NBA free agency kicks off on June 30th, and this is like the equivalent of Christmas Day for NBA fans. Us at Fadeaway World invite you to sit back, while we do the hard job of speculating, where the Top 10 free agents will sign. This is the top 10 free agents and their destinations.
Before we get into anything, I want to mention two All-Stars who just missed the top 10 free agents and fall into the honorable mentions category for this article.
Middleton is coming off a decent campaign with the Milwaukee Bucks. Middleton's impressive two-way play earned him his 1st All-Star appearance. Middleton is 27 years old and entering the prime of his career. The best years could very well be ahead of this two-way star. Middleton is coming off a solid all-around campaign of averages of 18.3 ppg, 6 rpg, 4.3 apg, and 1 spg on 44 % shooting including 38% from three and 84% from the ft line.
In the postseason, Middleton's scoring dropped slightly to 16.9 ppg, but his rebound and assist averages remained steady at 6.3 rpg and 4.4 apg on 42% shooting including 44% from 3 and 89% from the foul line.
Middleton's defense is underappreciated as he was a big part of Milwaukee having the league's top defense. Middleton's efficiency as a bucket getter would be a substantial addition to any team. Teams like the Jazz and Mavericks have shown interest in Middleton, but according to Marc Stein, Khris Middleton is expected to stay with the Milwaukee Bucks this summer. He even goes as far as saying Middleton is nearly "untouchable" on par with the likes of Klay Thompson and others. I believe the Bucks will offer Middleton a max contract this summer out of necessity to retain one of their critical pieces during their run to the 2019 ECF.
Verdict: Middleton resigns with Milwaukee on a four-year max deal worth $110 Million
Vucevic is fresh off his career-best season. The Orlando big is early in his prime at 28 years of age. Vucevic is coming off career highs of averages of 20.8 ppg, 12 rpg, 3.8 apg, and 1.1 bpg on 52 % shooting including a respectable 36% from 3 and 79% from the stripe. Vucevic made significant strides this past season adapting his game by increasing his range. 36% from 3 is more than reputable for any center in the league. Vucevic is also finally making strides defensively as well. The critics can shush their mouths.
My belief is despite serious interest from the Sacramento Kings, the Switzerland born big man will return to Orlando because of foreign players historic loyalty to their franchises and Orlando can offer him the most money in free agency. Orlando just ended a long playoff drought and no way they are parting with their top player that easily. There are decisions Orlando has to make this offseason, but since they own the bird rights on Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross, they can go over the cap to pay both of their top free agents if they choose to. Magic President, Jeff Weltman is making it their top priority this offseason to retain their franchise center. I expect Orlando to reach a four-year max deal with Vucevic.
Verdict: Vucevic resigns with Orlando to a four-year max deal worth $100 Million
10. Julius Randle
Julius Randle is coming off a career year with the New Orleans Pelicans. As we know the New Orleans Pelicans won the lottery and are expected to draft Zion Williamson. I predict with that move; the Pelicans will likely refrain from paying to keep 24-year-old big man, Julius Randle who averaged 21.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg, and 3.1 apg in 31 mpg on 52% shooting including 34% from 3 and 73% from the foul line. Randle's efficiency is steadily increasing with every passing NBA season. Randle has the makings of a complete offensive player.
I predict Randle will take talents to the Phoenix Suns. In doing this, Randle will pair up with Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton to form a big 3 with the Suns. The Suns are desperate to strike gold every offseason. The 24-year-old and Phoenix appear to have mutual interest. Big free agent signings have not happened for the Phoenix Suns in recent memory. Despite, the great weather they have not been the most attractive free agent destination.
In their Locked on Phoenix Suns Podcast they begin addressing the report from John Gambadoro of the mutual interest between Randle and the Suns.
“We begin by addressing John Gambadoro’s report on mutual interest between the Suns and Julius Randle, in addition to how the Suns are valuing the No. 6 pick.”.
