Trade, Draft, Free Agency: Every NBA Team's Top Target in Each Category
In honor of the 2019 NBA Finals tipping off, we have a treat for you: a discussion about everything else.
Straying from watch-the-games talk is liable to rub some grumps the wrong way, and that's OK. We love them, and we love actual basketball. But we have to stay two to three steps ahead of the Association's schedule. Life happens too fast in #thisleague to focus exclusively on the present.
If nothing else, the NBA has 28 franchises not participating in the Finals. They've all moved on. We can, too.
Suggesting primary draft, free-agency and trade targets for every team is a tough balancing act. Erring on the side of plausible ambition and actionable high hopes is the goal. Our approach must vary case by case to make that happen.
To the guidelines:
- Draft: Targets who might be a little bit of a reach, but not by much. Allow for flexibility as we move outside the top five. The talent gap between players after that starts to shrink.
- Free Agency: Cap-sheet projections shape each selection but aren't everything. We're weighing affordability and team needs against which players will actually consider the squad in question.
- Trade Target: Prepare to get weird. Almost half of the league's players are entering free agency, and this summer's signings will have a direct impact what buyers and sellers do. For now, we're basing our decision on the current climate, with plenty of hedges and caveats along the way.
Selections for each category are made independent of the other two. All three sometimes fit snugly together, but they can also step on the toes of other implored targets. That's the game we must play this far in advance. Every team's situation will change based on how its offseason unfolds.
Draft: Jarrett Culver
This year's draft class is random enough for the Atlanta Hawks to hope De'Andre Hunter falls to No. 8. His potential fit as a small-ball 4 who tussles with certain 5s is tantalizing given John Collins' offensive skill set and defensive shortcomings.
Jarrett Culver is the safer best-case scenario. He's less likely go in the top five, if only because it remains to be seen how his shot creation will translate to the next level. Atlanta doesn't need him to be a from-scratch superhero with Trae Young in the fold, and he's more of a sure bet to hold up defending larger wings than Taurean Prince.
Trading up also has to be on the table. This draft class doesn't warrant ultra-aggressive moves, but the Hawks own the Nos. 8, 10, 35, 41 and 44 picks. Consolidating any combination of those into a top-five selection is a worthwhile gamble. My suggestion: Call the New York Knicks and see whether No. 8, No. 10 and Prince gets you No. 3.
Free Agency: Malcolm Brogdon (Restricted)
Dewayne Dedmon needs to be a free-agent priority if the Hawks don't exit the draft with a new frontcourt running mate for Collins, but they own his Early Bird rights and can carve out max money while carrying his $9.4 million cap hold. He'll stay put if they want to retain him.
Figuring out where to allocate the rest of their cap space is harder. Every superstar free agent profiles as a fantastic fit with this roster, but Atlanta isn't known for poaching A-listers.
Investing in restricted free agency is more up the Hawks' alley. It ties up their cap space without the guarantee of success, but they have that flexibility, and Malcolm Brogdon is the perfect target. His plug-and-play offense is a fit for every team, so the Hawks can max him out ($27.3 million starting salary) without worrying about eventual buyer's remorse.
Trade: Frank Ntilikina
Frank Ntilikina is "expected" to be available for the taking this offseason, according to the New York Post's Marc Berman. The Hawks should take a look depending on the Knicks' asking price.
Though Ntilikina is among the NBA's least valuable offensive players, his length is disruptive on defense and will counterbalance many of Young's most glaring weaknesses. He isn't worth swapping for Prince, but if the deal can be expanded or the Knicks are only looking to cut costs in advance of free agency, the Hawks should bet on their coaching staff's experience with player development.
Draft: Whoever the Pelicans want
Order of events will heavily factor into the Boston Celtics' pursuit of Anthony Davis. Do they go after him in the hope he convinces Kyrie Irving (player option) to stay? Or do they wait on Irving's free agency to play out before cobbling together their best package for Davis?
The Celtics' draft-night mission shouldn't change either way. They aren't keeping all three of their first-round picks—Nos. 14, 20 and 22—no matter what. It behooves them to try to trade up or target players they know the Pelicans want.
Some names to watch for the No. 14 spot include Brandon Clarke, Romeo Langford, Kevin Porter Jr. and PJ Washington. Grant Williams is a nice option if Clarke and Washington are off the board, but he's someone Boston can probably grab at 20 or 22.
Free Agency: Kyrie Irving (Player Option)
Pessimistic reactions to Boston's second-round exit will include underestimating Irving's importance. Try to resist.
Irving is the Celtics' offensive lifeline. His leadership behind the scenes is worth agonizing over, but his functional value is not. Boston's window gets thrown for a whirl without him.
Do Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford (player option), Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum and this year's picks amount to a contender? Does it make sense to chase Davis without Irving? How do the Celtics fill the point guard void if he leaves? By re-signing Terry Rozier? Sniffing around Mike Conley trades? Crossing their fingers that the taxpayer mid-level exception ($5.7 million) yields a viable solution?
Life in Boston may remain difficult with Irving, but it would get far more awkward without him.
Trade: Anthony Davis
Davis-to-Boston speculation dates back to approximately forever ago. Celtics president Danny Ainge cannot give up the dream now that the trade sweepstakes are officially underway—assuming, of course, the Pelicans cannot change Davis' mind.
Forking over the moon is harder to do if the Celtics lose Irving. Even then, though, they can attempt to build competitive Davis packages that don't include Tatum.
Draft: PJ Washington
Targeting PJ Washington with the No. 17 pick is a stretch for the Brooklyn Nets. Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman has him ranked as the draft's 14th-best player on his latest big board.
Brooklyn has the goodies to move up if the situation calls for it. Dangling Nos. 17 and 27 to jump up a few spots isn't too enticing, but the Nets have the 31st overall selection as an alternative sweetener and a desperate need for new blood at the 4.
Failing a crack at Washington or Brandon Clarke, the Nets can—and should—look at using Nos. 27 and 31 to move into Grant Williams territory. He's an active defender in passing lanes and around the rim, but burning No. 17 on him feels like it'd be too much of a reach.
Free Agency: Jimmy Butler (Player Option)
Many Nets fans won't love this pick. Kevin Durant (player option), Kawhi Leonard (player option) and Kyrie Irving, who the New York Daily News' Stefan Bondy reported will "strongly consider" Brooklyn, are safer investments. Maxing out Tobias Harris is even more palatable. He at least fills the team's biggest void.
But plausibility matters. The "feeling around the NBA is the Nets will have a very real chance to pry" Butler away from the Philadelphia 76ers, per the New York Post's Brian Lewis. Everyone else will be harder to poach or win over, with the exception of Harris or Kemba Walker. And Butler has a much higher ceiling than both of them.
Paying him into his mid-30s isn't as much of a concern for the Nets as it will be for other suitors. Head coach Kenny Atkinson has done a masterful job managing minutes, and Butler has Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and D'Angelo Russell (restricted) to co-opt ball-handling duties.
Landing someone who can soak up real time at the 4 is better, but the chase begins to fall apart if Durant and Harris head elsewhere. Brooklyn has Rodions Kurucs to develop at power forward, can bring back DeMarre Carroll and will be in position to select another option during the draft.
Trade: JR Smith
Renouncing all of their other free agents isn't enough for the Nets to carve out max room and float Russell's $21.1 million cap hold. They'd have just over $30 million to spend, which is awfully close, but still shy of starting salaries ($32.7 million) in the Butler, Irving and Leonard tier.
Offloading Allen Crabbe's $18.5 million expiring contract drums up more flexibility than the Nets need. That's perfect. They can use the difference to retain Ed Davis or make other additions.
Attaching the No. 27 pick to Crabbe's deal for JR Smith's partially guaranteed contract is the optimal scenario. The Nets would finagle more than $45 million in spending power, while the Cleveland Cavaliers, who would be knee-deep in luxury-tax territory at that point, would net a first-round asset for a player they've already displaced from their plans.
Draft: Romeo Langford
Make sure to send good vibes in the Charlotte Hornets' direction when they're on the clock at No. 12. They'll need them.
General manager Mitch Kupchak and Co. must figure out whether they're drafting a player to partner with Kemba Walker or someone to potentially take up his primary-cornerstone mantle. Romeo Langford is a nice hedge against either outcome.
Malik Monk's ship has sailed. He isn't running an offense on his own or mirroring a second option. Langford's junky three-point percentage at Indiana is a red flag, and he'll have to prove he can grind out separation in the half court against NBA defenses, but he gives the Hornets a crack at the No. 2 wing scorer they otherwise don't employ.
