With the first three games now behind us and game 4 set to tip off on Friday night, the NBA Finals are nearing an end. Thankfully, there is never a down moment in this beautiful league and the crowning of the 2019 NBA Champions will signal the start to the increasingly hectic 2019 NBA offseason.
Names like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, and Jimmy Butler headline a monster list of very-soon-to-be free agents. Franchises like the New York Knicks have a chance this summer to make the jump from long-term lottery residents to potential title favorites, while teams like the Los Angeles Lakers could conclude the offseason with their struggles (and another year of LeBron James) failing to provide with anything to show for them.
For the 28 teams not playing in the NBA Finals, the offseason has already begun, and free agent plans have likely been a common topic in the each of these franchise’s war rooms. The clock is already ticking, considering the league’s recent change of bumping up the start of free agency to 6 p.m. EST on June 30, rather than at midnight July 1st. As the NBA prepares for a wild second half of the summer, here is the top free agency goal for each NBA team.
Boston Celtics – Keep either Kyrie Irving or Terry Rozier
It appears that the Boston Celtics’ chances of penning Kyrie Irving to a deal this summer is the same as their chances to win the 2019 title at this point. What is crucial, though, is that if Irving walks, they re-sign restricted free agent Terry Rozier. The latter has vocalized frustrations stemming from the former’s presence on the team, but if Irving is long gone, everything should be good in Boston for Terry moving forward.
Brooklyn Nets – Sign a star free agent
Brooklyn spent all of the 2018-19 season crafting a serious case of why the top tier free agents should take the Nets seriously as a destination this summer. After trading Allen Crabbe to the Atlanta Hawks, they now have enough cap space for two max contracts. This means they can bring back just about the same team as last season, while throwing a Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving into the mix.
New York Knicks – Kevin Durant
The goal for the Knicks has been apparent since the beginning of the season, and they haven’t necessarily been quiet about it. There are multiple avenues the team can take in terms of adding elite talent in NYC but locking up Kevin Durant for the 2019-20 season is priority number one.
Philadelphia 76ers – Retain Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris
Elton Brand knew there was an inherent gamble when he made the moves he made this season. There is a strong chance that the team could enter next season having lost both players The Sixers gave up serious assets for. There is also a possibility that they bring both back on max deals, only for the contracts to become an overpay. Either way, their ideal summer involves bringing back both players.
Toronto Raptors – Keep Kawhi Leonard north of the border
For the Toronto Raptors, keeping Kawhi is everything. Taking a chance on an upcoming free agent like Kawhi was a must and it has paid off thus far. If he ends up leaving after all is said and done, it would be quite a setback for the franchise.
Chicago Bulls – Stay away from bad contracts
The Bulls will have some serious money to play with this summer (just shy of roughly $27 million). With contracts like Otto Porter Jr. and Zach LaVine, who could be argued are quite the opposite of value deals, it is important they maintain flexibility moving forward, even if it means taking this rebuild slower than they would like to.
Cleveland Cavaliers – Find young value contracts
This will be the first summer since losing LeBron James and second since losing Kyrie Irving. The Cavaliers just need to face the music and let this team grow organically. The best move for this team is to find high-upside players to take a chance on without having to empty their pockets entirely.
Detroit Pistons – Sign wing shooters
The Pistons’ biggest problem is a glaring one: this team desperately needs 3-point shooting. The midseason addition of Wayne Ellington helped, but this team will have to find more help beyond the arc if they want to seriously have a shot to contend next season.
Indiana Pacers – Add quality starters
With a massive list of players entering free agency, the Pacers have a chance at getting a total makeover for next season. It can be argued that they were a Victor Oladipo injury away from making some real noise this season, so bringing back as much of the band as possible while adding some quality starters should do the trick for replicating the early success they saw in 2018-19.
Milwaukee Bucks – Keep Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez
Extending Eric Bledsoe before the season ended helped the Bucks remove some of the uncertainty they will face this offseason, but not all of it. Two of the team’s most important players could bolt for an opportunity elsewhere, and the Bucks have to do whatever they have to do to make sure this doesn’t happen.
