With over 200 players in the NBA free agency pool this next month will truly be a jigsaw puzzle as league execs attempt to piece together their rosters in what is suddenly appearing to be a wide open race to take home the next Larry O’Brien trophy.
The reigning champs, the Toronto Raptors may not retain their cornerstone piece, their franchise savior, Kawhi Leonard.
The Golden State Warriors’ dynasty was shook to its core by 2 devastating injuries in the Finals, and will likely never be the same again.
The team that would be king, the 2018 off season paper champs (or at least paper eastern conference champs) Boston Celtics have crumbled.
And the best team of the 2018 regular season, the Milwaukee Bucks’ future success may thwarted by the luxury tax.
Lebron has a running mate in LA. There are reports of issues in Houston. Philly went all in on 2 potential free agents and may be all out of answers if they leave. Seemingly the only constant is that the Knicks are awful.
NBA free agency “officially” kicks off today at 6 PM (EST). There have been numerous reports about meetings players are taking, some intended destinations for players and other such tom foolery that doesn’t take place until after 6 PM (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Ultimately though no pen to paper deals can be done until July 6th. And while its bad form to come to an agreement, and then back out of it before the moratorium ends, its not unheard of (I’m looking squarely at you DeAndre Jordan).
So we’re going to take a peek at where 25 of the NBA’s top free agents could be calling home come fall 2019. Keep in mind that agreement can be made immediately, but can’t come to fruition until July 6th, so you could seen an agreement then be augmented to become a sign and trade, but ultimately the destination projected is the end result destination once the dust has settled.
KEVIN DURANT – GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS – FORWARD
Suffering a catastrophic achilles injury in the finals that will most likely see Durant miss all of the 2019-2020 season will not stop Durant from receiving multiples offers for a max deal. The Warriors would love to give him their money. As would both New York franchises. Ultimately though I think he moves south to La La Land. He’s reportedly taking meetings with the Warriors, Clippers, Nets, and Knicks. While the draw of New York, and the opportunity to put his mark on the Eastern Conference may be enticing, I will always trust Jerry West to come out on top in the end. PROJECTION: LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
KAWHI LEONARD – TORONTO RAPTORS – FORWARD
The newly anointed King of the North (don’t tell Sansa Stark), Leonard has long been rumored to be wanting to return to SoCal. Allegedly he’s asked for a meeting with the Lakers that would not include Rob Pelinka. While a team up of Kawhi, Lebron, and AD would be devastating to the hopes of the other 29 franchises, it just doesn’t feel right. But Leonard setting up shop with Doc Rivers and company feels like a distinct possibility. To sign Leonard and Durant both would likely involve shedding Danilo Gallinari, that isn’t exactly impossible. PROJECTION: LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
KYRIE IRVING – BOSTON CELTICS – BALL HANDLER
A New Yorker through and through, Kyrie didn’t work out in Boston. For everyone trying to tarnish him on the way out the door though, don’t be foolish, he is an outstanding talent. Reports are that the Lakers intend to make him a priority if they can’t reel in Kawhi. I don’t expect him to be on the market that long as by the end of the day he’ll have come to an agreement with the Nets. Which is kind of too bad, because even though he is a New Yorker (and don’t come at me with the “he’s a Jersey boy” crap, people from Jersey are all just wanna be New Yorkers, unless its southern Jersey, then they’re wannabe Philadelphians), he has that whackadoodle California feel to his vibe. Reports the last few weeks had Kyrie and Durant as a pair though. I think ultimately that dream falls short for the Nets. PROJECTION: BROOKLYN NETS
KEMBA WALKER – CHARLOTTE HORNETS – BALL HANDLER
Not that Kemba is deserving of a supermax contract, but if the reports of the Hornets low balling their only certified star while they’re paying what they’re paying to the likes of Nic Batum, and Cody Zeller are true, then there really isn’t hope for Charlotte’s second attempt at an NBA franchise. Reports are that a Walker return to New England will be completed at about 6:01 Boston time this afternoon. PROJECTION: BOSTON CELTICS
