NBA free agency is hours away. Of course, in many ways, it has already started. While this year’s class is far from star-studded, many heavy hitters are going to be relocating just in time for the NBA’s first full season in front of capacity crowds since the beginning of the pandemic. Here is where the top names are most likely to end up:
- Chris Paul
Prediction: Re-signs with Suns for 3 yr/$130 million
CP3 has opted for a new deal. The Suns are in a very similar position to the Houston Rockets when Paul was a free agent at the end of his stint in Houston. The ageless Paul ventured further into the postseason this past year than he ever had before, and will certainly be rewarded for it in the desert.
2. Kyle Lowry
Prediction: Signs with Heat for 3 yr/ $92 million
Kyle Lowry appears to have three major suitors on the open market, the Pelicans, Mavericks, and Heat. The Pelicans are likely going to be able to offer the six-time All-Star the most money, while the Mavs can offer the best player to star with. However, the Heat have Pat Riley in charge, who has proven to be a major lure to anyone willing to take their money. The Heat are still a few pieces from genuine contention, but this gets them substantially closer.
3. Lonzo Ball
Prediction: Signs with Raptors for 4 yr/$80 million
The Chicago Bulls have long been believed to be enamored with Ball, who remains a restricted free agent in New Orleans. The Pelicans did somewhat surprisingly extend a qualifying offer to both Ball and fellow free agent Josh Hart, perhaps as a sign of their lack of confidence in signing Lowry. But, Toronto desperately needs to begin to set a new heading for itself, and Ball can accomplish just that. Ball, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, and Fred VanVleet is a strong core to get started with. Furthermore, the Raptors can pursue sign-and-trade possibilities with New Orleans in the event Lowry does pick the Pelicans, or engage the Heat on a Kendrick Nunn pursuit.
4. Dennis Schroder
Prediction: Signs with Mavericks for 3 yr/$55 million
The Mavericks rebranded themselves in the offseason, hiring Nico Harrison away from Nike and swiping Jason Kidd from the Lakers. But the lone constant remains in Dallas: no one wants to play for Mark Cuban. It’s rather simple. Kyle Lowry will ultimately choose the Heat, leaving Dallas with Schroder. To be clear, though, this is far from a nothing burger for Dallas. Schroder is an excellent scorer and ball handler, and after all, would come worlds cheaper than the far older Lowry. While this will feel like another free agent letdown in Dallas, adding Schroder is nothing to forget about.
5. Demar DeRozan
Prediction: Signs with Bulls for 3 yr/$75 million
Rumors have begun swirling into tornados about what DeRozan is going to do, with the idea of him taking a gigantic pay cut to join the Lakers or Nets. But when push comes to shove, that’s just too steep a financial forfeit for him. Chicago tipped their hand a bit when they made a blockbuster trade for Nikola Vucevic, and could form a poor man’s big three with DeRozan and Zach LaVine. In the East, though, those three and Billy Donovan in charge could be a top five seed.
6. Jarrett Allen
Prediction: Re-signs with Cavaliers for 4 yr/$100 million
Even though the Cavaliers are likely bidding against themselves here, they have no choice but to back up the brinks for Allen. They shrewdly jutted in to the James Harden deal, and landed the very talented young big man. For a team eons from contention, they absolutely must retain Allen on a lucrative contract. How they get the other pieces in order is another story, but pencilling in Allen for years to come is a big first step for Koby Altman and company.
7. Richaun Holmes
Prediction: Re-signs with Kings for 4 yr/$80 million
This may feel like an overpay, but once the Mavericks and others miss out on their top targets, the Holmes market will pick up quickly. Sacramento quietly is building a pretty nasty starting lineup, featuring some combination of De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Harrison Barnes, Buddy Hield, and Holmes. That’s a handful for a number of teams in the conference. Eventually the Kings will have to decide how they really feel about Hield, but this seems like a good deal for a Kings team that has come a long way from years of god-awful contracts littering the roster.
8. Mike Conley
Prediction: Re-signs with Jazz for 3 yr/$75 million
Any doubts about Mike Conley’s long-term ability were put to rest by his excellent play a season ago. Utah, like the Mavericks, collapsed in the playoffs against the Clippers, but have made it very clear they want Conley back. The Jazz finally had to pay for the foolish decision to give Derrick Favors the full mid-level a year ago, and had to attach a first round pick just to move him to Oklahoma City(of course).
9. John Collins
Prediction: Re-signs with Hawks for 4 yr/$120 million
The Hawks came within two wins of the NBA Finals this past year, and have no reason to let any part of that core go. Yes, eventually Trae Young, Kevin Kuerter, and Cam Reddish deals will be necessary, but that’s still a few years away, and other deals could come off the books by then. Collins is a proven two-way star and will ink a new deal seconds into free agency.
10. Tim Hardaway Jr.
Prediction: Re-signs with Mavs for 3 yr/$55 million
Tim Hardaway Jr. was the Malik Allen to Jason Kidd in the Porzingis trade for the Mavericks. But the eight-year player has been an absolute flamethrower in Dallas. He has thrived next to Luka Doncic, and while the true ceiling of this Mavericks team is in real question with him re-signed, both sides will happily reconvene for the foreseeable future. How he fits under a new offense will be interesting, but few players in three years have been more comfortable in the lineup with Doncic.
