Every year, the NBA’s finest are allowed to pick their new destinations, and when the clock hits 12:01 am on July 1, teams will be knocking on their doors to give them an offer.
This year’s best free agent talent include LeBron James, Paul George, Chris Paul, DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans, and other players that could make a major impact on the 2018-19 NBA season.
Coming into free agency, the player that has the most options is James, who is considering the Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers. There is a case for James to go to each of these teams or stay with the Cavaliers.
The Lakers have had James’ attention for about a year. Based solely on marketing reasons, this would be the best option for James. His brand would only expand in Los Angeles and provide him more business opportunities.
Sophomore Dimitri Varcarolis said, “LeBron is going to the Lakers. Lonzo and LeBron will be amazing.”
Another upside the Lakers have is that they have a lot of money, and even enough to sign another star like George. Even if the Lakers miss out on another star in free agency, they have enough young assets to trade for one.
James would be able to help young stars Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram develop into stars themselves. Los Angeles may be the most flexible option, but probably would not turn out to be James’s best considering they did not even make the playoffs in 2018. Also, the Lakers are a Western Conference team, which is much tougher than the East.
James can also choose to stay in Cleveland where he would be eligible to get paid 201 million dollars over five years, which he cannot get anywhere else. He also would keep his home state of Ohio on his side.
The negatives is that he will probably have the worst roster out of all options and have terrible player contracts on the books. Cleveland probably would not be the best option for him.
He also has the option to go back to Miami. The upside of going to the Heat would be the two all-star caliber players in Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside. Their roster also includes James’s best friend Dwyane Wade.
Dion Waiters is also another player who is one step away from being an All-Star. Finally, the owner of the Heat, Pat Riley, is a wizard when it comes to landing superstars, and no one is stopping him from pairing James with another one.
The Philadelphia 76ers are definitely the best long-term option for James. They boast two generational talents in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. They are a young and vibrant team itching to make their mark on the NBA. All they need is a leader and one more superstar to put them over the top. James is that guy, and he could go to Philadelphia to take them to a championship in 2019.
As for George, the choice may be more clear cut. To this point, George has only shown any interest in two teams – Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers.
The Oklahoma City Thunder would be the worst option of the two. He failed to succeed with the team and could opt to give them another chance, but with the Lakers, he would get the same treatment that James would get. Advancing his brand and pairing up with the greatest basketball player of the era would be hard to pass up for George. Not to mention, he grew up in the Los Angeles area.
Sophomore Brendan Ryan said, “I don’t think that George will go to either the Lakers or the Thunder, and he will surprise everyone. He will pick a wildcard team.”
When it comes down to Paul, there is really only one option for him and that is the Houston Rockets. He is already expected to go into the Finals this year with Houston and has shown no interest in going to any other teams.
Cousins is another superstar that has kept his mouth shut regarding free agency. He could stay with his current team, the New Orleans Pelicans, but they operate at a more efficient rate with him off of the floor, so the best prediction would be that the Pelicans sign Cousins and trade him immediately in a package for Kawhi Leonard, a much better fit for New Orleans.
All sides would benefit from this deal. Cousins will get the best contract possible, which is a five-year 178 million dollar deal, and would be paired with the best coach in the NBA, Gregg Popovich. The Spurs would get a committed superstar that wants to be there and play as many games in the organization as possible.
Leonard would finally get out of San Antonio where he has distanced himself from the team over the last several months. Finally, New Orleans would get another superstar wing that can both defend and score. They would end up with the one of the best offensive cores in the league and the league’s best defense.
The last big impact player on the free agency board is Evans who had a career year and wants to build on it. His best options are the Knicks, 76ers and Cavaliers.
The Knicks are would probably be a branding and marketing move for Evans as the big market team would be a step-up from the Memphis Grizzlies. The star player would be able to flourish in the Knicks system. They need a guard like him to put them in a winning position because Kristaps Porzingis cannot do it by himself.
The Sixers are a simple option for him. They need a veteran scorer to help Simmons with the playmaking duties, and he needs a winning environment. Evans will be very intrigued if the 76ers come to him with a decent offer.
The Cavaliers would have the same reasons to sign Evans. They desperately need a playmaking-scoring guard around James, if he does stay. If James does stay, then the Cavaliers will do anything to get a caliber player. Whoever gives him the best offer will dictate Evans’ decisions.
Where will all of these players decide to take their talents, and who else is a big time free agent not mentioned?