Jul. 06, 2019
NBA Free Agency Preview
The NBA free agency window opens on Sunday and there are numerous questions as to where the biggest players in the world are headed for the foreseeable future.
Many fans are wondering where reigning Finals MVP and new King in the North Kawhi Leonard will end up. Will his decision impact fellow all stars Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant? Is Philadelphia going to be able to keep their core alongside Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris? Will Kemba Walker be able to lead a winning team?
Although last summer’s free agency included LeBron James, the best player in the world, this summer’s free agency may be the most important one since 2010, when LeBron joined the Miami Heat alongside perennial Hall of Famers Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Let’s take a look at the free agents and how their decision will impact the rest of the NBA.
Kawhi Leonard - SF, Toronto Raptors
Kawhi Leonard’s decision is the most important one of the summer. With Kevin Durant missing the entirety of next season, Leonard becomes the biggest instant impact player on the market. He just became the most popular man in Canada by leading the Toronto Raptors to the title, and Masai Ujiri and crew have proven to have built a contender in the North.
However, Leonard has been heavily eyeing both Los Angeles teams, the Lakers and the Clippers, as realistic destinations. Both teams are close to his home in LA and both teams have playoff aspirations. The Clippers are lead by a steady bench and good all around team play while the Lakers have two of the six best basketball players in the world in Anthony Davis and LeBron James.
His decision is going to be a league altering one. If he stays in The Six, the Raptors are eastern conference favorites and real threats to repeat. If he goes to the Clippers, they instantly become title contenders. If he goes to the Lakers, there is a new super team in the NBA. Each option tells a remarkable story, and changes the league for a long time.
Prediction: After careful deliberation, Leonard chooses to stay in Toronto on a short two-year max contract.
Kevin Durant, SF - Golden State Warriors
If Durant chooses to leave, then his short but fruitful marriage with the Warriors ends on a very sour note. It was obvious that he was not ready to play in the Finals, despite reports, and he unceremoniously tore his achilles and will miss the entirety of next season.
But that does not mean Durant is not a hot commodity. In fact, even with a torn achilles, Durant should still be considered a top 10 player in the world. Although his return to The Bay makes a lot of sense, is it worth it for him to return after the fiasco he dealt with at the hands of the medical staff? Add on to the fact that the well respected Andre Iguodala said the Warriors staff misdiagnose injuries often, and you have yourself a s***-storm.
He says he wants to play in a large market, and that means New York should be the obvious answer, correct? Well which New York team? The Nets have a solid young core, while the Knicks are the most valuable basketball team in the world. In their current state, neither team is immediately ready to contend, so I’m sure each would be patient with Durant as he rehabs.
Prediction: Durant signs a super max contract with the Brooklyn Nets over the Golden State Warriors and the New York Knicks.
Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, PG - Boston Celtics and Charlotte Hornets
The Athletic’s Shams Charania has reported that Irving will end up with the Brooklyn Nets while Walker will end up with the Boston Celtics.
Klay Thompson, SG - Golden State Warriors
The Athletic’s Shams Charania has reported, to no surprise, that Thompson is going to stay with the Warriors on a 5 year/$190 million deal.
Jimmy Butler, SG - Philadelphia 76ers
Jimmy Butler is the best two way player on the market not named Kawhi Leonard. Although Butler has been deemed a bad teammate by some formers teammates of his, no one can deny that Butler has the leadership and the talent to lead a team to the playoffs.
The 76ers undoubtedly want to keep their core of Jimmy Butler and fellow free agent Tobias Harris together to play alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The Eastern Conference should be an open race, even if Kawhi Leonard ends up back in Toronto. Any team from the 76ers, to the Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics has a legitimate chance of making it to the finals.
It has been reported that Butler is open to listen to other teams. The Miami Heat have been reported as legitimate suitors for the services of Butler. The Houston Rockets are aggressively attempting to trade for him, as they don’t want to waste the final years of the Chris Paul/James Harden era in Houston. He may not be the biggest name on the market, but Butler is an impactful player who can really provide scoring and defense on a contender.
Prediction: Butler signs with the Houston Rockets over the 76ers and the Heat, which creates an even more chaotic locker room. While Tobias Harris resigns with the 76ers.
D’Angelo Russell, PG - Brooklyn Nets
Russell was a once promising PG on the Los Angeles Lakers who was ostracized from the team after former President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson said that Russell was not enough of a leader. His breakout season in Brooklyn has silenced all haters as he led the Nets to the playoffs.
However, with the Nets seemingly hot for the services of Kyrie Irving, Russell becomes the odd man out in Brooklyn. It is likely that Russell will not be a Net next year, but there are plenty of teams eyeing his services. The Minnesota Timberwolves, the aforementioned Lakers, and the Phoenix Suns have expressed interest in Russell.
Russell is without a doubt capable of leading a team. The question is whether or not he wants to be the first scoring option on a lower seeded playoff team, or a third scoring option on a contender.
Prediction: Russell completes a sign-and-trade with the Nets to go to the Minnesota Timberwolves, over the Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns.
Further Notes: All stars Khris Middleton and Nikola Vucevic of the Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic respectively are expected to sign extensions to keep them with their teams. Middleton’s is reportedly 5 years/$190 million, while Vucevic’s is currently unknown.