NBA free agency world set to revolve around LeBron
NBA free agency is the real Midnight Madness. And when it tips off in the wee hours Saturday night into Sunday morning, LeBron James â" who opted out of his deal in Cleveland â" will be the puppet master running the show.
Like the Machiavellian mastermind Ford on âWestworld,â King James will have the entire NBA world under his command.
As one former Knick said on the red carpet for the âUncle Drewâ premiere: âHe just needs to get it over with so the rest of us can get back to real life.â
James had until midnight Friday to decline his $35.6 million player option and did exactly that Friday afternoon. But James â" as meticulous and prepared as any player in the league â" had been maneuvering chess pieces long before that.
The Cleveland star reportedly texted Kevin Durant about joining him with the Lakers, and his reticence in deciding on that club heaped pressure on team president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka to pull off a trade for San Antonioâs Kawhi Leonard.
After being rebuffed, the Lakers reengaged Wednesday, and ESPN said both the Lakers and Spurs expect any trade would lead to James heading to Los Angeles. James opting out essentially eliminated Houston as a landing spot and likely narrowed his choices to the Lakers, 76ers or staying put with the Cavaliers, either on a five-year contract or a one-plus-one deal that puts us right back here next summer.
Based on the current projection of a $101 million salary cap, the Cavaliers can offer James a five-year, $207.4 million deal. Other teams are limited to four years and $152.3 million.
But whatever James decides will determine the NBAâs direction. Heâll exude control both seen and unseen, like Ford running his robots.
Whom do the Lakers land?
Theyâre in the middle of everything, with the cap space to land two max players. James is the top prize, with the Thunderâs Paul George also a target. But they may have to get Leonard first to pave the way for King James. It hasnât been easy.
As much as Leonard wants out of San Antonio, the Spurs arenât about building somebody elseâs superteam. If Gregg Popovich â" national treasure that he is â" can be short with the media, one can only imagine his reaction when the Lakers first called about Leonard.
According to ESPN, Los Angeles was willing to include Brandon Ingram and a first-round pick, but the Spurs demanded a âfar more complete haulâ of picks and young players. Kyle Kuzma? Lonzo Ball? Who knows.
With James wanting to decide early in free agency, the Lakers are on a clock, even if San Antonio isnât. Would he go to L.A. on his own, King James with no knights â" at least until Leonard could join him as a free agent next summer?
Will George, who has seemed headed home to Hollywood for two years, stay in Oklahoma City? He told the Thunder he was opting out but still could ink a five-year, $176 million extension or a one-plus-one and go back on the market in 2019.
And if the Lakers land just one â" or none â" would they punt and re-sign restricted free agent Julius Randle, who conceivably could get an offer from Brooklyn if the Nets clear cap space? Or would L.A. be patient enough to wait until 2019? After all, Johnson vowed to quit if he canât bring in stars by next summer.
Aingeâs assets and Phillyâs Process
Boston general manager Danny Ainge could probably flip a cup of coffee and a half-used MetroCard for an unprotected first-rounder. But with Trader Danny still holding a treasure trove of assets, will he finally cash them in? After the Lakers got rebuffed for Leonard, would the Celtics go all-in to land a top-five player?
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The Celtics are engaged with the Spurs, but they havenât discussed giving up Jaylen Brown, according to the Boston Globe, and are tentative due to Leonardâs health and unwillingness to commit to staying in Boston more than a single season.
Philadelphia has nearly as many assets and even more cap space, enough to sign James outright. If the Sixers stand pat, theyâll have to make decisions on Marco Belinelli, Ersan Ilyasova and former Nets target J.J. Redick. If they end up not getting James or any other elite free agent, one canât help but wonder how much ex-GM Bryan Colangeloâs Twitter scandal cost them.
Bad luck for Boogie?
There was a time DeMarcus Cousins was a lock to get a five-year, $188 million max deal, then came a devastating torn Achilles tendon th at brings up questions about his fitness for next season. Now the worry isnât just how explosive his temper is (he feuded with coach George Karl, fought with teammate Donte Greene and unfollowed his own teamâs Instagram), but about how explosive his body will be.
ESPN cap expert Bobby Marks speculates Cousins could have to settle for a two-year make-good contract. Considering his presumed landing spot in Dallas could get taken by DeAndre Jordan, who will it be from?
The Buyout Boys?
If George bolts OKC, it seems inconceivable the Thunder wouldnât then buy out Carmelo Anthony. And the Nets are expected to reach a buyout agreement with Dwight Howard, who then will join the center pool. One veteran who canât play the way he used to, and another who canât play nicely with others.
Give the Mavericks this much: Theyâre out of tank mode.
After trading away a 2019 first-rounder to move u p and get Euro wunderkind Luka Doncic on draft night, they still have a hole at the 4/5 spot, which figures they would go the free-agent route (Cousins, Randle, Derrick Favors). But now according to multiple reports, theyâre looking into the Clippersâ Jordan, who opted out of his deal Friday.
Guess they talked over that 2015 fiasco and hugged it out.
The (not so) restricted
Not only do high-end restricted free agents rarely move, but they rarely even produce any drama. This summer could be different.
No, teams neednât clutch at their pearls in fear of Nets GM Sean Marks coming at their RFAs with a huge offer sheet in hand: Brooklyn doesnât have much to spend and is likely laying low until 2019. But among Clint Capela, Aaron Gordon, Zach LaVine, Jabari Parker, Randle and Marcus Smart, at least one of them is sure to get an offer sheet big enough to make their team blanche.
Gordon expects to get a max offer and wants to stay in Orlando but could get a big offer sheet from Indiana. Parkerâs situation coming back off another torn ACL could have some intrigue. Randleâs waiting game â" and any potential Nets interest â" has been discussed. Itâs just one of myriad moving pieces being manipulated by King James.Source: Google News US Sports | Netizen 24 United States