The summer free agency frenzy is just a few months away and though the NBA is in the midst of the postseason, one can’t help but get excited for the future of the league. That’s because the 2019 offseason promises to shake the very foundations of the league with a number of past and present All-Stars in the mix. Add to that those players who simply didn’t make the All-Star cut but are considered worthy of the honor.
Among the biggest buyers this summer will be four of the league’s marquee teams—the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers. All four teams, along with many of the other 26 teams, will be courting these stars to come play for their franchises.
The free agents-to-be are a who’s who of some of the NBA’s best—DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol, DeMarcus Cousins, Al Horford, Julius Randle, Nikola Vucevic, Nikola Mirotic, Bojan Bogdanovic, Kristaps Porzingis (restricted free agent), Khris Middleton, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving and D’Angelo Russell (restricted).
Then there’s the lower tier of very good players who would be great additions to any championship contender such as Derrick Rose, J.J. Redick, Harrison Barnes, Malcolm Brogdon (restricted), Goran Dragic, Willie Cauley-Stein (restricted), Rudy Gay, Paul Millsap, Brook Lopez, Taj Gibson, Hassan Whiteside, Dwight Howard and more.
If the four teams dip their hands in this pool of free agents and come away with at least three to four players each, there’s no telling how good they can be in the immediate future. We’ll be looking at four new super teams in for the foreseeable future.
4. Brooklyn Nets
All indications point to the Nets retaining D’Angelo Russell in the offseason. He’s a first-time All-Star who is growing by leaps and bounds and could be one of the premier point guards in the league before his career is over.
The Nets have made themselves more attractive than their next-door neighbor by deftly freeing themselves of their “excess baggage” from the previous regime. After losing many of their draft picks and their leverage in the disastrous deal that brought Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the team, Brooklyn is now ready to play with the big boys.
All the big names seem intent on playing for the “sexier” franchises. So what if Brooklyn loses out on the biggest names in free agency? There’s plenty of terrific options for them. What if the Nets assemble a team of no-nonsense, hard-nosed players including Nikola Vucevic and Julius Randle?
As it is, they are already one of the up-and-coming teams in the league. But what makes them a potential landing spot for free agents this July is the fact that they are a New York-based team without the New York drama associated with the Knicks franchise. And unlike the Knicks, the Nets are built to win now and have shown that they can be competitive even without an elite-level superstar on their roster.
Imagine if you plug in Vucevic and Randle into this year’s playoff team? The Nets would be one of the top three teams in the East!
3. L.A. Clippers
They shocked the nation with their thrilling 135-131 win over the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena in Game 2 of their first-round series. This Clippers team is definitely the better L.A. team right now despite not having a single All-Star on their roster.
Coach Doc Rivers has L.A.’s “other team” fighting tooth-and-nail against the defending champions in the playoffs and though they have a gargantuan task ahead of them, they won’t back down even in the face of a star-studded opponent.
That kind of mentality makes the Clippers a prime destination spot for free agents such as Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler. Given Leonard’s desire to move to L.A. before he was traded to the Toronto Raptors, it’s more than likely that he’ll consider playing for the Clips next season. If reports are true that he doesn’t want to play second banana to a certain Laker, then the Clippers would be the perfect alternative for him.
Butler is another player who might be inclined to give the Clips a chance to sign him in free agency. Though no one knows exactly where he’s leaning, the former Bull turned Timberwolf and now Sixer could head off to his third team in less than a year if he finds the Clippers more attractive than the Lakers.
And I haven’t even mentioned Lou Williams who makes this a star-studded threesome of the highest order.
2. New York Knicks
The rumors that Kevin Durant has made up his mind and he’s headed to New York sound almost too good to be true. Then again, it’s not like he’s not interested to play for one of the most glamorous franchises in sports. Durant is the kind of superstar that the Knicks need.
Though he may be inclined to sign long term in New York, he needs a fellow star to join him. If he’s got a teammate of Kyrie Irving’s caliber, then the decision will be easier. According to reports, Irving is quite interested in playing for the Knicks. If he were to transfer residence once again, then the franchise will have the best point guard they’ve ever had since Walt Frazier.
Should they re-sign DeAndre Jordan to a cap-friendly contract, then New York will be one of the best teams in the league as soon as next season.
The Lakers were humbled this season after LeBron James failed to carry their young squad to the playoffs. They were fourth in the West before James went down with an injury on Christmas Day and everything went downhill from there.
Having one of the best players in league history on their roster for the next three years means that every season he is under contract is a championship or bust year for L.A. For sure, the Lakers will pursue Anthony Davis as much as they can. If Irving decides to leave the Boston Celtics in favor of the Knicks, then there’s no point for Danny Ainge to exchange Jayson Tatum for Davis. This gives GM Rob Pelinka the opportunity he needs to sell the New Orleans Pelicans on the merits of making a deal with them.
One player that the Lakers could also pursue in free agency is a point guard who can space the floor and relieve James of playmaking duties. They would be wise to look into signing Kemba Walker as their next point guard. Walker is coming off of a career year in which he averaged 25.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game.
If the Lakers get Walker and Davis to play alongside James, they are going to be the favorites to win it all next season even if the Warriors can keep their roster intact. They will be the dominant team in the league for the duration of James’ contract and perhaps beyond if they keep winning titles with this trio.