NBA Free-Agency Rumors Tracker: Analysis, Predictions for Players on the Move
Free agency is upon us!
While the potential impact of NBA free agency often outshines the actual process, the 2019 version seems it will live up to the hype.
We already have news of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving joining the Brooklyn Nets. Kemba Walker is heading to the Boston Celtics, while Terry Rozier is taking his place with the Charlotte Hornets. Khris Middleton is staying with the Milwaukee Bucks. And, well, that's just the beginning.
The rumor mill remains every bit as active as you would expect, and we are here to help you stay on top of it.
Scroll below for all the updates of legitimate information, smokescreens and everything in between. B/R's crew of NBA experts will pass along all the latest buzz and, more importantly, analyze what it actually means.
Reggie Bullock Is on His Way to the New York Knicks
One of the few Los Angeles Lakers free agents who would have made a lot of sense with LeBron James and Anthony Davis isn't going to sit around and wait on Kawhi Leonard's decision.
"Free agent Reggie Bullock has agreed to two-year, $21M deal to sign with the New York Knicks," Stadium and The Athletic's Shams Charania reported.
For his career, Bullock is a 39.2 percent three-point shooter. The LeBron/AD pick-and-rolls would've been more difficult to key in on if Bullock were on the wing or in the corner, demanding attention at the three-point line.
Obviously, Kawhi would serve that purpose even more effectively. But there's still no guarantee he'll be there next season. The longer L.A. has to wait, the more potential fits it may miss out on.
Patrick Beverley Re-Signs with the Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers' net rating was 6.4 points per 100 possessions better when Patrick Beverley was on the floor last season. Among point guards, he was 11th in real plus-minus and seventh in defensive real plus-minus, according to ESPN.
What's more, it felt like he was the emotional leader of a team that won a lot of games on emotion. Few, if any, players play harder than Beverley. And he'll continue to provide that fire for L.A. for a while longer.
"Free agent guard Patrick Beverley has agreed to a three-year, $40M deal to stay with the Clippers," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted.
This deal could possibly impact Kawhi Leonard's decision, though. L.A. still has enough space to sign Leonard to his max, but it can no longer pair him with another superstar.
That may not matter at this point. There aren't really any other superstars left after Sunday's ceaseless festivities.
Denver Extends Jamal Murray
Jamal Murray is 22. Nikola Jokic is 24. Last season, the Denver Nuggets finished second in the West and were plus-6.5 points per 100 possessions (86th percentile) when those two shared the floor, per Cleaning the Glass.
Keeping those two together long term makes sense. And Denver clearly knows it.
"Denver Nuggets rising star Jamal Murray has agreed to a five-year, $170M maximum contract extension," Stadium and The Athletic's Shams Charania wrote.
With Jokic under contract through 2023, the Nuggets should be in good shape for the foreseeable future. If Murray grows into this contract, they're likely contenders.
The Knicks Sign Bobby Portis
What are the New York Knicks doing?
"Free agent Bobby Portis has agreed to a two-year, $31M deal with the Knicks," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted.
As if not landing Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving wasn't bad enough, the Knicks have now signed three power forwards in the same summer. Their top picks from the last two drafts both have combo forward size, as well. And Portis getting an average of $15.5 million per year is tough to fathom.
"The problem with Knicks going down this road in free agency and signing short-term two-year deals is that they aren’t acquiring anyone that will likely be on their next winner," The Athletic's Sam Vecenie wrote. "There's just no long-term value being derived here. Not even picking up full Bird rights on players"
The 2007-08 season was the last time brothers Brook and Robin Lopez played on the same team. They were at Stanford. In 2019-20, they'll be teammates again.
"Free agent center Robin Lopez has reached an agreement with the Milwaukee Bucks," Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes reported.
Beside the potential chemistry benefits, Robin makes plenty of sense as the backup to his three-point-shooting brother.
He doesn't have the range of his brother, but Robin's rebounding and defense will be critical components of a Milwaukee Bucks second unit that lost Nikola Mirotic.
D'Angelo Russell Is a Warrior
In one of the least expected moves of the day, the Golden State Warriors landed All-Star guard D'Angelo Russell.
"Golden State and Brooklyn have agreed on a sign-and-trade, sending D’Angelo Russell to the Warriors on a four-year, $117M maximum contract," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted.
What may have been just as shocking as that news was what came next. The Warriors needed to open up some cap space to make the deal work, and the player who was moved was a staple of Golden State's half-decade dynasty.
The Athletic's Tim Kawakami added that the Warriors sent a first-round pick to Memphis as well.
Losing Iguodala hurts, but he'll turn 36 next season and has dealt with some lingering injuries the last two seasons. Russell is 23. And over the course of his career, he's averaged 21.2 points, 6.5 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals per 75 possessions.
With Klay Thompson set to miss much of next season, Russell will have plenty of opportunities for offense alongside Stephen Curry. He's never played with someone that good. With less defensive attention on him, Russell could see his efficiency climb.
Together, they'll be one of the league's more dynamic backcourts.
The Jimmy Butler Deal May Be in Trouble
This day has been darn-near impossible to follow. Even some teams seem to be confused.
Hours after it was announced that Jimmy Butler would be headed to the Miami Heat in a sign-and-trade, multiple reports have the deal in some peril.
"The Mavericks had interest in acquiring Goran Dragic in the three-team trade construction with Miami & Philly, but 'they changed course,'" his agent Bill Duffy told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne. "'In analyzing it, his salary was too high based on other things they're trying to do.'”
With Dallas refusing to take on Dragic, the cap math no longer works on the trade that seemingly landed Butler in Miami.
"Mavs source insists they always thought deal was going to send Kelly Olynyk and Derrick Jones Jr. to them and expected Heat to stretch Ryan Anderson to help make math work," ESPN's Tim MacMahon wrote. "Mavs asked for high-flying Jones as sweetener. No picks were discussed. Unclear if deal can survive."
If this falls apart now, who knows where Butler will end up? Returning to the Philadelphia 76ers is seemingly out. They maxed out Tobias Harris and threw $109 million to Al Horford. Would Butler be a Plan B for the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers or Toronto Raptors if they don't land Kawhi Leonard?
Another Wave of Moves
There has been an incredible amount of action Sunday. And it doesn't seem to be slowing down.
- Taj Gibson is going to the New York Knicks for two years and $20 million, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
- DeAndre Jordan will join Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the Brooklyn Nets. His deal is for four years and $40 million, per Wojnarowski. KD and Kyrie took less than the max to facilitate Jordan's deal.
- Ed Davis is on his way to the Utah Jazz for two years and $10 million, according to Wojnarowski.
- Mike Muscala is headed to the Oklahoma City Thunder, per Wojnarowski.
- Derrick Favors is going to the New Orleans Pelicans. ESPN's Zach Lowe reported the trade.
- Mario Hezonja landed a one-year minimum deal with the Portland Trail Blazers, according to Wojnarowski.
With Durant and Irving off to the Nets, the Knicks had to settle on...Julius Randle and Taj Gibson? Not the superstar haul fans dreamed of, but there should be at least some hope for the Knicks going forward. Randle and RJ Barrett can alternate lefty bully drives for the foreseeable future.
The other New York team made out like a bandit. Not only did the Nets get two of the biggest names on the market, they got them at a discount. They now have KD, Kyrie, Jordan and one of the league's more intriguing young cores.
For the Jazz, adding Davis makes a ton of sense in the wake of moves that landed Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic. Acquiring those two forced the departure of Favors, who, despite starting at the 4, played most of his minutes as Rudy Gobert's backup 5. Davis will assume that reserve center role.
For OKC, Muscala adds some needed shooting. For his career, he's at 36.5 percent from deep.
Favors, meanwhile, heads to an intriguing rebuild in New Orleans. No one could have blamed the Pelicans if they'd torn things down after Anthony Davis' trade request. Instead, they made a heck of a pivot to a potential starting lineup of Favors, Jrue Holiday, JJ Redick (or Lonzo Ball), Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson. That team will be competitive next season.
Finally, there's Hezonja. At various times in his career, he's shown some promise as a playmaking wing. Last season, though, was mostly a disaster. His minus-4.0 box plus/minus ranked 234th among the 241 players with at least as many minutes last season.
Al Horford Is Heading to The...76ers?
Yep, you read that correctly. Al Horford is heading to a team that already has Joel Embiid.
"Five-time All-Star F/C Al Horford has agreed to a four-year, $109M deal with the Philadelphia 76ers," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted.
The fit is wonky. There's no getting around it. Sure, Horford played power forward alongside Joakim Noah at the University of Florida, and he spent some time at the 4 in Boston, but his ideal position is the 5.
Things get even more cramped with Tobias Harris, best suited to play the 4, back as well. He's fine at the 3 but not nearly as much of a mismatch there.
Philadelphia has been defying positional norms for a while, though. Its point guard, Ben Simmons, is 6'10". But this latest move is going to require, at the very least, an adjustment period.
Jimmy Butler Signed-and-Traded to the Miami Heat
It turns out Jimmy Butler's tenure with the Philadelphia 76ers lasted less than one season. After helping the Sixers push the eventual-champion Toronto Raptors further than anyone else in 2019, Butler is on his way to the Miami Heat.
"Sounds like the 76ers and Heat are looking for a third team to expand their Butler sign-and-trade deal," Yahoo Sports' Keith Smith reported, "since Philadelphia won't take back much (any?) money beyond Richardson."
Regardless of how the deal shakes out, this is probably good for Miami. Before agreeing to the swap, the Heat felt locked into mediocrity. They may sacrifice some depth, but Butler is far better than anyone who was on their roster. And you need top-end talent to compete in today's NBA.
Kawhi Leonard Not Taking Meetings Sunday
On a day that's featured a head-spinning amount of player movement, perhaps the best free agent available is exercising patience.
"Kawhi Leonard will not take any meetings with teams today, as he'll ramp up the process over next couple days," Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes tweeted.
With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving heading to the Brooklyn Nets, and Al Horford and Tobias Harris signing for big money with the Philadelphia 76ers, those teams are off the table.
But all three favorites who emerged over the last few days—the Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers—are still in play.
But the Clippers may be losing their edge. One of their selling points was the ability to sign two max players. But there just aren't many of those left. And with Jimmy Butler going to the Miami Heat, it's tough to see how the Clips could trump the LeBron James-Anthony Davis pairing of the Lakers or the reigning champion Raptors.
Rumors Still Flying...
Most of today's news has been pretty concrete. Dozens of players have made their decisions already. But there are still some rumors floating around.
Around three hours after the official start of free agency, Karl-Anthony Towns posted a picture on Instagram that said "LOADING."
Is that a reference to D'Angelo Russell's "D-Loading" nickname?
There has been some buzz about Russell joining the Minnesota Timberwolves. And the fit with him and KAT is intriguing. The problem, of course, is Minnesota doesn't have the room to sign Russell. The Wolves would likely have to work some kind of a sign-and-trade.
And speaking of sign-and-trades, the Miami Heat might be trying to work a few of their own.
On ESPN's The Jump, Matt Barnes said that he's heard Miami is interested in not only Jimmy Butler, but Bradley Beal as well (h/t Rob Lopez).
Miami's roster seemed pretty locked into mediocrity heading into this free-agency period. If the Heat can find enough willing teams to facilitate deals that would land them both Butler and Beal, they could push for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
As we move further into Sunday, news continues to pour in.
- Jamal Murray and the Denver Nuggets are working toward an extension, according to Stadium and The Athletic's Shams Charania.
