As the NBA regular season comes to a close, headlines surrounding the 2021 free agency cycle is creating speculation among front offices. Here, we discuss the top 10 NBA free agents and the latest reports surrounding their respective futures:
10. G Victor Oladipo, Miami Heat
In a season that has been stunted due to a knee injury, Oladipo is one of five guards featured in this segment. Oladipo has only made four appearances since joining the Heat, and the latest reports confirm he will not be worth a max contract this summer. Teams once connected to the two-time All-Star, such as the New York Knicks, have recently faded away. This season, Oldaipo is averaging 19.8 points and 4.8 rebounds across 33 games.
9. C Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers (RFA)
As an elite rim-protector, Allen is expected to receive interest from several teams as a restricted free agent. According to reports in March, the Cleveland Cavaliers expect Allen to receive over $100 million in his upcoming contract. Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes claims that among the available suitors, the Detroit Pistons, Toronto Raptors, San Antonio Spurs, and Washington Wizards will be the favorites. Allen claimed prior to the season he is “open to all options”. This season, he is averaging 9.9 rebounds per contest; 12th in the NBA.
8. G Mike Conley, Utah Jazz
In his second season with the Jazz, Conley has expressed major interest in returning to the team. In an interview with The Athletic, the 33-year old believes he is where he belongs. In November of 2020, Conley bypassed free agency in order to stay in Utah. If the front office shows any interest in retaining the veteran, this should be a predictable signing. This season, Conley is shooting 44.6 percent from the field; his highest figure since the 2016-17 campaign.
7. G/F DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs
After playing under his $27.7 million player option entering this season, DeRozan will reportedly take a “wide open” approach to free agency this summer. A previous headline was that the 31-year old was unhappy in San Antonio, so it wouldn’t be a surprise for him to explore any potential change of scenery. Rumors from DeRozan’s camp indicate he is interested in returning to the Eastern Conference. Despite below-average defense, DeRozan is currently averaging over 20 points per game for the eighth consecutive season.
6. G Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
At the previous NBA Trade Deadline, interested teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers were unwilling to deal for Lowry based on the concern that he would only be a rental for a single season. In the early stages of April, reports claimed that Lowry is seeking a two-year, $50 million deal in free agency. That figure would feature Lowry as a top 20 guard based on salary in the current season. Lowry also opted out his contract with the Raptors in 2017 to explore free agency and ultimately returned. Among the favorites, the Philadelphia 76ers are interested in exploring a sign-and-trade deal this offseason for the six-time All-Star.
5. F John Collins, Atlanta Hawks (RFA)
Towards the previous Trade Deadline, teams such as the Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings showed significant interest in John Collins. The Hawks have remained committed, telling opposing executives they intend to match any free agency offers this summer. Atlanta “isn’t thrilled” about the idea of giving the 23-year old forward a max contract, but appear willing to do so.
4. C Andre Drummond, Los Angeles Lakers
After being bought out by the Cleveland Cavaliers in March, Drummond joined the Los Angeles Lakers in hopes of finding his first NBA Championship. Drummond, who is averaging 10.2 rebounds per game since joining Los Angeles, has not given insight on free agency plans. His current focus remains to be on the playoffs, but the 27-year old is likely to demand a lucrative payday.
3. G Lonzo Ball, New Orleans Pelicans (RFA)
As the top restricted free agent this summer, there has been plenty of speculation about Lonzo Ball’s future in New Orleans. The Pelicans were engaged with multiple teams at the Trade Deadline about moving Ball for the right price, but nothing came of it. According to reports from late March, Ball is likely to command more than $20 million annually in free agency. Among the favorites for the 23-year old will be the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks.
2. G Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns (Player Option)
With a player option worth $44 million for the 2021-22 season, there is no telling whether Paul will test free agency and seek out a long-term contract at the age of 35. In November of 2020, we need to remember that the 11-time All-Star preferred to play in a large market such as New York or Los Angeles. While there have been immediate connections as of late, it may become a headline if Paul does decline his player option.
1. F Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers (Player Option)
In December of 2020, Leonard stated he is likely to test unrestricted free agency this summer. However, the expectation around the league is that the two-time NBA Champion will re-sign with Los Angeles. This free agency cycle for Leonard is expected to be far less dramatic, as the two sides will likely agree to a long-term extension.