Predicting landing spots for top NBA free agents

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Even with the NBA Playoffs still going strong, a lot of the focus around the Association has turned to free agency this coming July.

There’s a good reason for this. It’s one of the top free-agent classes in modern NBA history. The list of those available includes NBA champions Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving as well as All-Stars Kawhi Leonard and Kemba Walker.

Sure there’s a lot that can happen between now and July. Even then, we thought it would be fun to check in on where the game’s top free agents might land.

Kevin Durant

In the midst of a dominating postseason run, the backdrop in Oakland is the potential departure of this two-time reigning NBA Finals MVP. Durant has been linked primarily to the New York Knicks. It would be a way for him to potentially team up with Kyrie Irving and Zion Williamson in the Mecca of the basketball world.

With all of this said, we’re not entirely too sure that Durant will opt for the Knicks. Owner James Dolan is seen as an enigma in the Big Apple. And outside of NYC’s local as an elite basketball scene, the Knicks don’t offer that much. We’re still going to predict that KD lands with the Knicks while acknowledging that San Francisco’s new Chase Center has a real lure. Prediction: New York Knicks

Kyrie Irving

Irving departed the Cleveland Cavaliers following the 2016-17 season in part because he wanted to be the face of a franchise. He was done playing second fiddle to LeBron James. It has not necessarily worked out splendidly for the NBA champ in Boston, leading to speculation that he might once again have a reunion with King James.

On the other hand, the Knicks have been linked to Irving more than any other team. Irving’s friendship with Kevin Durant and his affinity for NYC could play a role here. Even then, we’re going to predict that Irving shocks the world and reunites with James in Hollywood. Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers

Kawhi Leonard

Leonard has made it clear that he’s not focusing on what free agency might bring after a stellar first regular season in Toronto. Seemingly a docile figure, we’re not 100 percent sure that Leonard is suited for the bright lights of Los Angeles or New York City. How would he handle the criticism that’s bound to come?

The former NBA Defensive Player of the Year has been linked to the Los Angeles Clippers. Though, there’s something to the idea that he doesn’t want to play second fiddle to LeBron in the Southern California market. That’s all fine and dandy. What we do know is that the Clippers have built something special. Adding someone of Leonard’s ilk would make the team an instant contender. He knows this. And he’ll opt for that possibility. Prediction: Los Angeles Clippers

Klay Thompson

Apparently people aren’t willing to listen to Klay or his father, former NBA great Mychal. The All-Star guard and one of the game’s best two-way players wants to retire as a member of the Warriors. This has been made clear over and over again. Despite that, rumors persist that Thompson will bolt Northern California for the southern part of the state.

It’s not happening. Klay is more than fine with his role as the lesser half of the Splash Brothers. Golden State is going to offer him the max and he’ll sign it immediately. It’s that simple. Prediction: Golden Sate Warriors

Kristaps Porzingis

As a restricted free agent, the Dallas Mavericks will match any offer sheet Porzingis signs this summer. The team didn’t give up a bounty for this generational talent not to play a single game in a Mavericks uniform.

The only question here is just what type of contract Porzingis will get after having not played a single game since February of 2018. Despite his injury issues, we’re not going out on a limb to suggest that the Latvian will get a max deal. Prediction: Dallas Mavericks

Kemba Walker

It’s pretty clear that this All-Star performer loves the Charlotte market and its fan base. In no way does that mean Walker will return to the Hornets. He’s among the most underrated players in the NBA. A lot of that has to do with the smallish market in North Carolina.

We fully expect Walker to consider his options in free agency. That’s going to include overtures from larger-market teams in Southern California and New York. It’s in this that teaming up with Kevin Durant on the Knicks might very well be Walker’s best career path. Prediction: New York Knicks.

Jimmy Butler

After being acquired by Philadelphia from Minnesota this season, Butler has taken on a lesser role behind the likes of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Whether that’s something one of the game’s best two-way players wants moving forward remains to be seen.

What we do know is that the Sixers have the capability to re-sign Butler and fellow recent acquisition Tobias Harris. How the remainder of the playoffs go for Philly could play a role here. But we fully expect Butler to re-up with the team. Prediction: Philadelphia 76ers

DeMarcus Cousins

Cousins lost out on multiples of millions last summer after suffering a torn Achilles as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans back in 2017-18. It led to the All-Star signing a one-year deal at the mid-level exception with the two-time defending champion Warriors. While Cousins played well in limited action with Golden State, he ultimately suffered a torn right quad in Game 2 of the team’s first-round series against the Clippers.

According to many around the NBA, this is once again going to cost Cousins millions. It also leads us to believe that he’ll re-sign with the Warriors on a one-year contract. Prior to said injury, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Cousins would receive a more lucrative offer elsewhere. That can now be thrown out the window. Prediction: Golden State Warriors

Khris Middleton

A lot of the focus in Milwaukee has been on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s future with the team. But over the short term, it’s all about this vastly underrated wing. Middleton has a $13 million option on his contract for the 2019-20 season. He’s almost certain to decline it, setting up a potential departure from Wisconsin in the process.

Middleton, 27, might not be looking at a max-level contract. Though, it’s going to come close. That opens up a ton of potential suitors in the process. Not linked to some of the star free agents set to hit the open market, we’re going with the Dallas Mavericks as a logical landing spot. Teaming Middleton up with Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic would make for a tremendous trio. Prediction: Dallas Mavericks

D’Angelo Russell

It’s still rather shocking to realize that the Los Angeles Lakers pretty much gave up Russell to the Brooklyn Nets for nothing more than a salary dump prior to the 2017-18 season. Russell, 23, has since morphed into a star.

This past season saw the former lottery pick average 21.1 points and 7.0 rebounds on 43% shooting from the field. This should earn Russell something close to a max deal in free agency. With Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton spearheading a rebuild in the desert, the Phoenix Suns make the most sense here. They’ve long been in the market for a point guard. And Russell would form an elite back-court duo with Booker. Prediction: Phoenix Suns