2017 Free Agent Power Rankings

2017 NBA Free Agent Power Rankings

Amid today’s Christmas festivities, it’s easy to overlook that there are about six months until the NBA’s next free agent frenzy begins. With a new labor deal in place and record revenues flowing in, teams are expected to once again do some serious shopping. We’re coming off a record-setting summer for free agent contracts, and there are reasons to believe it will be eclipsed in 2017.

We published our first list in September, but the events of the past three months have made an update necessary. Injuries to Blake Griffin and Nerlens Noel have affected their standing, while extensions for Giannis Antetokounmpo and Rudy Gobert have removed them from the list.

Remember that players who are ranked high aren’t necessarily expected to change teams when they hit the open market. Kevin Durant is No. 1, but he just signed with Golden State last summer and there’s no reason to think that he would break up one of the league’s power teams. However, Durant has a player option for 2017, so he could leave the Warriors and become the top free agents for a second consecutive summer, which is why he is on the list.

The rankings reflect each player’s expected value on the 2017 free agent market, rather than how we think they’ll perform on the court for the remainder of the 2016/17 season. Age and long-term value are important in their positions.

Here’s the second installment of our 2017 free agent power rankings:

  1. Kevin Durant, F, Warriors (player option): The former MVP is proving to be a perfect fit with Golden State. Even with less scoring responsibility than he had in Oklahoma City, Durant is putting up 25.9 points per game and shooting a career-best .541 from the field. The Warriors had to give up some defense to fit Durant under the cap, but at 27-4 they have remained atop the West and appear headed to a third straight NBA Finals.
  2. Stephen Curry, G, Warriors: Curry’s production is down across the board this season, which is one of the side effects of bringing Durant to the Bay Area. He’s averaging fewer minutes and fewer shots, while his scoring average has dipped from 30.1 to 24.4 points per night. After winning back-to-back MVP Awards, including a unanimous one last season, he’s barely in the discussion this time around. Still, there’s little doubt that he could take over again if needed, and every team with cap room would be interested if he thought seriously about leaving Golden State. Expect the Warriors to reward Curry with a max deal after years of playing at below market value.
  3. Chris Paul, G, Clippers (early termination option): One of the ongoing stories for the rest of the season is whether the Clippers can justify long-term max deals for both Paul and Blake Griffin. L.A. has strung together four straight 50-win seasons, followed by four straight playoff disappointments. At age 31, Paul remains among the NBA’s best point guards and it’s hard to imagine the Clippers being one of the West’s elite teams without him.
  4. Gordon Hayward, F, Jazz (player option): The Jazz were reminded how important Hayward is to their success when he missed seven games with a broken finger to start the season. He has been better than ever since returning, averaging career highs in scoring with 22.0 points per game and rebounding with 6.1 per night. He will be Utah’s top priority this summer as the Jazz try to keep a promising young team together.
  5. Blake Griffin, F, Clippers (early termination option): Griffin’s combination of All-Star talent and relative youth at age 27 still make him a very likely candidate for a max deal. However, there is a growing concern that injuries will haunt him throughout his career. Griffin was limited to just 35 games last season because of a quad injury and a broken hand. He is currently out four to six weeks after arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. He is also coming off his worst season in terms of field goal percentage and PER. If he does become a free agent, teams will have to weigh the risk involved in giving him a max deal.
  6. Kyle Lowry, G, Raptors (player option): Age is the only factor working against a maximum contract for Lowry, who will turn 31 in March. He has teamed with DeMar DeRozan to give the Raptors one of the league’s best backcourts and bring a legitimate title contender to Toronto. Lowry has stepped up his game even further this season, averaging a career-best 21.8 points per night to go with 7.3 assists.
  7. Paul Millsap, F/C, Hawks (player option): The 31-year-old has established himself as one of the NBA’s most reliable power forwards since signing with Atlanta in 2013. He has averaged 17.3 points and 8.4 rebounds as a Hawk and has shown great durability, missing just one game last season. Like Lowry, age is the only thing working against a max deal for Millsap, who will turn 32 in February.
  8. Serge Ibaka, F/C, Magic: The Magic’s offseason moves haven’t produced the contender they were hoping for, but Ibaka has been a nice addition. The 27-year-old power forward is scoring a career-best 15.3 points per night and is blocking nearly two shots per game. He figures to be part of the long-term future in Orlando.
  9. Danilo Gallinari, F, Nuggets (player option): Gallinari reportedly blocked a trade at last year’s deadline, so there’s no doubt that the versatile forward is in demand. He’s having another fine season at 16.6 points per game, but repeated injury problems remain a concern. Gallinari hasn’t played more than 59 games since the 2012/13 season.
  10. George Hill, G, Jazz: Injury problems have limited Hill to just 11 games so far, but when he has been in the lineup, the Jazz have been pleased with the results. Hill is averaging a career-high 20 points per game and is looking like the right guy to run Utah’s offense. Expect the Jazz to try hard to keep Hill after giving up a first-rounder to get him over the summer.

The following 2017 free agents didn’t quite crack our list, earning honorable mention:

11. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, G, Pistons
12. Derrick Rose, G, Knicks
13. Otto Porter, F, Wizards
14. Jeff Teague, G, Pacers
15. Jrue Holiday, G, Pelicans
16. Rudy Gay, F, Kings (player option)
17. Nerlens Noel, C/F, Sixers
18. Dwyane Wade, G, Bulls (player option)
19. Greg Monroe, C/F, Bucks (player option)
20. Mason Plumlee, C/F, Trail Blazers

2017 NBA Free Agent Power Rankings

After losing arguably the top free agent of the 2016 class to the Warriors, the Thunder ensured that they won’t watch their other superstar walk away next summer, locking up Russell Westbrook to a new contract extension earlier in the offseason. Westbrook’s absence from the 2017 free agent list takes a little star power away from the group, but it’s still an intriuging list.

The players who sit at the top of the first installment of our 2017 free agent power rankings aren’t necessarily expected to change teams next July. It would be a shock to see Kevin Durant leave Golden State after a year, for instance, but he does have a player option for 2017, meaning he could depart, and has to be featured on our list.

Similarly, there are a handful of restricted free agents on our lists who will probably get maximum-salary contracts – or close to it – from their current teams, perhaps even within the next couple months while they’re extension-eligible. For now though, the slim chance that they reach the open market means they have to earn spots on our list.

While this is our first extended look at 2017’s top free agents, it certainly won’t be our last. Injuries, breakout years, trades, or poor performances could affect these rankings significantly over the course of the 2016/17 season, so we’ll be revisiting the list every month or two to make updates and changes.

Our list reflects each player’s expected value on the 2017 free agent market, rather than how we think they’ll perform on the court for the 2016/17 season. For instance, older players like Pau Gasol and Zach Randolph have strong short-term value, but didn’t make our top 20 because they’re unlikely to inspire major bidding wars next summer. In other words, age and long-term value is important.

Here’s the first installment of our 2017 free agent power rankings:Read more