- As we heard late last night, the Celtics are one of the teams to schedule a meeting with Dwight Howard early in the free agent recruiting period. However, Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe (Twitter link) hears that Boston isn’t expected to aggressively pursue Howard — the team is doing its homework, and could make an effort to land the veteran center if the price is right.
11:17am: Durant’s meeting with the Heat will occur on Sunday, according to an ESPN.com report from Broussard and Stein.
11:00am: Kevin Durant‘s schedule for the next several days is beginning to take shape, with a handful of reporters filling in the details on the star forward’s free agent tour. According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard (via Twitter), Durant will have his first meeting with his current team, sitting down with the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Thursday.
Once free agency officially begins on Friday, Durant will head to the Hamptons in New York for the rest of his meetings, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Per Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, Durant will meet with the Warriors on Friday afternoon in the Hamptons. Meanwhile, sources tell Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link) that the Spurs’ pitch to the former MVP is scheduled for Saturday.
In addition to meeting with the Thunder, Warriors, and Spurs, Durant also has sit-downs lined up with the Heat, Celtics, and Clippers, and those meetings will take place over the first few days of July, says Broussard (via Twitter). The ESPN reporter adds (via Twitter) that the Knicks are still receiving consideration for a meeting, while the Lakers won’t get one. There’s no mention of the Hawks, who are also trying to “wedge their way” into the Durant sweepstakes, but it doesn’t look like Atlanta will get an audience with KD.
Durant has said that his top priority for his next destination is competing for a championship, and being able to do so immediately. Wojnarowski recently reported that the 27-year-old has plans to go on a publicity tour starting on July 9th, so he’ll likely make a decision before that date.
While a two-year contract with an opt-out after the first year makes the most financial sense for Durant, who could land a much larger max contract in 2017, there have been increased rumblings that he’s not eager to go through the free agent process again in a year, so it’s possible he’ll sign a long-term contract with the team he chooses.
Dwight Howard has begun to formally schedule meetings with potential suitors, according to Marc Stein and Chris Broussard of ESPN.com, who report that the free agent center is set to meet with the Hawks and the Celtics when the recruiting period gets underway. Howard will likely meet with as many as five teams, with the Heat among the other teams to show “preliminary interest,” per the ESPN duo.
Howard, 30, declined his 2016/17 player option with the Rockets, opting to hit the open market in July instead. Howard would have earned more than $23MM had he exercised his option, and while it remains to be seen if he’ll match that ’16/17 figure on his new deal, there’s no shortage of teams with interest, and the eight-time All-Star should have no problem landing a multiyear contract.
Stein reported on Tuesday that Atlanta would seriously consider Howard as a free agent target if the team was unable to wedge its way into the Kevin Durant sweepstakes. According to Stein, the Hawks would go after Howard with the idea of playing him alongside Al Horford in their frontcourt. Of course, Horford himself is a free-agent-to-be and he’s not a lock to re-sign with the Hawks, so Howard could also represent a viable replacement at center for Atlanta.
As for the Celtics, they have a ton of cap room and have been linked to a handful of free agent centers, including Horford and Hassan Whiteside. The Heat, meanwhile, could enter the Howard derby if Whiteside departs in free agency.
Besides Atlanta, Boston, and Miami, some of the teams that have been mentioned as possible suitors for Howard this summer include the Bucks, the Trail Blazers, the Hornets, the Knicks, and even the Rockets, who reportedly tried to encourage D12 to opt in for 2016/17. However, Stein and Broussard indicate a reunion between Howard and the Rockets is unlikely.
Howard’s time in Houston probably can’t be considered a huge success, despite the fact that the Rockets made the Western Conference Finals in his second year with the franchise. The former first overall pick was never really a perfect complement for star shooting guard James Harden, and saw his involvement in the team’s offense decline during the past two seasons. Howard made 71 appearances for the Rockets in 2015/16, averaging 13.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.63 blocks in 32.1 minutes per game. He shot 62% from the field, but just 48.9% from the free-throw line.
