The free agent market in the NBA world is hotter than ever before. Kevin Durant joining the Golden State Warriors a few years ago completely changed the landscape of the sport. Things picked up even more when LeBron James recently made the move from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Los Angeles Lakers. Superstars are more likely than ever before to make a move in free agency for their individual happiness. The players don’t necessarily want to leave teams that they play for, but better opportunities come up for their careers. Various reasons will lead to players changing teams when they have control of their destiny.
The most popular reason for joining a new team is usually wanting the chance to win a title. LeBron joining the Miami Heat in 2010 and Durant joining the Warriors in 2016 each showed just how important rings can be to stars. Others see the ability to grow as a basketball player due to the coaching system like Gordon Hayward when he joined the Boston Celtics in 2017. There are even the cases of players wanting to increase their name value when looking at bigger markets like New York, Los Angeles, and Boston. We will predict where ten major free agents will leave for in the upcoming free agency. These are ten NBA players that will leave their teams in free agency along with the teams they will sign with.
20 Free agent: Marc Gasol
Marc Gasol has become one of the more underrated NBA stars in the league. The Memphis Grizzlies have struggled in recent years to make Gasol an afterthought in the discussion for best big men. Gasol still puts up impressive numbers and plays the game very well on all sides.
Gasol's outside shooting has even improved with a three-point shot. Memphis is off to a pleasantly surprising and impressive start to the season. It still seems unlikely they will be able to maintain a playoff spot in the loaded Western Conference. Gasol has expressed frustration for losing and may leave the Grizzlies if they once again miss the postseason.
19 Marc Gasol joins: San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs would be the perfect franchise for Marc Gasol to spend the final few years of his prime with. San Antonio is struggling to start the first season without Kawhi Leonard. The duo of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge are playing well, but there are few difference makers beyond that.
Gasol could be the third star needed to get the Spurs over the hump. His brother Pau Gasol and former teammate Rudy Gay are also on the roster. Young point Dejounte Murray will be back from injury to give them a decent starting lineup. Teaming up the Gasol brothers could give Pau a nice send-off in his final season while helping Marc find a new home as the missing piece for a great franchise.
18 Free agent: Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes shows just how quickly the NBA world can forget about a player when he leaves a contending team and joins a rebuilding one. Barnes' old role had him as the fourth most important player on the Golden State Warriors. Barnes helped them win the 2015 NBA Championship and have the 73-win season the following year.
Golden State let Barnes go in free agency for the chance to sign Kevin Durant. Barnes joined the Dallas Mavericks on a big deal, but his contract expires this upcoming offseason. The numbers of Barnes show he needs to be a secondary option on a winning team. Barnes still contributes and could help a contender if he joins their roster in the summer. Dallas will likely ditch him as they change up the roster.
17 Harrison Barnes joins: Golden State Warriors
The current season continues to fuel the momentum that Kevin Durant will leave the Golden State Warriors in free agency. Durant clearly has issues with Draymond Green after their locker room argument and rumors indicate he has already started thinking about other teams.
Warriors management will have to find a replacement for Durant if he does leave, especially with Andre Iguodala considering retirement in the next few seasons as well. Harrison Barnes succeeded in Golden State and would likely love to come back home since he misses the winning. The Warriors could get back to the original core that already won with Barnes returning on a cheaper deal than Durant.
16 Free agent: Goran Dragic
The point guard play of Goran Dragic makes him an underrated upcoming free agent. Dragic is coming off an All-Star season last year when he helped lead the Miami Heat to the postseason. Miami, however, doesn’t seem content with their current state as a mediocre team with a ceiling of first-round elimination.
Dragic will likely not get offered the contract he wants from the Heat organization to remain their starting point guard. Miami clearly wants to get bigger names which means they’ll want to shed the cap space from Dragic. Many other teams will gladly bid on his services.
15 Goran Dragic joins: Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons are one franchise that clearly would like to upgrade at the point guard position. Detroit is off to a great start with their two best players, Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, both serving as big men that like to play in the paint. Though Griffin, in particular, is a good passer for a big man, neither man can set up their teammates as well as a point guard can.
