It's never too early to discuss free agency.  The trade deadline has passed, all-star weekend is around the corner and some teams are in full-blown tank mode.  The draft will definitively shake up free agency as draft picks and players will be traded which could result in teams opening up cap space while others close theirs.  But here's a list of free agents.

UFA-Unrestricted Free Agent-free to sign with any team
RFA-Restricted Free Agent-current team holds rights to match any offer the player receives
Player option-player has the right to opt into his current contract for 1 year, remaining with current team

This is based on my own projection of what team/player options will be exercised.  This doesn't include rookie contracts which are typically under $5M starting.

LA Lakers-
Projected cap space-$60M
Free Agents-Brook Lopez, Julius Randle, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Isaiah Thomas

It's no secret LA is going to push hard for Lebron, Paul George and/or Cousins this summer.  They also don't have any reservations about saving their cap space until 2019.  If I had to bet, I'd say they don't end up with any of the three.  If I had to put an order on it, I'd say George and Cousins are tied for first, with Lebron a very distant third.  If they want to save their money, they're going to have to dish out large, 1 year contracts again to free agents which may be even more enticing to some this year with teams not looking to dish out big, long term contracts to second and third tier players.  The risk, however, is a free agent not locking up a long term deal and getting hurt.

Chicago Bulls-
Projected cap space-$40M
Free Agents-Zach LaVine

CHI has a lot of money and a stash of picks to work with.  Zach LaVine is still an unknown commodity.  His defense is shaky at best and he is as streaky as they come.  They could opt to go another route, let LaVine go try to find a $20M per year deal and save their money.

Atlanta Hawks-
Projected cap space-$38M
Free Agents-Dewayne Dedmon, Ersan Ilyasova

ATL has some nice, young pieces in Schroeder and John Collins along with three 1st round draft picks this year.  They'll have to learn from their mistake two seasons ago when they signed Kent Bazemore to a ridiculous near $20M per year deal.  They seemed to learn because they didn't match NYK's even more ludicrous $20M per year offer sheet to Tim Hardaway Jr.  Save money, collect assets, build from very young.

Dallas Mavericks-
Projected cap space-$30M
Free Agents-Nerlens Noel, Seth Curry, Yogi Ferrell, Salah Mejri

DAL owner Mark Cuban is always looking to splash his money around.  They'll have major money to work with, but with very little talent and so many holes to fill, I don't see any big free agent coming there.  If I had to bet, I'd guess DAL again overpays for a third tier FA as they did in Harrison Barnes.

Philadelphia 76ers-
Projected cap space-$30M
Free Agents-JJ Redick, Amir Johnson, Trevor Booker
PHI is sitting pretty with young players, picks and cap space.  But their cap space is a bit of a farce.  They will need to work on extensions for Ben Simmons and Dario Saric soon which will eat up most of their cap.  Simmons and Embiid will eat up more than half of their cap space when both jump into their extensions (however, not for two years yet).  They could still add a big free agent this summer, but it depends on how deep into the luxury tax they want to go into in 3 years.

Sacramento Kings-
Projected cap space-$25M
Free Agents-None

The Kings are in a good spot with the money they have after clearing the George Hill contract.  But they haven't had a great track record of signing impactful free agents.  They might be better off saving their money and fleecing teams looking to unload salary.

Phoenix Suns-
Projected cap space-$24M
Free Agents-Alex Len, Elfrid Payton

PHX can't get out of its own way, between bad draft picks and reckless spending.  Once again, they'll have cap space to work with.  I don't see Len or Payton as long term plays for PHX.  

New York Knicks-
Projected cap space-$20M
Free Agents-Enes Kanter, Michael Beasley

The Knicks are going to try as hard as they can to get into the Lebron sweepstakes.  But with Porzingis out until the middle of next season little other impactful players around, NY is going to have a hard time drawing in any interest from any major free agents.  Kanter could be back with NYK, he's talked very favorably about it there and how he wants to stay.  Now it depends on what kind of contract he's going to demand.

Brooklyn Nets-
Projected cap space-$18M
Free Agents-Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas

BKN has done a really nice job turning around a mess of a franchise after trading away all of their draft picks a few years back.  They've replenished some picks, albeit not lottery picks, and are going to have some cap room.  I fully anticipate them saving it again and utilizing it to acquire picks like they did last summer or players on not so great contracts.  In another year, BKN is going to have major cap space which is when I anticipate them being bigger players.

Orlando Magic-
Projected cap space-$18M
Free Agents-Aaron Gordon, Mario Hezonja

With new management in ORL, it's hard to say what direction they'll go.  Everyone on their roster has to be available via trade.  And since they shopped Aaron Gordon around the deadline, I'm not sure they're going to bring him back on the money he wants.  A maxed out Aaron Gordon and a top 3 pick isn't going to turn this franchise around.  They have some horrible contracts they need to work their way out of first before they think about tying up the rest of their cap.

