The regular season is almost over, the playoffs are here, and there are a lot of people already thinking about the summer. For example, how many teams already know they are out of playoff contention and are getting ready for the draft and free agency to see if they can change their luck for next season? However, there are also teams that could go deep into the playoffs already thinking about what they should do during the free agency period that is coming up. For example, we have the Cleveland Cavaliers, an organization where every single person is probably having nightmares night in and night out, dreading the prospect that LeBron James could leave once the season is over. There are teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, who are looking to go deep into the playoffs but are already thinking about the moves they can make during the summer to make next year even better than this one already was. This is part of the magic of the NBA. You have to live in the moment, but you must also keep thinking about tomorrow, and tomorrow in the NBA means the summer.
The summer is where the magic happens and where championships are won a lot of the time. With that in mind, we decided to talk a little bit about what could happen in free agency, not only during 2018 but also during 2019. Yes, over the next two years a lot of superstars are going to hit the market, and we are sure you would like to know where they are going to land.
22 2018: LeBron James to the Lakers
It might even seem like blasphemy to say this, but at 33 years old it still looks like LeBron James is just entering the prime of his career. Better yet, it is like LeBron has always been and will always be at the prime of his career until he retires. The guy is averaging 27.4 points, a career-high 9.1 assists, and a career-high 8.7 rebounds per game.
Even with all of that, the Cavaliers have been struggling, and that is the reason why LeBron will probably leave Cleveland this summer. He has a player option he will probably make use of if the Cavs don’t make a championship run. As for his destination, the Lakers are still the number one bet since he would be a perfect fit there. There are no ball-dominant players in LA, which is not the case in any of the other places LeBron has been speculated.
21 2019: LeBron James to the Sixers
Oh yeah, we are starting up this list with a doubleheader LeBron James 2018 and 2019 free agency prediction. Like we already mentioned, the most likely outcome for 2018 is that LeBron will leave Cleveland and sign with the Los Angeles Lakers if the Cavaliers are not able to reach the finals, which is likely since both Toronto and Boston are looking better than them. Either way, let’s say LeBron does leave Cleveland in 2018. One thing we can be sure of is that he will most likely sign a one or two-year deal with an early termination player option because that is his M.O.
If the Lakers experiment doesn’t work out, what makes the most sense would be for him to go for the next best thing the following summer. That would mean joining forces with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid in Philadelphia.
20 2018: Paul George to the Lakers
The biggest selling point Sam Presti thought he had when he made the bet of bringing Paul George to Oklahoma City at the beginning of the season was Russell Westbrook. However, it seems like Westbrook is also the worst selling point for someone who wants a superstar to stay in OKC. There is no denying that Westbrook is one of the best players of his generation and a talent that is tough to match. At the same time, you can’t deny that playing with Westbrook must be a nightmare for someone who likes having the ball. After all, Westbrook is still number three in the NBA in usage rate.
Yeah, things are not looking good for OKC, and a return home to Los Angeles seems to be the sensible choice for George, especially if LeBron agrees to go there as well.
19 2019: Carmelo Anthony to the Rockets
When the talk about the Knicks wanting to trade Carmelo Anthony started boiling up in New York, the rumor around town was that Melo had given the front office a list of teams he would agree to be traded to. Supposedly, at the top of that list was the Houston Rockets. That was a move that would make a lot of sense for Carmelo. As everyone has seen, the Rockets quickly became the best team in the NBA during the regular season. We have yet to see if that will translate to the playoffs, but either way, they are a premier destination for someone chasing a title.
Although he could opt for an early termination of his contract with the Thunder this summer, Melo won’t do that because that would mean giving up a lot of money. He is not worth as much as he once was in a free agency market, but he will be okay with a pay cut in 2019 to play in Houston after he collects some more money from OKC next season.
18 2018: Kevin Durant stays in Golden State
You never know it with Kevin Durant. Everyone thought he would stay in Oklahoma City after they made yet another deep playoff run before falling to the Warriors despite having a 3-1 lead. However, that was the situation before Kevin decided to go to the team that had just beat him. Who’s to say that if the Rockets beat the Warriors, he won’t go turncoat again and sign with the Rockets? Yeah, that might seem far-fetched, but Durant taught us that you should never rule anything out.
