www.thesportster.com

Projecting The Top 20 NBA Free Agent Signings Of 2019

Ahead of the 2018-19 NBA season, the league has taken on a new look. With LeBron James creating a threat in the West by assembling a team to dethrone the Golden State Warriors, DeMarcus Cousins joining the defending champions, and teams like the Philadelphia 76ers continuing to develop a talented young roster, fans are anxiously awaiting the start of the regular season. While this current offseason has seen things shaken up for both conferences, the upcoming offseason is arguably one of the most star-studded lineups of free agents the NBA has seen in a long time. Several players, like Kawhi Leonard, are on the final year of their contracts and will look to re-evaluate their future at the end of this season, while others this past offseason signed large long-term contracts, such as LeBron James, who signed a four-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers after leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers.

While some fans have written off the upcoming season following Boogie Cousins joining the Golden State Warriors, the recent shakeup of top-ranked teams looking to make the jump from elite to championship-caliber like the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors has many fans intrigued to see what surprises this season has in store.

The West has never been stronger, and the East has never looked as promising. With that, we're going to be breaking down the top 20 projected NBA free agent signings of the upcoming offseason, by looking at cap space, needs, and most importantly wants, of each team ahead of what could be one of the most interesting NBA seasons in recent memory.

advertising

20 Ricky Rubio

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Probable Destination: New York Knicks

Last season saw Euro-league star Ricky Rubio join the Utah Jazz after being traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Rubio played in 77 regular season games for the Jazz, putting on an impressive performance in the playoffs as he averaged nearly a triple-double, with 14 points-per-game to go along with 7 assists-per-game and 7.3 rebounds-per-game. While Rubio certainly made a significant contribution to the Jazz, rookie Donovan Mitchell also had a breakout performance last season in the playoffs. Given Mitchell's extremely high potential, the Jazz could look to move on from Rubio following this season, where he will make $18 million. While it's unclear if the team will look to re-sign him, the New York Knicks could also look to bring Rubio onboard to mentor 2-guard Frank Ntilikina, especially on the offensive end.

19 Kevin Durant

John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

Probable Destination: Los Angeles Lakers

While Kevin Durant has made it clear that he wants to keep his options open in the future, he is currently on the first year of a new contract with the Golden State Warriors. After winning back-to-back championships with the Warriors, many believe Durant is poised to three-peat this season with the addition of DeMarcus Cousins to the Golden State Warriors. Following this season, Durant could very well opt-in to the remaining year of his contract worth $31.5 million. Should he decide to move on, however, reports are emerging that Durant could be headed to the Los Angeles Lakers. Should Durant decide to opt-out of his contract, the chances of him going to the Los Angeles Lakers are extremely high. With that being said, however, the Golden State Warriors will likely look to do whatever they can to keep Durant around long-term.

advertising

18 Hassan Whiteside

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Probable Destination: Milwaukee bucks

The 2015-16 season was a breakout one for Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside, as the 7'0"  North Carolina native led the league in blocks with an average of 3.7 per game. Following that, Whiteside signed a new contract with the Miami Heat, however, since then, they have expressed an interest in trading Whiteside, who will earn $24.4 million this year. Unfortunately, interest in Whiteside is low given his massive salary and the fact that he only played in 54 games this past season. While he may opt-in on his player option this off-season and pick up the remaining $27 million on his contract, depending on his performance this season, the Milwaukee Bucks may once again look to pick up Whiteside as they did in 2013, as well as last season.

17 Jeff Teague

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Probable Destination: Minnesota Timberwolves

This past season saw Jeff Teague join head coach, and Timberwolves head of basketball operations, Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota. Teague started all 70 games which he played in, averaging 14.2 points per game to go along with 7 assists per game and 1.5 steals per game. While Teague started for the Timberwolves throughout the year, he also split minutes with former NBA MVP Derrick Rose off the bench. With Rose's performance in the playoffs, many including NBA champion Kevin Garnett have wondered whether Rose will end up getting the nod to start ahead of Teague this season at times. As the centerpiece to a young Timberwolves team on the verge of being a contender in the East, Teague will have the opportunity to exercise his player option next offseason. Given the three-year, $57 million contract given to him by the Timberwolves, fans can expect Teague to likely opt into his deal.

advertising

16 Isaiah Thomas

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Probable Destination: Chicago Bulls

Isaiah Thomas sits in an extremely interesting place going into the 2018-19 season. After having a breakout season with the Boston Celtics in 2015-16, Thomas put up another impressive stat-filled season in 2016-17 with the Celtics as he averaged almost 29 points to go along with 5.9 assists per game. This past season, however, Thomas played in just 32 games thanks to injuries, starting the season with the Cleveland Cavaliers before then joining the Los Angeles Lakers, where he went down with a season-ending injury. After finding himself a free agent without many teams lined up to offer him a contract, Thomas took a one-year $2 million deal with the Denver Nuggets.

His play, and ability to stay healthy will be the biggest determining factor where Thomas lands. Should he put up similar stats to the 2016-17 season, he could find himself in a position to land a large contract. One large-market team that could look to fill out the point guard spot with Thomas' star power is the Chicago Bulls, who are currently in the midst of a rebuild and need a seasoned point guard to run the floor.

