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Where Will They Land? A Look At Top 15 Players Who Could Hit Free Agency

June 26, 2018 - 12:46 pm
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By WFAN.com

This summer's NBA free-agency period is shaping up to be one of the most important in a long time. These are the top players who have some big choices to make starting Sunday, and their decisions will have significant consequences for the future of the league. 

LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers: James must decline his $35.6 million player option for next season before he becomes a free agent, but the superstar forward has been noncommital about returning to Cleveland so far. If he hits the open market, James, 33, he would undoubtedly be heavily recruited by pretty much any team that can afford the four-time MVP, including the Lakers, 76ers and Rockets.

Kevin Durant, SF, Golden State Warriors: Durant, coming off his second consecutive MVP performance in the NBA Finals, is expected to decline his $26.3 million option but has said he plans to stay with the Warriors. Leaving is unlikely, but not impossible. The question here seems more focused on how much the nine-time All-Star will sign for instead of where he will land.

Paul George, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder: Whether George exercises his $20.7 million option is likely the most anticipated move behind James' decision. George, a five-time All-Star, averaged 21.9 points with the Thunder this past season. While there’s a chance he might return to Oklahoma City, there has been plenty of speculation that he could be headed for the Lakers.

Paul George
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Chris Paul, PG, Houston Rockets: Paul is an unrestricted free agent going into the weekend. Paul, 33, is a nine-time All-Star who is still looking to reach the NBA Finals, a pursuit that was derailed this past postseason when he injured his hamstring in the Western Conference finals. He's reportedly looking for a max contract from the Rockets.

MORE: Schmeelk: Knicks Bet On Their Player Development Program In Draft

DeMarcus Cousins, C, New Orleans Pelicans: An unrestricted free agent, the powerful Cousins' stock took a big hit when he tore his Achilles tendon last season. Teams will worry about a man of his size recovering from such a serious injury, but his talent might be worth the risk. The Pelicans reportedly would like to sign him to a short-term deal, while the Mavericks are being mentioned as one team that has interest in the four-time All-Star.

Clint Capela, C, Houston Rockets: A restricted free agent, Capela has an uncertain future with the Rockets. Known for his shot-blocking and ability to stay with pretty much any center in the league, the 24-year-old center has emerged as a key player over the past two season. However, if another team offers Capela a big contract, the Rockets, who are tasked with re-signing Paul and could be in the LeBron sweepstakes, might not be able to match the offer. 

Aaron Gordon, PF, Orlando Magic: A restricted free agent, Gordon is a big man known for his impressive 3-point stroke. He averaged 17.6 points last seasn. Regardless of his talent, the 22-year-old power forward will likely stay with the Magic. They need Gordon in Orlando and are expected to match almost any contract that is proposed to him. Staying with the Magic should be appealing to him regardless, since the team drafted Mohamed Bamba to pair with him in the frontcourt.

MORE: Lichtenstein: Nets' Offseason Wish List Must Start With Magic's Gordon

Julius Randle, PF, Los Angeles Lakers: Also a restricted free agent, Randle joined the Lakers as the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft. In his four seasons with the team, he has struggled with consistency but showed great improvement last season. While Randle, 23, shows promise, the Lakers, who might aggressively pursue both James and George, might not be able to afford to keep the power forward.

Tyreke Evans, SG/PG, Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies failed to capitalize on Evans' value at the trade deadline this past season. They will reportedly attempt to re-sign him, but they'll face competition, including from the Pacers. The Celtics, who were involved in trade talks for Evans this winter, could likely go after him to replace Marcus Smart if he leaves in free agency.

Tyreke Evans
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DeAndre Jordan, C, Los Angeles Clippers: Jordan, 29, had been expected to decline his $24 million player option with the Clippers, but it’s beginning to seem like less of a done deal. While many other teams will show interest in the center, it’s unlikely he would get as large of a contract anywhere else.

Marcus Smart, PG, Boston Celtics: A restricted free agent, Smart has brought a lot to Boston over the past four seasons, but that doesn’t guarantee he'll return. He believes he's worth $12 million to $14 million. The Celtics and Smart, 24, have both said they'd like to reach a deal, but if he receives an offer that high, it could be tough for Boston to re-sign him.

MORE: Lichtenstein: Nets Look Overseas To Find Newest Development Projects

J.J. Redick, SG, Philadelphia 76ers: The unrestricted free agent's 3-point stroke is one of the best in the league, and he’s known for being a hard worker who fits well into any lineup. He was a star in Philadelphia’s short postseason run this year. If the Sixers want to keep him, they’re going to have to give him a sizable contract.

Trevor Ariza, SG/SF, Houston Rockets: Houston reportedly wants the 3-and-D swingman back, but already faced with re-signing Paul and Capela and possibly pursuing LeBron, Ariza might be the sacrifice they choose to make. A recent report said Ariza, who turns 33 on Saturday, is seeking a contract worth up to $60 million.

Derrick Favors, C/PF, Utah Jazz: Favors has trouble stretching the floor and protecting the rim, but offers versatility, strong rebounding and the ability to guard wings and guards. There's mutual interest between the Jazz and Favors to get a deal done.

Isaiah Thomas, PG, Los Angeles Lakers: Thomas is a big question mark following this past season. After a messy half-season in Cleveland and an injury-plagued half-season in LA, the unrestricted free agent isn’t as desirable as he was two seasons ago in Boston, where he averaged around 30 points a game. But the 29-year-old still has plenty of potential if he can get healthy, and teams will be willing to take a risk for him. Thomas has has expressed disinterest in being a backup, which might be the case if he re-signed with the Lakers. He could consider the Pacers, who are in the market for a point guard.