Many of the NBA’s top available players signed massive contracts on July 1, but the absolute best free agents are still weighing their options. The Kevin Durant Sweepstakes could last for a few days longer, and a few Eastern Conference All-Stars are considering playing elsewhere for the first time in their careers.
Dwyane Wade and Al Horford are testing the market. Wade has been with the Miami Heat since he was drafted in 2003, and Horford has only played with the Atlanta Hawks, who drafted him in 2007.
The best free agents that agreed to deals on Friday stayed with the teams they played for last year. Andre Drummond, Mike Conley and DeMar DeRozan will reportedly re-up with their teams for contracts that are worth a combined $422 million.
Because of the rising salary cap, the best free agents this summer will have a chance to test the market again next year. Wherever Durant goes, he’s expected to sign a contract that gives him the opportunity to opt out in 2017 and become a free agent. The salary cap will be $94 million for the 2016-17 season, and it’s expected to reach $108 million in 2017-18.
LeBron James is the best free agent available, but he’ll return to the Cleveland Cavaliers on a two-year contract that gives him the chance to opt out next summer.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are the clear frontrunners to sign Durant. He met with the team for which he’s played his entire career on Thursday, and a source told The Undefeated’s Marc Spears that Durant’s decision is “90 percent made” to make one more run at the title with Russell Westbrook. But five other teams are meeting with the four-time scoring champ in the Hamptons this weekend, and they’ve already begun to make an impression on him.
Durant’s meeting with the Golden State Warriors reportedly went well on Friday, and ESPN reports that he was “blown away” by the Los Angeles Clippers’ presentation. DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin were in attendance, and Durant spoke on the phone with Chris Paul, who couldn’t make the meeting. Durant meets with the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics on Saturday, followed by a meeting with the Miami Heat on Sunday.
The Washington Wizards and Los Angeles Lakers won’t meet with Durant and were seemingly never in the running. The same goes for the New York Knicks, who have moved on and signed Joakim Noah.
Wade flirted with other teams in 2010 before re-signing with the Heat, who added LeBron James and Chris Bosh that summer. Miami remains the favorite to sign Wade, but the possibility of the shooting guard leaving South Beach appears to be a real one this time.
According to The Vertical, Wade was angered by Miami’s contract offer, which stood at $10 million per season. As he pursues other deals, the Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks have reportedly shown interest in giving Wade a contract of two to three years at a minimum of $20 million per season. The Knicks have reportedly been in talks with Wade, as well, though they could have trouble making him a competitive offer now that they are paying Noah $18 million per season.
Wade averaged 19.0 points, 4.6 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game in 2015-16, playing more games (74) than he has in five years. He made $20 million last season.
While Oklahoma City is favored to keep Durant and the smart money remains on Wade returning to Miami, Horford appears ready to move on from the team that drafted him. Looking to earn a max contract worth $113 million over four years, Horford’s days with the Hawks are likely finished.
Atlanta appears to have moved on from Horford, signing his replacement on Friday by giving Dwight Howard a three-year, $70.5 million contract. The Vertical reports that the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards are the favorites to land Horford. They were two of the four teams that Horford met with on Friday. If the Hawks want to keep Horford, they might have to trade Paul Milsap, who is set to be a free agent in 2017.
Horford has been an All-Star four times since 2010, averaging 14.3 points and 8.9 rebounds per game for his career. He made a career-high 88 three-pointers last season.