Landing spots that make sense for NBA’s top free-agent big men

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Updated: June 20, 2015
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NBA free agency begins in just 11 days, and there are quite a few big-name players who will be heavily pursued.

The big man positions — power forward and center — have the most intriguing names on the market this summer, and there are endless possibilities on where they may end up.

Even though we’ve come to a point in today’s NBA, as we witnessed during the Finals, where having a true “big man” on your roster is becoming less important, the players that are available this summer are some of the elite big men that still exist across the league.

We’ll take a look at where each of them may land, and which destinations make the most sense for the big guys moving forward.

 

Marc Gasol

Maybe the most complete big man in the NBA is Marc Gasol, who has spent his entire career playing for the Memphis Grizzlies. He came into the league as Pau Gasol‘s little brother, but quickly made a name for himself and is now considered the prototype center in today’s game.

He can step out and knock down mid-range jumpers, he’s a great free-throw shooter (.795 percent this past season), he can post up and he’s a top-notch defender. There isn’t much that he lacks.

Marc is 30 years old, and will likely spend the rest of his career — at least his prime years — with whatever teams he decides to sign with. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported Thursday that he plans to re-sign with the Grizzlies, but nothing is guaranteed at this point.

While there are a few teams, maybe every team, that would benefit from having him on their roster, it makes the most sense for Marc to stay in Memphis and continue to dominate with his tag-team partner Zach Randolph. The two of them form the best power forward-center combo in the NBA, and they’ve experienced success together. The Grizzlies are just one wing player away from becoming a championship caliber team.

 

LaMarcus Aldridge

There is a foregone conclusion that LaMarcus Aldridge will be parting ways with the Portland Trail Blazers this summer; it’s only a matter of where he’ll end up. He became a superstar playing in Portland, but the team seems to be shifting their focus towards building around point guard Damian Lillard.

Aldridge has began to fade in the background, and his efforts in the first round of the playoffs against the Grizzlies proved that he was ready to move on.

There are two teams that have been constantly mentioned as potential destinations for Aldridge: the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs. He is originally from Dallas and played his college basketball at the University of Texas. So, there’s probably a good chance that he’d like to spend at least of a part of his NBA career playing in front of his hometown.

I believe the Spurs would be the more suitable fit for Aldridge. They have a championship pedigree as an organization, a future Hall of Fame coach in Gregg Popovich and another future Hall of Famer in Tim Duncan.

Duncan is on the back end of his illustrious career, but he’d be a great role model for Aldridge. And even though he’s 39 years old, Duncan has also proven to have a lot left in the tank. He could spend next season playing alongside Aldridge and give him a few pointers to help take his game to the next level.

Dirk Nowitzki has already campaigned for Aldridge, saying he would “love to have him” in Dallas. The Mavericks may very well lose Tyson Chandler to free agency, and Aldridge would give the Mavs another scorer to help get them over the hump. A combination of Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons and Aldridge would be a lethal frontcourt, but I still believe San Antonio fits Aldridge’s style of play a lot more.

 

Tyson Chandler

Speaking of Chandler, the Mavericks believed he would come in this season and be the anchor to their defense the way he was during their championship run in 2011. But, as the season progressed, they started to realize that he doesn’t have the impact on the game he once did four years ago.

He’s still a quality center, because of his length and ability to alter shots, but he’ll be entering his 15th year in the NBA next season and will be turning 33 years old. The young Chandler that could fly around in the paint, block shots and catch alley oops on the offensive end, is starting to vanish away.

It wouldn’t be smart for Dallas to re-sign him, especially if they’re able to get their hands on one of the other big men that’ll be free agents. Chandler’s best days are behind him, but a team like the Milwaukee Bucks, who had Zaza Pachulia starting at center last season, would be a fitting destination.

Chandler played alongside Bucks coach Jason Kidd during that 2010-11 championship season in Dallas, as well as the 54-win 2012-13 season with the New York Knicks, and his leadership would be welcomed into a locker room full of young players in Milwaukee. Marc Stein of ESPN reported last week that the Bucks are looking for a big-name center, and Chandler may be their best bet.

 

DeAndre Jordan

Coming off the best season of his career, DeAndre Jordan will be one of the hottest commodities this summer. He averaged 11.5 points, 15 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game this past season, and was named to the All-NBA first defensive team.

His presence in the paint is similar to Chandler, but he’s a lot younger at only 26 years old. His huge, long arms causes trouble for most smaller guards who enter the lane, and he can also make life difficult for offensive-driven big men — like he did while guarding Duncan at times during the first round of this year’s playoffs.

Jordan isn’t an offensive force himself, but his rebounding ability makes him just as valuable as any big man in the league. Even though there are many teams who could use his services, I think the only team that makes sense for him, is the Clippers.

Chris Paul made Jordan the player he is today, sort of the way he helped turn Chandler into a force while playing for the then-New Orleans Hornets. I don’t think there is another point guard in the NBA, other than maybe John Wall of the Washington Wizards, who can get the best out of a big man with a limited offensive game like Jordan.

If Jordan decides to sign elsewhere, and play with an average point guard, his numbers will drastically decrease, especially in the points category.

 

Kevin Love

The Cleveland Cavaliers were able to make it to the NBA Finals this season, without Kevin Love for the majority of the playoffs.

He injured his shoulder during their first-round series against the Boston Celtics, and it set the stage for Tristan Thompson to take over. Things seemed to run a lot smoother with Thompson on the court, and LeBron James has a comfort level with Thompson that he hasn’t formed with Love just yet.

Thompson still has another year left on his contract, and he’ll be looking for a long-term extension very soon. The Cavs could risk not giving him the deal he desires, and allow him to test free agency in another year — but I doubt James prefers for that to happen.

It wouldn’t make much sense for the Cavs to pay Thompson max-type money and bring him off the bench, so that means Love would be the odd man out. It’ll ultimately be his decision on whether he wants to come back to Cleveland or not next season, but I’m sure he’s having some of the same thoughts.

Love could sign a large deal with a team like the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics or New York Knicks this summer, and have more of a superstar-type impact once again. I think Boston would be a great fit for him, but with his injury coming against Boston during the postseason — that he felt was intentional — it’s hard to see that happening.

Brook Lopez

The Bucks will make a push to sign Lopez, as he played for Kidd during the 2013-14 season in Brooklyn, but the Nets will do everything they can to keep the 7-foot big man.

As a center in the NBA, his offensive game may be second only to Marc Gasol. And when healthy, he can be a go-to player on most teams.

He’s only 27 years old, and probably still hasn’t reached his prime. If placed in the right situation, I believe he could become dominant at the center position.

While it would be a good idea for him to part ways with the Nets, and entertain the possibility of playing for a contender like the Trail Blazers — if they were to lose out on Aldridge, which seems likely — the team is well aware that he’s their only hope of having some type of building block.

Like with Love, the ball is in Lopez’ court. He has a player option, and could easily decide to opt in and tough it out for another season in Brooklyn. 

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