The Top 5 Power Forwards in Free Agency
*Photo via USA Today
The power forward position may offer more intriguing story lines than any other position. The best free agent who is most likely to move, LaMarcus Aldridge, is featured on this list. We also have the mystery of Kevin Love, and the question, will Tim Duncan retire? Many on this list may actually be on the move this summer. Let's dig in.
1. LaMarcus Aldridge
-Unrestricted – Portland Trail Blazers
2015: 23.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg
We are starting off with a bang. Aldridge clearly holds the title of best free agent that teams think they can realistically land. On the day of this article, ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported that Aldridge is leaving Portland. According to reports, the Spurs are clearly in the lead to land Aldridge. The Lakers and Mavericks follow the Spurs on the list. But do not count out the Rockets, another one of his home state teams who are not scared to make a run at the big names.
I am a huge fan of Aldridge. He has averaged at least 21 points and eight rebounds for the last five seasons. It seems like he has been around a long time, but is still only 29. He is a great mid-range shooter with some nice post moves, who is tough as nails (remember he played the second half of the season with a broken thumb). He is good enough to make a bad team respectable, or make a good team a contender.
What should he do? Well, a lot of people say his time in Portland may have ran its course, and if the reports hold true, Aldridge agrees. The San Antonio Spurs offer him the best coaching, chance to win, and opportunity to lead a team. Joining the Spurs allows him the chance to play alongside Tim Duncan for one to two years, then join Kawhi Leonard as the cornerstone of the most stable franchise in the league.
2. Tim Duncan
-Unrestricted – San Antonio Spurs
2015: 13.9 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 3.0 apg
The latter part of Tim Duncan's career has featured him at the center position. However, history will remember him as a power forward and he played last season at the four (but if my Lamarcus Aldridge prediction holds true he may be moving back to center). In all reality, determining which position Duncan should be listed as may be more exciting than speculating on his future. He is not playing anywhere but San Antonio. The real question may be will he play next season at all. If he decides to stay in the league, he needs to let the Spurs know quickly, so a deal can be reached soon to prevent a lack of cap flexibility, tying their hands with other targets (Aldridge). Duncan has taken less money for the betterment of the team through his entire career. It will be interesting to see how low the Spurs ask Duncan to go, again, as they prepare for their future without him.
What should he do? The question is not if Duncan retires in a Spurs uniform, but when.
3. Kevin Love
-Unrestricted – Cleveland Cavaliers
2015: 16.4 ppg, 9.7 reb
No one rode the Kevin Love bandwagon during his time in Minnesota like I did. He was my top power forward in the league for the last several years before this season. That aside, getting out of Minnesota and being put on a contender, showed many of Love’s flaws. Love experienced a very strange year in Cleveland, which was unfortunately ended by a freak injury in the first-round of the playoffs. Now, he faces one of the most interesting decisions of any free agent. He opted out of his 16.7 million dollar contract and became a free agent earlier this week. Doing so is risky coming off a freak injury, and it being a year before the massive salary spikes arrives along with a new TV deal. A much safer move for Love would have been to play out next year, take the three million dollar raise he was in line to receive, and coincide his contract with the higher salary cap.
It is widely speculated that Love was not happy in Cleveland, and Coach, David Blatt clearly did not use his talents correctly by turning him into a spot up shooter. Teams that offer a lower chance of winning, but more autonomy, more money, and more attention offensively (Celtics, Lakers, Blazers if Aldridge leaves) will chase after him.
What should he do? You would think all those losing seasons in Minnesota would make Love embrace the situation in Cleveland. He has been the number one option on a bad team already. Love should sign a one year deal and make a run at a championship with the Cavs then next summer his free agency would be synchronized with the salary cap spike.
4. Greg Monroe
-Unrestricted – Detroit Pistons
2015: 15.9 ppg, 10.2 rpg
Greg Monroe is another player whom I have always supported. However, I do not like the way he fits in Stan Van Gundy’s offense. Monroe called Detroit’s bluff and accepted their one year qualifying offer after he tested a reluctant market. This time around he’s unrestricted and should find a much more welcoming open market. He should have a fairly easy time departing from the Pistons if he chooses. Monroe was not put in a position to grow his game under Van Gundy with his one big/four shooters spread offense, but he can be a solid third scorer and is an excellent rebounder and if he can improve defensively he would be well worth a slightly under the max contract.
What should he do? Monroe’s run in Detroit seems to be over, so he should take time here and let some of the other power forwards land before he makes his decision. If Aldridge leaves Portland, the Blazers will need a replacement for him. If Dallas doesn't land Aldridge they may be looking to make a splash with another four to prepare themselves for Dirk’s retirement. The Knicks may be desperate to throw money at anyone if they don't land a top free agent.
5. Paul Millsap
-Unrestricted – Atlanta Hawks
2015: 16.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.1 apg
Millsap has been consistent for years now. It's easy to see what you get with him, 16 to 18 points, solid rebounding, a decent defender, and excellent shooter for his position. It seems unlikely that he would leave Atlanta, especially coming off an All-Star year and the team's best season in franchise history. If he should decide to leave, he will command a large payday.
What should he do? The chances of Millsap leaving Atlanta seem unlikely. He can stay in his comfortable role that he has already established without the pressure of being the number one option. However, If he decides to leave Atlanta, he should take the Monroe strategy and let the bigger names settle before determining which teams offer the best situation.
Just missed the cut:
Tristan Thompson, CLE
Proved his worth in the NBA Finals. Whether Love stays or goes, Thompson has a big pay day coming from Cleveland.
David West, IND
At this point of his career, it may be time to go ring chasing. He won't fit in well with an uptempo team. But I could see him as a backup off the Clippers bench or in Cleveland with LeBron with Love leaves.
Thaddeus Young, BKN
Young can still be a starter on most teams in the league.
Brandon Bass, BOS
Ed Davis, LAL
Marreese Speights, GSW
Amare Stoudamire, DAL
Don't bet on:
Josh Smith, HOU
Andrea Bargnani, NY
Carlos Boozer, LAL
Amir Johnson, TOR