NBA free agency is wild, and it’s no different this year with All-Stars and MVPs available and several teams with the salary cap space to offer at least one player – maybe two – a maximum salary contract.
The Los Angeles Lakers trading for Anthony Davis, the injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, the possibility that Durant and Kyrie Irving join the same team – maybe Brooklyn, maybe New York – add to the intrigue.
Plus, close to half of the league’s players will be or can be free agents, which means there could be a significant amount of movement, altering the future for several teams.
Teams can begin meeting and negotiating with free agents on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET.
Here’s a look at the top 12 free agents, plus a few more, who can make a difference.
► Kevin Durant • Golden State Warriors • Unrestricted free agent
Durant likely will miss all of next season recovering from a torn Achilles sustained in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, but that won’t stop teams from offering him a max contract. That’s how much teams value Durant — a league MVP and two-time Finals MVP who’s one of the top-three players in the world and just 30 years old.
► Kawhi Leonard • Toronto Raptors • Unrestricted free agent
If you weren’t paying attention during the regular season, the playoffs told you everything you needed to know about where Leonard is in the NBA hierarchy: right near the top. He, like Durant, is a two-time Finals MVP, and he’s one of three players in NBA history to win the award with two teams.
► Kyrie Irving • Boston Celtics • Unrestricted free agent
Talent is not the issue here. Irving is one of the best scoring point guards in the NBA and is coming off one of the best regular seasons of his career. There aren’t many better creative shotmakers in the league. It’s Irving’s impact on the locker room that may give teams pause.
► Klay Thompson • Golden State Warriors • Unrestricted free agent
Like Durant, Thompson sustained a serious injury (torn ACL) in the NBA Finals and will miss a good chunk, if not all, of next season. He’s another player teams would pursue despite the injury, but all signs point to Thompson re-signing with Golden State.
► Jimmy Butler • Philadelphia 76ers • Unrestricted free agent
Butler was solid during the playoffs, and he’s the kind of two-way player championship contenders want on their roster. He made a difference for the Sixers, and they would love to have him back as they look to get over the hump.
► Kemba Walker • Charlotte Hornets • Unrestricted free agent
Coming off his third consecutive All-Star season, Walker is another elite scoring point guard (25.6 points per game in 2018-19) who can also pass, rebound and collect steals. For Walker, it comes down to weighing what he wants financially, what he wants from a competitive standpoint and how much he believes the Hornets can become a contender in the East.
Source: USA Today