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The Key NBA Free Agents in 2019

The 2019 offseason may be two years away, but it’s never too early to start making long term plans.



By this point in this summer, most NBA franchises generally know their fate for the upcoming season. Either you’re a contender or a pretender — but thanks to the Golden State Warriors’ stacked, nearly unbeatable core, some teams are looking even further down the road. Free agency in 2019 is a full two seasons away and, obviously, much can change in the upcoming 20-plus months before then.

Still, if you’re one for forward-thinking and future planning, here’s a far, far too early look at which players could be the big-time free agent targets in 2019. Each potential free agent is denoted by their contract type and how old they’ll be by the time July rolls around two years from now.

But first, a few caveats:

On The Low, Low Odds They Don’t Opt Out in 2018

If any of these players decide to opt into their contracts in 2018, they’ll be unrestricted the following year. However, the top superstars often snag that player option to protect themselves in the case of a long-term injury. Kevin Durant, for example, seems settled into the life of 1 + 1 deals — a guaranteed one-year contract with that sweet player option in the second to make sure that he always holds the cards in free agency.

LeBron James — Cleveland Cavaliers — Unrestricted Free Agent
2016-17 Line: 26.4 points, 8.6 rebounds + 8.7 assists in 37.8 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 34

Until Kyrie Irving’s recent shock trade request, it would have been tough to believe that the Cleveland Cavaliers were headed toward a breakup. In 2018, James will almost certainly opt out, earning himself the freedom to go anywhere he pleases. Should he and Irving suddenly reconcile their differences, they’ll both be free agents in 2019, along with Kevin Love, in all likelihood.

Kevin Durant — Golden State Warriors — Unrestricted Free Agent
2016-17 Line: 25.1 points, 8.3 rebounds on 53.7 percent in 33.4 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 30

Russell Westbrook — Oklahoma City Thunder — Unrestricted Free Agent
2016-17 Line: 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds + 10.4 assists in 34.6 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 30

In 2016-17, Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double and won MVP, thus setting the stage for an epic trip to free agency in 2018. However, that was before the Oklahoma City Thunder went out and traded for All-Star Paul George this summer. While Westbrook has mentioned his intentions to stay with the Thunder long-term, the allure of Los Angeles may be too much to handle. Note: Both Westbrook and George have player options in 2018 and then are unrestricted in 2019 — can you say package deal?

Paul George — Oklahoma City Thunder — Unrestricted Free Agent
2016-17 Line: 23.7 points, 6.6 rebounds + 3.3 assists in 35.9 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 29

Carmelo Anthony — New York Knicks — Unrestricted Free Agent
2016-17 Line: 22.4 points, 5.9 rebounds in 34.3 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 35

Carmelo Anthony will earn himself at least one more NBA payday in 2019 — that is, if he doesn’t opt out of his contract after next season, wherever it is that the future Hall of Famer ends up. After strong stints with both the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks over the last fourteen years, Anthony will surely look to target the ever-elusive NBA Championship — hence his desire to join up with Chris Paul in Houston.

DeAndre Jordan — Los Angeles Clippers — Unrestricted Free Agent
2016-17 Line: 12.7 points, 13.8 rebounds on 71.4 percent in 31.7 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 30

LaMarcus Aldridge — San Antonio Spurs — Unrestricted Free Agent
2016-17 Line: 17.3 points, 7.3 rebounds + 1.2 blocks in 32.4 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 33

Surprisingly, it seems as if the San Antonio Spurs and LaMarcus Aldridge are barrelling toward a split. After frustration surrounding his fit with the Spurs arose this summer, Aldridge is likely a lock to opt out in 2018 instead of waiting for it to naturally expire one year later. Aldridge had a tough postseason for San Antonio, but he’ll be sought after whenever he hits free agency.

Yeah, They’re Restricted Free Agents… But Don’t Get Any Ideas

Technically, this quartet will all hit the open market in 2019, but something drastic would need to happen in the next two years before their respective franchises balk at matching any offer sheet they receive. More or less, it’s fair to cross this daydream off your free agency wish list — these four won’t be going anywhere.

Karl-Anthony Towns — Minnesota Timberwolves — Restricted Free Agent
2016-17 Line: 25.1 points, 12.3 rebounds + 1.3 blocks in 37 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 23

What else is there to say about Karl-Anthony Towns? If head coach Tom Thibodeau can work on improving Towns’ raw defense, then the young center will quickly become one of the NBA’s most dominant forces. With Andrew Wiggins preparing for a max offer from Minnesota, the two could form an extremely potent duo for the next decade. Condolences to the other 29 teams, but Towns is destined to be the face of the franchise in Minnesota for a very, very long time.

