2019 NBA Free Agency kicks off tonight at 6 pm eastern standard time, and the landscape of the NBA will forever be changed.
Kevin Durant could bolt to the Eastern Conference and attempt to bring the New York Knicks back glory. The bright lights of Los Angeles may lure Kawhi Leonard from the reigning NBA Champion Toronto Raptors. A new super team could be erected between the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks or a potential wild card team.
Before the fireworks begin, let us analyze and predict where the biggest free agents will be playing next season.
Kevin Durant signs with the New York Knicks
The long-awaited free agency decision took a massive hit when the former MVP tore his Achilles ruling him out for the 2019-'20 season. Speculation rose as to whether to the 30-year old forward would opt into his $30 million player option and remain with Golden State or if his plans to leave remain the same.
Although the Durant is meeting with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson via FaceTime and general manager Bob Meyers, there is little hope for Golden State retain the best player in the world. Reports surfaced stating Durant was angry at the Warriors for pushing him to rush back and neglecting to inform him of the severity of his injury. Whether that is true or not, Durant is still leaving.
While the Clippers and Nets are viable options, many believe New York is where Durant's heart is leading him. The Knicks are the most valuable franchise in the world in the largest market in the United States with the ability to offer Durant a max contract. A match made in heaven will be hard to turn down for a rehabilitating Durant.
Kawhi Leonard moves to Los Angeles
Nobody knows what Kawhi Leonard is thinking. No one thought he would have requested a trade from the San Antonio Spurs, and no one would have guessed the Toronto Raptors would have won the 2019 NBA Championship after trading DeMar DeRozan.
Leonard has every reason to stay in Toronto. The aforementioned championship, the majority of the roster returning playing in a weaker conference and an entire country offering free rent, food and all the love in the world. What more could he want?
That being said, Leonard is done being 'King of the North.' He has been there done that and people that know Kawhi know he wants to be home. While the Lakers have made moves to clear roster space, the Clippers make the most sense in regards to fit and future promises.
The Clippers took the Warriors to six games in the playoffs this past season and are built similar to the Raptors. Not to mention, the Clippers have space for not only one max free agent but two, meaning Leonard could be paired with another superstar.
Klay Thompson returns to Golden State
Klay Thompson means as much to Golden State as Stephen Curry. If that is blasphemous well too bad. He is the second half of the Splash Bros., and if he played the remainder of game six and did not miss a game earlier in the series, maybe the Warriors are NBA Champions again.
Enough with the what-ifs and let us get to the facts. Klay Thompson is not going anywhere. It took one day, and he already agreed to re-sign with Golden State for a max contract worth $190 million over the next five seasons, according to Shams Charania.
The agreement has also been confirmed by NBC Sports Bay Area Warriors' Insider Monte Poole.
Kyrie Irving heads to the other New York team
Another move expected to be completed by the beginning of free agency is Kyrie Irving to the Brooklyn Nets.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets are 'motivated to move quickly' towards a four-year, $141 million max deal.
While not confirmed or promised, Irving to the Nets looks to be a lock after the team put restricted free agent point-guard D'Angelo Russell on the trade market. The only possible hold up being the recruitment of Kevin Durant, Irving reportedly does not mind heading to Brooklyn alone.
As anticipation builds, Irving signing with the Nets is as doubtful as LeBron James making the All-Star team.
Kemba Walker replaces Kyrie in Boston
The Celtics would have reportedly traded Kyrie Irving for Kemba Walker the last two seasons. Instead of doing so, Boston has agreed to sign the former Charlotte Hornet to a four-year, $141 million max deal, according to Shams Charania.
The direct report stated Walker "plans to commit" to the deal but let us not be foolish. The deal is done and waiting for the league to sign off on it once free agency starts.
A better fit and team player than Irving, Walker should fit in with head coach Brad Stevens of play. Walker's maturity, something Irving lacked, will also come in handy when dealing with the media and Boston's young core.
Jimmy Butler takes his talents to South Beach
Jimmy Butler wants to be a member of the Miami Heat or at least that is what the Associated Press reported this morning. Further reports stated Butler will tell Heat officials tonight that he 'wishes' to sign with them.
While that sounds nice, the Heat have no cap room for a max contract player, meaning Miami will have to work out a sign-and-trade with the Philadelphia 76ers. With a trade being the only option, forward Josh Richardson has been the speculated key piece to make the trade work. Along with Richardson the Heat would send either Hassan Whiteside or Goran Dragic as salary dump candidates.
While work needs to be done, the Sixers and Heat have the tools and need to make the acquisition work.
Tobias Harris joins Kyrie Irving
The Brooklyn Nets are 'confident' they will get a commitment from Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan, according to Marc Stein.
Do not buy everything you hear.
Despite the Nets confidence, the Knicks the better option for Kevin Durant but there is no shame in settling for Tobias Harris. In fact, the majority of teams would be excited to have Harris on their time. Understandably going from Durant is a bit of a letdown but from what is being reported, Harris is not expected to receive a max offer.
The Nets could sign Kyrie Irving, who seems to be connected every free agent on the market, Jordan, and save money while adding a big three including Harris, who averaged 20 points last season.
D'Angelo Russell says no to LA
D'Angelo Rusell is the odd-man-out with the Nets signing Kyrie Irving. (Told you every free agent is connected to him.)
Hitting the free market for the first time in his young career, a familiar team has come calling. The Los Angeles Lakers, the team that originally drafted Russell, have 'aggressively' pursued the point guard in hopes to pair him with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
While that sounds like a dream, maybe the bright lights have blinded the Lakers' front office because it is not happening.
Instead, Russell has made it clear the Minnesota Timberwolves are his preferred team, and the team agrees. According to Marc Stein, Minnesota is 'increasingly confident' they can make moves to land Russell.
Remember, do not always believe what you hear, but in this case, it is okay.
The pairing of Russell and All-Star Karl Anthony-Towns is what every young team dreams of having. Not to mention the signing Russell would force the Timberwolves to get out of the head-scratching Andrew Wiggins contract. A win-win if you must.
Boogie Cousins, the 'Ring Chaser'
DeMarcus Cousins played himself in and out of a large payday this season. Injury concerns have always been present but sloppy postseason play solidified his free agent market. While Cousins finished strong, only a few teams have verbalized interest in the big man.
The Warriors, Lakers, Hawks, Mavericks, and Knicks are Cousins market. With that said, all five teams have higher priorities and bigger holes to fill on the market.
The Warriors want to sign Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green to max contracts by the end of the year. The Knicks wants Kyrie Irving and Durant. The Lakers are pursuing Kawhi Leonard, and the Mavericks recently gave Kristaps Porzingis a max deal.
That leaves the Hawks. A rebuilding team with a young core likely not looking for an injury prone, aging big man. Whom does that leave?
Well, nobody really but one team may need Cousins than the rest.
The Los Angeles Lakers may not land Kawhi Leonard or D'Angelo Russell. Why not pair Cousins and Anthony Davis together again and have the most athletic frontcourt in the NBA. Not to mention, Cousins will be on another prove it deal making him a cheap back-up option with the ability to stretch court or be a dominant force on the inside.
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