Verdict: Julius Randle signs with the Suns on a four-year deal worth $80 Mil
9. D'Angelo Russell
The 23-year-old is known for having ice in his veins in the clutch, but he was on fire this season averaging 21.1 ppg, 7 apg, 3.8 rpg, and 1.2 spg on 43% overall shooting including 37% from 3 and 78% from the ft line. His postseason performance was down as Russell only averaged 19.4 ppg on a measly 36% shooting in 5 games vs. the Sixers. We have to remember at only 23 years old; experience will only serve him better for the future. Experience is your best teacher.
Russell has become a cornerstone prospect for the Brooklyn Nets. I expect him to re-sign and build from this career season. Just like his former teammate Julius Randle, I expect him to be in line for a hefty payday. Many believe the dream scenario for Brooklyn to be experimenting with a Kyrie-DLo backcourt, and it might come to fruition. I believe that if Brooklyn pursues this backcourt pair, it will be a mistake because both of these need the ball in their hands to be successful. Two guards stepping on each other's toes does not make a franchise better.
Verdict: D'Angelo Russell resigns with the Nets on a five-year Max Deal worth $140 Mil
8. Tobias Harris
Tobias Harris is not an All-Star yet, but at 26 years old the potential is off the charts for this two-way wing. In 27 games for the Philadelphia 76ers after the trade from the LA Clippers, Harris averaged 18.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg, and 2.9 apg on 47 shooting from the field including 33% from and 84% from the ft line. The three-point shot will be there because, before the trade with the Clippers, he was shooting a smooth 43% from 3 in LA.
Tobias Harris shined more in the Brooklyn series for Philly than in the Toronto series. Overall, Harris averaged 15.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 4.0 apg and 1.1 spg on 43% shooting, 35% from 3 and 85% from the stripe in 12 games for the Sixers.
The Philadelphia 76ers are determined to keep Tobias Harris. I guess trusting the process means banking on one's potential and be willing to shell out $190 Million on a non-All-Star caliber player. In my opinion, I believe that the Sixers should pay Jimmy Butler instead because of his leadership and the heart he showed for Philly in the playoffs.
However, we have to respect the fact Harris is in a shooters league and at times he's proven to be among the best.
"If Harris wants a reason to stay, the Sixers could give him 190 million to think about. He may not look like a max-contract player to everyone, but that doesn't matter. He can create shots for himself and others, drain long-distance daggers at an elite rate and initiate pick-and-roll offense as a 6'9" combo forward. That unique skill set should elicit a max offer from someone, which would effectively establish the going rate for Philly.
Sixers managing partner Josh Harris wants Tobias back. Same goes for Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The numbers say this core is worth keeping together, too. Though assembled on the fly, Philly's first five of Simmons, Harris, Embiid, Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick steamrolled most anything in its path. It posted an incredible plus-17.6 net rating over 161 regular-season minutes, then upped the ante with a plus-24.9 mark across 173 playoff minutes."
Verdict: Tobias Harris resigns with the Sixers on a five-year max deal worth $190 Million
7. DeMarcus Cousins
Sometimes, we forget just how dominant DeMarcus "Boogie" Cousins was a couple of seasons back before tearing his Achilles. Before, the Achilles injury in 48 games for the Pelicans, Cousins averaged 25.0 ppg, 13.0 rpg, 5.0 apg, 1.6 spg, and 1.6 bpg on 47% from the field including 35% from 3 and 75% from the foul line. There were times where he even outshined Anthony Davis in games for New Orleans. Due to his injury and attitude problems, Cousins ended up signing with the Golden State Warriors on a one year deal for a measly 5.3 Million.
The 28-year-old big man played just 30 games this past season for the defending champs, the Golden State Warriors. In the bay, Cousins averaged 16.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.3 spg, and 1.5 bpg on 48% shooting from the field including 27% from 3 and 74% from the stripe.
Cousins postseason run with the Warriors was cut short when in Game 2 vs the Clippers, Cousins left the court with a quad injury. Cousins just returned to the Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA finals in a role with limited minutes off the bench. It remains to be seen if Cousins can get his feet back under him and have an impact on this series. The Warriors currently trail 3-2 to Toronto in the NBA Finals.
