2018 NBA Free Agents: Latest Rumors and Predictions for Market’s Buzzing Names

BOSTON, MA - MAY 15:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts in the second half against the Boston Celtics during Game Two of the 2018 NBA Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 15, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

As teams prepare for the offseason, the NBA rumor mill continues to produce some intriguing headlines surrounding impending free agents set to hit the market.

Among the most notable names, Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George have player options for the upcoming season. Both can opt out and survey potential suitors in the summer.

In a league that revolves around building a core of impact assets for success, James or George would immediately change a team’s short-term trajectory. 

Don’t ignore budding talents behind the top names on the market. A team in rebuild mode plans to offer Houston Rockets center Clint Capela a lucrative deal. He’ll become a restricted free agent and draw widespread interest as a hot commodity.

Who’s set to compete with the Rockets for Capela? Which playoff team plans to open the checkbook as a big spender on the market?


Philadelphia 76ers Will do “Whatever it Takes” to Sign LeBron James 

The Philadelphia 76ers exceeded 2017-18 expectations as the No. 3 seed and won a series before going down 4-1 to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

A couple of days after the Sixers’ elimination, head coach Brett Brown gave an early pitch for top free agents looking for greener pastures:

Brown didn’t mention any particular names, but Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Keith Pompey filled in the blanks for those wondering about the team’s offseason priorities: 

“The Sixers can’t publicly say so until July 1, but it doesn’t take an engineering degree to realize the team is prepared to do whatever it takes to sign James, a four-time league MVP. ”

Of course, James should land on every front office’s radar if he’s available to sign as a free agent. Nonetheless, Brown spoke to the media knowing the Sixers’ turnaround should attract big names. Secondly, rising stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid add incentive. 

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 5: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers talks to Ben Simmons #25 against the Boston Celtics during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Second Round of the 2018 NBA Playoff at Wells Fargo Center on May 5, 2018 in Philadelphia,

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

A starting lineup featuring a 6’10” playmaker with point-guard qualities and a versatile 7-footer with long range on his jump shot sounds like a good place to start when looking for a team in playoff contention. James could stay in the East and tilt the balance of power with the Sixers’ pieces in place. Rookie Markelle Fultz would only need to fill a modest contributing role to solidify the starting lineup.

James hasn’t discussed his thoughts on the offseason while leading Cleveland to the conference finals. The Cavaliers roster doesn’t offer much to entice his return, barring a trade for a star player.

The Cavaliers currently trail the Celtics 0-2 in the conference finals and lack the firepower to compete with the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets. It’s time to jump ship for a stronger contender on the rise.

Prediction: LeBron James signs with the Philadelphia 76ers


Sixers Also Interested in Paul George

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

In case James decides to remain in Cleveland, Philadelphia also has an alternative plan to dramatically improve the roster. In the same report about James above, Pompey also revealed the team’s interest in George: 

“Oklahoma City small forward Paul George is another free agent the Sixers have interest in, according to folks around the league. He would be a great fit because of his ability to shoot the ball and defend.” 

The Sixers have an eye on a small forward, who can play both ends of the court, which explains the interest in James and George. 

The Thunder didn’t win a postseason series with Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and George this year. They celebrated one more playoff victory than the previous campaign without the two forwards joining Oklahoma City’s homegrown star player.

It’s also worth noting Kevin Durant and Victor Oladipo have experienced more success after their stints along Westbrook. Brown’s free-agent pitch certainly applies to George who’d share the ball with only one prolific scorer in Embiid with the Sixers.

It’s certainly an attractive landing spot for the five-time All-Star whose current team fell short on expectations. Based on the prediction above, Philadelphia would land the biggest free agent on the market, leaving George to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers who have been linked to him dating back to the previous year.

Prediction: Paul George signs with the Los Angeles Lakers


Phoenix Suns Interested in Clint Capela 

HOUSTON, TX - MAY 14:  Clint Capela #15 of the Houston Rockets looks on before the game against the Golden State Warriors in Game One of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs on May 14, 2018 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO

Bill Baptist/Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns finished the regular season 21-61. It’s their fourth consecutive campaign with a sub-.500 record and the eighth straight without a playoff berth. On the bright side, the franchise secured the No. 1 spot in the NBA lottery, which gives the front office enough ammunition to rebuild the roster.

Looking ahead to free agency, the Suns have locked on to Capela as a potential building block for the future, per Kelly Iko of Rockets Wire:

Even though he is a restricted free agent, Clint Capela figures to have a list of suitors once July 1 arrives. According to a league source, one such team is the Phoenix Suns. They have kept tabs on him throughout the season, and have reportedly become “enamored” with him. They have plans to offer Capela a max or near-max contract once free agency begins.”

Phoenix’s interest in Capela holds draft implications since he brings a similar skill set to Arizona prospect Deandre Ayton. They’re bigs who occupy space on the interior with strong defensive capabilities. It wouldn’t make sense to acquire both. 

As a restricted free agent, Capela can’t sign with Phoenix outright. The Rockets would have to refuse to match an offer. 

Iko’s report surfaced before the lottery drawing. Now holding the No. 1 pick, we’ll see if the Suns’ reported interest in Capela sticks or subsides as we approach the draft. Nonetheless, Houston’s run to the conference finals will likely encourage general manager Daryl Morey to keep the roster’s core together.

Prediction: Houston Rockets match any team’s offer for Clint Capela

NBA News

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May 17, 2018 at 08:05AM


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