Here’s some prediction of where my top-valued upcoming NBA free agents will sign in the 2019 offseason. PO represents Player Option and RFA represents restricted free agent. The $ value represents how much I’d be willing to pay the player per year.
$37 million /year
- Kevin Durant – Los Angeles Lakers
The Warriors will struggle to keep him without paying absurdly high luxury and repeater taxes, and KD might look for a different challenge. Teaming up with Nike co-star LeBron James in LA makes sense from a basketball point of view – he could play in an ultra-switching lineup with fellow forwards LBJ, Kuzma and Ingram, and they’d immediately create an epic showdown with the Warriors. The Lakers can afford him, with over $60 mil in cap space. And, despite the Lakers front office problems of late, they’re still the Lakers.
- Demarcus Cousins – Washington Wizards
Boogie will surely seek a big payday after going ring chasing this year. The Wizards provide a viable option to continue that goal, while getting paid and playing with old Kentucky teammate John Wall. The Otto Porter trade freed up cap space for the Wiz, so they can sign him to a near max deal. The East is weak, so Boogie can make them weep. He’s been injury-prone of late and has had some disciplinary issues, so he might even come cheap.
- Harrison Barnes – Sacramento Kings
The Kings are on the rise, and while they traded away potential stud Skal Labissiere, they still have an upward trajectory. Barnes has had some instability of late, so re-signing with his current club, who can easily afford him, would be wise. He fills a big hole at the small forward spot for the Kings, and he’s still young enough to fit that young core.
- Klay Thompson – Golden State Warriors
He’s a splash bro. Unless the Warriors prioritise bringing back KD or Boogie, which would alienate Klay’s numerous fans away from the Dubs and completely change the dynamic of the most successful team in generations, Klay is their guy.
- Kristaps Porzingis (RFA) – Dallas Mavericks
There’s two options for Kristaps – take a petty $5 mil for the 2019-2020 season as a qualifying offer and be an unrestricted free agent in 2020, or sign a deal with the Mavs (or a competing deal from another team) and, if he’s unhappy with the progress the Mavs are making, he can just demand a trade Kyrie Irving style. That way, he still gets paid.
- Kemba Walker – Milwaukee Bucks
A dynamite scorer who has been carrying the Hornets for a while now. The Hornets appear to want to break the bank to keep him, but with terrible contracts like Nic Batum’s around, it will require a hefty luxury tax bill to keep him. They haven’t shown they can build a contender around him, so he might look elsewhere. The West is stacked, so teaming with Giannis and the Bucks makes sense. He can be an effective off-ball scorer as a shooter and slasher, so the fit is good also.
$17m per year
- Nikola Vucevic – Dallas Mavericks
Has been getting some love recently for his awesome numbers. The Magic would be true cellar dweller without him since the Dwight trade. The Magic have had a love hate relationship with him – there’s been trade rumours, and he might go for greener pastures, despite some surprising success in the playoffs. The Mavs are on the rise with Kristaps in the midst and Luka, so he might join his fellow Euros and create a formidable frontcourt there.
- Tyson Chandler – Denver Nuggets
I still value Chandler highly – ridiculous athlete for his size, and knows subtle techniques like rim protection positioning and screen and rolls to be effective. The Nuggets are a real contender in the West with their young core, and they’ve shown they’re fine with playing a two big lineup. He goes for another ring there.
- DeAngelo Russell RFA – San Antonio Spurs.
He’s the new face of the Nets, leading them to the playoffs, but I think D’Angelo might want to learn from the best coach there is, Coach Pop. They have the space, and some young pieces to have a bright future (like Dejounte Murray, Davis Bertans, Jakob Poeltl and Derrick White).
- Kawhi Leonard – Houston Rockets
He’s lower down on my board as he evidently has reliability issues, and I’m still not convinced he’s a great facilitator of the ball. He can be a great three and D player the Rockets covet, and can score a bit when the shot clock is winding down to relieve Harden of his huge offensive workload. The Rockets could only afford him for the mid level exception, which Boogie signed with on the Warriors, but Kawhi might go ring chasing, and the Rockets are the closest thing to challenging the Warriors.