- New York Knicks owner James Dolan was uneasy offering a max contract to Kevin Durant, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne.
- Tobias Harris is heading back to the Philadelphia 76ers on a five-year, $180 million deal, per Shams.
- Mike Scott is also staying with Philly. His deal will be for two years and $9.8 million, according to Shams.
- DeMarre Carroll is heading to the San Antonio Spurs, per Shams. The deal is for $13 million over two years.
- Julius Randle is going to the New York Knicks for three years and $63 million, per Woj.
Murray has developed wonderful chemistry with superstar center Nikola Jokic. Keeping those two together long-term makes plenty of sense for the up-and-coming Nuggets.
For Philly, $180 million is an awful lot to commit to Harris. Over the last five years and among players with at least 5,000 minutes, Harris is 100th in box plus/minus. Losing him for nothing would've been a tough alternative, though. The 76ers traded Landry Shamet and two first-round picks, among other things, for Harris midway through 2018-19.
Carroll, meanwhile, is a very Spursy player. He's been around a while, he defends and he's a reliable catch-and-shoot option.
And finally, there's Julius Randle and the Knicks. Missing out on the top-tier free agents would have been bad enough for New York fans, but the nugget that Dolan was hesitant to max out Durant makes it sting even worse.
Let's Make a Deal!
Another round of deals incoming!
To see the rest from the last couple days, scroll to the slides below. Spoiler: There's a lot.
- Thaddeus Young is heading to the Chicago Bulls for three years and $41 million, according to Yahoo's Chris Haynes.
- Danuel House is returning to the Houston Rockets for three years and $11.1 million, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
- Ricky Rubio will join the Phoenix Suns for three years and $51 million, according to Stadium and The Athletic's Shams Charania.
- Jeremy Lamb is on his way to the Indiana Pacers for three years and $31.5 million, according to Shams.
- Bojan Bogdanovic is heading to the Utah Jazz for four years and $73 million, per Woj.
- Malcolm Brogdon is heading to the Pacers for four years and $85 million, according to Woj. Indiana also sent a first-round pick and two seconds to the Milwaukee Bucks.
- Thomas Bryant is returning to the Washington Wizards for three years and $25 million, per Woj.
- Rodney Hood is returning to the Portland Trail Blazers for two years and $16 million, according to Woj.
Young going to Chicago is a little odd. The Bulls already have Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. in a crowded frontcourt. It'll be tough to find a ton of minutes there.
The next player moving in the above list is Rubio. Theoretically, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson can make up for his lack of shooting. But Booker shot just 32.6 percent from three last season. Bridges was at 33.5 percent. Those players might be a little frustrated when Rubio's defender plays free safety.
Then there's Jeremy Lamb. Losing Bogdanovic hurts the Pacers, but Lamb can replace the shooting to a degree, and he's the better defender.
Bogdanovic, meanwhile, is heading to Utah. A supposed starting lineup of Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Bogdanovic and Rudy Gobert features plenty of shooting and playmaking around one of the league's best rim rollers.
Free Agency Is Here!
As you'll see in slides below, several deals were done and reported on prior to free agency even starting at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday. But that didn't stop reporters from giving us another wave of news when things officially got going.
- JJ Redick is going to the New Orleans Pelicans for two years and $26.5 million, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
- Derrick Rose is on his way to the Detroit Pistons for two years and $15 million, according to Woj.
- Jonas Valanciunas will return to the Memphis Grizzlies for three years and $45 million, according to Woj.
- Gerald Green is headed back to the Houston Rockets on a one-year deal, per Woj.
- Kristaps Porzingis is returning to the Dallas Mavericks on a five-year, $158 million max contract, according to Stadium and The Athletic's Shams Charania.
- The Philadelphia 76ers opened up extension talks with Ben Simmons' agent Rich Paul, according to Woj.
- Terrence Ross is on his way back to the Orlando Magic for four years and $54 million, per Woj.
- Garrett Temple is joining Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan on the Brooklyn Nets for two years and $10 million, according to Woj.
- Nicolo Melli is on his way to the Pelicans for two years and $8 million, according to Woj.
- Trevor Ariza is joining Dewayne Dedmon in heading to the Sacramento Kings. Ariza's deal will be for two years and $25 million, according to Shams.
- Al-Farouq Aminu will join Ross on the Magic with a three-year, $29 million deal, per Woj.
Phew, that was fun. And that's not even all we've had at this point (6:22 p.m. ET at the time of this writing).
Scroll below for several deals that happened earlier on Sunday (or even Saturday).
Philly losing Redick has to hurt a bit. He was one of the Sixers' only reliable floor spacers. He heads to New Orleans as a veteran presence who'll force defenses to pay attention to the three-point line, opening things up inside for Zion Williamson.
Then there's Rose, an interesting pickup for the Pistons after his best individual season since 2012. With how up and down Reggie Jackson has been over the last few years, one might even wonder if Rose could compete for starter's minutes.
The next bit of news on a player actually switching teams was on Temple. With KD and Kyrie taking up so much of Brooklyn's cap, the Nets will need solid veterans willing to play at a discount. Temple is exactly that.
Next, there's New Orleans snagging Nicolo Melli, a 28-year-old, 6'9" forward who shot 39.6 percent from deep in Europe over the last two seasons.
Ariza heading to the Kings is an interesting move, as well. They're building something intriguing there. Supplementing the solid young core of De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Marvin Bagley III with veterans like Dedmon and Ariza could have that team poised for a playoff push.
And finally, Aminu to Orlando is the first deal on this slide that's a bit of a head-scratcher. It's tough to imagine where he gets many minutes with Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Nikola Vucevic already there.
Expectations vs. Reality
For much of the last year, a good portion of NBA fans and media believed the New York Knicks might come out of the summer of 2019 with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Shortly after we learned those two were heading to the Brooklyn Nets, we got a sense of what the Knicks' pivot might look like.
"The Knicks, obviously punched in the gut, have to move on and build a squad," The Athletic's David Aldridge reported. "Expect them to go the depth route now, trying to sign several among vets like Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, George Hill, Reggie Bullock, others."
No disrespect to those listed, but KD and Kyrie they are not.
A Pre-Free Agency Whirlwind
Teams and reporters seem to have given up the mirage that free agency doesn't begin prior to July 1.
Despite free agency officially starting Sunday at 6 p.m. ET, we got news of some deals Saturday. And then, around 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, a whirlwind of news hit.
- Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan are all planning to join the Brooklyn Nets, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski (more on that in the next slide).
- Terry Rozier is heading to the Charlotte Hornets for three years and $58 million, according to Stadium and The Athletic's Shams Charania.
- Rudy Gay is heading back to the San Antonio Spurs for two years and $32 million, according to Charania.
- Harrison Barnes is returning to the Sacramento Kings for four years and $85 million, according to The Athletic's Sam Amick.
- Dewayne Dedmon is on his way to the Kings for three years and $40 million, according to Amick.
- Despite Keith Smith's reporting that the Boston Celtics were aiming to retain Al Horford through a series of sign-and-trades, the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett reported that Horford still plans to leave.
If the initial minus-24 hours of free agency are any indication, the NBA will look drastically different for the 2019-20 season.
Nets fans will have to be patient as Durant recovers from a ruptured Achilles, but the team should be a contender in 2020-21.
Rozier's deal seems like a lot for a player who's posted a below-average box plus/minus for his career. Without Kemba, it could be a rough season for the Hornets.
And speaking of Walker, his numbers don't quite measure up with Kyrie's, but he won't bring all the off-court drama and chemistry headaches. With or without Horford, the Celtics should be interesting with forwards Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward surrounding Walker.
As for Rudy Gay, it's a deal that makes plenty of sense for both sides. Gay has aged into a modern, playmaking 4. And with San Antonio devoid of cap flexibility, it had no way to replace Gay if he walked.
The Kings' moves make sense, as well. Barnes is a solid scorer who'll take defensive attention off De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. And Dedmon can both space the floor and protect the rim.
Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan Are Heading to the Nets
"Kevin Durant is planning to sign with the Brooklyn Nets," he tweeted.
And that's not all.
The details on the deals themselves are predictable: maxes for both Durant and Irving.
"Durant will sign a four-year, $164M deal with the Nets; Irving will sign four years, $141M," Wojnarowski tweeted.
Brooklyn would have two of this summer's top free agents to pair with a young core that includes Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Rodions Kurucs and Taurean Prince.
Even with Durant out for most, if not all, of next season, the Nets should be plenty of fun in 2019-20. Once KD's back, it's safe to assume they will be a title contender.
Enes Kanter to Talk to Trail Blazers and Celtics
Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated reported Portland Trail Blazers free agent Enes Kanter is "expected to have a phone call with Portland and Boston when free agency begins tonight."
Kanter was instrumental to the Trail Blazers as they reached the Western Conference Finals without starting center Jusuf Nurkic. Kanter averaged 13.1 points and 8.6 rebounds after he was waived by the New York Knicks.
While that was enough to give the Trail Blazers incentive to keep him, the Celtics have a need as well. They already agreed to trade Aron Baynes and are faced with the possibility of Al Horford's departure.
While Boston could re-sign Horford, it may be looking to Kanter as at least a backup plan.
Kanter won't be a major mover in free agency, but he can be a key contributor on a playoff team.
Where Is Al Horford Going?
While there had been a lot of talk about Al Horford having a deal lined up somewhere (and maybe more than one somewhere), there hadn't been anything but speculation on which teams those might be entering Sunday. We now have some insight into a couple of them.
Marc Stein of the New York Times tweeted: "A confirmed Al Horford suitor at last. The Kings 'definitely' have significant interest in Horford, according to sources briefed on Sacramento's thinking—and have the cap space to pay Al the reported four-year deal worth in excess of $100 million circulating for the past week."
If this comes to pass, it is a great move for the Kings, who made a playoff push last season and are the right player away from getting there this year. Horford is that right player.
At center, he plays the right position. His qualities as a veteran leader are beyond reproach. His all-around skill set would allow him to mesh seamlessly into what the Kings do, both on offense and defense. He could keep up with the Kings' fast-paced style. One of the better passing bigs in the league, he'd be fantastic for Buddy Hield and De'Aaron Fox.
This step would even put the Kings into "watch on League Pass" territory.
But it may not come to pass. Sam Amick of The Athletic reported, "Despite the Kings' significant interest in Al Horford and plans to make a massive offer, a source tells The Athletic that they are under the impression he's likely heading elsewhere."
He added, "The Al Horford situation has been very tricky to figure out, but one team that I'm told has very real interest is Philly (moving parts there obviously with their own free agents, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris)."
Horford would fit nicely next to Joel Embiid, but what that would mean for Butler or Harris is anyone's guess.
Finally, could the Boston Celtics still be in contention? Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer tweeted: "There are some league executives who believe the "mystery team" for Al Horford is...the Boston Celtics. But keeping Horford's rights would require a number of complicated maneuvers, including a double sign-and-trade involving Kemba Walker and Terry Rozier. It wouldn't be easy."
Later, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski added to that possibility when he tweeted: "Boston's showing interest in a 3-team sign-and-trade w/ Kyrie Irving (Nets), Kemba Walker (Celtics) and Terry Rozier (Hornets). Boston wants to create a full MLE and would likely need to surrender at least a first-round pick to Nets. So far, talks are exploratory."
Regardless of where he ends up, Horford is one of the key dominoes in this free-agency season.
The Jimmy Butler Market Is Heating Up
The market for Jimmy Butler is so hot that he's meeting with teams that don't even have cap space. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Houston Rockets and Miami Heat will both get a sit-down with the star wing.