Free Agency: Kemba Walker
Walker qualifies for a five-year megadeal worth $221.3 million after earning All-NBA honors. His full-Bird max checks in at five years and $189.7 million.
Will the Hornets offer him the supermax boat? The regular max? Something in between? Something less?
No team faces a tougher decision. The Hornets cannot afford to lose Walker. They have no other star, established or future, in place. They likewise cannot afford for the back end of his deal to devolve into a millstone. Their cap sheet is already a mess, and they don't have a pristine track record in the draft or on the trade and free-agency markets.
Trade: Bradley Beal
Bradley Beal's future with the Washington Wizards is no less cloudy after he missed out on an All-NBA nod. So much depends on who the franchise installs as the permanent general manager.
Charlotte should pray he becomes available. Acquiring Beal would likely take this year's draft selection, future picks, Malik Monk and more. The Hornets may not be able to strike a trade without including Miles Bridges.
Almost nothing and no one can be a deal-breaker for them. Walker needs a co-star, and Beal will have two seasons left on his contract when the 2019-20 season tips off.
Draft: Jarrett Culver
Pivoting to Darius Garland or Coby White after falling to seventh in the lottery is a perfectly acceptable play for the Chicago Bulls. But until the draft board dictates otherwise, they should aim higher.
Jarrett Culver pairs nicely with Otto Porter on the wing. Lineups featuring them and Wendell Carter Jr. will have plenty of defensive legs to stand on.
Playing Culver with Zach LaVine gets a little dicey unless Porter is at the 4. Then again, if the Texas Tech product has success creating separation from NBA defenders, LaVine-at-the-point combinations become more tenable.
Free Agency: Tomas Satoransky (Restricted)
Exiting the draft without a floor general in tow would be viewed as high treason by some Bulls fans. It needn't be.
Chicago has an effortless path to between $18 and $20-plus million in cap space. It'll take more to reel in Malcolm Brogdon or D'Angelo Russell, but that money is enough to net an effective playmaker.
Enter Tomas Satoransky. He turns 28 at the end of October, so he's on the older side of the restricted-free-agent spectrum, but his experience as an off-ball shooter makes him a quality fit for almost any timeline. He averaged as many points per spot-up possession this past season as Joe Harris.
Deploying Satoransky as the primary playmaker is not out of the question. He needs a first-option buffer to leverage his half-court probes, but he posted a higher assist rate on drives this year than any of Washington's other lineup staples, and the Wizards pumped in 114.3 points per 100 possessions whenever he and Bradley Beal played without John Wall.
Trade: Josh Jackson
The Bulls need more wings and don't sound like they consider Kris Dunn a playmaking option anymore. The Phoenix Suns, on the other hand, are overflowing with wings and no longer have the runway to indulge Josh Jackson's on-again, off-again, still-off, oh-wait-no-he's-on-again offense.
Gauging the Suns' interest in a Dunn-for-Jackson swap is a no-brainer, particularly if Phoenix doesn't do anything to address its own point guard situation in the draft or free agency. If the Bulls are still bent on adding a floor general, they should look to become a third-party facilitator in whatever blockbuster deal the Los Angeles Lakers broker on the condition they get sent Lonzo Ball.
Draft: Jarrett Culver
This initially felt like a "Jarrett Culver or De'Andre Hunter" situation until Sporting News' Sean Deveney brought word the Cleveland Cavaliers might have drafted Culver with the No. 2 pick. That settles that.
Hunter remains a desirable fit. Combo forwards who can survive on defensive islands and stroke the three-ball are among the league's hottest commodities. His 41.9 percent outside clip through two years at Virginia came on only 160 total attempts, but that's enough volume to bet on his one-on-one stopping power.
Culver has the mightier peak. His shot creation, while contingent upon his suboptimal speed relative to other wings, arms him with the tools to run secondary offense, and he'll be able to wrangle certain 4s on defense if he adds some muscle.
Sitting at No. 5 gives Cleveland a good chance of landing its guy. Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and RJ Barrett are expected to go with the first three picks, which leaves the Lakers at No. 4 as the only obstacle standing between the Cavaliers and Culver.
Free Agency: David Nwaba (Restricted)
Free agency is barely going to matter in Cleveland. The Cavaliers are not only comfortably above the $109 million salary cap, but they'll need to get creative to sidestep the luxury tax.
Retaining David Nwaba might be a no-go. They don't own his Bird rights, and dipping into the mid-level exception stings when you're a potential taxpayer without a clear line to postseason contention.
Cleveland still needs to try. Nwaba is its best perimeter defender, has taken on some small-ball power forwards despite standing 6'4" and canned 35.7 percent of his wide-open treys this past season.
Trade: First-Round Picks/Prospects
JR Smith's contract will be a tasty trade chip if the Cavaliers are unafraid of cannonballing into the luxury tax. He's guaranteed only $3.9 million, but he's worth $15.7 million in outgoing money since his deal was signed before the current collective bargaining agreement.
Select teams will give up a first-round pick or prospect to enjoy that $11.8 million difference. Any squad looking to create cap space or skirt the tax is a potential partner, and the Cavaliers can up their asking price if they're open to swallowing salary that spills into 2020-21.
Draft: Ignas Brazdeikis
Immediate difference-makers are seldom available at No. 37. That works for the Dallas Mavericks. They're more concerned with maximizing cap space, which gives them the leeway to take on a longer-term project.
Adding another wing should be their top priority. Dorian Finney-Smith (restricted) is a free agent, neither Tim Hardaway Jr. nor Courtney Lee is optimally suited for minutes at the 3 and the Mavericks' only small-ball 4 options are Luka Doncic and Justin Jackson.
Michigan's Ignas Brazdeikis does the trick as an early second-rounder. He isn't especially explosive, but he has the offensive groundwork to do some damage from the outside, as The Athletic's Sam Vecenie wrote:
"Even after shooting 39 percent from three last season, NBA teams still question his jumper a bit because of his previous rep in high school as an improving shooter, but not a high-level one. They also wonder how his athleticism translates on offense, as he's an advantage scorer who gets by with change of pace. Defensively, he was also a fairly big problem for Michigan. But one some level, Brazdeikis is just a tough dude that no one ever wants to play against. There's a real chance an NBA organization falls in love with him in the predraft process and takes him a bit higher than [No. 47]."
Free Agency: Kemba Walker
Khris Middleton (player option) and Kemba Walker are expected to top the Mavericks' offseason wish list, according to the New York Times' Marc Stein. They also have eyes for Tobias Harris, per The Athletic's Shams Charania.
Sticking to the second tier of star free agents is smart. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard are dream fits beside Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis (restricted), but the market for their services will be both fierce and finite. Dallas hasn't been mentioned as a top destination for any of them.
Focusing on the next batch of big names gives the Mavericks a better crack at success. Walker figures to be the most gettable. He's eligible for a supermax from the Hornets, but he's made the postseason only twice in eight years. Whereas Harris and Middleton already play for contenders, Walker has more of an incentive to prioritize fit and situation over dollars and cents.
Trade: JR Smith
Dwight Powell will reportedly decline his $10.3 million player option, according to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes, which works in service of Dallas' free-agency aims.
Removing his cap hit from the ledger fast-tracks the Mavericks toward more than $37 million in space while ferrying free-agent holds for Finney-Smith, Porzingis and Maxi Kleber (restricted) and guaranteeing Ryan Broekhoff's salary. But that's assuming they cut ties with Powell. They prefer to bring him back, per Haynes.
Paying Powell even slightly less than his player option costs the Mavericks their superstar wallet. They can max out another restricted free agent like Malcolm Brogdon or D'Angelo Russell, but not a Harris, Middleton or Walker.
Sending Lee's expiring contract—or less likely, Hardaway's deal—to Cleveland in exchange for JR Smith's partially guaranteed salary ($3.9 million) takes care of the difference. The Cavaliers will command a sweetener, of which the Mavericks have few, but attaching a distant second-rounder, Jackson or, less ideally, Jalen Brunson should allow them to iron out the details.
Draft: No picks
Put an asterisk next to the Denver Nuggets' empty draft-pick stash. They're short on available roster spots, but given this season's performance from Monte Morris (51st overall in 2017) and presumed staying power of Jarred Vanderbilt (41st in 2018), they'd be remiss if they didn't buy a second-rounder leading into or during this year's draft.
Free Agency: DeMarre Carroll
The Nuggets will most likely be working with the non-taxpayer's mid-level exception ($9.2 million) even if they don't decline Paul Millsap's $30 million team option and re-sign him to a cheaper deal. And with so many players already grandfathered into next year's plans, they have the capacity to funnel all of that money into one addition.
