Before LeBron James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, Magic Johnson sat outside of his house at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time, ready for the midnight clock to strike so he could officially talk to James. His plan worked. He lured LeBron to the west coast during the 2018 NBA free agency period to start the rebuild of one of the league’s most storied franchises. That was the idea, at least. The Lakers encountered a slew of problems during one of their worst seasons ever.
However, this year, the free agency process will be a little bit different. With so many key names potentially changing teams, we will go over how this is year is different and what it means for the top players in the class.
How is NBA free agency different now?
We’ll still see superstars change teams, franchises hand out massive contracts, and the competitive balance in the NBA change. No matter what, the free agency period will always have big-time players making big-time money.
The biggest difference with NBA free agency this year is that teams are now able to talk to players six hours before it officially starts. Instead of teams being allowed to contact free agents at 12:01 a.m. Eastern on July 1, they can talk at 6 p.m. on June 30. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but a lot can be done in those six hours to negotiate deals and also work out potential sign-and-trade maneuvers by franchises.
Who are the big-ticket free agents in 2019?
Some of the brightest stars in the game are free agents this summer, and if they change teams, the NBA will look a lot different when the 2019-20 season tips off. That tends to happen when a former league MVP and a Finals MVP hit the open market. These four players will command the most attention when the NBA free agency period tips off.
Kevin Durant missed the Western Conference finals due to a calf injury, but he was sensational earlier in the playoffs. Warriors fans hope that he will be 100% for the start of the NBA Finals. He has until May 30 to get ready for a chance at a possible third Finals MVP. The Warriors are also looking to capture their fourth title in five seasons.
There is a lot of speculation about where Durant will end up, and although New York looks like the most likely possibility, could he turn down a max contract to spend another season or two in the Bay Area? It would be smarter to win one or two more championships then leave for another franchise when some of the game’s great players reach the tail end of their careers.
It looks like Kyrie Irving will leave Boston for either of the two teams in the heart of the Big Apple, or another major market. When healthy, Irving is one of the game’s best point guards and can create his shot off the dribble while putting up 25 to 30 points on any given night. We fully expect Irving to either have a deal in place before the new league year officially starts or not long after that.
If Kemba Walker decides to stay with the Hornets, then it will be one of the biggest surprises of free agency. Will he take the $35-$40 million more to ruin the rest of the prime of his career? There’s no telling when Charlotte will be a viable contender in the East, and though it might be a tough decision, we fully believe Walker will be in another uniform at the start of the 2019-20 season. Expect the Lakers and Clippers to both heavily pursue Walker to become their point guard of the future.
Kawhi Leonard is proving how clutch he can be in the playoffs, and it is a stark reminder for anyone thinking he wasn’t back at the top of his game. Without Leonard, the Raptors would be completely out of the playoffs. He clamped down on Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo in game 3, holding him to just 12 points.
Leonard is a game-changing player, and he might be the best two-way player in the NBA. There’s a lot of rumors going around that he will end up in Los Angeles playing for the Clippers, but if the Raptors hold their own against the Warriors in the NBA Finals, would he decide to stay in Toronto and make more title runs there? It also won’t hurt that if he does decide to stay, he will be able to eat at over 50 restaurants for free for the rest of his time in Toronto.
Will the extra time help or hurt free agency?
Who do you think will benefit the most from the extra time given to this year’s free agency class? Will it be the players angling for more money? Or will it be the teams who wow stars with huge contracts right off the bat?