NBA free agency has become just as important as the actual basketball games. The copious player movement is one of the reasons why the NBA makes the front page roughly 12 months out of the year. This has led to team building becoming just as interesting as how the teams actually perform. Here’s an early preview of what could be a wild summer.
2019 Free Agency: Early Preview and Predictions
This season will be Anthony Davis‘ last as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans. After only winning one playoff series in New Orleans, Davis requested a trade this past January. Although the Lakers made some offers for Davis, he remained a Pelican. Then-GM Dell Demps‘ stubbornness showed either A) his distaste with the Lakers’ offers or B) his desire to watch the Lakers crumble. The decision to hold on to Davis opened up the door for another team to try their hand: the Boston Celtics.
The NBA has a rule in place that prohibits the Celtics from trading for Davis while Kyrie Irving is under his current deal. The Celtics can trade for Davis on July 1, when Irving becomes a free agent. However, their package lost some value over the course of this season. They have Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and several first rounders. But, Tatum has shown no major signs of improvement, Brown seemingly regressed, and the highest pick is projected to be the 13th pick.
So, who’s left to make an offer for Davis? The Denver Nuggets.
Denver has improved its record every year since the 2014-15 season. They’ve surrounded their star player, center Nikola Jokic, with plenty of guys that can either shoot, drive, defend or some combination of the three. Although they’ve been one of the best regular season teams, the playoffs are a different monster. Star power is necessary to win, and aside from Jokic, Denver doesn’t have any stars.
They could change this by swinging a deal for Davis. They have plenty of young, promising players and plenty of picks in future years. Denver’s exact offer isn’t known, but it was reported that the Nuggets inquired about acquiring Davis. Denver has made right move after right move, and they could cash in by trading for a proven superstar.
After missing last season, Kawhi Leonard has reminded us how great he is. He’s lead the Toronto Raptors to a top record while averaging a career high in points per game. The Raptors took a big risk trading for Leonard, as it cost them their franchise star, DeMar DeRozan. They knew Leonard would be a free agent after this season. It was known that he wanted to play in Los Angeles. This season has provided which franchise it will likely be.
The Los Angles Clippers exceeded expectations, as they have secured a playoff spot even after trading away Tobias Harris, arguably their best player, for assets that aren’t as talented as him. The Los Angeles Lakers have fallen short of their expectations, as they have been eliminated from the playoffs in the midst of a turbulent season.
The Raptors’ situation is extraordinary, but the Clippers’ is also pretty darn good. Playing in Los Angeles with a team of young, impressive players and veterans that know their role? A superstar can’t ask for much more. The Clippers also have $59 million in cap space, which leaves room for another high-end free agent.
It’ll be a tough decision for Leonard, but at the end of the day, home is where the heart is. It’s also where a more-than-ideal situation is, and there’s a good chance the Klaw grabs hold of it.
What was supposed to be a dream season for Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics has been closer to a nightmare. The locker room is becoming increasingly toxic. Irving has become more impatient with reporters, especially those asking about free agency. The team is underperforming drastically. The projected championship contenders by many might not even have a home court advantage in any playoff series.
Although Kyrie said he would remain with the Celtics next season, he stated that he would act in his own best interest in February. Irving’s future in Boston looks bleak. Although Boston has the assets to mix up their roster, they could also plan to build around those assets and let Kyrie leave.
Remember, the Celtics were able to make the Eastern Conference Finals last year without him. It’s not like they’d fall off the map without him. Despite Boston being a great situation, Irving hasn’t been fully engaged with the team. This summer, he could join a different Atlantic division team: the New York Knicks.
A huge part of the Knicks signing Kyrie is drafting Zion Williamson, who has more superstar potential than any prospect this year. The Knicks have the best odds to obtain him, albeit only 14%. The Knicks also have the cap space for two max slots, meaning Irving could pair up with another All-Star.
One such All-Star could be Kevin Durant. He and Irving are very close, and they could potentially see New York as a place to team up, as it’s the only team that currently has two max contracts spots. Although both players are in great situations, they could try to restore the Knicks’ glory. The Celtics situation is still excellent, but the Knicks are such a unique, enticing situation. Unless things get patched up with his current team, Irving could be a Knick next season.
After shocking the world by signing with the top dog Golden State, Kevin Durant could choose to sign with the mutts of the NBA for the last 20 years.
There have been several reports that the Warriors are foreseeing Durant leaving. Durant’s body language has been bad this season, as there have been several instances of him not looking engaged and arguing with teammate Draymond Green. Although Durant will likely end up collecting his third straight ring this June, it may be his last ride in the bay.
The team that has the most rumors of Durant joining them is the Knicks. Several executives names have suggested Durant calls Madison Square Garden his home next season. Durant and his business partner/agent Rich Kleiman have begun building up Durant as a mogul in New York City. The business side is taken care of, but the basketball side is still at work.
The Knicks have the cap space for two max slots, meaning Durant could have his choice of sidekicks from any of the previously mentioned players. The Knicks also have a surplus of young players whose games could mature quicker under the guidance of stars like Durant (Zion Williamson could potentially be one of them).
Still, the Knicks aren’t the perfect destination. The Clippers and Nets can provide the benefits of a big market while having a better team already in place. The Knicks’ primary advantage is their additional max slot. The buzz around Durant and the Knicks is too loud to ignore. Plenty can change from now until July 1st. But until it does, I see Durant becoming a Knick.
March 03, 2016: New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) reacts to a play during the NBA game between the San Antonio Spurs and the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA. (Photograph by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire) (Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)