DeMarre Carroll is not that guy. He's cheaper, which makes him a better fit for Denver's long-term plans.
Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig, Juan Hernangomez and Jamal Murray will all be up for raises after this coming season. Restructuring Millsap's deal this summer would only add to that prospective bottom line. Carroll both addresses the need for a truer wing and shouldn't fetch the entire MLE.
Something to watch: The Nuggets can chisel out max money if they decline Millsap's team option and grease the wheels of a Mason Plumlee salary-dump. Drastic measures appear unlikely, but their activity is worth keeping an eye on if they convince any of the marquee free agents to take a meeting.
Trade: Tony Snell
Denver has the tools to pony up for a star trade, but meh. A wholesale shakeup probably costs both Jamal Murray and Gary Harris, in which case the Nuggets are better off dedicating more equity to bolstering their cap space.
Things change if, say, Bradley Beal can be had for either Harris or Murray, plus other stuff, rather than both. Beyond that, the Nuggets should think smaller. They are coming off 54 wins, finished one victory shy of the Western Conference Finals, have one of the league's youngest cores and will eventually get to play Michael Porter Jr. Most of their upgrades will come from within.
Scoping out role players on the wings is about as far as they need to go, and the Milwaukee Bucks loom as a potential trade partner. Tony Snell won't have a consistent role if they bring back Malcolm Brogdon, Pat Connaughton and Khris Middleton, and Plumlee is a solid, albeit imperfect, placeholder in the middle should Brook Lopez price himself out of town.
Draft: Kevin Porter Jr.
Ambition is the guiding force of this entire exercise. Asking the Detroit Pistons to zero in on Kevin Porter Jr. stays true to that theme.
He is the dare-to-be-great selection. He has the strength and length to be a portable defender and doesn't shy away from launching step-back jumpers, but many have panned his consistency and consider his offensive handle more substance than flash, per The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor.
Detroit is on a win-now timeline. Drafting a boom-or-bust prospect who shot better off the dribble than on the catch may be a non-starter. Or it could be the buy-low kick the Pistons need to elevate their long-term standing.
Free Agency: Wesley Matthews
Shoring up the point guard position takes a backseat to deepening the wing rotation. Reggie Jackson played well down the stretch this year, and the Pistons can most likely re-sign Ish Smith while preserving access to the non-taxpayer's mid-level exception.
Plenty of shooting specialists will be available for that money or less, including incumbent free agent Wayne Ellington. Detroit needs a marksman who can also shoulder some off-the-bounce work, which shrinks its best-case options by a considerable margin.
Wesley Matthews is a roller coaster. He dribbles into ill-advised jumpers, fancies himself a post-up artist at times and drilled only 28.3 percent of his pull-up threes with Indiana this season. But he can fire up the occasional pick-and-roll, will attack defenses before they're set and remains a dependable spot-up shooter. For what Detroit can pay, he's among the most versatile offensive options.
Trade: Mike Conley
Sticking with Jackson at point guard is not franchise malpractice. This will be his first injury-free summer in a while. He might regain some of his first-step pep by next season, and his work out of the pick-and-roll and as a spot-up shooter this year has earned him a chance to recalibrate.
The best version of Jackson still doesn't hold a candle to Mike Conley. He is more comfortable pulling up off the dribble and working away from the ball, and his defense is no less grating than it was a half-decade ago. He is difficult to shed on screens and a whiz at funneling ball-handlers into help.
Nothing serious came out of talks between the Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies leading into February's trade deadline, per Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press, but it won't be as hard to find a workable deal now. The Grizzlies have the ability to select Ja Morant with the No. 2 overall pick, and the Pistons' primary salary anchors, including Jackson, are entering the final year of their contracts.
Golden State Warriors
Draft: Ty Jerome
Kevin Durant might leave. Shaun Livingston may retire. Next year is Andre Iguodala's age-36 season. The bench is thinner than ever. Recent draft picks have not turned into reliable or playable contributors.
Translation: The Golden State Warriors need a rookie who can almost immediately enter the rotation.
Draftniks are split on whether Ty Jerome is a first-round prospect. The Warriors are close enough to the second round that it doesn't matter. He works as a square-one shot creator or standstill assassin, and his use of space on defense cancels out his uninspiring explosion.
Mike Gribanov of The Stepien doubts whether Jerome "meets the athletic threshold to be an NBA player at all at his size (6'5")." That matters to a team searching for more than a role player or long-term growth. The Warriors don't need to be in the market for either.
Free Agency: Kevin Durant (Player Option)
Assessments of Golden State without Durant too often miss the mark. Winning without him isn't a problem...right now. What about later?
Like Iguodala and potential retiree Livingston, the rest of the Warriors' core isn't getting any younger. Stephen Curry turns 32 next March. Draymond Green (March) and Klay Thompson (February), an unrestricted free agent, will celebrate 30th birthdays before the 2020 playoffs.
Maybe the Warriors can get past the Toronto Raptors without Durant (they can). Maybe they can even win next year's title without him (they might). But keeping him isn't about the short term.
Durant's importance is more about the big picture. He is their ticket to sustained inevitability, a virtue the Warriors will forfeit without him before long, if not by the start of next season.
Trade: Juan Hernangomez
Coming up with trade targets for Golden State is like writing fan fiction. This team isn't set up to make waves.
Curry, Green, Iguodala and Thompson are the only players making salary-anchor money, and they aren't going anywhere. (Green's name might hit the rumor mill if Durant returns.) Everyone after them doesn't make enough to return anyone significant.
Heck, Jacob Evans and Damian Jones are the only other players under contract next season. Guaranteeing Alfonzo McKinnie's salary is a given, but the three of them plus this year's first-round pick won't even combine to earn $9 million.
The Warriors will need extra juice on the wings if Durant bolts. Really, they need it no matter what. Juan Hernangomez is a strong cutter and decent shooter who fell out of the Nuggets' rotation after a January abdominal injury. Would Denver accept Jones and the No. 28 selection, once he becomes an actual salary, for the soon-to-be 24-year-old? Or would the Warriors have to include Evans or McKinnie instead of Jones?
Draft: No picks
If the Houston Rockets are looking to buy a second-rounder, Atlanta and Philadelphia have three and four, respectively. Just saying.
Free Agency: Reggie Bullock
If the Rockets play their cards right, they can tap into the non-taxpayer's mid-level exception this summer. That doesn't mean they will. They placed stock in ducking the tax this past year and might be reluctant to hard-cap themselves.
Plus, with so many non-Bird free agents hitting the open market, the Rockets probably won't be allocating their best resource to a singular player. Whatever version of the MLE they're peddling likely needs to be split among two or three rotation pieces.
Reggie Bullock is on the higher end of the Rockets' possibilities. He won't command the non-taxpayer's MLE in full, but the taxpayer's MLE ($5.7 million) is within his reach. Teams are endlessly hungry for 6'7" wings with rock-solid outside touch, and Bullock splashed in 38.9 percent of his catch-and-fire treys this season (35.6 percent with the Lakers). And while he isn't a tireless stopper, he's a quality one-on-one defender when going up against smaller wings and guards.
Trade: Bradley Beal or Taurean Prince
Smaller-time trade targets won't do it for the Rockets. They're light on mid-end salary fodder, and impact players don't make peanuts unless they're on their rookie-scale contracts.
Offering Gary Clark (non-guaranteed), Isaiah Hartenstein (non-guaranteed) and a future first-round pick for Taurean Prince is a worthwhile consolidation from the Rockets' perspective, but does it tickle the Hawks' fancy? Perhaps if they draft two wings and one of them is Jarrett Culver.
Houston doesn't have much else to include before eating into its core assets. General manager Daryl Morey is ready to go that far. He has "made his entire roster and future draft picks available in trade talks, a dramatic initiative with hopes of reshaping the team into a championship contender," according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Bradley Beal needs to pop up on the Rockets' radar if the Wizards start taking offers. Clint Capela, 25, is under contract for another four years at a not-unreasonable $72.2 million, and Washington doesn't yet have its center of the future.
Working in other salary filler won't be easy if Nene retires, but Capela, Clark and two first-rounders is a legitimate starting point. Beal is worth the cost. He'll be 26 when next season tips off, with two more years left on his deal, and his arrival would allow the Rockets to lean further into their heavy-playmaking model while softening the blow of Chris Paul's decline.
Draft: Cameron Johnson or Kevin Porter Jr.
Cameron Johnson is the pick if the Indiana Pacers want an immediate contributor at No. 18. He doesn't come with a ton of upside; he'll turn 24 next March after spending five years split between Pittsburgh and North Carolina in college.
