NBA Free Agency 2019: Rumors, Predictions for Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, More

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJune 28, 2019

Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) drives against Detroit Pistons guard Langston Galloway (9) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, April 7, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Duane Burleson/Associated Press

While NBA stars like Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard remain premier targets in free agency, Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker has emerged as one of the hottest names ahead of the market's opening on June 30.

It's not difficult to see the appeal in Walker. He's one of the top players at his position available this year, he's coming off a season in which he averaged 25.6 points and 5.9 assists per game, and he's still on the underside of 30.

With free agency only a couple of days away, the Boston Celtics have emerged as the favorites to land Walker, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski:

Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

The Boston Celtics have emerged as the frontrunner to sign Charlotte All-Star guard Kemba Walker once free agency opens Sunday at 6 PM ET, league sources tell ESPN.

This essentially means two things. Other teams who are interested in Walker will need to step up their offers/pitches before the end of the weekend, and the Celtics now appear highly unlikely to retain point guard Kyrie Irving.

Even if Boston is unable to land Walker, it may not want Irving back at all.

"Irving, [a] source said, has yet to give the team the official word that he will not be returning, but added that, at this point, it is unclear whether the Celtics would want him back regardless," Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe wrote.

Given how poorly Irving seemed to fit in with the Celtics current roster, this isn't much of a surprise. However, the open pursuit of Walker does hurt Irving's leverage just a bit ahead of free agency.

While Irving is almost certainly out of Boston, the addition of Walker could also make point guard Terry Rozier expendable. If this happens, the New York Knicks could be the team to benefit—as the New York Post's Marc Berman recently pointed out:

"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. In that scenario, Rozier would be an unrestricted free agent and the Knicks would have serious interest.

"... There are some in the organization who wouldn't regard Rozier as too far a step down from Kyrie Irving because of his age—25."

While one can argue that Irving is a much more talented player than either Walker or Rozier, there's a lot to be said for team fit, and that's going to play into this year's free-agent market.

Prediction: Walker signs with the Celtics, Rozier signs with the Knicks.


Klay Thompson and Co.

Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

While teams in the Eastern Conference are busy sorting through the point guard market, the Golden State Warriors are busy trying to figure out the future of Klay Thompson and Durant. Both are scheduled to become free agents and both have significant injuries.

In Thompson's case, it appears that a reunion is likely. According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, Thompson will be quick to sign a new deal as long as he's offered a max contract.

"The Warriors and free-agent All-Star Klay Thompson will meet in L.A. this week at the outset of free agency, league sources said," Charania wrote. "Should the Warriors enter the meeting with the five-year, $190 million maximum contract, both sides expect a quick agreement, according to sources."

If Golden State doesn't offer a max deal, however, Thompson could consider joining either the Los Angeles Lakers or the Los Angeles Clippers, according to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

Brad Turner @BA_Turner

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 LA teams, the Lakers and Clippers. Lakers back in the runnings because they now have max slot of $32 million after today’s trade.

For now, the proverbial ball is in Golden State's court.

Durant's future is a bit more uncertain, as he may not be inclined to return to the Warriors regardless of their offer. What we know for sure is that he won't remain on his player option next season.

Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant has declined his $31.5M player option and will become an unrestricted free agent, league sources tell ESPN. Durant and his business manager Rich Kleiman are in New York, evaluating free agency options. So far, process has stayed private.

The Knicks have long been linked to Durant as a possible free-agency destination. If they cannot get him, however, they may turn their attention to Warriors teammate DeMarcus Cousins, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times:

Marc Stein @TheSteinLine

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, league sources say

It looks like a strong possibility that the Knicks will land at least one former Warriors this offseason, though it may not necessarily be the one fans are hoping they get. Golden State, meanwhile, runs the risk of losing three quality players in one offseason.

Prediction: Thompson re-signs with Golden State, Durant and Cousins do not.