KLAY THOMPSON – GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS – WING
For a lot of people Klay is felt to be crazy overrated, or crazy underrated. Put me in the camp of crazy underrated. This is a guy who can drop 50 on any given night and not need to dominate the ball to do so, all the while playing tremendous defense on the other end. Following an ACL injury it is expected that he’ll miss most, if not all, of the upcoming season. Regardless, he’s still worth the max money that he is about to be paid. PROJECTION: GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
TOBIAS HARRIS – PHILADELPHIA 76ers – FORWARD
Harris has bounced around the league a bit, Milwaukee, Orlando, Detroit, the Clippers, and Philly. All that and he’ll turn just 27 next month. A bit of a late bloomer by NBA standards. He’s a very good player, but feels like he is just shy of a max contract. That being said, he’s not that far off. Ideally he feels like he should be coming in around $27-$29 million a year. Which is to say that he’s not so far off that it’ll be that bad of an investment for any team that offers him a max level deal. Especially when you consider it’ll cover his age 27-30 seasons, also known as his prime years. PROJECTION: BROOKLYN NETS
KRISTAPS PORZINGIS – DALLAS MAVERICKS – UNICORN
Following a mid-season trade to Dallas, after which Porzingis never actually saw the floor, there is zero chance of him leaving Dallas. And as a restricted free agent, I mean zero. Having made the deal, Mark Cuban had to have been prepared to match any offer. I don’t see it getting that far though as the Mavs and Porzingis will come to an agreement to pair Eurostars Doncic and Porzingis together for the benefit of all man-kind. Without a doubt it’ll be entertaining basketball. PROJECTION: DALLAS MAVERICKS
D’ANGELO RUSSELL – BROOKLYN NETS – GUARD
Assuming Kyrie and the Nets come to a quick agreement, the Nets would then withdraw their qualifying offer to Russell, making him an unrestricted free agent. He’ll have no shortage of suitors. The Pacers covet him, the Suns would be a logical landing spot. The Celtics, if the reports of Kemba’s arrival prove false would find use for him, and the Lakers have been reported to have interest. Russell, like Harris, due to age, and number of suitors, likely slots in as a max player. Because of his limited years in the league though, his max salary is lower than say, Kyrie Irving. Meaning for the Lakers to sign him, it’d provide them an additional amount of salary cap room to play with, roughly $5 million. So essentially a second Room Level Exception salary slot. PROJECTION: LOS ANGELES LAKERS
NIC VUCEVIC – ORLANDO MAGIC – POST
Vucevic picked the right year to have a breakout. The addition of the 3 point shot to his game boosted his stock to the point where he was selected to his first all star team. Not a bad move when you’re going into free agency. With the Magic having selected Mo Bamba in the lottery last season there was thoughts that this was Vucevic’ swan song in Orlando. Instead he cemented his place in the organization. Reports are that he’ll be re-singing early in free agency, and if the figures are correct, he’ll be a very tradable asset should Bamba get his feet under him and emerge as a franchise center. PROJECTION: ORLANDO MAGIC
KHRIS MIDDLETON – MILWAUKEE BUCKS – WING
Middleton is probably one of, if not THE, under talked about star in the NBA. A very nice side kick player he can score from anywhere on the floor. He isn’t talked about nearly enough when it comes to the Bucks success. The Greek Freak is NOT a one man show in the cheese state. It is suspected that Milwaukee is about to back up the brinks truck for their free agent. While that feels like the right move for now, you worry about a team afraid of the luxury tax spending big on Middleton knowing full well that they’ll be having to give Giannis a SUPER MAX contract next off season (can we all agree that any player on a super max contract should in fact be required to wear a cape like a super hero?). PROJECTION: MILWAUKEE BUCKS
AL HORFORD – BOSTON CELTICS – POST
