With the NBA offseason approaching, we are hearing about all of the usual suspects as far as teams that will be most involved in the free-agent market.
The New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers will all have substantial cap space this summer, so, naturally, they are all hot topics of discussion and are considered the most probable landing spots for all of the big-name free agents.
But it’s not all about New York and Los Angeles, as there are a handful of other teams with cap space that could potentially make a big splash this offseason.
While guys like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving will probably stay with their respective teams or head to one of the larger markets, there are plenty of other really good free agents that could take a look at some of the less glamorous clubs in the NBA.
Here is a list of three teams who could be big-time sleepers in the upcoming free-agent market:
3. Utah Jazz
If the Jazz let both Derrick Favors and Ricky Rubio walk this summer, they will have around $40 million in cap space, which certainly gives them enough to sign a max free agent.
Utah is a team that is in desperate need of another star. It has a nice tandem of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, but the last two postseasons have proven that the Jazz need a heck of a lot more to seriously contend.
One name that I keep thinking of who would be a great fit in Utah is Kemba Walker, who would provide a whole lot of help to Mitchell as another big-time scorer and would open up the offense in general.
Now, whether Walker would want to sign with the Jazz is another story, because Salt Lake City is not exactly a primetime free-agent landing spot, but looking at it from a stylistic perspective, Walker would really be a terrific fit.
And if the Jazz can’t land Walker? Then what about someone like Bojan Bogdanovic, who would not cost nearly as much but would still be an outstanding addition as a guy who can create his own shot, something Utah sorely needs? Or how about a reunion with Paul Millsap? Or maybe pursuing Tobias Harris?
The thought here is that the Jazz will get somebody in the free-agent market. It might not be Walker, but there are some other names out there who may very well consider Utah as a team with some promise.
2. Sacramento Kings
In another two years, the Kings are going to be a real problem in the Western Conference, and it would not be the least bit surprising to see them make the NBA Playoffs next season.
With a young core of De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley, Buddy Hield, Harry Giles and Bogdan Bogdanovic (the other Bogdanovic), Sacramento is set up very well for the future, and it will also have up to around $60 million to spend if Harrison Barnes walks.
Heck, even if Barnes exercises his $25 million option for next season, the Kings will still have about $36 million in spending money, which goes to show just how much talent they can add this summer.
What Sacramento can really use is some rim protection, especially if the Kings opt not to re-sign big man Willie Cauley-Stein, a seven-footer who really wasn’t much of a rim protector as it is.
But really, the Kings need depth in general, and while they have a lot of young talent they are trying to develop, they really aren’t as far away from contending as you may think.
Don’t be the least bit surprised if some big-name free agents seriously consider Sacramento as a potential destination. For example, imagine putting Durant with that group of young talent?
Not saying Durant will go there, because he won’t, but the Kings have a chance of being really, really good in a couple of years, and I can guarantee you that the rest of the league is taking notice.
1. Indiana Pacers
That brings us to arguably the most underrated team in the league: the Pacers.
Had Victor Oladipo not gone down with a season-ending quad tear back in January, who knows? Maybe the Pacers would have gotten a top 2 or 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and would be taking on the Milwaukee Bucks in the conference finals right now.
This is a really good basketball team that has a lot of depth and a lot of defensive versatility, and even without Oladipo, Indiana was still a really tough opponent because of its grit and length.
What’s even scarier for the rest of the East is that the Pacers will have close to $50 million in cap room this summer, and the front office seems pretty confident that it will snatch up an impact free agent.
I mentioned Kemba with Utah before, but I am going to mention him here again.
Imagine a backcourt duo of Oladipo and Walker and then a tandem of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis up front? Now, I will say that Thaddeus Young is also a free agent, and the Pacers might have to work pretty hard to bring him back, but if they do, they would have a really impressive group that could challenge for Eastern Conference supremacy.
I’m telling you right now: the Pacers are coming.