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NBA Free Agents 2019: Kyrie Irving, D'Angelo Russell, More Rumors, Predictions

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJune 26, 2019

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 07:  D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Brooklyn Nets looks to pass the ball while guarded by Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics during the first quarter of a game at TD Garden on January 7, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Since Kyrie Irving was eliminated from the postseason as a member of the Boston Celtics, one team has been strongly linked with the point guard as a free-agent destination.

Barring any kind of snafu in the coming days, Irving is reportedly in line to ink a deal with the Brooklyn Nets, which will have a domino effect on the free-agent market. 

Irving's arrival in Brooklyn could mark the end of the D'Angelo Russell era with the Nets, which would lead to interest from a handful of teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers, in the 23-year-old. 

A reunion between Russell and the Lakers would be one of the most unexpected stories of the offseason, but it could be possible if the interest is there and Los Angeles views him as a fit next to Anthony Davis and LeBron James. 

                       

NBA Free Agency Rumors and Predictions

Kyrie Irving 

ESPN.com's Zach Lowe became the latest reporter to link Irving and the Nets, saying the Nets still appear to be the preferred choice of the 27-year-old.

According to Brian Lewis of the New York Post, Irving is leaning toward signing a four-year, $141 million deal with the Nets once free agency begins. 

Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

The potential signing of Irving would mark the next step in the franchise's progression from bottom feeder to championship contender. 

Inking Irving to a long-term deal might not make the Nets the favorite to win the Eastern Conference right away, but it would likely put them closer to the top of the hierarchy. 

By securing Irving, the Nets are expected to mount a challenge to the likes of Toronto, Milwaukee, Boston and Philadelphia, but the Eastern Conference hierarchy could change depending on the moves made in free agency. 

Irving is coming off his third straight season of averaging over 23 points per game, and the last three seasons have been the most successful of his career in the scoring column. 

At 23.8 points per game, Irving totaled a scoring average more than two points better than Russell, who was the top scorer on the Nets roster last season. 

Even if the Nets do not land a second top-tier free agent, Irving would have a solid core around him, with Joe Harris, Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen among the top returners in Brooklyn.

With Irving leading the charge at the point, the minimum expectation for the Nets would be to finish above their sixth-place mark from the 2018-19 campaign.

Prediction: Irving signs with Nets. 

                    

D'Angelo Russell 

The chase for Russell's signature in free agency will become much more intriguing once Irving officially puts pen to paper with the Nets. 

Russell is a restricted free agent, but it would make little sense for the Nets to keep him and Irving on the roster, which will likely lead to Brooklyn renouncing the rights of the 23-year-old. 

Chris Szagola/Associated Press

With Irving likely pushing Russell out of Brooklyn, a few teams have been linked with Russell, with the Lakers being the most prominent name at the moment. 

According to Lowe, there is at least a kernel of truth in a reunion between Russell and the Lakers, who traded away the point guard in 2017 in a deal that brought the Lakers the first-round pick that was used on Kyle Kuzma.

If the Lakers are able to bring in Russell, who was set to make over $9 million with the Nets in the 2019-20 season, per Spotrac, they would have an impressive core of Russell, Davis, James and Kuzma to build around. 

Although that is an appetizing lineup to throw out on the court, the Lakers have to sort out their offseason plans before committing money to Russell. 

If the Lakers are able to form a foursome with the signing of Russell, they still have plenty of roster spots to fill out and have to do so while fitting inside the salary cap. 

The Minnesota Timberwolves and New York Knicks were also mentioned in Lowe's report as teams with potential interest, but there are issues with both scenarios. 

According to Lowe, the Knicks would pursue short-term deals if they strike out on bigger fish in the free-agent market and Minnesota's pathway to signing Russell is murky.

Prediction: Russell lands with the Lakers. 

                    

Bobby Portis

According to The Athletic's Tony Jones and Fred Katz, Bobby Portis is seeking as much as $16 million in free agency.

The report also stated that multiple teams are interested in the 24-year-old and Washington is not expected to match a huge offer sheet for the restricted free agent. 

From Washington's perspective, it makes sense to let Portis walk if his demands are excessive because it can't afford to commit that much to a player while in its current state of flux. 

Nick Wass/Associated Press

At the moment, Portis is set to earn a base salary of just over $3.6 million for the 2019-20 season, and he would be a cap hit of close to $7.5 million on his current deal, per Spotrac.

It is understandable why Washington would not want to spend a lot of money on Portis, who has only started 32 games in the last two years. 

On the other hand, Portis could make a case that he is worth the money he expects because he has increased his points per game production to over 13 points in each of the last two seasons. 

According to NBC Sports Washington's Chase Hughes, Portis is expected to receive interest from Utah, Milwaukee, Orlando, New York and both Los Angeles teams. 

Of those teams, Utah and Milwaukee might be the most stable. Both Los Angeles teams and New York would likely view Portis as a secondary option with bigger fish in the free-agent market to go after, and Orlando does not have the potential to contend like the other franchises. 

On Saturday, Jones reported Portis has "significant interest" in playing for the Jazz, and he would be a nice fit as a shooter who can line up in the frontcourt. 

Adding the 24-year-old Portis to a roster that has already been improved by the Mike Conley trade could make Utah a significant contender in the Western Conference.

Prediction: Washington does not match offer sheet for Portis and he signs with Utah.

                           

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

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