Goran Dragic would be the perfect fit to join the Pistons and run the offense. A former All-Star like Dragic is miles ahead of the current point guard Reggie Jackson. Dragic is a better scorer, passer and a more consistent shooter. This could be a move that gives Detroit a chance to win a couple of playoff series.
14 Free agent: Al Horford
The free agent situation of Al Horford will be very interesting to watch play out. Horford will command a huge contract after many years of great play. The Boston Celtics strongly value Horford as a huge part of their success, but their dream is to upgrade at center with Anthony Davis or another better big man.
New Orleans likely would not want a veteran like Horford if they do decide to trade Davis. Boston will likely try to underpay Horford to keep their options open for a better super team. Horford, however, is going to try to cash in on what will likely be the final max contract of his career.
13 Al Horford joins: Dallas Mavericks
There are already rumors that various members of the Dallas Mavericks team dislike DeAndre Jordan. The likely option will see Dallas ditch Jordan in the offseason and try to add another superstar with their cap space. Things already look great for the Mavericks backcourt with Luka Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr.
Dallas will need the right big man in the front court to pair with the young guards. Al Horford would fit in perfectly given his winning ways and ability to play tremendous basketball without holding the ball often. The pick and roll plays for Horford and Doncic will give the Mavericks a great chance to become a playoff threat once again, especially if Smith and other players develop as well.
12 Free agent: Tobias Harris
Tobias Harris is having a breakout season for the Los Angeles Clippers. Many fans are stunned at the success of the Clippers for the first two months of the season. Harris has been their best player to lead to huge wins to keep them in the top half of the Western Conference playoff picture.
Unfortunately for Harris, the Clippers are hoping to upgrade from him with the dream of going after Kevin Durant and/or Kawhi Leonard. Harris will become an afterthought. Great players don’t like to sit and wait around for teams to use them as a backup plan. Expect Harris to find a new team unless the Clippers decide to give up on the dreams for bigger names.
11 Tobias Harris joins: Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets will be an interesting team in the offseason. Brooklyn has a few young building blocks with Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and a likely top upcoming top draft pick. Most experts expect the Nets to sign D’Angelo Russell to an extension, but they’ll still have enough money for a max contract.
Tobias Harris may be the perfect fit for the Nets. Their biggest weakness moving forward is the lack of a great power forward that could space the floor and potentially take over games. Harris is still young enough for the Nets to invest in. Brooklyn would be the perfect storm of a max contract, a chance to lead them to the playoffs, and a chance to start something special with fellow young pieces.
10 Free agent: Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker is proving to the NBA world that he is currently a superstar in the league. The numbers of Walker have always been great, but no one takes note since the Charlotte Hornets are an afterthought. Walker has taken his game to such a level that everyone is forced to see it.
The timing of him entering free agency after this season makes it perfect. Walker clearly will want a max contract, but he will have to make a huge decision. If he re-signs with Charlotte, it remains unlikely he will contend for a title any time soon. The desire to win could see him leave money on the table to join another team.
9 Kemba Walker joins: Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers will have to make a few huge decisions over the next year. LeBron James on the roster means they will attempt to contend for an NBA Championship by any means necessary. This season is a feeling out process to see which young talents can stick around, but that won’t be the case next season.
Lonzo Ball has shown signs of brilliance, but he is clearly not at the level of the other top West point guards. LeBron is not getting any younger and the Lakers will try to upgrade in the summer. Kemba Walker would be the perfect player to play alongside LeBron. He is a great outside shooter and doesn’t always need the ball to be effective. The Lakers could sign Kemba to become the second superstar while trading Lonzo and others for a third superstar as well.
8 Free agent: Nikola Vucevic
The Orlando Magic are witnessing Nikola Vucevic’s rise as a star in the NBA. Vucevic has always put up impressive numbers, but the team’s losing ways have led to people sleeping on him. A combination of Orlando having a chance to make the playoffs and his numbers getting to another level has led to his profile rising in the NBA landscape.