According to the Associated Press' Tim Reynolds, "Not that this is a surprise—or means anything—but Jimmy Butler is expected to tell Miami officials tonight that he wishes to play for the Heat, per source."
How Miami would get something done and why Philadelphia would cooperate are still mysteries.
But that's not all. Teams that can bring in Butler without the complexities of a sign-and-trade are predictably interested as well.
"Sources: Jimmy Butler plans to meet with the 76ers soon and has interest from other teams with maximum salary space, including the Lakers and Nets," Stadium and The Athletic's Shams Charania tweeted Saturday.
As Butler enters his age-30 season, he would take any of the aforementioned teams to another level.
In his 2019 playoff run with Philadelphia, he led the team in box plus/minus. And Philly's net rating (net points per 100 possessions) was 29.6 points better with Butler on the floor in the postseason.
Marc Stein of the New York Times tweeted just hours ahead of the deadline: "Jimmy Butler meets with Heat officials at 6:01 PM ET tonight but continues to draw interest from a number of suitors, league sources say, with the Lakers making the latest aggressive bid. Lakers officials, I'm told, are pushing for a pitch meeting with Butler."
If you wanted to read something into Butler's tweet, you could infer he's planning on being in Miami for a while.
Minnesota Timberwolves Emerging as Favorites to Land D'Angelo Russell
D'Angelo Russell is one of the more sought after free agents this summer, but Marc Stein of the New York Times reported Sunday afternoon that a surprise team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, may be taking the lead in the pursuit: "Minnesota is at the top of D'Angelo Russell's free-agent wish list as the opening bell nears, league sources say—with the Timberwolves increasingly confident they can make the necessary salary-cap moves to land him."
In a follow-up tweet, Stein added, "The Lakers' interest in D'Angelo Russell is undeniable, league sources say, but Minnesota has made the All-Star guard its top priority in free agency knowing that the Nets mere hours away from the momentous addition of Kyrie Irving."
It might seem counterintuitive that any rational human being would choose the climate—both on and off the court—in Minnesota over Los Angeles, but there are at least a couple of reasons that come to mind why Russell might pick the Wolves over the Lakers.
First, he would not be a distant-third-best player. In two previous renditions of "Two and a Half Men" Big Threes LeBron James has been a part of, "Jake Harper" has not fared well, and Russell would certainly be Jake in this scenario.
Kevin Love and Chris Bosh both took the biggest hits to their numbers and, to a degree, their status as superstars.
In Minnesota, he would co-star with Karl-Anthony Towns, who was the only player taken ahead of him in the 2015 NBA draft.
Also, when the Lakers traded him away before, it wasn't on the best of terms, and there may be some bridge repair needed before both parties will consider uniting.
Damian Lillard Negotiating Extension
Few players have meant as much to their teams over the last six years as Damian Lillard, who stood almost alone as all his teammates bolted in free agency in 2015.
He led the team built around him to the playoffs in the subsequent season and in every year since. Over that span, only James Harden and Russell Westbrook have scored more points than he has, according to Basketball Reference. And he brought Portland to the Western Conference Finals this year.
He is the team's best player, its leader, and its heart and soul. He's exactly the kind of player the supermax was designed for, so it's great news for Portland Trail Blazers fans that he's sticking around for a long time.
Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported Sunday afternoon that Lillard "is working toward agreement on a four-year, $196 million super maximum contract extension."
Jonas Valanciunas to Stay with Grizzlies
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported Sunday afternoon, "Once free agency opens at 6 PM ET, center Jonas Valanciunas is expected to commit to a three-year, $45M contract to return to the Memphis Grizzlies, league sources tell ESPN."
The Grizzlies acquired Valanciunas (along with CJ Miles and Delon Wright) ahead of the trade deadline last season in exchange for Marc Gasol. In 19 games for Memphis, he averaged 19.9 points and 10.7 rebounds.
He declined a $17.6 million option on his contract to negotiate the new deal, which will give him more years and the Grizzlies a little more cap space. Memphis had just under $35 million in projected cap space heading into free agency, so it has sufficient room to make another big signing.
It picked up Ja Morant (No. 2) and Brandon Clarke (No. 21) in the NBA draft as well.
After dealing both Gasol and Mike Conley, the Grizz are ready to move beyond the Grit and Grind days and have some key components already. Keeping Valanciunas is big for them.
New Orleans Pelicans Make Another Splash with Euroleague Signing
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported "EuroLeague power forward Nicolo Melli is finalizing a two-year deal with the New Orleans Pelicans, sources tell ESPN. Melli, 28, was the top scorer in the EuroLeague Finals for Fenerbahce last season."
Davide Chinellato of La Gazzetta dello Sport added that the deal is for two years and $8 million.
It's another subtle move by new executive vice president David Griffin as he "rebuilds" a team that didn't make the postseason last year.
In addition to acquiring Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart from the Los Angeles Lakers in the trade for Anthony Davis, the Pelicans drafted Zion Williamson with the No. 1 pick and Jaxson Hayes with the No. 8 pick. And they still have close to $30 million in cap space to spend.
New Orleans is worth watching to see if it can make another big move.
Where Will Bobby Portis Go?
Bobby Portis had a career year last season, averaging 14.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. That's good enough for multiple teams to take note of him.
Alex Kennedy of Hoops HYpe reported: "Bobby Portis has received significant interest from the (Utah) Jazz, (New York) Knicks and (L.A.) Clippers, source confirms. Also, the Wizards have shown interest in re-signing him."
While Portis has certain defensive limitations to his game (chiefly that he doesn't play any), he does have a willingness to shoot the ball and can make it from range, notching 39.3 percent of his 3.8 attempts last year.
He could be an interesting signing, depends on how much he makes and where he goes. He could be a value contract for a contender (i.e. Jazz or Clippers), or he could be a reach for a team trying to compensate for whiffing elsewhere (i.e. Knicks).
Dwight Powell to Stay with Mavs
It's a good day to be Dwight Powell. Marc Stein of the New York Times reported, "The (Dallas) Mavericks intend to present their long-planned contract extension to Dwight Powell -- three years, $33 million -- when free agency opens after 6 PM tonight, league sources say, with the sides expected to swiftly agree to terms."
Powell contributed 10.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for the Mavs last season and was one of their best players off the bench. The team's net rating was 3.1 points better when Powell was on the court.
Powell has been a glue guy for the Mavs, the one who brings the energy off the bench, ignites runs, dives for balls, gets stops and does all the little things. He's certainly one of those players whose value doesn't show up in box scores, so the $11 million per year is not that surprising.
That's why Stein added: "Dallas has made it clear since the season ended that re-signing Dwight Powell to an extension was among its highest off-season priorities along with securing Kristaps Porzingis' commitment on a five-year, $158 million deal that will also happen formally later tonight."
DeMarcus Cousins Back to Sacramento?
"League sources have told The Athletic that Cousins would be open to the idea of a return, but the Kings have not expressed interest in a reunion. The Kings are focused on their younger players and playing a faster style. They have also resisted bringing in big personalities such as Cousins since trading him. While Cousins' return to Sacramento would make for a great story, what's more realistic would be the addition of a veteran who can rebound, defend and shoot the three like Dewayne Dedmon."
Cousins' ultimate landing spot is still unclear, but Marc J. Spears of the Undefeated reported June 28: "Seven NBA teams have expressed interest of varying levels in Cousins. The New York Knicks have serious interest in Cousins. The Los Angeles Clippers are also intrigued. Both teams have significant cap space."
Cousins averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals in 25.7 minutes per game last year, but his porous defense in the playoffs this year and lack of speed could deter teams from offering him a large contract.
JaVale McGee to the Rockets?
James Harden may have a new target for his lobs next season.
"Free agent center JaVale McGee will meet with the Houston Rockets on Sunday," Yahoo's Chris Haynes tweeted.
This is a match that may make some sense for both the big man and the team.
McGee has played the best basketball of his career over the last two seasons. He's looked more focused on defense, and his offense has been reduced almost entirely to rim rolling and cleaning up teammates' messes.
And there may not be another player in the NBA who's better at maximizing rim-rolling centers than Harden.
If this happens, McGee's numbers could soar as he throws down countless open dunks.
The bigger story here, though, may be the implication. Houston could well be looking at centers to add depth, but one can't help but wonder if this means a Clint Capela trade is in the works.
Utah Jazz Closing in on Bojan Bogdanovic?
The Utah Jazz made a splash before the draft when they traded for Mike Conley. But giving up Jae Crowder in that deal compromised one of their biggest strengths over the last two seasons.
The lineups with Crowder at the 4 were among the NBA's best. And while Joe Ingles and Georges Niang may be able to cover those duties, Utah appears interested in finding other options.
"Reporting with @ShamsCharania: The Utah Jazz are emerging as a significant threat to sign Bojan Bogdanovic away from the Indiana Pacers," The Athletic's Tony Jones reported. "The Jazz could have a competitive offer on the table as soon as tomorrow, according to sources"
Following Victor Oladipo's season-ending quad injury Jan. 23, Bogdanovic averaged 20.6 points with a 61.2 true shooting percentage over 35 games. And, according to Cleaning the Glass, the Indiana Pacers were plus-4.6 points per 100 possessions (79th percentile) when Bogdanovic was at the 4 in 2018-19.
A lineup of Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Ingles, Bogdanovic and Rudy Gobert offers plenty of intrigue.
Terry Rozier to the Charlotte Hornets?
Going from Kemba Walker to Terry Rozier will take some adjusting for Charlotte Hornets fans. But that may be the reality with which they're faced.
"Hearing Terry Rozier to Charlotte is a done deal," Uproxx's Jordan Zirm tweeted.
Over the last four seasons, Rozier has averaged 14.2 points per 75 possessions with a 49.2 true shooting percentage and a minus-0.5 box plus/minus.
Walker over the same span? He put up 24.4 points per 75 possessions with a 56.3 true shooting percentage and a plus-3.5 box plus/minus.
If you look at Kemba's first four seasons instead of his last four, the true shooting percentage is actually pretty close to Rozier's, but Walker still wins in a landslide in the other two categories.
Nikola Vucevic Back to the Magic
Nikola Vucevic is fresh off an MVP-caliber season. No, seriously.
Vucevic's ridiculous play was the biggest reason the Orlando Magic made it back to the postseason for the first time since 2012. So, it makes plenty of sense to bring him back.
"Orlando free agent All-Star Nikola Vucevic plans to commit to a four-year, $100 million deal to return to the Magic," Stadium and The Athletic's Shams Charania reported.
Considering Vucevic was qualified for a max starting salary of $32.7 million, this deal represents solid value for Orlando, especially given the production detailed above.
Lakers Interested in Patrick Beverley and Seth Curry?
In that scenario, Los Angeles Clippers point guard Patrick Beverley would be a great acquisition. And the Lakers appear interested.
"Sources: The Lakers have reached out to the reps of free agent guard Patrick Beverley," the Los Angeles Times' Brad Turner tweeted. "Beverley is one of the best defenders in the NBA and his 3-point shooting has improved dramatically. He's also a great locker room presence."
Last season, Beverley was 11th among point guards in ESPN's real plus-minus. And he's never been a ball-dominant 1. Offensively, he's often more of a floor spacer. That makes him ideal for teams that rely heavily on playmaking forwards and wings. LeBron James obviously qualifies as one of those.
Stylistically, those two would be a nearly ideal fit. And since Beverley wouldn't cost the full $32 million, L.A. could then go after other solid role players like Seth Curry.
