US Sports Veteran
Publish Date: 05/26/2019
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster
While the playoffs haven’t finished yet, it’s never too early to look forward to the future. This offseason, there will be plenty of stars and starters hitting the market as free agents. This class of free agents will have the opportunity to finally reshape the league’s power structure. In particular, three Warriors are free agents, meaning the team will have to work to maintain their players or scramble to replace them.
There’s also plenty of other teams that have suffered streaks of lackluster years and are looking to add one or two big free agents. Most noticeably, the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks are gearing up to make pitches to the top free agents in the hopes of changing the fates of their franchises. This summer is going to be exciting for the whole league. Now if only the Warriors will hurry up and win the championship so we can get there.
With LeBron James missing a solid chunk of the season and the playoffs entirely, Durant has asserted himself as the best player in the league heading into the offseason. It doesn’t even matter how the playoffs end right now or if Durant comes back for the Finals, he’ll be the top player in the world heading into the offseason, and whatever team he joins will immediately become a significant championship contender.
Amidst criticism still stemming from his unusual departure from San Antonio and his decision to not play back-to-backs, Leonard came out and ripped his critics to shreds silently in the playoffs. Outside of the stretch Durant put together, Leonard was the best postseason performer this year. He showcased his ability to put up 30 a night when his team needed it and kept the ridiculous defensive plays that made him a household name in the first place. There seems like there’s a good chance Leonard will join the stacked crowd of free agents this summer by opting out of his deal.
Things ended poorly in Boston, to say the least, but it seems like the best thing for the team and Irving is for the two to part ways. Irving, who was once viewed as one of the most clutch players in the league, has become a villain and will face major criticism moving forward. However, we can’t forget just what Irving is capable of. He’s a dominant offensive force, boasts some of if not the best handles in the league, and contends for All-NBA teams on an annual basis. He just needs the right fit of players around him, but I’m not sure if anyone knows what that fit is right now.
Do I really need to explain this? Thompson is one of the best three-point shooters in league history and is a solid defender as well. While he isn’t the best at creating shots for himself and others, his range is a great weapon when paired with a competent point guard. Overall, I think Thompson’s size and defensive capabilities are underrated, especially for a perennial All-Star.
Butler is a great two-way player who has All-NBA and All-Defensive talent. He helped himself in the playoffs when Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Tobias Harris struggled. Butler was Philly’s rock in the postseason, and he set the mood for the team with his aggression at both ends of the court. Simply put, he’s always one of the fastest players on the court and if you get beyond some of the aggression, as the 76ers seemed to have done, then Butler can be a great teammate and fit in on a team.
When the league is healthy, Walker isn’t ordinarily an All-NBA player, but he made the All-NBA third team this year. He has also been to the last three All-Star games and recently turned 29. Assuming this is the final phase of his development, Walker could be a running mate on a championship team, but he can’t be the best player on a real contender. After putting up 25 points per game and nearly six assists in 2019 though, he’ll be heavily recruited this summer.
Some team will probably offer Harris a max if the 76ers don’t. Harris is a solid power forward with borderline All-Star capabilities, but he put together a terrible stretch of games during the playoffs. That will be the first thing people will think about when discussing Harris right now, but he does have a great career trajectory. He’s improved pretty much every year since entering the league and, looking forward to his age 27 season, there’s no telling if he’d done improving.
After what the Bucks have done this year, I don’t believe Middleton will even consider leaving Milwaukee. Plus, he could make more money in the long run if he just hangs around for a little while longer. Middleton had his first All-Star appearance this season, but three of his last four seasons have all been very solid. He’s another guy who isn’t an All-NBA caliber player, but he can still play a major role on a championship level team. Also, I think he’s an underrated defender.
After injuries and controversy marred the former lottery pick’s first three years in the league, Russell reinvented himself in 2018. He led the Nets, a franchise notorious for its shortcomings, to the playoffs and was an All-Star, playing in 81 games and scoring over 1,700 points. While he’s mostly known for his scoring, Russell also added seven assists per game, showing he can play a big role in facilitating team basketball. Considering the fans are enamored with Russell and the team’s success this season, there’s no reason for the Nets to not retain the star point guard.
It was good to see Boogie working his way back to 100% after suffering a torn Achilles last season, but he suffered a much more minor injury in the playoffs. Because of the injuries, I don’t think Cousins will get the max deal that he’s earned throughout his NBA career. Instead, I think he’ll sign another short contract and teams will be keeping an eye on his health. Because of this, he could be a great short-term deal for some team. If it weren’t for the recent injuries, Cousins would easily be with the other All-NBA players in the top six.
Something tells me that the Mavericks didn’t trade for Porzingis just to let him walk away this summer. The unicorn from Latvia will be turning 24 this year, but he already had a long injury history. Dallas will hope that he’s able to return to his 2017 All-Star form next season, but even if he does, he’ll still only be the second best foreign player on the team.
This is good timing for Randle. Zion Williamson appears to be headed to New Orleans, which could mean Randle would see fewer minutes. There’s also the issue as to what Anthony Davis’ role will be on the team moving forward. Either way, with Davis sitting a lot this season, Randle had his best year as a pro. Coming off of a year where he averaged over 21 points per game, the 24-year-old is in for a significant pay raise, assuming he opts out of his current deal.
Well, this will be interesting. Vucevic will be turning 29 next season, but he just made his first All-Star game this season. The big man was an automatic 20 and ten this year, but that hasn’t been the case in the past and Vucevic has had plenty of injuries since entering the league as well. He might be an All-Star, but do teams looking for free agent additions view him as one? Will other stars be advocating for their teams to add Vucevic? We’ll learn a lot about how he’s viewed around the league this summer.
