Rod Beard of The Detroit News makes 10 predictions for NBA free agency.
1. There will be plenty of movement of top stars: Well, not the Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant or Steph Curry — because, why would they leave? But Gordon Hayward, Blake Griffin, Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap and a few others likely will be sporting jerseys for different teams when next season begins. That’ll make for an intriguing period of free agency — if for no other reasons, just the possibilities.
2. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope stays with the Pistons — for less than the max: There have been plenty of indications that teams such as the Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers and Sacramento Kings might present Caldwell-Pope an offer sheet for a max deal, forcing the Pistons’ hands to match the terms if they want to keep him. Brooklyn seems most likely, but if the Nets are more focused on Otto Porter, that could change things, leaving the Pistons in better financial shape.
3. The Celtics will not end up with Paul George: Logic says the Celtics and team president Danny Ainge have all the bargaining chips they need to pull off a blockbuster deal to get one of the free agents most likely to change teams. But they won’t overpay the Pacers for George if the risk that he’ll bolt for Los Angeles after next season is too great.
4. The Celtics will not be good enough to knock off the Cavaliers: Ainge might be trying to slow-play his hand, after gathering all the assets and pondering his options. But unless the Celtics are able to grab Gordon Hayward and another superstar, they’ll be right back where they were this year, as the runners-up in the East. It’s not about waiting for LeBron James to retire, but being too patient and waiting for a great deal could hurt them.
5. The Pistons will end up standing pat: It won’t be from a lack of trying, though. Pistons president Stan Van Gundy and general manager Jeff Bower have considered some deals in recent weeks, but none has moved the needle enough to make them jump. If they can get Caldwell-Pope back on a matched offer sheet, they could be set, beyond a few smaller moves in free agency.
6. The West will continue to get richer: When all the dust settles and the big-name free agents get their new deals, the balance of power still will be heavily geared to the Western Conference. The Rockets improved with the trade for Chris Paul, the Timberwolves got Jimmy Butler and the Lakers are salivating, awaiting Paul George.
7. The Timberwolves will get really good, really quickly: Maybe that’s not such a bold prediction, but after adding Butler to pair with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, they have the pieces to make the playoffs — finally, for the first time since 2003-04 — even if they don’t make another big move. If they’re able to get Kyle Lowry from the Raptors, things could get really interesting.
8. Andre Iguodala will leave the Warriors: He’s benefited from being around the superstars, but as with Harrison Barnes last year, the allure of a big payday is hard to walk away from. At age 33, he has a couple good years left — and he can cash in now with a hefty contract.
9. The Pistons move up in the East by … doing nothing: Beyond the balance of power swinging more to the West, the Pistons can improve their standing if they get a healthy Reggie Jackson and don’t do much more. The Bulls, Raptors, Hawks and Pacers could be down a bit next year, leaving a void in the middle of the playoff teams.
10. The Clippers still will make the playoffs next season: Even with the departure of Chris Paul — and likely Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick — they got enough back in the trade from the Rockets to stay relevant. The problem will be building chemistry early in the season and possibly trying to add a piece at the trade deadline next year. In another year or two, though, they could return to secondary status in L.A.