Two athletic and defensively elite centers are set to be paid big time in the 2016 NBA free agency, thanks to an impressive statistical season and how they have fared in the regular season and the playoffs.
Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons and Hassan Whiteside of the Miami Heat will be two of the highly coveted players this summer though they’ll have different free agent statuses as both aims for long-term lucrative deals, the first in their respective NBA careers.
Both Drummond and Whiteside are elite big men in the league, thanks to their ability to efficiently finish baskets around the rim with their athleticism and an elite shot-blocking talent that has discouraged opponents in attacking the paint.
The 22-year-old Drummond is a restricted free agent (RFA), which means that teams interested must outbid the Pistons with a huge contract and a more likable destination. Likely landing on a maximum deal, the Pistons can match—and are expected to match—to retain his services in this 2016 NBA free agency.
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Meanwhile, the 26-year-old Whiteside is an unrestricted free agent (UFA), which means he is free to choose his next NBA team and the Heat can do nothing if he decides to jump ship this summer.
Below is the list of top free agent centers and their stats in the current season:
Al Jefferson (Charlotte Hornets)
2015-2016 season (47 games): 12.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 0.9 blocked shots in 23.3 minutes per game
Jefferson is an UFA and the Hornets are not too keen in bringing him back to their roster. The veteran center earned $13.5 million this season and it’s likely that he could be had for a contract lesser than than because of the dip in his play.
Festus Ezeli (Golden State Warriors)
2015-2016 season (46 games): 7.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocked shots in 16.7 minutes per game
Ezeli is one of the under-the-radar free agent centers this summer with various teams, including Luke Walton’s Los Angeles Lakers, reportedly interested in the big man. Ezeli has played limited minutes for the Warriors playing behind starting center Andrew Bogut but he is seen as a player with more value especially if he can earn a starting spot in any NBA team.
Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets)
2015-2016 season (71 games): 13.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots in 32.1 minutes per game
Howard is a top free agent if not for his attitude and history. There are questions as well with how healthy he can be as he searches for his last max deal in the NBA. The Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks and even former team, Orlando Magic are reportedly interested in signing him this offseason but at what price?
Hassan Whiteside (Miami Heat)
2015-2016 season (73 games): 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.7 blocked shots in 29.1 minutes per game
Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons)
2015-2016 season (81 games): 16.2 points, 14.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots in 32.9 minutes per game
The Heat badly wants to retain him especially with the great season and current NBA Playoffs. Same with Drummond, who despite his poor free throw shooting, is still an elite big man in the league. The Pistons will give him the max deal and barring any current issues with him and his coaches and teammates, he is expected to stay in Detroit this summer.
Other centers available in the 2016 NBA free agency are free agents ), Timofey Mozgov (Cleveland Cavaliers), Roy Hibbert (Los Angeles Lakers), Donatas Motiejunas (Houston Rockets), Tyler Zeller (Boston Celtics), Zaza Pachulia (Dallas Mavericks), Nene (Washington Wizards), Ian Mahinmi (Indiana Pacers), Gorgui Dieng (Minnesota Timberwolves), and Joakim Noah (Chicago Bulls), among others.
Photo Courtesy: Haber garaj/Flickr