There will be plenty of movement and interest when the free agency period begins on June 30, starting with the NBA Draft.
Players and teams will officially begin negotiations then, so let’s take a look at some of the players who can make a big impact on a fresh team once the 2023-24 seasons starts.
1. JAMES HARDEN (PLAYER OPTION)
James Harden is torn between signing with Philly or returning to the promised land of Houston, NBA Insider Shams Charania reports.
Even though he was inconsistent during the playoffs, Harden led the league in assists and was shooting the best he has from three since 2012 for OKC during the regular season.
Because Harden is over the age of 38, he can’t sign a five-year deal for the max, which may give the Rockets an advantage.
If Harden is wanting a four-year deal, the 76ers can offer him more money but there is no state income tax in Texas, so what he takes home at the end of the day is almost the same amount.
If the Sixers do intend to re-sign Harden, it leaves them little room for expansion as well, The Athletic’s John Hollinger explains.
“Note that in the absence of other moves, a four-year max for Harden would also push Philly to the tax apron with only 10 players under contract, possibly complicating efforts to re-sign free agents such as Paul Reed, Shake Milton and Jalen McDaniels and using their midlevel exception,” Hollinger wrote. “The same contract in Houston would have few tax implications: Houston projects to be more than $60 million below the cap, and Jalen Green and Alperen Şengün don’t become free agents until 2025.”
It’s anyones guess as to who Harden will choose as he has built strong ties at both franchises.
2. KYRIE IRVING (UNRESTRICTED)
Talent-wise, Irving should almost be at the top of this list but the veteran guard hasn’t played more than 60 games in a season for four years due to reasons largely not about basketball.
However, when Irving was on the floor with Luka Doncic, the team had a +4 net rating which could convince Dallas to make Irving an offer worth his while.
“Given how many teams lack either the cap space to sign Irving or the willingness to put up with him, Dallas may be able to push back and offer him something short of his four-year, $210 million max (let alone the five-year version for $272 million),” Hollinger explains.
“Dallas could also go longer on years and shorter on money, which would be appealing from managing its luxury-tax situation. The Mavs are $48 million from the projected tax line before paying Irving a cent and would still have five open roster spots to fill after signing Irving.”
Irving to the Lakers looks unlikely, unless he wants to take a huge pay cut.
Other teams that have the cap space for the league’s most tumultuous player include the Rockets but if a sign-and-trade deal was to take place, Irving could potentially reunite with Kevin Durant in Phoenix.
3. FRED VANVLEET (PLAYER OPTION)
Fred VanVleet is almost certain to decline his player option and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has already reported as much.
He is one of the most exciting free agents on the markets due to his championship experience and his consistent minutes.
The seven-year NBA player lead the league in deflections per game (3.8) for the third time in the past four seasons.
“…VanVleet only has seven years of experience, which means his max is “just” $40.2 million — a relative bargain, at least in the first year of a multi-year deal,” Hollinger wrote.
VanVleet could fit well in almost any team, either in need of a rebuild or a great addition for a title contending team.
“At 29, he is young enough to fit with growing teams that have cap space (Orlando and Houston) but he is also experienced enough to fit in with veteran-laden teams that might have to pull off a sign-and-trade deal to acquire him,” The Athletic’s Eric Koreen writes.
4. KRISTAPS PORZINGIS (PLAYER OPTION)
The man they call The Unicorn, Kristaps Porzingis, can opt in for $36 million for the upcoming season and also get himself an extension in the range of $209 million, but the question is whether the Wizards want to risk that much on such an injury-prone player.
In good news, he managed to avoid injuries for most of last season and was arguably in his best-ever form.
Changes are afoot in Washington’s front office, so who knows how willing they will be for the seven-year veteran.
“If Washington wants to run it back, the Wizards have about $60 million in wiggle room to re-sign Porziņģis and Kyle Kuzma and sign a free-agent point guard with their non-taxpayer midlevel exception,” Hollinger says.
5. DRAYMOND GREEN (PLAYER OPTION)
Draymond Green has the most value to the team he’s already on.
His player option priced at $27.6 million presents multiple opportunities but the best option isn’t clear.
“Getting up there in age but still one of the best defenders in the entire NBA,” HoopsHype’s Frank Urbina says.
He was also the player who clocked at least 1,000 minutes and the Warriors were at least six points (Warriors scored 6.1) per 100 possessions better on both offense and defense when he was on the floor than it was with him off the floor. That’s huge.
Green is the heart and soul of the Dubs but his questionable actions at training camp marred their season and with looming luxury tax rules coming into play, Green could serve as collateral in a trade.
Draymond could fit in at a team like OKC, Clippers and the Jazz.
6. KHRIS MIDDLETON (PLAYER OPTION)
Khris Middleton had a slow return from injury but once he got going he showed promise.
“When healthy, one of the best swingmen of the game who can score at a high level while also defending, creating and rebounding. Smooth off-the-dribble shooter,” Urbina writes.
The small forward’s player option with the Bucks is worth $40.4 million, which he won’t fetch on the open market.
But maybe he does opt out and work out a new deal that sees him stay at Milwaukee long term but for lower dollars, due to his past injury list.
If the Bucks do get Middleton at a reduced rate, it will also allow them to retain skilled defender Brook Lopez and not run into tax issues.
Plus, staying at the Bucks seems like a pretty good bet if the 31-year-old wants a chance to win another chip.
7. BROOK LOPEZ (UNRESTRICTED)
Despite his age, Lopez is defying logic and ageing like a fine wine after coming off a career-best season.
He was a frontrunner for DPOY and adapted his game to fit in with those fast-paced, younger players like Giannis.
The Bucks would be crazy not to throw an offer at him.
“With the premium put on rim protection, he should have at least a handful of suitors this offseason,” CBS Sports’ Colin Ward-Henninger said.
Other suitors could include teams like Dallas and Phoenix who are in need of a game-changing big man.
8. JERAMI GRANT (UNRESTRICTED)
Jerami Grant was a blessing for the Blazers last season with some solid D and an average of 20 PPG, as well as shooting a career-high 40 percent from three.
These numbers mean he may get some interesting offers during free agency.
“Grant is eligible for a four-year, $112 million extension between now and July 1, but even that would seemingly overvalue him based on his age and recent production. Paying him more seems absolutely batty, plus it yanks Portland ever closer to the tax line,” Hollinger said.
Landing spots could include Indiana or even a return to Detroit.
9. CHRIS PAUL (NON-GUARANTEED)
Chris Paul will turn 39 during next season but when he’s healthy, he can turn games around, plus his veteran experience makes him as asset for many teams.
Paul has made it clear that he’d like to remain in Phoenix, but the ball is ultimately in the Suns’ court as they weigh up their options before Paul’s contract becomes fully guaranteed.
“If things don’t work out in Phoenix, other contenders would love to have him at a discounted price, but Paul might not be interested in that route,” Ward-Henninger said.
Land spots include the Lakers, Philadelphia, Boston and Milwaukee.
10. NIKOLA VUCEVIC (UNRESTRICTED)
The other big Nikola – being the Bulls’ Vucevic is a free agent who averaged pretty much 18 points and 11 rebounds last season.
A center like that commands some kind of attention on the free agency market but many believe he will stay put.
“The Chicago Bulls have been in the neighborhood of mediocrity over the last two years, which might suggest they should be willing to move on from unrestricted free agent Nikola Vučević, but talent is talent. Letting it walk for nothing is a bad idea…,” B/R’s Andy Bailey said.
It would be interesting to see what he could fetch if he was to test the waters. The Lakers and OKC have been floated as potentials.