"The Lakers have also reached out to the reps of free agent guard Seth Curry, per source," Turner tweeted. "Curry is the type of long range shooter the Lakers want. He shot 45.6% from the field last season in Portland, 45% from three. He averaged 7.9 points in 74 games."
The Lakers' big mistake last season was that they didn't add anywhere near enough shooting after signing LeBron. Curry is one of the best shooters in the league. Among players who took at least as many threes, Steve Kerr and Hubert Davis are the only players in history with a higher career three-point percentage than Curry's .439.
Dewayne Dedmon to the Kings?
Dewayne Dedmon is one of the NBA's best kept secrets.
The Sacramento Kings may be in on the secret. The Drive 1140's Carmichael Dave explained:
"Interest between the Sacramento Kings and free agent center Dewayne Dedmon is mutual, and strong.
Nothing set yet, but there is confidence on both sides.
Expect a resolution tomorrow."
With Willie Cauley-Stein on his way out, per the Sacramento Bee's Jason Anderson, the up-and-coming Kings need a new center, and Dedmon's an intriguing fit.
His ability to stretch the floor should pull big men away from the paint, opening things up inside for Marvin Bagley III and De'Aaron Fox. And flanking Dedmon pick-and-rolls with the shooting of Buddy Hield will make it very difficult to load up on the primary action.
Could D'Angelo Russell Return to the Lakers?
Two years ago, when the Los Angeles Lakers traded D'Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets, then-team president Magic Johnson said the young point guard wasn't a leader.
Now, in 2019, Magic is no longer with the team, and Russell could return in free agency.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski wrote:
"Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka reached out Russell's agents to set up a meeting to discuss a possible reunion with Los Angeles. The Lakers, flush with $32 million in salary cap space, are searching for a third All-Star to partner with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Both the Lakers and Russell are intrigued about exploring a possible return to Staples Center."
Past relationship aside, the basketball fit with Russell, LeBron and AD is intriguing.
Russell is just 23 years old and coming off his first career All-Star appearance.
For his career, he's averaged 21.2 points, 6.5 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals per 75 possessions. Grant Hill, Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook were the only other players who hit all four of those marks in their first four seasons.
Free agency was supposed to officially start at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday. That didn't stop Kemba Walker and the Boston Celtics from reportedly getting a deal done.
And apparently, those two weren't the only ones who may have conducted business a little early.
Right around 24 hours before the "official" start (hmmm), ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski unloaded a payload of Woj Bombs.
*Takes a deep breath* Here goes.
It looks like Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets are on their way to a deal, according to Woj. And that will lead to the unrestricted free agency of D'Angelo Russell, who reportedly has "...tremendous league-wide interest." Brooklyn may even be willing to work sign-and-trades if that will help Russell get to where he wants to be.
In other superstar-potentially-on-the-move news, Woj says Jimmy Butler has plans to meet with both the Miami Heat and Houston Rockets.
And finally, it looks like Derrick Rose may have a new home. Fresh off his best season since 2011-12, it looks like Rose and the Detroit Pistons are "...motivated on finding a pathway to a two-year contract," according to Wojnarowski.
Kemba Walker's Replacement Could Be...McConnell, Payton, Smith or Mudiay?
In the wake of the news that Kemba Walker will sign with the Boston Celtics, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, we learned that the Charlotte Hornets may have a few potential replacements in mind.
"Charlotte has been scouring the free agent point guard market, considering such options as Elfrid [Payton], TJ McConnell, Ish Smith and Emmanuel Mudiay," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted.
Losing Kemba is a huge deal for Charlotte. He's the franchise's all-time leader in minutes, points, threes and wins over replacement player.
And that list of options at point guard may signify that the pain is just beginning.
Even with Walker, er, walking, the Hornets don't have a ton of cap flexibility. Hence, names like Payton, McConnell, Smith and Mudiay. Those four ranked 61st, 98th, 49th and 85th, respectively, among point guards in ESPN's real plus-minus this season.
Walker was 10th.
Kemba Walker to Boston a Done Deal?
Losing Kyrie Irving and Al Horford would hurt the Boston Celtics, but landing Kemba Walker could soften the blow. Adrian Wojnarowski reported Saturday on ESPN (via journalist Keith Smith) that Walker is "on his way to the Celtics."
Walker's fit with the Celtics is perfect. Previous point guards Irving and Isaiah Thomas have both been All-Stars for the C's, and Walker is at least on that level offensively but plays better defense.
With Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Celtics have two rising stars, and with Gordon Hayward a season removed from injury, they could get back to contending for the Eastern Conference Finals if they can figure out how to replace Horford at center.
The Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell confirmed the Kemba news, reporting Walker "has conveyed to the Hornets he intends to sign with the Boston Celtics once free-agent contracts are allowed July 6."
Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium noted the deal would be for four years and $141 million.
Stephen Curry to Join Warriors' Meeting with Kevin Durant
Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic reported "Curry, coming back from his Under Armour tour in Asia, is planning to stop and visit with Durant on the eve of Durant's free-agent decision" and that "Curry making a surprise visit to Durant seems to be a major gesture to show that he still wants Durant."
The Warriors are, and have been, Curry's team. That might be part of the incentive for Durant to leave and show he's not just riding on the Warriors' previous success.
Curry's overture to Durant is Curry telling Durant, "I want you to stay here."
On the other hand, as Thompson pointed out, it could just be Curry stopping by to see his friend.
Detroit Pistons to Land Derrick Rose?
Frank Isola of The Athletic reported the Detroit Pistons are "emerging as the favorite" for Derrick Rose.
The arrangement makes sense for both team and player. The Pistons need a quality backup at point guard, and Rose reignited his career last year with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
He averaged 23.7 points and 5.7 assists per 36 minutes last season, his best and second-best marks since he won MVP in 2010-11. His 51.8 effective field-goal percentage was also a career high.
He also won the NBA's House of Highlights Moment of the Year Award for his 50-point performance against the Utah Jazz on Halloween.
Nikola Mirotic Leaving the NBA for Barcelona
Free-agency season is already zany, and it hasn't even started yet. But what may be the most shocking news is that Nikola Mirotic is on his way out of the NBA.
Shams Charania of The Athletic reported Mirotic will sign with Barcelona of the Euroleague.
Charania added that Mirotic was looking for a $45-$50 million contract in the NBA.
One team that could be disappointed is the Utah Jazz, as Marc Stein of the New York Times reported: "Utah had major interest in signing Nikola Mirotic to a three-year deal in the $45 million range, league sources say, but Mirotic was apparently determined to make a total change and return to EuroLeague life."
Mirotic's NBA career has been a bit of a roller coaster, as he's been incredible at times and disappeared at others. The low point was when he got into a fight with Bobby Portis while both were Chicago Bulls and Portis broke Mirotic's face.
Still, he averaged 15.2 points and 7.4 boards in 27.1 minutes per game last year.
D'Angelo Russell to Meet with Timberwolves
Chris Hayes of Yahoo Sports reported "the Minnesota Timberwolves will meet with Brooklyn Nets restricted free agent D'Angelo Russell when free agency opens on Sunday."
Hayes added that the Wolves would deploy president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, head coach Ryan Saunders and Karl-Anthony Towns for the meeting.
The Wolves are alleged to be shopping Andrew Wiggins, so Russell would join Towns as the two stars of the team.
Both players were All-Stars last season, and every season Minnesota has had two All-Stars, it's made the playoffs, according to Basketball Reference.
The T-Wolves hit a speed bump in their rebuild this year after getting back to the playoffs in 2017-18, but this would help them get back on track.
Nuggets Exercise Option on Paul Millsap
Paul Millsap will stay a Denver Nugget.
As Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported, "The Denver Nuggets have exercised a $30 million option on forward Paul Millsap's contract for next season, bringing back a key player for the franchise's pursuit of a Western Conference title."
Per the report, the Nuggets will be able to retain their $9.2 mid-level exception and still stay below the tax, so they aren't done for the summer.
The core of the team that had the West's second-best record last season will stay together and should be among the favorites to get to the Finals, at least for now.
Pelicans Interested in Al Horford
The New Orleans Pelicans have moved on from Anthony Davis rather well, quickly assembling a team for the present that they can flesh out with the better part of what used to be the Los Angeles Lakers' future.
The Pelicans look to be pursuing the best replacement available for Davis, as well, in Al Horford. Marc Stein of the New York Times tweeted: "The Pelicans are indeed interested in Al Horford, according to one league source with knowledge of the situation, but have feared heading into free agency that they would be outbid for him."
Horford would be a perfect fit in New Orleans, filling out the starting five alongside Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball at guard and Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson at forward.
His defense, passing and all-around play would bring the other pieces together and feasibly make the Pelicans a playoff team next season.
David Griffin has been doing an incredible job in his first season with the Pelicans, and this would be the capstone to a spectacular summer.
Klay Thompson Staying with Warriors
You can take one name out of the pool of free agents. It looks like Klay Thompson will stay put, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium: "Klay Thompson and the Golden State Warriors plan to reach agreement on a five-year, $190M maximum contract, with the Warriors sending a front-office contingent to Los Angeles to visit Thompson within the next day."
This does not come as a huge surprise, though some teams were expected to pursue him. However, no team can offer the fifth year that the Warriors can, which gives them the inside track.
Thompson, who tore his left ACL in the NBA Finals, is expected to miss most or all of next season, but the Warriors don't seem concerned with that.
It's not unreasonable to think he can get back to the same type of player he was before the injury, as he doesn't rely on athleticism as much as someone like Derrick Rose. It certainly shouldn't impact his jump shot, and that's the most essential part of Thompson's game.
Ergo, the risk of offering a massive contract to a player with a serious injury is somewhat diminished.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis Could Join Meeting with Kahwi Leonard
Sam Amick of The Athletic reported Anthony Davis and LeBron James might be involved in meeting with Kawhi Leonard: "The timing of all these talks, meanwhile, remains unclear. A second source with knowledge of the situation told The Athletic on Friday that James and Davis were both planning on taking part in the expected meeting with Leonard."
Reports from ESPN have suggested there would be one-on-one meetings between Leonard and Jeanie Buss and another with former team president Magic Johnson.
Per Amick, LeBron is motivated to be a part of the talks because:
"After the disastrous debut season of LeBron in Laker Land, where he missed a career-high 27 games (18 because of a groin strain) and missed out on the playoffs for the first time since 2005 after EIGHT consecutive Finals appearances, he has no illusions about the height of the stakes here or the part that he needs and wants to play. And according to a source close to James, it's this focus on being an incredible teammate that will be at the center of his message to Leonard."
That is the reason James gave his No. 23 to Anthony Davis, per Amick.
Leonard may be reluctant to join a team wherein he is the third wheel after winning his second Finals MVP. James and Davis would be the two most capable of reassuring Leonard that would not be the case.
Will Keivn Durant and Kawhi Leonard Partner Up?
One of the more intriguing storylines of this summer is that a few teams have enough cap space to acquire two max-contract players. The Los Angeles Lakers have already acquired one and are looking for a second. The Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers have the space to do that too.
But according to a report by Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Clippers might be in the lead to land the top two free agents available: Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard: "Rival executives told The Athletic they believe Durant has considered a possible partnership with Leonard throughout the pre-free agency process so far. For the Clippers a potential duo of Leonard and Durant is the pitch they believe will trump any others—including Brooklyn's."
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne reported the Knicks could also be in the picture: "Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard have been discussing free-agent scenarios that could include a future with them playing together. For now, there are two clear possibilities for them to sign into the same franchise: Clippers and Knicks."
If these top two players team up anywhere, it would be huge. But if it were in Los Angels or New York, it would be surreal.