Devin Booker — Phoenix Suns — Restricted Free Agent
2016-17 Line: 22.1 points, 3.4 assists + 1.9 three-pointers in 35 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 22

Kristaps Porzingis — New York Knicks — Restricted Free Agent
2016-17 Line: 18.1 points, 7.2 rebounds + 2 blocks in 32.8 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 24

Ditto goes for Kristaps Porzingis, the New York Knicks’ Latvian unicorn. Since he was drafted in 2015, Porzingis has been absolute revelation — blocking shots, grabbing rebounds and hitting three-pointers, the budding superstar does it all. There was some worry the Knicks might move him around June’s draft, but fret no longer, Porzingis will terrorize opponents at Madison Square Garden until further notice.

Myles Turner — Indiana Pacers — Restricted Free Agent
2016-17 Line: 14.5 points, 7.3 rebounds + 2.1 blocks in 31.4 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 23

Max ‘Em Out

Kawhi Leonard — San Antonio Spurs — Player Option
2016-17 Line: 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds + 3.5 assists in 33.4 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2018: 28

The Klaw quickly became one of the league’s greatest assets under the tutelage of head coach Gregg Popovich and the recently-retired Tim Duncan. Of course, Kawhi Leonard is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year winner and already has an NBA Finals MVP to his name as well. Oh, and given the way the Spurs typically take care of business, it’s fair to expect that Leonard won’t be leaving San Antonio for quite some time, if ever.

Kyrie Irving — Cleveland Cavaliers — Player Option
2016-17 Line: 25.2 points, 5.8 assists + 2.5 three-pointers in 35.1 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 27

Jimmy Butler — Minnesota Timberwolves — Player Option
2016-17 Line: 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, + 5.5 assists in 37 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 29

Superstar Jimmy Butler reunited with former head coach Tom Thibodeau in a stunning draft day trade back in June. Now in Minnesota, Butler will compete alongside Wiggins and Towns on a nightly basis in the crowded Western Conference. If the Timberwolves find quick success, Butler is a strong candidate to stick around past his player option in 2019.

Kevin Love — Cleveland Cavaliers — Player Option
2016-17 Line: 19 points, 11.1 rebounds + 2.4 three-pointers in 31.4 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 30

Klay Thompson — Golden State Warriors — Unrestricted Free Agent
2016-17 Line: 22.3 points, 3.7 rebounds + 3.4 three-pointers in 34 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 29

Klay Thompson has made a living as one of the top contributors responsible for Golden State’s now three-year rampage through the league. Perhaps in two years, Thompson could be ready to follow his curiosity to a new franchise and, finally, taste professional basketball as the number one option on offense.  Or, of course, he could stay in the Bay Area forever and ruin the other 29 franchise’s plans indefinitely — that reality is still certainly in play.

Hassan Whiteside — Miami HEAT — Player Option
2016-17 Line: 17.0 points, 14.1 rebounds + 2.1 blocks in 32.6 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 30

Kemba Walker — Charlotte Hornets — Unrestricted Free Agent
2016-17 Line: 23.2 points, 5.5 assists, + 3 three-pointers in 34.7 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 29

In this point guard-driven league, the Charlotte Hornets’ Kemba Walker is one of the NBA’s most underrated. It stands to reason that if Walker had a more prolific supporting cast, he’d be a shoo-in for All-Star festivities each year. During the fourth quarter, Walker becomes an entirely different animal — the type of player you’d want to take the last shot with the game on the line. If Charlotte doesn’t take the next step in development soon, it wouldn’t be surprising to find Walker looking toward greener pastures in 2019.

Eric Bledsoe — Phoenix Suns — Unrestricted Free Agent
2016-17 Line: 21.1 points, 4.8 rebounds + 6.3 assists in 33 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 29

Veterans With Something Left In The Tank

Paul Millsap — Denver Nuggets — Team Option
2016-17 Line: 18.1 points, 7.7 points + 3.7 assists in 34 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 34

Paul Millsap’s arrival in Denver has made the Nuggets’ young squad a popular postseason pick and for good reason. If Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray continue their ascent alongside one of the game’s best veterans, there’s little chance that Denver will decline the opportunity to keep Millsap around in that third and final year of his deal.

Al Horford — Boston Celtics — Player Option
2016-17 Line: 14 points, 6.8 rebounds, + 5 assists in 32.3 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 33

Marc Gasol — Memphis Grizzlies — Player Option
2016-17 Line: 19.5 points, 6.3 rebounds + 1.3 blocks in 34.2 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 34

Marc Gasol has been a dynamic force for the Memphis Grizzlies since he broke through back in 2008-09. With Zach Randolph and Tony Allen (potentially) out the door, there are changes coming in Memphis sooner rather than later. Gasol has always been a strong defensive presence, but his growth as a three-point shooter (38.8 percent) last year could extend his career well into his 40s.