Still, the most probable outcome of his free agency this summer will be a return to the Golden State Warriors. KD has a player option for the final year of his contract, and he will probably just make use of it so the Warriors can offer him a max contract.
17 2019: Karl-Anthony Towns stays in Minnesota
How great must it be to have an MVP candidate on your roster while still paying him rookie money? That is where the Minnesota Timberwolves find themselves with Karl-Anthony Towns still playing under his rookie contract. It is a very lucrative rookie deal, but it is nothing compared to the max contract he will get in 2019. Yes, Towns could have a terrible season in 2018-19, and he would still be worth a max contract regardless.
His contract will end next season, and someone will offer him a max contract if he hits free agency. We say if because he will probably not even get to that as a Timberwolves will undoubtedly offer him a max deal before free agency arrives. Towns is just one of those talents you cannot even think about giving up if you are Minnesota.
16 2018: DeMarcus Cousins stays in New Orleans
While they were active, Boogie Cousins and Anthony Davis were arguably the best one-two punch in the NBA. We say arguably because we have yet to find out if Chris Paul and James Harden can be beaten when they played together. Either way, the partnership was cut short because Cousins suffered a season-ending injury earlier in the year. It was one of those heartbreaking moments that no one, even bitter rivals, hopes to see. The Pelicans are still in contention for a good playoff seed in the West, but without Cousins, it is hard to imagine them going far into the playoffs.
But here is where things get interesting since Cousins will be a free agent this summer. While some could claim the injury would keep him from getting a max deal, that doesn’t seem to be what the Pelicans think. It is hard to bring talent to New Orleans so they will throw all the money they can at Boogie to keep him.
15 2019: Kemba Walker to the Clippers
Kemba Walker was probably already pissed off when the media started floating about rumors that Michael Jordan wanted to trade him. However, Kemba was a professional and did not let any of that affect his play for the Charlotte Hornets. Much on the contrary, he has had an All-Star caliber season, and we can expect that kind of play to go on for a few years since he is still 27 years old.
Averaging 22.5 points and 5.6 assists per game, he is a guy who could help a lot of teams. One of those teams could be the Los Angeles Clippers if they make the right moves going into the 2019 free agency period. Above all else, they must get rid of Danilo Gallinari’s contract, but they should be able to attract Kemba with a max deal.
14 2018: DeAndre Jordan to Dallas
Mark Cuban has been trying to bring DeAndre Jordan into the fold for quite a long time. There was even one episode in which they were almost sure Jordan would make his way to Dallas only to be double-crossed by the Clippers. However, it seems like there is no way around it this time. Jordan was supposed to be the first guy to jump ship in Los Angeles after the Lob City experiment was deemed a failure. However, he ended up being the last one standing in LA after Chris Paul and Blake Griffin both bolted away. But fear not, DeAndre fans, because it finally seems like Jordan will be able to leave Doc Rivers and the Clippers. His destination will most likely be Dallas, which is one of the only franchises that will throw him money close to a max contract.
13 2019: Dwight Howard to the Clippers
We already talked about the Clippers signing Kemba Walker in 2019, but they could go with a double play and sign two guys who have been playing very well together for the Charlotte Hornets. Dwight Howard is one of those players who you have to bet on. There is no way to guess what kind of Dwight will come when you sign this guy. He could be the player who is doing well in Charlotte and was an All-Star in Orlando, or he could be the guy who destroyed the Lakers and Rockets.
One way or the other, scoring almost 17 points and pulling in 12.4 rebounds per game, Dwight is a force to be reckoned with, and he could turn the Clippers into a competitive team alongside Kemba Walker. But again, it will take some skill from the front office to make it happen financially.
12 2018: Clint Capela stays in Houston
It is almost funny that at some point there was doubt throughout the NBA if the Houston Rockets would eventually match any offer that came for Clint Capela during this upcoming summer. We say it was funny because today everyone knows Capela is one of the most reliable big men in the NBA. What many people thought would be a big two of Chris Paul and James Harden, became a big three because of how well Capela has played this season. The 6’10” Swiss center is averaging 14 points and 10.9 rebounds per game, not to mention his 1.9 blocks per outing. But those are just the stats that hit the surface. We also have to remember Capela is shooting better than 65 percent from the field. Yeah, the Rockets will match any offer that comes for him this summer.
