The countdown to the summer free agency has begun, with teams across the NBA preparing for what looks to be a fascinating free agent market. Come the beginning of July, a host of top-class talent will be hitting the free agency from former MVPs to NBA champions and multiple All Star players.
Indeed, more than a few major teams in the league are ready and capable of spending big money in order to snap up some of those players who are nearing the end of their current contracts.
So, before the free agency opens up this summer, which players can we expect to see at the top of the shopping list of general managers throughout the NBA in July?
LeBron James: While it’s highly likely that King James will agree a new deal to stay at Cleveland, there could be a short period of time when other NBA teams can try and test the 12-year veteran’s commitment to the team he re-joined last year. While this might not have been James’ most successful season, the 30-year-old is still posting per-game averages that can only be bettered by three players in NBA history. This might be his worst shooting season since 2008/09 but James still ranks fifth in the league with a 25.8 PER and there is no doubt that the Cavaliers star is going to have a big say in the rest of the campaign. King James is certainly a reason behind Cleveland’s odds of 7/2 with betfair for the Championship at the time of writing when heading into the playoffs.
Marc Gasol: In a season that has seen Dwight Howard, DeMarcus Cousins and Roy Hibbert all struggling with fitness and form, Marc Gasol has established himself as one of the league’s best two-way centres. Gasol showed just how much he brings to a team’s defense, claiming the Defensive Player of the Year award after leading the league’s second best defense with an incredible average of 14.1 points, 7.8 assists and 1.7 blocks per game. The Spaniard has been in sensational form again this season, anchoring the league’s fifth best defense and putting himself in a very strong position heading into the summer.
LaMarcus Aldridge: Just when you think you know what you’re going to get from LaMarcus Aldridge, the 29-year-old adds something else to his game. The Portland star has long been one of the NBA’s most reliable mid-range shooters and the former second overall pick is now sinking throws from the three-point mark with the same sort of consistency he does from closer in. While Aldridge only managed 24 three pointers from 116 attempts during his first eight years in the league, the Texan has already racked up 25 triples this season from 60 attempts at an impressive 41.7%. The four-time All Star has made it known he plans on signing a new long-term contract with the Blazers in the summer but there will still be teams looking to tempt Aldridge from Portland.
Kawhi Leonard: This season might not have gone exactly to plan for the San Antonio Spurs youngster but Leonard has again showed just why there would be a host of teams interested in his services should his current employers not act quick this summer. The small forward really burst on the scene last season during the Finals when he averaged an eye-catching 23.7 points on 68.6% shooting, 9.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.3 three pointers, 2.0 steals and 2.0 blocks during the final three games against the star-studded Miami Heat side. While and eye infection and torn hand ligament injury sidelined Leonard for 18 games this season, the Spurs star has been electric when on the floor. He has set new personal records for points, rebounds, assists and steals.
Jimmy Butler: In another season, Jimmy Butler would be in a much stronger position than he finds himself at the moment. The Chicago Bulls swingman could find a place on the roster of any team in the league but he still finds himself behind a queue of marquee players heading into the free agency in the summer. The Bulls saw a four-year, $40million contract extension offer declined by Butler last November but are still confident of tying the 25-year-old down to a max deal before he is able to test the waters in the free agency.
DeAndre Jordan: There might have been some who doubted that the LA Clippers centre would be able to command a max contract in this summer’s free agency, but his performances during Blake Griffin’s injury absence will have convinced those doubters that he will be hot property this summer. The loss of Griffin in February could have been a huge blow to the Clippers but Jordan stepped up to the plate and produced a string of sensational displays. He averaged 17.4 points, 18.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocks during a seven-game run that really strengthened the former second round draft pick’s position heading into the free agency. While Jordan’s free-throw game still leaves a lot to be desired, that should not put off NBA teams looking for an effective big man.