NBA Free Agency 2018: Rumors and Predictions on LeBron James, Tyreke Evans, More

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJune 26, 2018

MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 15: Tyreke Evans #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies handles the ball during the game against the Chicago Bulls on March 15, 2018 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first-ever unrestricted free agent, as forward Tom Chambers moved from the Seattle Supersonics to the Phoenix Suns in 1988, per Suns writer Matt Petersen (now of Turner Sports and NBA.com) in a 2014 piece.

Free agency has since morphed into one of the biggest events on the league calendar, and this year should be no different with some huge names (LeBron James and Paul George, among others) in the mix.

NBA teams and free agents can officially start talking on Sunday, although contracts can't be officially inked until Saturday, July 6.

Here's a look at some recent news involving a few big names and teams.

     

LeBron James

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN dropped some news regarding Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James' free-agent process: "While James hasn't decided yet whether to pick up his player option, sources close to the situation tell ESPN that he has no intention of hearing elaborate pitch meetings from teams."

According to OddsShark, the Los Angeles Lakers are massive -150 favorites (bet $150 to win $100) to land James, with the Philadelphia 76ers second on the odds ledger at +450. The Cavs are listed at +500.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN also gave his take to Zach Lowe of ESPN on the Lowe Post podcast (h/t Hoopshype), saying that he believes there is a 51 percent chance James lands in L.A. He also placed 40 percent odds on Cleveland and nine percent odds on Philadelphia.

If we're going by those numbers, then the Lakers look like the best bet, especially if L.A. can also woo Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George. That will help create an instant NBA championship contender between them, point guard Lonzo Ball, forward Kyle Kuzma and others.

The guess here is that George and James go west as a two-star package, which would seemingly create a three-team race for the Western Conference crown between L.A., the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets. 

   

Indiana Pacers

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports and Chris B. Haynes of ESPN dropped some news on the Indiana Pacers' plans, specifically at the wing positions:

Although losing fan favorite Stephenson is certainly tough for Pacers fans, both Evans and Barton would be excellent fits with the Pacers.

Evans enjoyed his best NBA season this past year, registering 19.4 points, 5.2 assists and 5.1 rebounds in 52 games with the Memphis Grizzlies last season. He also posted the highest player efficiency rating (21.1) of his nine-year career.

He'd be great as the Pacers' sixth man and would help take some of the scoring burden off Victor Oladipo, who averaged 23.1 points per game. No other Pacer had 15 or more points per game last year, and the team could use a dependable second scorer. Evans could fit that bill, in addition to helping with ball-handling duties.

Barton is arguably coming off a career-best season, as he averaged career highs in points (15.7), rebounds (5.0), assists (4.1) and player efficiency rating (16.2).

Per Gina Mizell of the Denver Post, Barton has said that he wants to be a starter. He could get that chance in Indiana at the small forward position.

Current Pacers starting small forward Bojan Bogdanovic enjoyed a solid season last year thanks to 14.3 points per game on 47.4 percent shooting, but Barton is arguably an upgrade there, especially given his ball-handling (as Mizell noted, Barton moonlit at backup point guard a bit last year). Furthermore, Bogdanovic has just one year left on his deal and could head elsewhere soon anyway.

It's conceivable that Evans and Barton end up in Indiana with the team's books nearly empty following next season, per Hoopshype. The guess here is that happens, making the Pacers a solid Eastern Conference contender.

             

New York Knicks

Al Iannazzone of Newsday offered some insight into the New York Knicks' summer plans:

"...The Knicks won’t have much room to spend in free agency and are not built to win now. So don’t expect them to make a push for LeBron James despite his relationship with new Knicks coach David Fizdale.

"Their plan is to not sign anyone to long-term deals and to shed contracts that have more than one year remaining. That means Courtney Lee and Joakim Noah might not be Knicks much longer."

If James is looking for some more rings, simply put, New York isn't the place to go. The team is clearly in rebuilding mode, and the primary goals this year are to help Porzingis come back from a torn ACL and develop the team's young talent (e.g. point guard Frank Ntilikina and forward Kevin Knox).

Per Hoopshype, Noah has two years and $37.8 million left on his deal, while Lee has two years and $25 million. Those deals may be tough to move, but it would be best for all parties if trades could be made.

Lee lost playing time to younger players down the stretch, and he averaged just 22.7 minutes per game in his last 17 contests. He also didn't suit up for a few games.

Noah was a thorn in teams' sides for years as the Chicago Bulls' starting big man, but he has battled injuries over the past few years and has played just 53 games since joining the New York Knicks in 2016. If he returns healthy, it's certainly feasible seeing him as a solid backup center providing valuable minutes, but his days as a full-time starter are likely over.

Iannazzone also wrote more on Knicks center Enes Kanter:

Enes Kanter has an $18.6-million option that he needs to make a decision on by the end of the month. The Knicks are not expected to give him a multiyear deal if he opts out, so odds are Kanter, who loves New York, will pick up his option. The Knicks would be fine with that.

Kanter was one of the bright spots in a down year for the Knicks, as he averaged 14.1 points and 11.0 rebounds per game while posting just 25.8 minutes on average. The issue is that Kanter struggles on the defensive end: Per ESPN, he was 73rd among 84 centers in defensive real plus-minus.

While Kanter's offensive efficiency is certainly a bright spot, it's hard seeing him on the team long term simply because of the Knicks' direction at this point. They are clearly trying to build a super-young nucleus and see what sticks long term. That probably leaves Kanter out of the picture down the road, although he proved to be a solid contributor last year and should be this season as well.

   

All statistics via Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.

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