NBA free agency 2017: The top free agents, news and analysis – Washington Post

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Kevin Durant isn’t likely going anywhere in free agency. (Getty Images)

When free agency begins at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, players and their agents will look for the big paydays of a year ago, while teams will hope to spend less. That tug-of-war will dominate discussions in the coming weeks.

GRADING THE DEALS

Washington Post national NBA writer Tim Bontemps hands out his grades for some of the bigger signings and trades that are happening during NBA free agency. Here they are, with the most recent first:

Utah Jazz get: Ricky Rubio

Minnesota Timberwolves get: Oklahoma City’s lottery-protected 2018 first round pick.

Grades:

Utah: B+
Minnesota: B-

Utah was unlikely to re-sign George Hill, and it also seems the Jazz will miss out on bringing back Gordon Hayward (and potentially Joe Ingles, as well). So getting Rubio, a solid starter who is also on a solid contract that pays him a combined $29 million over this year and next, is a good move for them to make. The hope now will be that Rubio can be a stopgap at the position until either Dante Exum or Donovan Mitchell is ready to become a full-time starter.

Minnesota’s grade here really should be an incomplete. The final mark for making this move will be influenced by what the team does with the $14 million in cap space for next season it just created. There are strong indications that the Timberwolves will end up with Jeff Teague, the Indiana Pacers free agent. If they do, how much they pay Teague – and what they do with the rest of their cap space – will determine how smart this move was in the long-term.

There’s also the uncertain future of Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City to consider. If the league MVP leaves the Thunder, this pick is likely to never convey to the Timberwolves as a first rounder (it’s lottery protected through 2020, then becomes a pair of seconds).

Houston Rockets get: Chris Paul

Los Angeles Clippers get: Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, several non-guaranteed contracts and a protected 2018 first round pick.

Grades:

Houston: A
Los Angeles: A

This is a rare win-win for both teams. The Rockets obviously are the headliners here, as General Manager Daryl Morey gets one of the NBA’s best players in Chris Paul, but also maintains enough flexibility to acquire another star — maybe Paul George? — in a subsequent trade. There will be some questions about fit in Houston alongside James Harden, and playing in Coach Mike D’Antoni’s system. But Paul also could be devastatingly effective with all the spacing D’Antoni’s system provides, and he gives Houston a much-needed Plan B, as a ballhandler alongside Harden and for another offensive option when Harden goes to the bench.

The Clippers, on the other hand, maximized every ounce of value they could get out of Paul once he informed them he wanted to play for the Rockets. Beverley and Williams are on excellent contracts, Dekker and Harrell are cheap young players (the kinds Doc Rivers, the Clippers’ coach and team president, could never find to put around Paul) and they get a first-round pick out of the deal, as well. Whether the Clippers keep Blake Griffin, they will have ample cap room in 2018 and intriguing pieces to potentially offer to teams in other trades now — for someone like George, should Indiana choose to move him.

***

So who should teams sign, and how much should they pay? The Washington Post ranks the top 10 players in this summer’s free agent class — one with the potential to provide plenty of fireworks. For the full list of the top 50 free agents, click here.

1. Kevin Durant, SF, unrestricted
Golden State Warriors

Durant, coming off an NBA Finals MVP and his first championship, isn’t going anywhere. The only question is whether he’ll take enough of a financial haircut to allow Golden State to keep Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.

2. Stephen Curry, SG, unrestricted
Golden State Warriors

Like Durant, Curry is staying put, and that will happen quickly: He will likely become the first player to sign a $200 million contract in NBA history on Saturday.

3. Gordon Hayward, SF, unrestricted
Utah Jazz

Here is where things get interesting. Hayward is expected to be courted heavily by the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, and probably others; he could leave the Jazz next week.

4. Kyle Lowry, PG, unrestricted
Toronto Raptors

Lowry is the top point guard available on the market, but Lowry is 31 and few teams are looking for a floor general. Will there be interest?

5. Blake Griffin, PF, unrestricted
Los Angeles Clippers

A series of injuries makes Griffin’s free agency potentially perilous. But if he can stay healthy, he could be a major addition somewhere.

6. Jrue Holiday, PG, unrestricted
New Orleans Pelicans

Holiday has as much leverage as any player in free agency. The guess here: He stays in New Orleans, but only after the Pelicans overpay to keep him.

7. Otto Porter Jr., SF, restricted
Washington Wizards

The top restricted free agent on the market, Porter could test Washington’s willingness to go into the luxury tax — something owner Ted Leonsis has never done — if he gets a big offer. The assumption should be that he’s back, but it could get uncomfortable before he is.

8. Paul Millsap, PF, unrestricted
Atlanta Hawks

New Atlanta Hawks General Manager Travis Schlenk made it clear he wasn’t going to give Millsap a max contract. That means the all-star forward will move on.

9. George Hill, PG, unrestricted
Utah Jazz

Hill was banged up most of this season, but when he and the rest of the starting lineup was healthy, they were quite effective. His market could be tied to what Hayward does; if he leaves it will likely decrease Hill’s leverage.

10. Danilo Gallinari, PF, unrestricted
Denver Nuggets

Talented but injury prone, Gallinari is one of the more intriguing free agents. Will a team take a chance, or will his market be tepid thanks to a constant stream of injuries and defensive issues?

 

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