2019 NBA Free Agency Predictions: Who Becomes Title Favorite?

Free agency is just one day away, and this year brings us one of the most impactful free agency seasons in NBA history. Without the decisions of stars on the open market, it’s hard to tell who will win it all.

But generally, whoever dominates free agency and signs some of these elite players will have the opportunity to become a title contender. Which teams will dominate? Keep reading to find out what I think.

Graphics Key

  • Star = All Star Rights (A player I feel will be able to decide where they go)
  • (R) = Restricted Free Agent
  • (PO) = Player Option
  • (TO) = Team Option
  • No Parentheses = Unrestricted Free Agent

PG

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At this point, we should all just assume Kyrie Irving is leaving Boston. He has publicly noted that he doesn’t like it here, and plenty of teams would want a star like Kyrie, so it’s ultimately going to be Irving’s choice as to where he goes. I think it’s down to Brooklyn and the Lakers, but I cannot see Irving teaming up with LeBron James again.

With Irving leaving, the Celtics are frontrunners to sign Kemba Walker. This is a move I have been a fan of for a while now, and I see no problems with it. D’Angelo Russell has also been rumored to sign with Boston as well as the Lakers, but I think he’ll go to Indiana instead. The Lakers are prioritizing DLo’s return, but I just cannot see it happening after how he left the first time. Instead, LA will fill their need for a point guard with the duo of Eric Bledsoe and Elfrid Payton.  Meanwhile, I think veteran Ricky Rubio will be added in Denver for backcourt depth.

SG

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I don’t see too much movement happening in the shooting guard market. There’s no reason for Danny Green to leave Toronto and no reason for Lance Stephenson to leave LA. I think Butler will stay in Philly. Although he may be a shooting guard if he signs elsewhere, he fit well as a small forward in Philly last year, so I expect the same this year. With that being said, I see J.J. Redick returning to Philly as well to play shooting guard.

Klay Thompson is expected to stick with the Warriors, I could see him leaving for a rising team like Brooklyn if Kevin Durant leaves. Once he returns from his injury, Thompson and Kyrie Irving will make for another great backcourt duo. I have Matthews starting across from Rubio in Denver as he leaves Indiana to make room for Victor Oladipo.

SF

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Kawhi Leonard reportedly bought a house in Toronto, and after the amazing run last season, I think the Raptors, Leonard included, will stick together for this season. However, Leonard beat Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors, so I think Durant will move on from Golden State, recovering from his achilles tear and putting together a playoff run with a new team. Brooklyn makes sense for him, but I don’t see them signing more than two max players, and the Nets won’t need a small forward if they re-sign DeMarre Carroll.

I think Durant will shock everyone when by signing in Portland. It is a perfect fit though. They need front court help, and with the backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum already doing great things, the Blazers could be one front court star away from a title.

The Pistons have a similar need for a small forward. Chandler is no superstar, but he can make a difference for Detroit. The Clippers are also in on star small forwards like Kawhi and KD, but I think they’ll probably have to settle for someone like Harrison Barnes. The Kings should be alright without Barnes or Bojan Bogdanovic, so I have Bogdanovic returning to Indiana to team up with Russell and Oladipo rather than joining his brother Bogdan in Sacramento.

PF

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There aren’t many star power forwards on the open market. But there are a handful of capable players available. Millsap is far from a superstar, but with Michael Porter Jr. returning from injury, it’s time for Denver to move on, and he could be a good asset in Philly. Porzingis is a solid PF, so I think he will receive interest from other teams as a restricted free agent, and I don’t see the Knicks being ready to move on for good. Mirotic, another strong European player will also head to New York to join Kyrie Irving and others in Brooklyn.

Al Horford has been rumored to sign with the Mavericks or Clippers, where he would play PF. But I can’t see either team overpaying Horford. I feel Horford will eventually settle for less money to contend for a title with the Celtics. The Clippers will move on and instead sign Julius Randle, a different kind of player who can play a mix of SF and PF.  As for Markieff Morris, he has regressed, but he’s still a capable player who can share time with John Collins at PF for the Hawks.

