The Undefeated’s top 10 NBA free agents
Where they should sign vs. Where we want them to sign
When the clock struck 12:01 a.m. on Friday morning, 2016 NBA free agency officially began. In the next several days, as rumors surface, players take meetings and eventually decide which new team to join or whether to remain with their current one, two questions arise from the outsiders looking in:
- Where should they sign? (For basketball and business reasons)
- Where do we want them to sign? (For the entertainment and drama)
The Undefeated’s Aaron Dodson breaks down this year’s top 10 NBA free agents, answering these two questions for each player.
Kevin Durant, forward, Oklahoma City Thunder, unrestricted free agent
Suitors: Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat
Where should he sign? Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant should stay put in Oklahoma City, at least on a one-year deal (or a two-year deal with a player option for next season) before the league salary cap balloons in 2017. The team fell one game shy of reaching the 2016 NBA Finals, and traded forward Serge Ibaka to Orlando Magic on draft night to bolster its backcourt with talented young guard Victor Oladipo. Durant, Russell Westbrook and Oladipo — the league’s new Big Three?
Where do we want him to sign? New York Knicks. Rapper Lil B and Durant have had a storied beef, surrounding the fact that the 2014 NBA MVP refuses to play Lil B in a game of one-on-one. The rapper has placed a curse on Durant, and the only way he’ll lift it? If Durant signs with the Knicks. Listen to The Based God, KD, and the championship rings will come.
Harrison Barnes, forward, Golden State Warriors, restricted free agent
Suitors: Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers
Where should he sign? Golden State Warriors. If the Warriors don’t land Durant, Barnes owes it to #DubNation to remain with Golden State and redeem himself after an absolutely abysmal 2016 postseason, during which he shot just 5-for-32 in the last three games of the Finals. Remember: If the Warriors don’t sign Durant. If they do, the decision is all but made for him: Farewell, Bay Area.
Where do we want him to sign? Philadelphia 76ers. Why? Why not? Barnes would get PAID in Philly and be the guy for the Sixers. Yes, there’d be a lot of losses to start out, but the Sixers could possibly sneak into the Eastern Conference playoffs in a few years with a young corps of guys like Ben Simmons and (if they aren’t traded) Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor.
LeBron James, forward, Cleveland Cavaliers, unrestricted free agent
Suitors: The entire world
Where should he sign? Cleveland Cavaliers. When you bring a city its first major sports title in 52 years, then leave after doing so, that’s not a good look. So don’t expect James to leave. The King just wanted to make Cavs owner Dan Gilbert sweat a little bit by opting out of his contract and becoming a free agent.
Where do we want him to sign? Miami Heat. The Decision: Part 2. “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat … again.” Ohio would burn. Twitter would crash. Miami Heat team president Pat Riley would be popping bottles. Gilbert would get LeBron crying face memed. Lord, make this happen.
Hassan Whiteside, center, Miami Heat, unrestricted free agent
Suitors: Miami Heat, Charlotte Hornets, Portland Trailblazers, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers
Where he should sign? Dallas Mavericks. For the past two seasons, the Mavericks have sought after — and each time failed to land — a franchise center. First, Dwight Howard, who ended up in Texas, but with the Houston Rockets. Then, DeAndre Jordan, who agreed to sign with Dallas before the Los Angeles Clippers lured him back with the help of emojis. Dallas has the first meeting with Whiteside, who wants to pick a team on July 1. Once Mavs owner Mark Cuban breaks out his checkbook, it might be a done deal.
Where do we want him to sign? Charlotte Hornets. Two years ago, Whiteside was spending his days playing at a YMCA in Charlotte, North Carolina, struggling to find a place on an NBA roster. Now, he’s one of the best centers in the league, and the local NBA team of his old YMCA stomping ground needs one. Let’s fantasize a bit: Whiteside signs with Charlotte, plays the rest of his career there, makes a couple of All-Star appearances, and one day that YMCA is named after him. Can you say 30 for 30?
Dwyane Wade, guard, Miami Heat, unrestricted free agent
Suitors: Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs
Where should he sign? San Antonio Spurs. Let’s be real. If Wade leaves Miami, the pandemonium of this decision would reach LeBron James leaving Cleveland in 2010 levels, backlash included. Would No. 3 Heat jerseys be burned on South Beach if Wade left? Maybe. The expectation is Wade will remain with the team that drafted him in 2003, but contract negotiations have stalled with Miami, forcing his camp to reach out to the Mavericks and Spurs. If he wants to significantly increase his chances of making it back to the Finals and winning another ring, Wade should look no farther than the veteran San Antonio squad with coach Greg Popovich at the helm.
Where do we want him to sign? Cleveland Cavaliers. This is HIGHLY unlikely because the Cavs are strapped for cash, and to sign Wade, he’d have to take a considerable pay cut. But imagine this: Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Kevin Love (assuming he doesn’t get traded), Tristan Thompson and J.R. “I Don’t Need A Shirt” Smith as team’s the sixth man. Wade and James recreating this photo in Cleveland? Yes, please.
