Kemba Walker

NBA free agency: Likely suitors for Kevin Durant, 22 stars this summer


NBA free agency: Likely suitors for Kevin Durant, 22 stars this summer

OAKLAND -- Buckle up, NBA fans. The 2019 free-agent ride will be fully operational in three days, and there will be whiplash.

After the Three Summers of LeBron (2010, 2014 and 2018) and the Summer of KD (2016), the league is now preparing for the Mother of all NBA Summers.

Never in the history of free agency have so many All-Stars and near All-Stars been flooded the market at once. DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan, with five All-Star Games between them, can only dream of cracking this top 10.

We’re talking franchise players, as in Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Kemba Walker. We’ve got at least two more, Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving, that have been and still consider themselves franchise players. We’ve got several other stars, such as Klay Thompson, Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford seeking franchise-player contracts -- as do the likes of Paul Millsap, Khris Middleton, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic.

With some teams having enough cap space to accommodate two max salaries, and half the league able to waive at least $20 million at a player, this is the practically perfect convergence of supply, demand and budgetary manipulation.

Two trades have already altered the landscape, with Anthony Davis going to the Lakers and Mike Conley Jr. going to the Jazz. The trade of Evan Turner to the Hawks for Kent Bazemore finally gives the Trail Blazers a solid backcourt defender.

Free agency, however, offers so many possibilities it almost certainly will alter the balance of power in both conferences.

Here are 10 of the biggest names, mostly unrestricted free agents, their team last season and the teams believed to be in the hunt (in some cases, additional moves would be required):

Kevin Durant

After three seasons with the Warriors, it’s likely that KD is ready to take his comprehensive talents elsewhere and spend next season rehabilitating his surgically repaired right Achilles’ tendon. The Warriors, while bracing for his exit, are keeping the door open.

Among likely destinations for a forward that commands a max contract: Warriors, Nets, Knicks, Clippers.

Kawhi Leonard

Traded to Toronto last summer after seven years in San Antonio, Leonard emerged as the leader of the team that dethroned the Warriors in the NBA Finals. The Raptors were careful with him during the regular season before unleashing him in the postseason to crush the hopes of opponents.

Among likely destinations for a forward that commands the max: Raptors, Clippers.

Kemba Walker 

He has spent his entire eight-year career in Charlotte, becoming a franchise icon. He loves the region and is said to be willing to accept a hometown discount. But with only two playoff appearances, neither of which went past the first round, it would behoove the 6-foot-1 combo guard to explore other options.

Among likely destinations for a player that commands the max: Hornets, Mavericks, Lakers, Celtics, Knicks.

Kyrie Irving

A top-tier talent, as mercurial as he is brilliant, Irving forced his way out of Cleveland and spent the last two seasons in Boston. His stay was tumultuous and, last season, disappointing. The combo guard has been around long enough to earn a reputation for bringing joy and misery in equal amounts.

Among likely destinations for a player commanding the max: Nets, Celtics, Knicks, Lakers.

Jimmy Butler

Much like Irving, Butler is as rosy as he is thorny. He’s hubris and production in a high-maintenance package. He left Chicago for Minnesota, then forced his way to Philadelphia. He seems to have a good relationship with star center Joel Embiid, which is of immense value. Butler also leaves folks wondering if he’ll ever been happy.

Among likely destinations for guard/forward seeking the max: 76ers, Nets, Mavericks, Knicks.

Klay Thompson

Thompson is the kind of player you build with but not around. He excels at both ends, which has made life easier for Warriors teammate Steph Curry. Thompson is decidedly low-maintenance, asking only fair compensation and the chance to play. He has repeatedly stated his desire to remain with the Warriors.

Among likely destinations for the guard seeking the max: Warriors are prohibitive favorites..

Al Horford

The veteran big man is among the league’s best chameleons, able to adapt to any surroundings and provide whatever his team needs most. After nine years with the Hawks, the three-time All-Star spent the past three seasons with the Celtics, where he was the team’s most stabilizing force yet still productive. Age (he turned 33 this month) could limit him to a deal in the range of three years.

Among likely destinations: Mavericks, Trail Blazers, Celtics.

Kristaps Porzingis

The 7-3 forward wanted out of New York, which is understandable. He limped into Dallas last January, shortly before the trade deadline, to finish his rehabilitation after a serious knee injury sustained in February 2018. A restricted free agent (RFA), he seems committed to teaming up with Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic.

Among likely destinations: Mavericks.

Tobias Harris

He’s an interesting case, a terrific scorer and good teammate but better to build with than around. The 6-9 combo forward finished last season with the 76ers, his fifth team in eight seasons. Word is Philly wants him back, but Harris has to like the idea of finally choosing his employer.

