The marquee free agents in summer 2019 include Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler, Khris Middleton and DeMarcus Cousins. Another superstar who will be available, though not as a free agent is Anthony Davis, who will be on the move away from New Orleans for sure.
All in all its a massive free agency class and in a summer where a lot of teams are going to have a near max slot (some with multiple max slots), the FA market is going to be one hell of a ride for NBA fans.
One set of fans that thought their summer was going to be great, has had a reality check in the past few months. The Los Angeles Lakers fans have had a sport ride for much of their lives. Big names and championship rings are habitual for fans of the team belonging to sunny California.
After a few humbling seasons around the retirement of local favorite Kobe Bryant, the fans saw a downturn of fortune with no big singings (unless you count Timofey Mozgov the way Mitch Kupchak did), multiple trips to the lottery, young draft prospects with under developed games. But the firing of Kupchak and Jimm Buss followed by the hiring of Magic Johnson was seen as the turning point.
Summer of 2018 proved that theory with the biggest free agency signing of LeBron James. The failure to land Paul George was a blip, but when you go from low lottery team to best player in the league, you don’t mind that and the fans rightly celebrated Magic Johnson’s work.
— Colton Jones (@cjoneshoops) March 9, 2019
— Colton Jones (@cjoneshoops) March 9, 2019
But its less than one year since that announcement was made and everything that Johnson and Pelinka have done since singing LeBron have turned the fans sour all over again and have left the upcoming summer looking gloomy again.
Kevin Durant called the media environment around LeBron toxic and seems to favor the Knicks. Kawhi doesn’t wish to play with LeBron and the amount of wooing Clippers have done seems to point that they have an inside track on him. Klay Thompson will be a Warrior for life, no one doubts it.
Kyrie Irving seems to have a choice on hand between Boston and New York (where he can pair up with superstar of choice). Kemba Walker will tape himself to the Hornets court if they would let him, he’s not going anywhere. Bucks cant let Khris Middleton go as losing the only other all-star and good friend of Giannis is not a mistake the Bucks front office will make.
That leaves us with only two names. Jimmy Butler and DeMarcus Cousins.
Two players who can absolutely be terrific on both ends of the floor, play in positions that are important on a LeBron run team and are not stable when it comes to a landing spot next year.
Butler moved to the 76ers to play in a competitive team and while that has happened, he has lost the center stage he seems to crave, with Embiid and Simmons being the focus of the team.
The addition and great fit of Tobias Harris (also a FA this summer), plus the cap complications of signing both Butler and Harris might lead to Jimmy Butler walking away from Philly in which case Lakers are keen to offer him a 4 year $144 million deal to join LeBron in making the Lakers relevant again.
DeMarcus Cousins has shown his injury is in the past, but his form hasn’t been the peak all-star level it used to be (which is expected) nor do many teams want to risk a dangerous locker room presence on a huge contract that he may not complete if the injury reappears.
So, no teams seem to be in the play to give Boogie a max contract this summer and the Lakers, with their cap space can offer him something along the lines of 4 years $85 million that could appeal to him, if the Lakers have LeBron and Jimmy Butler.
Neither player is the absolute marquee target that the Lakers were hoping for when they decided to wait for 2019 free agency market. But the Lakers overestimated their ability to attract top players based on the pull of LeBron James and the Los Angeles market.
So, they now have to settle for secondary targets in Jimmy Butler and DeMarcus Cousins. However if things come together, this has the makings of a good team and given that the Warriors might just lose Durant, the league could open up where a team with 3 all-stars just might be enough to win the Championship.
The ifs are big though with temperamental personalities, all of whom can be injury risks in the back half of their contracts.
On the positive side, irrespective of who they sign, the Lakers can’t do much worse than this season. Glass half full if you wish to see it.