Is D'Angelo Russel Done with the Nets?
D'Angelo Russell might be done in Brooklyn, according to a report from Shams Charania of The Athletic: "League sources say the expectation is the Nets will eventually either renounce the rights of free-agent All-Star D'Angelo Russell or do a sign-and-trade deal involving him during free agency. The Nets made a procedural move Friday by tendering a qualifying offer to Russell."
The Nets received Russell via trade with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017 while both parties were at low points. Russell was underachieving and was involved in a small scandal with a teammate. The Nets were the worst team in the league.
But since then, Russell has ascended to All-Star status, and the Nets returned to the playoffs.
But now Brooklyn is looking to land bigger fish, such as Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, meaning it's probably going to have to part ways with the restricted free agent. Russell will land on his feet, though, as multiple teams are interested in him.
Celtics Out of Running for Clint Capela?
As the Houston Rockets try to figure out a path to landing Jimmy Butler, they are looking for potential suitors to take on Clint Capela in either a separate or three-team trade. Are the Boston Celtics one of the teams that could do that?
According to Mark Murphy of the Boston Globe, the answer is no: "Celtics don't have much momentum in landing Clint Capela via some sort of trade (for example, as the third team in a Philly-Houston deal). League source on whether Celtics are close: 'No.' Are they still trying? 'No.'"
It's unclear why that is the case, but Marc Stein of the New York Times that: "The Rockets believe they have a trade partner for Clint Capela but do not intend to deal Capela unless they are sure they can acquire marquee Sixers free agent Jimmy Butler, according to a source briefed on Houston's thinking."
While these things are always dynamic, it looks as though the Celitcs are out of the running for Capela.
Will Magic Johnson Play a Role in Bringing Leonard to the Lakers?
As we draw closer to the moment when players and teams can communicate, it seems Magic Johnson may be a part of it.
Broderick Turner and Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times reported, "When Kawhi Leonard, the most coveted player in NBA free agency, listens to the Lakers' pitch, it might come only from Magic Johnson and Jeanie Buss—and not in the same meeting."
The reason they can't be in the same meeting is that Johnson is no longer an official member of the team since he stepped down as president April 9.
It wouldn't be a problem if he hadn't recently been part of the front office. As Turner and Ganguli pointed out, the Celtics have included Tom Brady in their pitch to Kevin Durant.
The Lakers—who have been fined twice with Johnson as president—want to avoid any appearance of impropriety, so the meeting with both Buss and Magic will be one-on-one.
Are the Lakers the New Front-Runners for Kawhi?
Trying to predict the ultimate outcome of Kawhi Leonard's free agency is probably a fool's errand. Of course, that won't stop us, or Vegas, from trying.
"Things change fast in #thisleague," the New York Times' Marc Stein tweeted. "With free agency a day and change away, it's the Lakers who have convinced Las Vegas—and an increasing number of league insiders—that they are L.A.'s true threat to limiting Kawhi Leonard's Raptors career to a single season. Not the Clippers."
If the Lakers do indeed enter 2019-20 with Kawhi, Anthony Davis and LeBron James, they have to be considered the favorites to win the title. Even with a roster filled out with veteran minimum contracts and the $4.7 million room exception.
Jimmy Butler Interested in the Miami Heat?
This seems to be the summer for teams thinking they can get free agents without cap space.
"A quick Jimmy Butler note: Nothing has changed—he's still 'very interested' in Miami, per a source tonight, despite the obstacles that exist on the Heat deal-making fronts right now," the Associated Press' Tim Reynolds tweeted. "He still wants to talk with the Heat, the source said."
According to Spotrac, Miami has minus-$35.1 million in cap space this summer. They don't have a lot of movable contracts. And a sign-and-trade introduces a hard cap into the equation.
Anyone who's paid close attention to the NBA over the last few years should be hesitant to call anything impossible, though.
The Heat would likely need to find a third or fourth party to take money into space. The deal would almost certainly cost them Josh Richardson (though that's probably worth it, if you're getting Butler).
Long story short, this would be complicated. Even more so than a Houston Rockets sign-and-trade possibility.
Darren Collison Is Retiring from the NBA
In perhaps this week's most surprising move, Indiana Pacers point guard Darren Collison is retiring from the NBA, citing his faith as a Jehovah's Witness in a piece he authored for The Undefeated.
"To all of you, I would like to say thank you for the countless years of support," Collison wrote. "Thank you for respecting my decision."
Over his 10-year career, Collison averaged 12.5 points, 5.0 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 29.4 minutes per game. He shot 39.4 percent from three and led the league in that category in 2017-18.
Collison ranks 58th in NBA history in career three-point percentage.
Utah Jazz Interested in Thaddeus Young?
Over the last two seasons, lineups featuring Jae Crowder and Rudy Gobert have been some of the best in the NBA.
In 2017-18, when those two were on the floor, the Utah Jazz were plus-16.5 points per 100 possessions (99th percentile), per Cleaning the Glass. In 2018-19, they were in the 91st percentile with that duo.
With Crowder off to the Memphis Grizzlies as part of the deal that landed Mike Conley in Utah, the Jazz are now without that small-ball 4 who made them so dangerous.
They may have their eyes on a potential replacement.
"As free agency approaches, the Utah Jazz are one of the teams that have shown interest in UFA [Thaddeus] Young, League Sources tell The Athletic," Tony Jones reported. "But the list of interested teams is a large one. As of now, no meeting is scheduled as the Jazz think through what to do with Derrick Favors."
If Young is interested, the hang-up here would be Favors. Last season, he was 40th in ESPN's real plus-minus, though Young wasn't far behind in 54th. The real struggle would be losing one of the game's best backup centers.
Favors starts at the 4 for Utah, but for much of the last two seasons, he's gotten the bulk of his minutes at center and against second units.
His loyalty to the Jazz would be tough to walk away from as well. But to land Young, that's what Utah would have to do. His $16.9 million for 2019-20 is non-guaranteed. If he stays on the books, Utah only has the room exception of $4.7 million to work with. If the Jazz waive Favors, they have around $17 million in cap space, presumably enough to chase Young.
Intel on Kevin Durant
"Golden State's Kevin Durant is planning to engage four teams -- the Brooklyn Nets, LA Clippers, New York Knicks and Warriors -- in discussions upon the opening of NBA free agency on Sunday, league sources told ESPN.
"There is expected to be some combination of face-to-face meetings and communications by other means with Durant and his business manager, Rich Kleiman, front-office sources told ESPN."
Even if Durant needs most, if not all, of next season to recover from the ruptured Achilles he suffered in the Finals, he appears to be on track for a huge deal.
"Every team pursuing him is expected to still offer him a full max contract," Wojnarowski wrote.
If he stays in Golden State, he can get $221 million over five years. The Clippers and both New York teams can give him $146 million over four years.
Durant's decision has all kinds of implications. Would the Nets still sign Kyrie Irving without him? Will the Knicks commit to rebuilding around RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson if Durant signs elsewhere? Can he go back to the Warriors now that the 2019 Finals showed how important he was?
Answers to all these questions will come in time. Unfortunately, it may be more time than some would like, as Wojnarowski reported that the "decision-making process could extend well into next week."
Enes Kanter Drawing Attention Around the League
And it looks like he may have turned things around just in time. As Kanter enters unrestricted free agency, multiple teams may pursue him.
"Free-agent center Enes Kanter is expected to receive interest from the Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics on June 30," Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes tweeted.
SNY's Ian Begley added that the Chicago Bulls are also interested.
Portland already has some idea of how Kanter fits after acquiring him in the middle of 2018-19. After Jusuf Nurkic went down, Kanter stepped into the starting center role for the postseason. And in those games, the Blazers' net rating (net points per 100 possessions) was 3.3 points better with him on the floor.
For the Lakers, the fit may not be quite as seamless. Anthony Davis is best suited to play the 5 in today's NBA, and L.A. needs to be looking to surround its top two of AD and LeBron James with three-point shooting. For his career, Kanter is 42-of-143 (29.4 percent) from three.
As for the Celtics, they'll likely need a center to replace Al Horford, but they may go after bigger names like Nikola Vucevic at the outset.
And then there are the Bulls, who are probably the biggest head-scratcher here. At this point in their rebuild, Chicago should prioritize frontcourt minutes for Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Otto Porter Jr.
Andrew Wiggins on the Move?
"Everyone is telling me he might be the best prospect since LeBron."
That's what a scout told SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell about Andrew Wiggins prior to his lone campaign with the Kansas Jayhawks.
A year later, Wiggins was the No. 1 pick in the ballyhooed 2014 NBA draft. He won the NBA's Rookie of the Year Award in 2015. In 2017, he averaged 23.6 points per game.
At the outset of that 2017 campaign, he signed a max extension with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Now, the team's new president, Gersson Rosas, is reportedly doing what he can to unload Wiggins' monster salary.
"Can they sucker someone into taking Andrew Wiggins?" ESPN's Zach Lowe asked. "One rival executive predicted to me this week that not only will Minnesota succeed at dealing Wiggins at some point, but that they will get at least net-neutral value for him. That would be a coup."
One interesting idea posited by Lowe was that the Phoenix Suns could trade Tyler Johnson's expiring contract and salary filler for Wiggins.
"Wiggins would cripple their cap sheet going forward," Lowe wrote. "Still: Never underestimate the Suns."
A New Lakers Mess
When Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times reported Friday that Kawhi Leonard would meet with Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and former president Magic Johnson, NBA Twitter's collective eyebrows raised.
Didn't Magic quit? Is he still allowed to be in pitch meetings with the team?
The Athletic's Bill Oram provided some clarity:
"After Magic quit on April 9, there was an understanding between the Lakers and NBA officials that Magic could not be part of any recruiting efforts in free agency. All sides agreed the perception (as we're seeing today) would be terrible.
The essence of the situation is that Magic can't leave his post with the Lakers in order to talk freely about other players then represent the team in meetings with those same players. Can't have it both ways."
So, will Kawhi still meet with the Lakers?
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith reported (h/t Ramona Shelburne) that Leonard "had made a personal request that only owner Jeanie Buss and Johnson, the team's former president of basketball operations, be involved in the meeting."
That may still happen. As explained by the Los Angeles Times' Tania Ganguli, Magic and Kawhi are still free to get together outside of the setting of a formal team meeting.
Just when you think Lakers content can't get any stranger.
What We 'Know' So Far...
Right around two days from the official start of NBA free agency, the New York Times' Marc Stein dropped a few things we already "know":
"Kemba to Boston
"Kyrie to Brooklyn -- unless the Lakers miss on Kawhi and swoop in
"Khris M stays -- unless Milwaukee's five-year offer is less than expected
"Vucevic stays with Orlando"
As you can see, things are already taking shape around the league. And most of the above makes plenty of sense.
Kemba Walker can approximate much of the on-court play Kyrie Irving provided the Boston Celtics, without the off-court headaches.
Klay Thompson is a Golden State Warriors icon, half of the Splash Brothers and a three-time champ. It was hard to imagine he'd ever leave.
Kyrie potentially has another young core to attempt leadership with, or another run with LeBron James.
The Milwaukee Bucks would have had no way to replace Khris Middleton (they can go over the cap to sign their own guys).
And statistically, Nikola Vucevic just had an MVP-caliber season and took the Orlando Magic to their first postseason since 2012. It's tough for smaller-market teams to let that kind of talent walk.
Certainly, there are wild cards in play that could shake things up, but this all feels reasonable.
Kawhi Leonard Meeting With...Magic Johnson?
