NBA Free Agency 2016 – Top 5 Small Forwards: Will Durant, James remain loyal to Thunder, Cavs

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NBA Free Agency
Mar 12, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) dribbles the ball as San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) defends during the second half at AT&T Center

The small forward position is the deepest in the 2016 NBA free agency class headlined by the league’s top players Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City Thunder and LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Both Durant and James are unrestricted free agents (UFA) but only Durant is expected to seriously consider moving to another NBA squad. LeBron leaving his hometown will be another round of “The Decision”—the infamous TV special that turned James into, not only Cleveland’s villain, but the entire league.

As UFAs, both Durant and James are free to sign with any other team and their current respective squads, the Thunder and the Cavaliers, will have no other option but to let them go in free agency without getting anything in return—unless all parties agree to a sign-and-trade.

LeBron James is widely expected not to jilt his hometown again, Durant’s status is pretty much up in the air as this will be the first time he will hit free agency during his prime and his decision will be heavily dictated how the Thunder fare in the 2016 NBA Playoffs.

With the increase in salary cap for all NBA teams due to the new and lucrative TV deals by the league with its media partners, offering Durant, James and the rest of the free agents big money is not only probable but expected during the upcoming summer.

Here are the top free agents from the small forward position for the 2016 offseason:

Chandler Parsons (Dallas Mavericks)
2015-2016 salary: $15.36 million
2015-2016 stats (61 games): 13.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game

Parsons signed a huge contract with the Mavericks in 2014 but on a short-term deal. The small forward can choose to stay with the Mavericks and pick up his player option and up his value some more before hitting free agency after next season.

Depending on the kind of contract available for him in the 2016 NBA free agency, Parsons could leave the Mavericks early and jump ship to another squad that is willing to give him another lucrative deal.

Nicolas Batum (Charlotte Hornets)
2015-2016 salary: $13.12 million
2015-2016 stats (70 games): 14.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game

Teams missing out on Kevin Durant or LeBron James will have a nice option to make Nicolas Batum as the “Plan B” this free agency. He has struggled with various injury issues both in the regular season and playoffs, but his versatility and ability to hit the three-point shot even as he plays the four position, is very valuable in today’s NBA.

Harrison Barnes (Golden State Warriors)
2015-2016 salary: $3.87 million
2015-2016 stats (66 games): 11.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game

Barnes is playing for the powerhouse Golden State Warriors but is due for a huge contract extension for the first time in his career. It remains to be seen if the Warriors see him as max contract player—a deal he will most likely demand this summer.

The increase in salary cap will help their cause but Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry is also due for a big raise after the 2016-2017 season.

LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers)
2015-2016 salary: $22.97 million
2015-2016 stats (76 games): 25.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game

“The Decision” replay remains in play in this NBA free agency since no one really knows what goes through LeBron James’ mind especially with how he has surprised the league in past decisions, first to leave Cleveland and then return to his home state but jilting his friends at Miami.

Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
2015-2016 salary: $20.15 million (AU $28.98M)
2015-2016 stats (72 games): 26.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.4 blocked shots per game

How the Thunder will end this season will be a major factor in Durant’s decision; will the superstar leave Russell Westbrook and OKC if they don’t get past the Golden State Warriors in the West Finals?

NBA Rumors the past months have linked Durant to, expectedly, most NBA teams that has the salary cap space to offer the OKC superstar the maximum contract. Teams reportedly chasing Durant are the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Washington Wizards and even the defending champions Warriors.

Other notable small forwards in the 2016 free agency include: Kyle Korver (Atlanta Hawks), Matt Barnes (Memphis Grizzlies), Luol Deng (Miami Heat) and Jeff Green (Los Angeles Clippers), among many others available in the 2016 NBA free agency.

James and Durant will be part of the NBA rumors this offseason and considering they are among the Top 3 best players in the league, it’s only expected that their names will dominate the headlines in the 2016 NBA free agency as they evaluate what is best for their future in the NBA.

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