With free agents able to sign with new teams as of 6pm. EST on Sunday, the rumor mill is heating up. Nothing is official, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has been busier than ever, whipping fans and front offices alike into a frenzy. We know that nothing’s set in stone, especially given the injury issues of a few top free agents, but if we read the tea leaves, we might be able to make some guesses where the heaviest of the heavy hitters
will hang their hats next NBA season. Let’s have a look around and see where the cards might fall.
Suitors: Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Clippers
Best Guess: Raptors
We all know that Kawhi went north of the border on a one-year rental. He had zero intention of sticking around after that, and Los Angeles was always his preferred destination. Then the next-to-impossible happened. Toronto won Canada’s first NBA title with a rental, a few off-casts and a few overperforming youngsters. The Raptors slayed the dragon, and they’ll raise a banner during their home opener next season. I can’t imagine Kawhi leaving and missing all of that, unless he really, really hates snow.
Suitors: Golden State Warriors, Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, probably
Best Guess: Warriors
I may be alone in sports-prognosticator land, but I think that this injury changes both Durant’s options and his motivation. Yes, he can get a max deal from a good handful of teams. But if he’s taking the entire year off, why would he want the turmoil of relocation. It doesn’t make much sense. Plus, he’s probably a little salty about missing out on the three-peat. That will make him less likely to look seriously at rebuilding teams like the Nets and Knicks, who are considered the strongest candidates for him to land. Add in
the fact that Golden State is willing to look at a sign and trade deal and there’s no reason whatsoever for him to exercise the player option he just declined. My hunch is, even if he’s eventually headed elsewhere, he first inks a max deal with his current team.
Suitors: Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers
Best Guess: Nets
Irving has proven that he’s a Robin, not a Batman, so it makes sense that rumors have him trying to lure Durant to Brooklyn. The experiment in Boston was catastrophic, when a young core of players outplayed him when he was off the court. There’s been talk that he made up with his former Dark Knight, LeBron James, which would have him headed to L.A. and he would certainly fill a need there. That being said, his arrival and another flameout with LeBron might be the only thing that could keep the Lakers from contending next year.
Suitors: Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers
Best Guess: Warriors
Per the latest Woj-bombs, Thompson would listen to pitches from the Clippers. Thompson has been the quietest of the Warriors superstars, and it could possibly be tempting for him to head somewhere where isn’t the third option. But here’s the thing. The Warriors will max him out, so it’s not about the money. If he moves it would be entirely about personal ego, and most people in the know say that Klay just isn’t that dude. Remember, this team won a title and came within milliseconds of a second…without Kevin Durant. If Thompson stays, the Warriors WILL contend when he gets back on the court. That’s probably all the ego-boosting he needs.
Suitors: Cahrlotte Hornets, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers
Best Guess: Celtics
Call it a hunch. Walker has lifted his game to a new level in the past year, and he’s already a New England legend from his days at UCONN. If he’s got choices, and Kyrie is gone at Boston, it almost makes too much sense. Add in the fact that Boston boasts the best young roster of the potential landing sites, and I can see it happening, even if it’s a sign and trade. The bad news for Gang Green might be that Walker has gotten comfortable in Charlotte and might just stay put to see where the team is headed.
Image Source: AP Images/Omar Vega