The climax of the NBA offseason starts in just under 6 hours. There are numerous reasons to pay attention to free agency this year. All stars by the names of Kawhi, Kyrie, Kevin, Kemba, Klay, Khris, and more are all exploring the market looking for new buyers. Or, they’ll just be boring and stay on their respective teams. Whatever happens, though, free agency is an intriguing look into the business that is the NBA. Money will change hands, stars will shift teams, and dynasties will be built in a matter of days. In this piece, I have written rankings of the top free agents (excuse my #3 rating of KD, he’s out for the year), their possibilities in free agency, and where I think they will land. Enjoy!
- Kawhi Leonard
After one of the most dominant postseasons in the history of the NBA, Kawhi will hit the open market. He’ll meet with the Lakers, Clippers, and, of course, the champion Raptors. The Knicks and maybe even the Sixers will try to sign him as well, but it’s obvious he’s either going to LA or staying in Toronto. The Raptors’ pitch will be a good one. They have the last meeting, where they’ll try to keep Kawhi by painting images of more championships, money (they can offer the biggest contract out of any team), and a whole nation of support. The Lakers have the cap space, Lebron, and Anthony Davis to recruit Leonard. I just have trouble thinking Kawhi would enjoy being a second or even third option on the team with the shakiest front office in the league. Last, we have the Clips. They have depth and enough space to sign another star. Not to mention, they have a steady front office and a veteran coach in Doc Rivers. Because of location, existing depth, and their ability to land another top free agent, I think the Clippers will sign Kawhi.
My pick: Los Angeles Clippers
2. Kyrie Irving
After a disappointing season in Beantown, Kyrie wants out. It’s a foregone conclusion that he’s leaving, despite his promises of staying early last season. The Knicks and Lakers seemed to have a shot, but it’s not looking like that anymore. It seems that Irving is zeroing in on Brooklyn. The Nets extended a qualifying offer to their star point guard, D’Angelo Russell, but they can easily let him go in favor of Kyrie. So, this pick was very easy for me.
My pick: Brooklyn Nets
3. Kevin Durant
Right now, I see three possibilities for KD. First, he can join Kyrie in Brooklyn. Second, he can join Kawhi on the Clippers (assuming Leonard wants to sign there). Finally, he stays in Golden State on a huge deal. I have no clue how the Warriors will be able to afford this, but it’s possible. The Nets and Clippers have an almost equal amount of cap space, so money won’t be an issue. However, I think LA will be where KD wants to spend his one year of rehab and beyond. The Clippers can offer him a huge contract and then wait a year for their deal to come to fruition. Jerry West and his front office have many possibilities, but this one is easily the best and I see it happening.
4. Klay Thompson
At 6 pm Sunday night, expect to see news that the Warriors have offered Klay Thompson a deal of around 5 years and 190 million dollars. And he’ll accept.
My pick: Golden State Warriors
5. Jimmy Butler
Out of any NBA free agent, I see the most possible destinations in Jimmy Butler. He could choose to embrace the bright lights of LA or New York on the Nets, Knicks, Lakers, or Clippers. He could force his way into a sign-and-trade with the Rockets or the Heat. Or, he could simply return to Philly. Despite all these grand options, I see him re-signing with the 76ers. Maybe the Rockets will sell their whole friggin’ roster for him or he’ll force his way to Miami, but the most clear-cut, clean option would for Jimmy Buckets to just re-sign where he can get the most $$.
My pick: Philadelphia 76ers
6. Kemba Walker
I’m honestly so happy that the Hornets are flaking on Kemba because he deserves so much more than that franchise. They never won or built anything around him and he needed to get out. Now, the word on the street is that Walker will agree to a deal with Boston. He could possibly go to the Lakers or even the Nets, but Boston looks like the move. I’m not positive this is the right move for the Celtics, but having a big-name certainly won’t hurt. This is the Celtics plan after Kyrie, and they better hope it works.
My pick: Boston Celtics
7. Tobias Harris
The Sixers have made it known that their top priority is to secure Jimmy Butler and Harris. They currently have just four players on their roster and a ton of cap space, so that goal is certainly attainable. The Sixers big four of Harris, Butler, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid came one Kawhi circus shot away from the Eastern Conference Finals last season. There’s no way Philly can let the opportunity to bring this group back together slip away.
My pick: Philadelphia 76ers
8. Khris Middleton
This is another easy choice, as it’s widely known that Middleton declined his player option to re-sign with the Bucks. The real questions are; what will the terms of the deal be and will the deal allow the Bucks to re-sign Brook Lopez and Malcolm Brogdon?
My pick: Milwaukee Bucks
9. Al Horford
After a sudden end to his time in Boston, Horford will explore the open market. Reportedly, the Pelicans, Kings, and possibly the Sixers. The Kings are definitely the best option for both sides here. The Kings will need a center with the departure of Willie Cauley-Stein and Sacramento has a great young core of De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley, and Buddy Hield. Expect the Kings to make the playoffs if they make this move.
My pick: Sacramento Kings
10. DeMarcus Cousins
After not garnering much interest last offseason in free agency, the outlook for Cousins is similar. The only team that seems like a legitimate contender for the big man is the Knicks. I think they’ll probably ink him on a one-year deal. It’s not the best fit, but since the Knicks need to burn all their cap space anyway, so taking a short-term gamble on Cousins isn’t such a bad idea.
My pick: New York Knicks
11. D’Angelo Russell
After creating more cap space, the Lakers can sign another big-name free agent. They’ll try to sign Kawhi, but I don’t see it happening. Their next option will be to net a point guard. Kyrie and Kemba are likely out of reach, so D’Angelo Russell seems like the next best option. I’ve seen numerous reports of both sides willing to reunite, so I’m gonna believe it.
My pick: Los Angeles Lakers
12. Kristaps Porzingis
No surprises here, Porzingis will stay in Dallas. Not only that, but he’ll probably sign a huge extension of about 5 years and 158 million dollars. Expect this Latvian unicorn to stay in Dallas and attempt to make a dynasty.
My pick: Dallas Mavericks
13. Nikola Vucevic
Another unsurprising pick for me here. Vucevic should stay in Orlando after an all-star year. He’s expected to accept a 4 year, 100 million dollar offer from the Magic.
My pick: Orlando Magic
14. Marc Gasol
This one really is a foregone conclusion. Gasol accepted his player option worth about 25 million to return to the Raptors.
My pick: Toronto Raptors
15. Julius Randle
Finally we have Randle. Right now, I see him going to either the Nets or the Knicks. Since I have just Kyrie going to the Nets so far, I’m gonna say Randle joins Brooklyn on an oversized deal.
My pick: Brooklyn Nets
There you go, my expert predictions (haha). Now all we can do is sit back, turn on Twitter notifications for Adrian Wojnarowski, and turn our eyes to the headlines.
*Rumors come from hoopshype.com, a great source for rumblings around the league