The prevailing wisdom heading into free agency has suggested that Kevin Durant is likely to sign a two-year contract with a second-year player option this summer. After all, opting out a year from now and signing a long-term deal at that point figures to be the best way for the star forward to maximize his earnings.
Still, we’ve heard whispers that Durant may prefer to simply sign a long-term pact now to avoid having free agency looming over him for another year, and Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders cites sources close to the former MVP who echo that sentiment. According to Kyler, Oklahoma City remains the frontrunner for Durant, but the free-agent-to-be will hear out and consider all his suitors, and could make a long-term commitment to the team he signs with, whether that’s the Thunder or another club.
Here’s more from Kyler on a few of this summer’s top free agents:
- Mike Conley is expected to listen to some free agent pitches, but will likely give the Grizzlies the last word, writes Kyler. Conley would like to see Memphis be aggressive about adding talent to fortify the roster if he’s going to return. If the veteran point guard decides to go elsewhere, the Mavericks, Rockets, Spurs, and even the Nets are among his potential landing spots, per Kyler.
- The Lakers, Mavericks, Celtics, and Hornets are some of the teams expected to make a push for Hassan Whiteside if the Heat waver on offering him a max contract, says Kyler.
- Kyler identifies the Heat as a potential dark horse in the Al Horford sweepstakes, if Whiteside does leave Miami. Horford is believed to be the next target on the team’s wish list, and that interest may be mutual, Kyler writes.
- There’s mutual interest between Rajon Rondo and the Nets, who could be the favorites to land the point guard. However, according to Kyler, Rondo wouldn’t want to be Brooklyn’s only high-profile addition this summer, so the Nets might have to make a commitment to another notable free agent if they hope to lure Rondo.
- Dwight Howard could end up being a primary target this offseason for teams like the Bucks, Trail Blazers, and Hornets, who aren’t necessarily expected to get involved with many top-tier free agents, per Kyler. Sources close to Howard and the Magic indicate to Kyler that the odds of D12 returning to Orlando are slim, despite the fact that the team expects to be active on the open market.
- Kyler adds the Lakers and Grizzlies to the list of teams with interest in Ryan Anderson, and notes that there’s mutual interest between Anderson and the Wizards. Sources also tell Kyler that Anderson would prefer to land with a playoff team.
- Despite not being able to pull off a big draft night trade to land a star player, the Celtics‘ players are still behind team executive Danny Ainge and believe he did the right thing by not pulling the trigger on any of the rumored deals Boston was linked to, Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com notes (ESPN Now link). “We trust Danny [Ainge] and we believe in Danny. And we know Danny made the right decision. We stand behind him 100%,” point guard Marcus Smart told Forsberg.
Six teams – including the Thunder – have lined up free agent meetings with Kevin Durant so far, but there are still a handful of other clubs vying for the opportunity to sit down with the star forward. According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, one of those clubs is the Hawks, who are trying to “wedge their way” into the KD sweepstakes.
As July approaches, Atlanta’s top free agent priorities involve re-signing Al Horford and Kent Bazemore, but the Hawks are also working to convince Durant and his representatives to allow them to make a face-to-face pitch. According to Stein, the chances of such a meeting occurring appear dim for now, but Grant Hill – a member of the Hawks’ ownership group – is expected to lead the club’s lobbying efforts, giving Atlanta a glimmer of hope.
Atlanta’s pursuit of Durant may be a long shot, but if the team falls short in its pursuit of its top target, it has at least one more big-name free agent on its list of possible alternatives. Stein reports that the Hawks are strongly considering pursuing Atlanta native Dwight Howard, who will also hit the open market this week.
According to Stein, the Hawks would go after Howard with the idea of playing him alongside Horford in their frontcourt. However, Howard could also represent a viable alternative at center if Horford ultimately signs elsewhere. While Atlanta is optimistic about retaining the All-Star center, Horford is expected to draw interest from the Lakers, Rockets, Magic, Pistons, Wizards, Celtics, and Nets, among other teams, Stein writes.
