Free Agency is officially upon us. When the clock strikes 12 tonight, NBA GMs will frantically pick up their phones and call every NBA star that they can get their hands on. The likes of LeBron James, Paul George, and DeMarcus Cousins will all be on the move. In this roundtable discussion, the FPC NBA Staff will discuss everything offseason, from LeBron James to Kawhi Leonard.
Meet The Participants
Question One: Which NBA team will sign LeBron James?
Landing his plane in Los Angeles all but confirms LeBron James’ signing with the Lakers. Magic Johnson knows what James wants and has it. There are three aspects that go into LeBron’s decision here: his family, his on the court success, and his brand. Los Angeles gives him all three. His kids are rumored to be playing at Sierra Canyon, a top basketball school in the nation. LeBron will have an excellent chance to win a ring in LA, especially if they sign another star. And there is no better place in the world than Los Angeles to further his brand after basketball.
If LeBron does sign with the Lakers, there is a good chance that one of Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, or Kawhi Leonard will follow. That team is an immediate title threat and a significant threat to the Warriors. And if they keep their young talent, that’s even more of a boon for LeBron. I’d bet that one of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram or Kyle Kuzma is a top 20 player in the NBA in a few seasons. Los Angeles is the perfect basketball situation for the king and the best place for him to continue chasing the ghost in Chicago.
LeBron has repeatedly expressed his preference of team is somewhere he can win with surrounding youth and somewhere good for his family. If Cleveland had a few more assets and intended to swap the hapless Kevin love for another superstar better paired with James, he would have stuck with the Cavaliers.
But alas, they remain in the gutter with a confused JR Smith and the aforementioned Love to lead them, causing James to not even schedule a meeting with them. So as of right now, I think Philadelphia will be his next landing spot. As the overachievers of the East, the Sixers look dangerous even without LeBron and would be a near certain lock for the Finals with him.
Flaunting arguably the most complete center in the league and a soon-to-be perennial MVP candidate Ben Simmons, James will not be relied on as heavily, something he may relish in after so many seasons of putting the Cavs on his back. Adding a couple more shooters to that roster and the team could be put up a better fight to the bane of his existence Warriors.
James will be headed to the L.A. but not to play for the purple and gold Lakers. James has a close relationship with Jerry West and West has proven to have enough savvy to help build a championship squad. The Clippers made the playoffs six of the last seven seasons just missing the cut this year. If Deandre Jordan opts out of his deal that would definitely free up salary and James could entice others to join him in teaming up with Lou Williams and a team ready to join the ranks of the elite in the West, a position they’re all too familiar with.
It’s a pain to say it, but LeBron James will sign with the Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron has stressed at points in time that he’d like to be surrounded by a youthful core. With that narrowing his options down to Philly and Los Angeles, this is where his decision can be helped by his family Gary Payton has leaked that James’ eldest son will enroll in a California high school, and at this point, it makes sense, with James owning several houses in LA. So expect LeBron James to suit up for the Los Angeles Lakers come October.
Lebron James is going to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers. Primarily because of his conversation with Kawhi Leonard.
As with Paul George, Kawhi Leonard is probably comfortable playing the secondary back up role to Lebron James.
There is also a genuine mutual respect there like Lebron has for Dwayne Wade of for Kyrie (at least on the court).
Moreover, whilst Lebron is still at the height of his powers, nobody (not even Lebron) knows how long Lebron can keep on beating up father time.
This much can be seen in Lebron often coasting on defense. Which makes the allure of playing with Kawhi Leonard (two-time defensive player of the year) all the more irresistible.
Given Lebron’s extensive experience carrying average to below average role players. The prospect of working with a Kawhi Leonard far surpasses the caliber of supporting cast Lebron is used to. That opportunity is one not lost on Lebron James and it is the reason Lebron James is heading to Los Angeles.
Notwithstanding, the recent backlash Lebron James received for allegedly asking Kevin Durant to play for the Lakers. Kawhi Leonard singling out the Lakers as his preferred destination absolves Lebron from the critique that he is trying to ride on another players coattails.
The very universe has apparently stacked the cards in Lebron’s favor and Lebron is too smart too smart to ignore that.
Similarly, Paul George is an appropriate running mate for Lebron for the reasons above too.
Paul George was rightfully in the runnings for defensive player of the year and could feasibly have made an all NBA Defensive team too.
Just like Kawhi Leonard, Paul George has been talking about putting on a Lakers jersey for his own personal reasons (i.e. LA is home).
With Paul George being from LA, like Kawhi Leonard. The ground has been laid for Lebron James to return to his (second) home too (in LA).
Question Two: Will the Spurs trade Kawhi Leonard and if so, where?
Kawhi Leonard is destined to leave the Spurs; the relationship between player and team seems too broken to repair. The Spurs have made it clear that they don’t want to move Kawhi to the West, so Philadelphia seems like the next best option. The deal likely includes some combination of Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless, and rookie Zhaire Smith. The Spurs pick up some nice young assets and the Sixers acquire a top-five player who fits perfectly in their system. He’s a legitimate offensive superstar and the best defensive player in the NBA. Him, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid are likely the favorites to win the East in that scenario.