I expect Cousins to opt for a payday after taking little money to play with Golden State this past season. The Warriors have given Cousins a chance to build winning habits and showed him his first taste of playoff glory. I assume that Golden State and Cousins will mutually part ways in the offseason as Golden State will focus on paying another star in Klay Thompson.
The Lakers are seeking more stars to play with their aging superstar in LeBron James. Why not give LeBron this best big man he's played with since Chris Bosh? Yeah, I believe Cousins is just a smidge better than Kevin Love because he plays some defense. Cousins is probably not the Lakers first choice because of his history with winning, attitude problems, and recent injury history. I believe they will be forced to reconsider his services after missing out on other higher tier free agents.
Per Chat Sports Staff,
"DeMarcus Cousins has battled injuries for the last few seasons including a torn quad with the Golden State Warriors. Could the Lakers be the team where he proves himself with a cheap, 1-year deal?"
I believe that the Lakers will commit longer to him than a one year deal, but still play it a little safe. A two or three-year deal seems like the most reasonable option as the Lakers work to construct their next big 3. No way, Cousins opts for another cheap deal either if he can help it. Probably, a player option in the second year after he gets a chance to prove his value with the Lakers.
Verdict: Cousins signs with LA Lakers on a two-year deal worth $24 Million
6. Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker has given his all for the Charlotte Hornets in 8 seasons of stellar play for the franchise. Walker is coming off a fantastic 2018-19 campaign and has put on for the city of Charlotte for a long time with little to no success. Walker is coming off averages of 25.6 ppg, 5.9 apg, 4.4 rpg, and 1.2 spg on 43 % shooting including 36% from 3 and 84% from the foul line.
Despite, finishing the season on a losing team, Walker earned a high honor being elected to the NBA's All Third Team. This means Charlotte can offer him a super-max contract this offseason. Kemba has listed Charlotte as his top option but admits it's not about the money. This means that other teams like the Dallas Mavericks, for instance, have a snowball's chance of getting their hands on this superstar of a point guard.
"The article did not give Dallas supporters a ton of hope, but do not count it out yet. Kemba noted he hasn't fully thought through his free agency and money is not the deciding factor. The Mavericks are in the running for his services. Owner Mark Cuban and the front office are going to have to convince Kemba that Dallas is the place for him to take his career to another level.
The Mavs also have a clearer path to contention than the Hornets. Charlotte has a ton of money committed next season. They have failed to make the playoffs since 2016. The Mavericks can pitch Kemba pairing up with a young and improving core to return to the postseason.
Dallas fans should have faith in the front office this summer. The Mavs may sign Walker, or they will use the cap space on other free agents that improve the team. Regardless, the Mavericks are headed toward contention. A few shrewd moves could make that a reality next season."
I believe Kemba will choose winning and legacy over money much like Kevin Durant did when he didn't re-sign with Oklahoma City. Charlotte has failed continuously to put the right talent around Kemba Walker. Jeremy Lamb and Nicolas Batum are not going to create any winning action around the hive for the Hornets.
Kemba will take less money to play with the Dallas Mavericks and form a big 3 in Dallas with the likes of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. Making the Dallas Mavericks the newest contender in the Western Conference. People are underestimating what Walker is capable of when given a chance to play with other exceptional talents.
Verdict: Kemba signs a four-year max deal worth $140 Million
5. Klay Thompson
Klay Thompson back to the bay is the surest thing since another Fast & Furious sequel. Klay Thompson's only demand was $190 Mil over 5 years from Golden State and bearing anything odd he will surely get his needs met. Golden State will be desperate this offseason to retain a sense of their championship identity. Kevin Durant is likely heading for the exits. Cousins was probably a one-year rental. Klay Thompson just missed his chance a supermax contract by arguably getting snubbed out of an All NBA Team spot.
However, Klay Thompson was finally recognized for his work on the defensive end by getting elected to the NBA's All-Defensive 2nd Team. Thompson is still only 29 years old. In the middle of what should be the prime years of his career. Without KD in the fold, it should lead to Klay becoming a 2nd option in the offense again. As a third option, this past season Klay flourished averaging 21.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.4 apg and 1.1 spg on 47% shooting including 40% from the 3 point line and 82% from the foul line.