11. Evan Fournier
Prediction: Signs with Knicks for 3 yr/$60 million
New York is going to New York here. Rather than remaining patient, the Knicks are going to assume their top-four seed playoff berth this past year was more than it truly was. The Knicks have loads of room, and while Fournier makes them better, it gets them no closer to a finals appearance. It will also get in the way of the developing Obi Toppin.
12. Norman Powell
Prediction: Re-signs with Trail Blazers for 4 yr/$80 million
Norman Powell is at a very similar stage in his career to Tim Hardaway Jr. Both are coming off great seasons, are just about the same age, and are looking for a major payday. The Raptors strangely went with Gary Trent Jr. over the far better Powell, who will cash in with Portland and make himself one of the most handsomely paid shooting guards in the game.
13. Lauri Markkanen
Prediction: Signs with Spurs for 4 yr/$44 million
The San Antonio Spurs have quietly poked at a Ben Simmons trade, and while they still awkwardly hang around the bottom of the playoff picture every year, it’s time to begin to reorient. DeRozan is likely on his way out, leaving the Spurs with a clearer cap sheet to begin a rebuild. Markannen may never be a star, but he’s a classic Spur-type of player who’ll give the team some fresh excitement.
14. Kendrick Nunn
Prediction: Signs with Knicks for 3 yr/$50 million
Similarly to Fournier, the Knicks are likely to throw their money at the wall and see what sticks. Kendrick Nunn burst onto the scene with the Heat as an undrafted player out of Oakland and became a key reserve in the team’s finals berth two years ago. This isn’t too difficult a deal for the Heat to match as he is a restricted free agent, but the Heat will know better than to commit millions to a rotation player who will interfere in their bigger pursuits.
15. Spencer Dinwiddie
Prediction: Signs with Wizards for 4 yr/$80 million
Any hopes of the Nets trying to re-sign the talented combo guard have gone out the window. He appears already on the way to the nation’s capitol, just after the team wisely shipped Russell Westbrook to the unsuspecting Lakers. Perhaps now that the reporting on his likely destination is out, it will affect his bidding war, if there was ever going to be one.
16. Kelly Oubre Jr.
Prediction: Signs with Spurs for 3 yr/ $50 million
The Spurs adding both Kelly Oubre and Markannen is hardly a big deal financially considering the rest of their incredibly young team. The Spurs shouldn’t be too terrified to add two quality players to a roster that needs a firm direction to begin heading in. Oubre helps them accomplish that and would add a juice and energy that Markannen may not.
17. Otto Porter
Prediction: Signs with Pelicans for 2 yr/ $25 million
Once the Pelicans miss out on Lowry, they’ll have to use their cap space on someone. They are absolutely starving for wings, and would be smart to add some more shooting. The floor is already quite cluttered between Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, and Jonas Valanciunas, so adding a capable shooter would make sense here. Porter could end up disappointed with his overall market given his so-so play between Chicago and Orlando, so signing a short-term deal potentially with a player option slapped on it would be good business for him.
18. Nerlens Noel
Prediction: Signs with Rockets for 4 yr/ $41 million
The Rockets had an exciting draft, picking multiple talented young prospects in addition to Jalen Green second overall. Between Christian Wood, Jae’Sean Tate, Kevin Porter Jr., and Green, there’s a little something beginning to brew in H-town. They have a long way to go, but using their full mid-level on Nerlens Noel will allow them to flank Wood a little better and add the rim protection Wood doesn’t provide.
19. Kelly Olynyk
Prediction: Signs with Suns for 3 yr/$30 million
It’s possible a room team could jump in and give the underrated big man a bigger hunk of cash than this, but the Phoenix Suns were missing an element at the four spot in the finals this past year. Dario Saric was injured, but Frank Kaminsky being both terrible and a free agent doesn’t help. Olynyk might take a little less to join a contending team and help push them over the edge.
20. Duncan Robinson
Prediction: Re-signs with Heat for 4 yr/$70 million
Duncan Robinson is one of the most coveted players in the world right now. His stratospheric shooting and 6″7 frame make him exactly what so many teams around the league desire so intensely. The Heat are going to get real close to a tax bill between this and Lowry, but Robinson is just too valuable to let go of.
P.J. Tucker— Bucks
Cameron Payne— 76ers
Gary Trent Jr. — Raptors
Talen Horton-Tucker— Lakers
Devonte’ Graham— Hornets
Blake Griffin— Nets
Bobby Portis— Bucks
Torrey Craig— Suns
Josh Hart— Thunder
Alex Caruso— Cavaliers
Malik Monk— Lakers
Sterling Brown— Mavericks
Daniel Theis— Rockets
Zach Collins— Hornets
Patty Mills— Celtics
Paul Millsap— Lakers
Derrick Rose— Bulls
Bryn Forbes— Lakers
Goran Dragic— Clippers
Justise Winslow— Magic
Will Barton— Nuggets
Michael Carter-Williams— Mavericks
Luke Kornet— Celtics
Reggie Jackson— Heat
Lou Williams— Hawks
Georges Niang— Warriors
Andre Drummond— Lakers
Bruce Brown— Grizzlies
Nicolas Batum— Clippers