As is always the case in the spring, the NBA season is now focused squarely on the playoffs. Fans, players and analysts alike are balancing match-ups, scribbling brackets and discussing sweeps in both the east and the west.
However, whilst the playoffs are certainly a big head turner for any big NBA followers out there, there is something else to look forward to after the Larry O’Brien Trophy is handed out.
That something is NBA free agency, where a host of players will be scheduling meetings with teams across North America all of whom are vying for their services. There’ll be winners, there’ll be losers – but ultimately, there’ll be players up for grabs which almost any franchise could convince to head their way.
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But which five players are going to prove the best offseason acquisitions?
Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder
Is there anyone on this list that could be more coveted than Kevin Durant during this year’s free agency period?
We’ll answer that for you - no.
Kevin Durant has been stoic when it comes to discussing his future, with journalists across the NBA receiving very little from the Washington DC native when asking about free agency. Rumour has it that KD could be weighing up his options this summer, and is likely to entertain offers from other franchises – especially if OKC fail to go far in the post-season.
What’s more, there are a number of locations which could theoretically go for him as well, with current NBA champs Golden State being one of them.
Another team also in the mix is Washington, who despite missing the playoffs this season have a young, talented roster and one of Durant’s former coaches in charge of things – Scott Brooks. KD was a big fan of Brooks during his time in Oklahoma, so a reunion/homecoming could be on the cards.
However, with a plethora of teams likely to be courting Durant, his future could well be one of the biggest free agency sagas of the season.
Lebron James – Cleveland Cavaliers
That’s right; Lebron James could well be a free agent this season, thanks to the contract he signed back when he moved to the Cavs which offers him a player option this year.
Whilst it’s unlikely that he’ll leave – there is always a fear that resides deep within the franchise’s fans that reminds them of when he upped and left for Miami all those years ago. Of course, he came back, but that distrust could come into play if the Cavs struggle to make the finals.
Talk of him trying to form a ‘super team’ with the likes of Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade won’t have reassured the Cleveland faithful, either.
Whilst he’ll very likely be staying in Ohio for the next year at least – there’s always that chance he could schedule another prime-time TV slot for a sequel to The Decision…
Mike Conley – Memphis Grizzlies
Hear us out with this one. Sure, Conley hasn’t been healthy this season, but he’s still likely to be one of the most sought after free agent acquisitions for a team in need of a solid point guard.
Alongside Rajon Rondo, Conley is the only other point guard who’ll be demanding big time cash this off-season – and he won’t rock the boat nearly as much as the Sacramento Kings playmaker. In fact, he’s capable of steadying almost any ship with consistent scoring and solid defense.
Memphis’ lack of production in the off-season could make Conley consider other options more willingly as well, and, despite the Grizzlies wanting to re-sign him, he may opt to move on.
In spite of his questionable health this year, Conley could prove to be one of the better pick-ups in the off-season, and a player that could turn a good team into a great one.
Hassan Whiteside – Miami Heat
One of the most under-appreciated centers in the league, Hassan Whiteside’s emergence as a true NBA force on defence has been a major highlight for Miami over the past two years.
The seven-footer is an emphatic rim protector who averages 3.7 blocks per game – which is a league leading statistic by quite a stretch. He even sits third in the league with his rebounding numbers as well (11.8 per game), making him arguably the most important big man who’ll be up for grabs in free agency.
What’s more, Miami might struggle to keep him in South Beach, and he’ll likely enjoy having teams chasing him down with sizeable contracts in hand.
He might have a questionable attitude, but you can’t argue with his defensive qualities, making him a huge part of this year’s off-season player chase.
DeMar DeRozan – Toronto Raptors
A two-way shooting guard who’s massively improved during his time in Toronto which could be up at the end of this season - DeMar DeRozan could prove a huge offseason signing for any team.
Whilst his shooting does leave a little to be desired, he’s still a big offensive threat who regularly contributes over 20 points per game, and is a solid defender. His skill set is likely to draw the attention of plenty of teams, along with a Raptors offer sheet for sure.
His decision is likely going to depend on how Toronto do in the postseason, and if another early exit beckons, it could result in DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and even Dwane Casey all heading their separate ways.
Of course, if Toronto go further than expected, they’ll likely give it another run to see whether they can continue their strong performances. Either way, DeRozan will be a man in demand come free agency.