Now that the draft has come and gone, the immediate focus for the NBA offseason turns to free agency, where we find a juicy list of big names ready to be wooed accordingly. We'll take a look at some of the bigger names, how much they're expected to cash in for, where they might end up, and more.
Kyrie Irving Signs a Less than Max 1+1 Contract with the Lakers
While teams like the Knicks, Nets, & maybe even the Celtics will be trying to sign Kyrie Irving as their centerpiece player going forward, Kyrie (and the rest of the world now) knows he’s a much better version of himself as a complimentary player. And there’s no better place to hide away and play than behind the shadows of LeBron James and now Anthony Davis. A Kyrie, Kuzma, LeBron, AD core lineup should be able to contend with anyone. The Lakers may only have around $25M to offer him in 2019, so he might be looking at a 2 year, $51M contract where 2020 is a player option.
Kawhi Leonard Stays, Just a Little Bit Longer
There’s something to be said about Kawhi Leonard having done everything he possibly could for the Raptors already, but the situation as a whole seems too good to be true for the 27-year-old - at least right now. With 8 years of experience, Kawhi’s maximum contract stems from 30% of the league cap. In two years, those numbers will soar to 35% of the league cap. Until then, it makes sense for Leonard to lock in a 2 year, maximum contract worth $68M to remain with the Raptors, and then reset his future thereafter.
Jimmy Butler Heads West
Jimmy Butler appears to be the “Plan B” option for many teams this summer, but he should be a top priority for the Clippers, even if they miss out on reeling Kawhi out of Canada. Butler’s style of play seems a strong fit for Doc Rivers’ system, and his addition puts the Clippers in serious contention in the West. If it’s Kawhi & Jimmy together, Butler’s deal might be slightly less than max. If it’s just Jimmy, it’s for sure a 4 year, $140M max contract.
Khris Middleton is Heavily Wooed, but Stays Home
Expect strong offers from teams like the Kings, Mavericks, & Nets to make the next few weeks difficult for Khris Middleton. But at the end of the day, if a team with Giannis, on the brink of an NBA Finals appearance in 2019, begs you to come back, you do so. Milwaukee may very well consider Giannis, Middleton, & Malcolm Brogdon their three core players for this window. Middleton is headed to unrestricted free agency, Brogdon is a restricted free agent who will garner at least a few offer sheets, and Giannis will be eligible for a SuperMax extension a year from now. If Milwaukee is in, it’s going to cost them upwards of 80% of their 2020-2021 salary cap to keep these three in the fold.
Can The Warriors Remain Intact?
Fans across the league have been pining for the day Kevin Durant leaves the motherland and heads to uncharted territory. While this is still a very real possibility, it also now stands to reason that Golden State has the upper hand. Durant’s Achilles injury will sideline him for 2019-20, as will Klay Thompson’s ACL tear.
The decision on Durant might be most difficult as there are very few instances of players returning to true form following an Achilles injury. But his value to this Warriors’ dynasty couldn’t have been more visible the past few weeks, and with the Warriors about to pack up and move to a brand new arena in San Fran, the best - albeit recklessly expensive - decision seems to be to offer KD a 5 year, $221M maximum contract to stay. Teams like the Knicks & Nets will likely be making their offers as well, but can only hand out a maximum 4 year, $164M contract. While money may not have been a driving factor in KD’s decision a few months ago, post-injury, an extra $57M to stay in Golden State certainly seems like something to consider. Durant holds a $31.5M player option currently, which must be decided on by June 29th. It’s likely he’ll decline, knowing there’a a $38.15M salary to be earned from someone in 2019-20 - even if he never sees the court.
Delayed Sign & Trade
There’s been much made about the Warriors extending Durant with the mindset of trading him in the near future (2020 deadline or summer). This delayed sign-and-trade would be beneficial to the Warriors, but it’s a MAJOR risk for Durant. Because KD has only been a Warrior for 3 seasons, he’s not eligible to negotiate a no-trade-clause into a deal this summer. While Golden State can say all the right things about how they’ll make sure Durant has his say on where a trade is processed, there’s nothing forcing the Warriors to play nice.
Thompson’s decision might be a little easier, as it just seems a given that he and the Warriors are sticking together for the foreseeable future. The only question comes in just how high Golden State is willing to go financially. Klay’s maximum contract to remain with the Warriors is a 5 year, $190M deal that includes a $32.7M salary in 2019-20. If we’re assuming all of the above here, that means Curry, Thompson, Green, Iguodala, & Durant will combine for $146.8M of 2019-20 salary cap, and two of those players (Durant, Thompson) likely won’t be available at all.
Kemba Returns to the Garden
The Knicks grand plan of adding Durant and an electrifying point guard as a 1-2 punch this summer might(?) be dead, but that shouldn’t stop Kemba Walker from returning to Madison Square Garden, where his college career hit a whole new level. Kemba’s proven he can lift a team up on his shoulders before, and with ample cap space to fill in strong pieces around him (even if it’s not another max. player), New York should be a very desirable landing spot for Walker. The Catch? Being selected an All-NBA player this past season qualified Kemba for a Super Max extension in Charlotte, to the tune of 5 years, $221M. The most the Knicks or other prospective teams are able to offer Walker is a 4 year, $140M contract, a difference of $81M guaranteed. Even if Charlotte offers a slightly less than SuperMax deal, they’ll be head and shoulders above where the Knicks can be financially. We’ll soon see how much Kemba Walker really enjoys the Hornets.
Offer Sheets Galore for D’Angelo Russell
Utah, the team that initially made the most sense for a D'Angelo Russell acquisition, just completed a trade to bring veteran PG Mike Conley in from Memphis. Still, there will be offers for the 23-year-old, including teams such as Minnesota, Indiana, Orlando, and possibly even the Boston Celtics, who have been frantically clearing cap space themselves. But ultimately, if the Nets miss out on Kyrie, Kawhi, Butler, Durant, they’ll be forced to match an offer for Russell, which might be a blessing in disguise as it is. Russell’s game has never looked near as strong as it has in Brooklyn. A max offer sheet for D’Angelo clocks in at 4 years, $117M, including $27.25M in 2019-20.
|DeMarcus Cousins||C||29||UFA||9||2 yr, $24M, (CHI)|
|Tobias Harris||SF||27||UFA||8||5 yr, $189M (MAX, PHI)|
|Nikola Vucevic||C||28||UFA||8||4 yr, $100M (ORL->BOS)|
|Julius Randle||PF||24||UFA||5||4 yr, $80M (BKN)|
|Malcolm Brogdon||PG||26||RFA||3||4 yr, $80M (MIL)|
|Al Horford||C||33||UFA||12||4 yr, $112M (SAC)|