NBA Free Agency 2019: Latest Rumors and Signing Predictions for Top StarsJune 23, 2019
The decisions made during the NBA offseason are expected to change the complexion of the list of title contenders.
The Los Angeles Lakers made the first significant move through a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans to acquire Anthony Davis.
Right now, all the focus is on the coveted free agents and what they are thinking in terms of the next destination in their respective careers.
Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard are the two players everyone across the NBA is talking about at the moment, but there are a few other free agents that could affect the hierarchy in each conference as well.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski shed some light on Leonard's free-agent process during Thursday's NBA draft (h/t NJ.com's Zack Rosenblatt).
"I'm told that Leonard may very well take visits in free agency, meetings at least, with the Knicks, the 76ers, possibly even the Nets in addition to the Clippers," Wojnarowski said.
Some of Leonard's Toronto teammates do not have an idea what his next step will be, as Danny Green told CBC Sports' Myles Dichter.
"Nope. No idea, man, that's the honest truth. Even if I did I wouldn't tell you, but I really don't know. Nobody really knows. He keeps everything close to his chest and as much as you think you may know him, you can never really have a great read on him. One day he may be feeling this, one day something else. We don't know. Only he knows and maybe his family knows."
Toronto and the Los Angeles Clippers have been the two teams mentioned most in Leonard's free agency sweepstakes.
Brooklyn, New York and Philadelphia might be on Leonard's radar, but they have other free-agent goals in mind. The Nets are chasing Kyrie Irving, the Sixers hope to keep Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris and the Knicks are trying to figure out what their next move is with Kevin Durant injured and Davis already traded.
Toronto has more leverage in the hunt for Leonard's long-term commitment than it did a year ago when it acquired him because it won the 2019 NBA Finals.
If Leonard wants to establish a long winning run in Toronto, he could do so, but the bright lights of Los Angeles could draw him toward the Clippers.
Getting to the top of the conference with the Clippers will be much more difficult because the Lakers, Houston, Portland, Utah, Golden State and others are building their rosters with the same goal in mind.
But if Leonard has his heart set on Los Angeles, he would be part of a Clippers team that could pose a significant challenge to Davis, LeBron James and the Lakers.
Prediction: Leonard signs with the Clippers.
Irving's free-agent destination is much clearer than Leonard's, as all signs lead to him joining Brooklyn.
According to Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus, Irving's impending move to Brooklyn is the "worst-kept secret of the summer", per one executive he talked to.
The links between Irving and the Nets have popped up since Boston was eliminated from the postseason.
Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald reported back on June 13 that Irving was prepared to sign with the Nets.
Frankly, if Irving signs with a team that is not the Nets it would be a surprise given how strong the links between the two parties have been.
It has been made clear that the relationship between Irving and the Celtics is damaged beyond repair, with the latest example of that coming from ESPN's Jackie MacMullan on the Brian Windhorst and the Hoop Collective podcast (h/t NBC Sports Boston's Justin Leger).
"Kyrie Irving didn't like Boston," MacMullan said. "I've been told this by many people. He didn't like living in Boston. He just didn't. By the end, he had issues with Brad [Stevens]. By the end, he had issues with Danny [Ainge]. By the end, he had issues with pretty much all of us."
Since the relationship with the Celtics does not look like it will be repaired, the best bet for Irving right now is to land with the Nets.
Brooklyn is an up-and-coming contender in the Eastern Conference and it provides Irving with the opportunity to play close to where he grew up in New Jersey.
Prediction: Irving lands with the Nets.
Irving appears to be just one of the top stars leaving Boston in free agency this summer.
According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, numerous teams and agents believe Al Horford has a four-year deal worth $112 million waiting for him in free agency.
Stein also reported that people familiar with the thinking of the Dallas Mavericks believe they are not the team with the offer ready for Horford.
According to Bulpett, he has heard the Clippers and Mavericks are the two teams zeroed in on signing Horford.
Horford had discussions with the Celtics, but according to Wojnarowski, the gulf was too great for the sides to come to a deal.
The Clippers are an intriguing landing spot for Horford, who could partner with Leonard after playing alongside Irving in Boston.
The Clippers should be aggressive in free agency with a promising collection of young players and a presumed open spot at the top of the Western Conference up for grabs with all of the injuries in Golden State.
There should be some concerns about signing a 33-year-old Horford to a four-year deal, but he has not displayed many signs of a significant dip in production.
Adding a veteran player in Horford to go alongside a superstar in Leonard would put the Clippers in the top tier of the Western Conference hierarchy, and it would awaken a basketball rivalry in Los Angeles with the Lakers also hunting for Western Conference supremacy.
Prediction: Horford heads to the Clippers.