The most surprising move of free agency? That would be Darren Collison, a 31 year-old point guard guaranteed a starting job with just about any team he could sign with, deciding to retire to focus on the Jehovah’s Witness Ministry. Why am I telling you this? Because it shows that even beyond the volatile stars that have been texting back and forth with each other about how to reconfigure the league’s landscape, there’s still a ton of wild and entertaining things feeding the NBA free agency monster.
There are an astonishing 203 players on the free agency market this summer, meaning that approximately 40% of the league is up for change. Of course, people are mainly paying attention to the top names such as Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Khris Middleton(side note, that’s an improbable run of top tier free agents whose names start with K), Jimmy Butler, D’Angelo Russell, Al Horford, Tobias Harris, and DeMarcus Cousins. Basketball nerds such as myself have also had a great deal of conversation surrounding the next level free agents like Brook Lopez, Nikola Vucevic, Julius Randle, Bojan Bogdanovic, Ricky Rubio, Pat Beverley, and Malcolm Brogdon. Brogdon especially has generated very juicy debates and content. Zach Lowe has reported that he believes Milwaukee has a line with Brogdon, that they won’t match an offer sheet from another team if it exceeds a certain number. My bet is that he’s gone, as many teams covet Brogdon’s ability as an elite, switchable defender and a lights out shooter, making him a perfect fit as a complementary starter to ball dominant stars. Not to mention, general managers wouldn’t mind weakening Milwaukee’s lineup, seeing that they’re contenders for the foreseeable future (Brogdon’s departure could also signal the start of the Giannis clock in Milwaukee as his unrestricted free agency comes up in 2019, and losing a 50-40-90 shooter from the rotation could anger the Greek Freak). Potential Brogdon suitors, willing to offer him north of $90 million include Chicago, Phoenix, and, my personal favorite outcome, Dallas.
But those are pretty much the only free agents that very casual fans care about. There’s so much depth in this free agent class, so many guys who will create problems for the teams they leave while providing valuable service to the teams they choose. On the other hand, some have questioned whether the influx of cap space and the mass amount of lower tier free agents will lead to the horrendous, albatross contracts, much like we saw in the summer of 2016. Just ask some teams how much they enjoy paying the likes of Timofey Mozgov, Luol Deng, Bismack Biyombo, Solomon Hill, and Joakim Noah to this day (another fun side note, after RJ Barrett, Joakim Noah’s stretch provision is currently the highest paid New York Knick). Ironically, the reason a lot of teams have cap space currently is because their bad contracts from that 2016 summer just expired. NBA insiders have indicated that teams are only offering gargantuan four or five year deals to the superstars of the league, and should they strike out, will only sign short one or two year deals to ensure they don’t get locked into cap-eating deals for below average players. That said, I wouldn’t be too shocked to see a poorly run team like Charlotte or Sacramento give a four years for $80 million deal to guys like Boogie Cousins or Marcus Morris (and Sacramento had reportedly already agreed to the mistake of keeping Harrison Barnes on a four-year, $88 million dollar deal).
It would be a pointless waste of time for me to go through every single low profile free agent, but I will quickly hit some of my favorites and some that have generated a lot of buzz around the league.
- Dewayne Dedmon – A lot of teams would kill for a center like Dedmon, who is regarded as an exemplary veteran teammate, and has now started shooting threes at a clip of 38%. There’s a good chance that he goes for greater than the roughly $9 million dollar mid-level exception, which is a shame for the contending teams that want him as a backup center.
- Bojan Bogdanovic – I would offer Bojan $20 million a year. He’s a go-to scorer that can create his shot off the dribble, which only happens to be the most valued skill in the NBA. He also has turned into a sturdy on ball defender, and if you don’t believe me, go back and rewatch the 2018 Pacers-Cavs series, when Bojan held his ground against LeBron.
- Frank Kaminsky – I’ve always loved Frank the Tank. I know that he’s a slow-footed minus on defense and that he fell out of rotation for the dysfunctional Hornets. I just can’t help but think that his shooting ability and overall skill as a scorer makes him a potential asset. Don’t forget that just back in 2016 that he was a starter for the Hornets’ team that almost won that first round series against the Heat. Charlotte just made him an unrestricted free agent by not extending the qualifying offer, so I’ll keep my eye out for teams that steal the Tank on a minimum, one-year deal.
- Robin Lopez – I swear, to this day I have never seen Robin miss a right handed hook shot. He was one of the reasons I picked the eight-seeded Bulls to upset the Isaiah Thomas-led Celtics in the first round of the 2017 playoffs (and I still believe I would have been proved right had Rondo stayed healthy after the Bulls procured a 2-0 lead). He’s another great center option for contending teams, and the most obvious option is Boston. After the Celtics sign Kemba, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Danny Ainge pull some strings to bring RoLo in on a short, $4 million dollar contract.
- Maxi Kleber – A power forward whose shot blocking gives him small ball five versatility, Maxi has often been the butt of jokes as the Mavericks have tanked the last couple of years. However, he has carved out a legitimate spot in the league and a $7 million dollar offer sheet wouldn’t be crazy, and I’d probably expect the Mavs to match it. As you can tell by this point, the center market is loaded this summer.
- Wayne Ellington – Every single year I hear analysts gripe about how contenders could have used the sharp shooting Ellington. I’m not innocent either. I’d love to see Ellington in a Sixers uniform. Expect a large, one-year contract for his services.