But Indiana needs high-volume marksmen, and Johnson fits the bill to a T. He's a career 40.5 percent shooter from deep and buried 45.7 percent of his threes on 7.8 attempts per 40 minutes in his final year at UNC. Sluggish foot speed on defense won't prevent him from helping right away.
Kevin Porter Jr. is the high-upside, ultra-patient play. Gambling on his long-haul development is worth next season's opportunity cost if the Pacers aren't sure they'll appeal to bigger names in free agency. They need a co-alpha scorer for Victor Oladipo, and Porter's shot-creation tools tantalize.
Free Agency: Tobias Harris
The Pacers are one of many teams set to go after Tobias Harris, according to Philly.com's Keith Pompey. Their competition: the Nets, Mavericks, Sixers, Sacramento Kings and Utah Jazz. Other suitors will come out of the woodwork, too.
Utah promises the most effective fit. Indiana is a close second, even more so than Philadelphia. Harris can take up the second-option position without a potential challenger, and the Pacers have a defensive backdrop in Myles Turner who can cover up when he gets burned by quick-hitting dribble-drives and post moves.
Indiana won't be free from collateral damage if he joins the cause. Most of its own free agents will have to hit the bricks. The Pacers will deal. They'll be approximately one TJ Leaf salary-dump away—slightly more—from footing Harris' max salary if they keep Bojan Bogdanovic's $13.7 million cap hold. Everyone else is replaceable.
Trade: Goran Dragic (Player Option)
Hypothetical Pacers trades are best saved for the middle of December, when most free agents who signed contracts over the summer can be rerouted. Until then, Indiana has Doug McDermott, Domantas Sabonis, this year's pick, all of their future first-rounders and cap space.
That sounds good in theory. But teams auctioning off blockbuster talent tend to want a mix of players and picks. The Pacers are almost barren of the former without putting Myles Turner on the chopping block.
Scouring the market for salary-dumping opportunities is their best chance at picking up another impact player before the season starts. The Miami Heat aren't usually sellers so far in advance, but staring down the barrel of the luxury tax, they might be open to Goran Dragic trades headlined by cap savings.
For their part, the Pacers can take back his $19.2 million salary without sending any money out in return.
Los Angeles Clippers
Draft: Admiral Schofield
Admiral Schofield will be great value if the Los Angeles Clippers can scoop him up at No. 48. However, Schofield may not be available at No. 48.
The 22-year-old improved his clip from beyond the arc in every season at Tennessee, culminating with last year's 41.8 percent mark on mostly assisted threes, according to Hoop-Math.com.
Schofield isn't garnering praise for the nuts and bolts of his defense, but he has the wingspan to chase around 2s and 3s, and his counting stats impress across most categories relative to his position. Only 12 other guards in the nation last season matched his defensive rebounding, steal and block rates while logging at least 1,000 total minutes.
Free Agency: Kawhi Leonard (Player Option)
Curveballs keep being thrown into the Clippers' pursuit of Kawhi Leonard. His series-winner over the Sixers in Game 7 gave him a hallmark Raptors moment, and they've since trudged their way to the NBA Finals.
If Toronto beats Golden State, it automatically gets the inside track on keeping Leonard. If the Raptors lose to the Warriors, they're still sitting relatively pretty. They weren't Leonard's first—or eighth—choice over the summer, but they're doing a bang-up job of ensuring he cannot cite basketball reasons if he leaves.
Oddsmakers couldn't care less about Toronto's success. The Clippers remain the favorite to land Leonard's services over at Caesars Palace. Perhaps that changes before July 1, but the best basketball team in Los Angeles doesn't have the luxury of giving a damn. The Clippers have fueled Leonard-to-Hollywood conspiracies all year. They cannot, should not and will not turn back now.
Trade: Anthony Davis
Joining the Anthony Davis sweepstakes is a more efficient way of the Clippers landing a second star. Danilo Gallinari's $22.6 million expiring salary must be a key centerpiece to any proposal they string together, and they have to move him to create two max slots anyway.
Few other Davis suitors can best the Clippers' would-be supplementary inclusions. The Celtics have them beat, but the list ends there. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Montrezl Harrell, Landry Shamet, Philadelphia's 2020 lottery-protected first-round pick, Miami's unprotected 2021 selection and Los Angeles' own future draft choices adequately stack up to, if not transcend, the most obvious packages from the Lakers and Knicks.
Whether Clippers should enter the running for Davis if they come up empty in free agency is an entirely different matter. A lean 2019 offseason leaves them with enough cap room to sign him outright next year, and they cannot guarantee his return without another superstar already in place.
Los Angeles Lakers
Draft: Whoever the Pelicans Want
The Pelicans reportedly still prefer not to break bread with the Lakers on an Anthony Davis trade, according to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst. That cannot stop L.A. from taking their priorities into account, or from trying to guess what those leanings might be.
So be it if New Orleans winds up sending Davis elsewhere. The No. 4 slot doesn't have a consensus option. Jarrett Culver, Darius Garland and De'Andre Hunter are all acceptable choices, and the Lakers likely won't hold onto anyone they select for that long even if the AD trail goes cold.
Free Agency: Jimmy Butler (Player Option)
Believe it or not, this space originally consisted of 200ish words on why the Lakers should focus on Kawhi Leonard.
In a nutshell: Yes, he's in the Finals with the Raptors. And we have zero indication he wants to play with LeBron James. But he might finally get a taste of how difficult it is to overthrow the Warriors. In turn, that may leave him with a certain appreciation for James' remaining window. Aside from Toronto, a better basketball fit and partner in crime might not be at his disposal.
However, that optimism was short-lived. ESPN's Baxter Holmes wrote an in-depth piece on the failed reboot of the Lakers wherein he painted a picture of total dysfunction and distrust. Good luck getting Leonard if even half of the discord is true. The San Antonio friggin' Spurs were too much of a daytime drama to him, for crying out loud.
Jimmy Butler is a more feasible target. He is one of the three players James has started pitching, along with Leonard and Kyrie Irving, according to Windhorst, and Philadelphia's crowded pecking order renders him one of the summer's greater flight risks.
Begging the Lakers to make Irving the primary target is fine, but his reconciliation with James doesn't move the needle enough. He left Cleveland not two full years ago to escape the four-time MVP's shadow. Is he really running back into his arms so soon?
Trade: Anthony Davis
Never. Give. Up.
Also: Getting jokes off is fine, but the Lakers' asset base isn't exactly a pupu platter of sub-mediocrity. Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma are quality prospects. Health is a concern for some (Ball, Ingram), as are their next contracts, but any combination of them, plus the No. 4 pick and future selections, is a viable Davis offer.
Draft: Ja Morant
The Grizzlies don't have much of a decision to make at No. 2. Ja Morant is the consensus second-best player in the draft class, and taking him would let them view Mike Conley's future in less necessary terms.
RJ Barrett should only enter the mix if the Grizzlies are determined to rejoin the playoff picture next season and don't plan on moving their 31-year-old floor general. Yet even then, a potential Conley-Morant backcourt is brimming with too much live-dribble shot creation and passing to ignore—defensive ramifications of playing the two together be damned.
Free Agency: Furkan Korkmaz
Memphis will have sub-zero maneuverability if Jonas Valanciunas picks up his player option and Delon Wright (restricted) gets another contract. Waiving Avery Bradley's partially guaranteed deal, a given to begin with, becomes necessary just to skirt the luxury tax.
Bargain-bin shopping is an undefined art, and the Grizzlies are in an even tighter spot. They need wings more than anything, and those 3-4 types rarely come cheap.
Furkan Korkmaz isn't winning the front office any Executive of the Year buzz, but he's a 6'7" 21-year-old whose three-point touch started perking up before right knee troubles torpedoed the rest of his season.
Trade: Desperate Mike Conley Trade Partners
Conley doesn't need to go. He has two years and $67 million left on his deal and appears to no longer jibe with Memphis' timeline, but keeping him to mentor Morant isn't a nightmare scenario.
Still, the Grizzlies have an obligation to shop him. He sounded ready for a change at the end of the season, and they need to stock up on prospects and first-round picks. If any team is hawking a young player and a pick without sending back unbearable contracts, the Grizzlies have to consider pouncing.
Draft: Kevin Porter Jr.
Mock drafts have consistently sent Kevin Porter Jr. to the Heat. It isn't hard to figure out why, as SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell wrote.
