The NBA offseason is a crazy place filled with rumors, drama, tweets, and expert speculation. The truth is that nobody can really guess what takes place once the free agency period begins, not even the players. Although the NBA free agency market for contracts appears to be leveling out a bit, compared to the massive contracts that were handed out to even the most average of players two summers ago, there are still teams in position to steal talent from other franchises with big money offers.
Some of those teams have been waiting years for this loaded offseason to finally come about; teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns have positioned themselves with young talent and massive amounts of cap space in order to lure a few big name pieces to get their respective franchises back to relevancy. Other teams are up against the salary cap wall and will be forced to make tough decisions on whether to match their restricted free agents new contract offers.
The 2018 free agency class is legendary in that so many big names are set to (potentially) hit the free agent market. While many of these stars have player options or are restricted free agents, it does not guarantee that they will return as the face of the franchise next season. It will be a big offseason for most teams... is your team going to go all in? Continue reading to find out.
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15 Change: Paul George Joins The Young Lakers Squad
One of the biggest and most surprising twists in last offseason's drama was when the Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder wrapped up a trade that would send superstar Paul George to the Thunder to give Russell Westbrook a new partner in crime. The Thunder then added Carmelo Anthony to form an interesting Big Three to hopefully compete with the Golden State Warriors during the Western Conference Playoffs.
The acquisitions haven't shown great chemistry in their lone year together, but don't count out OKC making a run in this year's playoffs. Long-term, however, it appears that George has no plans of staying in the mid-west after this season. The speculation has always been that George will be joining the Lakers once he hits the free agency market and the match-up makes too much sense to ignore. Lakers get a new star piece in George this summer.
14 Staying Put: Clint Capela Gets A Max Deal From The Rockets
It's rare for a player to develop from meaningless bench role to a maximum contract in as a little as three years, but that is what Clint Capela has likely done given his extraordinary play for the Rockets this season. While the Rockets like to play small ball and shoot a lot of threes, they need a player like Capela to control the paint and grab rebounds at a high rate.
Capela has done that and more this season as he currently averages 14 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. He will be a restricted free agent this offseason meaning the Rockets can match any contract another team offers. It's all but a certainty that at least one team will call the Rockets bluff and give Capela a max deal, but new Rockets owner wants to win now and will gladly dip slightly into the luxury tax threshold to keep the Rockets up and coming big man.
13 Change: J.J. Redick Signs With Cavs
JJ Redick has proven to be a reliable scorer and defender in the NBA over his 11 year career and will look to cash in at least one more time in free agency. Last offseason, Redick signed a one year deal with the Philadelphia 76ers for a whopping $23 million. This contract has proven fortuitous for the Sixers, as Redick's veteran leadership has been invaluable during the young teams surprising run to the playoffs.
While the 76ers would likely love to have Redick come back next season as a reserve player, it's likely that Redick will still be looking for starter money and minutes. The 76ers have too many exciting young players that need minutes to develop, which cuts into Redick's value with the team. Instead, Redick will sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers to provide an upgrade to the sharp shooting Kyle Korver and spread the floor for LeBron James.
12 Staying Put: Kevin Durant Stays In The Bay For Another Season
When Kevin Durant chose to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the NBA's powerhouse Golden State Warriors two seasons ago, it really rubbed people the wrong way. It felt awfully similar to when Lebron James announced he was taking his talents to South Beach to partner up with D-Wade and Chris Bosh. It was viewed as a weak move, especially given the fact that Durant had just blown a 3-1 lead to the Warriors in the playoffs the year before.
But now it almost seems like Durant has always been in Oakland because of his seamless introduction to the already dominant roster. Durant has willingly taken less money and less statistics in order to compete for championships. Don't expect Durant to have a change of heart and return to Oklahoma City like LeBron did when he returned to Cleveland. Instead, expect Durant to continue reworking his contract to ensure the Warriors can put out the best five they can every night.
11 Change: Brook Lopez Searches For Winner With Wizards
Brook Lopez is stuck in no mans land right now in the NBA. He is a former all-star center who can still compete at a very high level and score with the best of NBA centers, but is stuck on a rebuilding Lakers roster that doesn't fit his skillset. It's quite possible that Lopez could still average around 18 points per game if he finds the right situation.