With the prospect of not landing LeBron in the forefront of their minds, the Lakers will start to start to get very desperate in their pursuit of Kawhi. The Lakers seem to be quite arrogant in terms of their rebuild and where they view themselves. Magic Johnson feels the Lakers are a superstar away from being the Warriors and with Leonard in their grasp, they will start to ramp up their efforts.
The curious case of Kawhi Leonard has me believing that Philly is a strong likelihood. They have some assets that could prove valuable to the Spurs. And they seem more than willing to give up those assets than Boston who could be hedging on the belief that their team will continue to grow organically and not need Leonard’s services. I have not lost faith in Markelle Fultz and his ability given there was a strong reason why taking him first seemed like a no-brainer to most Gms. He could pair well with Lonnie Walker and the Spurs would have their backcourt of the future.
Some of the best trading options for Kawhi Leonard, aren’t in Los Angeles, rather they’re in both Boston and Philadelphia. With both of these teams providing viable, young trading assets that ironically fits the Spurs style of play, no trade in this situation is a bad trade. But we all should expect Kawhi Leonard to play in Philadelphia.
As for Kawhi Leonard, Boston is too close to the NBA finals to make the San Antonio Spurs the best offer. While the Lakers have been are under significant pressure to ensure that secure at least two if not three major free agents.
Which means LA is uniquely located to give the Spurs the best value they can get for Kawhi.
Meanwhile, Kawhi Leonard none for being somewhat of an introvert has probably said enough to scare other teams off from making an offer that could rival that of the Lakers.
In short, the other teams in the NBA suspect Kawhi will likely carry out his threat of leaving for the Lakers next year when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
To summarise, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Lebron James will all be Lakers sometime soon.
Magic Johnson, knows a thing or two about Laker history. They are one of the few franchises that could afford and be willing to pay to have the likes of the big three named above.
Question Three: Describe to us one other ideal free agent-team combination.
Aaron Gordon to the Pacers is a perfect marriage of interests for everyone involved. The Pacers were the most surprising story of the season; a projected lottery team who nearly won 50 games behind new star Victor Oladipo. Because of Indiana GM Kevin Pritchard’s excellent trading and money management, the Pacers have the cap space to acquire a second star.
Aaron Gordon has been the leader of a dysfunctional Magic team for quite some time. People forget that he’s only 22, a year older than Donovan Mitchell. Gordon has improved every year in his four-year career, posting splits of 17.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.3 assists shooting 33.6% from deep with a 53% true shooting percentage. He still has ample room to grow as a shooter, playmaker, defender, and scorer. The uber-athletic 6’9″ forward is a perfect small ball four and could be a superstar if he develops right.
Orlando can match any offer thrown at Gordon due to his restricted free agency, but will they? Orlando hasn’t had a discernable direction since Dwight Howard and may want to move away from Gordon. The Magic might want to focus on building around Mohamed Bamba and Jonathan Isaac. The question is as follows: how much is Aaron Gordon worth to the Magic? If he gets a $25 million-plus offer sheet, I think he’s as good as gone, and Indiana could be the team to pry him away. A core of Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon, and Myles Turner could easily be a top team in the East in a few seasons.
As much as this one pains me, Isaiah Thomas to the Bulls feels logical. With the depth at the point guard for the bulls well past par, his role as a backup one will work out perfectly for him. Coming off a serious hip injury that more than likely ended his prime, he can no longer be relied on as a star. However, sliding into a backup role could be exactly what his career needs. Being asked to purely score instead of running the offense will lessen his load to the point where he can efficiently contribute. And hey, if he does return to form, it will be the free agent steal of the decade.
I think that Jabari Parker could land in OKC. With George opting out and likely leaving they will need someone to make up for his production on the wing. Most teams will why away given his ACL history, but I could see the Thunder taking a chance on a young player and look to remain relevant in the West. Throw in some bench production ie Isaiah Thomas and you could still field a very potent offense to compete with come playoff time.
DeAndre Jordan to the Dallas Mavericks seems like the perfect fit because it bolsters the Mavericks backline with an aging Dirk Nowitzki, and subpar players like Nerlens Noel, and Salah Mejri. Jordan provides immediate pick and roll offensive help with the likes of Dennis Smith, and Luka Doncic. Dallas might not be a playoff team with his addition, but expect their offense to improve.
The Dallas Mavericks organization will forever be tied to the legacy of Europeans in the NBA. Not only because of Dirk Nowitzki, the greatest European player of all time, but now also because the Dallas Mavericks have Luka Doncic.
Projected as perhaps having the most potential of any European player to date, Luka is the youngest ever regular season and final four MVP in Europe. For his age, he certainly is one of, if not the most accomplished European basketball player ever.
Much like Tim Duncan has firmly left his imprint on the culture and identity of the San Antonio Spurs.
Dirk Nowitzki has done the same.
Dirk Nowitzki is a Dallas Maverick lifer and the Dallas Mavericks similarly are keepers too. Having failed to secure Deandre Jordan back in 2015 following a verbal commitment from Deandre.
It seems the Dallas Mavericks have finally, after three years, gotten their man.
Deandre Jordan is faced with a simple option, to opt into his contract with the Clippers thereby guaranteeing himself 24.1 million dollars.
If Deandre chooses to do this, the Clippers will reportedly trade Deandre, with the Mavericks being the likely destination.