"Porter did little to warrant being a lottery pick during his one season at USC, but his raw talent is undeniable. At 6'7" wing with an advanced scoring package, Porter is a skilled isolation scorer who can get buckets on step-backs, up-and-unders, and daring drives to the rim. If he can channel his skill set into consistent production, the Heat could find the type of big wing scorer that holds so much value in today’s NBA."
Team president Pat Riley isn't the most patient person, but Miami has not fielded a big-time wing scorer since LeBron James left. Josh Richardson is the closest the offense has come, and he's best suited as a tertiary shot creator. Porter has the chance to be more, and lusting after that star quality is right up Riley's alley.
Free Agency: Justin Holiday
Miami won't be playing much of a role in free agency. Staying out the luxury tax will be a chore on its own, and Riley's designs on signing two stars in 2020 preclude the Heat from making sizable commitments.
Justin Holiday fits within those confines. His stock mostly imploded this season after a hot start, but Miami needs to hoard wings if Justise Winslow is going to monopolize point guard responsibilities.
Trade: Mike Conley
Riley wants to sign two stars next summer, but that isn't the best-laid plan. The Heat must dump two of their pricier pacts to open up the necessary room. Assuming Richardson and Winslow aren't candidates, that leaves James Johnson (two years, $31.4 million), Kelly Olynyk (two years, $26.7 million) and Dion Waiters (two years, $24.8 million).
Unloading Olynyk into cap space won't be a problem. The other two? Not so much. And if the Heat succeed, they're still left with the matter of finding superstars to pilfer. That'll be tough. The supply of in-their-prime cornerstones runs dry after Anthony Davis, who by that point might be on a team he has no intention of leaving.
Trading for Mike Conley gives Miami a head start. Having one star in place is more important than the cap space he eats up. The Heat don't have the asset clout of other buyers, but attaching the No. 13 pick (after he signs) to some combination of their expiring contracts (Ryan Anderson, Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside) probably gets the dialogue started. They might even be able to get off Johnson or Waiters if they part with Bam Adebayo.
Draft: Nicolas Claxton or Grant Williams
Grant Williams is Plan A, but let's be real: He's not falling to No. 30. Some team before the Bucks will overlook his fluctuant shot-making to bet on his passing and defense. It'll be a surprise if he slips past the Portland Trail Blazers (No. 25), Nets (No. 27) and Warriors (No. 28).
Nicolas Claxton is a good consolation prize. The Bucks will be looking for help up front if Brook Lopez leaves, and he checks a lot of the boxes that curry favor under head coach Mike Budenholzer. As Sam Vecenie wrote for The Athletic:
"He's 6-10, but moves like a player much smaller than that in the way that he can guard away from the basket. As an interior rim protector, his 2.5 blocks per game led the SEC. He’s a good rebounder on both ends of the floor. Offensively, he has more skills with ball in hand than you'd think, as first-year Georgia coach Tom Crean occasionally let him bring the ball up the court and initiate sets. Really, the big question here is the jump shot. The South Carolina native has showcased some ability to step away and take shots, but he's only made them at a 30.2 percent clip over 86 shots in his two years at Georgia."
Rookies almost never crack the rotation for contenders. With the Bucks so thin at center, Claxton could play for them right away even if Lopez comes back.
Free Agency: Khris Middleton (Player Option)
Khris Middleton is not the quintessential No. 2 option, but the Bucks don't have anyone better. Neither Eric Bledsoe nor Malcolm Brogdon is capable of filling his role.
In the 721 possessions Middleton played without Bledsoe or Giannis Antetokounmpo this season, the Bucks notched a net rating of 5.7. By comparison, they were minus-16.5 points per 100 possessions in the time Bledsoe spent without the other two.
Milwaukee can grind out cap space by waiving George Hill ($1 million guaranteed) while renouncing Middleton and all its other free agents, but it won't be quite enough to go star chasing. Nor would it matter if the Bucks had max money. They aren't a primetime destination, and they need Middleton that much more because of it.
Trade: Kelly Olynyk
The Bucks have to tinker with their frontline rotation. Re-signing Lopez and using Antetokounmpo as the de facto big can only get them so far. They need another option behind him.
Kelly Olynyk doesn't have the shot-blocking chops of Antetokounmpo or Lopez and isn't the greatest rebounder, but he's another floor-spacing weapon, can put the ball on the floor and is shifty defending in space.
Surrendering the No. 30 pick (after he signs) to strike a deal might go a touch too far. But if the Heat are interested in cutting their projected tax bill, the Bucks could peddle Ersan Ilyasova, D.J. Wilson and Sterling Brown (non-guaranteed).
Draft: Coby White or Cam Reddish
Dwelling just outside the top 10 is prime "Hope someone falls" territory, and two names spring to mind for the Minnesota Timberwolves: Cam Reddish and Coby White.
Both have turbulent draft stocks. Reddish's is more all over place. He's projected to come off the board anywhere between Nos. 5 and 10, and he doesn't seem likely to fall any further. Teams are hot for wings with unplumbed secondary scoring and playmaking potential, and Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman has him going fifth overall to Cleveland in his latest mock.
White is a more realistic target. If the Suns or Bulls punt on taking a point guard at No. 6 and No. 7, respectively, the Timberwolves have a shot. The Hawks own pick Nos. 8 and 10 while the Wizards hold No. 9. Neither of them is in the market for a point guard.
Minnesota absolutely needs to be. Tyus Jones (restricted) and Derrick Rose are free agents, and a soon-to-be 31-year-old Jeff Teague isn't the answer. White is more of a natural passer than any of them, and his mix of step-back jumpers and assisted threes makes him a gnarly complement to Karl-Anthony Towns.
Free Agency: Dorian Finney-Smith (Restricted)
New president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas hasn't committed the Timberwolves to one direction or another. Regime changes and young head coaches (Ryan Saunders is 33) usually imply an overarching youth movement, but Minnesota has two players, Towns and Andrew Wiggins, on max deals and isn't exactly sporting an old core.
Dorian Finney-Smith is a fitting target for a team without a distinct timeline. The Timberwolves have room for more wings, and he converted enough of his catch-and-shoot treys (35 percent) while guarding 2s, 3s and 4s to fill the three-and-D quota.
It typically takes cap space to pry away restricted free agents. The Timberwolves don't have any. But they will have the full MLE. Offering a large chunk of that may get Finney-Smith away from the Mavericks—a team with bigger names in their sights.
Trade: Lonzo Ball or Mike Conley
Towns has never played with a point guard comfortable shooting off the dribble. Pairing him with Conley would open new dimensions to the half-court offense and noticeably elevate Minnesota in the Western Conference.
Something like Gorgui Dieng, Josh Okogie, Jeff Teague, the No. 10 pick and a second-rounder or two is a fair price to pay if the Timberwolves aren't interested in taking things slow.
Should they take a more gradual approach, they'd do well to monitor the Lakers. They might need a third-team facilitator if they chase trades for Bradley Beal, Anthony Davis or—get your phony surprised face ready—Chris Paul. Minnesota is a good landing spot for Lonzo Ball if the No. 10 pick, Okogie and other stuff are in play.
New Orleans Pelicans
Draft: Zion Williamson
Free Agency: Bojan Bogdanovic or Kevon Looney
New Orleans' next move is impossible to forecast without knowing where the organization and Anthony Davis stand. Executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin met with him to discuss the franchise's direction, but he isn't expected to rescind his trade request, per The Athletic's Shams Charania.
The Pelicans' free-agency priorities will vary depending on how their last-ditch appeal to Davis pans out. They'll have more than $15 million to spend if they renounce Julius Randle (player option) and can open up even more by exploring salary dumps for Solomon Hill (one year, $13.3 million) and E'Twaun Moore (one year, $8.7 million).
Skulking around the superstar market will be tempting if Davis stays put but entails too much legwork without a guarantee. Bojan Bogdanovic is a more realistic option and satisfies the Pelicans' need for wings who can actually dribble.
Kevon Looney is a great "We don't know what Davis is doing" or "#HeGone" target. He does a good enough job defending the perimeter to play in tandem with Davis, but at 23, he's also young enough to be a part of whatever timeline New Orleans is operating on next season.
Trade: It Depends
Again: This hinges on Davis' future.
If the Pelicans have to trade him, they should be aiming to get Jayson Tatum from the Celtics. If Davis is coming back, they should be looking to upgrade Jrue Holiday's backcourt running mate (Goran Dragic) or going hard after a punchy scoring wing (Danilo Gallinari).
New York Knicks
Draft: RJ Barrett
RJ Barrett is considered the third-best player in a draft with three potential stars. Ergo, the Knicks' decision will be made for them.
