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NBA Offseason 2017: Predicting Where the Top Free Agents of 2017 Will Land

Gordon Hayward, Utah
Every single season, NBA teams turn to the summer months, when the Draft and free agency can possibly give them the additions they need to succeed. That will especially be the case in 2017, as a very impressive free agent class hits the open market, just at the time teams are desperately looking for any type of help to stop a Cavaliers-Warriors: Round 4. Will Gordon Hayward leave Utah and create a Butler reunion in Boston? Will the Clippers Big 3 split up? Can Derrick Rose resurrect his career? There are certainly plenty of questions to answer, and certainly a lot of things set to happen that could make a big impact across the Association.

Gordon Hayward, SF, Utah Jazz
Projected Suitors: Jazz, Heat, Celtics, Lakers
It doesn't seem too long ago that Gordon Hayward was the star player of Butler's Cinderella 2010 National Championship runner-up, nearly hitting a half-court shot that would have immortalized him in March Madness history forever. Nowadays, Hayward has developed into one of the most underrated players in the league, a dangerous and versatile scorer for the Jazz, who just so happened to have their best season in years as he led the charge. Hayward's ability to score every time he touches the ball, his ability to create mismatches with his 6'8" size and the fact he is just 27 is almost sure to make him one of the most popular names in the free agent market. One of the most likely teams to emerge is going to be Boston. Not only do the Celtics have the cap room to easily swing the move, Brad Stevens was Hayward's coach at Butler and the two have long had a great connection. It could also be very attractive to Hayward if he wants a Championship; an Isaiah Thomas-Hayward-Al Horford Big 3 may not be picked over Cleveland out East, but it might be easier than staying in the stacked Western Conference. Another team sure to go after Hayward aggressively is Miami, who is looking to land their first big name in free agency since their infamous "South Beach Superteam" in 2010. Pat Riley has become one of the NBA's most impressive recruiters, consistently selling NBA stars on the Heat organization and all the flash the city has to offer. Hayward would most likely be able to get the biggest contract with Miami and he would be their No. 1 option right away.
Prediction: Hayward is going to such an interesting player to watch because he could have a huge impact on the Eastern Conference if he does go to Miami or Boston. If he does leave, the Celtics would be my guess, but Hayward seems comfortable in Utah and the Jazz just made the Western Conference semifinals, which shows the franchise is certainly moving in the right direction.
Hayward resigns with Jazz

Kyle Lowry, PG, Toronto Raptors
Projected Suitors: Sixers, Knicks, Spurs, Raptors
Now 31, Kyle Lowry has made it clear what his lone remaining goal, "I just want a ring" he stated after opting out of his Toronto contract, becoming an unrestricted free agent. With career stats of 14.3 PPG and 5.8 APG along with three All-Star games, there is no denying Lowry is an attractive free agent, but there are also questions about him as he hits the open market. After struggles in the postseason throughout his Raptors career can Lowry really win a ring? Is he beginning his decline after an uneven 2016-2017? How much money is he really worth? Those are questions Lowry must answer, but he is still going to get plenty of interest. Inside his own division, Philadelphia and New York both need veteran point guards. The Sixers are an especially attractive offer because Lowry grew up and played college ball in Philadelphia (at Villanova) so it would be somewhat of a homecoming for him, and they have plenty of cap room to give him a hefty contract. Another team that is sure to emerge is San Antonio, who most likely would be Lowry's top choice. The Spurs are likely going to be searching for another point guard due to the fact Tony Parker hasn't been able to stay healthy and is aging. If Lowry does want a ring, San Antonio would most likely be his best chance at this point, although the Sixers do have a bright future. There also remains a chance Lowry could stay in Toronto, although I think its unlikely. The Raptors have been stuck in a tough spot as a consistent contender unable to get over the top and while Lowry has done a ton for this franchise, it just seems like time to move on.
Prediction: While Lowry definitely wants to go to a contender, there isn't a whole lot of options out there if he wants to see significant minutes. I think the possibility of returning to Philly may become more attractive to him as the off-season wears on; the Sixers obviously have a long way to go but they have a bright future and he could be the veteran piece this team needs to take the next step.
Lowry signs with Philadelphia

Paul Millsap, PF, Atlanta Hawks
Projected Suitors: Hawks, Celtics, Jazz, Bulls
While he may not be the most attractive free agent on the market this summer, Paul Millsap has proven he can be a high-quality starting power forward for a contender throughout his time in the league, and plenty would still be willing to give the veteran a big contract. Atlanta has made it clear they want to bring back the power forward, but the presence of Dwight Howard has taken away many of Millsap's post touches, likely leading him to look elsewhere this off-season. A team that should be in the mix would be Boston, who will likely go after a veteran like him if they are unable to land a bigger fish (like Hayward). The Celtics are a terrible rebounding team and it's unlikely that problem will be solved in the Draft, and also an area that Millsap excels in. Millsap will also most likely draw interest from Utah and Chicago, two teams that also want help at power forward. The Jazz originally drafted Millsap, and he enjoyed plenty of success there. He may be intrigued by the opportunity to return to Salt Lake City and operate in a frontcourt where he could still see plenty of minutes. The Bulls are pitiful at power forward and seem to still be operating in win-now mode, which could make them overpay for somebody like Millsap.
Prediction: Millsap is at an interesting place in his career right now. He isn't exactly young anymore but still has plenty left to offer any number of NBA teams. The question for him is whether he wants to take a chance on winning a ring on a better contender (like the Jazz or Celtics) or stay put and likely get a massive contract extension from Atlanta. My guess is he'll stay with the Hawks, who still may have enough to try to get one last shot at a postseason run.
Millsap resigns with Atlanta

