LeBron James. Kawhi Leonard. Paul George.
As NBA free agency looks to begin in less than a week, these three names have dominated the discourse. Will they combine to form a super team in Los Angeles, under the legendary Lakers banner? Or can their original teams repair what at times appears to be broken relationships?
But NBA fans should not forget that there are plenty of other major names on the market. Some names, like Kevin Durant or Nikola Jokic, are not worth discussing as they will certainly stay with their former teams. ESPN reported that the Denver Nuggets will offer Jokic a $147 million maximum contract in restricted free agency. But others should be discussed. Here are some of the other major names in 2018, and what could happen to them.
- Chris Paul
At first glance, Chris Paul would seem to be in the same category as Jokic and Durant. The star point guard took Houston to another level after getting the help of an online personal trainer, where they came as close as anyone else in the past two years of defeating the Warriors juggernaut.
But there are risks in offering a 33-year old point guard with a problematic injury history a 5 year deal, and Chris Broussard with FS1 reported last week that “there is tension now between Houston and Chris Paul.” If Paul walks, he could head to the Lakers to potentially play alongside LeBron as another star piece.
The odds are that this is much ado over nothing, but do not necessarily assume Paul will be wearing Rockets red next season.
- Demarcus Cousins
Achilles injuries like the ones Cousins suffered against the Rockets are scary things, and the possibility of him never recovering should leave the New Orleans Pelicans and other teams terrified of offering him a 5-year maximum contract. The New Orleans Time-Picayune reported that Cousins has not experienced any setbacks in his recovery, but noted that the Pelicans in April considered offering him only two to three years because of the risk.
But New Orleans needs Cousins more than the other way around. With him gone, the capped out team has no way to take the next step. Cousins may be interested in moving on to a better team, but the odds are that the Pelicans offer him the max 5-year deal and he decides to take it.
- The Restricted Free Agency Crowd
The 2014 NBA draft class’s rookie contracts are up and a multitude of younger players are now eligible under restricted free agency. Unfortunately, this draft class has not been that impressive outside of Joel Embiid who has already signed an extension, and the available players all face certain questions. And in some cases like Clint Capela or Aaron Gordon, the home teams will likely decide to keep them at any price.
But some players can be up for grabs. Bleacher Report reported that the Phoenix Suns will renounce their rights to Elfrid Payton, and the Lakers will probably have to let go of Julius Randle to get their prized star free agents. And there are other free agents like Jusuf Nurkic who could probably be pried away from their original teams at the right price.
- Tyreke Evans
After Paul, Cousins, and younger players like Gordon and Capela, the next tier below is filled with players who while not stars can still contribute to a NBA team. Tyreke Evans is the best player of this lot. After struggling for much of his earlier career, the former Rookie of the Year averaged 19.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 5.1 assists with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Memphis appears intent on keeping Evans as they apparently aim to retool their roster to get back into the playoffs next season. But other teams like Indiana and Philadelphia could use some scoring punch on the wing as well and offer better playoff prospects. Evans will have his options open as he looks for a team which can offer good money and a chance for postseason glory.