Zion Williamson is headed to New Orleans. Ja Morant is almost definitely going to Memphis. That leaves Barrett for the Knicks at No. 3, and they should feel pretty good about him. His tunnel vision is real, but he thrived as the primary lifeline in the eight games he played without Williamson at Duke, averaging 22.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists while downing 61 percent of his two-pointers.
If the Knicks aren't convinced he'll improve his shooting—30.8 percent on mostly assisted threes and 36.9 percent on two-point jumpers, per Hoop-Math—they could look to trade down. Moving out of No. 3 kills their best Anthony Davis offer, but they could pick up an extra asset or two while remaining in line to take Jarrett Culver or Cam Reddish.
Free agency: Kevin Durant (Player Option)
Sources told SNY's Anthony Puccio that "Kyrie Irving and his camp are strongly considering Brooklyn if he decides to leave Boston."
That should scare the Knicks silly.
Kevin Durant isn't the type to join a bottom-feeder without another star, and Irving is the only other franchise-altering free agent to whom New York has been concretely linked. Tobias Harris and Kemba Walker might be options, but they don't hold the same sway as Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard or Klay Thompson.
This changes nothing. The Knicks cleared the deck to go after Durant and someone else. They are still the betting favorites to sign him. He needs to remain their top target until he makes his decision.
Trade: Anthony Davis
Hashing out a deal for Davis is a lot easier if the Knicks can take part of his salary into cap space. That goes out the window if they're trying to acquire him after landing Durant and Irving. They'll have to give up almost everyone else left on the payroll.
Either way, New York's interest in Davis must be contingent on signing at least one other big name. Forfeiting what will, at the very least, amount to Barrett, Knox, and a bunch of first-rounders is too risky otherwise. Davis is a free agent in 2020, and the Knicks cannot count on him sticking around as their only superstar.
Oklahoma City Thunder
- More shooting
- A ball-handler who can shoot
- But mostly straight shooting
Draft: Nickeil Alexander-Walker
Here is the Oklahoma City Thunder's definitive list of offseason needs, ranked in order of increasing urgency:
Cameron Johnson and Keldon Johnson promise insta-spacing, and at least one of them should be available at No. 21. Tyler Herro didn't have carte blanche to explore his floor game at Kentucky, but he flashed some handles should the Thunder want to test out a pinball sniper who can also attack.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker is the home-run swing. His closing kick at Virginia Tech wasn't pretty, but he effectively straddles the line between ball-handler and complement. He hit 53.7 percent of his twos on predominantly self-created looks while shooting 37.4 percent on mostly assisted triples, per Hoop-Math.
Oklahoma City could use a player more schooled in moving without the ball, but Alexander-Walker's playmaking experience and catch-and-fire volume is a more valuable combination.
Free Agency: Darius Miller
Darius Miller doesn't defend like he's 6'8", but the Thunder have the length and depth on the perimeter to stash him on standstill options. Locking down his outside touch is more important.
He's shooting 38.8 percent from distance over the past two seasons on more than 700 total attempts. Only 12 other players have done the same: Bojan Bogdanovic, Stephen Curry, Paul George, Danny Green, Joe Harris, Tobias Harris, Buddy Hield, Joe Ingles, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Korver, JJ Redick and Klay Thompson.
Pricing out Miller is difficult, but he shouldn't nab more than the taxpayer's mid-level exception. The Thunder just have to be willing to use it—hardly a given after they shelled out money for a repeater-tax bill in 2018-19.
Trade: Jeff Teague
Jeff Teague is on the books for $3.5 million more than Dennis Schroder next season, but he's a free agent in 2020 and a better off-ball fit beside George and Russell Westbrook. If the Timberwolves embrace a more gradual process under president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, the Thunder should see whether they can sweeten the pot enough to negotiate a straight-up swap.
Another outside-the-box idea: Offering the Hornets Schroder and Patrick Patterson in exchange for Nicolas Batum and a smaller-scale goodie such as a future pick, Dwayne Bacon (non-guaranteed) or Willy Hernangomez (non-guaranteed).
Nobody wants to pay the balance on Batum's contract (two years, $52.7 million), least of all the taxed-out Thunder. But even in his current downtrodden state, he's an imitation version of the floor-spacing ball-handler their offense needs.
Draft: Nassir Little
Nassir Little may not be available for the Orlando Magic to grab at No. 16. His performance at North Carolina was a letdown, but he teases serious upside.
"He's still more of a project than an immediate answer, but Little has a tremendous physical profile (6'6", 224 pounds) and a skill set that includes driving and pull-up shooting," Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman wrote. "He'll help restore his credibility during workouts, assuming his jump shot and ball-handling look more fluid."
Length, athleticism and near-positionless defense are Magic specialties. Team president Rick Welts and general manager John Hammond have placed premiums on players with similar profiles, most notably Jonathan Isaac in 2017 and the wingspan-happy Mo Bamba last June.
Re-signing Aaron Gordon and trading for Markelle Fultz followed that same line of thinking. Perhaps the Magic are ready to deviate from it and go after a shooter. But they still lack outside-in shot creation. Little can offer that in time, and Orlando cannot strictly prioritize roster complements without having a stronger read on Fultz.
Free Agency: Rodney Hood
Carrying free-agent holds for Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross leaves the Magic to function over the cap. They'll most likely have the non-taxpayer's mid-level exception, but that changes if it costs big bucks to re-sign the other two.
And that's just as well. The Magic aren't secure enough in their Eastern Conference standing to throw lucrative contracts at free agents.
Rodney Hood is a low-end solution to their shot-creation deficit. He put down 36 percent of his pull-up threes during the regular season and came up huge for the Blazers in the playoffs as both a situational attacker and spot-up sniper.
Trade: Eric Bledsoe (After Sept. 2)
Might the Bucks have buyer's remorse on Eric Bledsoe's four-year, $70 million extension after yet another unspectacular, if not outright harmful, postseason display? The Magic should find out.
Any proposal begins with attaching D.J. Augustin to two of Bamba, Isaac and a pick—either this year's first-rounder or a future selection. Orlando shouldn't be against it.
Bledsoe made first team All-Defense this season and is a fringe All-Star in the Eastern Conference. A backcourt partnership between he and Fultz has the potential to be devastating, but he's also a safeguard against the Fultz experiment going belly up.
Draft: Ty Jerome
Ty Jerome suits the Sixers for the same reason he fits on the Warriors: Their supporting cast needs someone else who can find nylon on jumpers off screens.
Other shooters may be available at this spot: Cameron Johnson, Keldon Johnson, perhaps Tyler Hero. But Jerome is easier to keep on the floor without compromising Philly's half-court defense and has more experience as an off-the-dribble weapon.
With pick Nos. 24, 33 and 34 in their pocket, the Sixers can aim even higher, albeit not by much. Jumping more than two or three spots probably requires more than a couple of second-round buffers, and they don't have the expendable throw-ins to bargain for a larger leap.
Free Agency: Jimmy Butler (Player Option) and...
Philly has too many key in-house free agents to turn attention elsewhere. Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and JJ Redick lead the way, with James Ennis, T.J. McConnell and Mike Scott registering on a much smaller scale.
Butler is the most important of the bunch. He is the Sixers' best crunch-time crutch, and they expanded his playmaking responsibilities earlier in games during the playoffs. He isn't a wrinkle-free cohort for Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, but the offense would suffer without him.
After the Sixers hash out the futures of their own, they're free to shop around. Danny Green's name stands out. Giving max salaries to Butler and Harris won't cost Philly access to the full MLE if it waives Jonathon Simmons ($1 million guaranteed) and renounces everyone else except for Redick—and he doesn't command a monster salary.
Hard-capping themselves incites other challenges for the Sixers—mainly rounding out the rest of the rotation on a beggar's dime. But Green is a go-hard defender and, despite his postseason cold streak, floor-spacing safety valve. Signing him helps neutralize whatever awkwardness persists within the Sixers' core should they run everyone back.
Trade: Taurean Prince
Disposable trade assets are hard to come by in Philly. General manager Elton Brand cashed in the team's best chips for Butler and Harris, firmly affixing this offseason's action to free agency.
Spare draft picks, Jonah Bolden and Zhaire Smith are all the Sixers have to offer before triggering the ever-controversial Ben Simmons trade scenarios. Extracting an impact player without meaningful salary-matching tools is usually a fool's errand, but they can try selling the Hawks on Bolden and No. 24 (after he signs) for Taurean Prince.
Draft: De'Andre Hunter
Darius Garland is a potential answer to Phoenix's point guard woes, but he lacks a certain surety. Setting up others isn't his primary skill, and the Suns aren't in the market for someone who marginally simplifies Devin Booker's offensive role.