Al Horford, center, Atlanta Hawks, unrestricted free agent
Suitors: Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Lakers, Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami Heat
Where should he sign? Oklahoma City Thunder. Horford won two national championships at the University of Florida under current Thunder coach Billy Donovan. Add Horford to a corps of Thunder players that includes All-NBA guard Russell Westbrook, big man Steven Adams, newly acquired guard Victor Oladipo and, if he chooses to stay, four-time league scoring champ Kevin Durant — that’s a championship formula. Especially for a team that went up 3-1 in the 2016 Western Conference finals, only to lose the series to the Golden State Warriors.
Where do we want him to sign? Miami Heat. Horford is Dominican and so too is his wife, Amelia Vega, who in 2003 became the first Dominican woman to be named Miss Universe. After her pageant days ended, Vega became the host of the reality TV show Voces de América on the Spanish network Telemundo. If Horford signs with the Heat and moves to Miami, where Latin culture is booming, here’s an idea for a new show on Telemundo: Manteniéndose con los Horfords (Keeping Up with the Horfords).
Pau Gasol, forward, Chicago Bulls, unrestricted free agent
Suitors: Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Portland Trailblazers, Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves
Where should he sign? Golden State Warriors. The speculated fate of a lot of the players on this list comes with the disclaimer, “if unable to sign Durant.” So, keeping with that trend, if the Warriors unable to sign Durant, Gasol could be a much-needed upgrade to the team’s frontcourt. Also, how ironic would it be if Gasol left the Bulls for the Warriors a year after Golden State broke Chicago’s record for most wins in a regular season in NBA history? Talk about playing for two storied franchises.
Where do we want him to sign? Miami Heat. Gasol is from Spain and Horford needs that best friend character for his upcoming Telemundo reality series Keeping Up with the Horfords. Seems like the perfect fit to me. Can’t you just picture the two big guys eating paella on South Beach?
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors, unrestricted free agent
Suitors: Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers
Where should he sign? Toronto Raptors. All signs are pointing to DeRozan staying in Toronto with the team that drafted him with the ninth overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft. This isn’t a bad thing. The Raptors have been one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference the past few years and gave the Cleveland Cavaliers somewhat of a run for their money in the Eastern Conference finals. Keeping together Toronto’s All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeRozan adds some stability and excitement to the East. Maybe Lowry and DeRozan will develop some more chemistry playing for USA Basketball in the Olympics this summer, and translate it to next season if DeRozan stays.
Where do we want him to sign? Los Angeles Lakers. DeRozan grew up in Compton, California, and attended the University of Southern California. Why not play for his hometown team? All the cool kids are doing it. If he signed with the Lakers, you can imagine how Raptors fans would feel, especially rapper Drake, the team’s unofficial ambassador. In 2015, Drake made 6 Man in honor of Raptors guard, and the NBA’s 2015 Sixth Man of the Year, Lou Williams. After that season, Williams left Toronto, which Drake refers to as “The 6ix,” and signed with the Lakers. Drake would be SICK if DeRozan did the same thing.
Dwight Howard, center, Houston Rockets, unrestricted free agent
Suitors: Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Trailblazers, Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics
Where should he sign? Portland Trailblazers. It’s no secret that, in the past few years, Howard hasn’t been quite the player he’s capable of being. Whether that’s his own fault or a result of the changing landscape of the now more guard-oriented league, he hasn’t been an All-Star in two seasons and hasn’t been named to the All-NBA first team since 2012, after receiving the honor five straight years. Enter the Trailblazers, who made the playoffs last season in the West (as a 5-seed!) without a dominant post player. Howard could be the perfect complement to All-Star Portland guard Damian Lillard.
Where do we want him to sign? Atlanta Hawks. Howard was born and raised in Atlanta before he was drafted out of high school with the No. 1 overall pick in 2004. If the Hawks pay Howard big money, which they’re able to do, can the 30-year-old center keep the cash in his pockets and himself out of hometown shenanigans? Hard to tell. Atlanta rappers Gucci Mane, who is out of jail now, and Future, who is arguably the greatest rapper in the world right now, might be tempted to befriend the big man and lure him to local gentlemen’s clubs. Stay tuned for the 2017 mixtape — Magic City Mondays: Dwight back in Atlanta.
Dirk Nowitzki, forward, Dallas Mavericks, unrestricted free agent
Suitors: Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers
Where should he sign? Dallas Mavericks. Dallas’ own son (via Germany) can’t leave the city that traded for him on draft night in 1998. He’s one of those guys you envision sticking with one team for his entire career. It’s hard to even imagine him in anything but a Mavericks uniform. Mavs owner Mark Cuban definitely doesn’t want to picture that possibility. He’ll probably wake up in the middle of the night on July 1 like Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant did in that Gatorade commercial, hoping Nowitzki doesn’t chuck up the deuces.
Where do we want him to sign? Golden State Warriors. In case you didn’t know, Nowitziki is definitely one of the #WhitePeopleInvitedToTheCookout. His wife, Jessica Olsson, is half-Kenyan, half-Swedish, and he brings a foiled-wrapped plate of her cooking to every game. So why not drink the Kool-Aid by joining arguably the best team in the league in the Warriors? Bonus: Golden State Warrior guard Stephen Curry’s wife, Ayesha, has her own cooking show on the Food Network, and Olsson could be her new co-host.