One of the most important and busiest periods in the NBA calendar is almost upon us as the doors to free agency open on Friday.
Kevin Durant headlines the most talented pool of free agents on the market for a number of years and will command the biggest interest come July 1, but there are other players who will be highly coveted this summer too.
The future of Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside will be one of the intriguing stories of this offseason as he seeks, and will receive, a max contract for the first time in his relatively short NBA career.
Whiteside's rise to stardom in South Beach is a victory for perseverance as he bounced from multiple teams over the last six years before settling in Miami and becoming one of the best centers in the league.
He enjoyed a career year last season averaging 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, and a league-leading 3.7 blocks. He was also selected to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team.
The big man is believed to have drawn significant interest from the likes of the Golden State Warriors, L.A. Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers, as well as the Heat.
Where Durant may take his time coming to a decision on his future and weighing up several possibilities, Whiteside isn't keen on prolonging proceedings and wants to sign his next contract as soon as possible.
"On July 1, hopefully I'll know," Whiteside said. "I hope it's an easy decision to make."
The 27-year-old was open to addressing his free agency and spoke to reporters after he attended a Mountain Dew NBA 3X street basketball tournament in Miami over the weekend.
As well as wanting to have his future sorted by the first day of free agency, the center revealed that he's open to all options at this stage and cannot commit to Miami.
"I really don't think it's about loyalty -- I think it's just about [finding] the best situation for myself," Whiteside said Sunday. "I didn't say (Miami) wasn't the best situation, but we're going to see what happens. It's not like I'm really counting the Heat out or counting on another team. It's just open."
Last month, Heat president Pat Riley said keeping Whiteside was the team's biggest priority and the player confirmed that a meeting had taken place between them "about two weeks ago".
The Heat can sign Whiteside to a maximum contract worth $98 million over four seasons, which is slightly more than any other team can offer the seven-footer. That will be a huge jump for a player who was earning just $990,000 this past season.
Just two summers ago the shot-blocker was pleading with teams for a training camp workout after spending time in the D-League and in other countries around the world including a short period in the Lebanese Basketball League.
Now Whiteside is happy to see that things are now working in the opposite fashion.
"I find it flattering, because in my past, I was trying to call those teams and now it's the other way around," he said. "It's a flattering experience and I'm thankful for this opportunity."