It’s possible that there won’t be much of a free agent market in the NBA this year. Very few significant players will be available as free agents, and even fewer teams will be interested in signing them (at the moment).
Currently, only the Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers, and Orlando Magic have considerable cap space.
Does this imply that nothing will occur once free agency begins on Thursday at 6 p.m. EST? Certainly not; we should have our pick of intriguing narratives this summer, from free agent signings and blockbuster moves to more subtle changes inside franchises.
1: Is it True that the Drama in Brooklyn is Over?
It’s possible that the summer’s biggest story has already been put to rest. The Brooklyn Nets appeared to be on the verge of dissolving a few days ago when rumours circulated that Kyrie Irving would decline his $36.9 million player’s option and instead sign with the Los Angeles Lakers for the $6 million midlevel exception.
After doing the math and seeing that it was much less than $36.9 million, Irving decided to stay in Brooklyn for one more year of his contract. The news came as a relief to the Nets, who had been concerned that Kevin Durant might demand a trade if Irving left.
Despite Irving’s opt-in, the Nets could still explore sign-and-trade options with other clubs (including the Lakers). It’s also likely that Irving’s inconsistent play has made Durant question whether or not he should stick with the Nets.
Or, well, there’s also the issue of whether or not Ben Simmons can play basketball at all. The Nets have successfully overcome the first obstacle, but there will undoubtedly be more.
2: Are there Ways the Lakers can Strengthen their Team?
Even though LeBron James and Kyrie Irving had a public falling out while they were teammates with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Irving has drawn more controversy since then, the Lakers might have justified spending $6 million on Irving as a calculated risk.
They would have preferred to sign point guard John Wall when the Houston Rockets bought him out, but he appears to be headed to the Los Angeles Clippers instead.
Russell Westbrook’s decision to opt into his deal is good news for the Lakers. Well, Russell Westbrook is opting into his deal, and that’s bad news for the Lakers since he’s going to cost them $47 million. Westbrook’s best form would be a huge asset for this squad, but we haven’t seen that in a while from the 33-year-old.
The Lakers’ disappointing 2017–18 campaign suggests that significant adjustments are in order for the upcoming campaign.
However, they are now well into the luxury tax and may need to get creative if they want to accomplish anything this summer. When it comes to Westbrook, do they have any options for getting rid of him? It probably wouldn’t hurt to look into that, at least.
3: In New York is Jalen Brunson the solution?
The Knicks, on draught day, took the unusual choice to not participate in the first round, instead giving away their draught picks to free up salary cap space.
Then, in order to free up even more salary cap room, they dealt Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks to the Miami Heat for two second-round draught picks and cash.
As they get ready to offer Dallas Mavericks point guard Jalen Brunson a max contract, the reasoning isn’t exactly a mystery. If they do, Dallas is not expected to match the offer because the player has not yet been selected for an All-Star squad.
A franchise that has been burned before by giving out enormous salaries to players who aren’t superstars is taking a huge risk by doing this.
There is a good risk that this will turn out to be a classic move that doesn’t help the Knicks much, makes the Mavericks significantly worse, and leaves Brunson in a bad place with an untradeable contract.
Put another way, it’s a terrible bargain for everyone involved. That’s what we term “Knickery” in the trade.
4: Who do You think will be the Best Free Agent this Summer?
On the other hand, perhaps the Knicks are simply cognizant of the scarcity of available free agents this summer. Who the best free agent will be is still up in the air.
James Harden is presumably the one who will opt out of the $47.4 million he is owed by the Philadelphia 76ers. Given how last season concluded in Philadelphia, that seems highly unlikely, to put it nicely.
Meanwhile, Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards has the option to forego next season’s salary in favour of becoming a free agency.
But if he takes that route, Washington may simply outbid everyone else by offering him the largest possible contract. For him, staying a Wizard might be the obvious choice.
Also, Zach LaVine will be a free agent like Jimmy Butler, although he is expected to remain with the Chicago Bulls and serve as their star player (not a bad legacy move, given who else has owned that title). Brunson and Wall’s potential next stops after LaVine have previously been covered.
Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns, to whom the team has extended a $16.4 million qualifying offer, is arguably the most fascinating player in the draught.
The former first overall pick is currently a restricted free agent and has the option to either accept the offer and become an unrestricted free agent the following year, or decline it and attempt to negotiate a more lucrative deal elsewhere.
If he opts for the second scenario, the Suns will have the right to match any offer sheet presented to them for him. They probably would prefer do that than let him leave, but if things get too dicey in Phoenix, they could always try to negotiate a sign-and-trade (and it could be).
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5: Different Circumstances for the Golden State Warriors versus the Boston Celtics.
Who are our two NBA Finals opponents? One of them might need a complete cast overhaul soon, while the other might be fine as-is (until they change their minds, of course).
Key members of the NBA Finals champion Golden State Warriors, such as upcoming free agents Kevon Looney, Gary Payton II, and Otto Porter Jr., may leave the team.
All three players were crucial in the team’s victory over the Boston Celtics and throughout the playoffs, increasing their worth significantly.
The Warriors face a number of difficult choices regarding how to allocate their resources due to the upcoming extension seasons for both Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins.
However, the Celtics won’t have to make any significant changes because Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Robert Williams are all under contract and Al Horford is certain to return.
All signs point to them focusing on improving their depth at the bench rather than making any major acquisitions this offseason, but it wouldn’t be the first time they surprised the NBA in the summer.