July 1, the official start of this summer’s NBA free agency period, is fast approaching. With some of the league’s biggest stars expected to search for new homes, all eyes will be on the likes of LeBron James, Paul George, and DeMarcus Cousins. But further down the docket are a number of young, talented restricted free agents that may or may not find themselves in new places depending on how things shake out. Let’s look at the top six.
The two-time Slam Dunk Contest champion was sent from Minnesota to Chicago in last summer’s Jimmy Butler trade while rehabbing from a torn ACL, and he saw his stats slightly decrease after his return. A big question mark hangs over Zach LaVine’s future, as Chicago must evaluate his potential effectiveness on the court going forward as they rebuild. There are reports that the Bulls would even match a max offer sheet, but LaVine’s skillset, particularly as a shooter, would likely preclude the possibility that a rival team tries to throw him that much cash.
Orlando’s latest franchise player, Aaron Gordon, is starting to prove his worth to the Magic. Not only is he an entertaining player to watch, but he is just 22 and only scratching the surface of what he can do. Orlando is also rumored to have expressed interest in signing Gordon to a max contract; a deal worth over $100 million could seem excessive, but the team has to consider Gordon’s tremendous upside before they get too stingy.
Jabari Parker’s future with Milwaukee is utterly up in the air. Two ACL injuries have prevented the 2014 No. 2 overall pick from becoming the the star he was supposed to be coming out of Duke. He has proven his worth as an offensive player when healthy, but with Giannis Antetokounmpo dominating the ball like he does, a guy with limited value as a defender and three-point shooter just isn’t a great fit. If he’s keen to leave Milwaukee, a forward-deficient team such as Utah could figure into the mix. Be on the look out for a possible sign-and-trade as well, as anything is possible with Parker.
Julius Randle’s case is particularly intriguing considering all of the possibilities the Lakers are weighing in free agency this season. With rumors of a new Big Three swirling about, plenty of fans predict that letting a guy like Randle walk away would have to be part of the plan to acqure some combination of LeBron James, Paul George, and/or Kawhi Leonard. Expect Randle’s future to be dependent on other moves, especially considering the hefty price he’ll demand in free agency.
While Marcus Smart was only Boston’s seventh-highest scorer this past season, his impact in this year’s playoffs couldn’t be ignored. He has proven himself to be a big part of the Celtics’ chemistry and cohesiveness, as competitive energy and suffocating defense bring value to a young, up-and-coming squad. Danny Ainge has a lot to consider: after making it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, why drastically change a roster when your biggest obstacle — — LeBron James — might move out West?
Clint Capela has grown and improved his skills each year so far with Houston, averaging a double-double in 2017-18 and leading the league in field goal percentage (65.2). It’s hard to imagine Houston letting such special talent walk this summer unless it’s required to clear cap space for LeBron, so expect the team to match whatever offer comes Capela’s way. His two-way talent at the age of 23 is too good to pass up.