Eight NBA players that can’t wait to become free agents

By Vincent Frank

With the absurd amount of money we have seen thrown around in the NBA this summer, there’s very little doubt that some players are licking their chops at the possibility of becoming free agents.

From Stephen Curry’s ridiculously low salary to a couple up-and-coming performers back east, here are eight NBA players who can’t want for their turn in free agency.

While Curry will join new teammate Kevin Durant as the two hottest prizes on the free-agent market next summer, there are others prepared to cash in.

Is Blake Griffin a max player? If so, will the Los Angeles Clippers dole out that cold-hard cash? Will Russell Westbrook re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder or be lured into the bright lights of Los Angeles?

While we are a calendar year away from seeing these questions answered, you can bet that the following eight players are prepared to cash in big time.

1. Stephen Curry, guard, Golden State Warriors

The two-time reigning NBA MVP signed his current deal back in October of 2012, right before the Warriors earned the first of what is now four consecutive playoff appearances.

It came after Curry played in just 26 of the Warriors’ 66 games during a lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign. It also came just months after Curry himself went through off-season ankle surgery.

At that point, pundits around the NBA figured Golden State took a major chance on an injury-plagued player by signing him to a four-year, $44 million extension.

How things have changed since. Curry has played in all but 13 of the Warriors’ regular season games over the past four seasons, nailing a total of 1,221 three pointers. He’s also led the team to a NBA title, two conference titles and broke the single-season mark for threes a total of three different times.

2. Blake Griffin, forward, Los Angeles Clippers

Blake Griffin

Despite an injury-plagued and often controversial 2015-16 season, Griffin is going to get his max contract next season. We’re talking about a true power forward that earned All-Star bids in each of his first five years.

He’s averaging 21.5 points and 9.6 rebounds while shooting at a 52 percent clip throughout his six-year NBA career. This past season saw Griffin still put up 21.4 points while adding a career-high 4.9 assists per outing.

Set to earn $20.1 million this upcoming season. Griffin should see a raise of nearly $10 million when he hits the open market next summer.

3. Russell Westbrook, guard, Oklahoma City Thunder

Whether Russ re-signs with Oklahoma City next summer remains to be seen. What we do know is that he’s not going to sign an extension before then (more on that here).

That news broke after Kevin Durant decided to sign with the conference rival Warriors.

As with Durant, the Thunder’s top player can earn more money if he decides to re-sign with the team. Though, there’s definitely going to be teams like the Los Angeles Lakers prepared to throw a max deal his way.

Despite a contract that’s set to pay him just $17.9 million, there’s little doubt that Westbrook is worth nearly double that amount in today’s current NBA market.

Still only 27, the UCLA product is coming off a 2015-16 campaign that saw him average 23.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 10.4 assists while shooting a career-best 45 percent from the field. Russ also tallied a NBA-high 18 triple-doubles.

4. Serge Ibaka, forward, Orlando Magic

When Ibaka signed a four-year, $49 million extension with the Thunder back in 2012, it was seen as a steep price to pay for a guy that averaged just 9.1 points while playing less than 28 minutes per game.

Four years later, and this deal is now seen as a major bargain for Ibaka’s new team. The question now is whether Orlando will be able to retain the power forward after acquiring him from Oklahoma City earlier in the summer.

Ibaka’s value isn’t in one specific area. And in reality, he struggled to an extent a season ago. Though, a big man that can put up 15-plus points while shooting at a 50 percent clip from the field should do very well on the open market.

5. Victor Oladipo, guard, Oklahoma City Thunder

Victor Oladipo

Acquired by the Thunder in the Ibaka deal, Oladipo is now going to be asked to be the team’s second scoring option behind Russ. If he’s able to fit seamlessly into that role, it will do wonders for the guard’s free-agent stock next summer.

Despite his ups and downs in 2015-16, Oladipo still averaged 16.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists while shooting at a career-best 35 percent from beyond the arc.

If the former first-round pick is able to average 20-plus points while continuing to improve his outside shooting, there’s little doubt he’s going to be a max player. That’s a far cry from the $6.6 million he’s earning next season — a $20-plus million far cry.

6. Andre Iguodala, forward, Golden State Warriors

Iggy might be the odd-man out in Oakland next summer with both Curry and Durant set to become free agents. Short of the 2015 NBA Finals MVP taking a pay cut, it’s going to be hard for the Warriors to retain him.

A team-first guy in every sense of the word, Iguodala embraced the sixth-man role with the Warriors in the lead up to the 2014-15 season. While this directly impacted his statistical output, it did provide the Warriors with that oomph they needed off the bench.

In reality, the stats don’t tell us the entire story here. Iggy averaged a career-low 7.0 points to go with 4.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. He did, however, hit on 48 percent of his shots and 35 percent of his threes this past season.

More than that, the forward proved he can both run the offense and dominate on the defensive end of the court. It’s this presence that helped Golden State earn the 2014-15 NBA title and win 73 games this past season. Other teams surely know what he brings to the table.

7. C.J. McCollum, guard, Portland Trail Blazers

Slated to become a restricted free agent next summer, McCollum is coming off a 2015-16 season that saw him earn the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.

Teaming up with Damian Lillard to form one of the most potent back-court duos in the Association, this former top-10 pick averaged 20.8 points while shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc. He did this while earning a whole $3.2 million on his rookie deal.

While Portland will surely match any offer thrown the guard’s way, there’s no reason to believe he won’t be able to sign a deal that will pay him $20-plus million annually. That’s a mighty fine increase from the paltry $4.4 million he’ll earn next season.

8. Giannis Antetokounmpo, guard, Milwaukee Bucks

Will the “Greek Freak” play point guard this upcoming season? That’s what we were hearing from Milwaukee during the spring. Either way, 2016-17 should continue to allow Antetokounmpo the ability to prove he’s among the game’s best young players.

At just 21 years old, this ultra-athletic 6-foot-11 two-way player averaged 16.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game last season. He also shot at a 51 percent clip, improving his mid-range game a great deal from previous years.

It’s in this that we can expect the freak to earn $20-plus million on his new deal, a far cry from the $3 million he’s set to earn next season.