- The NBA off-season has already provided plenty of fireworks—what will happen when free agency actually begins? We play matchmaker for four of the biggest names.
To make up for one of the most anticlimactic postseasons in history, the NBA off-season has been a thrill-a-minute, gossip-filled rollercoaster you never want to get off. Chris Paul is a Rocket. Paul George has been linked to half the NBA. And Austin Rivers is having his character assassinated by people other than Glen “Big Baby” Davis. Rumors are flying at an incredible rate, and free agency hasn’t even started yet.
The new league year tips off July 1, and as early as 12:01 a.m., teams can begin negotiating contracts with free agents. With general managers going all out to load up and take down the Warriors, we should be in store for a pretty memorable summer.
But who should sign where? Let us provide some suggestions. It’s time to play NBA Matchmaker.
Gordon Hayward to the... Boston Celtics
Gordon Hayward makes too much sense in Boston, where he would be reunited with his college coach Brad Stevens. The Celtics finished No. 1 in the East last season, only to be dismantled by the Cavaliers in the East finals. Boston really needs another player who can create their own shot outside of Isaiah Thomas, as the team crumbled offensively whenever its point guard was off the floor.
Hayward is a solid three-point shooter who can play off the ball with Thomas, and he can also initiate offense in the pick-and-roll. If the Celtics keep Jayson Tatum, they can bring him along slowly as Hayward’s backup. Or they can use Tatum as trade bait to pair George with Hayward and form what could be the best starting five in the East.
Signing Hayward would also be a significant long-term move for Boston. The contracts of Avery Bradley and Thomas expire after next season. Bradley’s future with the team is cloudy, whether he’s traded for a star or becomes too pricey next summer. And Thomas’s situation is also a little difficult—will Boston be willing to hand him a huge contract? Hayward would not only lift up the Celtics’ short-term prospects, he could be the star that serves as a bridge for the new iteration of the team.
Blake Griffin to the... Miami Heat
Pat Riley loves whale hunting, and I can see him falling in love with Griffin, who is having quite a bit of dirt shoved on him for someone who is only 28. Have Griffin’s injuries robbed him of his otherworldly athleticism? Or does he still have something left in the tank? I’m willing to bet on the latter, and Miami would be a soft landing spot for someone used to living in L.A.
Basketball-wise, Griffin makes a lot of sense for the Heat. He can form a pretty lethal pick-and-roll combination with Goran Dragic, who had a resurgent season last year after he was consciously uncoupled from Dwyane Wade. Griffin would also have plenty of opportunities to create with the ball in his hands, perhaps being employed in a point forward role Miami often used James Johnson in. The spacing could be the slightest bit tight with Hassan Whiteside on the court, but Griffin has steadily improved his outside shooting, and he’s also has years of experience playing alongside a similar player in DeAndre Jordan.
The Heat would make this move because they love big names, and Riley surely wants to compete. Adding Griffin to a team that finished 30–11 in its last 41 games could potentially put Miami in the top half of the East next season. At the very least, with intriguing young pieces like Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson and Justise Winslow, this team would be fun as hell to watch.
George Hill to the... Minnesota Timberwolves
The Wolves have already been aggressive this off-season, adding Jimmy Butler in a draft-night coup to assemble an exciting young team. The Wolves still could desperately use a stretch-four, but a change at point guard could also help this team immensely. I love Ricky Rubio, but his lack of shooting just doesn’t complement the current core. Enter: George Hill, the perfect point guard for a team laden with wings who need the ball in their hands.
Hill was a huge difference maker for the Jazz when healthy last season. He would fit perfectly under Tom Thibodeau, who is something of a veteran point guard whisperer. Hill wouldn’t be under much pressure in Minny. He would bring the ball up, spot up for open threes and continue to play solid defense on opposing point guards. This situation seems like a perfect marriage of role and player needed. And Rubio can then be dangled to fill holes elsewhere on the roster.
Dion Waiters to the... Philadelphia 76ers
Philly Cheese comes home! This is a Sports Illustrated-cover worthy move right here. Waiters hasn’t really been linked to the 76ers, but I think he makes a lot more sense than bringing in a veteran such as J.J. Redick or Andre Iguodala. Waiters is still only 25 years old, and for all the GIFs and Vines of him mercilessly calling for the ball on the wing, he proved last season in Miami he can play well within a team concept.
Waiters could not only grow with Philly’s young crop of talent, but he would take a lot of pressure off of them this upcoming season. Waiters is a legitimate end-of-game option, and whenever Philly is desperate for a bucket, Waiters has a knack for putting his head down and getting to the rim. Guys like Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons are going to go through growing pains their first season, and having a microwave scorer like Waiters can mask some of their inevitable issues.
I also think Waiters is the exact type of player Philly should be taking a risk on. The 76ers have never really been a hotbed free-agent destination. Waiters is a young, local product with a high upside. He won’t cost a ton, which means he could be signed to a very movable contract should Philly want to acquire even more assets down the line. Waiters and Joel Embiid on the same team? Let’s make that happen.