While NBA Free Agency officially begins on June 30th at 3:00 pm PT, the season of pre-agency is off to the races with no sign of slowing down.
Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard are still the most prominent media focus and justifiably so; there are several players entering the market who may not have the clout that KD and Kawhi bring at the moment, but their ability to make an impact on a potential contender is extremely viable.
D’Angelo Russell was one of the many No. 2 picks who have come and gone in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform. After his first All-Star appearance in 2018-19, he’s looking to have someone—as Rasheed Wallace would say—“cut the check.”
Despite the Lakers trading Russell after an interpersonal squabble with teammate Nick Young, they are a potential landing spot for the point guard. With Magic Johnson, Luke Walton, and Nick Young no longer associated with House of Buss and the organization, the Lakers are a top contender.
But revenge could be just as sweet if D’Lo would like to indulge—the Clippers share a city and, for the time being, an arena with the Lakers, and I could think of nothing more poetic than Big Brother getting turned down by the lottery pick they traded away.
Centers are not in high demand this summer, but that doesn’t alleviate the problem for teams that do have a spot to fill.
With Oklahoma City looking to cut salary and avoid further luxury tax implications, Steven Adams has been mentioned as the ritual sacrifice for the team with the highest projected 2019-20 payroll—a team with just one playoff win from 2018 to show for it.
But with the Kiwi on the books for over $53 million over the next two years, calls have been quiet and limited to Boston and Sacramento. Either way, his movement or lack thereof will significantly affect OKC’s roster flexibility.
Again, another center entering a market that isn’t center-friendly. Al Horford has turned down his staggering $30 million player option for the 2019-20 season and is reportedly looking for a 4-year contract with a similar price point.
My first instinct was that Big Al was opting out as a kind gesture to Boston—to reduce the roster salary and give them more options to explore during free agency themselves. But as of now, it seems his eyes are set on a one-way ticket out of TD Garden.
While Horford has undoubtedly proven himself as a reliable playoff teammate, the $30 million a year he’s expecting seems more far fetched than Kyrie Irving returning to Boston.
Okay, this one I admit is more wishful thinking on my part. Randle, coincidently another Lakers castoff, has passed on his $9 million player option for the 2019-20 season and is now exploring his pre-agency options. Scoring a career-high 45 points last year and finding his opportunity to improve his minutes, 3P%, and PPG alongside Anthony Davis, Randle would be an exquisite addition to the Blazers roster.
Randle has been in trade rumors with Portland almost every year in the near past, and with his versatility at power forward and center, he could easily be a reasonable contract for Jodi Allen and Neil Olshley to consider.