My Free Agent Predictions-
It's June 9th, less than a month from the beginning of free agency. Will be fun to watch how this changes over the next 3 weeks.
Kawhi Leonard-LA Clippers-with the way the Finals is going, it's so hard for me to see Kawhi winning a championship there then leaving in free agency. But Kawhi is a different dude. He was asked a postgame question, in front of a bunch of Toronto fans, after the game 4 win about how he thinks this is helping Toronto and his response was, "I don't do this for the fans." I don't think he cares about what people think about him, but I also don't have a clue what he's looking for. I don't see it being a money or brand thing, the dude has a New Balance contract, rocks corn rows and doesn't promote himself. The one VERY telling thing was Kawhi's sister (I think) posted a video on Instagram talking about Kawhi and his uncle, in the background shouted something about, "ya'll know he's still leaving your (butts)." His uncle is his brand promoter and has been the voice, and vice, between Kawhi as his handler and caused a major rift between Kawhi and San Antonio. If Kawhi leaves, I think it's to go west and probably end up in LA, but that's not to go to the Lakers and play next to Lebron.
Kevin Durant-Brooklyn Nets-the Nets, over the last two weeks, have been rumored to be the front runner for Kyrie Irving in free agency. It's no coincidence in that time frame, they opened up two max salary slots. Now they are competing with the Knicks with those two max salary slots. Brooklyn absolutely has a line on Kyrie's thought process that he'd sign there, but only if Durant comes too. Brooklyn didn't dump two first round picks to clear out an expiring contract for this summer just for the heck of it.
Kyrie Irving-Brooklyn Nets-again, Brooklyn is out for blood this summer, opened up two max contract slots, has a fantastic core to surround two stars with, a great front office, a seemingly well respected head coach and is still a fairly large market and just outside of New York. This summer is going to be bad for the Knicks.
Kemba Walker-New York Knicks-Kemba's going to be 1b on the free agency radar, whatever happens with Durant and Irving will likely trickle down to Kemba's decision. If NYK can't land Durant/Irving, they're probably going to target Kemba. Kemba's from Harlem so he has that connection to NY. NY also has better future prospects than Charlotte does. The difference could be that CHA can offer Kemba a bigger contract than NY can, but he can absolutely recoup that in the larger market. I think Kemba's free agency comes down to NYK or returning to CHA.
Klay Thompson-Golden State Warriors-no matter what happens in the Finals, GSW isn't going to blow up their core. Klay has grown as a player to be an excellent all around two way player, has been a fan favorite for a long time and compliments the team well. They'll offer him the max and move on from there.
Jimmy Butler-Philadelphia 76ers-it's already been rumored Butler is going to be offered a max contract from PHI, far more than another team can offer and I bet he takes it. If there's any real moving or shaking in PHI, it's going to be trading Ben Simmons. Butler had a really good tenure with PHI and will only get stronger as he finds his role.
D'Angelo Russell-Indiana Pacers-this one's tough. Clearly, BKN is looking for a different combo than Russell + Durant/Kawhi/etc. So that leaves Russell looking elsewhere and with BKN and NYK nabbing other top PG's, the top 2 markets are off the table which leaves Indiana, Dallas, Chicago and Phoenix as the other four likely suitors. IND would provide Russell with the best chance at winning amongst those four. Chicago would provide the biggest market. Dallas's situation is complicated with Porzingis pending free agency and Phoenix is such a mess I'm not sure he considers them. I left it with IND as they have a great team culture and the best chance at winning.
Tobias Harris-Philadelphia 76ers-this one's really tough too. I can't imagine PHI trading a ton of assets for Harris for only a few months of work and letting him walk for nothing. PHI is also in a similar situation to MIL with Middleton. If they don't re-sign Tobias, it doesn't open up cap space for them. If they max Butler, it puts them at the cap anyway. I suppose they could sign someone else first, then max Butler going above the salary cap, but again, it'd be punting on that Harris wasn't a great trade to begin with. Harris won't get maxed and I think his free agency will play out longer than most, but ultimately I see him returning to PHI and them trying to work out the kinks.
Kristaps Porzingis-Dallas Mavericks-KP won't have a lot of options. He's restricted so DAL can and will match any offer he gets. The question will be, will he take the contract DAL offers or will he sign the qualifying offer and become unrestricted next season? That's a huge risk coming back from a torn ACL, if he signs the QO, he loses out on around $30M this season, risks re-injuring himself or not being the same and losing out on even more money in the future.
Khris Middleton-Milwaukee Bucks-I expect this to be a quick free agency for Middleton. I think the have his contract done in pencil already, they just need the clock to strike and put pen to paper. They're not going to toy around and let him look at other offers. The only hang up would be if Middleton wants a different/bigger role somewhere else which I just don't see happening.
Nikola Vucevic-LA Lakers-if the Lakers strike out everywhere else like it's looking could happen, I think they panic sign some guys. Vucevic would be a perfect pairing with Lebron as he can stretch the floor and score in a variety of ways, it's just not the monster signing they're hoping for. If the Lakers can nab Anthony Davis though, Vucevic will be off the table.
Demarcus Cousins-Houston Rockets/Milwaukee Bucks-Cousins played 30 games for GSW, has looked out of shape and inefficient. His market isn't going to be very big this summer and these two picks are purely 'just in case,' predictions. If the Rockets do blow it up by trading Capela, they'll need to fill in the cracks. Cousins would be a good pick and roll partner for Harden. The Rockets can't offer much though, in terms of contract, but could probably get him for the mid-level exception. As for Milwaukee, it'd probably be something like their 5th resort. Brook Lopez obviously is the #1 choice at center, but if it can't be worked out or he gets more money elsewhere and takes it, the Bucks would probably look to the next pool of centers that fit a similar mold-Dewayne Dedmon, Frank Kaminsky and Cousins falls into that group.
Malcolm Brogdon-Phoenix Suns-it's becoming more and more of a possibility, looking at these scenarios, that Brogdon could get a huge offer that the Bucks can't match. A $22.5M per year contract would do it, and I see Phoenix offering that up. PHX lost out in the lottery by dropping to 6th where Morant and Garland likely won't be their and they need another guard pairing next to Booker. Brogdon fits the role that he won't take the ball out of Booker's hands entirely, but can also defend multiple positions that Booker cant.
Bojan Bogdanovic-Indiana Pacers-short of a sign and trade or something similar, I see IND bringing him back. A rumor floated around that the Spurs were trying to unload Demar DeRozan to target Bogdanovic, which is a weird move, but those two swapping spots would be interesting. But in this scenario, IND uses it's cap space to sign Russell and then re-signs Bogdanovic to round out their roster to include Oladipo. Bogdanovic would be a perfect third banana on that team.
Paul Millsap-Denver Nuggets-Millsap has a team option fo $30M that DEN will decline, but then work to bring him back. Declining the option though, makes him unrestricted. DEN has a full roster so their only priorities will be to bring back Millsap and fill in around the edges of their team. He's 33 years old, but still a great defender and passer. I see them bringing him back for something like $12M per year.