Updated Predictions and Landing Spots from Latest NBA Free-Agency News

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterAugust 3, 2021

Updated Predictions and Landing Spots from Latest NBA Free-Agency News

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    NBA free agency is finally upon us, with signings and rumors already running wild.

    Potential destinations for players are seemingly changing by the hour as teams navigate through cap space, sign-and-trade possibilities and remaining mid-level and biannual exceptions.

    Based on the latest reporting, here are some updated free-agent landing spots and potential contracts for some of the NBA's best remaining players.

Isaiah Thomas Returns to Boston

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    Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    Although it's been just over four years since Isaiah Thomas last wore a Celtics uniform, the now 32-year-old point guard has spent time with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets, Washington Wizards and New Orleans Pelicans since leaving Boston.

    None of these stops lasted more than 40 games, however, and Thomas may be looking for a new home in the last real place he found one.

    As Marc Stein reported, "Boston, I'm told, has interest in an Isaiah Thomas reunion, with new Celtics President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens known to be one of Thomas' biggest fans."

    Stevens was Thomas' coach during his two-and-a-half years with the Celtics, the best stretch of his career during which he made two All-Star teams and was named to the 2016-17 All-NBA team.

    Injuries have since decimated his career, although a return to the Celtics as a scoring guard off the bench seems like a useful role for Thomas.

    With Danny Ainge now gone, there shouldn't be any bad blood between Thomas and the franchise, if there ever was to begin with.

    Boston can probably live with Thomas' awful defense by pairing him with Marcus Smart for stretches, and the 5'9" guard will hopefully offset those points surrendered on the other end after averaging 11.9 points on 40.3 percent shooting from three over the past two years.

    Prediction: Thomas signs with Boston for the veteran's minimum.

Lauri Markkanen Signs with Spurs

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Although Lauri Markkanen fell out of the starting lineup with the Chicago Bulls following the trade for Nikola Vucevic, shooting is something every team should be interested in in free agency.

    Despite the Bulls' ability to match any offer he receives in free agency, Markkanen shouldn't be viewed as a lock to stay in Chicago, either.

    As Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer wrote, "Lauri Markkanen is said to be on the Spurs' radar while also generating interest from the Pistons and Timberwolves."

    Detroit may not even be able to offer Markkanen a starting job with Jerami Grant and Saddiq Bey already at the forward positions and Isaiah Stewart looking like the franchise center. Minnesota would represent a homecoming of sorts following a draft-night trade from the Wolves for Jimmy Butler in 2017, and it has a need at power forward next to Karl-Anthony Towns.

    Still, no team represents a better fit than the Spurs, who could be losing a lot of frontcourt talent (DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay) in free agency.

    Markkanen would be the perfect starter at power forward after averaging 17.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and shooting 37.9 percent from three in 26 starts with the Bulls this past season. San Antonio has a rim protector in Jakob Poeltl at center and plenty of good guards to play off of as well.

    Look for Markkanen to sign an offer sheet with San Antonio, one that the Bulls likely won't match.

    Prediction: Markkanen signs three-year, $45 million offer sheet with Spurs.

Patty Mills Goes Title Chasing with Lakers

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    The Lakers have successfully snagged some veterans in free agency thus far but still need to fill a number of roster spots with minimal cash to spend.

    After getting Trevor Ariza, Dwight Howard, Wayne Ellington and Kent Bazemore, L.A. could still use a ball-handler off the bench after Alex Caruso left to sign a four-year deal with the Chicago Bulls.

    If he's willing to take a discount, Marc Stein lists Spurs guard Patty Mills as an option:

    "In addition to what many regard as the inevitable return of Dwight Howard for a third go-round in Hollywood, San Antonio's Patty Mills and Detroit's Wayne Ellington are two prime free agents of interest for the Los Angeles Lakers as L.A. hunts for bargains (and shooters) to fill out the rest of its roster after trading for Russell Westbrook."

    Mills, 32, averaged 10.8 points and 2.4 assists and hit 37.5 percent of his threes for San Antonio this past season. He won a ring with the franchise in 2014 and has spent 10 of his 12 career seasons with the Spurs.

    With the backup point guard job his for the taking and LeBron James likely serving as a powerful recruiter, look for Mills to take less than his market value to try to win a ring with the Lakers.

    Prediction: Mills signs with Lakers for the veteran's minimum.

DeMar DeRozan to Dallas in Sign-and-Trade

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    DeMar DeRozan is perhaps the highest profile free agent who isn't restricted and not widely expected to return to his team.

    The four-time All-Star averaged 21.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists and shot 49.5 percent from the field for the San Antonio Spurs last season, though reports have him considering a number of other teams in free agency.

    As Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer wrote:

    "DeRozan now appears headed for his own significant payday. It's believed both the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers saw DeRozan as amenable to coming home and chasing a championship in his native city at the taxpayer mid-level exception that would net roughly $5.9 million. That no longer seems to be the case.

    "Lowry's former running mate was said to have strong interest from New York, Detroit and Dallas, sources told B/R, although there is still a belief that Tim Hardaway Jr. could re-sign with the Mavericks on a four-year deal."

    The Knicks' cap space quickly dried up with deals to Evan Fournier, Derrick Rose, Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks, and Detroit used what cap space it had to sign Kelly Olynyk to a three-year deal.

    Even Dallas brought back Tim Hardaway Jr. on a four-year, $72 million deal and signed Reggie Bullock to a three-year, $30.5 million contract. If DeRozan wants to get paid, his options are limited.

    One possibility? A sign-and-trade to Dallas, which should still be looking to add talent around Luka Doncic, even if DeRozan isn't a perfect fit as a ball-dominant, non-three-point shooting threat.

    The Mavs have some contracts they can send out who would match a new DeRozan deal (Powell, Maxi Kleber, Willie Cauley-Stein) and can use a young player or two as a sweetener to get the Spurs to bite (Josh Green, Tyrell Terry).

    DeRozan gets paid and finds his way to a team in which he reportedly has interest.

    Prediction: DeRozan signs three-year, $65 million deal in sign-and-trade with Mavericks.

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