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Checking In On Top NBA Free Agents

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Where do things stand two weeks away from the start of free agency?

Toronto Raptors v Philadelphia 76ers - Game Four Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The NBA draft is days away, but after that, the start of free agency is right around the corner. Rumors and speculation are flying around every day as part of the 24-year news cycle, so I thought it would be good to check in on where things possibly stand with a handful of this summer’s top free agents, with some additional commentary for what moves might mean for the Sixers.

Kawhi Leonard - Will a Finals MVP actually leave his team the following offseason? We’ll find out in a couple weeks, but true to form, Kawhi is being tight-lipped about his future plans. Given that uncertainty, the Raptors have to be content with the knowledge that they did everything possible to keep him in Toronto (oh yeah, and the first title in franchise history). After these recent playoffs, the last thing the Sixers want to see is Leonard staying in the Eastern Conference. Family is important, Kawhi! The weather in southern California is wonderful! How cool would it be to break the Clippers’ title drought next?

Kevin Durant - After suffering a torn achilles, it’s anticipated that Durant will not take the NBA court again until October of 2020. But because he’s one of the top players in the world, Durant is still expected to receive max offers from a number of teams, including the Golden State Warriors. At this point, everyone still expects KD to head to New York, and it was recently reported that he was meeting with Kyrie in the Big Apple to continue their discussion on playing together. The injuries to KD and Klay, with Toronto just having won the title, speak to how the wide-open the league suddenly appears to be, granting further support to the #RunItBack mindset for the Sixers.

Kyrie Irving - It seems like Kyrie is Brooklyn-bound, which I suppose is worse for the Sixers than his heading to Los Angeles or somewhere else in the West. Then again, having seen how Irving was the catalyst in the destruction of Boston’s chemistry, I can’t say I’m too worried about his remaining in the division. Honestly, I’d be more concerned that his recruiting efforts cement the Sixers having to face KD four times per year starting in 2020.

Kemba Walker - Walker said he would be willing to take less than the supermax to stay in Charlotte, so the team would have more money to build a team around him. First, get your money, Kemba, come on. Secondly, even if Walker took less money, Charlotte still wouldn’t have enough cap space to sign anyone of significance, so it would basically be a pointless sacrifice on his part. From Philadelphia’s perspective, this would be great, though. Sure, Kemba will have one or two huge scoring performances over the course of the 30 regular season games the two teams face each other, but he’ll never serve as a roadblock to the Sixers’ possible contention with the Hornets.

Klay Thompson - Klay tore his ACL and told Steve Kerr he just needed a two-minute rest before going back out there. Warrior in every sense of the word. Like Durant, Golden State still plans to offer Thompson a max contract. Unlike KD, Klay seems likely to accept it.

Jimmy Butler - Butler’s future destination has been a huge topic of conversation ever since he first demanded a trade out of Minnesota. He’s been linked to Los Angeles, the New York teams, and recently said he would happily listen to Miami. However, the Sixers can offer him the most money. The 2019 NBA Playoffs also showed that they are as close to contention as anyone. I expect Philadelphia to back up the Brinks truck, and for Butler to happily accept it.

Tobias Harris - It was recently reported by The Athletic that the Nets and Harris have mutual interest. Harris is from the Long Island area, and Brooklyn head coach Kenny Atkinson’s brother Steve was one of Tobi’s high school coaches. Clearly, there’s a lot of smoke here. As much as Harris talked up the value of his being a ‘connector’, you would have to think he might also value being more than a team’s fourth option. If #RunItBack doesn’t fully come to fruition, I worry it’s because Harris passes up the extra year the Sixers could offer and heads elsewhere, possibly to Brooklyn.

Khris Middleton - Middleton recently moved into a new home in a Milwaukee-area suburb. It has always seemed like the Bucks would offer Middleton a max deal to return and the team with the best regular-season record in the league would try to complete its unfinished business. I think the consensus among Sixers fans is that, like the Raptors, Philadelphia would have handled the Bucks if the two teams had met in the Eastern Conference Finals. I’m not overly bothered by the idea of Milwaukee locking themselves into this core.

D’Angelo Russell - While there may be a new lead guard in Brooklyn, it doesn’t seem like Russell is against the idea of playing alongside Kyrie Irving. With Russell being a restricted free agent, the Nets could bring him back even if he signs elsewhere. However, an Irving-Russell backcourt defensively would be...interesting. Rumors abound that if Kyrie does come to Brooklyn, the Nets would just let Russell walk. One team that has been reported to have interest in D’Angelo is Indiana, but you would have to think any number of mid-market teams that generally don’t draw the top-tier free agents would love a shot at a 23-year-old All-Star. With Ben Simmons around to shut him down, I’m not losing sleep on where D-Lo winds up.

Malcolm Brogdon - The Athletic’s Derek Bodner recently laid out how tricky it would be for the Sixers to sign Brogdon given his status as a restricted free agent. For me, it boils down to the fact that if any team views Brogdon as a target at lesser than a max price, Milwaukee is simply going to match. I would wager that the only way Brogdon leaves Milwaukee is if some team offers him what the general public would consider a huge overpay.