If this summer’s contracts blew your mind, just wait until next year. The salary cap is going to jump even higher, so more Mozgovian deals will go down. Every NBA player entering a contract year knows that free agency could bring the biggest long-term contract he will ever sign. For these 15 in particular, the 2016-17 season will be about proving something.
The shot-blocking and floor-spacing big man reportedly wanted a bigger role in Oklahoma City, and this is his chance to show that he deserves one. Orlando desperately needs some more scoring and playmaking, so there’s no better place for Ibaka to try to expand his game.
A couple of years ago, every team wanted someone like Ibaka. His efficiency dropped when Kevin Durant missed most of the 2014-15 season, though, and his 3-point shooting fell off last year (until the playoffs started, anyway). He’s still one of the best rim protectors in the league, but he has spent more time on the perimeter on both ends in the last two years. If that’s where he’s going to stay, then he needs to be a consistent shooter and a willing passer.
A 6-foot-10 forward who can get to the free-throw line at will and knock down 3-pointers? Gallinari is perfectly suited for today’s NBA, and if he didn’t have a history of health problems, the 28-year-old would be in line for a max deal.
The good news: Gallinari eventually did recover from tearing his ACL in April 2013. The bad news: He still only played 53 games last year, missing the last seven weeks of the season because of an ankle injury. Gallinari needs to stay on the court and help the Nuggets win — if that happens, maybe teams will look past the injuries and give him a long-term contract.
Oladipo could sign an extension before the Oct. 31 deadline, but he is seeking a max contract, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe. If he doesn’t budge on that, then the most likely scenario is that he becomes a restricted free agent next summer. In between now and then, he can solidify his big payday by defending like crazy and improving his 3-point percentage again. He made a career-high 34.8 percent of his 3s last year.
Like Steven Adams, the Thunder’s center, Durant’s departure means that Oladipo will have an opportunity to carve out a significant role as Russell Westbrook’s sidekick. Unlike Adams, though, Oladipo has never been a major part of a winning team.
The Hawks have already bet big on Schröder by trading Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers. They have yet to extend his contract, though, and they’re probably waiting to see what happens when he is given the reins as a full-time starter.
For much of the past two seasons, Atlanta’s offense has been great because the pieces all fit together. The Hawks had great timing, chemistry and instincts. Things will look different with Schröder and Dwight Howard in the starting lineup, and it’s largely up to the point guard to make everything work. There are doubts about his ability to do that, given his tendency to over-dribble and his shaky jumper. He is talented, however, and few players can get to the basket the way that he can.
At last season’s media day with the Chicago Bulls, Rose said that he was already looking forward to being a free agent in 2017. He noticed all the money being thrown around then, and that was nothing compared to what happened this offseason. Now he has a fresh start in New York and an opportunity to play himself into another massive deal.
It’s easy to be pessimistic about Rose’s future. Five seasons have passed since he won MVP, and it does not look like he’ll ever be the sort of star that he was before his first major knee injury. If you’re looking for hope, though, then Rose’s post-All-Star break numbers were encouraging: he averaged 17.4 points and 4.6 assists while shooting 46.8 percent and making 37.5 percent of his 3-pointers. Maybe he can build on that.
It’s hard not to feel bad for Holiday, who has appeared in just 139 games for the Pelicans in three seasons. He is only 26 years old, but a right leg injury ruined his 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons and kept him on a minutes restriction for the first part of last year. He then missed the end of last season because Kristaps Porzingis’ elbow fractured the orbital wall on his right eye.
Much like Gallinari, it’s been a while since the league has seen Holiday fully healthy for an extended period of time. He’s a solid point guard on both ends, and he’s the sort of player that New Orleans should want to play alongside Anthony Davis. This season is all about proving that he has put all those leg issues behind him.
CBS Sports’ Matt Moore has already looked at the Monroe conundrum in detail. He’s a gifted scorer who can rebound and occasionally draw double teams, but he lacks the defensive ability and shooting that is almost demanded from modern big men. The Bucks gave him big money a year ago, but all the trade rumors indicate they regret it.
Monroe has the option of becoming a free agent again and looking for a better fit, but there are now serious doubts about whether or not you can win with him playing major minutes. Milwaukee has already experimented with bringing him off the bench.
