Spoilt for choice in NBA off-season

NEW YORK • So many marquee names. So much money for teams to spend. The National Basketball Association (NBA) is witnessing one of the wildest off-seasons in league history.

The Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers are trying to lure Finals Most Valuable Player Kawhi Leonard out of Canada after he just led the Toronto Raptors to their first championship.

Kevin Durant is considering the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets, as well as the Clippers, along with a return to the Golden State Warriors.

Boston Celtics' Kyrie Irving, Charlotte Hornets' Kemba Walker, Philadelphia 76ers' Jimmy Butler, Khris Middleton from the Milwaukee Bucks and Klay Thompson of the Warriors are the other headliners in a deep free-agent class.

It is a lot to track - especially with nine teams expected to have at least US$30 million (S$40.6 million) in salary-cap space and roughly 200 other free agents in a league that offers only 450 full-time jobs.

The forecast for considerable movement is promising, given the go-for-it sentiment that has infected numerous front offices.

The league's sudden lack of a clear-cut favourite for the first time since Golden State's title run began in 2015 - provided Leonard decides not to return to Toronto - invites daring and dealmaking.

The bar is rather high, though, for any summer to go down as an all-timer, thanks to the NBA's reputation for transactional bedlam.

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  • Free agents looking for a contract this NBA off-season.

For all the anticipation that the July marketplace generates in the modern era, there has yet to be an off-season that can match 1996 for league-wide madness.

Shaquille O'Neal's first foray into free agency saw him pen a seven-year, US$120 million deal to leave Orlando for the Lakers, creating a deep undercard at the expense of the Magic, who have yet to record a 60-win season since then.

But this signing period looks set to supersede that year if Durant and Leonard sign free-agent deals with the same team. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the star duo may possibly team up at the Knicks or Clippers.

Despite his Achilles injury that will likely rule him out of the whole of next season, Durant reportedly plans to speak to four teams - the Knicks, Clippers, Nets and Warriors, while Leonard's list is expected to include the Knicks, Clippers, Lakers and Raptors.

Walker's agreement to join the Celtics on a four-year, US$141 million deal appears all but confirmed after The Charlotte Observer revealed that he had already informed the Hornets of his decision.

He would be counted on to bring veteran leadership to a team who suffered from dissension in the locker room last term, with fellow All-Star guard Irving said to be "motivated to move quickly towards" an identical deal with the Nets.

REUTERS, NY TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2019, with the headline 'Spoilt for choice in NBA off-season'. Print Edition | Subscribe