Reading comprehension skills are definitely required for this one, so strap in. After a flurry of free agency activity that saw billions in guaranteed deals agreed upon, the 2015-16 NBA picture has taken shape.
Oddsmakers have started tweaking their futures and we can start identifying top contenders. In that vein, we’ve ranked the Top 20 free-agent transactions of this offseason.
New Orleans’ Anthony Davis and Portland’s Damian Lillard, guys who signed max extentions that kick in after next season, don’t fit the category since they were already under contract. Miami’s Luol Deng ($10.2M) and Memphis’ Jeff Green ($9.2M) picked up their player options to avoid free agency and are therefore not listed.
Remember, these free agents aren’t ranked in the order of best player, but rather, the listing reflects the impact on the upcoming season’s championship chase.
1. LeBron James, Cavs: The puppet master and most important of the offseason dominoes. Cleveland is at -180 in some spots and the current title frontrunner at 3-to-1. Expect James to sign a one-year max with a player option.
2. Tim Duncan, Spurs: Taking a discount to facilitate another run at a championship. That selflessness and leadership made it possible for San Antonio to pull the top free agent to actually change teams.
3. LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs: Embracing the challenge of being the big gun going forward (4 yrs/$80M). Most shops installed the Spurs as the Western Conference favorite.
4. Kawhi Leonard, Spurs: The 2013 Finals MVP is happy where he is and was maxed out (5 yrs/$90M) to ensure his cornerstone status.
5. Marc Gasol, Grizzlies: Keeping the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year (5 yrs/$110M), arguably the game’s top center, ensures Memphis will remain in contention. The Griz at 30-1 are attractive.
6. DeAndre Jordan, Mavericks: Dallas owner Mark Cuban admitted that securing his signature meant the difference between relevancy and tanking. The Mavs are also currently at +3000.
7. Jimmy Butler, Bulls: Accepting a 5-year, $95 million deal means Chicago remains a contender to dethrone James. They’re at 8-1 to get out of the East and +2000 to win it all if you believe in new coach Fred Hoiberg.
8. Draymond Green, Warriors: X-factor extraordinaire makes Golden State go and worth every penny of the 5-year, $85 million. GSW currently pays 6-1 if you want to back a repeat bid.
9. Dwyane Wade, Heat: Miami made good on paying back the face of their franchise via a one-year $20 million pact. The Heat are 15-1 to win the East. Team morale should be high, as is Chris Bosh’s return sparking a resurgence.
10. Goran Dragic, Heat: Pat Riley wanted a major building block going forward, so signing him long-term (5 yrs/$90M) was no surprise. If he and Bosh can establish a great chemistry in the pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop, the Heat at 40-1 to win it all could be top value bet.
11. Kevin Love, Cavs: Cleveland has proven it can win without him, which is the only reason he’s so far down this late. Because he’s coveted elsewhere, the 5-year, $110 million contract isn’t an albatross if rounding out this Big 3 remains a bad fit for both parties.
12. Danny Green, Spurs: One of the NBA’s premier 3-and-D players, he certainly could’ve earned more than the 4-year, $45 million he’s getting, but wanted to stay put and resisted testing the open market. San Antonio is best when he’s out there at shooting guard.
13. Paul Millsap, Hawks: He flirted heavily with Orlando, then opted to return (4 yrs/$80M) to a different-looking team that added Tiago Splitter via trade and brings over 7-foot-3 Edy Tavares from Spain. Expect him to play more small forward with DeMarre Carroll gone as the Hawks (15-1 in East) revamp.
14. Enes Kanter, Thunder: The one name that’s not a sure thing on this list. There’s a framework in place to keep the 7-footer in OKC, where he averaged 18.7 points and 11.0 rebounds over the final 26 games after being acquired from Utah.
15. Greg Monroe, Bucks: Milwaukee looks to be the team most poised to make a significant jump in the East, landing this big fish (3 yrs/$50M) to help it all come together. The Bucks beat larger markets for the talented 25-year-old big man’s services. Climbed to 25-1 to get out of the East.
16. Tristan Thompson, Cavs: LeBron is making sure he’s taken care of after averaging 9.6 points and 10.8 rebounds this past postseason, proving just how valuable he can be. Expect him to be rewarded handsomely.
17. DeMarre Carroll, Raptors: Toronto was the highest bidder (4 yrs/$60M) in stealing him from the Hawks. If he continues to improve offensively, could be a steal for the reigning Atlantic Division champs, who are 20-to-1 to get out of the East.
18. Patrick Beverley, Rockets: Another defensive stalwart who took less (4 yrs/$25M) to remain with his team, he’s the pest on the perimeter that Houston needs to deflate teams at the point of attack. Houston is 12-to-1 to get out of the West, 25-to-1 to win it all.
19. Wes Matthews, Mavericks: He’ll be brought along slowly in his return from an Achilles injury suffered in March, but by the time the All-Star break comes around, expect him to be a major factor on the wing. He got a 4-year deal worth approximately $55 million to bring it at both ends as a potentially perfect complement for Chandler Parsons.
20. Monta Ellis, Pacers: Indiana wants to play faster, so he’s got a shot to make an immediate impact alongside a healthy Paul George. The Pacers are right there with the Wizards at 50-1 to win it all, 18-1 to get out of the East.
Others considered: Tobias Harris, Magic; Khris Middleton, Bucks; Reggie Jackson, Pistons; Iman Shumpert, Cavs; Pelicans; Rajon Rondo, Kings; Paul Pierce, Clippers.
Tony Mejia is a national sports writer and senior contributor at VegasInsider.com. He’s also the owner and operator of Antony Dinero, the most successful documented volume handicapper in the industry. View his analysis daily at VegasInsider.com. Contact Tony at [email protected].