Among likely destinations: 76ers, Mavericks, Nets.

Khris Middleton

A seven-year vet that has spent the last six seasons in Milwaukee, the lengthy 6-8 wing was a first-time All-Star in 2019. His shooting is a of high value alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo, so the Bucks would suffer mightily if Middleton were to head elsewhere. Is he a max player? No. But circumstances could work in his favor.

Among the likely destinations: Bucks, Lakers

Here are 12 other potential impact players, their current team, and teams either reportedly interested or should be at least curious:

D’Angelo Russell (Nets, RFA): Nets, Lakers, Suns, Bulls.

Nikola Vucevic (Magic): Magic, Mavericks, Kings, Lakers.

Malcolm Brogdon (Bucks, RFA): Bucks, Celtics, 76ers, Lakers, Bulls.

Paul Millsap (Nuggets, team option): Nuggets are heavy favorites.

DeMarcus Cousins (Warriors): Warriors, Knicks, Lakers, Hawks, Mavericks.

DeAndre Jordan (Knicks): Knicks, Lakers, Nets.

Bojan Bogdanovic (Pacers): Spurs, Lakers, Pacers.

Brook Lopez (Bucks): Lakers, Bucks, Warriors.

Nikola Mirotic (Bucks): Jazz, Mavericks, Pelicans.

Harrison Barnes (Kings): Kings, Suns.

J.J. Redick (76ers): 76ers, Lakers.

Danny Green (Raptors): Lakers, Rockets, 76ers, Raptors.

As we stated earlier, this is a special summer, the deepest ever, nothing like 2012, when the top UFA was 36-year-old Kevin Garnett, with JaVale McGee and Roy Hibbert not far behind.

[RELATED: 15 nightmare scenarios for Warriors in NBA free agency]

This isn’t 2013, when Andrew Bynum and Ty Lawson were considered top-10 free agents.

So, yes, strap in and enjoy the ride. Your favorite team likely will be directly involved or deeply affected.

NBA free-agent signings, trades that Warriors would hate to see happen

NBA free-agent signings, trades that Warriors would hate to see happen

For the last four years, the Warriors have sat atop the NBA. They'd prefer to stay there.

They haven't always finished on top, as evidenced by their defeat at the hands of the Raptors in the NBA Finals. But even in defeat, the Warriors -- as currently constructed -- still strike fear into the rest of the league.

It would be unwise to rule out their ability to compete for a championship next season. However, the fact of the matter is, Golden State enters the 2019-20 season without the prohibitive favorite label for the first time since Steve Kerr took over as head coach.

The severe injuries suffered by Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson in Games 5 and 6 of the Finals, respectively, have leveled the playing field considerably, with both All-Stars expected to miss most, if not all, of next season. Both of them, as well as several other NBA stars are due to become unrestricted free agents on June 30, and the fallout of free agency could potentially reset the NBA landscape even further.

Of course, it's also quite possible that many of the free agency rumors that have been overanalyzed countless times over the last year amount to nothing whatsoever. Many of the superstars expected to depart their incumbent teams could instead switch gears and re-sign a max contract. Some of the teams already in the upper tier of the league hierarchy might be forced to disassemble for salary cap relief.

All options are on the table. A week from now, the NBA could look drastically different. Or, we might still be left with the same usual suspects.

The Warriors, clearly, would prefer the latter option. Re-signing both Durant and Thompson would go a long way towards ensuring it, but regardless of whether or not they do, this potential resetting of the NBA landscape isn't entirely in their control.

With that in mind, here are the Warriors' 15-most nightmarish scenarios for the fallout of free agency, starting with the scariest. Some are significantly more likely to occur than others, but all would have a considerable impact on Golden State's ability to compete for championships moving forward.


NBA rumors: Kemba Walker Lakers' 'top target' after Anthony Davis trade

NBA rumors: Kemba Walker Lakers' 'top target' after Anthony Davis trade

After missing the playoffs in LeBron James' first season, the Lakers are re-tooling their roster, and it appears it will be an impressive overhaul.

After reportedly agreeing to acquire All-Star center Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans in a trade Saturday, the Lakers have their eyes on free-agent point guard Kemba Walker. In fact, the New York Times' Marc Stein reported that Walker will be the Lakers’ "top target.”

The Lakers need a point guard after including former No. 2 overall draft pick Lonzo Ball in the package headed to New Orleans for Davis.

With the Warriors wounded heading into the 2019-20 season, the Lakers see an opportunity to jump back to the top of the Western Conference. A starting lineup featuring Walker, LeBron, Kyle Kuzma and Davis would be scary, and should do some damage next season.

[RELATED: Finding hope for Warriors fans]

Look out, NBA. Here come the Lakers.