11 2019: Devin Booker stays in Phoenix
The sad thing about coming out of a rookie contract is that despite being able to get a lot of money, you can’t really get away from a bad team if you are in one. This is the case with Devin Booker, who will have to stay in Phoenix in 2019. However, there is one silver lining for Booker who has quickly become one of the best scores in the league and proven he could lead a team into the playoffs if given a good supporting cast, which he hasn’t yet. Despite the fact he will have to remain in Phoenix, there is a good chance he will do so under a max deal.
Yeah, someone in 2019 will throw a max contract at Devin Booker if the Suns allow him to go into free agency. And whether they like it or not, they will have to match that offer because Booker is a talent that doesn’t come around very often for Phoenix.
10 2018: Jabari Parker stays in Milwaukee
Following the same line of thought we had for Clint Capela, Jabari Parker is one player who many people thought would be on his way out of town by the summer, but who has played his way back into contention. Given the fact that he struggled at times but mostly because of his injury problems, it was not weird for someone to think that depending on what kind of offer he received this summer, the Milwaukee Bucks would refrain from matching a hefty contract.
Nevertheless, since he returned from injury, Jabari has been looking like the player everyone thought he would be coming out of Duke. He has been slowly introduced into the starting lineup and has looked good in recent games, especially in a 35-point and 10-rebound outing against the Nuggets on April 1. Only time will tell, but it seems like the Bucks will match any offer for Jabari.
9 2019: Kristaps Porzingis stays in New York
Again with a rookie deal, there is absolutely no way the New York Knicks are going to let Kristaps Porzingis get away. The reasoning here is the same as we gave for both Karl-Anthony Towns and Devin Booker. This guy is just too good for you to pass up on him. Towns is the best today, but you will find people around the NBA who say Porzingis is the young big man with most upside in the NBA. If we really look into this idea, it is an argument a lot of people could back up.
Porzingis is the guy who could grow the most given the fact he still looks like a teenager because of how skinny he is. If this guy puts up some pounds and becomes able to bully people down low with his strength as well as his height, there is no telling how good he will become. With that in mind, could you even imagine a scenario where the Knicks wouldn’t match any offer that comes for him?
8 2018: Julius Randle to Indiana
The Los Angeles Lakers want to win, and they want to win now. It has been a long time since Kobe was winning championships in LA, and it seems like the Lakers are finally done with the waiting game. They got the young pieces they wanted in rookies Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, which means that the entire rebuilding process before the 2017 NBA Draft could very well be thrown out of the window this summer. The perfect example of how that might happen is how the contract talks with Julius Randle have been handled. Magic Johnson has been very open with the fact that he wants to bring in two max contract players during free agency. Unfortunately for Randle, that means he will have to agree to a major pay cut if he wants to stay with the Lakers.
The bottom line is that he probably won’t agree to a pay cut nor will the Lakers match the eventual offer that will come from Indiana during free agency.
7 2019: Kawhi Leonard to the Lakers
This is an exciting scenario that we are sure Magic Johnson would not complain if he had to work with. Let’s just get it out of the way by saying this would only be a possibility if the Lakers strike out in 2018 and are not able to sign either Paul George or LeBron James. If either of those guys decides to go elsewhere, the Lakers would have enough cap space to sign someone for a max deal during the 2019 free agency. Interestingly enough, that is the same summer in which Kawhi Leonard has a player option to leave the San Antonio Spurs.
For a long time, no one thought this was a possibility as Leonard seemed to be right at home in San Antonio, but this season has turned that entire relationship upside down. No one knows what is happening to him, and if there is any animosity there, you can be sure the Lakers will try to exploit that come free agency.