Horford isn’t getting any younger and that could push him to opt into the final year of his deal with Boston. It’s unlikely he could command that kind of cash elsewhere anyway. Horford will be turning 33 this year and, despite strong defensive performances, he hasn’t produced the scoring totals he had in Atlanta with Boston. Some of that might be schematic, but it seems like staying in Boston would be the best move for the five-time All-Star.
The former rookie of the year that nobody cared about has quietly grown into an emerging force on a deep Bucks team. This season, Brogdon averaged 15.6 points per game while shooting over 50% from the floor and 40% from three. Throw in his impactful defense, and you’ve got a good all-around player who is still developing and gaining traction in the league.
Bogdanovic was pushing into assuming a larger role on the pacers when All-NBA guard Victor Oladipo went down with a season-ending injury. He went on to average 18 points per game while shooting over 40% from three and nearly 50% overall. He went on to average 18 points per game in the playoffs as well.
His playoff performances didn’t do him justice. Redick’s three-point shooting percentage dipped in 2018, but the soon to be 35-year-old set a career high in points per game (18.1) and three-point attempts per game (eight). Look, Redick is a pure shooter, but that does make him a valuable commodity in the modern NBA.
The former Defensive Player of the Year has lost a step or two, but he’s still a terrific, technical defender. He can also contribute on offense since he’s one of the best three-point shooting centers in the league. Gasol has played a huge role down the stretch for the Raptors in the playoffs, particularly on the defensive end.
19. Brook Lopez,C Milwaukee Bucks: UFA
Lopez isn’t scoring 20 a night anymore and he’s never been known as a rebounder, but he can stretch the court on offense. The big guy hit 187 threes this season, which means he hit the seventeenth most in the league. That quality in a seven-footer is rare and extremely sought after.
Mirotic has been a good sport about his decreased role with the Bucks. On most other teams he’d be seeing more minutes and opportunities, but the Bucks have plenty of scorers and that limits Mirotic. He still averaged just over 15 points and seven rebounds per game during the regular season which is pretty good for a power forward. Mirotic can also shoot threes. He hit 36.5% of his threes this season for a total of 116 in just 46 games played.
He’s inevitably limited by his offensive game, but Jordan will only be turning 31 this year and is still one of the best rebounders in the league. He’s still a force on the offensive and defensive glass and can play a role in the pick and roll game. Jordan was mostly forgotten this year because he was on the Mavericks and then the Knicks, but he should produce a bigger impact in 2019.
After leaving Golden State, Barnes pretty much fell off of the map, but he’s continued to develop as a player and has posted three straight years with more than 1,200 points. He’ll also only be 27 at the start of next season, meaning he’s got a good five years or so left in his prime. While Barnes doesn’t possess All-Star potential, he could still be a significant starter on a decent team.
The 33-year-old former All-Star dealt with injuries and regression this season which will limit his market value should he opt out of his current deal. For that reason, I don’t anticipate Dragic entering free agency this year. While this year’s numbers were down, Dragic did average over 17 points, four assists, and four rebounds per game during the 2017-18 season.
While green is a valuable three-point shooter, he makes 45.5% of his attempts from range, his defense is what makes him so valuable. He will be coming up on age 32 next season, but he’s been an All-Defensive player in the past and still is capable of hounding opposing players, particularly because he doesn’t rack up a lot of miles on the offensive side of the ball.
With the emergence of Nikola Jokic, I wouldn’t be shocked at all if the Nuggets decide to avoid paying Millsap a ridiculous amount of money by declining the option on his deal. While the 34-year-old still has his nights, he’s regressed the most in recent years of anyone on this list. This season he only scored 12.6 points per game, his lowest total since the 2007-08 season. He still has some defensive value but that will also decline in the coming years.
Morris can be a great fit on the right team. I thought he played his role really well on the Celtics this year, primarily serving as a defender and three-point shooter. While I’m not sure if he’d be better starting or coming off of the bench full-time, he can be a great piece on a winning team.
Young’s best commodity is his defense and ability to fit in on a team while not disrupting the chemistry. He’s been a long-time starter in the league now and teams know what they’ll be getting from him if they choose to sign him.
This is a bit of a projection because Rozier’s game isn’t as established as Rose’s yet, but he’s shown enough flashes to make me think he can develop into a starter. He’s also only 25 years old, which makes him more valuable than a lot of the older players that will be available this summer.
This will be interesting. Rose is obviously an attractive name and is a marketable player because of his past success, but he still only played in 51 games this season. I know he averaged 18 points, four assists, and showed a viable three-point shot, but he’s going on 31 years old and is one of the most injury-prone players in the league. Also, I have no idea where Rose would fit in on a winning team. I guess we’ll find out.
He’s worked hard to retool his game in the analytics era and, while he’s no longer the scorer he once was, Gay has developed a respectable three-point shot. He’s a terrific veteran bench player to have because there are some nights where he turns back the clock and shows out.
Patrick Beverley, PG Los Angeles Clippers: UFA
Even going on 31 years old, Beverley is an elite defensive player who showed he was even capable of frustrating Kevin Durant at moments during the playoffs. Obviously, his offensive game is limited, but his fiery defense and leadership are attractive.
Rubio gets a lot of disrespect, but he’s also developed into a respectable, viable starting point guard. His best tool is still his passing, but I don’t think he’ll have to come off of the bench next year.