The fallout from NBA free agency will be fascinating to watch this summer. The big dominos of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will lead to the fall of smaller dominos as certain teams look to clear out from under the early July rubble.
As of now, Durant and Irving to the Knicks seems to be on course. But where will that leave other teams like the Celtics, Lakers and Sixers?
“Rival executives will tell you, without hesitation, that Durant is bound for the Knicks; that Irving is likely to join him; that Leonard likes the Clippers; that Jimmy Butler might choose the Lakers – unless he chooses the Nets,” Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck wrote this week.
One near certainty is that Cavaliers star Kevin Love will be traded this summer, likely to a contender. Cleveland is in the bottoming out business after scrapping its initial plan of a rebuild on the fly when it gave Love an extension last summer. In essence, there’s no reason to keep Love because the next time they will be in contention he will be on the Back 9.
The Celtics and Sixers will be scrambling if they lose Irving and Butler, respectively, in free agency and there will be a push to make a move. Obviously the Celtics have been coveting Anthony Davis for years but if Irving goes to New York it seems highly unlikely that he would entertain staying in Boston for longer than his current contract. One alternative where the Celtics would not need to give up even a quarter as much in assets is a trade for Love, a player that Danny Ainge has long coveted.
If Irving leaves, the Celtics will have some flexibility to make a move. Al Horford could also bolt this summer, but that seems unlikely given Horford’s strong standing with the organization.
Another team that could be interested in landing Love is the Lakers, given the LeBron James connection. If Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson strike out with some of the top tier free agency, they may have no choice but to look to the trade market where Love will be one of the biggest names available.
The Sixers may also look to the trade market this summer if they watch Butler walk out the door as the pressure will be on Elton Brand to replace Butler with some star power. If Butler leaves and Tobias Harris stays, the Sixers will have around $37 million in cap space to fit a second tier star like Love under the cap.
Love is still only 30-years-old and by most accounts he still has two or three peak years left in the gas tank. He will likely be the most talked about man in the NBA after that first wave of free agency hits.