Best fits for the top 10 NBA free agents of 2019

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  1. D’Angelo Russell – Brooklyn Nets

D’Angelo Russell had undoubtedly the best season of his career thus far with Brooklyn last year. He locked in his first All-Star appearance, took the Nets to the playoffs and was nominated for most improved player. His success with Brooklyn last season should have him wanting to remain with the young squad and should have the Nets ownership looking to keep Russell around.

  1. Khris Middleton – New York Knicks

On Wednesday, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that Khris Middleton would be seeking a max contract this offseason, and it’s hard to see Milwaukee offering that to him. He’s a great 3-and-D player, but Giannis Antetokuonmpo can likely attract much more valuable free agents than Middleton. A team that was expecting some huge free agents but is looking less likely to get any big names, however, is the New York Knicks. Given the Knicks’ past, they just might be the ones to extend a max contract to K-Midd.

  1. Tobias Harris – Philadelphia 76ers

Tobias Harris has had an interesting career, being valued as an all-star by many teams but having never actually made the All-Star team. He seems comfortable with his role, though, and it doesn’t seem like he’d be wanting to leave Philadelphia to take on a bigger role elsewhere. It’s hard to imagine the 76ers trading for him without the intent of re-signing him as well, so Harris remaining with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons seems like the most realistic option for the forward.

  1. Nikola Vucevic – Milwuakee Bucks

Nikola Vucevic is also coming off of his first All-Star season, but after the Magic selected Mo Bamba with the sixth pick in the 2018 NBA draft, it seemed clear that the center’s time in Orlando would be coming to a close. The Bucks were one round away from making the NBA Finals, and with likely MVP Antetokuonmpo leading the charge, Vucevic is an amazing second option who can provide scoring on offense and is a solid rebounder. Vucevic’s best move would be to take a slightly lesser role with the Bucks in order to become a title contender.

  1. Klay Thompson – Los Angeles Lakers

Until Klay Thompson tore his ACL in the NBA Finals, I truly believed he would be a Warrior for his entire career. However, the Warriors’ medical staff clearing both Thompson and Kevin Durant only for them both to get reinjured should say something about how much the team values the players’ long-term careers. If I’m Thompson, I’m looking to get out of Golden State and onto another team that can let him sit out for the entire regular season with no issue, and that team is the LA Lakers.

  1. Jimmy Butler – Houston Rockets

If the Rockets can free up enough space to offer Houston-area product Jimmy Butler a max contract, it would be hard to see him turning down that opportunity on a title-contending team with James Harden. Butler most likely won’t reach the finals with the young 76ers roster, and it may be in the aging player’s best interest to transfer to the Rockets, who made a strong run last season.

  1. Kemba Walker – Charlotte Hornets

Kemba Walker has become a local hero in Charlotte, and he seems to have no problems with the organization either. If the Hornets throw the supermax contract Walker’s way, which they likely will, it’s hard to imagine him saying no to more than $200 million. Walker’s best option would be to take the huge contract and hope to persuade the Hornets’ front office to sign or trade for other stars to help.

  1. Kyrie Irving – Los Angeles Clippers

Kyrie Irving has pretty much only been linked to New York, Brooklyn and LA at this point, and although Shams Charania of the Athletic reported that Irving would likely head to Brooklyn, that rumor has crumbled in the past few days. Irving may want to go to LA, but the Lakers are tied in a binding cap lock with the Anthony Davis trade, and the Clippers have more of a team to offer than the Knicks do, so I can see Irving headed to the Clippers.

  1. Kevin Durant – Golden State Warriors

After suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon in the NBA Finals, KD reportedly called Thompson telling him that they had “unfinished business.” If this is true, it’s almost certain that Durant will opt in to the final year of his contract with the Warriors and sit out for the season with the hopes of coming back strong for the playoffs. The Warriors are the perfect team on which KD can sit out and recover from injury before coming back to prove that he is the team’s star.

  1.  Kawhi Leonard – Los Angeles Clippers

If the Clippers can free up a little bit more cap space, they can afford to offer both Irving and Kawhi Leonard max contracts. The two teaming up with a fresh slate in Los Angeles seems like a dream come true for both players, and although it may be a bit of a far-out dream, it is still the best option for the two. Kawhi won his ring in Toronto but didn’t mention anything about wanting to stay with the Raptors during press conferences or the championship parade, and I think that in the back of his mind, he knows he’s ready to go home to LA.

Jack Whaley covers lacrosse. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @_jackdouglas_.