Coby White is a better option in that regard, but going sixth overall represents his ceiling. He might even be a reach. The Suns must think bigger.
De'Andre Hunter isn't falling past Cleveland at No. 5 in most mocks, so he'll do. Phoenix has its fair share of players standing between 6'6" and 6'9", but housing too many wings isn't an actual problem.
Josh Jackson might need a change of scenery, and Kelly Oubre Jr. is a restricted free agent. The Suns can make room for a four-position defender capable of hitting set threes.
Free Agency: Patrick Beverley
Patrick Beverley isn't the splashiest target, but he's an ideal fit if the Suns don't mind leaving Booker on-ball. He wears opposing scorers like a second skin on defense, and his offensive diet translates across all 30 teams.
Over 44 percent of his field-goal attempts this season came as spot-up threes, on which he shot 41 percent. He isn't a net-positive pick-and-roll initiator or finisher at the rim, but the Suns might draft a secondary playmaker. They need to be more concerned with fit in free agency unless they're going after fringe stars.
Spoiler: They won't be. Probably. The Suns have to renounce Oubre and reroute one or two of Jackson, Tyler Johnson and TJ Warren to open up that kind of room.
Trade: Spencer Dinwiddie
D'Angelo Russell will fetch a pretty penny in restricted free agency. The Nets are most likely going to be the ones paying it. And they might have interest in bringing on Kyrie Irving to boot. He has Brooklyn on his list of potential destinations, and people around the team have no qualms about playing him alongside Russell, according to SNY's Anthony Puccio.
Even if the Nets don't land Irving, they have Caris LeVert, another primary ball-handler-type. He's extension-eligible this summer, and Brooklyn isn't financing big-money pacts for him, Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie—let alone all three plus Irving.
Phoenix has the assets to initiate a dialogue. Using Jackson as the anchor won't get it done, but a Warren-for-Dinwiddie swap addresses lineup needs on both sides. The Nets might need a little more to give the green light, in which case the Suns could include De'Anthony Melton or Elie Okobo and a second-rounder.
Portland Trail Blazers
Draft: Grant Williams
Grant Williams' shaky three-point shooting on negligible volume and tweener size (6'8", 240 lbs) will invariably prevent him from getting selected too early. All the better for the Blazers, owners of the No. 25 pick. As Uproxx's Brian Schroeder wrote:
"The scouting report on Williams is hard to contextualize, because there aren't really many players like him. Undersized as a big man and oversized as a pure wing, he's a post scoring, post passing, close contact player in an era that emphasizes movement on the perimeter over anything else. His raw numbers are good (18.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.5 blocks per game), but don't leap off the screen the same way that, say, Ja Morant's do.
"He can still hold up in the NBA because he possesses three rare attributes that almost every good NBA player has: he's smart (both in the traditional sense and in the basketball sense), he's strong, and he's got great touch."
Absence of size isn't a deterrent late in the first round. Nor is a lack of upside. (Williams turns 21 at the end of November.) His outside touch is the larger concern, and he's shown signs of becoming a better shooter. He hit 81.9 percent of his free-throw attempts and knocked down 51.3 percent of his two-point jumpers in his final season at Tennessee, per Hoop-Math.
Free Agent: Trevor Ariza
Portland has to jump through too many hoops to open up the non-taxpayer's mid-level exception. They include letting Al-Farouq Aminu and Seth Curry walk while shedding other salary. That's not worth it.
The Blazers might flinch at using the mini MLE after paying the tax this year, but they have no choice. They can't not improve after earning a Western Conference Finals cameo.
Trevor Ariza is an expert at securing the bag but should be more accessible to cash-strapped suitors this summer. Next year is his age-34 season, and despite channeling his inner passer while on the Wizards, he shot just 32.2 percent from long range through 43 appearances in Washington.
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum would get Ariza better looks, and he did drop in 44.7 percent of his wide-open deep balls. Aminu is the better defender, and the Blazers' ideal scenario includes having both. But Ariza is an upgrade should they have to choose, if only because he won't regress into an offensive non-factor in the postseason.
Trade: Robert Covington
Robert Covington is borderline untouchable if the Timberwolves are trying to make the playoffs. He's one of the league's best trade assets if they're content to enter a quasi-rebuild.
Two first-round picks and Moe Harkless is a doable price for the Blazers. They can flip No. 25 as an actual player and include next year's selection. And if Minnesota needs more, Portland shouldn't be opposed to throwing in Anfernee Simons or, more preferably, Skal Labissiere and a 2022 second-rounder.
Draft: Jontay Porter
Jontay Porter was considered a first-round talent last year and was on track to improve his stock even further in a weaker 2019 draft class. But he tore his right ACL ahead of his sophomore season and then re-tore that same ACL in March.
He is now a ball of mystery, red flags and promise. As Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman explained:
"He's down roughly 26 pounds, and his body fat has fallen to 8.5 percent from 13.9 percent at the 2018 combine. Porter was in the top 20 on our board, even after the first knee surgery in October. He built an appealing case as a freshman with shooting, passing IQ and shot-blocking timing. It's too risky to give Porter a guaranteed contract, but now he's a potential value pick in the 40s"
Sacramento has pick Nos. 40, 47 and 60 and can afford to wait out Porter's recovery. Mid-second-rounders aren't supposed to be immediate helpers, and the Kings can get by up front with the Marvin Bagley III-Nemanja Bjelica-Harry Giles trio, look to bring back Willie Cauley-Stein (restricted) or sign another big in free agency (Dewayne Dedmon!).
Free Agency: Malcolm Brogdon (Restricted)
Finding a center or truer wings tops the Kings' list of priorities before adding another guard. I'm still not sorry.
Bigs can be added on the cheap after the dust has settled, and Malcolm Brogdon is a borderline wing. He stands 6'5" and has the length to defend up a position. The Kings could let him loose at small forward for stretches without hemorrhaging more buckets than usual.
They're also one of the few teams that could max out Brogdon without hesitation. Others will fret over tying up cap space in a player they may not land. The Kings are different.
Renouncing Cauley-Stein vaults their wiggle room past $35 million, and that number would climb if they waive non-guaranteed salaries for Yogi Ferrell and Frank Mason or Harrison Barnes declines his player option. They'll have the purse to keep shopping around while awaiting the Bucks' response after they pitch Brogdon.
Trade: Clint Capela
Clint Capela joins every other Rockets player on the chopping block, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, and it just so happens Sacramento needs an upgrade over Cauley-Stein.
Taking on a center making star money doesn't sit entirely right with both Bagley and Giles in tow, but the Kings can make it work. They don't have to pay either one of them for another two seasons, Capela has a digestible four years and $72.1 million left on his deal and Giles probably needs to be part of any swap.
Meeting the Rockets' asking price is a tougher task. They're trying to boost their championship odds. A package of Giles and Bogdanovic doesn't do that, and Sacramento has no business including Bagley, Buddy Hield or a future first-rounder.
The Kings are a more appealing partner if the Rockets need to send Capela somewhere else as part of a larger blockbuster. Maybe they're after Bradley Beal but the Wizards have no interest in the 25-year-old skyscraper. Sacramento could take him in while sending back Bogdanovic, Giles and, if necessary, second-rounders.
San Antonio Spurs
Draft: PJ Washington
A 6'8" forward who is comfortable working in the post, has great touch around the basket, works hard for position under the glass and spent more than one year in college is so Spurs.
PJ Washington's all-over defense and exploration of spot-up three-pointers is less Spurs, but it's also exactly what they need.
Rudy Gay is their only combo forward, and he's entering free agency. Washington won't excel at creating his own shot right away, but San Antonio's ball movement will take care of that for him. His increased range and ability to swish face-up jumpers are helpful enough, and the two-dribble moves he occasionally broke out from the perimeter suggest he'll have a more expansive arsenal in time.
Another team might scoop him up closer to the lottery, long before the Spurs are on the clock at No. 19. And if that happens, their hopes should shift toward Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
Free Agency: Marcus Morris
Gay's next contract will determine which version of the mid-level exception the Spurs have at their behest. In all likelihood, though, they'll be working with the full $9.2 million. They don't project as a potential taxpayer unless they bring back Gay at an inexplicably steep price point.
Every combo forward worth a darn who figures to earn under $10 million per year needs to be on the Spurs' list of potential targets. They might be reticent to hand out multiyear pacts with Dejounte Murray and Jakob Poeltl creeping toward restricted free agency in 2020 and with Derrick White extension-eligible that same summer. They'll have to get over it.
