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NBA 2023 Free Agency: What You Need To Know

Updated: Jul 1

NBA 2023 Free Agency

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NBA free agency is set to start today, Friday at 6:00 p.m EST. In recent years, the NBA offseason has taken on a life of its own and become must see TV. Let's try to unpack all the storylines and notes needed to know what can possibly happen in the coming weekend.

New Salary Cap Rules

The NBA and all 30 teams recently agreed on a new CBA agreement. The agreement entails a lot of details for the coming seasons and is ratified for the next 7 years through we 2030. The big key to this agreement is the new NBA salary cap, that now acts is close to a hard cap as the NBA has seen in its history. The NBA will have a new salary cap of $136 million and the luxury tax threshold is now $165 million. But now the NBA has instituted a "second apron" of around $182.5 million.

Now if the teams exceed that second apron, there are new restrictions under the collective bargaining agreement that are implemented to penalized teams. You can now lose salary, matching flexibility and trades, you will lose the taxpayer mid-level exception (which is around $5 million), and even lose the ability to sign players in the buyout market. These are stiff penalties that are set to hurt teams that want to build the "super team" with max salary guys. Even worse, it's believed that the penalties will become even harsher in the coming seasons. As it stands right now, teams that are in that second apron include the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns. The latter of which just made a monster trade for Bradley Beal to well exceed into that second apron.

Teams with Cap Space

There are teams however that have not even come close to the salary cap number and have open cap space to sign players. Teams with the most cap space include the Houston Rockets ($60.9MM), San Antonio Spurs ($38.6MM), Sacramento Kings ($35.6MM), Indiana Pacers ($32.2MM), Detroit Pistons ($30MM), Utah Jazz ($28.4MM), Orlando Magic ($23.9MM) and Oklahoma City Thunder ($16.6MM). Recently, the Sacramento Kings extended F Harrison Barnes to eat into some of that cap space and the Utah Jazz made a trade for F John Collins to eat up some of their cap space.

Key Free Agents

Kyrie Irving - PG - Dallas Mavericks

kyrie irving

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Kyrie Irving is the biggest free agent in this year's class of free agents. The 31-year-old point guard is looking for possibly his last big contract. He's eligible for a 5-year max contract with the Dallas Mavericks or 4-year max contract out on the open market. The problem is there is no real open market. While Irving has said he plans to meet with teams starting today, the teams that we mentioned before with cap space aren't really a fit for what Kyrie wants (unless he just wants money). Kyrie has said that he plans to meet with the Phoenix Suns, but there is no way that the Phoenix Suns can afford Kyrie Irving. All signs point to a reunion with Dallas, a Dallas team that is desperate to bring him back after their last few seasons. The Mavs lost Jaylen Brunson to the next for nothing and desperately need a star to pair with Luka Doncic this season.

James Harden - SG - Philadelphia 76ers

james harden

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James Harden was eligible to become a free agent but as recently as yesterday opted into his contract with the Philadelphia 76ers. While this seems to take him off the market, this does anything but take him off the market. It was reported as soon as he opted into his contract that he's working with the Sixers on a trade out of Philadelphia. Teams like the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Clippers are potential suitors for Harden's services. Harden in the Sixers couldn't come to terms on a long-term max deal, and it looks like the Sixers finally use their head. At his age of 34 years old. The Clippers seem to be the best fit in willing to pair him with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to make their own big three. With the Houston Rockets pulling out of the James Harden sweepstakes, makes Harden's choices limited. But he didn't want to go through free agency as cap space dried up on other teams and he can't get what he wants. We'll see how it shakes out but other dominoes could possibly fall and wait on this deal to get done. I don't see players like Jerami Grant or Fred VanVleet coming off the boards until Harden is moved.