LA Clippers-
Projected cap space-$12M
Free Agents-DeAndre Jordan, Avery Bradley, Montrezl Harrell

LAC's direction is also a bit unknown.  They said they want to re-build on the fly and remain competitive.  So does that mean bringing Jordan back?  In a press conference after the trade deadline, he basically said he doesn't feel wanted.  I'm willing to bet he tries to flee for greener pastures.

Utah Jazz-
Projected cap space-$12M
Free Agents-Derrick Favors, Dante Exum

UTA kicked off a re-build with a bang by drafting Donovan Mitchell.  It remains to be seen whether Favors is brought back or not.  He's been up and down, mostly up this year, but a contract year uptick is always scary.

Indiana Pacers-
Projected cap space-$10M
Free Agents-None
The Pacers do have two players with player options-Thad Young at $14M and Cory Joseph at $8M.  I anticipate both exercising those options, but Thad Young may opt for FA to gain one last long term deal.  They also have Lance Stephenson on a team option of $4.5M which they could decline and move on from him to gain more space.

Top free agent list to come.....
Twitter: @TheSpangover

Check out diener and my new website @

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1-Lebron James-Player Option-Lebron will hold the option to remain in CLE for the last year of his contract (approx. $35M for 2018-2019) or opt-out and become an UFA.  He will opt out, it's a matter of how long the contract will be.  For nearly a decade, Lebron has taken shorter deals than the max to capitalize on the growing cap.  With the cap expected to be around $102M, what it was suppose to be this year, but was less than anticipated, he may do the same in hopes of a soaring salary cap in three years to receive an even larger max deal.  The question is, where will he sign?  There are three options-re-sign with CLE, sign under cap room with a team listed above or agree to a sign and trade to go to a team without cap room.  The latter happened most notably when Lebron and Bosh agreed to sign and trade deals to go to MIA.  CLE received two 1st rd picks, two 2nd rd picks and the option for a pick swap.  You won't ever get top dollar in a sign and trade, but is a realistic option.  It's anybodys guess where he ends up.  If I'm a betting man, I'd say he stays in CLE.  

2-Kevin Durant-Player Option-Durant also holds a player option that he is most likely going to opt out of and re-sign with GSW.  It's almost a guarantee he stays in GSW, it's just a matter of for how much.  He took far less money to sign with GSW this year to remain flexible.  They used that money to re-sign Livingston and Iguodala and also bring in Nick Young.  With so many big contracts, the future will weigh heavily on what Durant wants.  If he wants the full max, they're sure to lose Draymond or Klay Thompson in the future.

3-Chris Paul-Unrestricted-CP3 is also going to remain in HOU.  He'll probably take the most money for the longest term he can get.  He'll be 33 and will still command the max and this is his last big contract so he won't mess around with short term deals to maximize the future growing cap.

4-Paul George-Player Option-PG13 will also opt out of his player option, the question is, where does he go?  He's been very outspoken about how much he loves playing for OKC and with Westbrook, but the growing hype of PG to LA is alive.  But the drama of Lavar Ball is seemingly a road block for LA's future free agents.  Nobody wants to play for LA with Lavar on the sidelines constantly talking.

5-Demarcus Cousins-Unrestricted-the threat of Cousins leaving NOP after just 1 year was always very real.  And it still is, but there has to be a feeling of unfinished business after Cousins injury that will put him out for the rest of the season.  I'd guess he re-signs with NOP as long as he gets a commitment they don't trade Anthony Davis.  Cousins wants to be with a winning team and they were building that before his injury.

6-DeAndre Jordan-Unrestricted-after the trade deadline, Jordan was asked about his thoughts on his name being thrown around in trades and he didn't shy away from his thoughts about how he didn't like it.  LAC's gone 5-2 in their last 7 and don't seem to have lost much after trading Blake.  But Jordan isn't in for a re-build as he'll be 30 soon.  I'd bet he wants to play for a contender and not spend his waning prime years on a mismatched team fighting for the 8th seed.  Lou Williams re-signing is a good sign for LAC though.  He'll have plenty of suitors waiting to fight for his services this summer though.

7-Carmelo Anthony-Early Termination Option-Carmelo can also opt out of his deal next year and become a free agent.  But he's owed $28M next season.  Will he get that much in FA?  If he opts in to his contract and he continues to play 3rd banana and becomes another year older before hitting free agency in 2019, will he get even less money?  It will be a balancing act for him.  I'd bet he opts out and sees what his options are.  It's not shock that Carmelo has always been an alpha dog.  He wants to play for a winner but also be a top guy.  Those years may be passed him.  I could see him moving on from OKC but going to play with Lebron.

