While this year’s free agent pool isn’t as deep as the one upcoming next season, there are still some marquee free agents this summer who will demand monster contracts and possibly alter the NBA odds for some teams. Here is a look at the top five free agents in my eyes. Note this does not include players with early-termination options.
Marc Gasol (UFA)
The top two free agents in this year’s pool are by far the two big men, Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge. Both present unique and almost unmatched skill sets to the game, but Gasol is the more interesting of the two. It seems as if he hasn’t really told anyone about his plans for this summer, so it seems 50/50 that he could return to Memphis. The Grizzlies are going to have plenty of money to throw his way, plus they can offer him more money than anyone else.
LaMarcus Aldridge (UFA)
Aldridge is another interesting case, because unlike Gasol who has had some pretty solid successes in the playoffs, the Blazers can’t seem to get out of the first round very often. Aldridge could see a max contract from the Spurs this summer and not think twice about leaving. I could also see if Kevin Love opts out of his contract in Cleveland. Aldridge is being recruited heavily be LeBron James. If Gasol ends up staying in Memphis, then Aldridge will be the big pin we are all waiting for starting July 1st.
Kawhi Leonard (RFA)
After winning the Finals MVP award last season and winning the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award this season, the Spurs would be wise to call up Leonard and his representatives at 12:01 AM on July 1st and offer him a max contract. Even though he is a restricted free agent and the Spurs can match anything he gets on the open market, teams are going to poison pill the crap out of San Antonio if they can’t lock up Leonard early on. I suspect Leonard won’t want to ruin a good thing in San Antonio, so expect him to take the max and not sign any offer sheets.
Jimmy Butler (RFA)
The Bulls should probably take a lesson from the Spurs, and at the same time the Spurs are offering a max contract to Leonard, the Bulls should be faxing/emailing over a max contract for Jimmy Butler, even before deciding if Tom Thibodeau will stay as their head coach or not. Butler took an astronomic leap this season into being one of the Bulls best players, and his two-way skillset make him one of the most sought after free agents in a while. Butler is two years older than Leonard at 25, however from what he has shown over the last two seasons, he is going to get max offers if he fields them. If the rift between him and Derrick Rose is real that could make this interesting, however, as NBA odds makers know, the Bulls still hold the upper hand of being able to match anything.
Brandon Knight (RFA)
The fifth guy on my list is Brandon Knight, who before he was traded midseason, and even after but before his injury, he was looking like a guy that might threaten to be around max money. He has since dropped some because of his injury, but he will surely get offer sheets around the 4-year and $60 million range this summer. While the Suns can match anything, he proved he could be great point guard under Jason Kidd, and even showed flashes under his short time in Phoenix. Those who place NBA picks realize that the Suns saw enough to probably want to match most anything, especially after they traded Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas for him.
Honorable Mention: Zach Randolph, Draymond Green, DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap, Tristan Thompson, Tyson Chandler, Rajon Rondo, Reggie Jackson, Greg Monroe, Josh Smith, Kris Middleton, Enes Kanter, Tobias Harris, Wesley Matthews, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli.