Harrison Barnes, Jordan Clarkson could be in for big paydays in 2016
The NBA's 2016 free agency will present a math problem. Currently, the league has about $1.7 billion in committed salary, including the first-year salaries for 2016 draft picks. For all teams to merely spend up to the projected $89 million salary cap -- an average they generally exceed -- they'll have to get to nearly $2.7 billion in payroll. That's a $1 billion windfall to be divided among free agents who collectively are making slightly less than $800 million this season.
The exact numbers will change slightly over the next 11 months, but the bottom-line conclusion won't: A bunch of players are about to get sizeable raises over their current contracts. Let's take a look at 10 candidates among the group of players who didn't make fellow Insider Amin Elhassan's list of the top 10 free agents in 2016 from last week.Michael Kidd-Gilchrist | Charlotte Hornets | SF
Even after making strides as a jump shooter by reworking his notoriously poor form last season, Kidd-Gilchrist remains a subpar offensive player who provides little spacing from the perimeter -- he didn't attempt a single 3-pointer last season. Yet Kidd-Gilchrist still rates as one of the league's best small forwards by ESPN's real plus-minus because of his defensive dominance; the Hornets allowed 7.8 fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the floor in 2014-15, according to NBA.com/Stats
. Kidd-Gilchrist won't turn 22 until September, and if he develops into merely an average offensive player, he'll be a valuable starter for many years to come.Harrison Barnes | Golden State Warriors | SF
Barnes figures to be one of the trickiest free agents to value next summer. He plays an important role for the defending champs, who relied on Barnes' ability to battle bigger opponents in the post when they went small. Outside a system with teammates to create for him, however, Barnes might struggle offensively as he did his first two NBA seasons. It's not a coincidence that his shooting percentages improved in 2014-15 along with his rate of assisted field goals. The Warriors would have a hard time justifying paying Barnes more than the more accomplished Draymond Green ($15.3 million in 2016-17) and Klay Thompson ($16.6 million), but a big offer sheet from another team could force them to do so -- and that possibility might keep Barnes from signing an extension this fall.Terrence Jones | Houston Rockets | PF
Donatas Motiejunas | Rockets | F/C
Houston's power forward pairing both enter the final season of their rookie contracts eligible for extensions or to become restricted free agents next summer. Motiejunas' versatility will be coveted by other teams after he demonstrated in Dwight Howard's absence that he can handle starting minutes at center. Still, Motiejunas has yet to post a league-average PER, and it's Jones who has more upside. He's averaged around 16 points and nine rebounds per 36 minutes the last two seasons, and if he can stay healthy -- he played just 33 games last season due to a pair of scary injuries, a nerve issue and a collapsed long -- and make progress defensively, Jones could be in line for eight figures a year.Jordan Clarkson | Los Angeles Lakers | G
Get ready to hear the name "Gilbert Arenas" in conjunction with Clarkson repeatedly over the next 11 months. Like the former NBA point guard, Clarkson has performed beyond his second-round draft status, setting him up for a big payday as a restricted free agent next summer.
Because Clarkson will be a free agent with two years of experience, he'll be subject to the so-called "Arenas provision" limiting other teams from offering more than the mid-level exception as a starting point on an offer sheet. In year three, however, teams can offer Clarkson what would be his maximum salary -- somewhere in the ballpark of $23 million, depending where the cap falls -- setting up the possibility of a three-year, $34 million offer similar to the one the Houston Rockets used to acquire Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin as restricted free agents in 2012. Or teams could go an additional year and offer four years and up to around $58 million.
To justify such a big offer, Clarkson will need to build on his solid rookie season while sharing the ball with No. 2 overall pick D'Angelo Russell. If so, his free agency will be fascinating to watch.Langston Galloway | New York Knicks | G
Galloway too is subject to the Arenas provision after starting 41 games as a rookie and earning All-Rookie second team honors. A backloaded offer seems less likely for Galloway, who took advantage of a depleted Knicks roster to earn playing time and wasn't particularly efficient, posting a dismal .489 true shooting percentage. But if Galloway can play to his strengths as a spot-up shooter more with New York's offseason upgrades, he could demonstrate he's more than just a rotation player in the NBA.Allen Crabbe | Portland Trail Blazers | F/G
Meyers Leonard | Trail Blazers | F/C
Having lost four starters over the offseason, the Blazers have more minutes and larger roles to offer their young players. Crabbe and Leonard, along with fellow impending free agent Maurice Harkless, could be beneficiaries. Crabbe averaged 15.5 points during an impressive run in the NBA summer league in Las Vegas, and he figures to earn extended playing time as Portland's best shooter on the wing. Leonard, the only NBA player to post a 50/40/90 season in 2014-15, will also provide much-needed floor spacing for the Blazers' traditional pick-and-roll big men, Ed Davis and Mason Plumlee. He has a good shot at doubling last year's 847 minutes played after emerging as Portland's best partner for departed LaMarcus Aldridge during the playoffs.Boban Marjanovic | San Antonio Spurs | C
Eager to test himself in the NBA after emerging as one of the top players in Europe, the 7-foot-3 Marjanovic agreed to a one-year deal for $1.2 million to join the Spurs this season. Odds are he'll play sparingly as he makes the adjustment to the athleticism and speed of the NBA, but Marjanovic might get regular playing time by virtue of being the only true center behind starter Tim Duncan on the San Antonio roster. If Marjanovic adapts to the NBA more quickly than expected, he could find himself in line for a mid-level contract along the lines of the one former Spurs backup center Aron Baynes signed with the Detroit Pistons this summer (three years, $19.5 million).Jonas Valanciunas | Toronto Raptors | C
Quietly, last season Valanciunas took the step forward long expected from the former No. 5 overall pick. Valanciunas averaged 16.5 points and 11.9 rebounds on 57.2 percent shooting, posting a 20.6 PER -- slightly better than Enes Kanter of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who just got the maximum $70 million over four years as a restricted free agent. Valanciunas hasn't made as much progress defensively, a big reason why his minutes dropped from 28.2 per game in 2013-14 to 26.2 last season. But any development at that end could set him up for a mammoth payday, especially since Toronto may not be interested in tying up its potential cap space with an extension this fall.