Opposing teams will look to make huge offers to Vucevic for a chance to add a likely All-Star center to their roster. The Magic will want to keep him, but it will be a tough sell. Vucevic knows the team wanted to trade him before this season and he may just want a taste at winning on a better run franchise.
7 Nikola Vucevic joins: Miami Heat
The relationship between the Miami Heat and Hassan Whiteside has been negative for quite some time now. Miami has been trying to trade Whiteside for about a year now, but no one wants his contract on the books. There will come a point where the Heat do find a trade partner or just opt to buy him out.
The Heat franchise wants to find a big man more fitting for the current NBA landscape. Nikola Vucevic stands out as the perfect candidate as he is mobile enough to be part of a fast-paced offense. This would also give him the perk of remaining based in Florida while playing for a team with way more respect than the Orlando Magic. The two Florida teams could even work out a sign-and-trade between Vucevic and Whiteside if needed.
6 Free agent: DeMarcus Cousins
The biggest wild card heading into 2019 free agency will be DeMarcus Cousins. There have been moments of dominance for Cousins during his runs on the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings as a top-tier offensive center.
Cousins is coming off a rough injury and will have one season on the Golden State Warriors. Steve Kerr already basically confirmed the team won’t look to sign him to a max contract extension in the summer. Cousins will have a chance to prove he is healthy and still very good while playing for an NBA Championship this season. Other teams will be begging to sign him if he is still good.
5 DeMarcus Cousins joins: Washington Wizards
The Washington Wizards are in a horrible spot right now. Washington entered the season hoping to finally get over the hump as an Eastern Conference contender. Instead, they are struggling to get into the top eight playoff teams.
Bradley Beal is the likely trade target from Washington, given his youth and tremendous shooting ability. There is also a chance Otto Porter gets moved. John Wall is the superstar most likely to remain and he already has a great relationship with DeMarcus Cousins, whom he teamed with in college at Kentucky. A reunion could make sense for Washington’s newest plan to contend.
4 Free agent: Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving will be one of the most interesting free agents on the market in the upcoming offseason. The incredible play of Irving has earned him superstar status in recent years, but he is a unique player. Irving does not have the same desires as most other top NBA players which makes a change possible.
Reports over the past few months have seen theories that Irving has a few different teams in mind and would like to leave the Boston Celtics. However, Kyrie told the media at the start of the season that he plans to re-sign with Boston. It does make sense for him to say that either way to erase the controversy. We will see if Irving truly wants to remain a Celtic or chase other dreams.
3 Kyrie Irving joins: New York Knicks
The rumors about Kyrie Irving wanting to join another team in recent months have featured the New York Knicks standing out as that dream destination. Irving has desired playing in a big market and placed the Knicks on the desired teams he wanted to play for when requesting a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
New York will have enough cap space to add two stars and already have Kristaps Porzingis under contract. Irving seems to have a preference of leading a franchise back to relevance rather than just contending for a title. This could bode well for the Knicks as Irving might be the man to come to the Knicks and lead them back to relevance.
2 Free agent: Kevin Durant
The biggest name on the free agent market in 2019 will clearly be Kevin Durant. Many believe Durant is the second-best player in the league and even his biggest critics would admit he’s in the top five at the very least. Durant has already won two NBA Championships with the Golden State Warriors and is more than likely to get a third this season.
There have been reports of Durant wanting to make a change and become the true face of a franchise since the Warriors will always be Stephen Curry’s team. Draymond Green calling out Durant and telling him that the team doesn’t even need him to win will likely be the final straw that inspires the change in the offseason regardless of how this postseason goes.
1 Kevin Durant joins: Los Angeles Clippers
The two teams with the reported best chance to sign Kevin Durant away from the Golden State Warriors in free agency will be the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers. One of those teams happens to look way better than the other so far this season. The Clippers are off to a great start and offer more reliability than the Knicks.
Jerry West as an executive and Doc Rivers as a coach each could tempt Durant to join the Clippers. There’s a very good supporting cast already in place along with a second max contract spot. Durant would clearly be the face of the franchise with a great chance to contend. Many insiders claim Durant wants to become a true rival to LeBron James and signing with the other Los Angeles team would cement that.