NBA free agency doesn’t officially begin until 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 30, but, like most of the league’s happenings, there are already storylines abound.
This year’s “Big Three” – Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving – is unlikely to all team up like the 2010 trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but the 2019 class might be the best since that historic group from nine years ago. Beyond those three, the likes of Kemba Walker and Jimmy Butler – arguably the NBA’s top free agent whose name doesn’t start with a K – also figure to make a big impact wherever they land.
Let’s zoom in on the sweepstakes for Leonard, Durant and Irving, who have ever-changing odds for their landing spots. There isn’t exactly a wide variety of suitors, and the favorites are seemingly clear – for now. All of that could change before Sunday because, well, NBA free agency hardly ever disappoints. Most favorites for the three a few weeks ago are different from what they are now, so what’s to say it’s a one-horse race for each?
Here is a rundown at the odds for some of the top teams to sign the elite members of the 2019 free agent class.
NBA FREE AGENT TRACKERS: Leonard | Davis | Irving
Before the season this seemed like an improbability, but Leonard thrived during Toronto’s championship run and could probably win if he ran for Prime Minister of Canada.
It makes sense that the Raptors are viewed as the favorites for Leonard’s services, as his positive experience with the team this season figures to boost their chances. Factor in his low-key personality, which is much more of a fit in Toronto than a big market like New York, and it’s tough to go wrong betting on the favorite in this situation.
Don’t completely close the door on Leonard-to-Los Angeles, even if it isn’t the Lakers, who were previously assumed as the forward’s destination.
Leonard grew up in the Los Angeles area, and while you can’t rely too much on hometown discounts in free agency, it can absolutely happen (see LeBron James, Cleveland). While the city commands more media attention and less privacy than Toronto, Leonard being from there does help the Clippers’ case, as he could favor a return to familiarity and being around family and friends.
The Clippers also have money and young talent, and they could pitch that they present a similar scenario as the Raptors did when Leonard was traded there.
(Odds via BetOnline)
After having the fourth-highest odds for Durant about a month ago, the Nets have surged to earn favorite status, thanks in part to reports that suggest Durant and Kyrie Irving could team up in Brooklyn. Durant has been long thought to have an affinity for playing New York City, so interest between him and the Nets isn’t particularly surprising, even if they weren’t the NYC team once believed to be in the driver’s seat.
There is a decent chance that if Durant signs with Brooklyn it will be part of a package deal, likely along with Irving, so the Nets’ odds have benefited as a result of Irving’s interest. A potential signing of DeAndre Jordan – Durant’s good friend – will only increase the Nets’ position as favorites.
Durant staying in the Bay Area doesn’t seem as likely as it may have been prior to the postseason. There have been reports of drama between Durant and the Warriors about how they handled his injury in the playoffs, with Durant reportedly feeling “really pissed off at the Warriors.” Although it probably won’t be the end-all-be-all, this news, along with his previous in-season dispute with Draymond Green, certainly isn’t a good sign for the Warriors in the Durant sweepstakes.
What the Warriors do have going in their favor is an opportunity for Durant to keep his same role that he had on previous championship teams, as well as the opportunity to contend repeatedly in the future, even if him and Klay Thompson – assuming he returns to Golden State – miss the 2019-20 season due to injury.
The New York City teams have basically flip-flopped in likelihood to land Durant since the end of May, despite Durant-to-the-Knicks being a frequent rumor for what seems like forever. While the forward is very close to Knicks assistant coach Royal Ivey and the team has the cap space to afford him, the Knicks hopes of signing Durant seem to be dwindling.
Irving’s chances of landing with the Knicks aren’t very high, and while it’s not a guarantee the two pair up, it’s also tough to see the friends playing for rival teams in the same city.
(Odds via Caesars Palace)
Brooklyn is the favorite for Durant and Irving, but the oddsmakers give the Nets a much better shot at landing the latter than the former. It’s been rumored that Irving to the Nets is essentially a done deal, so there isn’t much of a reason to overthink this and not have Brooklyn as the favorite.
The Durant and Irving connection was touched on earlier, but Durant’s potential interest in Brooklyn would only help Irving’s odds of going there as well.
It’s thought to be a three-team race for Irving right now, with the Celtics having about as good of a chance to land him as they do of this year’s NBA Finals result being reversed.
Bet you didn’t think this would be possible after LeBron James signed in Los Angeles last year. The two have since reconciled, and Irving’s desire to play with Anthony Davis makes the Lakers the only valid competitor to the Nets at this point.
It seems like Brooklyn’s sweepstakes to lose, but if Irving desires a championship and Durant declines to go to the Nets, the happy couple of James and Irving could reunite in La La Land. Hey, it may sound crazy on paper, but paper is not what determines free agency.
The odds aren’t kind to the Knicks, but the small consolation is that the oddsmakers see them having a better shot than 27 other NBA teams. The Irving-to-Knicks chatter has waned in recent weeks, but they do have two open max slots. The All-Star guard could warm up to them if Durant defies the odds and chooses to sign there, too.
(Odds via Caesars Palace)
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