With the NBA draft now in the rearview mirror, the league’s attention turns to free agency which is just a week away.
July 1 marks the official start of the new league year, when teams are allowed to start negotiating contracts with players. This date usually coincides with a flurry of moves, as teams rush to get players to verbally commit to new deals.
While most big-name players will agree to terms during the first week of the new year, those deals can’t officially be inked until July 6.
In anticipation of the exciting free-agency period ahead, here’s a look at some of the latest rumors and predictions involving key players hitting the open market this summer.
Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward is sure to have plenty of suitors if he opts out of his contract, but that list had the potential to change on Thursday night depending on how the draft played out.
The Boston Celtics are presumably among the teams hoping to make a push to sign Hayward, but they were also linked to trade rumors involving Jimmy Butler, per Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog. And with plenty of draft assets both in the 2017 NBA draft and beyond, the Celtics were in position to land Butler or another target, such as Paul George, if they chose that path.
During the draft, however, the Chicago Bulls shipped Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves, which increased the likelihood that Boston would have to turn its attention to Hayward.
The Celtics could still pull off another trade, but the perceived value of draft picks tends to decrease substantially once that pick becomes a player. So while Jayson Tatum, the Celtics’ selection at No. 3, would still draw interest on the trade market, their ability to pull off a blockbuster deal likely decreased significantly after draft day passed.
After missing out on Butler, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge faces intense pressure to add a big name in the free-agent market, and Hayward may be his best chance to help the Celtics take the next step this offseason.
Hayward is uniquely familiar with the Celtics program, having played for head coach Brad Stevens in college at Butler, and he may favor Boston over other cities if he chooses to leave Utah.
Prediction: Celtics land Hayward
It’s no secret that the San Antonio Spurs are interested in adding a point guard—there has been rampant speculation that Chris Paul would be an ideal fit. But, according to ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne, Paul might not be their only target:
Derrick Rose hasn’t been the same since a series of knee injuries, but the Spurs do have a remarkable track record of keeping players healthy and productive late into their careers.
Perhaps the Spurs’ faith in their own coaches and training staff could be leading them to see a higher ceiling for Rose than he’s shown in recent years.
Rose is still only 28 years old, so it’s unlikely he’ll turn down more money to chase a ring with San Antonio. But if the Spurs’ interest is serious, this could be a perfect match for both sides.
Even if he’s forced to settle for a short-term deal, San Antonio could help Rose rehabilitate his reputation and put him in position to cash in on another long-term contract down the road.
Prediction: Spurs try for Paul first but ultimately settle for Rose
In addition to Paul and Rose, one of the top point guards on the market is Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors.
Earlier this week, Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star reported Lowry was “grumbling about dissatisfaction with the Raptors” and had “zero interest” in returning to Toronto. But, according to ESPN.com, both Lowry and Raptors president Masai Ujiri, quickly shot down those reports.
Lowry will draw interest on the free-agent market, especially from teams that miss out on the opportunity to sign Paul, but the veteran point guard remains an excellent fit in Toronto.
The Raptors often struggle to attract free agents to Toronto, so their best course of action this offseason may be to give the 31-year-old the offer he’s expecting.
If the Raptors lose Lowry, they likely won’t be able to find a comparable replacement, which would send the team tumbling down the projected standings in the Eastern Conference.
Prediction: Lowry tests the waters but lands back in Toronto
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