Chris Paul, PG, Los Angeles Clippers
Projected Suitors: Clippers, Spurs, Pelicans, Lakers
Nobody in the league can deny that Chris Paul is in the conversation for best point guards in NBA history but there is one big thing missing from his legacy: a ring. In fact, CP3 has never made the conference finals in his career, and his time in Los Angeles has had too many postseason chokes and mistakes. The Clippers will try to keep their core in place, but there is a legitimate chance both CP3 and Blake Griffin opt to head elsewhere, somewhere that might give them a better chance of winning it all. The most obvious choice for Paul is San Antonio, who has reportedly expressed interest in the veteran point guard. The Spurs need help at PG, and Paul's unselfish playmaking abilities and basketball IQ would be an ideal fit in their offense. Also likely trying to make plays for Paul will be New Orleans and the other Los Angeles team, the Lakers, who Paul was traded to in 2011 before commissioner David Stern vetoed the move. The Pelicans have plenty of cap room to work with and may intrigue Paul as a place to return, as he of course, started his career in the Crescent City. He would have quite the supporting cast if that were to be the case, as he could join Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins to form quite a terrifying trio. The Lakers will make a play on him like they do to every free agent, but leaving to a team still in full-on rebuild mode just doesn't make sense at this point in CP3's career.
Prediction: While the Clippers' Big Three of Paul, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have given us plenty of highlights over the years, they've given us more postseason disappointments and terrible chokes. It seems time to move on for Paul, whose only focus right now is winning. The Spurs might not be able to offer him the most money, but if he were to land there they would easily have the best shot of any Western Conference team of knocking off the mighty Warriors.
Paul signs with San Antonio

Derrick Rose, PG, New York Knicks
Projected Suitors: Timberwolves, Sixers, Bucks, Mavericks
Once a shining star in the league, there is no denying that Derrick Rose's knee injuries have robbed him of much of the explosiveness and agility that made him so fun to watch. However, Rose is just 28 years old and while he has had ups-and-downs, he has managed to stay mostly healthy over the past two years. I don't think there is any chance Rose returns to the Big Apple for 2017; he is not a good fit in the triangle or with Carmelo Anthony. That means he'll hit the open market with a ton of options at this fingertips. Any team that needs a point guard could express interest, namely Dallas and Milwaukee. The Mavericks have made it clear they will be looking for a point guard this summer, and while there are plenty of options, Rose would be a good fit in head coach Rick Carlisle's offense. The Bucks are looking for a true point guard to run the show, and while he isn't as fast as he once was, Rose would also be a good fit in their up-tempo, transition-heavy offense. Those are far from the only teams that will likely take a long look at D-Rose. Minnesota, Philadelphia, Sacramento and perhaps even Memphis could take a long at him. The Timberwolves drafted Kris Dunn last summer but still need a point guard for the time being, and seem frustrated with Ricky Rubio's play (they've also been very interested in Rose in the past). Philly will need a point guard to engineer their transformation into a contender, Sacramento could look for an upgrade for Darren Collison, and Memphis needs a quality backup for the injury-prone Mike Conley.
Prediction: Derrick Rose's NBA career is shrouded in mystery at this point. He is still young enough that there is a slim chance he could return to his old form, but his injury history and mediocre play this past season make it tough for anybody to take a chance on him. Considering Minnesota's interest in Rose in the past, and there need for a veteran point guard, they would be my guess, but he truly could go anywhere this summer.
Rose signs with Minnesota

Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles Clippers
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers

Projected Suitors: Clippers, Thunder, Nuggets, Celtics
Blake Griffin hits free agency at a precarious point in his still-young career. The power forward is entering the prime of his career at age 28, but some his elite athleticism and strength are already beginning to fade. Add to that the fact he has missed the last two postseasons with season-ending injuries, and there is some worry surrounding him. Even so, Griffin is an All-Star level big that should draw plenty of interest outside of the Clippers. The team that seems to be the perfect fit would be Oklahoma City. Griffin played college ball at Oklahoma and loves the area, and would also get the opportunity to team up with another elite player in Russell Westbrook. He would also likely be able to slide into a major role on a good team right away, an opportunity not a lot of players get to do. Denver might not be the most attractive free agent destination and they are still years away from serious contention but they would be able to offer Griffin a max contract without any financial maneuvering and he would immediately take over as face of the franchise, along with rising star Nikola Jokic. There is also the slim chance a team like Boston or New York takes a chance on him; the Celtics certainly need help at power forward and have the money to swing him, while the Knicks are always going to be a factor because of the allure of the Big Apple. Then there are the Clippers, who drafted Griffin out of Oklahoma No. 1 overall in 2009. It has been a bumpy ride for Griffin at times in Los Angeles but he still must feel some loyalty to the organization and fans who have stayed with him all these years.
Prediction: There is a chance the Clippers see Chris Paul, J.J. Reddick and Griffin all leave this off-season, although it is hard to see that happening. Reddick will be worth too much so I would assume he is gone, and Paul seems ready to move on. However, Griffin is another story. While Oklahoma City and Denver seem like possible destinations, my guess would be he stays in LA. The Clips would give him plenty of money and he would still be on a roster that has a chance to win, if they can find some other weapons in free agency.
Griffin resigns with Los Angeles

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