Where will the NBA free agents go?

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Free agency is that magical time during every offseason when players whose contracts are up get to sign with new teams and shake up the landscape of the league. It’s always exciting when some of the biggest names are looking for new teams, and in today’s sports world, that’s basically every offseason of every sport.

The 2018 NBA offseason will feature a LeBron James free agency journey in his never ending quest to build a team that can topple the Golden State Warriors. Other big name free agents who are either unrestricted or have a player option (and are likely to decline and look for another deal) are: DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George. That’s a pretty good starting lineup for free agency. Let’s take a look at where they might land.

LeBron James

Unless the Cavaliers can draw another All Star free agent to Cleveland, they have no chance at beating the Warriors (or even making it back to the finals) and therefore no chance at keeping LeBron. After winning two championships in Miami, LeBron came back to Cleveland like he said he would, took them to the Finals four years in a row, and managed to steal a Finals victory from the Warriors in 2016. However, he realizes he won’t win with the team anymore, and in all likelihood will look for a more promising team to help him pad his illustrious career with more championship rings.

The most intriguing landing spot for LeBron is the Houston Rockets. The Rockets were inches away from knocking the Warriors out of the Western Conference Finals, and many believe if Chris Paul was healthy they would have. With the addition of LeBron James, the Rockets would be just as lethal as the Warriors. Chris Paul is an unrestricted free agent, but according to Marc Stein, he “has already begun his recruitment of James to Houston.” So it looks like Paul will stay if they can snag LeBron. Chris Broussard has said that LeBron wants to play more off ball in the final stage of his career, and Houston would be a perfect fit with Paul and James Harden taking care of the ball handling duties. The bottom line is that in Houston, LeBron gains surrounding talent and relieves himself of pressure. He had the best season of his career at age 33, but at some point he’ll need to take a step back, and he can afford to do that alongside Paul and Harden.

The second most popular landing spot for LeBron is the Philadelphia 76ers. He has played in the eastern conference his entire career and frankly, it’s easier to win there. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are young stars who could certainly benefit from his veteran leadership. Philly was bull rushed by the Celtics in the second round of the playoffs, but adding LeBron would even things out substantially. While the Sixers have greatly improved from their recent years of worthlessness, Markelle Fultz turned out to be a bigger project than they thought when they drafted him with the first overall pick, and the team as a whole isn’t quite as much of a sure thing as the Rockets are. LeBron would still have to carry a decently heavy load in Philly.  

Paul George

The team that has been linked with Paul George for years now has been the Los angeles Lakers. George is from LA and speculations have been made about him playing there since he first became an All Star in 2012. The Lakers haven’t made the playoffs since 2013 and have whiffed on countless free agents who have come and gone since then, but when they unloaded Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. at the trade deadline this season, they freed up enough cap space to sign at least two max deals in the offseason.

They are dreaming about Paul George and LeBron James. I don’t know if PG13 would be enough to attract LeBron, but it should be enough to make the Lakers relevant. With a young developing backcourt of Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, George would add a dynamic wingman and All Star leadership.

DeMarcus Cousins

Cousins was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans last season and has played there for the past season and a half. While early on it looked like Cousins and the Pelicans would work out a new deal, it’s now starting to look more like he’ll walk. The Pelicans made it, comfortably, to the second round of the playoffs without Cousins, and they aren’t willing to sign him to the max deal he seeks after tearing his achilles earlier this season. The one team associated with a potential Cousins signing has been the Dallas Mavericks. Pairing him up with Harrison Barnes and second year point guard Dennis Smith Jr. to try and make their team competitive one more time while Dirk Nowitzki is still around sounds like a nice idea, but it depends on who the Mavericks pick in the draft. The 2018 draft is top heavy with big men (Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Mo Bamba, Wendell Carter) and if the Mavs use their 5th overall pick on one, it would make a lot less sense to sense sign Cousins.

Another potential landing spot is the Lakers again. In a perfect world they’d sign both LeBron and George, but if they can’t get both (or even one), Cousins is the next best guy out there, and the Lakers are desperately trying to make moves. With or without LeBron, a starting lineup of Ball, Kuzma, George, Brandon Ingram, and Cousins would certainly make the Lakers a playoff bound team.