Luckily for Lopez, the Washington Wizards may have an opening at center if Marcin Gortat continues to show signs of aging and fails to produce in the playoffs. The Wizards, unlike many teams in the NBA, still use a classic center position to anchor their offense. Given Lopez guards like Wall and Beal creating around him and he will quickly become rejuvenated and producing at a high level again. Given that Lopez hasn't been on a winning team in forever, he may be willing to take smaller contract for an opportunity to win in Washington.
10 Staying Put: Andrew Wiggins Stays Loyal To Minnesota
The Minnesota Timberwolves have been expecting their young team to develop into playoff stars for the past two or three seasons and the 2017-2018 finally appears like it's their time to shine. While Karl Anthony-Towns is clearly the centerpiece of the Timberwolves long-term roster, Andrew Wiggins was the piece that sparked the rebuild.
After being drafted #1 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers and then almost immediately being traded to the Timberwolves for Kevin Love, Wiggins has had a chip on his shoulder. It took several years of losing, but Minnesota is finally in a good space for the present and for the future. No way Wiggins chooses to leave the situation that he has helped build in Minnesota. He will get a max deal and will continue to develop into a complete two way player.
9 Change: DeMarcus Cousins Cashes In With Bucks
Oh what could have been had DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis ever been able to stay healthy for an extended period of time together. The new school twin towers create such a mismatch for opposing defenders that it almost seemed unfair at times. In a league often dominated by guard play, it was refreshing to see a team build around the big man positions. But after Cousins went down with an injury this season, it became clear that Davis is better when leading the charge on his own in New Orleans.
Although Cousins is coming off a serious knee injury, he is still young and should be able to compete at the same high level he did prior to getting hurt. Boogie is a beast and many teams will be seeking his talent this summer, while some teams will pass due to his poor attitude. In this scenario, we see Cousins inking a one-year "prove it" deal with the Milwaukee Bucks. He will form a formidable threesome with The Greek Freak and one of his best friends Eric Bledsoe. If this happens, the East has a new power team.
8 Staying Put: Zach Lavine Becomes The Face of The Bulls
When Zach Lavine first made his way to the NBA, he was viewed as an uber-athletic dunking machine that couldn't really provide much else on the court other than his physical skills. While he continued his high-rise act over the next few seasons, Lavine slowly developed his offensive game into a much more complete player. So much so that the Bulls agreed to take Lavine as a main piece in the trade for Jimmy Butler.
While Lavine has struggled with some injuries issues, he was able to make it back onto the court this year and impress his new city. His energy, athleticism, and scoring ability leaves many experts to believe that Lavine could transform into one of the NBA's future stars as early as next season. The Bulls will have to break the bank for Lavine, but it will be worth it to keep the main piece in their rebuilding period intact.
7 Change: Isaiah Thomas Finds A Home In Atlanta
There is zero chance that Isaiah Thomas resigns with the Los Angeles Lakers this summer. While it was a sexy move on paper for the Lakers to acquire the near MVP from last season, that trade was really just to open up even more salary cap space heading into the loaded 2018 free agency class. No chance the Lakers spend big on Thomas when they already are invested with Lonzo Ball at point guard.
It's sad to see Thomas get thrown around from team to team in the NBA like an unwanted commodity, but don't expect anything less this offseason. Of course Thomas will draw interest, but he's never going to get the max deal that he believes he deserves. Instead, Thomas will try to find a situation that he can flourish in and shoot whenever he desires. That situation will be with the Atlanta Hawks, who will allow Thomas to be the star while the team goes through its rebuild over the next several seasons.
6 Staying Put: Jusuf Nurkic Stays Hip In Portland
When it became clear that the Denver Nuggets had found something truly special in Nikola Jokic, it made their other developing big man, Jusuf Nurkic, very expendable. This led to a trade to the Portland Trailblazers for Nurkic, which has proven to be a great situation for the 23 year old Bosnian. Teaming up with guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum has created a solid foundation for the Blazers future.
