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With free agency finally over, here are 2017’s prominent free agents

Russell Westbrook
Photo: Kathy Willens/Associated Press

With July 7th’s moratorium-ending deadline coming and passing, free agency seems to be ceasing to an end, and general managers around the league now turn to the 2017 class of superstars unsigned to their incumbent franchises. Thunder‘s Westbrook has already started making rumors, with the point guard reportedly refusing to sign an extension and risking a blockbuster trade from general manager Sam Presti, but here are some other big name free agents that could potentially relocate after this season’s campaign:

Russell Westbrook, Unrestricted

The young superstar point guard has already made waves from his upcoming free agency, as the departure of other ex-Thunder superstar Kevin Durant during this offseason has led to a number of different trade rumors for the UCLA alumni. If Westbrook doesn’t sign his extension, Presti might be forced to enter a full rebuilding situation around young shooting guard Victor Oladipo and ship off his franchise icon.

If Westbrook decides to not sign the extension and the Thunder front office foolishly allow Westbrook to enter free agency, the 5-time all-star will have a lot list of suitors beckoning at his doorstep. With the increase in the inflation salary cap, Westbrook will definitely earn a ridiculous max contract wherever he decides to go, and unlike his ex-teammate Durant, Westbrook has been known to not shy away from being the franchise icon on a mediocre roster.

Westbrook has been linked to young teams, such as the Los Angeles Lakers and the Minnesota Timberwolves. With the Timberwolves, Westbrook could join strong leadership behind defensive-minded head coach Tom Thibodeau and young but talented Karl Anthony-Towns. With the Lakers, Westbrook is offered an opportunity to return home, similar to Cavs‘ star LeBron James and Bulls’ new free agent signing Dwyane Wade, and can be a franchise icon with a max contract for the storied franchise.

Steph Curry, Unrestricted

The first-ever unanimous MVP obviously remains Golden State at heart, providing emotion, loyalty, and selflessness to the northern California franchise. His selflessness has also extended to his contract, signed in 2013, only has the back-to-back MVP guaranteed a meager $12 million. Yet, with the addition of Kevin Durant to the Warriors’ payroll and the NBA now cutting an expected $5 million from next year’s cap space, Curry’s next contract negotiations will definitely spark interest from around the league.

The Warriors cap space is now infamously limited following the completion of their dream team “Big 4,” and Curry’s contract ranks a low 4th in the Warriors’ highest paid players during this upcoming year. With the NBA’s 3-point best shooter in history definitely desiring more money for his services, whether Golden State can convince Curry to sign for less money than his market value will be interesting to watch throughout this upcoming campaign and offseason.

Chris Paul, Option

Chris Paul’s player option comes simultaneously with the Clippers‘ championship window dramatically decreasing after this coming year. With Doc Rivers‘ unable to convince KD of the dream Big 4 in Los Angeles, the Clippers now face a unusual juncture in their roster’s age. Now that Blake Griffin and aging Chris Paul enter free agency next year, is this upcoming offseason the start of a dramatic shift in River’s free agency?

Either, Paul will most likely enter free agency next season open to several ideas in order to get his first championship. Paul has yet to reach the Western conference finals despite being a 9-time all-star in the Western conference his entire career. The 11-year veteran will most likely leave his Los Angeles home only to go to another championship ready team, limiting the number of potential suitors.

Wherever Paul does end up in his free agency, he will most likely earn himself the max-contract. Whether Paul can find himself a team willing to pay him a max contract and is championship capable remains to be seen. Maybe Paul will be another member of a series of veterans who take less money in search of a championship ring.

Dennis Schröder, Restricted

Schröder’s contract still remains restricted, so the Hawks can match any offer that Schröder is offered. But, with the immense contracts given to dejected ex-Rockets free agent center Dwight Howard and small forward Kent Bazemore, the Hawks might attempt to sign a different point guard and ultimately allow Dennis Schröder to relocate to a better-paying organization.

Thus, if Schröder does intend to find a lucrative contract elsewhere, the point guard could definitely elevate mediocre squads such as the Los Angeles Lakers or provide role-playing help to more competitive teams in the following 2017-18 campaign. Either way, Schröder could be one of the better bargain deals of the next free agency.

Blake Griffin, Option

Another Clipper that might leave the Los Angeles franchise is superstar dunk champion Blake Griffin who owns an early termination option on his contract in the upcoming 2017 franchise. Griffin might also be looking to find himself a max contract from elsewhere, but most likely head coach and president Doc Rivers will sign one of his two marquee free agents. If the Clippers do decide to enter a total rebuild, however, Griffin will have a number of suitors around the league.

Griffin has worked on his jump shot throughout his young career, bettering his long 2-pointer and stretching defenses more and more. After entering the league as mainly a quick big man in the post, Griffin elevated his game and now adjusted to a looser, flowing modern NBA, making him capable of fitting any rotation necessary.

Thus, Griffin joins a crew of flashy and superstar free agents to hit their final year under their strict contract with respective franchises. With free agency only increasing in drama and craziness, next year’s free agent class promises mediocre teams a championship competition and rebuilding teams with their next franchise icons.

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