The 2018-19 NBA league year begins on July 1st. What does this mean? It marks the beginning of a free agent moratorium, free agents can begin reaching verbal agreements with teams, and restricted free agents can begin signing offer sheets. The said moratorium will end on July 6th, at which point teams can begin signing players and making trades.
This will be a wild summer. There are many top-tier stars looking to move teams and there will be plenty of buyers as organizations adjust to the ebb and flow of talent in the market.
The biggest prize will LeBron James, who has the luxury of picking literally any team he would like to play for in the third major free agency decision. As of now, the Los Angeles Lakers appear to be in the lead to land his services for 2018-19. James has been in communication with other stars, allegedly recruiting them to join him with the Cleveland Cavaliers, so him staying put is a realistic possibility as well. At this point, a clear-cut prediction as to where he will land is next to impossible. In 2017-18 he led the Cavaliers to the Eastern Conference finals while carrying him on his back but was promptly swept by the Warriors in the finals. This means he just needs more help. Whether he will find said help will be in Cleveland or somewhere else is another story.
Kawhi Leonard wants out of the San Antonio Spurs as the relationship between one of the NBA’s best two-way players and his team has eroded. Leonard has expressed a desire to play for the Lakers. The Spurs, however, are disinclined to trade him to another Western Conference team. He managed to play in just nine games in 2017-18 after being hampered by a lingering hamstring injury. The status of his health might be a sticking point, but should he pass physicals there’s no reason Leonard cannot return to his former self. The Spurs have tried to reach Leonard’s camp and have been wanting to sign their star to a super-max deal but have gotten a cold response from him and his representatives. The bridge has not been burned yet but it is definitely shaky at this point.
Speaking of two-way players, Paul George has a big decision of his own as well. George was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder last season by the Indiana Pacers for Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo. The Thunder took a gamble, hoping to entice George into staying and playing alongside 2017-18 MVP Russell Westbrook for the long haul. His decision will even be chronicled in a three-part series on ESPN. Yes, his impact on any team is that big.
DeAndre Jordan is currently mulling his future. He can opt-in the last year of his contract which will be worth $24,119,025. If he opts out, Jordan will become an unrestricted free agent and will be, alongside DeMarcus Cousins, be one of the more coveted big men in the NBA. Opting in may not necessarily mean he will be staying with the Los Angeles Clippers. The team can also trade him even if opts in. The Clippers traded Austin Rivers to the Washington Wizards in exchange for veteran Polish center Marcin Gortat. This could be them insuring themselves against a DeAndre Jordan departure.
Whatever happens this July and the rest of the off-season, stars will align and re-align as the NBA landscape takes new shape.