Two months from now, it’ll be the 10th day of NBA free agency and most of the major names will already be off the board. Time is ticking toward the meat of the offseason even as the playoffs churn forward. It’s been a rough postseason for many of the best players on expiring contracts as several within our top 10 suffered injuries, failed to perform up to their normal standards, or both. It just makes what the top name on this list decides to do all the more important. Here’s our latest ranking of the elite 2016 NBA free agents:
- Kevin Durant — Last season’s injury seems like a distant memory as the Warriors and Spurs, who averaged 70 wins between them this year, prepare to make major overhauls if necessary to land the former MVP. The Thunder would need to make no such changes but seemingly need to prove they can hang with two historically great teams in the playoffs. Regardless, the next two months will be fascinating for Durant and the balance power atop the NBA. Last time: No. 1.
- LeBron James (player option) — It’s easy to forget, amid the Durant hubbub and more competitive series elsewhere, that James is about to hit free agency for the third summer in a row. Still, no serious questions about his commitment to Cleveland have surfaced this year, and any uncertainty surrounding the Cavs will likely have much more to do with his supporting cast should the team again fall short of a title. Last time: No. 2.
- Andre Drummond (restricted) — The Pistons center slumped down the stretch, and Tristan Thompson and the Cavaliers held him to just nine rebounds per game in the playoffs after he averaged a league-high 14.8 in the regular season. Still, the momentum toward new “Hack-a-Shaq” rules promises to mitigate his poor free-throw shooting and enhance his value to the Pistons, who’ll be keeping him this summer. Last time: No. 3.
- Al Horford — His rebounding also disappeared against Thompson and the Cavs, and it wasn’t otherwise a stellar postseason for the big man who turns 30 in June, but Horford embodies the versatility required of modern centers, especially given his sudden development of a 3-point game. His age will concern some teams, but assuming his comments this week don’t mean he’s completely sold on staying in Atlanta, he’s the best of the obtainable free agent big men. Last time: No. 5
- Dwight Howard (player option) — Some teams that don’t mind baggage and have faith that Howard’s declining offensive production was merely a function of Houston’s offense will rank the new Perry Rogers client in front of Horford. Howard is not what he used to be, but he remains an elite rebounder. The Magic, Bucks, Blazers and Hornets are reportedly the front-runners for him at last check. Last time: No. 6.
- DeMar DeRozan (player option) — Perhaps no one has had as disconcerting a playoff run as DeRozan has. His points per game, free-throw attempts per game and, most notoriously, his field-goal percentage, are all down markedly. Still, it’s probably not enough of a slump to dissuade the Raptors from committing a max deal to a player who’s expressed his affection for Toronto at every opportunity and who’s coming off career highs in points per game and 3-point percentage. Last time: No. 4.
- Mike Conley — It was a lost spring in Memphis as Conley was among the many Grizzlies who suffered season-ending injuries. It’s never a positive sign for anyone’s free agency to succumb to a sore Achilles tendon, but it didn’t tear, and it doesn’t appear as though the injury to his left leg will threaten his long-term health. More worrisome for the Grizzlies is Conley’s wait-and-see approach to his free agency, seemingly opening the door for teams with cap flexibility and a need at point guard, with the Nets and Knicks most prominent among them. Last time: No. 7.
- Bradley Beal (restricted) — It was an up-and-down year for Beal, who averaged a career-high 17.4 points per game but shot below 40% from 3-point range for the first time since he was a rookie. He played in 55 games, the fewest of his four NBA seasons, and admitted he’ll probably have to watch his minutes for the rest of his career. Still, it’s unlikely to dissuade the Wizards from committing the max to a promising talent who’s still only 22. Last time: No. 8.
- Nicolas Batum — An injury variously described as a left foot strain and a sprained left ankle interrupted the playoffs for Batum, and though he made it back to play before Charlotte’s seventh-game elimination at the hands of Miami, he clearly wasn’t himself. That probably won’t matter this summer, with the Hornets seemingly prepared to go all-in to keep him the Bouna Ndiaye client who fit in well during his lone season with Charlotte. Last time: No. 9.
- Hassan Whiteside — It’s oddly fitting that the top 10 would end with a player who’s injured and whose numbers declined in the playoffs, given how the past month and a half has gone for the top free agents of 2016. Still, Whiteside regained his starting role just before the postseason and posted five double-doubles in 10 playoff games. Agent Sean Kennedy is closing in on the opportunity to take Whiteside from the minimum salary to the max in the span of less than two years. Last time: No. 10.
His miserable half-season in Dallas still clouds his reputation, but Rajon Rondo delivered one of his best seasons yet in the relative obscurity of Sacramento, where DeMarcus Cousins and former coach George Karl siphoned most of the headlines. The 30-year-old point guard who tied his career high with 11.7 assists and shattered his previous high with 36.5% 3-point shooting leads our next 10 free agents:
11. Rajon Rondo
12. Dwyane Wade
13. Chandler Parsons (player option)
14. Harrison Barnes (restricted)
15. Evan Fournier (restricted)
16. Ryan Anderson
17. Pau Gasol (player option)
18. Luol Deng
19. Kent Bazemore
20. Jordan Clarkson (restricted and subject to Gilbert Arenas Provision)