Atlanta Hawks – Build the starting lineup
It’s been an interesting journey for the rebuilding Hawks, but to quote Dennis Reynold’s, it’s time to “stop cultivating and start harvesting”. The team’s point guard of the future is locked in with Trae Young and big man John Collins providing another cornerstone to build upon, now is the time for Atlanta to start added the talent needed to take the next leap forward.
Charlotte Hornets – Re-sign Kemba Walker
Although it looks a little less bleak starting in 2020-21, the financial outlook for this team is much less than desirable. This, and their lack of attraction as a free agent destination, make it severely important they hold onto their star point guard, Kemba Walker. Their ability to offer Walker a supermax contract will help immensely, though that may be the only way they can make him stay.
Miami Heat – Find cheap talent
With no money available outside the mid-level exception for Pat Riley and the Heat this summer, it will be tough to add to this roster. Thankfully, they already have a lot of pieces in place and don’t need much to be a legitimate playoff team next season. For Miami, the name of the game is finding quality players that are in their price range.
Orlando Magic – Re-sign Nikola Vucevic
After a career year, All-Star center Nikola Vucevic will have plenty of potential suitors. With little financial wiggle room in their near future, Orlando desperately needs to bring him back this summer, as they have no way to replace his production (or value as an asset) short of giving up other talent on the roster. Even if it takes overpaying the big man, they have to keep him.
Washington Wizards – Try to keep Bobby Portis and/or Jabari Parker without paying too much
Speaking of teams with little to no ability to spend money, the Wizards are in for a bumpy ride. After trading Otto Porter Jr., they now have two power forwards who could be available on the open market this summer. Bobby Portis is a restricted free agent and Jabari Parker has a hefty team option likely to be declined. Washington should prioritize bringing back at least one, if not both of them, provided it doesn’t require bulky, long-term contracts.
Dallas Mavericks – Add a third core piece to the roster
The Mavericks have the centerpiece of their franchise moving forward in the young Euro sensation Luka Doncic. Thankfully, Kristaps Porzingis is only a restricted free agent, meaning it is all but locked in that he will be playing for the Dallas Mavericks next season. With limited assets moving forward, though, their timeline is pretty shortened. Adding a player like Khris Middleton, Kemba Walker, or Nikola Vucevic would help round out a big 3 for this young Mavs team and help return them to competing right away.
Houston Rockets – Find wing depth
Reports following the Rockets playoff elimination after the Western Conference semi-finals indicated that this team could be headed towards a heavy roster shakeup this offseason. This could affect the amount of money they have to spend, but it is currently looking like the MLE will be all that’s available. Either way, the goal should stay the same: add depth on the wing. With much of their depth last season coming at the guard spot, the Rockets struggled to put size out on the court and limited their defensive ability to some extent. Adding more wing players- especially ones who can playmake or create their own offense- would help this team as they continue to aim for an NBA title.
Memphis Grizzlies – Find young value contracts
After dealing Marc Gasol last season, the Grizzlies could be a Mike Conley trade away from kicking off this rebuild into full effect. Headed towards adding a talented young player with the no. 2 pick in the upcoming draft means that this team will need a focus on development moving forward. Memphis should seek out young players with high upside, even if they have to pay a little above current value, in hopes that they can start building a team ready to contend in the future.
New Orleans Pelicans – Re-sign Julius Randle
Just as much as he made the Lakers front office play the fool for letting him walk, Julius Randle made the Pelicans front office look pretty smart for bringing him aboard. Randle had big games and provided a reliable big both off the bench, and even paired with Anthony Davis at times. With A.D. on the way out at some point, retaining Randle should be at the top of New Orleans list of names to make sure are on the team at the start of next season.
San Antonio Spurs – Add extra shooters
Gregg Poppovich hasn’t been secretive about his lack of passion for the 3-point shot in the past. Interestingly enough though, the Spurs had the best team shooting percentage from beyond the arc but averaged the fewest number of attempts. Filling out the roster with the little salary cap they have available with some volume 3-point shooters could help give this team an extra edge.