Losing Nurkic this offseason would completely derail the progress the Blazers have made this season, so don't expect Portland to let Nurkic out of their grasp. As a restricted free agent, Nurkic will be practically untouchable for most teams as the Trailblazers will match any offer for the 7 footer. The Blazers love their direction and Nurkic is a key component of that.
5 Change: Aaron Gordon Leaves Magic For Suns
The Orlando Magic are a terrible team and don't really have much hope of getting better anytime soon. If anything, their only beacon of promise is their young power forward, Aaron Gordon. Gordon will be a restricted free agent this offseason and will receive a max offer, which will create an interesting predicament for the Magic front office. Do they match it? Or do they move on and hope Jonathan Isaac becomes even better than Gordon?
It's a lot of money for a team to spend on a player that, until this year, has shown a limited offensive game. So far in 2017-2018, Gordon has proven that his skillset is developing and that he can be more than just an athletic, highlight reel dunker in the NBA. If the Magic decline to offer Gordon the super-max contract, look for Gordon to join the Phoenix Suns and fellow young star Devon Booker. The Suns would be thrilled with this pick-up as he would fill an immediate position of need.
4 Staying Put: Lou Williams Stays In Hollywood
It's crazy to think that Lou Williams has only started 115 games in his 13 year career, but it goes to show just how good Williams is coming off the bench. He has filled that role again for most of this season for the Los Angeles Clippers and is thriving by averaging a career high 23 points and 5 assists. If there is any doubt anymore whether Williams is the real deal, that should end after this season.
While Williams could seek a position to finally become a full-time starter, he will choose to remain in Los Angeles to continue working with Doc Rivers and company. The Clippers will have to shell out some big bucks for the 31 year old backup, but they better do it if they want to keep DeAndre Jordan happy. Williams seems to be loving Los Angeles and will gladly resign with the Clips this summer.
3 Change: Jabari Parker Teams Up With Coach Popovich
When the Milwaukee Bucks drafted Jabari Parker #2 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, they were expecting to have a franchise cornerstone in the talanted, big bodied player out of Duke. Sadly, that hasn't been the case as Parker has consistently under-produced and has suffered severe injuries in his short career thus far. But the promise is still there and the Bucks could very well pick up his contract for another year this summer.
But the pairing of Parker and The Greek Freak hasn't been smooth yet and the two don't show they type of chemistry you would like to see from two star players. The Bucks will instead spend that money elsewhere this offseason to try and keep Antetokounmpo happy. The San Antonio Spurs and Greg Popovich would gladly jump all over Parker and lock him into a long-term deal, knowing they could develop his skillset in their system. A frontline of Kawhi Leonard, Jabari Parker, and LaMarcus Aldridge could certainly do damage under Popovich's system.
2 Staying Put: LeBron James Keeps His Talents In Cleveland
There has been a lot of speculation the past year that LeBron James is ready for another change of scenery after this season. It's possible that he is growing tired of Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert or that he is just getting bored doing the same routine year after year in the Eastern Conference. The rumor mill points to the Los Angeles Lakers as a potential destination for the King given his strong interest in entertainment and movie production.
But LeBron will have plenty of time to fulfill those hobbies once his playing days are over (look at Kobe winning an Oscar in retirement already), and LeBron is smart enough to worry about his legacy in the NBA. He admits that he tainted it and became a villain when he left Cleveland for Miami years ago. He won't make that mistake again. Cleveland should have ample cap space and a potential top #3 pick in this draft (thanks to Brooklyn), so things are looking bright in Believeland.
1 Change: Jahlil Okafor Finds A Second Chance In New York
Jahlil Okafor was a rookie sensation his first year in Philadelphia when he averaged over 17 points per game and showed a true big man skill set. But Okafor has fallen on tougher times now as he works his way back from several debilitating injuries. Although he finally appears healthy, Okafor is getting practically no run in Brooklyn and looks to be on his way out the door this summer.
Fortunately for Okafor, he won't have to move very far as he will join the New York Knicks to provide them with more depth behind their current big men. Okafor will have to show much more than he has been if he ever wants to become a starting center in the NBA again, but he can provide useful minutes for the Knicks starting next season.
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