Paul George Officially Hits The Market, The Splash Brothers Are No More And Everything Else You Need To Know To Be Ready For The Start Of The NBA's Free Agency

Welcome to NBA Free Agency everybody! Yesterday was our "opt in" or "opt out" deadline day, and today once it hits 6pm EST we'll start getting Woj/Shams bombs left and right about who is meeting with who and what deals are starting to look like. Technically you can "begin" to negotiate at 6pm today, and then officially "sign' someone at 12:01pm on 7/6, but that's a formality really. 

But now that we've entered the part of the NBA calendar where teams can technically start to talk to outside free agents, we may as well set the stage for what should be a pretty chaotic free agent period as 29 other teams across the league all do their best to try and challenge the champs. 

Now over the last few days we've seen a few extensions come through which has taken some big names out of the free agency pool, so as of this morning, here's where we stand when it comes to the players most people will care about

Given there's 0.0% chance LeBron doesn't return to the Lakers even after opting out, I'd say your brain can remove him from this list until it becomes official.

So now that we know the market, it also important to know who even has the money to spend this summer. A quick look a projected cap space gives you this list

This of course doesn't mean that only those 7 teams are going to be the ones to do all the signings, but for big money players entering the market, these are pretty much the teams they should be focused on (outside of their own). We'll see some minimum signings from contenders, we'll see some sign & trades with teams who don't have a ton of available cap space to absorb someone's contract, things of that nature. But generally, this is the big money market. 

Why does this matter? Well, we can start with the biggest name on the free agent market who decided to turn down his player option and hit the open market


Before George's opt out, there were rumblings/rumors that maybe there could be some sort of trade to bring him to GS. The second he turned down that $48.7M player option, that dream was now dead since the Warriors didn't have the cap space to bring George in. 

To me, this is as clear a leverage play as you'll see from a player of George's status in the league. I imagine he wants as many years and as much money as possible, which comes from the Clippers. But a lack of extension prior to this tells you that they probably aren't crazy about giving George the full amount of years. So what do you do? You put the pressure on, hit the open market where there are PLENTY of teams who wouldn't hate being in the PG13 business, and you call the Clippers bluff. If they aren't willing to step up, then they'll have to be OK with losing this huge asset for nothing as they enter their new arena. That's not great!


In terms of the teams George is meeting with, both make sense for his skillset and their own need at the position. The Sixers are finally out of the Tobias Harris business and are in need of a 3rd star/wing player. That's probably where George fits best in terms of role compared to being a #1 or a #2. He still has the talent to be that caliber of player on any given night, but him sliding next to Embiid/Maxey makes sense to me. Plus Daryl Morey has been big game hunting for years now, so I'd consider them as big a threat as any.

The Magic are also a very interesting team/option. They made their initial leap this past season, and they feel like a team that's on the rise. The only thing they've really needed is offense. Well, scoring is exactly what George can bring. Not only that, his size and length defensively should fit right in with a team that is pretty nails defensively already. The Magic are big at every position, and you also can't forget there's no state income tax in Florida. If PG13 cares about money, his money will go further there compared to his other options.

The other big news from yesterday was of course the ending of the Klay Thompson Era in Golden State

While this was certainly not a surprise given the writing has been on the wall for months now, it's still crazy to see. Once Klay turned down the Warriors 2 year extension at around MLE money, this was the most logical step. Maybe you think Klay is washed and not worth the money, maybe you think this is a fumble by GS, but as things stand now I'd say Klay is the second biggest available name on the market.

Shams went on to explain that there are three teams now in the Klay Thompson market. The Lakers, the Clippers, and the Mavs. All three make sense (esp if LAC loses George), and some will be easier than others. For example, the Mavs have opened up the full MLE (12.9M) after dumping Tim Hardaway Jr, which I would guess outside of someone like ORL offering $20M+ will probably be high on Klay's list. As we just saw in the Finals the Mavs certainly need three point shooting, and having to rely on guys like DJJ and Josh Green clearly isn't ideal.


The Lakers are an interesting spot because now that JJ Redick is in charge they are going to do their best to adopt the teachings of Mazzulla Ball, but to do that you need shooters (which the Lakers don't really have). With LeBron's opt out, he can restructure his next deal in a way to open up enough space (like the MLE) to offer Klay, and seeing as how his dad is a former Laker, it wouldn't shock me if this is Klay's first choice. Now there are rumors that his bigger issue in GS was the fact that they wanted him to come off the bench, so I do wonder if he'd have a starting spot in LA. Would he take slightly less if it came with a starting spot? 

If the Clippers were to lose George and don't sign Klay, you then have to wonder what that means for James Harden. We saw Westbrook pick up his player option to come back, we know they have Kawhi, but I really don't think you can open your new arena with a team that loses PG13 and Harden and is fighting for the Play In. I can't imagine Harden has the same sort of market as the other big names on this list, so maybe at the end of the day he'll benefit from the rest of the market and force the Clippers to hand him the type of new deal he's looking for. 

Then you think about players like DeMar DeRozan, another one of these "older" stars who are hitting the market at a time where the options are limited. It seems as though the Bulls are in full fire sale mode, with reports today coming out that they can't even unload Zach LaVine despite attaching a first round pick to him

so if they are trying to smash the rebuild button I can't imagine they are going to shell out big money to retain DeRozan. I'd imagine every team that's in the George sweepstakes will turn their focus to DeRozan should they swing and miss, because despite being 34 I certainly wouldn't say DeRozan is washed. He's still super effective, but it takes the right system. If you're a team that is trying to up your 3PA volume, he's probably not your guy. But if you're a team that needs offense, clutch play, and as a positional need? He can definitely still help.


A guy like KCP in Denver is also an interesting case. While he may not be the same level in terms of being a big name as some of the other wings in this market, he's arguably one of the most impactful. It's not going to take max money to get him, he's an All NBA Defense caliber wing, and he's someone with a ton of championship experience. He's another guy who turned down a $15M player option, and you don't do that unless you know a bigger payday is on the horizon. The Nuggets seem weirdly OK with losing KCP which is odd since he's arguably their best wing defender, but he feels like a guy we'll look back on this summer and he might be the biggest needle mover of them all depending on where he goes. Think of it like this, would you rather pay $30M+ for one of these older high priced wings, or $20M+ for a slightly younger and proven KCP who plays both ends? 

Either way, we have now entered one of the more entertaining parts of the NBA calendar. Make sure you have your Shams/Woj/Haynes notifications ready, because if there's one thing we know it's that this time of year usually brings chaos. This is a time to be hopeful as a fan, convince yourself that whatever your favorite team does will ultimately be the thing that gets them over the hump and to the top of the mountain, stuff like that.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be doing my thing praying to the Basketball Gods we hear about the Derrick White max extension soon.