By Mark Strotman | | 7 mins
NBA Free Agency Betting Tracker: Leonard, Teams Tight-Lipped
It’s eerily quiet on the Kawhi Leonard front, as the crowned jewel of free agency has asked all teams – and even his own group – involved to stay tight-lipped about meetings, where he’s leaning and when he might make a decision.
What we do know is that whichever team Leonard picks – the Lakers, Clippers or Raptors – will either be the favorite or among the favorites to win the 2020 NBA championship. Leonard had an historic postseason that ended in a victory over the Warriors and his second career NBA Finals MVP.
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What we can ascertain is that Leonard has met with the Clippers and Lakers and is expected to meet with the Raptors as early as Wednesday. It’s unknown when he may make his decision but it could drag out until late in the week, potentially after Independence Day.
Kawhi Leonard has completed both his meetings with the #Lakers and #Clippers, a league source tells ESPN. He is also meeting with the #Raptors today. The rest of the basketball world awaits Leonard’s decision...— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) July 2, 2019
The New York Times’ Marc Stein reported Tuesday that the Lakers privately feel they’re in the lead for Leonard’s services because of dual recruiting pitches by Magic Johnson and LeBron James.
Oddsmakers clearly feel like the Lakers are the team to beat, as their 2020 title odds have shortened all the way to +125 despite there being no hard evidence that Leonard is leaning toward the Lakers, just rumors.
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In that same time, the Clippers’ title odds have gone from +700 to +2000 and the Raptors have dipped from +700 to +1200.
All signs point to the Lakers, but with someone as reserved as Leonard, it’s still anyone’s guess where he may wind up.
Kevin Durant signs with Brooklyn Nets
Nets’ 2020 Title Odds: +1200
The Deal: 4 years, $164 million
Kevin Durant likely won’t play during the 2019-20 NBA season, but his free-agency decision was always going to be the first domino to fall this summer. It happened quickly, with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that the two-time Finals MVP plans to sign with the Brooklyn Nets.
It’s obviously a massive coup for general manager Sean Marks, who has transformed the laughingstock of the NBA just a few years ago into a contender. Durant’s free agency became cloudy when he suffered a torn Achilles in the NBA Finals.
That didn’t deter teams from wanting to offer him a four-year max contract, which is why Durant felt comfortable enough to opt out of the final year of his contract a few days ago.
But the Warriors were always in the running to re-sign Durant. They were able to offer Durant a five-year, $221 million deal – and planned on doing so – while also having a championship core in place. For what it’s worth, they’re also entering a new arena next season. All the bells and whistles were there for Durant to return.
There was also belief that the New York Knicks were in strong position to sign Durant. Those two had been linked for quite some time, and New York had cap space to sign two max contracts. The Clippers were also believed to be in the running, though their focus all year has been Kawhi Leonard.
Durant won’t play this upcoming season but the Nets are still in excellent shape to contend next season. They’re also planning to sign Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan and have jumped all the way up to +1200 to win the 2020 NBA championship. They were +2700 just two days ago.
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Kyrie Irving signs with the Brooklyn Nets
Nets’ 2020 Title Odds: +1200
The Deal: 4 years, $141 million
Kyrie Irving was the biggest point guard on the free-agent market and it didn’t take long for him to find a new home. Before free agency even began at 6 p.m. ET Sunday, Wojnarowski reported that Irving had agreed to a deal with the Brooklyn Nets.
Brooklyn is making a clean sweep tonight: Brooklyn will sign Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 30, 2019
Though Durant won’t play in 2019-20 after tearing his Achilles during the NBA Finals, the additions of Irving and Jordan to an already talented Nets roster make them instant contenders. Oddsmakers, who had Brooklyn at just +2700 to win the 2020 NBA title, have skyrocketed to +1200 on 888Sport; that’s the sixth best odds in the NBA and the third best in the East.
Irving ruffled some feathers in Boston – and he demanded a trade out of Cleveland – but his on-court production is tough to argue against. He averaged 23.8 points on 48.7% shooting and 6.9 assists last season in Boston, helping the Celtics to a 49-win season. He made his sixth All-Star appearance and was named All-NBA Second Team.
Irving chose the Nets over the Knicks and Celtics. Unlike Durant, Irving was fully expected to ink a deal with Brooklyn. They’ll contend in a top-heavy Eastern Conference.
Jimmy Butler Signs With the Miami Heat
Heat’s 2020 Title Odds: +10000
The Deal: 4 years, $142 million
Jimmy Butler went into free agency saying winning was his top priority, but Sunday’s sign-and-trade that landed him with the Miami Heat would seem to suggest otherwise. Butler heads to South Beach in exchange for Josh Richardson, giving the Heat a new face of the franchise just months after Dwyane Wade retired.
Butler gets his max extension – he could have received a five-year max deal to stay with the Sixers – and joins a Heat team that woefully unperformed last year, missing the postseason with a 39-43 record. Butler had also been linked to the Los Angeles Lakers, with the option of teaming up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis with a max deal on the table.
Instead, Butler will remain in the Eastern Conference and join a group that includes Justise Winslow, Hassan Whiteside and rookie Romeo Langford. Butler’s teams win – he’s been to the postseason seven times in eight years – and he’s coming off a season in which he 18.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists.
He’s entering his prime, but it’s tough to see the Heat competing in the East. It’s why oddsmakers didn’t move Miami’s title odds of +10000 even after the deal was reported.
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Kemba Walker signs with Boston Celtics
Celtics’ 2020 Title Odds: +2000
The Deal: 4 years, $141 million
The Boston Celtics missed out on re-signing Irving but landed another star point guard in his place, reportedly agreeing to a four-year max contract with Kemba Walker when free agency opened Sunday evening.
The agreement comes just a few days after negotiations broke down between Walker and the Charlotte Hornets. Though Walker told reporters he was willing to take far less than the maximum to stay in Charlotte, the front office’s offer still wasn’t good enough.
That led Walker to look elsewhere, with Boston an attractive destination because of their ability to compete and need for a lead guard.
The Celtics’ odds didn’t do much in the wake of the Walker news. Boston still has +2000 odds to win the 2020 NBA championship, the ninth best odds and sixth best in the East. The East isn’t as deep as the West, but the teams at the top are legitimate title contenders. If the Celtics couldn’t win with Irving, it’s difficult seeing them doing so with Walker.
However, Walker makes the Celtics better. He had a career year across the board and was named All-NBA Third Team. He’ll be Boston’s go-to guy along with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, while there’s still a shot the Celtics could bring back Al Horford.
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