Kevin Durant, reigning NBA champion and Finals most valuable player, is a free agent. This is a fact.
Teams will have a chance to talk to him once free agency officially opens at 9 p.m. Friday.
His phone, though, probably won’t be ringing.
No one believes that Durant, the best player available this summer, will do anything but re-sign with the Golden State Warriors. He might not do it right away. He’ll let the team take care of other important business, like signing another free agent no one expects to leave, Stephen Curry.
But, chances are, the Warriors won’t have to put together some technologically-heavy presentation to keep Durant on board. They won’t need Oakland legend M.C. Hammer to re-write the lyrics to any of his songs. They won’t have to re-convene the cast of a classic TV drama to make an impression.
He’s staying. Everyone knows it. The league is moving on.
But after Durant and Curry, there are real questions about where a handful of All-Star players could be headed. There’s young but injury-prone talent. There are talented wing players that could help push a contender to the next level. There are rim-protecting big men. There are rock-solid point guards.
Any list of free agents that doesn’t start with Durant and Curry at the top isn’t worth anyone’s time. But, it’s not worth it to spend a second speculating about a scenario where those two don’t return to the Warriors.
1. PF Blake Griffin
Best fits: Clippers, Miami, Boston
With Chris Paul now playing in Houston, Griffin becomes the top name available. When not injured, he’s a hybrid forward with power and skill. He’s one of the best passing big men in the game, a terrific ball handler and an always-improving shooter who’s recently added a three-point shot to his game. He’s gotten better every season he’s been in the NBA. His availability, though, has to be a concern to whoever signs him. Lower body injuries have limited his explosiveness and he’s coming off toe surgery. Still, he’s got the best chance of any free agent to find himself on an All-NBA first team.
2. SF Gordon Hayward
Best fit: Utah, Boston, Miami
The best wing available is a tricky cover on the offensive side of the ball because of his skill and length combination. Hayward’s great at drawing contact and getting to the foul line. He’s a good three-point shooter, a good free-throw shooter and an improving scorer. He’d help virtually any team in the NBA and will command a max salary. The Jazz have built a strong culture and they should have a great shot to retain him.
3. PF Paul Millsap
Best fit: Atlanta, Miami, Boston, Houston
4. PG Kyle Lowry
Best fits: San Antonio, Philadelphia, Toronto, Minnesota
Even though he turned 31 last season, Lowry somehow continues to improve his production every season. He’s a tough-as-nails guard who can impact the game in all aspects, but his style has caused him to sit out games because of injury throughout his career. He gets to the foul line and is a tremendous three-point shooter. Like most players his age, he could put a team in a financial bind at the end of his next contract.
5. SF Otto Porter
Best fits: Washington, Miami, Indiana
A great example as to why you don’t give up on top picks after a few rocky seasons, Porter has materialized into a high-efficiency scorer with tons of defensive skills. He’s got incredible length and good quickness, meaning he can guard multiple positions. He’s a restricted free agent, meaning that Washington probably would match any offer, but if someone were to throw him max money, maybe he’s attainable. .
6. PG Jrue Holiday
He’s still only 27 and has light miles on his tires because of injuries and personal issues (wife’s illness) that have kept him off the court a lot early in his career. He’s a true two-way point guard who you wish shot the ball a little better from deep and got to the free-throw line more. He’s a terrific defender who should get plenty of interest from point-guard hungry teams.
7. SG. Dion Waiters
Best fits: Brooklyn, Miami, New York
This is not a typo. Dion Waiters, who plays like he thinks he belongs higher on this list, is maybe worth being higher on this list. He doesn’t turn 26 until November and he’s coming off a career year where he made nearly 40% of his three-point shots and averaged about 16 points and four assists. Pay that man his money.
8. SG J.J. Redick
Best fits: Philadelphia, New York, Brooklyn
Due for a big raise after four great seasons with the Clippers, Redick is one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA. He runs off the ball like crazy and competes on the defensive side. He has rebounded well from back issues and is a terrific worker and professional — a good fit in a young locker room or with a contender.
9. PF Serge Ibaka
Best fits: Toronto, Denver, Brooklyn, Sacramento
10. SF Andre Iguodala
Best fits: Golden State, Clippers, Boston
He’s been ridiculously valuable to the Warriors in their two title runs. He’s a Swiss Army knife — someone who can handle the ball and run the offense for stretches, can hit spot-up jumpers and cause havoc defensively. Physically, he’s not the same player he once was, but Iguodala makes his team better when he’s on the court.
Other notable free agents: SF Danilo Gallinari; PG George Hill; PF Taj Gibson; PG Derrick Rose; F Rudy Gay; PF Zach Randolph; C Kelly Olynyk; PG Jeff Teague; F Nikola Mirotic; PG Shaun Livingston; SF Kyle Korver.
Top free agents likely to be retained by their current team: Durant; Curry; PF Drik Nowitzki (Dallas); C Pau Gasol (San Antonio); C Nerlens Noel (Dallas); SG Kentavious Caldwell- Pope (Detroit); SG Andre Roberson (Oklahoma City).