Kevin Durant, LeBron James and 23 NBA free agents to watch

By Jason Lloyd, The Sports Xchange
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James and New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony stand on the court in the first half at Madison Square Garden in New York City on March 26, 2016. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James and New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony stand on the court in the first half at Madison Square Garden in New York City on March 26, 2016. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Kevin Durant is on the clock.

As free agency kicks off Friday, the Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star is the most coveted basketball commodity since LeBron James made The Decision in 2010.


Durant met with the Thunder, with whom he spent his first nine seasons, on Thursday in Oklahoma City before shifting a series of meetings to New York with potential suitors that will include 2015 NBA champion Golden State and perennial Western Conference contender San Antonio.

James is again a free agent, continuing a recent trend of opting out of his deal every June to maximize his leverage and earnings potential now and down the road. But after carrying Cleveland to the championship, James said he isn't going anywhere.

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Most likely to move? That is to be determined, but we outlined best fits for the top 15 NBA free agents with 10 more to keep an eye on as the summer shopping season shifts gears.


1. Kevin Durant, Thunder: The most coveted free agent since LeBron James in 2010, Durant has half the league lining up because of his ability to turn any team into a contender. Durant's free agency has the potential to dramatically alter the NBA's power structure.

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BEST FIT: Golden State Warriors. Imagining Durant on a team that won 73 games during the regular season almost seems unfair, but there appears to be genuine interest on both sides to get something done.

2. LeBron James, Cavaliers: Opted out as expected but James made it clear there is "no interest" in embarking on another departure. Comes back to the best team in the East.

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BEST FIT: Cleveland Cavaliers. Passing on $24 million for about a $3 million raise that sets the stage for a massive contract - potentially more than $35 million per season -- in 2017.

3. Dwyane Wade, Heat: Appeared revitalized at 34, appearing in more games this season than he has in five years. Wade's knees will always be a concern, but he's still a premiere 2-guard in the NBA.

BEST FIT: Miami Heat. Negotiations between the two sides are off to a slow start yet again, but it's hard to see Heat owner Micky Arison allowing the face of his franchise to walk away now.


4. Andre Drummond, Pistons: Has steadily improved his scoring and rebounding numbers every season, but his poor free throw shooting frustrated coach Stan Van Gundy during the playoffs and kept him off the floor at critical times.

BEST FIT: Detroit Pistons. A restricted free agent, the Pistons appear poised to make Drummond a max player in a league with few true, dominant centers.

5. DeMar DeRozan, Raptors: Enjoyed a career season, and his second All-Star selection, at just the right time. DeRozan spoke after the season about wanting to remain with one team and hasn't really wavered from it.

BEST FIT: Toronto Raptors. While the hometown Los Angeles Lakers are intriguing, the Raptors are coming off the first conference finals appearance in franchise history and DeRozan has made it clear he'd like to stay.

6. Hassan Whiteside, Heat: Out of the NBA just three years ago, the 27-year-old has made it clear his next team will be driven by finances. Whiteside averaged 3.7 blocks this season and held opponents below 47 percent when shooting at the rim.


BEST FIT: Dallas Mavericks. They thought they had their defensive-minded center last summer before DeAndre Jordan backed out of their agreement. Now it will take another max to lure Whiteside.

7. Al Horford, Hawks: The four-time All-Star has spent his entire nine-year career with the Hawks and made the playoffs every season, but he's only advanced as far as the conference finals once. Has averaged at least 15 points and 7 rebounds each of the last four years.

BEST FIT: Los Angeles Lakers. They were shut out on big ticket free agents last summer and don't seem to have Kevin Durant's attention now, but they're still flushed with cap space, they have some young talent and they're still the Lakers. Horford can cash in on all of that with a max deal.

8. Mike Conley, Grizzlies: The best point guard never to make an All-Star team has plenty of interest from around the league. Foot problems limited him to 56 games this season, the lowest since his rookie year.

BEST FIT: Memphis Grizzlies. If the Grizzlies offer Conley five years, he's likely returning. If they balk at the fifth year, the Dallas Mavericks can swoop in and steal him away.


9. Bradley Beal, Wizards: He's one of the top young shooting guards when he's healthy, but Beal always seems to be fighting some sort of injury. Still averaged a career-best 17.4 points and shot nearly 39 percent from the 3-point line despite playing in just 55 games this season.

BEST FIT: Washington Wizards. It's a risk investing so much money in someone who has dealt with so many injuries, but Beal is a restricted free agent and it's hard to envision the Wizards letting him walk away.

10. Nicolas Batum, Hornets: A gifted two-way player who is a terrific passer, Batum's 5.8 assists this season were a career high and ranked third behind Draymond Green and LeBron James among all forwards/centers.

BEST FIT: Los Angeles Lakers. He isn't the biggest name on the free agent market, but he's steady and at 27, just entering his prime.

11. Pau Gasol, Bulls: Played well during his two seasons in Chicago and showed that even at 36, he's not done yet. But it's clear on both sides Gasol is moving on from the Bulls.

BEST FIT: San Antonio Spurs. His game seems perfectly suited for Gregg Popovich and the Spurs, who landed David West last year in free agency. Even Gasol's brother, Marc, predicted Pau would wind up in San Antonio.


12. Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks: Even at 38, Nowitzki has proven he can still be a high-level player in the NBA - at least offensively. Nowitzki is sixth all-time in scoring and enters next season 509 points shy of 30,000 for his career.

BEST FIT: Dallas Mavericks. Nowitzki has spent his entire career in Dallas and will likely retire there, too.

13. Ryan Anderson, Pelicans: One of the top shooting stretch-4s, Anderson is a career .377 shooter from deep. He also appears to be moving on from New Orleans.

BEST FIT: Sacramento Kings. While they have a cluttered frontcourt already, Anderson is a Sacramento native who recently bought a house in California and appears open to the idea of playing for his hometown team. That's good enough for a franchise that struggles attracting free agents.

14. Chandler Parsons, Mavericks: Fought injuries during his two seasons in Dallas, but when healthy he remains an athletic wing with a polished offensive game.

BEST FIT: Memphis Grizzlies. Provided they hold onto Mike Conley, the Grizzlies can pair him with Parsons to upgrade a roster that has been built to play slow, defensive-minded basketball through its All-Star bigs.


15. Dwight Howard, Rockets: Injuries have sapped much of what Howard once was, but he is still a defensive-minded center who can rebound and averaged a double-double this season.

BEST FIT: Atlanta Hawks. They have tried for years to land Howard, now might finally be their chance to either play him alongside Al Horford or replace him.

Others to watch:

Harrison Barnes, Warriors

Evan Fournier, Magic

Al Jefferson, Hornets

Luol Deng, Heat

Rajon Rondo, Kings

Jordan Clarkson, Lakers

Joakim Noah, Bulls

Kent Bazemore, Hawks

Bismack Biyombo, Raptors

J.R. Smith, Cavaliers

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