NBA Free Agents 2019: Latest Rumors and Predictions for Market's Top Names

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 11, 2019

Boston Celtics' Kyrie Irving during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers Friday, March 29, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Winslow Townson/Associated Press

NBA free agency never sleeps.

Never mind that the 2019 market is still weeks away from opening or that it will take even longer before agreements can become official contracts. There are always dots to connect between suitors and available stars plus sourced rumors making those possible connections even clearer.

We'll dissect three of the latest rumors below then predict where each involved elite will ultimately land this summer.


Kyrie Leaving Boston?

Kyrie Irving's pledge to re-sign with the Boston Celtics occurred roughly eight months back, but it may as well have been a lifetime ago.

The Shamrocks never came together this season, and their All-Star point guard played a part in that division. Given the way they flopped out of the second round⁠—Boston dropped four straight with Irving shooting a woeful 30.1 percent over that stretch⁠—a divorce has felt inevitable from the outside.

Apparently, it's no different within.

"There's nobody in Boston who thinks he's staying," a source told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

If Irving exits—for either the Empire State or maybe a reunion with LeBron James in L.A.—the Celtics could have an in-house replacement with restricted free agent Terry Rozier. It would be a decline, but perhaps not a dramatic one if Rozier can rediscover his "Scary Terry" form that led to his breakout in relief of a hobbled Irving during the 2018 postseason.

Prediction: Kyrie Irving leaves Boston for Brooklyn.


Clippers Losing Confidence In Landing Kawhi?

The Los Angeles Clippers are positioned to court all of this summer's marquee names.

The club can create a pair of max-contract slots, so multiple stars can join together. It also offers a ready-made supporting cast headlined by the likes of Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Landry Shamet. It has displayed a willingness to spend, and it finally seems ready to take advantage of the built-in perks from residing in Hollywood.

That locale could prove especially critical in the courtship of Kawhi Leonard, a Southern California native and known target of the Clips.

But L.A. can't offer familiarity, which the Toronto Raptors have spent nearly 11 months developing. Moreover, they've positioned themselves within one win of a title, which The Athletic's Joe Vardon hears has the Clippers worried Leonard may not leave his current digs:

"League sources said over the last few days, the Clippers are seeing what we're seeing—Leonard leading the team for which he currently plays to the brink of its first title. The Clippers, those sources said, feel confident Leonard will answer the phone when they call on June 30, but beyond that there is no way to know what impact Leonard's Finals run will have. Those sources said the Clippers spend most of their time in meetings preparing for scenarios in which he doesn't come to L.A."

The Raptors are giving Leonard plenty to think about, earning potentially critical points for a health maintenance plan that has the superstar peaking at the perfect time. But being in a different country and, more importantly, a different climate than the one he's most accustomed might have Toronto fighting a battle that it cannot win.

Prediction: Kawhi Leonard leaves Raptors for Clippers.


If Kemba Leaves Charlotte, He's Not NYC-Bound?

After receiving the first All-NBA nod of his eight-year career, Kemba Walker potentially simplified his free agency. He's eligible for a five-year, $221 million supermax deal with the Charlotte Hornets. Should they put that on the table, it's unlikely he'd even consider other options since external suitors can only offer a four-year, $141 million max.

But that money may not be promised. The Hornets are nowhere close to contending, and tying up major funds in a 29-year-old, 6'1" point guard won't necessarily get them any closer going forward.

If Charlotte starts pinching pennies, Walker might be ready for a fresh start after missing the playoffs six times in eight years. Should he become available, the Bronx native seems a natural target of his hometown New York Knicks. Some rival decision-makers aren't so sure.

"Some opposing execs monitoring Charlotte's free-agent situation believe, currently, that if Walker chose to sign somewhere outside of Charlotte, going to New York isn't a likely outcome for the point guard," SNY's Ian Begley reported.

While that hardly closes the door on the Big Apple, Walker will have other options. He could get more on-court assistance than the Knicks can offer by choosing, say, the Dallas Mavericks or Indiana Pacers.

That said, this is all a moot point if our crystal ball's hunch is right and the Hornets put supermax money on the table.

Prediction: Kemba Walker signs supermax with Hornets.


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