The NBA Draft concluded last week, and now we are only days away from the beginning of the NBA Free Agency period. On June 30th, come 6 o’clock eastern, teams can start making their offers for players on the market.
This was shaping up to be one of the more exciting free agency periods in recent memory, but injuries to both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson really put a damper on things. There are still a lot of big names out there, so let’s take a look at some potential moves that could really shake up how the NBA looks next season.
Clippers sign Kawhi Leonard
With the injuries to Durant and Thompson, Kawhi is now undoubtedly the biggest free agent this offseason. Where he decides to play will instantly shift the balance of power in the league. It’s believed that he is strongly considering staying in Toronto, and why wouldn’t he? He just won another championship there, as well as the first in the franchise’s history. The city already loves him, and would love for him to stay.
If Kawhi stays in the Toronto, then the Raptors would be the favorites to come out of the East again. However, if he were to go out to the West, specifically the Clippers, then they would be contenders for years to come. Clippers have plenty of cap space to work with, as well as a strong team filled with solid role players already, so if they could add Kawhi and another piece or two, they could be the team to watch out for in the West.
Brooklyn lands a Power Forward
It appears that the Brooklyn Nets are locked in for either Kyrie Irving and/or D’Angelo Russell. They have enough room to sign two big free agents, and they may decide to sign Kyrie and let Russell walk. The Nets were a surprise last season, making it to the playoffs for the first time in years. They, like the Clippers, have a solid roster filled with quality role players, but could use a star or two.
Russell looks to be a star in the making, but the Nets may like Kyrie more, and it may be a questionable fit with both DLO and Kyrie. If the Nets could add another big with one of these star point guards, the Nets might not quite be at the serious contender point yet, but could definitely make some noise. If the Nuggets don’t retain Paul Millsap, he could be a solid do-it-all kind of guy for this team. Maybe a guy like Julius Randle, or even a stretch-four player like Tobias Harris would be enough to make this team a legitimate threat.
Klay and Kevin both go to the Knicks
Okay, this is an interesting one, and a lot more far-fetched than the others, but still worth mentioning. Durant has been linked to New York for a while now, but his Achilles injury really changed his future plans. He may still go to New York, but may decide go elsewhere.
Klay is a lot less likely to go out east. It seems he’s been linked to staying in the West, whether it’s resigning with Golden State, or playing for one of the L.A. teams. But maybe Klay and Durant have a strong relationship. Two championships together, as well as a gold medal in the 2016 Olympics; maybe these two have built a bond with one another.
What would make this even more interesting is their injuries. Both would be sidelined for a large chunk of next season (Thompson could probably return around the All-Star break, whereas Durant would likely be out for the entire season). With both being gone for the majority of next year, the Knicks would likely tank again, giving some of their young players more looks and opportunity. Come the following year, a lineup consisting of Dennis Smith Jr., R.J. Barrett, Thompson, Durant, and Mitchell Robinson could be quite lethal, especially if the younger players continue to develop.
Horford teams up with the youngsters
Earlier this month, the Lakers made the blockbuster of the ages trading away their young core and future draft picks for the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis. He had been surrounded by trade talks for the last year or two, and the Lakers finally pulled the trigger.
Now, the Pelicans see themselves with young players like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart. They drafted the perennial prospect Zion Williamson, and have Jrue Holiday still under contract as well. This isn’t a bad team, but definitely not a contender right away. This team could use a big man, particularly a veteran as well.
Insert Al Horford, who’s a do-everything-well center that could be the perfect leader for this team. Horford has plenty of playoff experience, and would fill that hole the Pelicans have at the center spot. Horford looks to have uncertainty regarding his future with the Celtics, but at this point in his career, Horford may be more interested in chasing a ring rather than playing with younger players. Horford looks to be linked with the Mavericks and Kings, but if he decides to decline those offers, the Pelicans could be a viable option.
Kemba replaces Kyrie
The Celtics weren’t able to land AD via trade, and now look to be losing both Kyrie and Horford via free agency, but even then there future still doesn’t look too shabby. They still have solid young pieces on this team, including Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart. They still have plenty of future draft picks that Danny Ainge has stockpiled, and on paper looked to have knocked last week’s draft out of the park.
They have enough cap space to make some moves this offseason, especially if Kyrie and Horford walk. The Celtics have already been linked to Kemba Walker, who has a very similar play style to Kyrie. This could be a great fit for both parties involved. Yes, Kemba can make more money staying in Charlotte, but Charlotte doesn’t look to be a team in contention for years down the road. Celtics will replace their star player with another star player, and Kemba will FINALLY have some support that he’s been missing on his team for his entire career.
Rockets trade for Jimmy Butler
There’s been rumors circling lately that the Rockets are trying to create a sign-and-trade deal for Jimmy Butler. The idea would be to pair him up with James Harden and Chris Paul and try to continue their run for a championship.
Though I’m not convinced this trio would work well together, I’m not entirely convinced it wouldn’t work either. Jimmy would be a solid addition to this team, where he’s a reliable enough shooter to be a threat for when Harden is in iso-mode, but can also make a big impact on the defensive end. However, the question is what it will take to get him. They’ll likely have to get rid of Clint Capela and Eric Gordon for cap relief, and may not be able to retain P.J. Tucker either, who brought toughness and great flexibility for this team.
There’s also questions on how they would gel together personality wise too. Jimmy was quite vocal last season, especially when he was still on the Timberwolves. There’s questions about the relationship between CP3 and The Beard already, so adding another big personality may not be the best idea. However, if it did work out, this could be a team threatening for the throne in the West.
Lakers add depth and fill out their roster
Yes, the Lakers have plenty of cap space this summer, and have even more after unloading some contracts to the Wizards. It seems many want them to go after another free agent, but honestly, I feel like they really should try to round out this roster with more role players.
LeBron James will be playing with the best player he’s ever played with in AD, and Kyle Kuzma is another solid player, but I don’t think the answer to this team is to sign another big free agent. Instead, I think they should go after some role players, including guys that can shoot the three and/or play good defense. Guys like Patrick Beverly, Bojan Bogdanovic, P.J. Tucker, and J.J. Redick would all be great additions to this team and wouldn’t be super expensive, so it’s not like they only need to get one of them. They could add multiple role players with this team, and let LeBron and AD go to work, while getting the shooting and defensive support they need from other players. They don’t need another guy to take over and score 20 points a game. They need depth and reliability.