The NBA offseason is about to take it up a notch this weekend, as NBA teams will be allowed to come to agreements with free agents starting at 12:00 a.m. EST. The most notable names on the list are LeBron James and Paul George, who could possibly end up playing on the same team for Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Houston Rockets and of course the Cleveland Cavaliers will also be vying to sign LeBron, while Paul George will also consider the Oklahoma City Thunder who traded for him in 2017.
There are other very notable free agents in this class however, so I will try to predict where they are going along with where George and LeBron will go. Along with my overall predictions on where I think they will go, I will also give my opinion on where I think they should go.
The top six free agents in the class that I’ll be talking about are: DeAndre Jordan, Clint Capela, DeMarcus Cousins, Chris Paul, Paul George, and LeBron James.
Where I think he will go: Anywhere but the Los Angeles Clippers
Where I think he should go: Wherever the Los Angeles Clippers trade him
We start off here with a little bit of a tricky answer.
DeAndre Jordan has a player option for the 2018-19 season. That means he can either opt-in to his contract and make $24.1 million for the season, or he can opt-out and find a brand new contract elsewhere. The thing is — NO NBA TEAM IS GOING TO PAY DEANDRE $24.1 MILLION A YEAR. The NBA is currently in a small ball revolution and it has been stated many times that the majority of NBA teams don’t have cap space this summer. Both of those things don’t bode well for DeAndre, as he can’t extend his game out to the 3-point line while at the same time there are two other free agents at the center position who are probably better than him (Clint Capela and DeMarcus Cousins — who we will get to).
The most likely scenario which is being reported, is that DeAndre opts-in (GET THAT MONEY) and works out a trade with the Clippers. The main destination that has been brought up is the Dallas Mavericks, who tried to sign him in 2015 before this fiasco unfolded.
What could stop the trade from happening is if the Mavs decide to go after Cousins or Capela in free agency which would most likely deter them from also getting DeAndre. Also, if the Mavericks want to trade for him there could be another team that wants to trade for him. Either way I don’t see DeAndre playing in a Clippers uniform next season, especially after the Austin Rivers-Marcin Gortat trade early on Wednesday. Either way, that shouldn’t stop him from opting-in and getting that cash, because he won’t get that $24.1 million any other way.
Where I think he will go: Dallas Mavericks
Where I think he should go: Houston Rockets
Clint Capela got second place in Most Improved Player voting, as the big man took his game to a whole new level playing pick-and-roll with James Harden and Chris Paul. After his breakout season, he will be hitting the free agent market as arguably the best option at center available.
Capela’s free agency is restricted, which is different than what the other free agents on this list will be going through. A restricted free agency means any team will be able to make him any offer they want, with the Rockets being able to match the offer and keep Capela. If the Rockets don’t want to splurge the cash to meet whatever offer comes his way, then he goes to that initial team. That’s why I think he will end up elsewhere.
The Dallas Mavericks are heavily rumored to be in the market for a new big man to lead them, and Clint Capela would be perfect for them on pick-and-rolls with Dennis Smith Jr. and new draftee, Luka Doncic. They could theoretically offer him something close to the max that could be anywhere from $80-100 million over 4 years. The Rockets are going to be trying to retain Chris Paul who almost took them to a Finals berth, while also trying to bring LeBron James in. Paul will not be cheap and will probably get the max, which will cause the Rockets to be weary of giving a near-max contract to Capela and putting them way over the luxury tax.
I think Capela should want to stay with the Rockets, but given his restricted free agency, he doesn’t have much choice. If he does end up going to the Mavs or a heavier-bidder like the Phoenix Suns, he will be able to grow more alongside a decent young core and make his own powerhouse team.
Where I think he will go: New Orleans Pelicans
Where I think he should go: Los Angeles Lakers
The last time we saw DeMarcus Cousins on a basketball court was when he ruptured his Achilles tendon on February 26th. He was going to be on the verge of a huge offseason for him personally, as he was going to get ready for a max deal with whatever team he wanted.
That definitely has changed since his injury as teams are going to be weary of committing huge, long-term deals to the large center. He might miss games to start the 2018-19 season, and there’s a good chance that he might not be the same dominant force if you look at the history of Achilles injuries in the NBA.
Someone will want to take the chance on him though, and the teams most likely to do so seem to be the New Orleans Pelicans, the Dallas Mavericks, or the Los Angeles Lakers.