- Thaddeus Young – Thad doesn’t have one particular strength. He can get to the rim, but he’s not an explosive athlete. He’s not a brick monger, but he’s definitely not a knockdown three point shooter. He’s not an inept passer, but no one would describe him as a play maker. Thad just makes teams better and can always provide reliable minutes. The best fit for him is probably Utah, as he could round out an elite starting five. Unfortunately, it looks like the Jazz won’t have enough space to sign him and will settle for retaining Derrick Favors.
- Reggie Bullock – It’s not that I love him as a player, but he is an interesting situation. Bullock can reliably space the floor, so if the Lakers can’t sign a star and instead spread their money around, it might be wise for them to attain Bullock at a low number.
- Ian Clark – Another guy I’ve always believed in after I saw him tear it up for the Warriors’ in Steph Curry’s absence. I really hope someone picks him up and he doesn’t get relegated to some Euro squad.
- Nikola Mirotic – Whoops! Niko might have been an interesting free agent had he not bolted for Barcelona earlier today. Completely unpredictable and nearly inexplicable. I love the NBA.
- Raymond Felton – Not a good player and not someone I’d want on my team, but we have to keep the last fat point guard in the league. If he’s not picked up, NBA Twitter might not be able to handle the comedic loss.
- TJ McConnell – Please stay TJ. It’s hard to go on without you in my life. I need my undersized, brutally unathletic, non three-point shooting, yet somehow incredibly productive point guard. I still believe that Brett Brown should have played him in the Raptors series. I still believe he can be in the top eight of a championship level team. I still believe that the hard-working and scrappy intangibles he brings matter in basketball. I know he’s probably going to leave for a bountiful, rich contract, and I truly am happy for him. I just wish I could see him in a Sixers uniform one last time.
- Mike Scott – Mike was kind of super important to the Sixers for the entire post-season. You might laugh, but it’s not ridiculous to question if he wasn’t that much less valuable than Tobias Harris in the post-season. I really hope we find a way to keep him.
- Seth Curry – Woj just tweeted that the Lakers have reached out to Seth. That already seems like a match made in heaven, but I’m sure that Seth will draw a number of quality offers over the next week.
- Tomas Satoransky – Sato was arguably the Wizards second best player last year, and I could see a team forcing the Wizards into even more of a cap stranglehold by offering him a contract north of $10 million dollars per year. The Wiz just can’t have nice things can they.
Now that I have officially lost some of you with that list, I’ll try to get you back by closing with my thoughts on the top names. I think it’s funny when people ask me where I think marquee players are going. It’s not like I’m an official reporter with front office connections, I’m a soon to be college student who likes to follow the official reporters on Twitter and keeps up with the news they put out. Therefore, any prediction I give is either uniformed speculation, or it’s me just spitting back out tweets, articles, and columns.
Let’s just get everything in order:
The 100% guarantees
- Kemba is signing a four-year max with the Boston Celtics.
- Kyrie is signing a four-year max with the Brooklyn Nets.
- Klay is going to say with the Warriors on a five-year max.
The Almost Guarantees
- Nikola Vucevic probably stays with the Magic on a four-year, $100 million dollar deal.
- Khris Middleton is probably staying with the Bucks on a five-year max.
The Almost Unpredictables
Free agency started in about December, when fans began to speculate and photo shop jerseys onto stars, and the actual stars started texting. Just a month ago, Durant to the Knicks was a done deal. One achilles injury later and suddenly we’ve crossed off the Knicks in favor of the Nets or even a continued residence in Golden State. The Clippers had Kawhi’s uniform ready as we prepared for a second round Toronto exit. Now, it feels like an even three-way split between them, the Raptors, and the Lakers. As a Sixers fan I can tell you how weird it’s been seeing our priorities flip back and forth between Jimmy and Tobias. Daryl Morey and Pat Riley have made it even weirder with their sign and trade aspirations for Butler. D’Angelo Russell is a popular choice to head to the Lakers, but I honestly don’t see it happening. We know that Al Horford has a four-year, $112 million dollar deal somewhere, but exactly where has gone from Dallas to New Orleans and even to Philly (which I honestly wouldn’t hate).
I could write about this forever. The player empowerment era has made the NBA such a fun, free-spirited machine that it drives an immense amount of content. But unfortunately, I have my limits and won’t drone on any further. I already detailed how I can’t truly predict free agent movement, but I’ll give you my best guesses. I hope you enjoy.
- Malcolm Brogdon signs with the Chicago Bulls.
- Julius Randle signs a one-year deal with the New York Knicks.
- Boogie Cousins signs a one-year deal with the New York Knicks.
- Al Horford signs with the New Orleans Pelicans
- D’Angelo Russell signs with the Minnesota Timberwolves after Rosas finds a way to sucker someone into taking on Andrwe Wiggins.
- Tobias Harris re-signs with the Sixers on a five-year deal, a little less than the max.
- Jimmy Butler (who is the biggest mystery to me) signs with the Clippers on a four-year deal.
- JJ Redick re-signs with the Sixers on another one-year deal.
- Kawhi Leonard signs with the Los Angeles Clippers.
- Kevin Durant signs with … the Brooklyn Nets.
I might be wrong on all of these, but hey, that’s what fun about all of this.