NBA Free Agency Rumors, Intel: Latest News After NBA Finals

NBA Free Agency Rumors, Intel: Latest News After NBA Finals article feature image

Pictured: Donovan Mitchell, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler

The NBA season is over and the Boston Celtics are the champs. But the NBA rumor mill never stops. Here's a look at everything being bounced around league circles that I've managed to catch over the past few weeks.

A Cavalier Approach

Donovan Mitchell's (likely, almost definitely) staying (probably). The word in NBA circles is that Mitchell will re-sign with the Cavaliers, a major coup for Koby Altman and the Cavs' front office. Michael Scotto of HoopsHype was the first to report the significant element, that Mitchell will sign a deal that takes him through three seasons, allowing him to enter free agency after 10 years of service, which will bump his pay structure. There's a belief the deal will have a player option for Mitchell in the fourth year to protect Mitchell and maximize flexibility.

Cavs beat writer Chris Fedor also reported on the HoopsHype podcast that the front office "likes the core four" — Mitchell, Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley — and would have to be bowled over by an offer for one of the others. League sources have said the Cavaliers have shown no urgency to move Garland.

However, several league sources independently noted this week that they expect Klutch Sports to prefer a trade for Garland if Mitchell is re-signed. That'd give Garland the most opportunity to grow and there's an expectation they would prefer a move to stay in the East to give Garland a better opportunity at an All-Star appearance to boost his earning potential.

Now, that might be rival front offices stirring trouble where there is none, and Garland is signed with the Cavaliers through 2028. The Cavaliers simply aren't leveraged. The question is more about how that dynamic plays out if Garland prefers to go somewhere where he'd be the primary ballhandler. San Antonio has long been described as a perfect fit, but again, if the preference is for him to stay in the East, that's not doable. Orlando would be another option but …

Magic Gathering a New Structure

For two years, the Magic have pursued point guard upgrades in free agency and at the deadline. Fred VanVleet, Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry are among the guards Orlando has pursued and failed to obtain to boost its backcourt offensively. However, after the Magic's success in reaching the playoffs and a Game 7 with Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner, two sources said this week that Orlando has pivoted slightly.

For one, there's confidence that Jalen Suggs, after an All-Defense season and some improved offense, has earned the right to take the full-time point guard position.

Second, there are expected to be more two-guards on the market. Bay Area insiders, like Tim Kawakami of The Athletic, have mentioned the Magic as a worst-kept secret suitor for Klay Thompson, and Hall-of-Fame reporter Marc Stein has said the same. With more scoring on the market, including Malik Monk and others, Orlando is expected to add a scoring two-guard.

There is not a lot of confidence that the Magic will retain former starting point guard Markelle Fultz, though a discount deal is possible if a market doesn't develop for the former No. 1 pick.

Brooklyn Tries to Escape Purgatory (Again)

First off, there's little expectation that Mikal Bridges will wear a different uniform next season. Brooklyn has been willing to take calls for the versatile wing, but despite a disappointing season from Bridges in 23-24, the asking price is still considered too high.

"The Nets view him higher than everyone else, like everyone views their top guys," one source said. "They'll take the call because of their situation, but no one's going to [put forth a] Godfather offer for him. They traded Kevin Durant for him, for crying out loud."

Multiple sources said talks with Houston were mostly about simply returning the picks the Nets gave up in the James Harden deal, which Brooklyn would love, but that alone isn't enough to send Bridges to Houston.

There is, however, a sense from teams that have talked with Brooklyn that the Nets want to choose a direction. There have been conversations about moves for draft capital and young players, and conversations about existing win-now pieces.

Brooklyn would love a star to pair with Bridges. This isn't remarkable, every team always wants another star to pair with their guys, even when they have two. (Looking at you, Suns.) The only thing notable here is that Brooklyn isn't only looking at a long-term future. The Nets are trying to figure out a clear direction to take.

Most teams are operating under the assumption that Nic Claxton won't hit the market and will instead return to Brooklyn on a multi-year deal in the $20-$25 million annually range.

Houston Charging

Speaking of Houston, the Bridges conversation reflects their priorities going forward. Houston wants to compete for a playoff spot (at least).

Jalen Green is the biggest question mark. He was dreadful for four months, a flamethrower for six weeks with Alperen Sengun out, then came back down to Earth to end the season. The Rockets included Green in trade talks around the deadline, but only for major moves (including some talks for Bridges that the Nets weren't really interested in). But the vibes around him in his surge were great.

