How teams can use 2015 to lure Kevin Durant in 2016

How long will it take for Kevin Durant to establish chemistry with his new coach and teammates? Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images

This year's free agent class is fine. That's not a exactly a dynamic way to describe a topic for which we'll expend so much time and energy writing about, but it fits. It's fine. Typical.

A strength of a free-agent class is really determined by the top players on the market. During the summers of 2010 and 2014, the power structure of the league was altered by free agency, both times because LeBron James changed teams. This year's market doesn't appear to have that franchise-altering player.

That changes next year when Kevin Durant finishes his contract with Oklahoma City, and for the first time is made available to all and sundry.

There are very good players who will become available July 1 when the league's moratorium begins in concert with free-agent wooing. James himself will likely be a member of that class, though no one expects him to talk with any team other than the Cleveland Cavaliers. Beyond James, there are 10 players who finished in the top 25 in wins above replacement player (WARP) last season who could conceivably be free agents.

One of those players is San Antonio's Tim Duncan, and it's safe to assume that next season he'll play either for the Spurs or no one at all. Another is Kevin Love, who has yet to decide whether to exercise his $16.7 million player option for next season with Cleveland.

Then you have three restricted free agents who will become very wealthy, but aren't likely to change teams: Chicago's Jimmy Butler, San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard and Golden State's Draymond Green. Whatever offers that trio might attract, their existing teams are almost certain to match. It's an interesting group nonetheless because of the spike in the cap next year. Already there are rumors Butler will solicit only short-term offers so that he can cash in even bigger next year. It's a risk because of injuries, but it's less of a risk for RFAs because they are at ages when not only are injuries less likely, but their on-court performances are on the ascension.

What we're left with is a strong group of second-tier unrestricted free agents, and others with player options who control their own destiny. Using the description "second-tier" sounds pejorative, but it's not. The top tier in the NBA consists of those upper-crust, top-fivers who any team would empty the bank accounts to acquire, because not only do they by themselves make a team relevant, but they have the kind of star power to attract other top free agents.

There are only around three to six such transcendent players in the league at a given time, sometimes fewer. If you're second-tier player behind those guys, it's a compliment. In this year's group, we're referring to players like Love, Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan, Paul Millsap, Brook Lopez and Greg Monroe. You might possibly add Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic. (Lopez, Wade and Dragic all are still deciding on player options.) These players are very good, all-league type players. None of them are going to turn around a franchise by themselves, but most of them could be the final piece, or even the centerpiece, on an otherwise intact championship contender.