- Kyrie Irving PO – Boston Celtics
If Kristaps was in New York, I think they could’ve nabbed Kyrie. But with limited talent there, I think Kyrie re-signs in Boston. They’ll be contenders in the East for years with the draft capital they accumulated and the players they picked, and he’s young enough to ride with them.
- Derrick Rose – Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are like a hot tub – your worries melt away when you’re in one. D Rose is still ringless, and while he hasn’t been making bank lately, I think he’d still want to win a ring and be a part of a true contender again. He can play off the ball with Curry off the bench.
- Khris Middleton – Memphis Grizzlies
The Bucks have the space to sign Middleton to a deal around the $20 mil mark, but I get the feeling they might want to add Kemba instead – Middleton ideally plays the same position as Giannis. The Grizzlies need a wing shooter that they thought Chandler Parsons would be, and Middleton fits the bill.
- Jonas Valancuinas – New York Knicks.
Big V will want that money. He’s a bit undervalued as he’s been benched at times to favour more fleet footed bigs, but he is such an imposing rebounder and finisher inside that he deserves a hefty contract. I think the Knicks will become desperate to spend some money on a free agent and might offer Big V, who is still young, a solid deal.
- Carmelo Anthony – Minnesota Timberwolves
He’s not that bad. Who else in the league can drop threes even when guarded tightly, out-rebound most small forwards, and is still nimble enough to keep up with the James Hardens of the world? Sure, he has lapses of concentration on D, but he can still be your third best player in a championship team. The Wolves are on the verge of breaking into Western Conference contention and can always use some outside shooting. Melo would probably sign for a veteran minimum.
- Jahlil Okafor – New Orleans Pelicans.
Considered a bust, but he has great skill for a guy of his immense size, is somehow nimble on his feet, and can punish you on the offensive boards. Not to mention he’s got the Al Jefferson type post moves to get buckets at will. NOLA are talent starved and will likely throw a reasonable contract at him.
- Enes Kanter – San Antonio Spurs.
Another Euro big who dominates on the glass like Vucevic and Valancuinas, Kanter will likely be underpaid next season, as he will suffer from a “good numbers on bad team” reputation, as well as being a magnet for controversy regarding his issues with the Turkish government, as well as his beef with King James. I still believe he can be a top 50 player in the league with his incredible rebounding g prowess, solid jumper, and some nimbleness to guard both fours and fives. The Spurs have some cap space for the first time in a while with Gasol being traded to the Bucks, and who wouldn’t want to play for Coach Pop? They have an up and coming team but can contend as well with Aldridge and DeRozan.
- Trevor Ariza – Boston Celtics
Still one of the best 3 and D players in the game. I think he’ll go ring chasing after making bank with the Sun’s, and the Celtics are a top team in the East. The Celtics love their switchable wings, so he’d fit right in.
- Willie Cauley-Stein – Philadelphia 76ers.
Another King who should be extended ASAP. He’ll hit restricted free agency though, where a team like the Sixers, who want to play fast with Simmons etc, would love a rim runner. He can play alongside Embiid too as a hustling rebounder, while Embiid can space the floor and go to work in the post.
- Kevin Looney – New Orleans Pelicans
I think Looney will want a big pay day, and I think he’s proven his worth having filled in for Boogie as a starter for the Dubs this season. He’s like Draymond with his wingspan, agility, finishing at rim and passing. The Pels will be starved of talent and will be attracted by Looney talent, age and, frankly, that Warriors zeal (see Ian Clark).
- Marcin Gortat – Houston Rockets
One of the best pick and roll finishers as a big in the league. Is aging but can still contribute as a rebounder, rim protector and can shuffle those feet on perimeter. Has a little mid range game too. The Rockets need a backup big with Nene aging and Goetat fits the bill. I think he can also play at the four alongside Capela. He’d have to sign on a salary cap exception or veteran minimum but he might go ring chasing. Who doesn’t want to be around success?
- Dwight Howard – Golden State Warriors
Still a dominant physical force who can finish over either shoulder. He hasn’t won a ring so he might replace Boogie as the starting centre on the Dubs. Would have to sign a small one year deal but I think he has earnt aplenty in his career, and would want some peace having been through a lot of turmoil the last few years. The Dubs wanted Dwight badly before he signed with the Lakers years back, so that desire might still be there.
