This will be one of the most (if not THE most) expensive summers in NBA history, as there many free agents who are eligible to earn max contracts from teams who have the money. Some of these free agents, such as Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker, have already had deals lined up, but players like Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler have given very little concrete evidence to where they will spend the next years of their career. Here are my reactions for where the biggest-name free agents are going to be playing next season.
1. Kemba Walker
Charlotte Hornets' star PG Kemba Walker
Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images
Kemba Walker has agreed to a contract. With whom, you might ask? The Boston Celtics. The Celtics have been preparing for Kyrie Irving to leave for almost a whole season, so they've been talking to Walker for a good amount of time. He signed a four year, $141 million contract to be the elite replacement for Kyrie Irving that Boston needs to keep their title hopes alive. Kemba Walker isn't as good as Kyrie Irving, but he is still an attractive piece to help lure some mid-tier free agents to Boston. It's a good, smart move for Boston, and I hope it pays off for them.
Turns out, it did pay off. Boston signed center Enes Kanter to a two-year, $10 million contract. Kanter most likely fill the starting role and help mentor Grant Williams to be the stretch four-five role that Al Horford was for Boston.
2. Kyrie Irving
Boston Celtics star PG Kyrie Irving
Getty/Nathaniel S. Butler
Everybody knew this was coming for a while. He has openly expressed his frustration with coach Brad Stevens and the team's front office. Kyrie reportedly ghosted the Celtics organization, which effectively killed all hope of a contract extension. This opened up the Brooklyn Nets to offer the championship-winning point guard a max contract worth $141 million over four years, which Irving has already accepted. Not surprised with this, but I think it's a fantastic move in the long term considering the next free agent I'll discuss...
3. Kevin Durant
Golden State Warriors two-time Finals MVP forward Kevin Durant
After suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals, I was somewhat concerned for Kevin Durant's future. I wasn't sure 1) where he would sign OR 2) would it actually be for a max contract, considering he probably wouldn't play in 2019-20? He knew did not want to return to the Warriors because he felt as though he had been under-appreciated and disrespected by the team and its fans, especially with the team doctors concerning his Achilles injury. Needless to say, all my concerns have been put to rest, as the Brooklyn Nets have signed Durant to a four-year, $164 million contract. With this signing, the duo of Durant and Kyrie Irving that has been rumored for months has finally been established. Pairing Brooklyn's young core alongside Durant, Irving, and DeAndre Jordan instantly makes them a serious title contender from day one.
4. Jimmy Butler
Philadelphia 76ers' four-time All-Star G/F Jimmy Butler
In the NBA, everyone wants to win championships. That's the point. However, some players have other goals alongside winning chips. Jimmy Butler is one of those players. Yes, Butler wants to win a championship, but he wants his own team more than anything. He wants to be the best player on a championship team, so he wanted to go to a team in the process of a rebuild and help create his own dynasty. He was the guy in Chicago, but he didn't have a good enough supporting cast and wasn't good enough himself to carry a team like LeBron James originally did in Cleveland. He was never going to be the guy in Minnesota, as they had Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins. He DEFINITELY was not the guy in Philadelphia, as they had Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. He wanted to join a team who had a superstar void that needed to be filled.
The team of his choosing? The Miami Heat, and It makes perfect sense. Butler's favorite player growing up was Dwayne Wade, who built his Hall of Fame career with Pat Riley. They both played basketball at Marquette University. Wade was a mentor to Butler throughout his young career, and they even played together for a year in Chicago. There's nobody else that Wade would've wanted to take the reins of Miami, and there's no other place that Butler wanted to go. He signed a four-year, $141 million max contract with Miami, and will look to build a future there as their number-one option.
5. Kawhi Leonard
2019 NBA Finals MVP, Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kawhi Leonard FINALLY made his decision. The fun guy will be returning to his home in Southern California and be suiting up for the Los Angeles Clippers. Now, if he grew up a Lakers fan, why would he NOT want to go play in the purple and gold with LeBron and AD? He won a title in his only season with the Toronto Raptors, so why would he NOT want to run it back in the Six for another chance at a chip? Both of those teams have title-winning potential, but they really aren't meant for a guy like Kawhi.
Kawhi Leonard is two things that make him different from every other superstar in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard is quiet and lowkey, and Kawhi Leonard is a dynasty-killer. These two attributes ruled out the Lakers and Raptors. Raptors fans, the city of Toronto, and the entire country of Canada was trying to figure out desperately what Leonard's decision would be. There were reports that Leonard was even tracked down with a helicopter. That's not who he is, and that's not what he likes. All the attention was a turn-off for him.
Now, why not the Lakers? Like I said before, Kawhi Leonard is a dynasty killer. Had he gone to the Lakers, he would have been a part of a dynasty there, which is not who he is. At just 22 years old, he ended the Miami Heat (and LeBron James's) dynasty when he was with the San Antonio Spurs and was the Finals MVP of that series. This past season, he ended the Golden State Warriors dynasty during their attempt to three-peat, also winning Finals MVP. He isn't't the type of player or person to just sign with a team because he can win a championship there. He signed with the Clippers because he wanted to build something alongside Paul George, who was traded by the Oklahoma City Thunder, and I think they will indeed build something there.