NBA Free Agents 2018: Rumors and Predictions for Best Players Still Available

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistJuly 13, 2018

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony (7) argues a foul in the first half during Game 4 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz Monday, April 23, 2018, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

The 2018 NBA free-agency period provided some fireworks, but it also dealt an uncomfortable reality to restricted free agents looking for long-term deals with their original teams.

Surprisingly, notable names remain in the free-agent pool, but suitors have been reluctant to dive in with their checkbooks.

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart and Houston Rockets center Clint Capela continue to wait on agreements they feel adequately compensate their contributions. With a cold market toward both restricted free agents, how will the next few weeks pan out for the 24-year-olds?

What's next for forward Carmelo Anthony as he goes into the latter stages of his career? Should the 10-time All-Star accept a bench role wherever he lands this year? Which team could use him as a starter?


Boston Celtics at a Contract Impasse with Marcus Smart 

BOSTON, MA - MAY 27: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics looks on during Game Seven of the 2018 NBA Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden on May 27, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Smart may have to bet on himself.

According to Boston Herald reporter Steve Bulpett, the Celtics would prefer to let the market determine the fifth-year guard's value rather than jump out with a strong offer: "Sources indicate this may drag on for quite a while. Smart determined his worth to be more than what is out there in this summer’s market, and the Celts are in no rush to bid against themselves." 

Smart didn't have a line up of suitors courting him this summer. According to Boston Globe reporter Adam Himmelsbach, the restricted free agent would consider a deal for less than $15 million per year: "There have been conflicting reports about how much Smart and his camp are hoping for on the open market, but a source familiar with the negotiations said the guard is open to signing a multiyear deal for less than $15 million per season."

However, unless another team steps forward with an offer sheet, the Celtics don't have a reason to hash out a contract even close to Smart's asking price. With suitors holding on to their dollars, he may have to swallow his pride, accept Boston's one-year, $6 million qualifying offer and put together his best season to come close to that $15 million per year mark next summer.

Prediction: Marcus Smart accepts one-year qualifying offer with the Boston Celtics.


Houston Rockets Offered Clint Capela 5-Year, $85 Million Deal

Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Minus forward Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, the Rockets hope to bring the band back together—the same crew that pushed the Golden State Warriors to Game 7 in the Western Conference Finals.

With guard Chris Paul on the books for another four years and $160 million, the Rockets turn their attention to Capela, who averaged 13.9 points and 10.8 rebounds per contest during the regular season. He also led the league in field-goal percentage at 65 percent.

Nonetheless, the Houston big man became an afterthought against the Warriors, scoring a maximum of eight points in three out of seven outings. Coming up small in a critical series may have caused Houston to pull back on a massive deal.

According to Houston Chronicle reporter Jonathan Feigen, the Rockets offered Capela a five-year, $85 million contract, which seems more than fair for a center who can't stretch the floor in today's league:

Jonathan Feigen @Jonathan_Feigen

Rockets offer to Clint Capela on July 1 was five years, $85 million, two individuals with knowledge of the offer said. With incentives, the deal could be worth $90 million. Rockets remain optimistic sides a deal will be reached. "Absolutely," one of the individuals said.

Similar to Smart's situation as a restricted free agent, suitors haven't chased down Capela with an offer sheet. The league strongly favors shooters and versatile wings. The 6'10" center should come to terms with a reasonable $17 million per year proposal.

Prediction: Clint Capela re-signs with the Houston Rockets.


Carmelo Anthony Met with the Rockets, Miami Heat in Las Vegas

Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Shortly after forward Carmelo Anthony decided not to exercise the early-termination option built into his contract, the player and the Oklahoma City Thunder agreed to part ways, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Royce Young. 

Now, the 34-year-old must find a new home coming off season-lows in points (16.2) and shooting percentage (40.4). According to Wojnarowski, the Thunder allowed Anthony to meet with the Miami Heat and Rockets in Las Vegas:

Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

Story filed to ESPN: In advance of an inevitable – if not imminent – parting, the Oklahoma City Thunder granted Carmelo Anthony permission to meet with prospective teams, including Houston and Miami. Meetings took place in Vegas in recent days.

Based on Feigen's report, the Rockets feel comfortable with a $17 million per year offer for Capela, which leaves little for Anthony if he's looking to cash in on one more lucrative deal.

The 16th-year pro would also have to come off the bench for a head coach he didn't see eye-to-eye with on matters in the past, per Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post: "For Houston, Anthony would likely come off the bench as a scoring power forward. Ironically, that's exactly what Rockets Coach Mike D'Antoni wanted him to do when the two clashed while together with the New York Knicks."

Heat president Pat Riley could make a move to add offensive firepower to boost the league's 23rd scoring offense for a deeper push in the postseason. Anthony would even have an opportunity to start as a stretch 4 for a squad that plays at a slower pace.

Prediction: Carmelo Anthony signs with the Miami Heat.