Every offseason, the contracts of some NBA players expire, allowing them to become free agents who can sign with teams who offer them contracts.
The upcoming free agency class looks to be one of the best, with many of the 2011 rookie class set to become unrestricted free agents. This article will focus on ranking the 5 best free agents available for teams to sign this offseason, as well as which team I am predicting them to sign with, which I marked by bolting the team’s name.
1. Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors, SF)
Stats: 26.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.9 apg, 0.7 spg, 1.1 bpg, 24.2 PER, 63.1 TS%
Possible Teams: Clippers, Knicks, Lakers, Nets, Warriors
Kevin Durant’s 2016 decisión to join the Golden State Warriors was one that shocked and enraged numerous NBA fans, as he decided to team up with 3 other all-stars in Curry, Thompson and Green. Last offseason, the Warriors decided to bring in all-star Center DeMarcus Cousins (who was still nursing an Achilles injury). Thompson, Cousins and Durant are all set to become free agents this summer, with Durant being the most coveted of the three.
Following his injury in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals, the Warriors went on to win 6 straight games (including a sweep) without him, which has led to some fans speculating on his value to the team. Trailblazers guard Seth Curry has mentioned that the Warriors are much tougher to defend without Durant. Furthermore, leaving the Warriors and enjoying success on a different team may be a way to redemption for the commonly criticized star. All of these could be factors in his free agency decision.
As for which teams are interested in Durant, it has been heavily reported that the New York Knicks are the team most likely to sign Durant. Marc Stein reported that the Clippers pose an equal threat in signing KD. Joining the two teams are the Lakers (pairing him up with LeBron), the Nets, and the Warriors, his current team. While most believe that he will end up with the Knicks, the Clippers have a much brighter future, and enough cap room to sign an additional star in free agency.
2. Kawhi Leonard (Toronto Raptors, SF)
Stats: 26.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.8 spg, 0.4 bpg, 25.8 PER, 60.6 TS%
Possible Teams: Clippers, Lakers, Raptors
Kawhi Leonard is one of the best two-way players of all-time, and he is set to become a free agent. After expressing his desire to be traded to the Lakers, the Spurs decided to trade him to Toronto. The Raptors are now in the middle of a championship run, holding a 3-2 lead over the Milwaukee Bucks in the ECF. Before this season, it was hard to see Leonard staying with the Raptors. However, as the season progressed, it seems as if the Raptors now have a solid chance at resigning him.
Three teams have been rumored to be potential landing destinations for The Klaw, with the Raptors, Lakers and the Clippers. If he does not choose to resign with his current team, he could end up joining one of the two L.A. teams. His reported interest in joining the Lakers apparently declined after the acquisition of LeBron James, as he may want to lead his own team. However, recent articles have surfaced on James’ recruitment of Leonard, quite possibly forming one of the best wing duos of all-time.
He could also end up signing with the Clippers, since they have enough room to sign another max free agent, and have already shown promise in becoming a good team with their first round series against the Warriors earlier in the year. However, with the Raptors’ success this season in making the NBA Finals, it has gotten more likely that Leonard will choose to stay up north. Unless he really feels like this Raptors team isn’t enough, we may see Leonard in a Raptors jersey next season.
3. Kyrie Irving (Boston Celtics, PG)
Stats: 23.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 6.9 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.5 bpg
Possible Teams: Celtics, Knicks, Lakers, Nets
The Celtics disappointed many fans this year after a season filled with drama and hardships. Kyrie Irving, the star of the team, especially struggled against the Bucks in the playoffs, as the C’s were eliminated in 5 games. Earlier in the year, Irving stated that he would resign with the Celtics. Unfortunately, as the season went along, the situation in Boston started to get shaky as Irving’s commitment to his team seemed be to grow more mysterious every day.
Uncle Drew has been linked to numerous teams over the last year, including the Celtics, Knicks, Lakers and Nets. Irving’s connection to the Knicks very much has to do with Kevin Durant, who has also been linked to the franchise. The Knicks have enough room for 2 max slots, and many believe this will go to these two superstars. On the other hand, his link to the Lakers is former teammate LeBron James. Despite former issues, the two have seemed to make up with one another, with LeBron even liking an Instagram photo involving a Kyrie Irving Lakers jersey swap. Add on the pair’s former success with one another, and this is looking like more of a possibility.
The most recent reports regarding the star point guard involve the Brooklyn Nets. According to Anthony Puccio of sny.tv, Kyrie and the Nets share a mutual interest in joining forces with another, especially with the idea of pairing Irving with fellow all-star D’Angelo Russell. The Nets believe that the two guards, who seem to be close friends would thrive in a backcourt together, according to Brian Lewis of the NY Post.
4. Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors, SG)
Stats: 21.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.6 bpg, 16.6 PER, 57.1 TS%
Possible Teams: Lakers, Warriors
Klay Thompson is best known as 1/2 of the Splash Bros, the Warriors’ dynamic backcourt comprised of Thompson and Stephen Curry. Thompson is one of the best shooters in the league, and quite possibly of all-time. Warriors fans love Klay, and it seems that he loves the team as well. He is one of the best 3-and-D players in the league and can catch fire at any instance. He doesn’t need too many touches, and plays smart basketball, which is why he could seamlessly fit into any team’s system.
While it is very likely that he will remain with the Warriors, it is also important to discuss a team that has sparked rumors on their interest in Thompson, with that being the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers have enough room to bring in 1 max free agent, and it could be Klay, whose dad played for the Lakers back in the 1980s. Pairing Klay with LeBron James would most likely form one of the best wing duos in the league, with Klay tremendously helping the Lakers’ floor spacing. However, his desire to remain with the Warriors, along with his chemistry with Stephen Curry, should be enough to keep him in Oakland for the foreseeable future.
5. Jimmy Butler (Philadelphia 76ers, SF)
Stats: 18.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.0 apg, 1.9 spg, 0.6 bpg, 20.2 PER, 57.1 TS%
Possible Teams: Sixers, Lakers, Nets
After a drama-filled offseason with the Timberwolves, Butler made it clear that he was not going to resign with the team, which is why he was traded to the Sixers to team up with all-stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The newest super team only managed to earn the third seed in the East, and they were later on eliminated in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals by the Toronto Raptors. The Sixers underperformed and have 3 starters in Butler, J.J. Redick, and newly acquired Tobias Harris, who will become free agents this offseason. With this in mind, it may be a possibility for Butler departing the franchise, especially if the Sixers decide not to offer him a max contract.
While the most likely scenario is one where Butler remains with the Sixers, there is also a big possibility that he will leave for either the Lakers or the Nets. Despite the Lakers’ recent front office turmoil, rumors have been swirling regarding LeBron James’ supposed recruitment of Butler, among other star free agents, as mentioned by Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Similarly, Butler has been linked to the Nets all season, as the team could provide Butler with an avenue to team up with close friend, and fellow free agent, Kyrie Irving.
Thanks for reading the article! Who do you think are the top 5 upcoming free agents are? Who would you want your team to sign? Let us know on Twitter and hit us with a follow @UniqueSportplus for more unique content!