Dallas, as I said in reference to Capela, are looking to commit big money to a center of the future. Cousins is as much an option as Capela and DeAndre are. The Lakers will also want to go after him if their plans for signing Paul George and LeBron fall through. I don’t know about Dallas since they are obviously dead set on bringing in a center, but the Lakers would probably give him a 1 year deal worth max money. They obviously know what Achilles injuries can do to people given Kobe Bryant’s end to his career, so they would probably be scared of taking that type of risk. A 1-year deal would be worth it, as they could get a look at what type of player Cousins is when he comes back. If it doesn’t seem like he’s going to be the same type of player he was, they can let him go and chase after the 2019 free agency class which includes Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, and (probably) Kawhi Leonard. For Cousins, he would most likely come into a situation with either Paul George or LeBron James, which would probably be a better fit for him than playing alongside Anthony Davis in New Orleans.
I think the Pelicans will still try and succeed in retaining the big man given their familiarity with him and since Anthony Davis and Cousins paired together still has the potential to win a lot of games. The Pelicans were only 27-21 with Davis and Cousins in the 2017-18 season leading up to his injury, but they were hot when he went down. They won seven of eight games right before the injury — including three wins against playoff teams all while Cousins was averaging a near triple-double.
I predict that they will offer him a 2 to 3-year deal and he’ll take it for another chance at the Davis/Cousins/Jrue Holiday trio.
Where I think he will go: Houston Rockets
Where I think he should go: Houston Rockets
This seems to be the one scenario out of the six where the player definitely seems to be going back to his 2017-18 team. When the Rockets traded for him from the Clippers, the understanding was that Paul was going to sign a long-term contract, and that still seems to be the case.
There is, of course, connections between Paul and LeBron James as the two are long-time friends. Their relationship has been the root of all rumors of LeBron-to-Houston, but that scenario seems to be more unlikely by the day.
There is the chance that Paul leaves Houston to team up with LeBron elsewhere, but again, he seems to be staying put. That’s where he should go as the Rockets will probably run it back, as they were one Chris Paul-hamstring-injury away from a possible NBA championship.
Where I think he will go: Oklahoma City Thunder
Where I think he should go: Los Angeles Lakers
Paul George forced a trade from the Indiana Pacers to the Oklahoma City Thunder last season, as George made it known that he wanted to go to the Los Angeles Lakers during his free agency in 2018. It seems however that George has enjoyed his time in OKC with Russell Westbrook, and that he might stay.
It truly seems like a 50/50 chance now between OKC and L.A., given reports that have come out recently.
There were also reports that LeBron’s camp doesn’t think George is signing with the Lakers. Needless to say, #PG2LA isn’t as much of a certainty as it was in the past.
I think George truly does like playing with Russell Westbrook (I don’t know why, it seems frustrating) and that he thinks having Andre Roberson back would make a difference (I still think they would have been bounced by the Utah Jazz).
*This is where I remind you guys that I’m a die hard Lakers fan*
But whatever PAUL, stay in OKC where you have a ceiling of being a 5 seed. We’ve got bigger fish to fry in Los Angeles……
Where I think he will go: Los Angeles Lakers
Where I think he should go: Uhhh…what do you think? THE LOS ANGELES LAKERS
It’s been rumored in the past, but I think it’s finally a reality in 2018. LeBron James is going to be a Laker. He doesn’t want to live in Houston, he might not fit with Ben Simmons on the 76ers, and you just need to watch the 4-game sweep of the Cavs by the Golden State Warriors to figure out why he wouldn’t want to go back to Cleveland.
Take all of that and add in his entertainment industry ventures, what it could do for his legacy to win a ring in L.A., and the Lakers ability to sign another superstar. After all of that is considered, it truly seems like LeBron will make #NBATwitter explode and go to the Lakers.
As I write this on Wednesday, there was a story today that there was pressure on the Lakers to trade for Kawhi Leonard before free agency since George isn’t certain to come to the Lakers anymore. Kawhi would blow the door open for LeBron to come on in and make the Lakers instant championship contenders. The Lakers hadn’t engaged in serious trade talks with the San Antonio Spurs yet regarding Kawhi, but then this happened.
Of course, the Celtics are trying to ruin that.
Free agency begins late Saturday night. The fun might start early though with a Kawhi trade.