NBA Free Agents 2019: Latest Rumors and Predictions for Top Scorers

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 28, 2019

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard speaks at a news conference alongside the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player trophy after the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, June 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

Nothing better defines the word frenzy than the final days leading up to the opening of NBA free agency.

That's as true in 2019 as it ever has been before.

More than a few shoppers have access to at least one max-contract opening, and there is no shortage of stars to fill those slots.

Predictably, those elites are generating the biggest buzz, and we'll break down the latest—with predictions included—below.


L.A. Teams Secure Meeting With Kawhi

Well, Toronto Raptors fans, you knew this day was coming.

Southern California native Kawhi Leonard is expected to entertain recruiting pitches from his hometown teams.

"Leonard intends to grant the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers meetings when free agency opens on June 30," Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes reported.

A meeting, of course, guarantees nothing. The 27-year-old plans to meet with "a handful of teams" before making his decision. The Raptors are expected to get the final sit-down next week, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Toronto has no reason to panic yet, but there will surely be uncomfortable moments ahead.

The Lakers now have the salary space to slot Leonard alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis (we'll get to that more in a minute). 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 the Raptors star, per The Athletic's Sam Amick.

This feels unpredictable, which is both a credit to Toronto (he is "seriously considering" staying, per Haynes) and likely sending a wave of restlessness across the city.

Prediction: Kawhi Leonard signs with Clippers.


Lakers Open Max Slot, Identify Potential Targets

TORONTO, CANADA - MARCH 14: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers handles the ball against Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors on March 14, 2019 at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and a
Mark Blinch/Getty Images

If you were worried (or happy) the Davis blockbuster might have sapped the Lakers' buying power, think again.

They unloaded the contracts of Mo Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones to the Washington Wizards on Thursday, per Wojnarowski, Zach Lowe and Bobby Marks. They also got help from Davis, who waived his $4 million trade kicker and boosted their cap space to $32 million—enough for a max player or perhaps several complementary pieces.

Their initial focus is on the former. They are "expected to pursue" both Leonard and D'Angelo Russell, an All-Star point guard L.A. drafted second overall in 2015 and traded to the Brooklyn Nets in a cost-cutting, June 2017 swap.

And a Western Conference executive told Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher that Jimmy Butler "has interest in being the third star" for the Purple and Gold.

Should L.A. opt to spread the money across several support players, it (finally) plans to prioritize shooting. The ESPN scribes say that search could put Danny Green, Terrence Ross and Seth Curry on the radar.

Either way, it seems the Lakers' acquisition of Davis was only the beginning of a transformative offseason.

Prediction: D'Angelo Russell returns to the Lakers.


'Overwhelming Expectation' KD Goes to NY

The Golden State Warriors can give Kevin Durant 221 million reasons to stay in The Bay, but that might not be enough.

"The overwhelming expectation from multiple sources with knowledge of Durant's thinking is that he is headed for one of the two teams based in New York—the Brooklyn Nets or New York Knicks," Bucher reported.

At the same time, a source close to Durant emphasized to Bucher "that he has not made a final decision."

The Warriors can sign him to a five-year, $221 million deal. Assuming Klay Thompson sticks around, they could also put the most high-end talent around Durant once he (ruptured Achilles) and Thompson (torn ACL) are healthy again.

But Durant could secure the same bag by leaving via sign-and-trade, which several executives told Bucher the Warriors would be open to. They have zero financial flexibility with or without him, but they could net a massive trade exception in such an exchange.

Durant may not have made up his mind yet, but there has been too much smoke connecting him to the Big Apple to think there isn't some fire at its source.

Prediction: Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving sign with the Brooklyn Nets.