"The big question we have is where Ime (Udoka) is with him," one source in league personnel said. "If Ime believes in him, they'll keep him. If he's out and they can get a veteran borderline All-Star, that deal might go through."

Houston's roster sheet is spilling over with movable contracts. VanVleet is making an outrageous $42 million next season, but that also means Houston can effectively take on whatever contracts a team wants to dump in a deal for a star, while also being able to send out the Nets picks.

The Rockets have Steven Adams on a $12 million expiring and $24 million in expiring deals for Jeff Green, Jock Landale (non-guaranteed as well) and Jae'Sean Tate.

All of that on top of having Green, Jabari Smith, Sengun and Amen Thompson as young players.

That said, don't expect Houston to make moves just for the sake of moves.

Jimmy Crickets

There is a lot of chirping in league circles about Miami. It's already been reported that the Philadelphia 76ers are prepared to offer Jimmy Butler a max extension, should he  return to the Sixers. There's a belief that the Heat are undecided in their front office about whether to match a max extension offer from Philadelphia (or another team) for Butler, who will be 35 next season and likely on his last NBA contract.

Butler has one more year left on his deal with the Heat. The Heat don't have to trade him. Whether you think having Jimmy Butler disgruntled in the final year of a deal sounds like a fun time is certainly something everyone has to decide. But there's at least a feeling in league circles that if the Heat decide not to extend him at his preferred price, they'll facilitate a deal.

Butler's preference is known to be to remain in Miami, but the money will decide it. It doesn't seem like the situation is likely to end contentiously between the Heat and Butler, but most of these situations don't end well.

This is speculative, but if Mitchell stays with Cleveland, would the Lakers turn to Butler as a Plan B for a third star? Would Houston look to Butler as an option to bring its young players forward? And if the Clippers can't get to a deal with Paul George, would they be willing to give Butler more in a multi-team deal? Is Butler the kind of win-now star the Rockets would want to pursue?

There's also the possibility Butler simply remains in Miami. The Heat may decide that even if they don't want to give Butler huge money on a multi-year deal, keeping him of the last year of his deal, which pays him $49 million, might be better than tying up cap space just to get something in return.

Philadelphia's Clean Slate

The Sixers have managed to basically wipe the slate outside of Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. They've been linked to George for months, with speculation only increasing after George appeared on ESPN's pre-game show with Embiid. So, George and Butler are the two high-profile names.

The Sixers are also expected to have interest in Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges.

One Hawk Flying

No one knows who Atlanta is taking with the No. 1 pick (and The Athletic's Sam Vecenie reported he doesn't believe the Hawks know yet). However, as the Hawks debate how to reshape their team going forward, changes — but not a complete teardown — are expected. In particular, the Hawks are expected to trade one of Trae Young or Dejounte Murray, but not both. They'll keep one to build around.

Clint Capela is a popular trade target with the Grizzlies, Wizards, Pelicans and Bulls having expressed interest.

Other Notes …

The Sacramento Kings are going back to the well with the same trade package they offered Toronto twice for OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam. The offer includes Harrison Barnes, Kevin Huerter and draft pick compensation. They're known to have had calls with Chicago involving Zach LaVine and Alex Caruso.

The Kings would love to keep Malik Monk and will offer him the max they can at four years, $78 million, but they realistically won't be able to match offers from teams like Detroit, Charlotte and Orlando, who are also known to have interest. That, in part, is what makes LaVine more attractive to them at a discounted price after his trade market value hit rock bottom at the deadline.

After talks at the deadline, the Kings are expected to renew conversations with Washington for Kyle Kuzma, especially with the Wizards potentially adding a front-court starter in the draft later this month.

The Grizzlies are expected to try and add multiple centers this summer, which is one reason they've been linked to trade-up rumors in the draft. Another name to watch as a potential reserve option is Day'Ron Sharpe from the Nets with one of their bench wings and a second rounder being part of a potential deal.

Haywood Highsmith's value is expected to start at the Tax Player Mid-Level Exception, according to two cap strategists for teams.

The Knicks are more than happy to keep Bojan Bogdanovic, unless a can't-say-no offer hits their desk.

The Hornets are known to be fans of Bulls free agent Patrick Williams if they can't retain Bridges in free agency.

Tyus Jones is looking for a deal north of $15 million per year, two sources said this week.
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Sean Treppedi
Jul 17, 2024 UTC