6 2018: Aaron Gordon stays in Orlando
Everyone knew Aaron Gordon was a good player, but no one expected him to show how good he was this early in his career. At just 22 years old this kid has taken the reins and become the number one player for the Orlando Magic. Sure, Orlando has been struggling for a few years, but with Gordon at the helm, it does seem like they are a team with the potential to grow. Maybe not to become a championship contender, but certainly a team that could go into the second round of the playoffs next year.
That faint hope, however, means that Orlando will have to match any offer that comes in for Gordon this summer. And there have even been speculations of max deals for the 22-year-old power forward. Yeah, that is the crazy potential he is showing with a 17.9 point and 8.1 rebound per game season.
5 2019: Klay Thompson to the Heat
It's hard to really add a destination here because there are going to be so many teams bidding for Klay Thompson when the 2019 free agency begins that we are torn in taking a guess. This is one of those situations in which everyone would have to look at the landscape of the NBA during the 2018-19 season. Although the one thing we can be sure of is that Klay Thompson will probably leave the Golden State Warriors when his contract ends. The reasoning here is very simple. There is no way for them to keep a guy like him if they give Kevin Durant the max contract he will surely demand during the 2018 free agency period.
As for why Thompson would choose Miami, it's simply a gut feeling, as the Heat will be looking to get back to being contenders in the east. Once Dwyane Wade retires, the Heat will want to make a big splash.
Everyone knew this was going to happen at some point. The Warriors would have to break up, that is just how the NBA works because of the salary cap rule.
4 2018: Avery Bradley to Oklahoma City
One of the biggest surprises of the eventful trade deadline earlier this year was that Sam Presti did not make a move to acquire Avery Bradley from the Los Angeles Clippers. This was during the whole turmoil the Thunder were going through after Andre Roberson went down with a season-ending injury. It was also a move that made a lot of sense for Oklahoma City since Bradley would provide a great defensive presence while also being able to play some offense. The Thunder eventually decided to sign Corey Brewer after the deadline, but you can be sure that they will want an upgrade when the summer comes, and that upgrade will most likely be Avery Bradley. He will also be a great contingency plan in the event Paul George decides to leave.
3 2019: Kyrie Irving stays in Boston
Kyrie Irving will arguably be the best player available when the 2019 free agency comes around. His stats are impressive, but they still don’t explain how great of a player Kyrie really is. It will take the next level of analytics for everyone to understand in numbers what this guy does for a team. Perhaps the best way to explain this is by saying that Kyrie is a winner. He is one of those rare players who will do anything for his team to win, even give up the ball when most other superstars would not do it. That being said, Irving is arguably the best closer the NBA has seen since Kobe Bryant. Kyrie is a talent that comes once a generation and the Celtics know that very well, which is why they will give him as much money as they can when his player option year comes in 2019.
2 2018: Isaiah Thomas stays in L.A.
Every year the basketball gods pick one player in the NBA to become the laughing stock of the entire league. Unfortunately for him, it seems like Isaiah Thomas was the recipient of that award this year. It is almost sad how this guy was supposed to play his heart out during his contract year so he could prove to the world that the smallest player could be worth a max contract during the 2018 free agency period.
As you all probably know, that was not what happened with Isaiah. First, he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, which could have been a good opportunity for him to play for a contender. But that turned out to be a mistake since he was deemed a detriment to the team while he was there. Now he is in Los Angeles, struggling to become a starter for the Lakers. Tallying all of those factors, don’t be surprised if free agency comes and goes and no one offers Thomas a contract he will go for.
1 2019: Kevin Love to Oklahoma City
Oh yes, don’t fool yourself by saying right off the bat that this could never happen. This could definitely become a reality, and it is something you can be sure Sam Presti has been thinking about ever since he decided to try the Paul George experiment. The Thunder GM knows very well that in the NBA you should always prepare for the worst of situations, and it seems like he has done just that.
If both Paul George and Carmelo Anthony decide their future is not in Oklahoma City, the Thunder will have cap space for at least one max salary superstar in 2019. Kevin Love would be the perfect recipient of that contract. Assuming they land Avery Bradley in 2018, Oklahoma City would have one of the most solid starting fives in the league, with Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Avery Bradley, Kevin Love, and Steven Adams. That would be a defensive nightmare for any opponent.