The Los Angeles Lakers signed LeBron James last summer. On July 6, they'll finalize a trade that will land them Anthony Davis, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. When the free-agency moratorium period starts this weekend, the team can make its pitch to Kawhi Leonard.
"Kawhi Leonard's people plan on meeting with Lakers president Jeanie Buss and Magic Johnson next week when free agency starts," the Los Angeles Times' Brad Turner reported Friday. "Will most likely be in L.A."
Now, whether Magic will actually be there—ESPN's Ramona Shelburne has reported that he won't be allowed for official team meetings—is in question. What probably isn't, though, is that James, Davis and Leonard together would be absurd.
Yes, there are questions. LeBron is older and will turn 35 in December. Kawhi may need another season of "load management." And, at various times during his career, there have been questions about Davis' durability.
With their three contracts (and possibly Kyle Kuzma's) taking up the entire salary cap, it'll be tough for L.A. to get the depth it needs.
But if that trio is even relatively healthy, it would likely make the Lakers instant title favorites.
Magic Working to Lock Up Nikola Vucevic
After reaching the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons, the Orlando Magic are in a difficult spot. Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross were key contributors, but neither player will be called a cornerstone of a championship team.
While there's risk in keeping Vucevic, the Magic are prioritizing short-term success. They're set to offer him a four-year contract worth more than $90 million, per Marc Stein of the New York Times.
Perhaps it's a slight overpay, but he's probably worth the price.
Vucevic averaged career-high marks of 20.8 points, 12.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game last season, also hitting 36.4 percent of his threes. The center earned his first All-Star appearance, and Orlando has enough cap space to handle his contract for a few seasons.
The important part, however, is that Vucevic continues to offer similar production as the Magic develop youth in the frontcourt.
Since he's an unrestricted free agent, it's not a guarantee he will return to Orlando. But if money determines where Vucevic signs, that $90-plus million will be tough to beat.
Can Rockets Really Swing Sign-and-Trade for Jimmy Butler?
Per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Rockets will try to acquire Butler via a sign-and-trade with the Philadelphia 76ers: "Butler would be eligible to sign a four-year, $140 million contract on the way to the Rockets, but Houston likely would need to include two of these players—center Clint Capela, guard Eric Gordon and power forward PJ Tucker—to make the financial deal work."
Wojnarowski later reported the Rockets are offering each member of that trio individually to teams with the ability to take on their contract, hoping to add a first-rounder for a trade with Philly.
The Sixers can offer five years and $190 million to Butler, who averaged 18.2 points per game after an early-season trade from Minnesota. So, it's possible he'll prefer to re-sign anyway.
Philly, though, probably doesn't want Capela.
Since both Tobias Harris and JJ Redick are unrestricted free agents, the Sixers need all the money possible. Taking back Capela would reduce financial flexibility, and he's an unnecessary piece because they already have a cornerstone center in Joel Embiid.
If this transaction is to happen, the most likely result is a third team receives Capela. Houston has perhaps found a suitor but does not intend to trade Capela unless it's acquiring Butler, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times.
Could Klay Leave the Warriors?
File this one in the "long shot that depends on a hypothetical" folder.
"Sources: If the Warriors don't offer guard Klay Thompson a max $190 million deal on Sunday when free agency opens, he will listen to both L.A. teams, the Lakers and Clippers," the Los Angeles Times' Brad Turner reported. "Lakers back in the runnings because they now have max slot of $32 million after today's trade."
It feels like an impossibility the Golden State Warriors would allow Thompson to walk. He's one-half of the Splash Brothers, second in franchise history in threes and top 10 in points and win shares. Oh, and there's the whole "integral part of three championship teams" thing.
Thursday on ESPN, Stephen A. Smith said the "deal's already done" when asked whether the Warriors shooting guard would return to Golden State.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski later confirmed the Warriors would offer the five-year, $190 million max.
Bucks Wise to View George Hill as Malcolm Brogdon Backup Plan
The Milwaukee Bucks are facing a complicated offseason.
Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic are free agents, and the Bucks can't retain everyone. Middleton is expected to sign a max contract, and Mirotic is likely to leave.
And this is where the entertainment really begins.
Brogdon, a restricted free agent, may command a salary north of $20 million annually. Milwaukee will have the chance to match any offer, but a hefty luxury-tax bill may deter the Bucks. If that happens, they'll need to shift priorities to George Hill.
Acquired in a midseason trade, Hill has an $18 million salary that is only guaranteed for $1 million. Though he'll be waived because of that price tag, per ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst, both Milwaukee and Hill are interested in a return.
Hill isn't as efficient as Brogdon but offers a steady presence in the backcourt. During the playoffs, the veteran averaged 11.5 points and 2.8 assists per game while shooting 41.7 percent from three.
The Bucks could use whatever money remains to try to retain Lopez, though the floor-stretching center will be a coveted free agent.
Al Horford Is Leaving and Taking Celtics' Title Hopes with Him
For all the focus on the point guards potentially joining or leaving the Boston Celtics, center Al Horford's exit could be the most significant development.
He's been the connective tissue of this team. He does all the things an elite glue guy should. He defends all over, sets strong screens, keeps the ball moving and hits open shots. Without him, the Celtics will struggle to keep their championship window open.
While a source close to Horford says no final decision has been made, per Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe, a league source insists "Horford's time in Boston is over."
If the Celtics have reservations about meeting the big man's asking price, that's understandable. He is believed to have a four-year offer worth roughly $112 million waiting for him in free agency, per Marc Stein of the New York Times.
His departure would create a massive void on the interior, and filling it would be tricky if the Celtics throw major money at a point guard. In addition to Kemba Walker, Himmelsbach reported Boston could have interest in D'Angelo Russell depending on how free agency shakes out.
If the C's don't budget for a high-level big man, their title dreams may be dashed.
Harrison Barnes Set to Re-Sign, but Kings Must Be Careful with Cap Space
Harrison Barnes declined a $25.1 million option for 2019-20, but indications were he could stay with the Sacramento Kings. Sure enough, he appears to be sticking around.
Barnes effectively traded a few million dollars next season for long-term security.
Even after the high-dollar deal, Sacramento still has about $40 million left to spend. While the Kings' future is interesting with Barnes alongside Marvin Bagley III, De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield, they're still not a top destination.
Because of that, avoiding an overpay is essential.
Perhaps fortunately for the Kings, it seems the front office won't be compelled to take a long-term risk on one restricted free agent. Willie Cauley-Stein is looking for a "fresh start," his agent said, according to Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee.
The Kings should be most interested in short-term veterans who are willing to play complementary roles around promising youth.
Contenders Chasing Danny Green, but Is His Decision Tied to Kawhi?
Every NBA roster needs a proven three-and-D weapon. And since Danny Green is among the best available options, it's no surprise he's connected to several potential 2019-20 contenders.
But his future could hinge on what longtime teammate Kawhi Leonard decides. The two have played alongside each other for eight seasons on the San Antonio Spurs and the Raptors, winning a championship for both franchises.
Ideally, the Raptors would keep that roster intact.
Green told Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype that Toronto's plan is to bring everyone back, but he acknowledged that's not so simple.
"If that doesn't happen, because it's not as easy as it sounds, I'll have to wait for some guys to make a decision."
After finishing out a four-year, $40 million deal, the 32-year-old is seeking as much money as possible for the longest term available. If Leonard doesn't return to Toronto, though, it seems Green will be interested in finding that contract elsewhere—and after the other big-name free agents make their decisions.
Brad Stevens Shoulders Blame for Celtics' Issues, Kyrie Irving Fallout
Rarely does a marquee free agent hit the market with almost zero chance of returning to his previous team. Such is the case for Kyrie Irving, whose basketball divorce from the Boston Celtics will become official in the near future.
Public perception of the All-Star guard is generally unfavorable, but his former team deserves some criticism, too.
Jackie MacMullan of ESPN.com detailed the numerous issues that pushed Irving out the door, ranging from his frustration with teammates not putting in extra work or sharing the ball enough, to grumbles of favoritism toward Gordon Hayward, to needing more production from a potential rising star in Jayson Tatum.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens stepped up to accept the criticism.
"I really don't think it's anyone's fault," he said. "If you blame anyone, it's me. I'm the guy who couldn't fit the pieces."
No matter the reason—whether a mismanaged roster, too many selfish moments from players or a basic lack of chemistry—the Celtics underperformed in 2018-19. Stevens' job is to overcome those issues and oversee a winning team.
But that didn't happen. And now, Kyrie is gone.
Kyrie Irving Still on the Lakers' Radar
It feels like the idea of Kyrie Irving joining the Brooklyn Nets has been solidifying for weeks. There have been occasional distractions, but the rumors always seem to steer Kyrie back to Brooklyn.
On Thursday, we got, at the very least, another distraction.
"Kyrie Irving remains as much a target for the Lakers as Kawhi Leonard, league sources say, now that the Lakers are sure they can open maximum cap space," the New York Times' Marc Stein tweeted. "They are swinging for the fences despite all of the signals that have pointed Irving to Brooklyn."
This is, of course, a report on the Lakers' thinking. There's no indication here that the interest is reciprocal. And despite some midseason mea culpas from Kyrie to LeBron James over their time together with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the idea of those two reuniting still feels like a long shot.
Kyrie seems to know he needs superstar help. But he's been down that road with LeBron before. And the Kevin Durant rumors aren't going away till we have concrete answers post-July 1.
"I'm pretty much hearing it's done," Stephen A. Smith said on ESPN Radio (h/t FanDuel). "Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are going to Brooklyn."
Scary Terry in New York?
"There are some in the [New York Knicks] organization who wouldn't regard [Terry] Rozier as too far a step down from Kyrie Irving because of his age—25," the New York Post's Marc Berman wrote. "Rozier, who went to Louisville, also knows Kentucky's Kevin Knox."
This probably isn't necessary, but let's put that thinking to the test. Here are Kyrie and Scary Terry's numbers over the last two seasons, adjusted for pace and playing time:
- Irving: 27.1 points, 6.8 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 threes and 1.5 steals per 75 possessions, with a 60.0 true shooting percentage and a 6.3 box plus/minus
- Rozier: 15.4 points, 4.4 assists, 6.5 rebounds, 2.6 threes and 1.4 steals per 75 possessions, with a 51.1 true shooting percentage and a 0.6 box plus/minus
Look, this really isn't a fair comparison. In terms of on-court production, Rozier isn't close to Kyrie's level.
But if New York whiffs on all the big-name free agents like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kemba Walker and Kyrie, it'll have to talk itself into a less glamorous outcome.
And with reports that Kemba could sign with Boston, Rozier might become that outcome.
"If Walker flees Charlotte for Boston, there are reports the Celtics could renounce the rights to backup point guard Terry Rozier, who has long been an apple of Knicks GM Scott Perry’s eye," Berman wrote.
Flee the North? Kawhi Leonard Will Meet with Lakers, Clippers
The Raptors have already reaped the rewards of their gamble on Kawhi Leonard with the organization's first-ever NBA title.
But they're now coming face-to-face with the risks.
Leonard, a Southern California native, intends to meet with both the Lakers and Clippers when free agency opens on Sunday, per Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes. Leonard plans to meet with "a handful of teams" including the Raptors, with whom he is "seriously considering re-signing."
Toronto can offer him a longer, richer contract than anyone—five years, $190 million in all. It also just shared the experience of capturing a championship with him and earned high marks for him for its health maintenance strategy.