C

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Cousins is not the same after his injury, but I still see him resigning with the Warriors and contributing even if KD and Klay Thompson leave. I have Noel and Brook Lopez returning to their 2018 teams as well, Noel on a player option and Brook as a UFA. Meanwhile, DeAndre Jordan will join Thompson, Irving, and company in Brooklyn. Robin Lopez will also head back to New York in a return to the Knicks. As Horford stays with Boston, I have the Clippers turning to Nikola Vucevic to complete their starting lineup.

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That’s all for my 2019 NBA Free Agency Predictions. As you may have noticed, the graphics I used for my predictions have a currently blank column labeled “2019 Real Team”. I will be updating that column daily on Instagram (@bostonsportsmania) and Twitter (@AndrewRoberts1). In addition, I’ll be posting more NBA content as we get closer to the regular season, so stay tuned.

Basketball Bits #1: What do the Celtics need to win it all?

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This year’s NBA off-season will be pivotal for many teams across the league. Going into free agency, I see no clear favorite to win the NBA Finals. Even the Warriors could fall out of contention if Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and DeMarcus Cousins all leave as free agents. A handful of big names will be on the open market, and whoever dominates in free agency should have a good chance to win it all. Even teams who struggled mightily in 2018-19 like the Knicks and Lakers have the chance to jump into title contention with the help of a strong off-season.

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The Celtics are in an interesting situation. Last season, they were expected to be serious title contenders with the return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward from injury alongside the rise of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and others. But Kyrie Irving did not mesh well with the team, and he grew to dislike Boston. The expectation going into the season was that Kyrie Irving would return to the Celtics on a long term deal or at least 1 more year on his player option before agreeing to a long term deal. But now, Irving is expected to leave for Brooklyn, LA, or somewhere else.

With Irving expected to leave, what do the Celtics need in order to stay relevant and a potential championship contender? Do they need a star who will be a better leader than Kyrie was? Do they need multiple stars? Will they just roll with the young core of Tatum and Brown? Do they have enough cap space to do what they need to do? I researched every NBA champion in history and looked at how many star players they had, using 20 PPG as criteria for stardom. I also included the number of 25 PPG and 30 PPG scorers, as these players are less common. Check out my research as well as some Basketball Bits.

The Research

Basketball Bits #1_ Stars on Championship Teams – Sheet1

The “Basketball Bits”

  • The NBA has 73 champions all-time
    • Just 14 of 73 (19.2%) lacked a 20 PPG scorer
      • 35 of 73 (47.95%) had 1 20 PPG scorer
      • 22 of 73 (30.1%) had 2 20 PPG scorers
      • Just 2 of 73 (2.7%) had 3 20 PPG scorers:
        • The 2017-18 Golden State Warriors (Stephen Curry, Thompson, Durant)
        • The 2016-17 Golden State Warriors (Curry, Thompson, Durant)
    • 47 of 73 (64.4%) lacked a 25 PPG scorer
      • 20 of 73 (27.4%) had 1 25 PPG scorer
      • 6 of 73 (8.2%) had 2 25 PPG scorers
    • 67 of 73 (91.8%) lacked a 30 PPG scorer – nobody had more than 1
  • The Boston Celtics have won 17 championships:
    • None of them had a 30 PPG scorer
    • Only 2 of 17 (11.8%) had a 25 PPG scorer
    • 5 of 17 (29.4%) lacked a 20 PPG scorer
    • 8 of 17 (47.1%) had 1 20 PPG scorer
    • 4 of 17 (23.5%) had 2 20 PPG scorers 
  • In the last 25 years:
    • Only 3 teams (12%) have won it all without a 20 PPG scorer:
      • The 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs (Most recent)
      • The 2007-08 Boston Celtics
      • The 2003-04 Detroit Pistons
    • Only 10 teams (40%) have won it all without 25 PPG scorer
  • In the NBA’s first 25 years:
    • 6 teams (24%) won it all without a 20 PPG scorer
    • 21 teams (84%) won it all without a 25 PPG scorer
  • Between 1972 and 1994 (everything else):
    • 5 teams (21.7%) won it all without a 20 PPG scorer
    • 16 teams (69.6%) won it all without a 25 PPG scorer
  • There are only 3 franchises who have ever won a championship with a 30 PPG scorer:
    • The Chicago Bulls (4 times, Michael Jordan)
    • The Milwaukee Bucks (1 time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar)
    • The Golden State Warriors (1 time, Rick Barry)