Many people including myself would love to see how Thompson would do as the number one option for a franchise like Clippers or the Nets, but it's as unlikely a fast food joint getting your order right.
" If Thompson is named to an All-NBA team this season, he would become eligible for a designated player contract with the Warriors worth $221 million over five seasons, based on current salary cap projections. If he doesn't qualify, he is still eligible to resign with the Warriors for $190 million over five years. If he chooses to leave, he can sign a $140 million maximum deal over four years with any other team.
If he doesn't qualify for the supermax this year, with eight years of service under his belt, he could sign a one-year deal this year, try to hit a qualifying milestone next season and then sign a designated veteran player contract in 2020.
If Thompson really wants to maximize his earnings, he could sign a two-year maximum deal with the Warriors this year and then become eligible for the maximum contract worth 35 percent of the cap players with 10 years of service are eligible for. It is worth the same amount of money he can get for the supermax — he just gets it later and doesn't need the milestones. But this is a risky bet because in two years the Warriors may not want to give him a max worth 35 percent of the cap."
Verdict: Klay Thompson resigns with Warriors on a five-year max deal worth $190 Million
4. Jimmy Butler
Jimmy G. Buckets. The G stands for gets. Jimmy Butler seemed to go from a locker room cancer in Minnesota to fan favorite in Philadelphia in a span of one season. Jimmy Butler had a solid regular season run with the Sixers, but it was his play in the playoffs that made Sixers fans fall entirely in love with him. Jimmy in 12 playoff games averaged 19.4 ppg, 6.1 apg, 5.2 apg, and 1.4 spg on 45% shooting overall including 27% from 3 and 88% from the free throw line coupled with his leadership and all-out hustle. Philadelphia is reportedly willing to offer him a 4 or 5-year max contract, but they are more likely to pay Harris this offseason.
This potential decision brings good news to the LA Lakers who are vying for Jimmy Butler's services, and he is interested in playing with LeBron James per Arash Markazi of LA Times. This should be enough for the Lakers to complete their big three that I've proposed in this article. Could be a big 4 or 5 with the likes of Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram still hanging around. Imagine a potential line up of Lonzo Ball, Jimmy Butler, Brandon Ingram, LeBron James, and DeMarcus Cousins. Would the additions of Cousins and Butler make the Lakers a formidable contender out West?
Verdict: Jimmy Butler signs with the Lakers on a four-year max deal worth $140 Million
3. Kyrie Irving
Is the Statue of Liberty a monument in Staten Island? Of course. Is Kyrie Irving going to New York? I'd bet my top dollar. Jalen Rose on ESPN's Get Up made a sound point citing Kyrie Irving's comment about him shooting 30 shots as a potential disruption to team chemistry.
" You are seeing the end of Kyrie in Boston," Rose said Tuesday on ESPN's "Get Up", after Irving shot 7-of-22 in the Celtics' 113-101 loss to the Bucks in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal, falling into a 3-1 hole. "And the thing that I'm seeing is, his next situation has to be a blank canvas. It can't be the Nets. And what I mean by that is a team that made the playoffs that has an identity in its backcourt already.
"They have to be a squad like the Knicks, where they can actually build around the fact that he's going to be a volume-usage player. He likes to dribble the ball a lot, he likes to shoot the basketball a lot, and that's who he has become. Unfortunately for the Celtics, that's not how they're built. This is a team that made it to the conference finals last year without him. So now when they insert you into the lineup, you've got to make everybody better, make everybody comfortable.
"When you go 7-for-22, you can't turn around and go 8-for-22. You've got to get off the ball. And then when you go to the press conference and say, ‘I should've [taken] 30 shots,' what do you think the other 14 guys in the car going home are saying? ‘We can't wait 'til this guy gets out of here. We'll help him pack his bags."
I have to disagree with Jalen Rose here because Kyrie Irving to Brooklyn seems to be more likely by the day. In all the latest sports rumors, he's consistently linked to this other new york team — the nets of Brooklyn's Barclays Center. So much for Kyrie Irving balling it up in the mecca of basketball. Nets-Knicks still meet four times a year, but Knicks fans will on the end of highlights instead of behind them. I do agree in part though that there is no chance he returns to the Celtics.