Marcus Morris is coming off an uneven season with the Celtics, but the good outweighed the bad. He was one of Boston's most efficient scorers for the first half of the season, can shimmy between either forward spot and is a fairly strong presence on the glass.
Luka Doncic and Paul George were the only other players to average as many points, defensive rebounds and made three-pointers per 36 minutes.
Trade: Juan Hernangomez or Taurean Prince
Trades and the Spurs go together like peanut butter and mayonnaise. Don't expect that to change over the offseason. They have two first-round picks, are getting back Murray and didn't play Lonnie Walker IV that much during his rookie campaign. They don't have the motivation to make a move without a trade demand.
If the Spurs decide to do anything, it'll likely revolve around capitalizing on buy-low opportunities for players approaching new deals.
Juan Hernangomez fell out of the Nuggets' rotation after a midseason abdominal injury and may be relegated to competing for backup power forward minutes next year. Taurean Prince, meanwhile, stands to become expendable if the Hawks draft Jarrett Culver or another wing—and depending on what they do in free agency. A Poeltl-for-Prince swap makes sense for both sides if Atlanta doesn't take a big in the first round or pay a lot of money to keep Dewayne Dedmon.
Draft: Terence Davis
Here's to Toronto finding its next superstar at No. 59.
But seriously: Terence Davis is the perfect end-of-draft flier, particularly if the Raptors are favorites to re-sign Kawhi Leonard and retain their championship window. He doesn't need the ball on offense, shot 37.1 percent from downtown on healthy volume in his final season at Ole Miss, is long enough to consistently contest jumpers and rebounds at an absurd clip for a 6'4" guard.
Free Agency: Kawhi Leonard (Player Option)
Leonard is quite literally everything to the Raptors' future.
Keeping him is their ticket to recurring title contention. Losing him triggers introspection.
Do they start over? Do they push onward with OG Anunoby, Marc Gasol (player option), Serge Ibaka, Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet before reassessing their trajectory in 2020?
Free agency won't be a huge part of their offseason beyond Leonard. If he stays, their payroll will sprint past $145 million (assuming Gasol opts in) before they tackle Danny Green's free agency. If he leaves, they won't have more than the non-taxpayer's mid-level to spend.
Trade: It depends
Scenario No. 1: Leonard re-signs, and the Raptors go all-in on another star acquisition even if they're coming off a championship. Bradley Beal and Anthony Davis will be the names people clamor for, but they'll cost Siakam.
Mike Conley, maybe Jrue Holiday and, on a smaller scale, Robert Covington all move the needle for less. The Raptors would have to dangle Anunoby, any of their expiring contracts aside from Lowry and future picks, but that's much easier to stomach. (If you're concerned about the lack of size in a Conley-Lowry backcourt, please stop hating fun.)
Scenario No. 2: Leonard leaves, and the Raptors aim to stay competitive. They'll need to look for another wing scorer even if they re-sign Green and use the MLE on someone like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Marcus Morris. Danilo Gallinari is worth calling about if the Clippers don't land a star (including Leonard) or enter the Davis sweepstakes.
Scenario No. 3: Leonard leaves, and the Raptors blow it up. They will have no specific targets. They'll just have a mandate to turn Gasol, Ibaka, Lowry and potentially VanVleet into as many first-round picks and prospects as possible.
Draft: Tyler Herro or Nickeil Alexander-Walker
Tyler Herro is being billed as one of the draft's best shooters. He wants everyone to know he's more.
"Since I got to Kentucky, I continued to improve in every aspect of my game," he said, per MassLive.com's Ansar Khan. "A lot of teams haven't seen what I can do with the ball in my hands. I think I can play in the pick-and-roll, make threes off that."
He's not kidding. Herro shot 46.9 percent on two-point jumpers, nearly 78 percent of which went unassisted, according to Hoop-Math. Watch highlights from some of his best games, and you'll see him mix in pull-ups off screens and pick-and-rolls in addition to draining set shots and making cuts.
Utah will take him for his spot-up shooting alone after Houston exposed its supporting cast in the first round of the playoffs. The Jazz manufactured quality looks but knocked down just 23.6 percent of their wide-open threes, which allowed the Rockets to collapse on Donovan Mitchell drives and load up on his pick-and-rolls without repercussion.
Herro is a much-needed half-court outlet. Nickeil Alexander-Walker is also worth a look if he lasts until No. 23. He has more experience creating his own shots, and the Jazz need someone else with a floor game. But rookies are rarely equipped to play that part. Utah is better off using the draft to take a shooter who dabbles.
Free Agency: Kemba Walker
The Jazz desperately need another face-up scorer, and James Harden is the only player who jacked more pull-up jumpers than Walker this season. They don't need to worry about sticking him next to Mitchell. It might be an adjustment early on, but Walker is shooting better than 40 percent on spot-up deep attempts since 2015-16.
Creating the space necessary to sign him would cost Derrick Favors (non-guaranteed). The Jazz cannot take that decision lightly. But his contract doesn't guarantee until July 6. They won't be blindly waiving him. They'll have time to get a feel for Walker's leanings—if not a final decision from him—before reconciling Favors' future.
Trade: Mike Conley
Utah immersed itself in the Mike Conley rumor mill at the deadline. Expect those efforts to ramp up if a premier floor general isn't added in free agency.
Guaranteeing Favors' contract and including him as the primary salary anchor after going through free agency is the best possible scenario for the Jazz, but they can also use their cap space to entice the Grizzlies with a salary-shedding structure. They'll have the breathing room, for example, to keep Favors and send Memphis Grayson Allen, Dante Exum, this year's draft pick and Georges Niang (non-guaranteed) or Royce O'Neale (non-guaranteed).
Regardless of the timing, Utah's best Conley offer will follow a similar framework: Allen, Exum and multiple first-round picks. How many picks? Two is a given: this year's first (after he signs) and the Jazz's 2020 choice.
Will the market for Conley demand they include a third? Are they willing to go that far? Do Niang and some seconds make up the difference? The Jazz have to confront these questions. They may not like the answers, but Conley's fit is worth the trouble, and they can always walk away if the Grizzlies continue to demand the world after drafting Ja Morant.
Draft: Cam Reddish
Cam Reddish's shooting percentages from the floor were scary bad at Duke, but he's someone who can benefit from more creative license. He turned in two of his most well-rounded games during Zion Williamson's absence, and he'll have more room to attack in the lane when surrounded by NBA shooters.
Even if his offensive game never comes together, Reddish will go down as one of the draft's most portable defenders. He has quick hands when guarding one-on-one and the size and length (6'8" with a 7'0½" wingspan) to match up with 2s, 3s and even some 4s.
The Wizards need wings. And they need active defenders, period. And with John Wall set to miss at least half of next season, they'll have the touches to test out Reddish as a pick-and-roll initiator.
Waiting around for him at No. 9 might prove fruitless, but his position in mocks has ebbed and flowed enough to hold out hope. Ditto for Jarrett Culver, who'd be an even better fit if he were a tick faster. And if they're both off the board, the Wizards should still be in line to take Coby White or Jaxson Hayes.
Free Agency: Tomas Satoransky (Restricted)
Apart from needing Tomas Satoransky to cushion the blow of Wall's absence, the Wizards just don't have money to spend. They'll have the non-taxpayer's mid-level exception if they don't over-invest in their own free agents, but re-signing any combination of Trevor Ariza, Thomas Bryant (restricted), Jeff Green and Bobby Portis (restricted) might take that away.
Satoransky is at least timeline-proof. He's nearly 28, but nifty off-the-dribble passers who take more than half their shots without using more than a single dribble are near-universal fits.
Price will matter. The Wizards cannot get into Satoransky for a mid-eight-figure salary without having a hold on Wall's performance post-recovery or Bradley Beal's future. Short of him getting a ridiculous offer sheet, locking him up needs to be Washington's first priority.
Trade: It Depends
Washington's trade-market needs are contingent upon its commitment to Beal.
Keeping him implies a continued desire to contend for the playoffs. The Wizards cannot do much outside the box in that scenario. Beal, Wall, Troy Brown Jr., Dwight Howard and Ian Mahinmi are their only players under guaranteed contract. A buy-low defensive specialist (Frank Ntilikina) or one-year placeholder making mid-level money (E'Twaun Moore) is about the extent of their reach without including first-round picks.
That focus flips entirely if they make the call to move Beal. Picks, prospects with high ceilings and younger cornerstone options are their bread and butter.
Can they finagle two of Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. and Gary Harris from the Nuggets? How much of the Anthony Davis Special are the Lakers willing to give up for Beal? Might the Knicks get desperate if they strike out elsewhere? Could Ben Simmons be on the table in Philadelphia?