Big Al opted to not pick up his 4th year player option thus becoming a free agent. That wasn’t unexpected. What wasn’t expected though was him opening up shop to take other offers outside of Boston. And per reports those offers are about to come in. Teams like the 76ers, Kings, and Clippers have expressed interest. There is also a “mystery team” out there that some think could be… the Celtics. You will never hear me utter a bad word about Horford, but if someone gives him a 4 year deal worth north of $100 million, it’ll be a mistake. Age and knees will make that a very cumbersome deal on the back end. To that end, I think he ends up in Philly where he can play more 4, less 5, and with Embiid around, he can shorten his per game minutes, and monitor his workload better. PROJECTION: PHILADELPHIA 76ers
JULIUS RANDLE – NEW ORLEANS PELICANS – POST
Following his departure from LA so the Lakers could clear cap space, Randle took what essentially was a 1 year prove it deal from New Orleans. And prove it he did. Now in line for a big pay day, could he stay in New Orleans? Can he play beside Zion? Could he follow Anthony Davis and head back to Los Angeles? The guess here is that he takes a big pay day in the Big Apple. The Knicks have a boatload of money to spend and nobody who will take it. The believed theory is that if its not for a Kyrie, Kawhi, or Durant, that they’d prefer 1-2 year deals to maintain flexibility moving forward. For someone as young as Randle though, an exception may be made. A 4 year $60 million deal wouldn’t be shocking. PROJECTION: NEW YORK KNICKS
MALCOLM BROGDON – MILWAUKEE BUCKS – GUARD
Brogdon is a winner, the guy just knows how to play the game. A restricted free agent it is expected that a team will need to come over the top to dissuade the Bucks from matching an offer. Well, I suspect someone will. If Doncic is the sizzle for the Mavs, then Brogdon can be the ying to his yang. Brogdon could flourish under the watchful eye of coach Rick Carlisle (a fellow former Virginia Wahoo) and player development guru Mike Procopio. Does a 4 year, $72 million dollar deal get it done? Probably. PROJECTION: DALLAS MAVERICKS
BROOK LOPEZ – MILWAUKEE BUCKS – POST
The Bucks have 3 big names on the free agent market, and with Giannis’ supermax deal on the horizon, they’re likely only able to keep 2 out of the 3. If Brogdon gets a Godfather offer, then it opens the door for Lopez to return to Milwaukee where he resurrected his career. Regardless he’ll have no shortage of suitors depending upon where his market is set. PROJECTION: MILWAUKEE BUCKS
JIMMY BUTLER – PHILADEPHIA 76ers – WING
After having gone all in last season when they acquired Jimmy Butler and then Tobias Harris it feels like Philly has to do whatever it takes to retain at least ONE of them doesn’t it? The talk surrounding Butler has involved salary cap hampered teams like the Rockets and Heat, an indication that Philly should salvage SOMETHING out of this in a sign and trade. Ultimately though I think they put an offer in front of Butler that he won’t walk away from, a 5 year full max deal. PROJECTION: PHILADELPHIA 76ers
DEMARCUS COUSINS – GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS – POST
This is certainly an interesting player in terms of where his market is. Will year 2 following his surgery see a return to his past glory? Is this what he is now? And was that so bad? If you’re the Knicks, do you want to put Boogie in the position of being the elder statesman on your team? That doesn’t feel like a good idea, but its the Knicks so who knows? I honestly think an excellent spot would be taking a full MLE deal from Portland, but they likely want to roll the dice with Zach Collins and a return to health (hopefully) from Josef Nurkic. Ultimately I think he returns to Golden State and a more prominent role. PROJECTION: GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
TERRY ROZIER – BOSTON CELTICS – BALL HANDLER
Oh what a difference a year makes. A year ago Rozier was sitting on top of the world. In Irving’s absence he had brought the Celtics to the brink of the NBA Finals. 12 months later Rozier is now portrayed as a malcontent that deals with extreme bouts of inconsistency. All that aside, he’s going to find takers. Reports have the Knicks and Hornets interested. I imagine Orlando sniffs around, Phoenix makes some sense but ultimately by time the moratorium ends something will be worked out where he is headed to south. PROJECTION: CHARLOTTE HORNETS
PATRICK BEVERLY – LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS – JUNK YARD DOG