8-Jabari Parker-RFA-Parker is the first RFA on this list, meaning the Bucks can match any offer that comes to him.  He turned down an extension offer of 3/54 for $18M per year from the Bucks and opted to prove himself worthy of more coming off of injury.  I have no idea how his contract situation will play out.  I'm sure many teams with cap space are watching his recovery carefully.  Someone may offer him big money that the Bucks will he hesitant to match, but may not have a choice.  The other option is if he can't find a contract he likes, he signs the qualifying offer which is essentially a 1 year deal with the Bucks to continue to prove himself worthy of a max deal.

9-Clint Capela-RFA-it's highly unlikely Capela goes anywhere but HOU.  He's a perfect fit to guard the rim behind CP3 and Harden and HOU owner has said he's willing to pay the luxury tax so they'll match any deal he gets.

10-Enes Kanter-UFA-after Kanter was mismatched as a 6th man and played alongside Steven Adams and shipped to NYK, he's began to thrive as a low post scorer.  He's like a stronger Greg Monroe in that, he can score anywhere around the hoop and has slow feet which isn't the best equation for current NBA centers.  Regardless, he's a fantastic rebounder and in the right scheme, can be passable on defense.  He's spoken very highly of NY and seems to fit well with Porzingis.  I'd be hard pressed to see NYK let him go.

11-Aaron Gordon-RFA-the Magic shopped Gordon at the trade deadline.  John Hammond, the new ORL GM has made no secrets everyone is available.  He traded Elfrid Payton for a 2nd round pick and is now thriving in PHX.  Gordon has had a career year in the final year of his rookie contract which is scary.  He's battled constant injuries, but he's extended his game to a legitimate 3P threat, but at an inefficient rate because the rest of the roster is so bad.  Hammond has a lot of work to do to turn this team around.  ORL has missed several times in drafts recently and overspent in FA.  The draft is chock-full of PF's at the top which is where ORL will be drafting so Gordon may not stay in ORL beyond this summer.

12-Tyreke Evans-UFA-Evans fell flat in FA last summer taking a short term, 1 year, prove it contract with the Grizzlies and he did just that.  He had a career year in nearly every category and seems like he's rounded out his game.  He'll have a lot of suitors this summer with SG depth in FA being so weak.

13-Derrick Favors-UFA-Favors has always been a high potential guy, but always seemed to fall short for one reason or another.  He's not a true center, but can't extend his game to adapt to current PF standards.  Regardless, he's still only 26 years old and will likely get a pretty decent contract, but it needs to be in the right system.

14-Brook Lopez-UFA-Lopez took a 1 year deal for big money with the Lakers.  It hasn't worked out swimmingly for him as he's becoming slower on a fast tempo team.  He doesn't fit the modern NBA but has stretched his game out to the 3 point line.  I see him more in the Greg Monroe mold as a 6th man to come in for instant offense.  

15-Isaiah Thomas-UFA-IT has done himself no favors this season.  He's been a locker room cancer and been very outspoken about his unhappiness in CLE and demand to start in LA.  He may resort back to his old self and fill up the stat sheets, but he's a huge risk for any team.  He'd fit as a great 6th man for any team also looking for instant offense, but he's definitely going to be stubborn about the money he thinks he's earned.

16-Avery Bradley-UFA-After being traded from DET to LAC, then almost traded again, Bradley's stock is certainly dropping.  He's also been questioned about whether he was a system player for the Celtics.  With Marcus Smart heading to FA, I could see Bradley end up back in BOS.

17-Zach Lavine-RFA-CHI's in a precarious position with LaVine.  He seems like a good stats on a bad team type of guy.  He's a bit inefficient, but can get absolutely red hot.  He's going to want big time money which CHI has, but do they want to tie up all their future money on him or move in a different direction?

18-Julius Randle-RFA-it's no secret the Lakers are saving cap room for max free agents.  And Randle wasn't as sought after at the trade deadline as the Lakers thought.  If he doesn't get a long term contract he thinks he deserves, and the Lakers don't find their max contract player this summer, they may pay Randle on a 1 year, high amount salary as they did with Lopez and Caldwell-Pope to keep him around and fill the gaps while they wait out free agency.

19-Nikola Mirotic-Team Option-Mirotic signed a 2 yr, $25M contract with the Bulls last summer that has a team option for next year.  He had the right to deny any trade and did so until the Pelicans gave a verbal agreement that they'd accept his offer this summer and keep him around.  Short of the Pelicans breaking that promise, they'll exercise that option.  If they can keep Cousins, a trio of Cousins, Davis and Mirotic off the bench in the front court is a very complimentary rotation.
Twitter: @TheSpangover

Check out diener and my new website @

Newest additions
-top 15 NBA free agents by position. That's 75 reviews of free agents.
-Diener breaks down the Brewers as a franchise
-2013 NBA Draft Combine Day 1 results and review
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