The Hawks are currently projected to have about $47MM in guaranteed salary on their books for 2016/17, which includes cap holds for their two first-round picks, but not Jeff Teague‘s $8MM salary. Even if the team re-signs Horford, there could still be room for another max or near-max salary.
8:08pm: Durant will not meet with his hometown Wizards, J. Michael of CSNMidatlantic.com reports. The Wizards have already moved on with their free agency plans, as league sources told Michael that the idea of returning home “doesn’t resonate” with Durant.
MONDAY, 12:41pm: Durant and his representatives have now scheduled meetings with the Celtics, Clippers, and Heat, bringing the total number of meetings on tap for KD to six, reports ESPN’s Chris Broussard. A meeting with the Knicks also remains in play, but hasn’t yet been confirmed.
FRIDAY, 10:44pm: The Warriors, Spurs and Thunder will be the first three teams to land face-to-face recruiting meetings with Kevin Durant, writes Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Stein adds that the meetings will take place next week and more teams are expected to be granted an opportunity to make a pitch. Durant’s representatives are working to solidify meetings with the Celtics, Clippers and Heat in addition to the aforementioned teams, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports.
Both the Warriors and Spurs are planning on having key members of their respective organizations in attendance, Stein adds. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will be among the attendees for Golden State’s pitch, while San Antonio will have Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan among the attendees at its meeting. Sources tell Stein that the Warriors believe their chances of landing Durant have increased as a result of losing to the Cavs in the NBA Finals. Earlier this week, a source suggested to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News that the Warriors appear to be the biggest threat to land the 2013/14 MVP should he leave Oklahoma City.
Durant is expected to have his agent Rich Kleiman and a few family members and friends alongside him during the initial meetings. The meetings are expected to take place in New York, according to Wojnarowski, although teams are still awaiting official word. It was reported last week that the meetings would take place in Los Angeles, where Durant owns a home.
The Knicks and Lakers remain hopeful about getting a meeting, Stein adds. Despite no definite report of a future meeting with Durant, Ian Begley of ESPN.com tweets that the Knicks are expected to get one.
The Rockets are not expected to get serious consideration, as was previously reported, and Stein adds that the Wizards are not optimistic about their chances of landing Durant.
Durant’s top priority for a destination remains competing for a championship and doing it immediately. A source tells Wojnarowski that Durant has plans to go on a publicity tour starting on July 9, and he expects to make a decision before that date.
The Lakers and Wizards are not expected to be granted a meeting with Kevin Durant once free agency begins, reports Sam Amick of USA Today. Amick adds that New York is back on Durant’s radar as a result of the Derrick Rose trade. The Knicks are expected to sit down with the 2013/14 MVP, as are the Spurs, Warriors, Celtics, Heat, and Clippers in addition to the Thunder.
The list of teams expected to be in the mix for Al Horford‘s services is expanding. It was previously reported that the Magic, Pistons, Lakers and Rockets would be attempting to poach the big man from the Hawks. The Wizards, Celtics and Heat are also expected to pursue the 30-year-old, according to Darren Wolfson of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Wolfson adds that the Wolves will likely try to make a run at Horford, but are unlikely to get him to sign.
The Hawks are reportedly viewed as the frontrunner to lock up Horford since they can offer the most money and years. Atlanta intends to put a max deal on the table. He just finished up his ninth year in the league, meaning he’s eligible for the second-tier max salary this summer.
He could certainly take LeBron James‘ path and sign a shorter deal with an opt out after one season. Such a move would vault him into the third-tier max salary next offseason, which would allow him a starting salary of nearly 35% cap instead of the roughly 30% he is currently eligible for. Still, as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors pointed out, given his age, he might opt to take long-term security.
Horford played in all 82 games last season for the first time in his career. He is a career 53.5% shooter from the field and a 34.0% shooter from behind the arc. He matched a career high in blocks with 1.5 per contest last season and he ranked 7th in the league among centers in ESPN’s Real Plus/Minus.