Tyson Chandler — Phoenix Suns — Unrestricted Free Agent
2016-17 Line: 8.4 points, 11.5 rebounds + 1.4 blocks in 27.6 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 36

Dwight Howard — Charlotte Hornets — Unrestricted Free Agent
2016-17 Line: 13.5 points, 12.7 rebounds on 63.3 percent in 29.7 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 33

As Basketball Insiders’ Joel Brigham pointed out on Monday, Dwight Howard is about to do some serious climbing on the NBA’s all-time leaders list. For Howard, who has had an overall rough go of things since he left Orlando in 2012, has still proven to be a very capable NBA center. His days as the franchise player are long gone, but he’s still averaged 10 or more rebounds in all 13 years of his Hall of Fame-worthy career.

Worthy Pieces On A Contender

D’Angelo Russell — Brooklyn Nets — Restricted Free Agent
2016-17 Line: 15.6 points, 4.8 assists + 2.1 three-pointers in 28.7 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 23

D’Angelo Russell could easily find himself in the same company as Towns and friends from up above if he turns in two improved seasons with the Nets. Russell will become an offensive focus for the retooling Brooklyn franchise and the team, who still owes one more first-round draft pick to the Boston Celtics in 2018, would have a hard time parting with the young guard no matter the price. With the pressure off in the Eastern Conference, Russell’s league-wide standing could be much different in just one year.

Khris Middleton — Milwaukee Bucks — Player Option
2016-17 Line: 14.7 points, 4.2 rebounds + 1.6 three-pointers in 30.7 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 27

Harrison Barnes — Dallas Mavericks — Player Option
2016-17 Line: 19.2 points, 5 rebounds + 1.5 assists in 35.5 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 27

In order for the Warriors to evolve from an impressively strong roster to its nearly unbeatable final form, Harrison Barnes was sacrificed to sign Durant. While Golden State steamrolled their way to another championship, Barnes performed fairly well in his top dog role with the Dallas Mavericks. Barnes still has a great distance to go before he reaches his ultimate potential, but he’ll be a wanted man should he opt out early in 2019 nonetheless.

George Hill — Sacramento Kings — Non-Guaranteed
2016-17 Line: 16.9 points, 4.2 assists + 1.9 three-pointers in 31.5 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 33

Ricky Rubio — Utah Jazz — Unrestricted Free Agent
2016-17 Line: 11.1 points, 9.1 assists + 1.7 steals in 32.9 minutes per game
Age on July 1st, 2019: 28

Almost overnight, Ricky Rubio became an afterthought on the Timberwolves’ perpetually underachieving roster. At this point, Rubio is a finished product and has the weathered playmaking chops to prove it. Although he never nailed down a sense of consistency from three-point range, Rubio still possesses the qualities of a very effective defender. For a playoff-bound team in Utah, Rubio can start rebuilding his brand ahead of unrestricted free agency in two years.

Jonas Valanciunas — Toronto Raptors — Player Option
2016-17 Line: 12 points, 9.5 rebounds on 55.7 percent in 25.8 minutes per game
Age on July 1st: 27

Other Intriguing Free Agents: Jeremy Lin (Unrestricted)Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Player Option), Jeff Teague (Player Option), J.R. Smith (Non-Guaranteed), Goran Dragic (Player Option), Nikola Vucevic (Unrestricted), Enes Kanter (Unrestricted), Frank Kaminsky (Restricted), Danny Green (Unrestricted), Thaddeus Young (Unrestricted).

Ultimately, 2019 is still a distant though for the casual NBA fan and half the players on this list may have their respective situations resolved by the time free agency opens in two years. However, front offices across the league are already planning out their next moves, all in hopes of finally thwarting those powerhouses out in the Western Conference. For front offices, it’s never too early to start preparing — where will your team be after another two seasons?

Ben Nadeau is a Seattle-based writer in his third year with Basketball Insiders. For five seasons, he covered the Brooklyn Nets for The Brooklyn Game.