15 Paul Millsap

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Probable Destination: Dallas Mavericks

A four-time NBA All-Star, Paul Millsap played in just 38 games last season, significantly diminishing his stock as he enters into the third year of his contract with the Nuggets, where they will have the option to retain him if they choose. Given the role injuries played in last season for Millsap, his ability to stay healthy this season will be a major determining factor in whether or not the Nuggets decide to keep him on the roster. While they may look to exercise their team option and keep Millsap, if they choose to let him go, he may be hard pressed to find another team willing to offer him as much money as the Nuggets. One team that may be interested in Millsap is the Dallas Mavericks, who are still lacking at the center position. In addition, should Dirk Nowitzki retire, the Mavericks will also have a significant gap to fill at the power forward spot.

advertising

14 Goran Dragic

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Probable Destination: New York Knicks

At 31-years-old, Goran Dragic has proven himself to be both a reliable and durable player. Averaging 17 points-per-game last season, Dragic continued to facilitate the Miami Heat offense, dishing out 4.8 assists-per-game. The veteran guard will have the opportunity to exercise his player option following next season, where he would earn $19.2 million for opting-in to the last remaining year on his contract with the Heat. With this upcoming season being Dwyane Wade's last, Dragic could look to shake things up and opt-out of his player option following this season. Should he do that, he could very well find himself on the radar of the New York Knicks, who could look to sign Dragic to form an elite 'pick and pop' duo with Kristaps Porzingas.

13 Al Horford

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Probable Destination: Boston Celtics

Al Horford joined the Boston Celtics two seasons ago, where he has since managed to increase his rebounds-per-game from 6.8 to 7.4 last season, in addition to racking up 1.1 blocks per game. This season, Horford will earn $28.9 million, before then potentially earning $30.1 million the following season if he chooses to exercise his player option. Given his production for the Celtics last season, especially in the playoffs, the Celtics could very well find themselves looking to give Horford an extension. As he's 32 now, whether or not the Celtics offer him a new contract could depend on how this season plays out and whether Horford is willing to take a pay cut to remain alongside a young Celtics core that hopes to find its rhythm.

advertising

12 DeMarcus Cousins

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Probable Destination: Dallas Mavericks

DeMarcus Cousins made arguably the most controversial move this offseason. After it appeared that the New Orleans Pelicans had assembled all the pieces required for a championship team, Boogie joined the Golden State Warriors for this upcoming season on a one-year, $5.3 million deal. With many predicting the team to win the NBA championship, Cousins could very well collect a ring and move on to another team following this season. One team that has the money to not only offer Cousins a max-contract but also promise to bring another superstar is the Dallas Mavericks, who will have the cap space for two max contracts after this season.

11 Kyrie Irving

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Probable Destination: New York Knicks

After joining the Boston Celtics last season, Kyrie Irving played in just 60 games, missing the postseason as the Celtics made a deep playoff push to the Eastern Conference Finals. As Irving enters into his second season with the Celtics, all eyes are on the young team in Boston with Gordon Hayward entering into the starting lineup once again. While reports have surfaced for quite some time regarding a potential Butler-Irving duo, Irving could very well decide to opt-in to the final year of his contract worth $21.3 million for the 2019-20 season depending on the team's success this season. Should he decide to opt-out, however, we could very well see Irving go from wearing a Celtics jersey to a Knicks jersey in 2019.

advertising

10 Karl-Anthony Towns

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Probable Destination: Minnesota Timberwolves

This past season was an interesting one for the Minnesota Timberwolves, as All-Star Jimmy Butler joined the team as the starting small forward. While the new Timberwolves roster looked poised to make a playoff run, the team was ultimately eliminated by the Houston Rockets first round en route to the Rockets' Western Conference Finals appearance. Now, the Timberwolves are currently in the middle of contract negotiations with both Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler, who wants to be traded out of Minnesota. As a result, the Timberwolves have put negotiations with Towns on the back burner until the situation with Butler is sorted out. Given the Timberwolves desire to rebuild around a younger core team, expect the team to prioritize re-signing Towns over Butler.

9 Jimmy Butler

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Probable Destination: New York Knicks

After splitting from the Chicago Bulls and joining the Minnesota Timberwolves last season, the All-Star guard/forward played in just 59 games. Minnesota then looked poised to make a deep playoff run last season with Butler returning in time for the playoffs. Unfortunately, thanks in part to a playoff matchup with the Houston Rockets, the Timberwolves saw themselves eliminated in the first round, with Butler putting up lackluster numbers. Given the tension between Butler and head coach Tom Thibodeau, Butler's time in Minnesota is all but up. Reports have continued to emerge regarding the possibility of Butler and Kyrie Irving teaming up in New York. Given all that, the odds we see Butler end up in New York long-term alongside Kyrie Irving are high.

advertising

8 Kawhi Leonard

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Probable Destination: Los Angeles Clippers

While Kawhi Leonard has yet to play a game in a Toronto Raptors jersey, fans are already speculating as to where the former Finals MVP ends up following this season. After a frustrating last season in San Antonio, Leonard will earn $23 million this year before then having the opportunity to exercise his player option and pick up the remaining $21 million on the table. With the Raptors on the verge of being a championship-caliber team, Leonard's production this season will have a significant impact on whether or not the team will look to commit to him long-term. In addition, whether or not the Raptors can contend in the East could play a large part in whether or not Leonard opts-in to the final year of his contract. With that being said, however, there are talks of Leonard and Jimmy Butler teaming up on the Los Angeles Clippers. Should Leonard decide to opt-out of his contract next season, the odds of a Leonard-Butler duo in L.A. are similarly quite high right now.

