After the draft, front offices turn their attention to free agents. The available talent should create summer drama in terms of major acquisitions and re-signings.
On Friday, reports revealed two prominent names on the same team plan to decline their player options to hit the free-agent market. The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that Blake Griffin will opt out of his deal:
Shortly after, Los Angeles Times reporter Brad Turner revealed Chris Paul will also join the market:
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Los Angeles Clippers stars plan to test the waters in an attempt to land max deals. However, it’s not a foregone conclusion either will re-sign with the team. One Western Conference club already has Paul and Griffin in its crosshairs.
What’s the latest on the big names looking to sign on the dotted line this summer?
Rockets Prepared to Pursue Chris Paul
Monitor the Houston Rockets as a team to watch going into free agency. As a postseason contender the previous year, an impact acquisition could push this club over the top as the primary challengers to the Golden State Warriors.
According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, the Rockets plan on acquiring a top-notch free agent, and there’s a specific target on Paul’s back.
“One source close to the situation told ESPN to expect the Rockets to go ‘hard’ after Paul in July,” Stein said.
A backcourt featuring James Harden and the nine-time All-Star guard could bring the Rockets to the Western Conference Finals, presumably against the Warriors in 2018.
Paul will have the opportunity to sign a max deal with the Clippers, but the chance to pair with Harden could either intrigue or turn him off because of a potential ball-handling conflict between the two.
If Paul surprisingly signs with the Rockets, Harden would likely shift back to playing the off-guard role.
Mavericks Prioritize Nerlens Noel
Earlier in the offseason, Scout writer Mike Fisher reported multiple teams will offer a max deal to Nerlens Noel on the free-agent market. The Dallas Mavericks could match an offer to retain the restricted free agent or pay him approximately $146 million over five years to keep him away from the competition.
According to Stein, re-signing the 23-year-old rim protector ranks as a top priority for the Mavericks:
Dallas likely wants to solidify roster cornerstones as the 39-year-old Dirk Nowitzki prepares to relinquish the reins as the focal point on offense. Noel brings defensive expertise, but the addition of dynamic rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. could open space and aid the 6’11” center in scoring opportunities. As the Mavericks roster gets younger, the front office seems focused on locking up the team’s new core and building chemistry.
Shown in Stein’s tweet above, the Mavericks also have an interesting in signing Jrue Holiday, which would allow the coaching staff to experiment with Smith as an off-guard.
Another Former Chicago Bulls Player Going to Minnesota?
First, there was Jimmy Butler. Now there’s talk about Derrick Rose reuniting with former Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau at the Minnesota Timberwolves. However, the 28-year-old guard’s agent, B.J. Armstrong, would prefer to talk to the New York Knicks before rekindling the past, per New York Post reporter Marc Berman.
“There are a lot of rumors and especially because of their shared history and Derrick won MVP with him. He’s aware of his offensive and defensive systems, so there’s definitely history there. It’s expected, comes with the territory. They both have an understanding for each other—both basketball people who are consumed by it. They know each other. But Tom’s in Minnesota. We’ve finished up in New York and we’ll see what happens. I’ve been around long enough to know anything is possible.“
Rose has expressed interest in re-signing with the Knicks after a decent season ended with another knee injury. In April, he tore his right meniscus.
Despite posting 18 points and 4.4 assists per game, team president Phil Jackson can’t be too encouraged with the former MVP coming off a fourth career knee surgery.
The Knicks selected Frank Ntilikina at No. 8 in the draft, and he’s projected to take over the lead guard responsibilities. At this point, Rose’s minutes should be reduced to a backup role. In the right price range, Jackson may consider re-signing the three-time All-Star. Then again, Thibodeau may step forward with a better offer.
“If it were up to Tom, he’d reunite with all his former Bulls players,” one general manager told Berman.
Rose isn’t exactly a marquee free agent at this stage in his career, but there’s a market for him with a reasonable price tag. In New York, Rose may begin the season as the starting point guard until Ntilikina finds his way toward the end of the year. With the Minnesota Timberwolves, he’d stand behind Ricky Rubio but see some familiar faces in Butler and Thibodeau to ease the transition.
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