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Grizzlies trade Jonas Valanciunas to Pelicans for Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams



According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez, the New Orleans Pelicans are shipping guard Eric Bledsoe, center Steven Adams, the Nos. 10 and 40 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft, and two future first-round picks to the Memphis Grizzlies for center Jonas Valanciunas and the Nos. 17 and 51 picks of this week’s upcoming draft. So, the Pelicans are giving up the Lakers’ 2022 first-round pick. Valanciunas, the 29-year-old veteran center, averaged 17.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game in 62 games played throughout the 2020-21 season. He also shot 59 percent from the field. The seven-foot Lithuanian also ranks fourth overall in true shooting percentage (.616) among active players. On July 11, 2019, Valanciunas signed a three-year, $45 million contract with the Grizzlies. He is set to earn $4 million next season.

Additionally, in 71 games played last season, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. The six-foot-one guard also shot 42.1 percent from the field in the 2020-21 season. On November 23, 2020, as part of a four-team trade, Bledsoe and Adams were traded to the Pelicans from the Oklahoma City Thunder, along with two future first-round picks and the right to swap two additional first-round picks. Last season, in 71 games played, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. His field goal percentage was 42.1 percent as well. The 11-year veteran is set to earn $18,125,000 in the 2021-22 season. Before he was traded to New Orleans, on March 4, 2019, the guard signed a four-year, $70 million extension. He earned his first All-Defensive second-team selection in the 2019-20 season.

Moreover, in 58 games played last season, Adams averaged 7.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. The six-foot-eleven center ranks fifth among active players for effective field goal shooting percentage (.591). The eight-year veteran also ranks third in offensive rebounding percentage, with an active statistic of 14 percent. On November 23, 2020, the same day Adams was traded to the Pelicans, he signed a two-year, $35 million extension. For next season, he is projected to earn $17,073,171. To add to this trade news, the Grizzlies and Pelicans are swapping second-round picks in this year’s draft, too. Referencing’s “Consensus Mock Draft” article, with the No. 10 pick of the draft, the Pelicans were originally expected to draft either Josh Giddey or Davion Mitchell at this number. However, plans have now changed.

From ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the trade will not be finalized until August 6th, and this is because of the annual salaries of these said players. Free agency will begin on August 2, 6:00 p.m. (EST). Furthermore, per Spotrac’s 2021-22 NBA salary cap table, next season’s luxury tax threshold is $136,606,000. The team’s current available luxury tax space is $22,555,195. The Pelicans and Grizzlies have a salary cap maximum of $112,414,000. Brandon Ingram, Bledsoe, and Adams had a combined cap percentage of 39.2 percent. Considering that Bledsoe and Adams are traded away, this will clear up $35,198,171 of dead cap space.

Yesterday, CBS Sports reported the news pertaining to Lonzo Ball’s desire to remain in New Orleans. With extra cap space, the team is expected to re-sign the 23-year-old guard. Likewise, for the Grizzlies, the teams has a luxury tax space of $37,019,952. Their current cap space is $8,321,229. As stated before, the transactions have not yet been finalized. The Grizzlies’ outgoing cap is now $14 million, but from the contracts of Adams and Bledsoe, they are bringing in $35,198,171.

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NBA Trade Rumors: Jazz considering trade offers for Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neale, and No. 30 pick of the 2021 NBA Draft



Per one interesting announcement from Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, the Utah Jazz are open to trading forward Bojan Bogdanovic, forward-guard Joe Ingles, small forward Royce O’Neale, and the No. 30 pick of the 2021 NBA Draft. Fischer stated, “The Utah Jazz are known to be one of the few teams actually searching to move playoff-tested talent. Retaining Mike Conley is an offseason priority, sources said, and the Jazz have held numerous discussions with teams around the league about offloading salary to create for Conley in free agency.” Point guard Mike Conley is set to become a free agent this offseason. Though, general manager Justin Zanik will aim to re-sign the 33-year-old guard in the coming weeks. Conley earned $34.5 million in the 2020-21 season.

“League personnel most often mention Joe Ingles as the Jazz wing to watch, and Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O’Neale are also considered available for trade as Utah narrows its focus towards building a contender around Donovan Mitchel. The Jazz are also open to discuss trading their No. 30 pick, sources said.” In the 2020-21 season, in 72 games played, Bogdanovic averaged 17 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. On May 1, 2021, in the team’s 106-102 victory over the Toronto Raptors, the six-foot-seven Croatian scored a season-high 34 points, shooting 12-for-22, and he finished his performance with four rebounds and four assists as well. On July 7, 2019, he signed a four-year, $73 million contract with the Jazz.

In 67 games played last season, Ingles averaged 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game. The six-foot-eight forward is set to earn $14 million in the 2021-22 season. Plus, among the mentioned players, Royce O’Neale has contributed the least. In 71 games played last season, he averaged seven points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. On January 19, 2020, the forward signed a four-year, $36 million extension with the team. He will earn $8.6 million next season. According to The Athletic, in the team’s seventh workout for draft prospects, they viewed Quentin Grimes, David Duke, Matt Mitchell, and a few other players. In the first round, if the team chooses not to draft any of the players they are holding workouts for, the organization will trade the No. 30 pick.