- Jonas Jerebko – Denver Nuggets
Great stretch big who does all the little things to win. The Nuggets are in win-now mode with so much cheap talent on the books, and Jerebko can help right away at the forward spots. He’d be a great match with Jokic as a good cutter, floor spacer and rim protector.
- Boban Marjanovic – Memphis Grizzlies
Dominant post presence and rebounder, obviously a good rim protector at that size. There’s mobility concerns but just don’t switch him onto smalls. He’d be a great fit in Memphis – he can do the dirty work inside while Jaren Jackson Jr shows his finesse game. The Grizz will be left without a starting centre once Valanciunas leaves so they’ll need to fill that spot, and Boban deserves the chance. Plus, he’s a fan favourite. I think Jerry West and co will be smart enough to go after him.
- Al Horford (PO) – Boston Celtics
Almost $30 mil for one more year with a title contender? I think Big Al will accept that player option.
- Marc Gasol (PO) – Toronto Raptors
I think he’ll take the massive player option.
- Isaiah Thomas – Cleveland Cavaliers
Still a dynamite scorer and great leader. Will want a big payday having been underpaid for years, and the Cavs will be desperate to throw money at anyone with ability, so I think they’ll partake. And aren’t K Love and IT friends from way back? I know the Cavs had IT when LeBron was around but I think a reunion is in order there. Signing Love to that fat contract also means they mightn’t necessarily be tanking either.
- Rudy Gay – New York Knicks
Great athlete with a solid jumper. I think he’s young enough still to seek a big payday and go ring chasing later. The Spurs will go younger I think, and Bertans can fit his role. So New York will be attractive – the bright lights, big Valancuinas (from his time in Toronto), some solid young pieces in Ntilikana and whoever they pick (unless they screw it up). Plus the Knicks need some talented wings – I’m not sure Kevin Knox and Tim Hardaway Jr are the answers there.
- Bobby Portis (RFA) – New York Knicks
A bit stiff physically but can still block shots, rebound and shoot a bit. Can finish either hand. The Knicks have a ton of space and could fill out a handy frontcourt with JV and Rudy Gay there. The Wizards might go Boogie hunting so won’t have the space to match a deal the Knicks can afford.
- Goran Dragic (PO) – Los Angeles Lakers.
I think, at age 33, he’ll take one last crack at a big contract or a ring, despite his large player option for the ‘19-20 season. Miami are too swamped with large contracts to guys like Dion Waiters and Tyler Johnson to contend. So he’ll sign with the Lakers, who would now boast Dragic, Durant, LeBron, Kuzma and Ingram. Finally, the Warriors aren’t a shoe-in for the chip.
- Al-Farouq Aminu – Portland Trail Blazers
I see no reason why he’d leave. The Blazers are short on cap space but they can re-sign him anyway with bird rights. He’s quite undervalued so I don’t expect any team to outbid them. He’s a great stretch four who can switch onto wings defensively while defending the rim.
- Timothe Luwawu – Portland Trail Blazers
Maybe the most underrated player in the league. No-one keeps him on their roster, but he’s an epic 3 and D player. The Blazers love his type – they haven’t had one like him since Allen Crabbe was traded.
- Greg Monroe – Orlando Magic
The Magic will have a hole at center after Vucevic leaves (which is a bit up in the air with their surprising postseason success so far). Monroe is a similar player who is a bit ground bound but a great rebounder, finisher inside who can move his feet a bit.
- Jabari Parker (if $20 mil TO is declined, which is likely) – Brooklyn Nets
He’ll be chasing a big contract and I think the Nets will oblige. They’ll have lost DeAngelo (in my crystal ball prediction) so they’ll need more young talent.
- TJ McConnell – Toronto Raptors
The Sixers have proven to be a crap front office – trading away cornerstones in Robert Covington and Dario Saric for one guaranteed year of Jimmy Butler is the prime example. I think McConnell bolts for an atlantic rival. The Raps plove two-point guard lineups, so he can fit well with Lowry. They’ve also got good young pieces in Anunoby and Siakam to build around, so there’s optimism there, while still winning now.
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