Often times, the NBA is all about winning. Winning is what makes your franchise money, and thus is typically the primary focus. However, I want to take a break from the seriousness and look at some fun destinations for some of the NBA's top free agents -- whether they make sense or not.
Free Agent #1: Paul George Destination: Houston Rockets
Watching the Western Conference Finals was fun, as both teams pulled their starting centers in favor of lineups that prioritized shooting, speed, and defensive versatility. While the Warriors used All-Star Draymond Green as their nominal center, the Rockets used PJ Tucker at the 5. Tucker played admirably, and it's always fun to watch a 6'6" center with a mean streak pull down rebounds, but what if the Rockets had Paul George to add to the equation?
A small ball lineup of Chris Paul, James Harden, Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza (a pending free agent himself), and Paul George is not only financially possible, but would be an incredibly switchy team that could the Warriors a taste of their own medicine. And there's nothing more fun to me and the fans of the 29 other teams than to watch the Warriors lose.
Free Agent #2: DeMarcus Cousins Destination: Washington Wizards
Personally, I've been dreaming of a John Wall-DeMarcus "Boogie" Cousins reunion ever since the closing seconds of their Kentucky squad's loss to West Virginia in the Elite Eight all those years ago. Wall may be the only person that can truly get all the good out of Boogie. With neither of them accomplishing much winning outside of that NCAA March Madness run, it's worth looking at the idea that being together is what both of them need. DeMarcus won't come cheaply, as evidenced by recent social media comments and likes, and Washington is all but capped out at the moment.
Trading away recently maxed forward Otto Porter Jr. and playoff scapegoat Marcin Gortat could potentially make the money work, as long as they were shipped off without taking on more salary. Washington also possesses the 15th pick in the upcoming draft, and have Kelly Oubre looking to take on a larger role. If the Wizards take Kentucky combo forward Kevin Knox, their new starting lineup would have intriguing potential:
SG Bradley Beal
Worst case scenario, it all blows up in Washington's face with Wall and Cousins yelling at each other until they are purple in the face. Best case, Washington escapes the mediocrity purgatory they are currently in. Either way, I would pay money to see the drama go down.
Free Agent #3: LeBron James Destination: New York Knicks
LeBron James likely isn't staying in Cleveland. Reports are showing that he probably won't go to Houston either. LeBron's next stop needs to allow him to maximize his success on the court and achieve his business related goals. New York has the potential to be both. LeBron would get to share the floor with Kristaps Porzingis, an NBA unicorn who truly has limitless ceiling. Porzingis would complement LeBron well with floor spacing and defensive versatility. The rest of the Knicks' roster is less than stellar, but Porzingis is a prize starting point, and guys like Frank Ntilikina still have intriguing potential. There is no greater place to expand a brand than in New York, and the Knicks have a rich history. Seeing the King play on the biggest stage on Earth would be highly appealing.
Free Agent #4: Kevin Durant Destination: Oklahoma City Thunder
Hm, this feels familiar. Star player fails to win a title with old team. Player goes to conference rival. Player goes on to win a couple titles and Finals MVPs. Player ultimately decides to head home and help their old team win a title. Sounds a bit like Free Agent #3 right? This would be next to impossible to happen, as Kevin Durant has already told ESPN he plans to sign back with Golden State. Additionally, the money is tight right now in OKC, and moving Carmelo Anthony would be the first domino to fall. However, Durant has picked up a reputation as being a snake, and it wouldn't be far-fetched to see him try to rehabilitate his public image by going home. The Thunder may not be too keen on the idea, as their fans have not been hospitable to their former star when he's returned to Chesapeake Arena to play in a visiting team's uniform. But if a team is able to get a superstar, former MVP, and two-time Finals MVP, they do it.
Free Agent #5: Clint Capela Destination: Phoenix Suns
This would likely only happen if Houston signs PG13, re-signs CP3, and decides that the offer extended to Capela was simply too great. While not a reasonable scenario, pragmatics be damned, Capela would be just plain fun in Phoenix. Capela has developed into a personal favorite of mine, becoming a huge boon for Houston and blossoming from a role player into a key cog. Capela was once only a rim-running big, but now has come into his own as a defensive menace, and ultimately making everyone forget about the Dwightmare Era. Signing Capela would allow the Suns to cut bait with center Alex Len and trade failed prospect Marquese Chriss, but also stay up on a trend of many playoffs teams. The 2018 playoffs showed that wings are better players to have in crunch-time situations due to their ability to shoot, handle, and pass, all while chasing big men off the floor. A Capela signing would signal that the Suns would skip choosing center Deandre Ayton, and instead be able to choose elite European wingman Luka Doncic. Doncic better fits the mold of what NBA teams want and need to in order to be competitive, and Doncic can play positions 1-4, which would come up huge in future playoff matchups. A 2018 Suns lineup could look like this:
SG Devin Booker
SF Josh Jackson
PF Dragan Bender
That group could compete sooner rather than later, with a great balance of ball-handlers, high-fliers, and outside shooters. Not a single player from the group would be older than 24, making them intriguing playoff contenders for years to come.
This group may be small but they will make a huge difference in the basketball future.