Given his production, the Raptors got Sullinger for a bargain one-year contract worth $5.6 million. It is telling, however, that he ended up agreeing to a short-term deal. After four seasons in the NBA, Sullinger has not shown that he can control his weight, and John Lucas’ comments on the subject in July weren’t exactly encouraging.
In Toronto, Sullinger could end up starting at power forward and playing backup center. Best-case scenario: he’s next summer’s Bismack Biyombo. Worst-case scenario: This is the first of many one-year deals where teams hope they can help him figure things out.
Like Sullinger, Jennings bet on himself with a one-year contract. The Knicks gave him $5 million to be Rose’s backup, and they have to hope that he plays like he did for the Detroit Pistons before he tore his Achilles in 2015. If he does, then he could become a starter again.
Beyond just regaining his quickness and athleticism, though, Jennings needs to have the confidence of the coaching staff and the freedom to play his game. If New York insists on running the triangle offense, he could be stifled.
It feels like a million years since the Kings celebrated Evans’ 20-5-5 averages in his Rookie of the Year season. That was 2010, and unfortunately it is still the high-water mark of his career.
Quietly, Evans has improved as a distributor during his three years in New Orleans. He is still as ball-dominant as ever, and he is not as effective a defender as his strength and size suggest that he should be. A knee injury kept him out of the lineup for most of last season, and he is not expected to be healthy for the start of this year. When he does return, his upcoming free agency will put pressure on him to perform.
Like Evans, Carter-Williams is a former Rookie of the Year who hasn’t quite found his niche. Everybody knows about his broken jump shot, but he can survive as a Shaun Livingston-esque playmaker if he gets better in other areas. That means fewer turnovers, better free-throw shooting and continued improvement on his floater.
The challenge, however, is that Carter-Williams will likely have to work on this stuff as a backup. Giannis Antetokounmpo is expected to play point forward, with Matthew Dellavedova potentially starting and spacing the floor. Milwaukee already showed it wasn’t going to wait around for Carter-Williams to develop by moving him to the bench for 17 games last year.
In November 2014, Gay agreed to a three-year contract extension with the Kings. He could have played out the season and hit free agency, but he said at the time that he trusted owner Vivek Ranadive, general manager Pete D’Alessandro and coach Michael Malone. In December of that same year, Malone was fired. Later that season, Vlade Divac had usurped D’Alessandro.
Gay made a mistake by agreeing to that deal, and he turned 30 in August with only seven playoff games on his resume. His reputation as a one-dimensional gunner has not been helped in Sacramento, even if the team’s problems have had nothing to do with him. His name has been in trade rumors, and an efficient season — preferably with some team success — would do wonders for his value.
Porter improved in his third year in the NBA, but it was still seen as a disappointment for some Wizards fans after his terrific playoff performance in 2015. At 22 years old, he has plenty of upside, but the front office might want to see more before making a big investment in him. He is eligible for an extension until Oct. 31.
With new coach Scott Brooks potentially making major changes, Porter might have to make some adjustments to his game. He is probably best as a smallball 4, and if he can become more of a stopper, then he could be the versatile forward that Washington needs next to John Wall and Bradley Beal long-term.
It’s safe to say the Kings didn’t give McLemore the best environment to grow as a young NBA player. Through three seasons, his production has not come close to meeting his potential as an athletic slasher, 3-point shooter and perimeter defender.
New coach Dave Joerger would be wise to let McLemore and Arron Afflalo compete for the starting shooting guard spot. McLemore’s skills suggest that Sacramento should not give up on him just yet. If he fails to make an impact, though, then he’ll be seen as a reclamation project in free agency. Reclamation projects do not get big contracts.
Speaking of reclamation projects, the Jazz gave up on the No. 9 pick in the 2013 draft and sent him to Washington for nothing but a future second-round pick. As Wall’s backup, Burke won’t get a ton of minutes with the Wizards, and expectations will be low.
In college, Burke was a creative offensive point guard who could finish over bigger players. That skill has not translated against NBA competition, and his size and relative lack of athleticism hurts him on defense. If he can’t establish himself as a reliable rotation player in his fourth season, uh-oh.
Source: CBS Sports / Serge Ibaka, Derrick Rose among 2017 NBA free agents with something to prove