The NBA offseason is already here. It started with the blockbuster Anthony Davis trade to the Lakers.
That’s what happens when there’s typically about a week between the Finals and the NBA Draft. There’s so many questions around the Association heading into this week’s draft and then free agency in about two weeks.
Where will Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving land? Will Kawhi Leonard actually bolt the Raptors after leading them to an NBA title?
We’ll answer these questions and more in giving you 10 bold predictions for what promises to be an active NBA offseason.
Nets land two max-contract players
Brooklyn has been among the teams bandied about big time heading into free agency. Here’s an up-and-coming squad that’s coming off a surprise playoff appearance. It exists in the Mecca of the basketball world. Young general manager Sean Marks has also built this thing perfectly for the long haul. The Nets are in prime position to land multiple stars.
We’re going to boldly predict that Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler sign with the Nets in a package deal. Sure this would mean renouncing the rights to restricted free agent D’Angelo Russell. But it would also build a powerhouse in Brooklyn. Everything seems to be pointing in this direction.
Celtics remain quiet, make one interesting trade
The Celtics didn’t believe that it made sense to move their young stars for potentially one year of Anthony Davis. That’s fine. But general manager Danny Ainge is walking a tight rope here. He knows it. Without Irving in the mix, Boston is between a rock and a hard place. Add in the fact that Al Horford is now slated to hit free agency, and this is magnified even further.
Even with those two likely out of the mix, Boston will find it hard to be big time players in free agency. That’s where the Memphis Grizzlies and star guard Mike Conley come into play. We’re going to predict that the two sides come together in a trade, enabling Boston to replace Irving with the veteran. It might not be a championship contender, but the combination of Conley, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown isn’t terrible.
Mavericks find third star to go with big two
Dallas is not in the greatest of cap situations. This doesn’t mean that it can’t make a move for another star to team up with Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic. Based on how the roster is structured, we’re pretty sure Mark Cuban and Co. are looking for a point guard to distribute things.
That’s where D’Angelo Russell comes into play. If the Nets decide to add two max-contract players, Russell will be on the outs. He would be a perfect fit for what the Mavs are planning moving forward. It wouldn’t be easy. Dallas would have to renounce seven of its eight free agents while enticing a team to take on either Tim Hardaway Jr. or Courtney Lee’s bloated contract in a salary dump. But it could happen.
Warriors re-sign DeMarcus Cousins, Klay Thompson
The financial implications of re-signing two injured stars to max contracts can’t be lost on Golden State’s brass. Kevin Durant will miss the entire 2019-20 season with a ruptured Achilles. Meanwhile, Thompson likely won’t be back before the All-Star Break after suffering a torn ACL. Even then, these Warriors have the financial ability to sign both stars.
At this point, we’re going to assume Thompson re-signs with the Warriors. Every indication is that he’ll get the full $190 million max over five seasons. However, we’re also going to predict that it’s DeMarcus Cousins who re-signs over Durant. Sure he could get more than the $6.5 million Golden State is able to offer, but the idea of continuity and being the second scorer behind Curry could lure him back to Northern California. As for Durant, more on that later.
Kemba Walker takes less, signs with Lakers
Indications have been that Los Angeles is looking to use the remainder of its cap space ($24 million or so) on complementary pieces to Anthony Davis and LeBron James. That’s primarily because the Lakers don’t have max-contract space available to target star players. Short of making this one specific move, the Lakers won’t be able to offer that up.
We’re going to throw a wrench into this and boldly predict that Kemba Walker takes less to sign with the Lakers. Sure reports have noted that Walker would actually take less to return to Charlotte. He also seemingly loves the community. But the opportunity to team up with AD and King James will be too attractive for the All-NBA performer to pass up on.
Andrew Wiggins traded to Kings on draft night
Reports have indicated recently that the Wolves are looking to move Wiggins and his bloated contract. Given the forward’s regression and the fact he’s owed north of $122 million over the next four seasons, it’s not going to be an easy sell.
One team that could potentially take a chance on Wiggins is the Sacramento Kings. They now have ample cap space following Harrison Barnes’ odd decision to opt out. Sacramento has also long been in the market for a small forward to team up with Buddy Hield, De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III. This could be a match made in heaven. Maybe Sacramento offers up its two second-round picks and Bogdan Bogdanović to Minnesota for Wiggins and the No. 11 overall pick.
Rockets trade Chris Paul to the Suns
Despite what Paul might want us to believe, there is tension between him and James Harden. Multiple reports can’t be wrong. Rather, it seems that Houston is simply looking to play the PR game. That makes sense given that Paul’s contract ($124 million over the next three seasons) is an albatross.
One team that could take on said deal is the Suns. They have long been in the market for a veteran point guard to play alongside Devin Booker. Forwards T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson are also on the trade block. Other things would have to work out financially. But the idea of Houston unloading Paul’s contract while sending a first-round pick in 2020 to Phoenix could make a lot of sense.
A blockbuster trade no one saw coming
We have heard rumblings that the San Antonio Spurs might be looking to move star guard DeMar DeRozan. With the Lakers and others going for it out west, it would not be a surprise if San Antonio attempted to expedite its rebuild and get younger. DeRozan is the best chip Gregg Popovich and Co. have.
There’s another team out west coming off a stellar campaign that might look to make noise this summer. We’re talking about the Denver Nuggets. They have the assets to make a trade of this ilk work. It would start with veterans Garry Harris and Torrey Craig. Both seem to be tremendous fits in Pop’s system. From there, Denver offers up last year’s first-round pick Michal Porter Jr. and a future first-round pick to make this work.
Kawhi bolts Toronto for Southern California
It seems unrealistic. There’s absolutely no way Kawhi Leonard leaves the Toronto Raptors high and dry after leading them to their first ever NBA title. Why would he do that? The Raptors can pay Leonard more than any other team. He seems to be a great fit in Canada.
With all of that said, the tea leaves are blowing strong in this regard. The Clippers remain remain a prime free-agent destination. It would be a homecoming of sorts for Leonard, who grew up in Southern California. While it’s bold to predict the reigning NBA Finals MVP leaving his current team, that’s exactly what we’re going to do here.
Warriors sign-and-trade Kevin Durant to Knicks
Durant to the Knicks isn’t really bold. While it is complicated a bit further due to the ruptured Achilles KD suffered in the Finals, we could still envision a scenario in which this happens. Durant would be able to rehab in New York, where he’s reportedly spending his summer. He’s been linked to the Knicks a ton of the past calendar year.
What makes this bold is the idea that Golden State would help facilitate the move. Given the injury to Klay Thompson, the Warriors have to be proactive to build anywhere near a contender next season. Taking on some of the Knicks’ pieces while creating a trade exception could be the way to go. Under this scenario, Golden State picks up young guard Frank Ntilikina and forward Lance Thomas as well as a future first-round pick. In turn, the Knicks save $10-plus million from Durant’s incoming salary.