It’s been a wild couple of first days of NBA free agency.
Miami loaded up for a title run, Chicago became respectable but also paid DeMar DeRozan a head-scratching amount of money, the Lakers got old but added needed shooting, and Chris Paul may have been the biggest winner of all. There was a dizzying amount of deals agreed to in the first 48 hours of free agency.
Who is left for teams to pick up? Here are the top 10 free agents who have yet to commit to a team, although a couple of them have all but committed.
Can anyone read Kawhi Leonard? Around the league, the conventional wisdom and expectation long had been that the two-time Finals MVP — and All-NBA player last season — would opt out then re-sign with the Clippers, maximizing the money he would make. He worked too hard to get back home to Southern California to bolt, right?
Then came word he would listen to other offers from other teams. Despite the offseason ACL surgery that will cost him most, if not all, of next season, teams would gladly pay to pry him away from Los Angeles. He’s still a clear max player, which in his case starts at $39.3 million in the first year of a four-year deal worth $176.2 million.
It has been radio silence from Team Leonard. Per usual. Your guess as to what he’s thinking is as good as anyones. Considering the cap space around the league has been eaten up by other deals (the Spurs had some money but that was never happening), he probably re-signs with the Clippers. As expected. But nobody knows what Leonard is really thinking or what he might do.
2) John Collins (NOW HAS REACHED A DEAL)
And literally one minute after this story was published, the word came down Collins was off the market. From Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Restricted free agent F John Collins has agreed to a five-year, $125M deal to stay with the Atlanta Hawks, @excelbasketball agents Sean Kennedy and Jeff Schwartz tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 4, 2021
That’s not max money, which is what Collins wanted, but it’s pretty close and still generational money (most teams around the league didn’t see him as a clear max player anyway). Collins took a couple of days to think about it, but he really had no choice. He can look around the league and see that only the Thunder and Spurs have serious cap space left, and if they weren’t making an offer Collins bigger than that (and those teams know if they did max Collins, the Hawks probably just match).
Collins averaged 17.6 points and 7.4 assists a game last season and is a shot blocker/rim protector on the other end — he was a key part of the Hawks’ deep playoff run.
While he is technically still available, a sign-and-trade that brings him to Washington is reportedly nearly done. The only question is how to make the sign-and-trade work for the Nets, who are over the cap and have no desire to take back Kyle Kuzma in a trade with the Wizards. The most likely way is to make the three-team Russell Westbrook to the Lakers trade (remember Aaron Holiday going from the Pacers to Wizards was folded into this deal) and make it a four-team, where the Nets generate an $11.5 million trade exception. Except someone will have to throw the Lakers a sweetener, they don’t want to help the Nets out of the goodness of their hearts.
It’s complex, but one way or another it almost certainly gets done, and Dinwiddie will be in a backcourt with Bradley Beal in our nation’s capital.
That four-year, $84 million extension offer from the Lakers Schroder turned down is looking pretty good right about now.
The market has dried up, with Chicago landing Lonzo Ball, the Knicks spending their big chunk of money on Evan Fournier and getting Kemba Walker, while the Pelicans added Devonte' Graham, Tomas Satoransky, and Garrett Temple. Schroder’s best hope is that another team comes in with a short-term deal (1+1 probably) at around the mid-level exception (the Knicks were a candidate until the Walker deal). Schroder is not getting his long-term security and is going to have to take a short deal and hope his play earns him a bigger payday next summer (or the one after).
5) Kelly Oubre Jr.
There had been a fair amount of buzz about Oubre ending up in San Antonio with the Spurs, but nothing has come together so far. The challenge is Oubre made $14 million last season and expected to at least get offers in that ballpark, but when other teams came calling — Miami was one — the offer was closer to the mid-level exception of $9.5 million. Oubre has waited out the market for a couple of days and… is still waiting.
Oubre should intrigue teams. He’s an athletic wing who can play as a small-ball four, but he shot 31.6% from 3 last season. At age 26 when next season starts, does he have another big step forward in him. He wanted more offensive freedom in his new home, but his options are dwindling, and he may have to take a short-term deal and play his way into the contract he wants next offseason.
6) Josh Hart
The Pelicans extended a qualifying offer to Hart and can — and likely will — match any offer for the guard. That has kept the market for him down. According to a report, one possibility is the Cavaliers, who have stepped in and are talking sign-and-trade.
#Cavs have had discussions about a sign-and-trade for RFA Josh Hart, sources say. While he’s not the *shooter* they were wanting when FA began, those other options went quickly and now they’re looking at many possibilities. Sign-and-trades are always more complicated tho.
— Chris Fedor (@ChrisFedor) August 4, 2021
Outside of this trade or something similar, it’s hard to see Hart landing anywhere but the Big Easy. Hart averaged 9.2 points and eight boards a game off the bench for the Pelicans last season, shooting 32.6% from 3.
There has been a fair amount of interest in Jackson as a backup point guard after his impressive playoff run — 20.3 points a game against the Suns in the Western Conference Finals. Of course the Clippers would like to bring him back, but the Celtics, Pelicans, Knicks, and Nuggets are all reportedly in the mix. It all comes down to which one of those teams steps up with the most cash — Jackson is a 10-year NBA veteran and is going to take the biggest kick at the can he can get. At this point he likely lands a short-term deal, either a 1+1 or a two-year contract.
8) Danny Green
Teams that see themselves as contenders — the 76ers, Celtics, Bucks, Bulls — plus the Pelicans have reportedly reached out to Green about his services. While he played last season in Philly, the 76ers and Green are nowhere near a deal, reports Keith Pompey at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Green made $15.4 million last season, but at age 34 offers appear to be coming in lower this season so far. Green averaged 9.5 points a game for the Sixers, shot 40.5% from 3 (but is a bit streaky), plays solid defense on the wing, and is the kind of veteran glue guy off the bench every contender could. The only question is price.
The Bulls extended a qualifying offer to Markkanen, so they have the right to match any offer, and they are looking to set up a sign-and-trade for the Finnish big man. Markkanen wants a bigger role than the shrinking one he had in Chicago after the arrival of Nikola Vucevic. However, Markkanen may have overestimated his market value; the Spurs were interested but his asking price was too high and the deal fell apart, according to Brian Windhorst on The Hoop Collective podcast. (The Spurs turned around and signed Zach Collins despite his ankle surgeries.)
The buzz now is about Minnesota being interested in Markkanen (Jaden McDaniels is the current starting four for the Timberwolves). There are not a lot of deals Markkanen may like if that one falls through.
10) Andre Iguodala
Miami did not pick up the veteran wing’s $15 million option — as expected — and now the buzz is a reunion with Golden State is the most likely option for the 37-year-old former Finals MVP. The Lakers are also in the mix (Laker GM Rob Pelinka is Iguodala’s former agent). Iguodala struggled on the court last season in Miami — 4.4 points per game, 38.3% shooting overall and 33% from 3 — but a lot of his value is in the locker room with younger players and intangibles that don’t show up in the box score.
Iguodala will want more than the minimum. Would the Warriors dip into their mid-level exception to make that happen? Would the Lakers? Still, all the buzz around the league is about Iguodala returning to the Bay Area; expect that to happen.