The attention surrounding NBA free agency has made July 1 a defacto national holiday with the NBA becoming the main topic of conversation beneath the fireworks a few days later on the Fourth of July.
This offseason had the potential to alter the basketball landscape for years to come, but we’ve been robbed of some drama. The Kevin Durant experiment has gone even better than planned and we’re simply awaiting the terms of his next deal with the Warriors. The Rockets might have been a healthy hamstring away from dethroning those Warriors, which makes re-signing Chris Paul a foregone conclusion. DeMarcus Cousins is entering a much lighter than expected market following a torn Achilles, not to mention the success of the Pelicans following that injury.
There is still a decent crop of free agents, thankfully, headlined by a veteran of July theater. Here are 10 players and the places they should land to maximize entertainment on and off the court.
1. LeBron James Stays With Cavaliers
Let’s take the biggest chess piece off the board right away. It’s been reported that LeBron will decide on his future sooner than he has in the past, which would allow the remainder of this offseason’s dominos to fall quickly. We can only hope.
While defecting to the Lakers or Sixers would put him LeBron in an entirely new uniform and situation, staying with Cleveland for another season sets us up for more intrigue down the line.
- The 2019 free agent class could be extremely shallow, especially if the Warriors and Klay Thompson remain on course for an eventual max deal. If LeBron opts in or signs a 1+1 deal, we’ll have another year or debating where he’ll go.
- It looked like Koby Altman’s hands were tied when the Cavaliers were sputtering at midseason, but he managed to find willing trade partners.
- Delaying The Decision 3.0 would allow LeBron to see how things develop in L.A. and Philadelphia next season and determine which situation would gave him the best chance to win a few more titles.
2. Paul George Signs With Lakers
If the Lakers are going to sign a single superstar without the assurance from a second, it’s going to be George. The Palmdale native may have grown up a Clippers fan, but he’s been earmarked as a future Laker for what seems like forever. Adding George without LeBron or Kawhi Leonard won’t make them a contender, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Adding stars in phases also allows Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram to develop organically in hopes that they’ll be ready for primetime should LeBron decide L.A. is a fit as soon as next summer.
3. Lakers Also Sign DeMarcus Cousins
DeMarcus Cousins’ misfortune could be a gain for the Lakers as he was headed for a max contract before tearing his Achilles. A foot injury is the scariest of injuries for an already-plodding big man.
That sets the stage for a one-year deal that would allow Cousins to reset his value with a productive season. A core of Ball-Kuzma-George-Ingram-Cousins makes the Lakers relevant again (which is good for the NBA) and would allow him to land a lucrative long-term in next summer’s thin market.
Another name that would be highly entertaining in L.A., especially in George fulfills his destiny: Lance Stephenson.
4. Sixers Trade For Kawhi Leonard
It’s unwise to count Gregg Popovich and the Spurs out, but this situation is vastly different than the flirtation LaMarcus Aldridge had with wanting out last summer. The Sixers are the only team that has the need, motivation and pieces to trade for Kawhi without risk.
Simmons-Kawhi-Embiid would be ready to go toe-to-toe with the healthy Celtics right away. Brett Brown could also maximize Leonard’s talent without stunting anyone’s growth in the manner adding LeBron would.
LeBron in Cleveland and Kawhi in Philadelphia also gives the East three legitimate contenders for the first time in years.
5. Mavericks Land … DeAndre Jordan?
The list of reasons why Jordan is a perfect fit for the Mavs:
1) They need a center.
2) The memes.
3) Jordan would be a great pick-and-roll partner for Dennis Smith, Jr. and Luka Doncic.
4) The memes.
5) Also, the memes.
6. Marcus Smart Signs With Mavericks
There simply aren’t enough minutes to go around in Boston and Smart’s style of play would be welcomed in Dallas. He’d enter into a perimeter rotation with Smith and Doncic that would allow him to play a similar role to the one he excelled in with the Celtics -- hustle, make plays and rattle home the occasional prayer from three. Another team could make him a larger offer, but he needs the right situation to contribute efficiently. The Mavericks are a perfect fit.
7. J.J. Redick Signs With Pacers
It’s time for Redick to enter the gun-for-hire stage. The Pacers need shooting after living in the midrange last season and Redick is an attainable piece for a team that is suddenly on the rise after Victor Oladipo’s breakout season. They have both the cap space for a significant splash and the allure of a playoff run.
8. Isaiah Thomas Signs With Hawks
The Hawks have dangled Kent Bazemore in trade talks and Dennis Schroder wants out. If they don’t sign a legitimate scorer in free agency, Trae Young might hurt his shoulder hoisting shots by the All-Star break.
Enter IT. Thomas hasn’t been the same since hurting his hip at the end of his tenure with the Celtics, but Lloyd Pierce would have to give him the keys to the offense. Having Thomas and Young on the floor at the same time might prove difficult, but there should be plenty of shots for both at The Fortress.
9. Julius Randle Signs With Nets
The Lakers will have the ability to match any offer he receives after extending him a qualifying offer, but if Magic Johnson backs up his promise to deliver in free agency they won’t want Julius Randle back.
Brooklyn wants to feature Jarrett Allen inside and Randle would be a nice partner in the paint with his ability to step out a bit. It’s not a knock on Luke Walton and his staff, but it would be fascinating to see how Kenny Atkinson works with the former No. 7 pick.
10. Rodney Hood Signs With Sixers
Hood disappointed with the Cavaliers, but this may be the perfect storm. The Sixers can sign him for much less than what he would have cost just a few months ago and he’ll fill a need regardless of whether or not they swing a trade for Kawhi or re-sign Redick. Whichever team bets Hood is closer to what we saw in Utah than over a few months in Cleveland is going to add an important piece to their rotation and perhaps add one of the NBA’s most-tradable contracts in the process.