Golden State Warriors – Re-sign Kevin Durant
Locking in Klay Thompson for a long-term deal seems all but certainty for the Warriors, so no need to overthink this one. A reunion between Durant and Golden State is the best-case scenario for the Dubs as they get ready for their move across the bay into San Francisco.
Los Angeles Clippers – Sign Kawhi Leonard or Kevin Durant
The Clippers have been highly rumored all season long to be a likely landing spot for one of the top free agents this summer. While there are a handful of players that L.A. could sign that would designate this offseason a success, none are as impactful as Kawhi Leonard or Kevin Durant. Adding either of those players to the team would give them an immediate possibility to compete for a title.
Los Angeles Lakers – Don’t miss out on all the elite free agents
For the Lakers, it may be just about not failing at this point more so than it even is about succeeding. As things slowly unravel in Lakers front office, striking out on claiming a quality free agent would be the icing on the cake for a franchise that seemingly can’t do anything right as of late. Los Angeles desperately needs to add a star player to pair with LeBron this summer.
Phoenix Suns – Find the team’s starting point guard
The Suns have faced serious struggles in finding a point guard to place in the backcourt alongside Devin Booker. Kyrie Irving may not be a realistic target, but Phoenix would benefit from taking a shot to land a restricted free agent like D’Angelo Russell or Terry Rozier. Even players like Ricky Rubio or Patrick Beverley offer a chance for the Suns to add a legitimate facilitator to a team long overdue to escape the lottery.
Sacramento Kings – Stay away from bad contracts
Falling just shy of their first playoff appearance since 2006, the Kings are on the cusp of being a legitimately competitive NBA team. Young players like De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley help set the foundation for this team moving forward, but with plenty of money available this summer, it is important that this team doesn’t handicap themselves with a bad contract. Given their bright future, they would be better standing pat than ending up with a deal that could hinder their trajectory.
Denver Nuggets – Find that last piece
Few teams performed above expectations the way the Denver Nuggets did. Nikola Jokic put the world on notice as he shined all season long, and other roster pieces like Jamal Murray and Paul Millsap helped round out the team. It still seems like the Nuggets are just one player away from being a serious contender. Michael Porter Jr. could be that piece eventually, but right now Denver should seek a talented wing player to round out this roster and head into 2019-20 ready to prove last season wasn’t a fluke.
Minnesota Timberwolves – Find cheap, quality veterans
In addition to underperforming last season and missing the playoffs, the Timberwolves have their work cut out for this offseason. Sitting just over the cap, this young team doesn’t have many options available as they seek to bulk up this roster unless they are able to clear out salary like Andrew Wiggins or Gorgui Dieng. The slow grind may be their best move and bringing in veterans to help guide their young star Karl-Anthony Towns may be the best move for a team that is limited in possibilities.
Oklahoma City Thunder – Add shooting
Outside of Paul George, the Thunder desperately need outside shooting. The team’s backcourt of Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson (if he can stay healthy) will only work if they are able to find some way to supplement shooting to compensate for their current lack of perimeter offense. It won’t be easy for the most expensive roster in the league, but it can, and must, be done.
Portland Trail Blazers – Sign a reliable center
With Jusuf Nurkic set to recover through much of the 2019-20 season, the Trail Blazers will need to look for an answer at the center position. Zach Collins can provide some meaningful minutes but adding a more traditional big- especially one who can replace the rim protection of Nurkic- should be a priority for Portland. Whether it’s adding a guy like Dewayne Dedmon, or even just bringing back Enes Kanter and hoping his offense and rebounding outweighs his lack of defense, the Blazers have to do something to shore up vacancy at the center position due to injury.
Utah Jazz – Sign a point guard that compliments Donovan Mitchell
While Ricky Rubio is a solid point guard, his time in Utah likely came to an end at the conclusion of their playoff run. Donovan Mitchell is the obvious centerpiece for this team going forward and it is important that they pair him with a point guard that makes sense given his talent. The slashing Mitchell needs a point guard who can run the offense, but also shoot and give the young guard plenty of room to operate cutting to the bucket. With plenty of money at hand to use, this should be a fairly easy task for the Jazz.