With as much movement that now exists among players in the NBA, the summer has become a sort of second season, providing seemingly endless entertainment and intrigue.
This offseason has already been a compelling one, but it’s about to reach a new level with free agency getting under way at midnight on Saturday (EST, 08:00 UAE time). That means we could quickly learn where LeBron James will play next season, as well as the fate of others on the open market.
Of course, for many of the big names, free agency will mostly be a formality as they promptly re-sign with their current teams. That will likely apply to Kevin Durant, who is expected to stay with the Golden State Warriors, as well Chris Paul and Clint Capela, who were essential to the Houston Rockets coming within one win of the NBA Finals.
With that said, here’s a look at the biggest free agents whose immediate future isn’t so predictable.
All eyes will be on the best player in the world as he makes his decision on where to take his talents – or where to keep them.
The chances of James leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers again, most likely for the Los Angeles Lakers, appear to be somewhere around 50-50. While he’s reached the Finals four straight years since returning to Cleveland, they’ve been beaten three times by Golden State and look to have plateaued.
The Lakers, at least as of now, aren’t exactly a ready-made contender, but the prospect of bringing in another star or two to form a new superteam makes them a legitimate threat to lure James away.
Similarly, George may want to see what James decides before making his pick between the Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder.
The star forward seemed destined for Los Angeles last year when it was reported the Lakers were his preference, but after a year with the Thunder, George apparently is seriously considering giving it another go with Russell Westbrook and Co.
George grew up just outside of Los Angeles, but Oklahoma City are banking a year with their franchise has changed his mind.
Either way, he may be a major domino for LeBron, and vice versa.
Almost any other year, the supremely talented Cousins would be the most interesting name on the market, but with LeBron and the Lakers grabbing all the headlines, the big man is somewhat going under the radar.
Part of that is the fact Cousins is coming off an Achilles tear, so it’s unclear if he’ll be back to his dominant self right away, or ever again. Plus, the New Orleans Pelicans were arguably better after he was sidelined, so it’s possible his gaudy numbers don’t translate to winning contributions.
Still, the Pelicans will likely do whatever they can to keep hold of him, if for no other reason than to at least show Anthony Davis they’re willing to spend to be competitive.
If Cousins doesn’t get offered a max contract though, he may take a short-term deal to prove he can return to an All-Star level.
After opting out of the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Clippers, it seems all but certain the centre will be plying his trade elsewhere next season.
And the worst-kept secret in the league may be the mutual infatuation between Jordan and the Dallas Mavericks, who secured a verbal agreement from him in the summer of 2015, only for the big man to renege and stay with the Clippers.
Playing the market
Cap space is in short supply among teams this summer, which could affect the length and worth of several contracts for non-stars.
Role players who are entering free agency hoping for a nice payday are likely to be disappointed as teams try to keep their powder dry for next summer’s class.
That said, there are still a bunch of young, promising restricted free agents who could draw big offer sheets, such as Aaron Gordon and Jabari Parker. But teams may be less inclined to take risks this summer in the current cap climate.
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