1. Kevin Durant to Houston
Kevin Durant is the biggest free agent of this summer, and there have been rumors of him leaving Oklahoma City to play for Golden State, New York, or Washington D.C. But, all of those choices would be a mistake. In Golden State, Durant would be moving to a known winner. He would have a serious chance to win his first NBA championship, and would challenge for a title the next 5 years with the talent that is in place in Oakland. However, a move to Golden State would be perceived as riding on the coattails of 2-time MVP Stephen Curry and the NBA record holding Warriors. When you are one of the best players in the league, perception is everything. Going to New York would take Durant from a relatively small-market team to the largest market in basketball. However, there is not a lot of talent in New York outside of Carmelo Anthony, and a move there would put his game under a lot of scrutiny with very little chance for him to win it all. The Wizards are on the verge of taking the next step towards becoming a contender. They became a perennial playoff team under John Wall’s leadership, but they need another superstar to contend for championships. The problem is that the Washington move looks a lot like Durant’s situation in Oklahoma City. D.C. has a hyper-athletic guard that needs the basketball to be effective with a limited jumper. They have athletic big men, but no one who can dominate under the rim. And, the addition of Durant would put the superstar right back into the position of being the best player on the floor, but not necessarily getting the basketball in the most opportune situations. Houston is the best situation for Durant even though he has no desire to play there. He and Harden could form the type of back court that would obliterate teams from the three point line. They run an offense that is dependent on shooting threes and getting layups off penetration, two things that he excels at doing. And, Durant would be the focal point of the offense and move Harden back to the second scorer where he excels. The Houston Rockets have been on the verge of breaking through to the Finals for years now. Durant could be the piece that gets them past San Antonio and Golden State.
2. LeBron James to New York
Though Cleveland could technically pay him more than any team, and he has filled the team with players that are on his sports management team, LeBron James should leave Cleveland. He has foregone a max contract several times to build stronger squads around him, but now LeBron is running out of time to cash in on his immense talent. As talented as he is, LeBron would rather facilitate than dominate. A trip to New York would allow him to blend with a pure scorer in Carmelo Anthony and a unique and promising talent in Kyrstaps Porzingis. At this point, LeBron James is only worried about his legacy. He has finally brought a championship to Cleveland, a team that has not won a major championship since 1964, and the team from his home state. He probably will not surpass the 6 rings that Michael Jordan has, but if he finds a way to win a championship in the mecca of basketball, LeBron James will permanently etched in the discussion for best basketball player ever.
3. Hassan Whiteside to Golden State
The suspension of Draymond Green in Game 5 hurt the Warriors, but the loss of Andrew Bogut to injury in Game 5 might have been the most detrimental blow that Golden State took in the NBA Finals. There was no resistance at the rim without Bogut, and LeBron James and Kyrie Irving penetrated mercilessly against the smaller lineups winning the final three games. The Warrior defense had no anchor and the team drifted apart on both sides of the ball once he went down. With the impending loss of Harrison Barnes who underachieved in the Finals, but was a vital part of the team, the possible loss of Igoudala, and the slight build of both Curry and Klay Thompson, the Warriors need to add size and athleticism to their squad. Hassan Whiteside fills so many of their needs for the Warriors. He solidifies their defense under the rim with elite shot-blocking and good rebounding. His size and athleticism turns an undersized team into a much bigger and stronger club as a whole. His interior scoring should free Steph and Klay up for easier shots, and his presence should help support Draymond Green as the only tough guy on the team. The Warriors would have to move Igoudala and Bogut to have a shot at landing Whiteside, but it may be well worth the gamble if they can sign a few athletes at a moderate price.
4. Andre Drummond stays in Detroit
Detroit is doing it the right way. Instead of making hasty decisions in free agency that would have kept their team in mediocrity - because the best free agents have no desire to play in Detroit – by signing middle of the road free agents, the Pistons have built their team almost exclusively through the draft. And, Andre Drummond is the centerpiece of the improving Pistons. Drummond is in a place where the team is dedicated to letting him play like a big man. They do not expect him to shoot three pointers or step out on the floor and make plays off the dribble. Detroit does not expect Drummond to do anything other be a big man who plays big. He is expected to rebound the basketball, block shots, score in the post, and intimidate people. And, the Detroit Pistons under the direction of Stan Van Gundy – who helped turn Dwight Howard into a superstar under the rim – should keep him in place in their city.
