1. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers:
First, let’s acknowledge that Griffin’s injury history is a concern. He has missed at least 15 games in each of the last three seasons and is currently recovering from toe surgery. However, it should also be pointed out that from 2010 through 2014, Blake started 308 out of a possible 312 games. Furthermore, there is no denying the immense impact he creates when he’s on the floor. Consider this: There are only four players in NBA history to average at least 21 points, nine rebounds and four assists per game over the course of their entire careers: Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Larry Bird and… Blake Griffin. He’s also still just 28 years old and has played well in big spots. The last time he was fully healthy in the postseason, Griffin was dominant, averaging 25.5 points, 12.7 rebounds and 6.1 assists over 14 games in the 2015 playoffs. The Clippers are expected to offer Griffin a max contract, which would sum to approximately $175 million over five years.
2. Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks:
It’s rare that players set career-highs in the multiple categories after turning 32, but that’s exactly what Millsap did last season. In 2016-17, he averaged a career-best 18.1 points and 3.7 assists. The versatile forward earned a spot on the All-Star team for the fourth straight year. He then followed up a superb regular season by posting even more impressive numbers in the playoffs. In Atlanta's first-round series against the Wizards, Millsap averaged 24.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.3 dimes. The question is: How many years does he have left at his current elite level? The Hawks have the ability to offer him a five-year, $205 million dollar deal. However, that means Atlanta would be paying Millsap $46.7 million in 2021-22, when he'd be 37 years old. Atlanta’s new general manager, Travis Schlenk, was quoted this past week as saying: “We’d like to have him. The reality is, he might get better offers than we can make him.”
3. Serge Ibaka, Toronto Raptors:
Ibaka was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team three straight years (from 2010-11 through 2012-13) and led the league in blocked shots for four consecutive seasons. However, his athleticism isn’t quite what it used to be, which has limited his impact on the defensive end of the floor. In 2016-17, Ibaka averaged 1.6 blocks per game. While certainly respectable, it was his lowest mark since his rookie campaign. He also isn’t as capable as he once was of sticking with guards off of screens at the top of the floor. However, Serge has compensated by improving his offensive efficiency. Last season, he averaged a career-high 1.6 3-pointers while shooting a career-best 39.1 percent from downtown. Last season, Ibaka became just the fourth player in league history to knock down at least 120 3-pointers and block at least 120 shots. Due to his ability to positively impact the game on both ends of the floor, he'll have plenty of interested suitors. Considering Toronto traded away Terrence Ross and a first-round pick to secure his services, they will be highly motivated to keep him in a Raptors uniform.
4. Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets:
Gallinari possesses an intriguing upside, but also has red flags related to his injury history. Gallo missed the entire 2014-14 campaign due to an ACL tear and has appeared in 63 or fewer games in each of the last three seasons. On the other hand, he’s averaged over 18 points and five boards per game in two consecutive seasons. Playing primarily at power forward has allowed him to take advantage of bigger, slower defenders. Last season, Gallinari scored 0.97 points per possession in isolation situations, which ranked him the top quarter of the league. He’s a bit of risk on a long-term deal, but could thrive in the right situation for the next few years.
5. JaMychal Green, Memphis Grizzlies (restricted):
Undrafted out of Alabama in 2012, Green bounced around France and the NBA Development League before finally latching on with the Grizzlies. Green muscled his way into the starting lineup this past season and proved he very much belonged. He set career highs across the board and, according to NBA.com, joined Mike Conley and Marc Gasol as the only Grizzlies to tie or lead Memphis on at least four occasions last season in single-game points, rebounds, steals, blocks and minutes. Green brings impressive versatility to both ends of the floor. Defensively, he has the size, strength and quickness to guard multiple positions effectively. Offensively, he shot 50 percent from the floor and 80.2 percent from the free throw stripe. He also added a 3-point shot to his arsenal, knocking down 55 of his 145 attempts (37.9 percent) from downtown last season. Both J-Myke and Zach Randolph hit free agency this summer, which means Memphis may be forced to make the tough decision to invest in the younger, more promising player.
6. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks (team option):
Dirk if fully expected to suit up for the Mavs next season, but Dallas may decline his $25 million option for the 2017-18 campaign in order to retain some financial flexibility. This would enable the Mavs to pursue other free agents with Dirk’s money cleared off the books. Dallas would then simply re-sign Nowitzki to a new deal later in the summer. Dallas has until June 29th to make their decision. Either way, it’s almost a certainty that he’ll continue his historic career in Dallas. Among all active players, Dirk ranks first in points, first in wins, second in rebounds, seventh in blocks and eighth in 3-pointers.
7. James Johnson, Miami Heat:
Playing for his fifth team in his eighth season, Johnson set single-season career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, field goals, 3-pointers and free throws. In fact, his improvement in 2016-17 was the largest in the NBA when factoring in points, rebounds and assists per game averages from last season to the prior year. Per STATS, his +12.9 improvement differential ranked just ahead of Nikola Jokic among all players. In addition to his offensive contributions, Johnson made his preference felt on the other end of the floor as well. According to NBA.com, Johnson allowed opponents he was guarding in isolation situations to shoot just 22 percent, the second-lowest percentage in the NBA among players with at least 50 iso situations. Additionally, Johnson gave up just 0.49 points per isolation possession, which also ranked second best league-wide. Teams with cap space this summer will be asking themselves how feasible it is to expect the 30-year old Johnson to replicate his breakout season next year and beyond. Most GM’s will likely be hesitant to offer a long-term deal.
8. Nikola Mirotic, Chicago Bulls (restricted):
2016-17 was a tale of two halves for Mirotic. In the 48 games played prior to the All-Star break, Nikola averaged 9.0 points while shooting 38.1 percent from the floor and 29.9 percent from 3-point territory. His offensive rating hovered around 105. After the All-Star break, Mirotic averaged 14.2 points per game, while making 46.6 percent of his shots from the field, including 41.3 percent of his 3-point attempts. His offensive rating jumped to just south of 112. In many ways, it was symbolic of his rollercoaster career to this point. He’s interspersed stretches of phenomenal play with terrible slumps and inconsistent effort. Still just 26, Mirotic has an enticingly high upside, but his inconsistency is obviously worrisome.
9. Taj Gibson, Oklahoma City Thunder:
Teams know exactly what they are getting in Gibson. He’s a blue-collar banger who is willing to sacrifice individual stats for the betterment of the team. Despite the fact that he’ll celebrate his 32nd birthday next week, Gibson has shown he is still capable of playing at high level. Last season, before being traded to Oklahoma City in February, he averaged 11.6 points (on 52.1 percent shooting) and 7.0 rebounds for the Bulls. Gibson played fewer minutes for the Thunder, but remained productive. Unlike many power forwards in today’s NBA, Gibson’s range does not extend out to the 3-point arc. However, he consistently protects the paint and controls the glass. He’d be a solid fit on a ‘win now’ team in search of a reliable veteran unafraid to operate in the down low.
10. Patrick Patterson, Toronto Raptors:
It’ll be a hectic summer in Toronto. Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson all become unrestricted free agents on July 1st. Lowry and Ibaka will be the top priorities for GM Masai Ujiri, which could conceivably lead to Patterson’s exit. However, P-Patt’s contributions to Toronto should not be overlooked. Despite pedestrian counting stats (6.8 points and 4.5 rebounds), he led the team in overall Net Rating (plus-10.9) in 2016-17. Even when Patterson wasn’t taking and making 3-pointers, the threat of his long-range shooting kept defenses honest. He posted a usage rate of only 12.5 percent, but his offensive rating (113.4) was actually higher than Kyle Lowry’s OffRtg. The Raps may be forced to part ways with Patterson, which could enable another team to land a quality stretch four at an affordable price.
Best of the Rest:
Dante Cunningham, Jeff Green, Marreese Speights, Thomas Robinson, Jonas Jerebko, David Lee, Nick Collison, Mike Muscala, Christian Wood, Derrick Williams, Luke Babbitt, Brandon Bass, Lavoy Allen (team option), Michael Beasley, Adreian Payne, Terrence Jones, Udonis Haslem.