Any team, and I mean ANY team would love to have Patrick Beverly. The Clippers don’t want to lose him, and if they manage to only get 1 max level guy then I expect them to do what they can to retain him. Dallas should want him, Indy, Atlanta, name a team with cap space and they should be in on Beverly. Him returning home though to a young, but talented young Bulls squad makes sense. It’d allow them to ease Coby White into the job. He’d provide veteran leadership that will be lacking as Robin Lopez is likely gone, and he can teach the young kids, the Coby Whites, Wendall Carter Jrs, Zach Lavines, and Lauri Markkanens how to win. A 3 year $42 million deal could get it done. PROJECTION: CHICAGO BULLS
JJ REDICK – PHILADELPHIA 76ers – GUARD
Redick will have a market. Guys who can shoot always will. There will be talk of the Lakers, maybe returning to the Clippers to join a burgeoning superteam if Durant and Kawhi team up. Could the Knicks throw a big dollar amount on a short team deal, which is how Philly got him in the first place? I think one of Harris/Butler walks and the 76ers pivot back Redick. PROJECTION: PHILADELPHIA 76ers
HARRISON BARNES – SACRAMENTO KINGS – FORWARD
Its not that Barnes was a bust in Dallas, its just that he was paid as a #1 piece, when ideally he is your #3 guy. That’s really what he was in Golden State. Its also what he has a chance to be in Sacramento. He provides championship experience and can be that veteran leader as D’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley emerge. He opted out of the last year of his deal, and while an enticing offer or five could come in, the Sacramento fit feels like a good one. PROJECTION: SACRAMENTO KINGS
DEANDRE JORDAN – NEW YORK KNICKS – POST
Still a very good defender and terrific rebounder the amount of offers Jordan receives will be dictated by what he thinks he is worth. If he is looking for more than MLE or RLE money, then his market will be seriously restricted. If he is willing to take exception money then you could have Brooklyn, both LA teams, the Celtics, Rockets, and New Orleans in on him. If Houston moves Capela, then the chance to rejoin CP3 and make more shitty insurance commercials may be too enticing an offer to pass up. PROJECTION: HOUSTON ROCKETS
BOJAN BOGDANOVIC – INDIANA PACERS – WING
The Pacers would certainly like to retain the Euro-scorer. But they’ll have no shortage of competition for his services. San Antonio has rumored to have had interest, though they’d need to do some salary cap maneuvering to make that work. (Would a sign and trade involving Bogdanovic/Sabonis for DeRozan make sense?) The late rumblings are that Utah wants in on the action as well. And since I think the world deserves to see Joe Ingles and Bogdanovic together we’re gonna roll with that. PROJECTION: UTAH JAZZ
RICKY RUBIO – UTAH JAZZ – BALL HANDLER
Speaking of the Jazz and the Pacers. Since Rubio was displaced in Utah by the acquisition of Mike Conley he is looking for a new home. D’Angelo Russell should be the Pacers’ number one target, but if they get a sense from him that it isn’t going to happen, they’ll quickly reverse course and “settle” for the nifty Spaniard. PROJECTION: INDIANA PACERS
JONAS VALANCIUNAS – MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES – POST
The solidly built center was acquired by Memphis in the deal that sent Marc Gasol to Toronto. While in Tennessee Valanciunas experienced somewhat of a revival of his career. When he declined his player option it was thought that he and the Grizzlies would hammer out a multi year deal. I don’t think that course has been altered. PROJECTION: MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
DANNY GREEN – TORONTO RAPTORS – WING
After bouncing around at the beginning of his career, Green has emerged as a valuable 3 & D guy. He’s also emerged as a two time NBA champion. Subsequently he now wants to get PAID while he can. Many teams with tittle aspirations will come calling, the Lakers, the Rockets, and Clippers to name a few. But unless the Lakers opt to not obtain a 3rd max player, then all those deals will be exception type deals. But a team with young players, looking to take that next step into relevancy, that has cap space? Well how about this for a landing spot? PROJECTION: SACRAMENTO KINGS
- Written by Jason Sullivan
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