Remember when the Toronto Raptors created history by winning the NBA title? You should do, as it was less than three weeks ago when the Finals finished.
However, with the playoffs over and the draft done and dusted, it is now time for the NBA to move on to the next major event – free agency.
At 18:00 ET (22:00 GMT) on Sunday, the negotiating can officially begin. Those out of contract get the chance to hold meetings with prospective new employers, and this year’s list of available players includes some of the biggest names in the league.
The Los Angeles Lakers created waves by acquiring Anthony Davis, and now it is time to sit back and see how that blockbuster deal ripples through the rest of the NBA. It only takes one big trade – or two major injuries to deposed champions – to create a completely different landscape.
So, before the madness starts, we look at those who can expect to be making the headlines in the coming days and weeks.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have grand plans but are light on numbers. Trading for Davis came at a high price and they have gutted the roster with the clear aim of another superstar to combine with Davis and LeBron James. However, the desire to hit the jackpot has forced them to mortgage their long-term future.
Los Angeles Clippers
Yes, that’s right, there are two teams hoping to make it big in LA. The Clippers reached the playoffs last season and landed a couple of haymakers on the Golden State Warriors in the first round, yet that was all a welcome bonus. In the shadow of their city rivals, they want to land one of the big fish in the free agency pond.
Like the Clippers, the Nets surprisingly reached the postseason. They did so with a collection of players cobbled together through trades and the draft. There is room to add superstars (note the plural there) to those still under contract in Brooklyn, but that will alter the dynamic of a group that gelled so well together.
New York Knicks
The Knicks are hoping the lure of New York can help add a star to make them a headline act again. But, much like the Lakers in Los Angeles, they suddenly have noisy neighbours. It will be a major blow to the Knicks if any of their leading targets opt to relocate to Brooklyn instead.
And the rest…
While Kyrie Irving failed to pan out as planned, theBoston Celticsstill have young talent and enough cap room to work something out. Then there is theNew Orleans Pelicans, minus Davis but with top draft pick Zion Williamson and a number of the Lakers’ cast-offs. Watch out for theDenver Nuggetsand thePhiladelphia 76ersas well, two teams with serious title aspirations.
Kevin Durant– The ruptured Achilles suffered in the NBA Finals could cost him an entire season but will not hurt him in terms of his next contract. Long linked with the Knicks, he could still yet opt to stay with the Warriors. Even with his injury, Durant is going to be in high demand.
Kawhi Leonard– Toronto’s gamble to trade for Leonard paid off in spectacular fashion. The lure of defending the title with largely the same roster may sway Leonard to remain in Canada a little while longer, though Los Angeles has always been rumoured as his likely long-term destination.
Kyrie Irving– The point guard did not perform as expected in Boston, but that will not deter teams from showing interest. Could he join up again with LeBron at the Lakers? Possibly, though Brooklyn are thought to be heading the queue to secure his signature.
Kemba Walker– Irving is not the only All-Star point guard up for grabs. Charlotte can offer Walker more money to remain a Hornet, yet their former first-round pick could decide the time is right to buzz off. Boston and the Dallas Mavericks are reportedly keen.
Jimmy Butler– The 76ers leaned heavily on Butler in the playoffs, and the presence of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons makes Philadelphia a genuine contender in the East. Both Los Angeles franchises could call, while the Houston Rockets and Miami Heat are rumoured to be exploring sign-and-trade possibilities.
Klay Thompson– After Durant went down in the Finals, Golden State suffered a second serious injury blow when Thompson tore his ACL in Game 6. So, could we have seen the last of the Splash Brothers in tandem? The Warriors will be loath to lose Stephen Curry’s back-court partner, particularly to a Western Conference rival.
And the rest…
Malcolm Brogdon,Kristaps PorzingisandD’Angelo Russellare all restricted free agents, giving their teams the chance to match any offer they receive.Khris Middleton,JJ RedickandBojan Bogdanovicare shooters who can expect to be well paid, while big menAl HorfordandNikola Vucevicwill not go short with their next contracts. Then there isDeMarcus Cousins, who showed flashes with Golden State after returning from injury.