NBA Free Agents 2019: Latest Rumors on Notable Stars Hitting Open Market

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJune 24, 2019

TORONTO, ON - JUNE 17:  Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors looks on from the team bus during the Toronto Raptors Championship Victory Parade on June 17, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario. 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 Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images)
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With a week until NBA free agency officially begins, the future of the top players expected to be available on the open market is becoming a bit clearer. 

Since Kevin Durant is out for most of next season with an Achilles injury, the primary free-agent focus is on Kawhi Leonard, who has to decide if he wants to stay with the Toronto Raptors. 

While Leonard and Kyrie Irving will be under the spotlight until they sign, there are plenty of other key pieces out on the free-agent market that have strummed up interest as well. 

Over the next six days, we will likely hear even more about the possible destinations of the available superstars before they start to put pen to paper.


Latest Free-Agency Rumors

Kawhi Leonard

According to Yahoo's Chris Haynes, Leonard is set to decline his player option with the Raptors to become an unrestricted free agent. 

Ben Margot/Associated Press

Although he opted out of his current deal, Leonard is seriously considering re-signing with the NBA champion, per Haynes' report. 

Toronto has an advantage in any negotiations with Leonard because it is the only franchise that can offer the max contract of five years, $190 million. 

The Raptors have the opportunity to build a dynasty around Leonard for the long term, and as of right now, the path to the NBA Finals from the Eastern Conference is not more difficult than it was during the 2018-19 season. 

While staying in Toronto could be an intriguing option for Leonard, there are plenty of other potential suitors waiting to at least have a meeting with him. 

The Los Angeles Clippers are expected to be in the mix to sign Leonard as well. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski noted on Get Up that the player's focus in Los Angeles is on the Clippers. 

"Kawhi Leonard is focused on Los Angeles, but it's the Clippers, not the Lakers," Wojnarowski said. 

The Clippers make more sense of a destination for Leonard because he can be the star of the franchise there compared to being the second or third star behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis with the Lakers. 

Even though it appears to be a two-horse race between the Raptors and Clippers, other franchises are not giving up hope yet. 

According to SNY's Ian Begley, some people around Leonard see the New York Knicks as a potential destination. 

The Knicks are in a peculiar spot because they missed out on a trade for Davis, and if they sign Durant they have to wait a year to get the full return on that signing. 

Going after Leonard makes sense for the Knicks, but they are at a disadvantage when it comes to pitching title contention since they still have plenty of work to do to fill out their roster.


D'Angelo Russell 

D'Angelo Russell sits in an interesting position because the Brooklyn Nets are in the mix to sign Kyrie Irving. 

Chris Szagola/Associated Press

Marc Stein of the New York Times and Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium are two of the many reporters that have made the links between Irving and the Nets. 

If Irving heads to Brooklyn, that would presumably mean there is no room for Russell at the point, which is why speculation is heating up about the 23-year-old's offseason landing spot. 

According to Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus, some people close to Russell have indicated he may be open to a return to the Lakers. 

Moving back to the Lakers makes sense in a way for Russell, who took his game to the next level with Brooklyn. 

The Lakers need someone to run the point with Lonzo Ball off to New Orleans in the Davis trade, and Russell would give them a third superstar to play alongside Davis and James. 

If the Lakers can pull off the signing of Russell, it would make them one of, if not the, top contenders in the Western Conference. 

In that situation, the Lakers would still face challenges from Houston, Portland, Utah, Golden State and others, but it would be hard to stop a three-pronged attack of Russell, Davis and James.


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