Still, the threat of L.A. is significant, and it's coming from both clubs. The Lakers just opened a max-contract slot, and they felt they were in the running long before that. The Clippers could create space for two max deals, and they're mulling trying to fill them with Leonard and Jimmy Butler, a potential pairing believed to interest Leonard, per The Athletic's Sam Amick.
This could be at least a three-team race, which has to worry the Raptors. While they should be commended for staying in the discussion, there's still a significant chance Leonard leaves and the team radically transforms without him.
Lakers Create Max Space, Championship Stock Is Soaring
Los Angeles Lakers' exceptionalism is real, and it's spectacular.
Over the last 12 months, the Lakers have added two all-galaxy superstars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis. On Thursday, they opened a path to adding a possible third star, which would grant them pole position in the 2019-20 title race.
The Lakers found their necessary trade partner to expand the Anthony Davis deal and will send Moe Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones to the Washington Wizards, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe. Davis also waived his $4 million trade kicker, per Wojnarowski, which means L.A. now has $32 million to spend in free agency.
Could Kyrie Irving reunite with James? Is Kemba Walker coming? Does this get the Lakers in the running for Southern California native Kawhi Leonard? Maybe former Laker D'Angelo Russell is in line for a return?
Or how about Jimmy Butler? A Western Conference executive told Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher that Butler "has interest in being the third star with the Los Angeles Lakers, even if it means accepting slightly less than a maximum salary."
If the Lakers sign any of these notable names, they'll have next to nothing left to spend on their supporting cast. But when the foundation features James, Davis and insert-third-star-here, that's a championship-caliber nucleus regardless of how the rest of the roster looks.
James, meanwhile, is already trying to make sure Davis is as comfortable as possible in his new digs. Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes reported James is "gifting...his No. 23" to Davis. It's the only number Davis has worn during his NBA career. It's unclear which number James will don next season. He's worn No. 23 with the Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers, and he wore No. 6 with the Miami Heat.
Nerlens Noel Opts Out; Sixers, Celtics Should Take Note
Teams in need of another big man—here's looking at you, Celtics and Sixers—should pay attention: Nerlens Noel is headed for the open market.
It's no surprise to see the No. 6 pick from 2013 turn down his $1.9 million player option to enter free agency, as Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported Thursday. Noel once reportedly declined a $70 million offer from the Dallas Mavericks. Even if the market has humbled him since, he wasn't going to accept a minimum salary out of the gate.
Regardless of where he lands, he won't blow up his bank account. He settled for a minimum one-plus-one pact last July and then averaged a career-low 13.7 minutes for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Besides, the market for non-shooting bigs isn't exactly booming.
With that said, he can add length, athleticism and energy to any second-unit frontcourt. His per-36-minute career averages include 10.2 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 2.2 steals. Boston should give the Massachusetts native a look with Al Horford heading out, and Philadelphia should consider a reunion since it needs a reliable reserve behind Joel Embiid.
Patrick Beverley Seeking 3 Years, $40 Million-Plus
A major pay raise seems imminent for defense-first point guard Patrick Beverley.
After making just over $5 million this past season, the 30-year-old is reportedly seeking "a deal in the three-year, $40 million-plus range," per ESPN's Tim MacMahon.
If that seems steep for a point guard with career averages of 3.5 assists and 41.2 percent shooting, think again. The Mavericks, Lakers, Bulls and Clippers are all interested.
What Beverley lacks in shot-creation, he compensates for with suffocating on-ball defense, a trusty three-point shot (career 38.0 percent) and playoff experience. He's a two-time All-Defensive team selection and offers impressive versatility at that end despite standing only 6'1" (just ask Kevin Durant).
As Beverley's list of suitors shows, he can fit as either a plug-and-play support piece for a contender or a tone-setter for a younger team.
This seems like it could go any way. His low-maintenance style would seamlessly fit with LeBron James in L.A. or Luka Doncic in Dallas. He has two years of familiarity with the Clippers. He's also a Chicago native, and his hometown team could use a veteran place holder while it grooms No. 7 pick Coby White.
Without Immediate Max, Klay Thompson Could Test Market
For eight seasons now, the Warriors have seen firsthand the impact of Klay Thompson's lethal long-range shooting and defensive versatility.
They should know exactly what they think he's worth and whether his ACL tear in the NBA Finals changed that perception.
If they deem him worthy of the full five-year, $189.7 million max and offer it at the start of free agency, his market might close as soon as it opens. But if they hesitate at all, The Athletic's Sam Amick reported Thompson could look elsewhere, starting with the Clippers.
"[Warriors owner Joe] Lacob has shared his love for Thompson publicly at every turn, but a source with knowledge of Thompson's situation said his private handling of the matter has still left the door out of The Bay open every so slightly—at least for now," Amick wrote.
Maybe something unexpected is happening behind closed doors, but this should be straightforward.
Thompson has been a critical component of three championship runs and might be the perfect backcourt mate for Stephen Curry. Unless Golden State is suddenly pinching pennies, a max for Thompson feels like a no-brainer.
Kawhi, Jimmy Forming NBA's Next Dynamic Duo?
The situation could be a little more nuanced than this, but Kawhi Leonard's free agency seems like a two-team race between the Clippers and Raptors.
Toronto's pitch speaks for itself. The club spent the past year proving its strength to the superstar swingman, managing his workload, improving the roster and ultimately taking home the franchise's first world title.
L.A.'s strongest argument has tended to exist off the court. Leonard is a Southern California native, and he can't get his hometown comfort or climate elsewhere.
The Clippers could strengthen their on-court appeal by adding a second star to the mix—after a bit of money maneuvering—and might have a particular player in mind, as Amick reported:
"There are many scenarios seemingly in play, but sources say one in particular looks increasingly possible: [Jimmy] Butler teaming up with Leonard on the Clippers. There are strong indications that Leonard is interested in having Butler as a running mate, and it's the sort of powerful pairing that would certainly vault the Clippers into contention."
Leonard and Butler would immediately form one of the league's top defensive tandems. They have nine All-Defensive team selections between them. Each can also run offense at a consistently high level, as the pair has seven combined seasons with a scoring average of 20-plus points per game.
If Leonard needed basketball reasons to consider going home, a partnership with Butler could be as convincing as they come.
Warriors 'Wide Open' to Kevin Durant Sign-and-Trades
For the last three years, Golden State has rostered one of the planet's best players. In a week or two, that may no longer be the case.
Losing Kevin Durant would be a crushing blow to any franchise, even one that had a championship nucleus in place before his arrival. But if the Warriors are forced to confront that fate, they'd like to soften the sting a bit by getting something in return.
"The Warriors are wide open to considering sign-and-trade scenarios," ESPN's Brian Windhorst said on Thursday's Get Up.
To be clear, Durant has not signaled his intentions one way or the other. Wojnarowski's latest report had the superstar swingman mulling over several options, including a return to Golden State, which can make him a longer, richer offer than any other suitor.
But if Durant goes, the cash-strapped Warriors would love to collect anything they can. Windhorst raised the possibility of a $35 million trade exception, which would allow Golden State to add to its roster despite having no real cap space. However, Windhorst added no team would be incentivized to help the Warriors, so maybe this goes nowhere.
Still, add this to the growing list of possible outcomes to Durant's hugely anticipated free agency.
Celtics Leading Kemba Walker Sweepstakes
Are the Celtics about to go from one All-Star point guard to the next? The possibility has never seemed more likely.
Wojnarowski reported the Shamrocks "have emerged as the front-runner" for Walker, who has been an All-Star each of the last three seasons. This #WojBomb comes on the heels of an update from Charania that stated Walker and the Hornets "have sizable gaps and [a] stalemate in talks so far."
While Walker and his current club have publicly prioritized each other, that commitment has always seemed fair to scrutinize. They have only made two playoff trips over his eight-year tenure, and this overpaid, underperforming supporting cast will only become harder to build once the point guard gets paid like the star he has become.
To that end, Wojnarowski added Hornets owner Michael Jordan is "no longer determined to extend far enough financially to re-sign his franchise player." The Celtics, on the other hand, are expected to have a four-year, $141 million offer ready when the market opens Sunday.
Boston might be one of multiple suitors—New York and Dallas are among the others, per Charania—but its status as the favorite makes sense. The Celtics seemingly need a Kyrie Irving replacement, and plugging in the 29-year-old Walker could allow the club to maximize its competitiveness without him.
Could Boston still contend without Irving and, perhaps more importantly, Al Horford? That’s debatable. Could the Celtics give Walker an exponentially greater chance of winning than the Hornets? Without question.
Emmanuel Mudiay Headed to Unrestricted Free Agency; Knicks Return Possible
The likelihood of realizing that dream is unclear, but the Knicks must ensure they maintain the necessary wiggle room to pull it off. The need for maximum flexibility is apparently preventing Emmanuel Mudiay from getting a qualifying offer.
Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes reported the Knicks will not extend a qualifying offer to Mudiay for financial reasons. Haynes added there is "mutual interest" in the point guard's return.
The seventh overall pick in 2015, Mudiay's first full season in New York saw him set several career bests, including 14.8 points per game and 44.6 percent shooting. At 23 years old, he should still have ample room to grow.
It would not be a shock to see him stick in the Big Apple, but it could depend on the franchise's free-agency fortune. If the Knicks add Irving or Kemba Walker, that could spell the end of Mudiay's tenure. If not, he could rejoin Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina in the Knicks' lead-guard rotation.
Clippers Eyeing Tobias Harris Reunion?
The Clippers increased their spending power—and added to their asset collection—by trading then-leading scorer Tobias Harris to the 76ers at the trade deadline.
L.A. now has the ability to create two max-contract slots, and the added flexibility could lead the Clippers...back to Harris?
"One team that should express interest in Harris should they miss out on Kawhi Leonard: the Clippers," Charania reported. "Harris and the Clippers had a good relationship, and Harris had an All-Star-caliber season before the trade to the 76ers in February."
At the time of the transaction, Harris, 26, was averaging 20.9 points per game and flirting with a 50/40/90 slash (49.6/43.4/87.7). He might be a tick below the elites the Clippers are hoping to add, but he would be quite the consolation prize.
That said, Philly has prioritized keeping Harris, and at least seven other teams are expected to have interest. Odds are against a return.
Boogie in the Big Apple?
When the New York Knicks cleared the deck with the Kristaps Porzingis trade, fans had visions of Kevin Durant hooping in their heads.
Reality may not be quite as appealing.
"The Knicks are weighing the prospect of extending a considerable one-year offer to Warriors free-agent big man DeMarcus Cousins if they miss out on top target Kevin Durant," the New York Times' Marc Stein tweeted.
If New York ends up with DeMarcus Cousins and other lower-tier free agents, the Porzingis deal is going to be re-analyzed ad nauseam.
Cousins may yet have something left in the tank, but he's a far cry from Durant. And he's not just coming off a torn Achilles; there's also the torn quad to think about now.
Sure, he came back from both those injuries, but that's significantly more wear and tear than most soon-to-be 29-year-old NBA players have on their bodies. And at 6'11", 270 pounds, he's carrying more weight than most.
Stanley Johnson Heading for Unrestricted Free Agency
Theoretically, Stanley Johnson makes perfect sense for the modern NBA. At 6'7", 245 pounds, he has that multi-positional frame that lends itself to switching on defense. He has, on occasion, shown some decent playmaking chops with 10 career games of five or more assists.
But offensive consistency has generally eluded him. The league-average true shooting percentage over the course of Johnson's career is 55.2. And among the 163 players who took as many shots over that span, Johnson's true shooting percentage of 46.7 ranks 163rd.
Now, Johnson is about to enter unrestricted free agency with that "theory vs. production" conundrum.
