The NBA Draft has concluded, and the NBA Free Agency season is upon us. The Free Agency period has taken a life of its own and has become an event unto itself. In previous year, the period opens at 12 midnight EST, this year it’s open on Monday 8/2 at 6:00pm EST. I will breakdown who should be at the top of team’s wish list this Monday.
Kawhi Leonard, Clippers (Player option)
Coming into free agency, Kawhi Leonard was the biggest name on the list. He was linked to any team with the means to get him (Knicks included.) But with Kawhi suffering a partially torn ACL during the 2021 NBA playoffs, the plans have changed. Kawhi in the 11 games he played in the plays was a monster, averaging 30+ points, 7+ rebounds, 4+ assists and 2 steals.
There is always the question of his durability, as he is the leader in “load management” and still can’t remain healthy. Opting out was a bad move for both sides; Kawhi could have made more money by opting in then extending has contract to maximize his dollars and the Clippers could’ve gotten a $210M disabled player exception to sign a player. So it might not be able money with Kawhi, but no one ever knows what Kawhi is thinking. The Clippers have no choice but to run it back with Leonard as they traded the world to get him and Paul George.
Chris Paul, Suns (Player option)
Chris Paul finally played in his first NBA Finals in his first year with the Phoenix Suns. The 11-time All-Star lead the Suns to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. But as expected, Paul declined his $44.2 million player option for the 2021-22 season, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Paul was linked to the Lakers as a possible final piece to their championship puzzle, but the Westbrook trade has shut that down. The Knicks are also in the mix, and the Sixers could be an interesting trade partner with Simmons looming (credit TP Tymeless for that nugget). But Paul is expected to stay in Phoenix and run it back for one more run.
Kyle Lowry, Raptors (Unrestricted)
Kyle Lowry is finally on his way out of Toronto as he was trade bait for the last few years. As a unrestricted free agent, there are plenty of teams would love to add the veteran point guard. Lowry is a NBA champion, tough minded point guard who averaged 17+ points, 7+ assists and 5+ rebounds last season. Rumors of his decline have been greatly exagurated, but his age is something that can’t be ignored.
The Heat, Mavericks, Pelicans and likely Knicks will be heavily in on Lowry. The Knicks and Mavs have cap space; however the Heat are the favorites. The re-upped with Goran Dragic and declined Andre Iguodala’s option to clear the path for a sign-and-trade.
John Collins, Hawks (Restricted)
John Collins is a sneaky name this off season, as he’s not a marquee name but is a solid all around player. Collins and the Hawks have been trying to work out a deal but on the Hawks terms. Collins opted to bet on himself and not sign the contract. He was looking for $100M plus a season. So after his 17+ point season and developing into a strong number 2 option on offense next to Trae Young in the playoffs, he getting the check cut.
The Atlanta Hawks are building a great young core and will not watch one of their key pieces leave. The feeling was they would trade away Cam Reddish to find the space to keep Collins.
DeMar DeRozan, Spurs (Unrestricted)
DeMar DeRozan is an interesting name also this free agency. DeRozan knows how to score in this league (21+ points per game last season for the Spurs) and is a solid passer (career-high 6+ assists per game). But he’s a below average 3-point shooter, not as efficient from the field, poor shot selector and not a great defender.
DeRozan was rumored to be a potential Lakers target, but the Russell Westbrook trade take that off the table as a sign-and-trade with Kyle Kuzma was the centerpiece of that deal. He could opt to take less money to got to the Lakers as it where he wants to go. My gut tells me he’s looking to get paid but possibly on a shorter-term contact to go back into free agency as his market might dictate that type of deal. A 2-year deal at $20-25M per gets him paid and give a team the ability to go back into the free agent market when Zack Lavine and Bradley Beal are available.
Dennis Schroder, Lakers (Unrestricted)
When I heard Dennis Schroder was looking for $100M contact, I laughed. But when I heard he could possibly get $120M, I gasped. Schroder had a horrible stretch at the end of the season and into the playoffs. But that postseason performance really shouldn’t affect him in free agency if I’m being completely honest with myself. He’s a point guard that needs the ball in his hands, he was playing off the ball with Lebron James in Los Angeles. It was a poor fit with the Lakers and Schroder is a plus defender that you really need at the PG position (ask the Knicks and Sizers). If Paul and Mike Conley (see below) are off the board early, he will definitely be in high demand.
I’m thinking the Lakers will be agreeable to sign-and-trade deal with Schroder, but why give up assets to just sign him outright. I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out.
Lonzo Ball, Pelicans (Restricted)
The other Ball brother is coming off his best season of his career. Lonzo Ball averaged 14+ points, 5+ assists and 4+ rebounds per game for the Pelicans. Ball is an up-tempo, transition PG that is a plus passer and off ball shooter. Most teams are looking for that plus a half-court pick and roll PG. So his market will be tighter than you think as the fit is key.
There is mutual interest between Ball and the Bulls on a 4-year, $80M deal as the Bulls are his first visit this off season. While the Pelicans can match any offer sheet for Ball, they might have a hard decision matching.
Mike Conley, Jazz (Unrestricted)
2 years ago, Mike Conley was left for dead in the NBA. It was believed that father time tapped that shoulder and boy were we wrong. Conley is coming off his first All-Star selection of his solid career. Conley has the Utah Jazz right where he wants them because his position is at a premium right now. Plus, the Jazz have depth but can’t replace him so easily.
The Jazz have in turn made re-signing Conley a top priority. The idea is that the Jazz will offer him a 3-year deal for around $70-75M. Not bad for a washed PG.
Spencer Dinwiddie (Unrestricted)
In any normal, Spencer Dinwiddie would be a player looking to get a big pay day. But Dinwiddie played in only 3 games last season before partially tearing his ACL. He has been cleared to play for this coming season and will still be in demand. In 2019-20, Dinwiddie averaged 20+ points and 6+ assists before Kyrie and Durant came into town. The fit was ok in Brooklyn, but he can command more money than the Nets can afford to pay, especially with Harden in the fold.
He will have suitors and will likely be in demand as the point guard market with Paul, Conley, and Lowry come off the board. He's got on ball skills and size that will make him an attractive option at the point. Look out for the Lakers, Pelicans and Knicks to be involved.
Duncan Robinson, Heat (Restricted)
Duncan Robinson is arguably the best shooter on the market. The 27 year old is shooting a strong 42.7% from 3-point range the past 2 seasons. Robinson isn’t just a spot-up guy, he can create off cuts, handoffs, pin-downs, and transition. The issue with him was he is considered a bubble guy that didn’t do it with fans in the stands, not a great defender and he’s a restricted free agent that the Heat can opt to match any offer he gets.
Can we see a poison pill situation like Jeremy Lin years ago? I would be surprised if the Heat match a large offer thrown his way. The made cap space to get Lowry but will they be able to fit everyone in?
Other Free Agents to keep an eye on:
Victor Oladipo (Unrestricted)
Norman Powell (Player option)
Jarrett Allen, Cavaliers (Restricted)
Tim Hardaway Jr. (Unrestricted)
Evan Fournier (Unrestricted)
Kelly Oubre Jr. (Unrestricted)
Reggie Jackson (Unrestricted)