $42 million with the Clippers

Hey, Jamal Crawford is a free agent!

47. Josh Richardson

Fully unguaranteed

Richardson has a non-guaranteed contract, and he’ll almost assuredly be back in Miami unless the Heat really have to slash all salary to bring in top free agents. He’s cheap and effective and there’s no reason he shouldn’t continue his career in South Beach.

48. Jared Sullinger

Restricted

Sullinger is a solid producer, but when the dominant narrative about you every training camp is how out of shape you come in, that doesn't create positive energy around your free agency. But numbers are alluring and some team will toss a nice offer sheet Sullinger's way. It'll be interesting to see how Boston -- with eyes on stars -- approaches this.

49. Ersan Ilyasova

Partial guarantee ($400,000)

The Thunder can elect to waive Ilyasova by July 1 and save $8 million of his $8.4 million contract. They’ll have to do that before knowing if Durant will leave and before knowing what other big men are getting on the market. I’d keep him. If he’s available, he figures to make a similar salary over a few years.

50. Jared Dudley

3 years, $30 million with Phoenix

Dudley will definitely get some high-dollar interest as a shooting small-ball power forward.

51. Boris Diaw ($3 million guaranteed): When you’ve lost Gregg Popovich, there’s not much hope. Someone will still throw a bit of money his way if the Spurs let him go. Passing big men are all the rage.

52. Timofey Mozgov: Oof, not a great contract year there, Timo.

4 years, $64 million with the Lakers

53. Mirza Teletovic: This is your annual reminder that Teletovic is quite old (30) for a relative newcomer to the NBA. He's a damn nice shooter and third-option scorer, though.

3 years, $30 million with the Bucks

54. Marreese Speights

55. Jordan Hill: Jordan Hill can do some stuff.

56. Manu Ginobili: He’s still Manu Ginobili.

57. Nene

58. Roy Hibbert: Who will be the brave GM who will try to (make his coach) fix Roy Hibbert?

59. Dwight Powell (restricted)

4 years, $37 million with the Mavericks

60. Derrick Williams: It’s not happening. He is what he is.

61. Joffrey Lauvergne (fully unguaranteed): Denver will likely guarantee his contract.

62. Zaza Pachulia

63. David West: So much for ring-chasing.

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. Anthony Morrow

67. Jeff Green: JEFF GREEN.

1 year, $15 million deal with Orlando

68. Donatas Motiejunas (restricted): A wonderful candidate for the old qualifying offer.

69. Luis Scola: Almost done.

70. Terrence Jones (restricted): What even do you make of Terrence Jones?

71. Meyers Leonard (restricted): In theory he could still become Channing Frye.

72. Mario Chalmers

73. Mo Harkless (restricted): Maybe?

74. Ish Smith: Still the best guard in Philadelphia.

3 years, 18 million with the Pistons

75. Gerald Henderson

76. Austin Rivers

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): It’s time to see what Ian Clark can do outside of the Splash Brothers’ shadows.

80. Mo Williams

81. E'Twaun Moore: Sleeper free agent. Fully unrestricted so he could get snapped up real early. (He did.)

4 years, $34 million deal with New Orleans

82. Salah Mejri (fully unguaranteed): Odds are the Mavericks keep him around.

83. Richard Jefferson: Don’t retire yet, RJ! You have so many more snaps to give.

84. Aaron Brooks

85. Josh Smith

86. Darrell Arthur

3 years, $23 million deal with Denver

87. Jason Thompson

88. Jonathan Simmons (fully unguaranteed): Cheap, so the Spurs will keep him around.

89. Lance Thomas: Completely unrestricted. I don’t think he’s as good as Moore, but he could find himself in a similar situation as a sleeper who gets locked up while teams are in the initial scramble.

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 Lee

100. O.J. Mayo

Banned for two years after violating NBA's anti-drug protocol

101. Trevor Booker

2 years, $18.5 million with the Nets

102. Gerald Green

103. P.J. Tucker

104. Jonas Jerebko (fully unguaranteed)

105. Wesley Johnson

3 years, $18 million with the Clippers

106. JaMychal Green (fully unguaranteed): Memphis will almost assuredly keep him around.

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 might not extend the qualifying offer, or might revoke it if a free agent of note expresses any interest.

112. James Johnson

113. Kris Humphries

114. Jason Terry

115. Kevin Seraphin

116. Miles Plumlee (restricted)

117. Anderson Varejao

* * *

The USA Olympic Hoops Team Is Still Great