With the likes of Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, Al Horford and Mike Conley having agreed to new contracts at the beginning of July, most of the NBA’s top free agents are off the market. But a few potentially impactful players remain unsigned, and they could be headed elsewhere after being major contributors to championship contenders.
It looked like the Oklahoma City Thunder were set to keep Dion Waiters, but the team rescinded its qualifying offer to the shooting guard. Oklahoma City is looking to create more salary cap space so they can re-sign point guard Russell Westbrook to a long-term contract, and they might lose Waiters as a result.
The Brooklyn Nets reportedly met with Waiters, but decided against signing him. There’s speculation that Waiters wants to play in Philadelphia, his hometown, though there hasn’t been any indication that the two sides are working on a deal.
After being drafted fourth overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2012, Waiters has often been viewed as one of the most frustrating players in the league. Scoring 9.8 points per game in 2015-16, it was the first time he didn’t average double-digits in points. Waiters shot just a shade under 40 percent from the field for the season, though he played well in the Western Conference finals before the Thunder blew their 3-1 series lead.
Waiters might be described as a lesser version of J.R. Smith, who also remains a free agent. While Smith is well known for his sometimes erratic offensive play, he started nearly every game for the Cavs on their way to winning the franchise’s first title.
Smith averaged 12.4 points per game in the regular season, shooting 40 percent from three-point range. He came up big for Cleveland by scoring 20 points in Game 3 of the 2016 NBA Finals, and he added 12 points in Game 7 against the Golden State Warriors.
According to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, Smith is seeking to earn around $15 million per year. Smith made just $5 million a year ago, and he’s watched his former Cavalier teammates get huge raises this offseason. Matthew Dellavedova is making nearly $10 million per season with the Milwaukee Bucks, and Timofey Mozgov signed a four-year, $64 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. Neither player was a factor in the finals.
"I think the good news is J.R. wants to be here and we want J.R. back," Cleveland general manager David Griffin recently said, via Cleveland.com. "These things sometimes take time and he has representatives that want him to be with us as well so when the time is right something will get done. I'm very confident about that."
LeBron James is technically still a free agent, but he will undoubtedly re-sign with the Cavs.