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2019 NBA free agency: Top 20 available players, start date, everything you need to know about this summer’s market

The 2018-19 season concluded with the Toronto Raptors being crowned NBA champions, but their reign atop the NBA news cycle was rather short-lived. An Anthony Davis trade, a Chris Paul trade request and the 2019 NBA Draft have dominated the conversation heading into free agency, which has a chance to change the landscape of the league.  

The start of free agency is just over a week away, and we’ve already seen a few big names — Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, and Al Horford — turn down player options in favor of unrestricted free agency. This year’s free-agent crop is also expected to include stars like Kawhi Leonard and Kemba Walker, who is reportedly willing to take less money to remain in Charlotte. 

The 2019 free agent class is also expected to include Warriors All-Star forward Kevin Durant, who unfortunately suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during Game 5 of the NBA Finals. He has a player option with the Warriors worth $31.5 million that he could pick up in order to delay entering unrestricted free agency until 2020, but is reportedly expected to have several suitors despite his injury.

Also, the Los Angeles Lakers, after landing All-Star forward Anthony Davis in a blockbuster trade with the New Orleans Pelicans, are expected to be major players in free agency as they will be on the hunt for a third star to pair with Davis and LeBron James. Leonard, Irving, and Walker have all been mentioned as potential targets for the Lakers.  

As exciting as free agency is, there are some tricky details associated with its ins-and-outs, similar to any collective bargaining agreement. That’s why we’re here to help you get all the details and answer all your questions before the feeding frenzy begins. We’ve also picked out the Top 20 potential free agents so you can start figuring out which player fits your team best.

When does NBA free agency start?

Monday, June 30 at 6 p.m. ET is the beginning of NBA free agency for the 2019-20 season, and players will then be free to meet with teams to discuss terms on a potential contract. However, no free agents can actually sign any contracts (with a few exceptions) until noon ET on July 6. Why? We’ll explain below.

What is the Moratorium period?

For the most part, no contracts can be signed during the negotiation period between June 30 and July 6. This rule was presumably put in place to allow both players and teams to fully think through their decisions before putting pen to paper. There are very specific exceptions, which we’ll get into below. But first, let’s look at the top potential free agents.

Who are this summer’s top free agents?

  • PO: Player option
  • TO: Team option
  • UFA: Unrestricted free agent
  • RFA: Restricted free agent
2019’s Top 20 NBA Free Agents

What kinds of signings can take place during the Moratorium?

There are a few contracts that are allowed to be signed during the July Moratorium. The brilliant folks over at NBA CBA FAQ do a great job explaining it:

  • Teams may sign their first-round draft picks (to a standard rookie “scale” contract).
  • A second-round draft pick can accept a required tender, which is a one-year contract offer teams must submit to retain their rights to the player.
  • A restricted free agent can accept a qualifying offer from his prior team.
  • A restricted free agent finishing the fourth season of his rookie “scale” contract can accept a maximum qualifying offer.
  • A restricted free agent may sign an offer sheet with a new team, although the 48-hour matching period does not begin until the conclusion of the Moratorium.
  • Teams may sign players to minimum salary contracts for one or two seasons, with no bonuses of any kind.
  • Teams may sign players to Two-Way contracts, convert a Two-Way contract to a standard NBA contract, or convert a standard NBA contract with an Exhibit 10 to a Two-Way contract.
  • Teams may waive players or claim players waived by other teams.

Can players agree to contract terms during the Moratorium?

Yes, and they almost always do. Players generally like to get their free-agent decisions taken care of early by making verbal agreements, so that they can begin preparing with their new teams and enjoy a less stressful summer.

Are verbal agreements made during the Moratorium binding?

No. Any agreements made without pen officially going to paper are simply promises — both players and teams have the ability to go back on them. This is generally considered bad form and rarely happens, with the most recent major example coming back in 2015 with DeAndre Jordan, who famously rescinded on his verbal agreement with the Mavericks after being held hostage by the Clippers in his Houston home. No, seriously.

What’s the difference between restricted and unrestricted free agents?

Unrestricted free agents can sign with any team, and their previous team no longer has any rights to them. Restricted free agents can sign offer sheets from other teams, but their previous team has 48 hours to match the terms, therefore retaining the player.

Which teams are expected to be active?

Last summer, approximately 80 percent of NBA teams were over the salary cap, but this year is a different story. According to Spotrac, there are 14 teams with projected cap space of $20 million or more, and several teams have enough room for at least one max salary. Here are the teams with the most projected space, and could be the most active during free agency:

When does free agency end?

Never! Players can continue to be signed throughout the year if they haven’t found a team by the start of the 2019-20 season.