The 2016 NBA Free Agency class has the potential to be an extremely good one. It is surely a very fortunate one as all players will benefit from a huge salary cap jump thanks to the NBA’s new television deal. With so many teams having a lot of money to spend, this summer of spending could be a furious one.
Kevin Durant has long been looked at as the prize of this class as the 2014 MVP returned to form this past season after an injury-filled 2015. He is one of the best pure scorers the NBA has ever seen and is a franchise-changing talent, but he is not the only big name who is available.
No one is quite sure what to make of LeBron James’ potential free agency as it would seem unlikely that he would leave Cleveland again. That being said there have been some internal issues with the Cavaliers and coming up short in the playoffs could change things.
This class offers great options for teams in need of anything. Point guards such as Mike Conley and Rajon Rondo are still producing at a high level while teams in need of a big man have a ton of options including Hassan Whiteside, Dwight Howard, and Al Horford. There are also plenty of wings available as well like DeMar DeRozan, and Chandler Parsons.
Top 10 Unrestricted Free Agents of 2016
#10 Rajon Rondo, PG, Sacramento Kings
An extremely polarizing player, Rajon Rondo bounced back from a time in Dallas to show that he is still one of the best pure point guards in the NBA. He led the NBA in assists and was tied for fifth in steals while shooting the ball much better from the perimeter.
The attitude concerns with Rondo are still there as he was ejected twice this season, but the talent is clearly still there and this is a point guard league. If a team can keep Rondo focused, they will be getting one of the league’s best playmakers.
#9 Dwyane Wade, SG, Miami Heat
At 34 years old, Dwyane Wade isn’t what he once was, but he is far from finished in the NBA and showed this year that he can still play at a high level on any given night. A future Hall of Famer, Wade is still one of the best shooting guards around with an innate ability to get to the basket and finish at the rim.
Wade remains a solid rebounder and passer for his position and while he is on the decline, he can still make a major difference. Wade leaving Miami is difficult to envision, but with Hassan Whiteside and Luol Deng both free agents as well, and Wade’s good friend LeBron James talking about wanting to play with his friends, anything is possible.
#8 Nicolas Batum, SF, Charlotte Hornets
Rejuvenated in Charlotte after an awful final year in Portland, Nicolas Batum showed off his outstanding all-around game this season and reminded everyone what he is capable of. Batum is an effective scorer and outstanding playmaker from the small forward position while also being a very good defender as well.
Batum chose the right year to average career highs in points and assists as he will surely be on plenty of team’s radars who are in need of help on the perimeter. A shooter, scorer, defender, and secondary playmaker, Batum can be of help to a number of franchises and will be paid like it.
#7 Pau Gasol, C/PF, Chicago Bulls (Player Option)
Pau Gasol continued to prove that he is one of the NBA’s premier big men with another outstanding season amidst all of the turmoil in Chicago. His 46 double-doubles were seventh-most in the NBA and he was one of only 12 players to record multiple triple-doubles.
Gasol will be 36 by the time next season rolls around so any contract for him likely will be pretty short. That being said, he hasn’t slowed down yet and continues to be extremely productive on the floor as one of the most intelligent, skilled, and versatile big men in the world.
#6 Mike Conley, PG, Memphis Grizzlies
In recent years Mike Conley has finally begun to garner praise as one of the better point guards in the NBA. While his numbers don’t stand out as much as others, Conley has served as the lead playmaker and pulse for the Grizzlies and while he dealt with injuries this year, he is still the top point guard on the market.
Conley is simply very good at every facet of the game and is extremely consistent. The Grizzlies have insisted that they will re-sign Conley and it seems as if Conley would prefer to stay in Memphis, but stranger things have happened in free agency and it will take a lot of money to keep Conley off the market.
#5 Al Horford, C, Atlanta Hawks
The raw numbers never completely do Al Horford justice as he is one of the most versatile big men in the NBA. He can score from the block and perimeter, rebound, handle the ball, and defend. He makes plays on both ends of the floor and can be a hub to run your offense around and the captain of your defense.
There have been some injuries in the past, but Horford has played at least 74 games in three of the last four years so it shouldn’t be too much of a concern. He may not have the upside of someone like Whiteside, but Horford can do a little bit of everything and you won’t have to worry about him off the court.
#4 Hassan Whiteside, C, Miami Heat
Hassan Whiteside exploded on the scene last year and followed that up with another outstanding season in 2016 as he has set himself up for a likely maximum contract this summer. Whiteside led the league in blocks by a wide margin and was third in rebounds. He also added 41 double-doubles and three triple-doubles.
The Miami Heat do not have Whiteside’s ‘Bird Rights’ meaning they can’t go over the salary cap to re-sign him which makes it more difficult to keep him in South Beach. Whiteside’s upside is tremendous and all teams need someone who can protect the rim as he can.
#3 DeMar DeRozan, SG, Toronto Raptors (Early Termination Option)
One of the best young shooting guards in the NBA, DeMar DeRozan is constantly improving on both ends of the floor. He is a two-time All-Star who has averaged more than 20 points in each of the last three seasons and is also very solid defensively.
Questions surround DeRozan’s shooting and while it isn’t elite by any means, his percentage from deep this year was a career-high. He isn’t a transcendent superstar on the level of Durant and James, but he is an extremely talented player and a two-way wing and the NBA isn’t exactly full of players like that.
#2 LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers (Player Option)
Some may say that LeBron James is no longer the best player in the NBA and many even consider 2016 a down year by his standards, but he remains one of the premier players in the league. James can do it all on both ends and while he may have slowed down slightly, it’s nowhere near enough to move him off the NBA’s upper echelon.
It seems impossible that James would leave Cleveland again after already breaking their hearts once, but there have been rumors of discontent with the Cavaliers and James has spoken about wanting to play with his good friends Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony.
It’s still unlikely that he leaves Cleveland, but it definitely is worth watching.
#1 Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder
The 2014 NBA MVP had an injury-filled 2015 season but burst back onto the scene in 2016 to reclaim his spot amongst the elites of the NBA. Durant is one of the best pure scorers in NBA history and has really improved his all-around game as he is a good rebounder, playmaker, and defender.
The question for Durant now is whether it is best for him to sign a short term deal with an opt-out after one year so he can hit the market again next summer when the cap will jump again and he will be eligible for the largest maximum contract as a 10-year NBA player.
Any team that has any chance of securing a meeting with Durant will do everything in their power to convince him to join their franchise.