The NBA playoffs are in full swing, and that means that the season is winding down. While the end of the season is near, the beginning of the free agent signing season is also coming soon. Even during the playoffs, rumors are swirling about where the maximum contract players will choose to play, and who may or may not be leaving their current teams. Here are the top 10 free agents and some of their potential destinations.
10. Goran Dragic (Player Option)
Dragic has some tough decisions ahead of him now that he’s with the Miami Heat. Before he was traded, Dragic indicated that he wanted to be traded to the Heat, since it was a place he saw himself play longer than just this season. Since they were riddled with injuries and never had a full roster to play with, it’s hard to judge how good the Heat can be. Because of that, we anticipate Dragic staying with the Heat as they try to get back into the playoffs.
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9. DeAndre Jordan (Unrestricted)
DeAndre Jordan may be the most underrated player on this list. Jordan has posted career highs in points per game (11.5), rebounds per game (15.0), steals per game (1.0) and field goal percentage at (71.0%). Jordan is expected to receive max offers this season from many teams like the Mavericks, Knicks, and especially the Clippers. Los Angeles really can’t afford to lose Jordan, and his camaraderie with Blake Griffin is a close one and probably a deal-sealer in terms of him returning to the Clippers.
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8. Paul Millsap (Unrestricted)
Paul Millsap was arguably the best and most consistent player on the second best team in the NBA this season. Millsap’s numbers dipped just slightly with Al Horford returning healthy this season. He signed a two year, $19 million deal with Atlanta after the 2012-13 season, and he has vastly outperformed that contract. He seems to be in line for a max or nearly max contract this offseason, but with the success of the Hawks, is he really going anywhere other than Atlanta?
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7. Rajon Rondo (Unrestricted)
To say that Rondo was a bad fit in Dallas is a dramatic understatement. Rondo was once thought of as a guarantee for a max contract, and he may still get one, but now there are serious questions about his willingness to be coached and to fit in with a high octane offensive team. Beyond his attitude, he still can’t consistently make shots from the outside, which hurts when it comes to spacing the floor. The Lakers are the team most widely considered to land Rondo, mainly because he is a player that Kobe Bryant respects greatly.
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6. Jimmy Butler (Restricted)
Butler has had a monster season and a strong start to the playoffs for the Bulls. Very few people expect Butler to leave Chicago, but with rumors swirling about the possible release of Tom Thibodeau, there could be changes coming to the Windy City. Butler is another player deserving of a maximum contract, and there will likely be several options if he decides to leave. Look for the Pistons, Lakers and Knicks to show interest in Butler, but ultimately Chicago is his most likely landing spot.
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5. Kevin Love (Unrestricted)
Love was having a great first year in Cleveland, especially in the playoffs. When his shoulder was ripped out of hits socket, so were his hopes of playing in the 2015 postseason. He still says he’s committed to the Cavs, as he has all year long, and its hard to see him deciding to go elsewhere.
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4. Kawhi Leonard (Restricted)
The newly crowned Defensive Player of the Year has said that he prefers to stay with the Spurs, but intends to explore the free agent market this summer. As a restricted free agent, the Spurs will have to match any qualifying offer made by another team, which they likely will because Leonard is their best young player and they see his value. The other option that the Spurs have is to offer Leonard a maximum contract and lock him up for the next five years. Their pursuit of LaMarcus Aldridge and the re-signing of Leonard will likely be major stories for the team this offseason.
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3. Marc Gasol (Unrestricted)
Not everyone remembers that while Gasol is a native Spaniard, he played high school basketball in the city of Memphis. He will likely re-sign with the Grizzlies, but he will have some very persuasive recruiters as well, mainly 11-time champion Phil Jackson. Gasol would be the centerpiece of the triangle offense in New York, but the situation there doesn’t look like it can be fixed by the signing of just one player.
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2. LaMarcus Aldridge (Unrestricted)
The dynamic Portland big man has gotten little help in an embarrassing series against the Memphis Grizzlies, and speculation of his departure was fueled when he declined to even commit to the Trail Blazers as his preferred landing spot. There will be several options for him after the season, including all three teams from his home state of Texas. As competitive as the western conference is, Aldridge may see the potential to make a move to a serious contender like San Antonio or Houston.
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1. LeBron James (Player Option)
LeBron James is in the midst of his 10th consecutive playoff run, this time with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s basically committed the rest of his career to Cleveland and the Cavs. The only reason he signed a two-year deal with a player option to opt out is so that he could cash in when the new TV deal strikes next season.