Draymond Green - PF - Golden State Warriors

draymond green

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Draymond is another interesting free agent this off season. While his numbers don't suggest that he is a high value guy, his intangibles make him a huge gap for many championship contending teams. He opted out of his $27 million player option to test free agency, and there's a lot of teams that would be interested in bringing him in. The Kings, Trail Blazers, Suns, Pistons all might be interested to a certain degree. Green is from Michigan, so Detroit is a possibility, but not realistic. The Kings are the only contender with call space, but they need wing defenders. Golden State desperately needs him back in the fold if they're to make a serious playoff run. Chris Paul even came out and simply said he "absolutely" wants Green back in Golden State. My gut tells me Green goes back to Golden State, gets his last big contract, and goes for another ring.

Fred VanVleet - PG - Toronto Raptors

fred vanvleet

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VanVleet is one of the better point guards available in free agency and should command a pretty good salary. He opted out of his player option in Toronto to test the free agent market and he fits a lot of organizations right now. The Lakers, the Heat, the Clippers, the 76ers and the Rockets should all be interested in him. It's interesting because with the expected trade of Harden could eventually end up pairing VanVleet with Joel Embiid in Philly. And if your Philly, this pair makes a lot more sense than running it back with Harden. It's hard to say where he will end up, but my gut says Philadelphia. The Lakers would have been a great fit but they seem intent on running the team back that they pushed to the Western Conference finals. Unless of dark horse comes to light, I see Van fleet fitting in Philadelphia.

Khris Middleton - SF - Milwaukee Bucks

khris middleton

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Khris Middleton is another interesting player to watch in free agency, but the James Harden Domino has to fall first. Middleton turns 32 years old this summer and has not been the same player since spraining his left ACL in the first round of the 2022 playoffs. I feel like he's not going anywhere as Milwaukee is in the driver seat to bring him back. Only Sacramento would be interested in him but that would be only a feudal price war with the Bucks. Like I said, they're just isn't a big free agent market for players out there, especially with the cap space and new CBA. The teams with cap space are not teams that these type of players would want to go to. Most. These players can stay with the team. They're at get a max contract and the team can exceed the cap to keep them because they control their bird rights.

Other notable players to watch

PF Jerami Grant - The Blazers forward could be in a holding pattern. Trying to decide what Damian Lillard does but should be able to re-up with Portland. He could command an annual salary of $30 million per year. But the Blazers MUST meet that price if they honor their word to build a winning team around Dame Dolla.

SG Bruce Brown - Brown played his way into a nice contract after a strong season and postseason for the World Champion Denver Nuggets. Expect him to be back in Denver but for more money but he has interest from teams like the Kings and Lakers.

PG Dennis Schröder - Another player coming off of poor season that in the second half of this past season really increased his value. Doesn't look like the Lakers will have enough space to bring him back on a cheap contract, expect Dennis Schröder to really test the free agent market.

PG Russell Westbrook - Russ is another player coming off of poor season that in the second half of this past season. He looked to be playing his way out of the league in LA but his run with the Clippers was impactful. He fit in, he did what was asked and coach Ty Lue had his back. I expect him back in LA on a team friendly deal.

SF Cam Johnson - Johnson is a restricted free agent, while he could get a big offer, I expect the nets to match anything they get. Johnson declined a lucrative deal from the Phoenix Suns before he was ultimately traded for Kevin Durant. Johnson could command closer to $100 million but Brooklyn will likely match.

SG Austin Reeves - The restricted free agent Reeves came out of nowhere; from being practically a walk-on to key piece to the Lakers playoff run to the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers already said that they will bring Reeves back at any cost, so expect them to be a Laker

PF Riu Hachimura - One of the first trade pieces the Lakers made to rebuild their roster mid-season, Hachimura was a key piece to their run. The Lakers already said that they plan on bringing him back as well. Hachimura will likely sign any offer sheet and force the Lakers to match.

PF Grant Williams - Williams turned down a 4-year extension offer from the Celtics last year that would have paid him arouns the current non-taxpayer mid-level exception. While he would like to remain in Boston, the trade for Kristaps Porzingis makes it hard for Boston to afford Williams.

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