The NBA is littered with former Kentucky players and this summer we will see almost half of them dealing with free agency. There were 30 guys on an active roster sometime throughout the season and we have 13 Wildcats that will either be signing with a new team or staying where they are and hopefully either option will lead to bigger contracts for all of them.
Eric Bledsoe signed a contract extension back in March with Milwaukee that included 4 years and $70 million. Patrick Patterson exercised his player option in May to stay in Oklahoma City for $5 million. The list of free agents are Tyler Ulis, Isaac Humphries, Alex Poythress, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Willie Cauley-Stein, Rajon Rondo, Trey Lyles, Darius Miller, Julius Randle, Jodie Meeks, Nerlens Noel, Enes Kanter, and DeMarcus Cousins. I want to give a quick look at each of these players and talk about what the potential contracts could look like.
The 5’8″ guard that is widely regarded as Kentucky fans favorite Cal player due to his toughness and tremendous play while rocking the Blue and White, has struggled to find footing in the NBA since his time with Devin Booker in Phoenix. I expect to see Ulis get another two way contract, possibly even remaining in Chicago but I hope to see him go to a team that is a better fit/would use his abilities better.
The Australian big man has yet to find a solid NBA presence but has succeeded back in his home country. Atlanta picked him up late and he played 5 games for the Hawks averaging 3 points and 2 rebounds in 11 minutes per game. Just like Ulis I think Humphries is looking at a two way contract with a chance to prove himself.
Poythress signed a two way contract with Atlanta last August and even starting a game against his former team (Pacers). Same situation as the two above, two way contract and a chance to prove himself.
MKG has had some success at Charlotte after being drafted behind Anthony Davis back in 2012. He earned a 4 year $52 million contract in 2015 and now has a player option to stay with the Hornets. Most expect him to take that option but he could end up being traded as his numbers have dipped since 2015.
Coming off two successful season in the wake of Cousins leaving Sacramento, WCS has probably earned a decent pay day this offseason. The Kings would love to keep Willie but it will likely become a bidding war which will be great for one of my favorite players to play for Cal.
The elder statesman when it comes to Kentucky players in the NBA had a decent year in LA averaging 9 points and 8 assists on his 1 year $9 million contract. It looks like Rondo wants to stay with the Lakers so this should just come down to how much they are willing to schill out for the 33 year old point guard.
Lyles has been a solid role player for Denver after being traded from Utah for Donovan Mitchell in 2017. There seems to be a lot of interest from many different teams who believe they could get him with good value. Last year his base salary was $4.4 million so you could see a 4 year deal worth around $12 – $16 million.
Another solid role player but Miller has struggled to see the contracts Lyles has. Miller played more minutes per game last year and was just as productive. This could be a good time for Miller to cash in and I fully expect that to be in New Orleans somewhere in the range of $3 – $5 million per year range. I think he’s earned it.
Randle had a great year in New Orleans averaging 21 points and 8 rebounds a game. The Pelicans could not pass up on Zion and that means Randle will more than likely not exercise his player option and will move on. The Suns are looking like the most likely spot which could be the start of the Suns rise to playoff contention. Look for Randle to get a decent contract this summer!
This Finals appearance could be the last time we see Meeks in the NBA. He has played for 7 different teams over the 9 years he has been in the league and has showed this year that he can come in a provide some scoring still but it does seem that his time is coming to a close, just my opinion and it’s not worth much.
The player option looks like the most likely event here. Noel played well in his limited minutes on the court in OKC and should probably go that route again this upcoming season and try to improve to get the bigger contract next summer.
Kanter has played consistently well over the last 6 years and was a big part of the success for Portland this offseason after Jusuf Nurkić went down with his season ending injury. I expect this to lead to Kanter sign a good contract this offseason and if I was in the Portland front office, I would make sure that I was the one he was signing with.
The return of Cousins in the Finals could pay off big time as the Warriors could lean on Boogie until Durant comes back. I think Cousins return to Golden State next season and gets a decent contract thanks to his production during his healthy spurts this season.