7 Kemba Walker

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Probable Destination: Charlotte Hornets

Kemba Walker entered into the league in 2011 as the 9th overall pick in the draft and has proven himself to be one of the most reliable point guards in the league. Always on the verge of being one of the best point guards in the league, Walker is on the last year of his contract with Charlotte. After averaging 22.1 points last season to go along with 5.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds, Walker could very likely find himself receiving another offer from the Hornets given that he has spent the last seven seasons with the team.

advertising

6 Klay Thompson

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Probable Destination: Los Angeles Lakers

Three-time NBA champion Klay Thompson is currently gearing up to enter the final year of his contract with the Golden State Warriors. While Thompson was drafted to the team in 2011, reports have continued to surface regarding the possibility that the 'Splash Brother' decides to look for another opportunity on another team. While all signs point to the Warriors offering Thompson a max contract, or even a potential 'supermax contract' should the team decide to go with Kevin Durant or DeMarcus Cousins long-term moving forward, Thompson could realistically make the jump to the Los Angeles Lakers given the history between his father and the franchise, and that L.A. is his hometown, if the price is right.

5 Kristaps Porzingis

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Probable Destination: New York Knicks

At 7-foot-3, Kristaps Porzingis has proven himself to be one of the most versatile power forwards in the league as he has proven himself to be an elite level scorer. Unfortunately for Porzingis, while he averaged a career-high 22.7 points per game and 2.4 blocks per game, he played in just 48 games this season after getting hurt midway through the season. While that could significantly impact his stock in the upcoming free agency, the New York Knicks have gotten a glimpse of what Porzingis can do when he's healthy. In addition, the team has expressed a desire to continue their long-term relationship with Porzingis, and will likely do whatever it takes to keep the young star around long-term.

advertising

4 DeAndre Jordan

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Probable Destination: Dallas Mavericks

After playing his entire career with the Los Angeles Clippers, DeAndre Jordan signed a one-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks worth $22.8 million. As one of the highest paid centers this season, Jordan will look to continue to dominate in the paint, on the glass, and in the key, as he continues to score, pull down boards, and block shots. With Dirk Nowitzki potentially coming off the bench this season, and the Mavericks having enough space to make two make contract offers, Jordan could likely find himself on the receiving end of a max contract offer from the Mavericks should he continue to produce consistent numbers.

3 Frank Kaminsky

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Probable Destination: Minnesota Timberwolves

Frank Kaminsky joined the NBA at the start of the 2015-16 NBA season after being drafted by the Charlotte Hornets with the 9th overall pick of the draft. Since then, the decorated NCAA player has continued to develop as a player, averaging 11 points last season to go along with 3.6 rebounds-per-game. Kaminsky's lack of rebounding ability resulted in him being moved to power forward last season despite being 7-feet-tall. While he has a $4.9 million qualifying offer, which the Hornets will likely pick up, he could find himself in the sights of the Minnesota Timberwolves depending on what happens between Jimmy Butler and coach Tom Thibodeau this season after Butler expressed a desire to part ways with the franchise. If the price is right, Thibodeau may look to replace Butler with a younger player like Kaminsky.

advertising

2 Terry Rozier

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Probable Destination: Boston Celtics

'Scary' Terry Rozier had a breakout season in Boston last year where he stepped up in Gordon Hayward's absence, averaging 11.3 points and 4.7 rebounds. The three-year veteran contributed quite a bit to the Celtics in the post-season as well, helping lead the team to the Eastern Conference Finals. Following this season, 'Scary' Terry will enter into his final contract year, where he has a qualifying offer of $4.2 million. Given how quick he cemented his place as a staple in Boston, the Celtics are very likely to make the guard an offer for a contract extension as they look to solidify their place as contenders in the East.

1 Larry Nance Jr.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Probable Destination: Cleveland Cavaliers

Larry Nance Jr. began last season with the Los Angeles Lakers before then joining the Cleveland Cavaliers midway through the season. In his third season in the league, Nance managed to increase his per-game scoring from 7.1 to 8.7, and his rebounds-per-game from 5.9 to 6.8. In addition, the 6'9" big man has established himself as one of the most aggressive dunkers in the league. While he has a $3.3 million qualifying offer next season, Nance and the Cavaliers have reportedly had ongoing discussions regarding a contract extension. Should talks go well, the Cleveland native could very well find himself in The Land longterm.

advertising
advertising

More in NBA