5. Al Horford stays in Atlanta
Al Horford should end his career where he started it, in Atlanta, Georgia. He has been a cornerstone of the franchise for the last decade, and honestly, his acquisition by another team would probably not make a real difference in their prospects unless they were a legitimate contender. Alford is an adequate rebounder and a reliable scorer, but he is not a dynamic athlete or a spectacular basketball player. He is a solid professional who would be a better option for his current team than he would be for another team. And, with the recent addition of Dwight Howard to the Hawks, Horford can play his natural position of power forward rather than an undersized center. Horford should be able to stretch defenses with his shooting from midrange, and Howard can clean up the misses. Re-signing Al Horford is a must for the Atlanta Hawks.
6. DeMarr Derozan stays in Toronto
The Toronto Raptors are building something good in the North. They took their first trip to the Eastern Conference Finals behind the outstanding play of Kyle Lowery and DeMarr Derozan. Derozan brings elite athleticism and good scoring punch to a team that could easily be lost in the shuffle in the Eastern Conference. Behind his explosive plays in the open court and in traffic, and his vastly improving jump shot, the Raptors could dethrone the Cavaliers as the best team in the East with a few key additions.
7. Pau Gasol to San Antonio
With the potential loss of Tim Duncan to retirement, Gasol could step into the role of center seamlessly. Gasol is an extremely intelligent player with excellent size and coordination. His basketball IQ is off the charts, so he should have no trouble picking up the San Antonio offensive and defensive sets. Plus, his passing ability would fit really well with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, the two major parts of the new nucleus of the Spurs. Gasol would fill a lot of the holes left by Duncan. He blocks shots with his length, he scores in the post and from midrange, and he understands how to play within a system. He would be an asset to any team, but Pau Gasol could keep the San Antonio Spurs at championship level if he is added to the roster.
8. Dwight Howard to Portland
The 2016 version of Dwight Howard is a far cry from the 2006 version that carried the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals on his shoulders, however this current version of Howard is still a far better center than most big men in the league today. He can still make a NBA defense relevant simply with his presence, he is still close to an elite rebounder when he is engaged, and he is highly efficient on the shots that he takes. He is a great fit with the Hawks who have brought him back to his home town, but he could have turned the Trailblazers into a contender. With Damion Lillard, the best young point guard in the league, and C.J. McCollum a rising star, the backcourt is set for the next decade albeit a little undersized. But, Howard would push Miles Plumlee back into his natural power forward position where his athleticism would overpower anyone that faced Portland.
9. Harrison Barnes to New Orleans Pelicans
Harrison is projected to get a contract in excess of 15M per year, and though he may not be a max player, he could change a idling but talented team into a playoff team. The New Orleans Pelicans are on the verge of turning that corner. Anthony Davis is firmly entrenched in their frontcourt, and Eric Gordon is a good shooter on the wing, but New Orleans needs more athleticism and scoring from the perimeter. Barnes could fill that role. He has a solid jumper out to the three point line, he can score on in traffic, and he plays within himself. Though Barnes is not the budding superstar that he is being billed to be, he would be a solid contributor with a bigger role for an up and coming team.
10. Rajon Rondo to Miami Heat
This acquisition only works if Hassan Whiteside stays in Miami, and the Chicago Bulls who have recently agreed to a deal with Rondo either back out of the deal or trade him immediately after he signs his contract, but Rajon Rondo would be a great fit with the Miami Heat. He brings a wealth of playoff experience to a shaky backcourt. His addition could push Goran Dragic into a more natural shooting guard position or allow him to come off the bench where he would outmatch his competition every game. Rondo would add a real distributor to a team full of guys who need shots to be effective. He averaged 11.7 assists per game last year in Sacramento, and he could create shots for the aging Dwayne Wade, the offensively limited Whiteside, and if he returns, a versatile Chris Bosh. Rondo thrives in situations with established veterans. He won a NBA championship with the Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen, three aging vets with the Boston Celtics in 2008, and he could do the same thing given a chance with the Heat.