NBA Free Agents 2019: Top Rumors and Predictions Before NBA Draft

Maurice Bobb@@ReeseReportFeatured ColumnistJune 19, 2019

TORONTO, ON - JUNE 17:  Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors holds the MVP trophy during the Toronto Raptors Victory Parade on June 17, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. The Toronto Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors 4-2 to win the 2019 NBA Finals.  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.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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Now that the 2018-19 NBA season is officially over and the Toronto Raptors are the new champions, the league is focused on free agency and Thursday's draft. 

This year's crop of free agents is a who's who list of superstars, including Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker. 

Then there's Kawhi Leonard, who just won the Finals MVP award on the way to delivering Toronto its first-ever NBA title.

He has the unique opportunity to go from chasing the league's biggest prize to becoming its biggest prize in this summer's free agency.

As is the case every year at this time, the rumor mill is buzzing like a hornet's nest and it won't stop until all of the major players make their decisions on where they'll sign. 

Here's a look at the latest scuttlebutt surrounding free agency heading into the draft. 


Bad Breakup in Boston?

Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics are at the beginning stages of what appears to be the worst type of breakup.

As free agency approaches, Irving, who opted out of his $21.3 million deal to become a free agent, has essentially "ghosted" the Celtics, according to the Boston Globe's Adam Himmelsbach.

So what is "ghosting," exactly? The dictionary describes the act as "the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication."

And that's what Irving has done to Boston.

Himmelsbach reported the six-time NBA All-Star has had "little, if any, communication" with the Celtics the past few weeks.

Psychology experts have expressed that ghosting is a form of emotional cruelty. Normally, it is reserved as a tactic in romantic relationships. Recently, though, it's been used in the professional world, with people disappearing from contact without any kind of warning or explanation.

It's entirely possible Irving is weighing all of his options, but not speaking to Boston or giving them the opportunity to woo him isn't the most professional thing to do.

It should be noted, however, that Irving's silence could be the result of all the changes in his camp. He fired his longtime agent, Jeff Wechsler, and is believed to be interested in signing with Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports.

Irving has a reputation for being a bit mercurial, so he could just as easily change course altogether and re-sign with the Celtics.

According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, top Boston officials are expected to meet with him soon and the hope is that the potential meeting happens before Thursday's draft.

Still, his disappearing act has led to numerous rumors, including the most recent one that has him linked to the Brooklyn Nets.

According to the New York Times' Marc Stein, the Nets believe they're the front-runners to sign Irving when free agency begins on June 30.

If he signs with Brooklyn, that will likely catapult the team to a contender. The Nets made noise in the playoffs this year, and Irving is an instant upgrade.

That would also mean Brooklyn would have to part ways with D'Angelo Russell, who came into his own last season and made the All-Star team for the first time.


Al Horford on the Move?

Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

It hasn't been a great week for the Celtics.

Not only are they likely to lose Irving in free agency, but now they might also lose Al Horford.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the veteran center will decline his $30.1 million option for next season and leave Boston.

Wojnarowski reported the talks with the Celtics' front office stalled and discussions likely won't be revisited because the two sides were too far apart.

Horford, 33, is interested in a long-term deal and it appears he won't get that with Boston.

David Aldridge @davidaldridgedc

Al Horford suddenly being actually available in free agency, and not just opting out to do a team-friendly deal with Boston, is a significant, game-changing presence on the market. He will have any number of suitors. If this doesn’t change, a gutting loss for the Celtics.

The five-time All-Star does believe, however, he will get the deal he's looking for on the open market.

The 6'10" big man from the Dominican Republic has been an integral part of the Celtics for three years and is liked by almost everyone in the organization.

Horford is no longer dominant, but he's still a good defender and averaged 13.6 points and 6.7 rebounds this year.

He also shot 36 percent from three (40.9 percent during the postseason), which means he can still space the floor for a team.


The Mavs to Meet with Beverley

Marco Garcia/Associated Press

The top-tier free agents are getting all of the attention, but most teams won't be landing a superstar this summer.

That means players such as Patrick Beverley will have many suitors, and it appears the Dallas Mavericks are one of them.

According to Mike Fisher of 247sports.com, the defensive specialist plans to grant the Mavs a recruiting meeting.

Beverley would be valuable to a team like Dallas because he adds a level of toughness and competitive fire. Recently, he was in the headlines for getting under Kevin Durant's skin in the playoffs.

Sean Deveney @SeanDeveney

Sources tell me Patrick Beverley--a sensible FA target of the Bulls and Lakers--will be taking meetings with as many as 5 teams BEFORE meeting with the Clippers in 2 weeks. Clippers will be chasing max-type FAs, but Beverley won't necessarily wait on an offer from them, I'm told.

The Los Angeles Clippers want to bring the 30-year-old back next season, but they are legitimate contenders to land a superstar, and Beverley won't be interested in hanging around waiting for the team to make an offer.

The 6'1" veteran guard is known for his defense, but he's also developed a dependable three-point shot. Last season, he shot 39.7 percent from behind the arc (43.3 percent in the postseason) and averaged 7.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.


Can Lakers Create Max Slot?

Chuck Burton/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers got their man.

With Anthony Davis now in tow after making the blockbuster trade that sent Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and three first-round picks to the New Orleans Pelicans, they are focused on rounding out the rest of their roster.

That means possibly adding another superstar.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, L.A. is exploring options to create an open max salary slot.

Right now, they only have just under $24 million in cap space, which is not enough to sign a top-tier player.

The Pelicans, or whatever team it deals the No. 4 pick to, could help the Lakers if they waited 30 days for the drafted player's salary to count toward the trade. But if a team did that, they would sacrifice being able to have their new rookie suit up for their summer league team.

It's highly unlikely New Orleans or any other team would go down that route, which means L.A. has to get creative.

Wojnarowski reported the Lakers are offering the contracts of Isaac Bonga, Jemerrio Jones and Mo Wagner in an effort to free up $32.7 million by July 6.

The rub is that those moves would only net a combined $4.9 million in space. Davis would also have to waive his $4.1 million trade kicker for L.A. to be able to get a max slot.

Davis isn't obligated to give up money he's owed, but there's at least a chance he might do it to help the team build a suitable roster around him that would increase his chances to compete for a championship.

If none of the above options work out for the Lakers, they'll likely have to look at splitting up their available money between role players who complement Davis and LeBron James' playing style.


Statistics are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.

Follow Maurice Bobb on Twitter, @ReeseReport.


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