NBA Free Agency 2019: Latest Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Kevin Durant RumorsJune 24, 2019
The start of 2019 NBA free agency is less than a week away. At 6 p.m. ET on June 30, teams can begin signing unrestricted free agents. With several notable names scheduled to hit the open market, this year's edition of free agency could unfold in a frenzy.
Naturally, the rumor mill is spinning as free agency approaches. Here, we'll examine some of the latest buzz on some of the market's biggest names.
Fresh off an MVP performance in the NBA Finals, Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard is perhaps the biggest fish in the proverbial sea this offseason.
He averaged 26.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game during the regular season while shooting 49.6 percent from the field. He was also the most dominant force in the entire postseason.
While Leonard is reportedly declining his player option and becoming an unrestricted free agent, there is hope for Raptors fans who want to see him back for another run. According to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes, Leonard is "strongly considering" a return to Toronto.
The Raptors are going to have competition, though, so re-signing him isn't a lock. Leonard has been linked to the Los Angeles Clippers and could take visits from other teams as well.
"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," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said, per Zack Rosenblatt of NJ.com.
Leonard's final decision could come down to which team he believes gives him the best chance at another title. With the Golden State Warriors unlikely to have either Kevin Durant (Achilles) or Klay Thompson (ACL) for at least the bulk of next season, the field in the NBA appears as wide open as it has in recent years.
Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris
Though not as high-profile a player as Leonard, Philadelphia 76ers guard Jimmy Butler is going to be seen as a priority by plenty of teams. He averaged 18.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game this past season while shooting 46.1 percent from the floor.
According to Bleacher Report's Howard Beck, the 76ers could lose both Butler and forward Tobias Harris in free agency.
"I have heard some very strong rumblings this week that the Sixers are gonna lose one—and maybe even both—of Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler," Beck said on The Full 48 podcast. "Take it with all due grains of salt, we're talking about this still on June 21, but I would not be surprised if Jimmy Butler and/or Tobias Harris go elsewhere. The Sixers just have some strange dynamics with that group."
For Butler, the Houston Rockets are a team to keep an eye on. According to Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle, the Rockets are expected to pursue him:
For Harris, his free agency decision is going to come down to which team he believes provides him with the best fit:
Considering how out of sync the 76ers appeared to be at times this past season, that best fit may not be in Philadelphia.
Though he'll likely spend most, if not all, of the 2019-20 season rehabbing from the torn Achilles, Durant is going to be a sought-after player in free agency. If he's able to be close to the player he was before the injury, he should again be one of the top playmakers in basketball in 2021.
This is, of course, assuming that the Warriors allow Durant to simply walk in free agency. According to ESPN's ESPN's Brian Windhorst, a sign-and-trade is a possibility.
"One of the things that is being discussed right now is that the Golden State Warriors would offer Kevin Durant a five-year contract, $57 million extra than he could get signing elsewhere, let him rehab and then work with him to be traded," Windhorst said on Get Up.
This could prove difficult for Golden State, depending on how much trust Durant still has in the organization.
According to NBA reporter Ric Bucher, Durant wasn't happy with how his injury was handled by the Warriors.
"What I've heard, through various places, is that he's not really happy with how things went down because of the injury," Bucher said, per Karl Buscheck of 95.7 The Game."There's an element of, 'Was I misled as far as injuring myself coming back and playing and having a catastrophic injury like this coming off a calf strain.'"
If there's a sense of mistrust on Durant's part, he could be much more likely to try his luck on the open market. If Durant does simply become a free agent, the Brooklyn Nets could be the front-runners to sign him, according to former NBA player Kendrick Perkins.
"I'm not ruling out the Knicks, but I think the Nets are the front-runners and people are not giving them their [respect]. Sources tell me that the Nets are the front-runner—we'll leave it at that." Perkins said on ESPN's The Jump (h/t Omnisport, via Yahoo Sports).
Durant's path could become clearer as more information comes out about his injury in the finals and his opinion of the entire situation.