The Verdict

In this era, the Celtics will need at least one consistent 20-25 PPG scorer to win a title, and a second would be helpful. You never know, maybe Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can be our guys. But I think pairing Tatum and Brown with a star point guard or star center would be ideal. The Celtics did win with a handful of 15-20 PPG scorers in 2008. That was in the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett/Ray Allen era. I doubt they can put something like that together again in today’s NBA with all these stars on the open market.

But if they sign one star player that can allow Tatum and Brown to thrive while that player still puts up 25 PPG, such as PG Kemba Walker, PG D’Angelo Russell, or C Nikola Vucevic, this team could have the chance to contend. They aren’t going to pull the trigger if it puts their future at risk. I don’t think that will happen. But do they have enough money? Do these stars want to sign in Boston unlike Kyrie Irving? I can’t wait to find out, and I’ll be releasing my predictions soon.

NBA 2019 Playoff Predictions: Who Finally Takes Down Golden State?

I know, it’s a little late.  But before we know the surefire winner of each series, I figured I’d share my NBA Playoff bracket.  Believe it or not, I don’t think Golden State’s championship-winning streak will stay alive.  But who could possibly beat the Warriors?  See my prediction below:

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I have the Celtics taking down the Warriors in a 7-game series.  But how will they get there?

I think Boston should easily take down the Pacers.  With Victor Oladipo out of the picture, I cannot see Indiana doing much in these playoffs.  Kyrie Irving ruined the Celtics’ chemistry during the regular season, but I don’t think this will be as apparent in the playoffs, where the whole team will be motivated and willing to do whatever it takes to win it all.

The Pistons may have Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond to lead them, but that won’t be enough to pull off a series upset over Giannis Antetokounmpo and a powerful Milwaukee Bucks team.  However, the Celtics have multiple star players on their roster who will outplay Greek Freak’s teammates and help Boston win in the Eastern Conference semifinals.  I can’t see anyone getting in Toronto’s way until they face the Celtics.  The Raptors are by far the strongest team in their quadrant of the bracket, led offensively by Kyle Lowry and defensively by Kawhi Leonard.

But I do see Boston riding the momentum and overcoming adversity as they take down Toronto.  Their roster is stacked, so if the Celtics are on the same page motivation-wise and get off to a strong start (as I see them doing against Indiana), they could be a threat to Golden State.

The Warriors should not have a hard time with Western Conference opponents though.  Besides Boston, the Warriors are the only team I have sweeping their first round opponent.  The Rockets won’t be as easy an opponent as the Clippers, but a healthy Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant will outplay James Harden and Chris Paul.  I could see the Thunder, KD’s old team, making a run as well.  Portland is known for playoff choking, and Denver’s lack of experience could come back to haunt them.  I think they should be able to handle the San Antonio Spurs, but the Thunder might be a bit much for an inexperienced team like the Nuggets.

Golden State, however, will end Oklahoma City’s run.  With Marcus Smart back and the team united by a common goal, the Celtics should have a chance at Golden State and I’m staying optimistic with this bracket.  I’m sick of Golden State winning, and it would make it even better if the Celtics could be the team to finally beat them.  As long as Kyrie Irving’s selfish ways don’t come back to haunt them, the Celtics should have a chance.

That’s all for my playoff predictions this year.  Stay tuned for more Celtics playoff coverage soon.