Just for a reminder, retrieved from Spotrac, the 2021-22 NBA luxury tax threshold is $136,606,000. Utah’s active roster cap is $133,284,695, the maximum cap is $112,414,000, and the current cap space is $72,990,215. Furthermore, center Rudy Gobert currently has the highest guaranteed contract on the team. On December 20, 2020, Gobert signed a five-year, $205 million extension with the organization. Gobert is set to earn $35.3 million in the coming season, whereas Donovan Mitchell will earn $28.1 million. Gobert and Mitchell combined consume 47.6 percent of the team’s salary cap. For the upcoming 2021-22 season, the Jazz have a guaranteed total of $129,719,453. Based on the team’s future outlook, the Jazz will have to make a trade or two in order to retain their star players. This should go without saying.

NBA Analysis Network reported a few days ago that a potential Jazz-Knicks trade target is Bojan Bogdanovic. Greg Patuto proposed the Knicks receiving Bogdanovic, while the Jazz would receive Kevin Knox II, and the Nos. 19 and No. 32 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft. Now, this could still happen at some point during this draft week, but then again, sports bettors and fans alike understand that these news reports could be just rumors. The most intelligent, unforthcoming general managers know not to leave bread crumb trails for the media, especially leading into the offseason. They will do everything necessary to protect their foolproof plans.

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Raptors, Pacers, Timberwolves, Kings, and Cavaliers among teams showing interest in Ben Simmons



According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, five teams have shown interest in pursuing Ben Simmons from the Philadelphia 76ers. Fischer reported, “Cleveland, Indiana, Minnesota, Sacramento, and Toronto all showed interest in acquiring the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year.” Furthermore, the teams are wanting Simmons to change position from point guard to forward. “Multiple executives from those teams, when contacted by Bleacher Report, mentioned their excitement at incorporating Simmons as a play-making forward—not at the point guard position he’s played in Philadelphia.” The six-foot-eleven guard averaged 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.9 assists in the 2020-21 NBA season. This might sound fine for a young rookie, but as a five-year player, these aforementioned statistics were career lows.

However, the 25-year-old also earned his third NBA All-Star selection and second All-Defensive first-team selection last season. After a less than mediocre performance in his third postseason of his NBA career, the majority of 76ers’ fans would agree that it’s now time for Simmons to have a change in scenery. With a regular season record of 49-23 (.681), the No. 1 ranked 76ers in the Eastern Conference entered the conference semifinals as favorites over the Atlanta Hawks. Leading into this series, some NBA analysts were predicting Philadelphia to prevail four games to two. The 2016 first overall pick was expected to limit Trae Young in scoring and rally his team from point deficits, but none of this ever manifested.

Pertaining to postseason averages, Simmons had a playoff series-low of 9.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in the conference semifinals against the Hawks. This lackluster showing proved to be a more significant downfall for the superstar, considering Simmons had only five points, eight rebounds, and 13 assists in Game 7 versus the Hawks. In the 2019-20 season, he averaged 2.1 steals per game, leading all other players in the league. Moreover, Simmons currently ranks sixth in the NBA for active player triple-doubles (32). With a total of 32 career triple-doubles, he ranks 13th on the all-time list, tied with Clippers’ guard Rajon Rondo.

On July 16, 2019, Simmons signed a five-year, $169.65 million contract extension with the 76ers. He is set to earn $30.5 million in the 2021-22 season. Among these teams interested in Simmons, Cavs’ Kevin Love has the fourth largest contract guarantee of $91.4 million. Love is due to earn $31.3 million next season, and the 13-year veteran’s contract consumes 26 percent of the team’s salary cap. He could be traded this offseason. Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns has a contract guarantee of $130.8 million. The 25-year-old Wolves center will earn $31.6 million in the upcoming season.

Plus, Kings’ 2017 first-round pick De’Aaron Fox has a guaranteed contract of $171.1 million. Fox will earn $28.1 million next season. To add to that, Raptors’ Pascal Siakim has a contract guarantee of $131.4 million. Not to mention, reported by Yahoo Sports via trade rumors yesterday, the Golden State Warriors are a potential trade partner for Toronto. The Warriors could make a move on Siakim, clearing up space on the Raptors for Simmons. Per Spotrac, the 2021-22 season cap maximum is $112,414,000. In the coming weeks, one of these said five teams might make a substantial trade offer to the 76ers’ organization that they cannot refuse.

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