We’ll surely hear more about that in the months ahead, as well as talk about other names below. Here’s how the top 10 2016 free agents line up for now:
- Kevin Durant — It’s all gone well so far this season for Durant, who’s on pace for the third-highest scoring average of his career and is showing no ill effects from last season’s broken foot. So, for the first time since we began these rankings in the 2013/14 season, we have a new No. 1. The client of Leon Rose and Rich Kleiman visits his native Washington on Tuesday for the Thunder’s game against the Wizards, so he’ll have lots of questions to answer about his future. (Last ranking: 2)
- LeBron James (player option) — The Rich Paul client has no shortage of power with the Cavs, and his fall from the No. 1 spot on this list isn’t really any fault of his own, even as his scoring is at its lowest level since he was a rookie. James at No. 2 is simply a reflection of the nearly four-year age difference between him and Durant, who just turned 27. Four years is an eternity in an NBA player’s career, and with five straight trips to the Finals, James has endured far more wear and tear than most who are about to turn 31. (Last ranking: 1)
- Mike Conley — Conley, whose father is his agent, isn’t quite looking himself to start the season, but neither is the next player on this list, so we’ll keep the Grizzlies point guard at No. 3. The Nets are reportedly likely to make Conley their top free agent target this summer, but not many people think he’ll leave Memphis, with Marc Gasol having hinted that he’s one of those people. (Last ranking: 3)
- Dwight Howard (player option) — Howard made all 10 of his shots in Wednesday’s game, but aside from that, he hasn’t looked especially sharp, and he’s already taken one game off to preserve his creaky back. The Dan Fegan client isn’t planning the sort of fanfare that surrounded the end of his last contract, but while he remains one of the best centers in the game, he’s no longer the force he was when the drama surrounding his exit from the Magic began. (Last ranking: 4)
- Andre Drummond (restricted) — Drummond isn’t going anywhere, since the Pistons will have the power to match offers and owner Tom Gores regards him as a max player. If the Pistons hadn’t talked him out of an extension, he’d already be locked up for the long term. But he’s on this list as a testament to his growing value. (Last ranking: 5)
- Al Horford — The new Bill Duffy client is averaging 18.0 points per contest through six games, and while it’s early, that’s more than he’s posted in any season except his injury-shortened 2013/14 campaign, when he only made 29 appearances. Horford will turn 30 in June, but he’s showing no signs of slowing down. (Last ranking: 6)
- Bradley Beal (restricted) — Beal, off to a strong start, is essentially in the same situation as Drummond is, since the Wizards reportedly intend to re-sign him for the max in the summer. Beal’s extension negotiation seemed like more of a roundabout affair than Drummond’s, but with Beal expressing his desire to remain in Washington, the Mark Bartelstein client seems willing to go along with the team’s plan to use its cap space before circling back to sign him. (Last ranking: 7)
- DeMar DeRozan (player option) — His three-point shot appears no better, but it hasn’t stopped the Raptors from winning all five of their games so far. The client of Aaron Goodwin is dishing out more assists than ever and appears on his way to a third straight season of scoring more than 20 points per game. The Raptors hedged against his ability to bolt with an extension for Terrence Ross this week. (Last ranking: 9)
- Harrison Barnes (restricted) — The former No. 7 overall pick called off extension talks with the Warriors, long after rejecting a four-year, $64MM offer and switching agents to Jeff Schwartz. Golden State seemed to prefer the extension route, and while they have control over where he plays next season, they don’t hold full sway over how much he’ll get. (Last ranking: Out of top 10)
- Dwyane Wade — The Leon Rose client who turns 34 in January is averaging the same 21.5 points and 4.8 assists through four games this season that he did last year. Those numbers translated to a one-year, $20MM deal for him this past summer, so that’s enough for him to hold off teammate Hassan Whiteside — if just barely — for now. (Last ranking: 10)
Dropped out: Joakim Noah (Last ranking: 8) — It’ll be tough for Noah to maximize his value now that he’s coming off the bench, and he hasn’t made the most of the playing time new Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has given him, averaging just 2.0 points in 18.8 minutes per contest through five games so far.
The following three players can also hit free agency in 2016, but they’re far more likely to retire than leave their respective teams. So, we’re listing them here, in a special section of sorts, and in alphabetical order.
Who are your top 10 2016 free agents? Leave a comment to give us your list.