"Sources: The Pelicans have declined to extend a qualifying offer to forward Stanley Johnson, making him an unrestricted free agent," Stadium and The Athletic's Shams Charania reported. "Johnson, 23, is a strong defender and will receive interest from several teams. Allows Pelicans to now have upwards of $28M in open space."
Johnson may be worth a flier for a team that thinks it might be able to teach him how to shoot. As Charania pointed out, there is some defensive talent here.
From the Pelicans' perspective, wanting the extra cap space makes sense. They can now chase max-level players with no more than six years of experience. That bunch can get up to 25 percent of the projected $109 million cap ($27.3 million) as a starting salary.
They could also position themselves as a landing spot for an unwanted big salary from another team. The incentive there is the chance for more asset accumulation. Taking on bad money is probably worthwhile if it comes with a future first-round pick.
Derrick Favors Doing His Due Diligence
Derrick Favors is under contract with the Utah Jazz during the 2019-20 season for $16.9 million. But if the team waives him before July 7, it wouldn't be on the hook for any of that money.
And with the Jazz reportedly interested in other power forwards, they may go that route. "Nikola [Mirotic] is a possibility for the jazz," The Athletic's Tony Jones tweeted in response to a follower's question.
If Utah hangs onto Favors for next season, it would only have minimums and the $4.7 million room exception to use in free agency. Mirotic will almost certainly cost more than that.
Favors and his camp presumably know all of this.
"Utah Jazz forward/center Derrick Favors will enter the free-agency period fielding calls from interested teams as if he will be an unrestricted free agent," Stadium and The Athletic's Shams Charania reported. "Favors...will have a robust market as a free agent with several teams pursuing big men."
Even if Utah ultimately decides to keep Favors, exploring the market now makes sense for the big man. In the event he is waived, more information certainly wouldn't be a bad thing.
D'Angelo Russell Heading Back to the Lakers?
Two years ago, the Los Angeles Lakers traded D'Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for Kyle Kuzma and Brook Lopez.
"D'Angelo is an excellent player," then-Lakers executive Magic Johnson said at the time of the deal, per ESPN.com's Baxter Holmes. "He has the talent to be an All-Star. We want to thank him for what he did for us. But what I needed was a leader. I needed somebody also that can make the other players better and also [somebody] that players want to play with."
Well, Magic was right about one thing. Russell did have the talent to be an All-Star. And he made the All-Star team with the Nets in 2019.
And now, as Brooklyn potentially stands on the verge of signing Kyrie Irving, Russell finds himself available again. And Magic's old team might be looking at a reunion.
"The Lakers have serious interest in Nets restricted free agent D'Angelo Russell, L.A.'s former No. 2 overall pick and former starting point guard, league sources said," Stadium and The Athletic's Shams Charania wrote. "The Lakers' interest in Russell is real, and has been described as something that the organization has had partly due to their familiarity with Russell."
There's still some murkiness about just how much cap space the Lakers will take to free agency, but if Russell is willing to play for less than the max, this could be an intriguing fit.
Alongside LeBron, Russell would almost certainly have to expect fewer possessions on the ball, but he did average 1.13 points per spot-up possession in 2018-19. The spot-ups accounted for less than 12 percent of the possessions Russell used, but his efficiency did put him in the 81st percentile.
If he's flanking pick-and-rolls between LeBron and Anthony Davis, defenses won't be able to load up quite as intensely on the primary action. And of course, Russell can run plenty of plays himself, especially when LeBron is off the floor.
Dallas Offering Kristaps Porzingis the Max?
The Dallas Mavericks appear ready to commit to a long-term pairing of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.
"Restricted free agent Kristaps Porzingis and the Mavericks will meet at the beginning of free agency on Sunday," Charania wrote, "and there is momentum for the sides to work toward a full five-year, $158 million maximum contract, league sources said."
Theoretically, this is a duo that makes loads of sense. Doncic showed the potential to be a dynamic pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop creator during his Rookie of the Year campaign. And the 7'3" Porzingis shot 39.5 percent from three in 2017-18, when he last played in an NBA game.
A max contract for the big man could come with a bit of concern, though. If you factor in his missing all of 2018-19, Porzingis has averaged fewer than 50 appearances per season in the NBA. And durability has to be at least a small factor when doling out a contract this big.
The other concern may be Porzingis' actual production living up to the promise he's shown or reputation he's earned. A 0.0 box plus/minus is supposed to be representative of an average NBA player. For his career, KP's box plus/minus season average is minus-0.1.
Still, if he lives up to that promise—a center with above-average size, guard skills on the perimeter and an ability to protect the rim—that contract would age fine.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Drawing Interest Around the League
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson looked well on his way to a long career as a rotation player after the 2017-18 season. He averaged 13.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 steals in just 28.2 minutes per game. And he was a sneaky decent option in the post, where his points per possession ranked in the 64th percentile.
Then, in 2018-19, just about everything fell off a cliff. His points and assists per minute fell, he was in the 20th percentile from the post and he posted a career-worst minus-3.0 box plus/minus. A minus-2.0 box plus/minus represents a replacement-level player.
As he enters free agency for the first time in his career, it appears at least some teams are more interested in his 2017-18 than they are in his 2018-19.
"Forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is expected to receive interest from several teams as an unrestricted free agent," Charania wrote, "including the Suns, Timberwolves and Rockets, league sources said."
Julius Randle to the Bulls?
Julius Randle is coming off his best season in the NBA. He posted career highs in points (21.4), rebounds (8.7) and box plus/minus (1.4).
It shouldn't have come as much of a surprise when he opted out of the $9.1 million he was owed in 2019-20. He should command a starting annual salary higher than that this summer.
And now, we're starting to get some indication of which team might pay it.
"The Bulls are expected to express early interest in free-agent forward Julius Randle, league sources said," Charania wrote. "Randle is expected to receive interest from several teams, including the Knicks and Nets, according to sources."
Chicago could have a relatively crowded frontcourt with Randle there. It already has Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. on the roster. Randle could be in for a situation similar to the one he had in New Orleans, where he came off the bench for around a third of his appearances.
Marc Gasol Is Sticking with the Raptors
On Wednesday, starting center Marc Gasol of the reigning champion Toronto Raptors made a decision that should make fans of The North happy.
"Gasol is exercising his $25.6M player option for next season," Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted. "... Gasol could've entered free agency."
During the regular season, Toronto's net rating was 19.4 points higher when Gasol was on the floor, which was in the 99th percentile of swings, according to Cleaning the Glass.
The playmaking (3.9 assists per game) and outside shooting (44.2 percent from three-point range) Gasol added made the Raptors offense more dynamic. And his instincts and IQ were critical on the other end.
Now, the next step for the Raptors is to secure the return of Kawhi Leonard. If those two are back, Toronto should have a great shot at a successful title defense.
How Much Is Phoenix Willing to Spend on Oubre?
Per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Kelly Oubre Jr. has received a qualifying offer from the Phoenix Suns and is a restricted free agent.
Oubre has a $9.6 million cap hold, according to Early Bird Rights, and should garner plenty of interest.
The Suns will have the first right of refusal on Oubre, who they acquired in a December trade with the Washington Wizards. He averaged 16.9 points on 45.3 percent shooting—both of which would be career-high marks for a season—in 40 games for Phoenix.
But considering their personnel, what's the Suns' spending limit?
Already this offseason, they've agreed to trade for Dario Saric and drafted Cameron Johnson. That duo will join returning forwards Josh Jackson and Mikal Bridges. Phoenix agreed to ship T.J. Warren to the Indiana Pacers, but there aren't a ton of minutes available.
If the Suns view Oubre as a legitimate need for playoff contention, they'll be justified in matching a reasonable offer sheet. But the recent additions suggest Phoenix is preparing for Plan B.
KD Opts Out; What Comes Next for Injured All-Star?
Kevin Durant will be an unrestricted free agent come June 30.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the 30-year-old has declined the $31.5 million player option on his contract with the Golden State Warriors. This was the expected course all along for Durant, who is recovering from a ruptured right Achilles.
Anthony Slater of The Athletic noted Durant "intends to demand" a supermax contract in free agency after two years of taking discounted deals. While the Warriors can offer five years and $221 million, the rest of the league is limited to $164 million over four years.
Woj added Durant is in New York on Wednesday with business manager Rich Kleiman and is evaluating options. Both the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks are expected to pursue Durant.
But his Achilles injury may complicate this decision.
Perhaps KD will make a complete recovery, yet history has generally been unkind to players with Achilles tears. The five-year contract Golden State can provide is suddenly a bit more appealing compared to the four-year terms from Brooklyn or New York.
Durant is weighing long-term financial gain against a desire to create his own legacy, away from the star-studded Warriors.
Wolves Wisely Extend Qualifying Offer to Tyus Jones, but What's His Value?
While acquiring a superstar is most critical, the Toronto Raptors showed the value of a deep bench in the NBA Finals. Tyus Jones will probably never be an All-NBA contender, but he's an important member of the Minnesota Timberwolves' second unit.
And they're hoping to keep him there.
Wojarnowski reported Minnesota has extended a qualifying offer to Jones, who is now a restricted free agent. If he signs an offer sheet elsewhere, the Wolves have the opportunity to match it.
Considering his efficiency last season, Jones is an attractive role player. He averaged 6.9 points and 4.8 assists while committing just 0.7 turnovers per game. Jones also ranked in the 19th among point guards in ESPN's real plus-minus.
What prevents Jones from earning more praise is a 31.7 three-point percentage last season and a career 33.3 percent mark. That's a clear negative in today's space-driven league.
Minnesota understands his value and should attempt to keep him, but his offers could vary substantially.
Can LA Teams Make a Better Pitch to Kawhi Leonard Than the Raptors?
Given the Achilles injury to Kevin Durant, no 2019 free agent is more impactful than Kawhi Leonard. After propelling the Toronto Raptors to their first championship, the two-time NBA Finals MVP is deciding whether to re-sign or head elsewhere.
And by elsewhere, we basically mean Los Angeles.
Frank Isola of The Athletic noted a meeting between Kawhi and the Clippers is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday. Marc Stein of the New York Times said the Lakers "have believed for weeks" they'll factor into Leonard's final decision.
Toronto's appeal is obvious, while the Clippers have a roster seemingly ready to contend with a final superstar piece. Soon, the Lakers will officially have Anthony Davis alongside LeBron James.
All three destinations are logical, but any projection about Kawhi's landing spot is a pure guess. He doesn't, and won't, say much.
Boston, Dallas Aiming to Steal Kemba Walker, but Celtics' Fit Shaky
While the Charlotte Hornets work to keep All-Star guard Kemba Walker, the identities of his free-agent suitors are becoming clear.
Stein reports the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks are "at the front of the line" to chase Walker.
The three-time All-Star is eligible for a supermax extension, though he's previously said he would accept less to help Charlotte build a title contender. The Hornets might not actually offer that max deal, but he'll be an expensive signing regardless.
Because the Celtics are bracing to lose Kyrie Irving, pursuing Walker is sensible. The question B/R's Sean Highkin explored is whether it's a good decision: "He has a sterling reputation as a teammate and locker-room presence, has gotten better every year of his career and is a relentless competitor. He'll also turn 33 before the end of his next long-term contract, which isn't in line with the age curve of the rest of the Celtics' mainstays."
Dallas owns plenty of cap space and is likely looking at a future with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis (restricted free agent), although Walker is also not on the same timeline as Dallas. Still, adding him would provide the Mavs a legitimate Big Three.
But they'll need to convince Walker to leave Charlotte first.