Kyrie Irving is still a star player and earned himself a spot on the All NBA Second Team averaging 23.8 ppg, 6.9 apg, 5.0 rpg, and 1.5 spg on 49% shooting including 40% from 3 and 89% from the ft line. It felt like he may have mentally checked out in the Milwaukee series, but maybe playing alongside another superstar in a new location like inside the bright lights of a new city will elevate Kyrie's play again in the big moments. I expect Irving to reject the chance at a supermax in Boston and choose the Nets as his new team. The backcourt experiment of Dlo-Kyrie begins. Let the chaos ensue.
Per Quentin S. Albertie of CelticsWire,
"Speaking to the New York Post's Brian Lewis, Brooklyn Nets point guard D'Angelo Russell discussed the possibility of the Nets signing Kyrie Irving in the offseason, and while Irving is a player that Russell considers a friend, it's clear that the All-Star sees bringing Irving into the fold as a bittersweet transaction.
Whether it's because he has qualms about Irving's effects on the team chemistry or his own numbers and usage (or both), Russell is far less excited about the prospect of signing Irving than many other players would be.
"If we're being completely honest, I enjoyed the team that we had this whole season," Russell told The Post. "If the situation was to come up to have pieces of his caliber around, it'll make us a better team obviously. But I'm not going to say I didn't enjoy our team, and the pieces we had around."
Verdict: Kyrie Irving signs with the Nets on a four-year deal worth $141 Million
2. Kawhi Leonard
Many people believe that Kawhi Leonard will spurn Toronto in free agency for the LA Clippers, but he is getting dangerously close to a cemented legacy for the Toronto Raptors. The city may be cold, the taxes may be high, but Kawhi has a chance to have the best of both worlds the opportunity to potentially build a dynasty in Toronto and earn the most money. Since the Claw made the All NBA Second Team, this makes him eligible to earn up to $190 Million in free agency from Toronto on a 5-year deal.
The other factors of why Kawhi Leonard would leave will factor into him only re-upping with Toronto for a short period.
Per David B.Thorpe of True Hoops, Kawhi Leonard is expected to sign a short term deal with the Raptors. I believe Kawhi Leonard will sign a short term three year max contract with the Raptors with a player option in the 3rd year. Before any contract is signed, in my opinion, Kawhi Leonard deserves a statue outside of Air Canada Centre. In one year of play, the Claw has done more for this franchise than anyone.
Verdict: Kawhi resigns with the Raptors on a three-year max deal worth $110 Million
1. Kevin Durant
The most sought after free agent prize still goes to the "Slim Reaper," Kevin Durant. Durant is much like Klay Thompson on the path to possibly another NBA championship. The difference is while Klay should remain in the bay, Durant seems to be headed to a land far far away and far, far East to New York.
In 11 postseason games before going down in Game 5 vs. the Houston Rockets with a calf injury, KD was on a tear averaging 34.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 4.9 apg, 1.2 spg and block per game for good measure on incredibly efficient 51% shooting, including 42% from 3 and 90% from the ft line.
Per Ian Begley of ESPN,
"It's easier to find street parking in Manhattan than it is to find an NBA executive, player or coach who doesn't think Durant is going to sign with the Knicks in July.
Some of Durant's former teammates think it's going to happen, per ESPN sources. Several of his current teammates have told friends that they think it's going to happen, sources said. Opposing agents believe it's a fait accompli: "Just a matter of putting pen to paper," is how one agent of another top free agent in the 2019 free-agent class put it."
Even though we predict that Durant will sign with the Knicks, maybe Warriors can offer him 2-year contract as they did with DeMarcus Cousins. Kevin Durant risks his free agency and max contract because he wanted to help his team in the Finals. He is the true basketball player and the Real MVP this season.
Verdict 1: Kevin Durant signs with the Knicks on a four-year max deal worth $164 Million
Verdict 2: Kevin Durant signs 2-year deal with the Warriors