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Staying Or Leaving: Predicting The Decisions Of This Summer's Top Free-Agents


With things about as wild as they can get through the first six weeks of the season, it's hard to picture the NBA getting any more hectic. We've seen locker-room drama unfold, trade rumors and conspiracy theories run wild, and a current standing in both conferences that nobody would have expected coming into the fresh basketball year. Though, even with as wild as everything has been, don't expect things to just even out when the summer rolls in.

As a matter of fact, this upcoming offseason is part of the reason things are the way they are now. With an almost unreal amount of top-talent stars hitting the market in July, teams are either scared out of their minds they might lose someone important or preparing their teams to make a run at them.

In this list, I lay down the details behind the summer's most intriguing names, and predict whether or not they'll be signing elsewhere for the 2019/2020 season.

5. Jimmy Butler (Philadelphia 76ers)


We've been lead to believe that all Jimmy Butler cares about at this stage of his career his winning. But isn't that what everyone says?

In Chicago, Butler was traded by the Bulls because he didn't fit in their effort to go all-in on the youth movement. Then in Minnesota, the 4x All-Star requested a trade after exposing the culture within the locker-room. These past few years, it seems like Butler has had some sort of problem wherever he goes. No doubt, this summer, he'll want to pick a place that fits his personality. The 76ers hope that's them, and they've got the entire rest of the season to make their case

The Decision: He's staying.

When you talk about rough, no-nonsense type of teams, the Sixers fit the bill. Joel Embiid is about as tough as they come, Ben Simmons takes each game very seriously, and the organization as a whole has done a really great job turning things around. Add in the fact that they're a really good team that's likely to get even better, and it creates the perfect recipe for success. One that Butler will be unlikely to ignore.

4. Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)


Klay Thompson has always played second-fiddle in Golden State. Since Kevin Durant's arrival, he's moved back even further from the spotlight.

The question for him this offseason will be whether or not Klay is tired of being second. For the Warriors, he's silently averaging 22.9 points per game on 45% shooting for the 2018/19 campaign. Those are superstar numbers. His double-sided play style and extremely likable personality make him a no-brainer for any franchise to invest in. When he hits the market, there is no doubt that teams will be offering him the keys to their franchise, a position any other "star" would jump at the chance to have.

We just don't know if that's what he wants just yet.

The Decision: He's staying.

True, Klay could have the spotlight all to himself if he wanted it. Yet, something about choosing stardom and fame over friends, culture, and loyalty just doesn't match his persona.

He's got a great thing going in Golden State, and even if Kevin Durant leaves, the potential for winning will be higher than most other teams in the league. To continue to be a part of something you helped build? There's just something special in that, and Klay will understand that more than anyone else.

3. Kyrie Irving (Boston Celtics)


He technically already verbally committed to the team. But there's a reason verbal commitments don't count.

Look, when Kyrie Irving made his promise to re-sign with Boston, it was under different circumstances. A lot has changed. Suddenly, a Celtics team that looked so promising is showing some serious flaws. With at least six guys on the roster trying to share the glory, there's a massive ego check going on for the Celtics. Someone has got to go, and if Danny Ainge doesn't pick a guy to let go (and the Celtics continue to stink), we may see Uncle Drew make the decision for them.

The Decision: He's staying.

Not to discredit everything written above, but the Celtics still provide Kyrie with a better situation than most. They're still a young with plenty of other assets to either develop or trade. Not to mention the fact that it's all being managed by some of the brightest minds in basketball.

Oh, and he also did verbally commit to staying. No matter the circumstance, it would suck to go back on your word like that.

2. Kawhi Leonard (Toronto Raptors)


We've heard about Kawhi Leonard's love for Los Angeles since long before he was traded to Toronto. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but Canada doesn't really have much in common with L.A.

Though with that being said, the Raptors are playing some fantastic ball right now, and Kawhi looks like --dare I say-- he's having fun! I mean, who wouldn't?

The fans there are electrifying, Toronto is a booming metropolis, and the team has been surprisingly drama-free these first few weeks. They keep playing like this, and Leonard might have no choice but to stay. Unfortunately, that's probably ambitious thinking. Even if this Cinderella season does continue, it's all about the location for Leonard.

If the Raptors can convince him that staying a Raptor is worth sacrificing a life in California, then he'll have no reason to leave. Obviously, that'll prove challenging, even if they do have plenty of time to do it.

The Decision: He's leaving.

It's not so much about performance that'll push Kawhi out, then it is about his affection for Los Angeles.

In this case, basketball takes a backseat to the zip-code. Kawhi wants to go home. And as great as the Raptors are doing, they'll never be considered home for the 2x Defensive Player of the Year.

1. Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors)


In past years, when Kevin Durant was technically a free-agent, nobody bothered to make him an offer because they were sure he'd be staying. So far this year, that narrative has completely changed.

Why is that?

Could it be because he has accomplished what he set out to do? Is it because everyone knows the team is starting to fall apart? Or maybe it's because of Draymond Green?

Whatever the case, there's a sense all around the NBA that this is KD's final season with the Dubs. Looking forward, now that he has the rings, he'll be looking to rebuild his tarnished and largely hated legacy as a ballplayer. So long as he sees that opportunity in Golden State, he'll continue to wear that jersey.

If not, it'll be a challenge for him not to go somewhere else.

The Decision: He's leaving.

Yeah, it'll be basically impossible for him to repair his legacy as a member of the Warriors. Going to a place like New York, winning a ring, and laying low would be his best option in that regard.

Who knows, maybe even a return to OKC (throwing aside financial burdens) is something he'd be well suited for. No matter which way you slice it, moving on is the best path for Durant, for more reasons than one.