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The best available NBA free agents and where they could land next season

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The NBA moves fast, and changes just as fast.

The Finals end, the draft arrives, picks and trades are made and then free agency hits.

The Milwaukee Bucks, still trying to soak in the joy of the franchise’s first championship since 1971, moved quickly into 2021-22 mode. At least the front office had to make that quick transition.

The Western Conference already saw significant change when the Los Angeles Lakers reached a deal to acquire Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards.

Free agency opens Monday at 6 p.m. ET, and while it’s not a monster free-agent class, there are notable names who have big decisions to make: Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry and Lonzo Ball.

Chris Paul was instrumental in the Suns reaching the NBA Finals.
Chris Paul was instrumental in the Suns reaching the NBA Finals.

Let’s take a look at the top free agents in the summer of 2021.

Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers: Potential unrestricted free agent

Leonard has a player option on the 2021-22 season, but he is expected to opt out and pursue a long-term deal. He has had injury issues, including surgery on July 13 to repair a partial tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Still, he is one of the premier two-way players in the NBA. It’s expected he stays with the Clippers, but other teams will at least inquire about his availability even if he misses the 2021-22 season to rehab the knee.

Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns: Potential unrestricted free agent

Paul, 36, showed he can lead a team to the Finals, and the Suns would love to have him back. He has one year and $44.2 million left on his contract. While it’s unlikely any team will pay him that much in starting salary, he could seek a two- or three-year deal that pays him more than that in total. He will have options, but which ones will be better than the situation he has with the Suns?

Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors: Unrestricted free agent

Interesting free agency for Lowry, who averaged 17.2 points, 7.3 assists and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 39.6% on 3-pointers last season. In 2017, the free-agent market for Lowry dried up and he signed a three-year, $90 million deal with Toronto. He was looking for more money and a longer deal. This offseason, he will have suitors. New Orleans, Miami, Dallas and Philadelphia are among the teams that could land Lowry. So far, the Raptors have shown little interest in sign-and-trade.

Lonzo Ball, New Orleans Pelicans: Restricted free agent

Ball averaged 14.6 points, 5.7 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals and remained a steady 3-pointer shooter, hovering at 38%. There’s a marketplace for that kind of point guard. It does not appear the Pelicans are willing to match, and that might just be fine with Ball. He isn’t opposed to a change and a more prominent role with a different team.

Mike Conley, Utah Jazz: Unrestricted free agent

Expect the Jazz to do whatever it takes to re-sign Conley, even if it forces them to go above the luxury tax to retain him. Utah has various reasons to think this way about Conley, even if his first All-Star season coincided with becoming limited during the NBA playoffs with a hamstring injury. Though the Jazz can spend highly on Conley because they have his Bird Rights, they are limited by salary-cap rules to do the same for a replacement player. There is also optimism that Conley’s hamstring will fully heal this offseason.

John Collins’ future has been in question since he reportedly turned down a four-year, $90 million extension last offseason.
John Collins’ future has been in question since he reportedly turned down a four-year, $90 million extension last offseason.

John Collins, Atlanta Hawks: Restricted free agent

The Hawks want Collins back. He was an integral part of a team that made a surprise run to the Eastern Conference finals. Collins can score (17.6 points per game), rebound (7.4 per game) and shoot (40% on 3-pointers) as a stretch four who is also a capable defender. This will come down to how much Atlanta is willing to spend. Owner Tony Ressler said he hoped it would a “fair agreement.” If Collins receives other offers, we will see what Ressler meant by fair.

Carmelo Anthony, Portland Trail Blazers: Unrestricted free agent

For two consecutive years, Anthony showed he can thrive in a non-starring role on a veteran’s minimum contract. Though the Trail Blazers liked how Anthony bought into a new role without complaint, Portland is expected to go in a different direction since it wants to bolster a defense that ranked 29th out of 30 NBA teams last season. Still, plenty of championship suitors could vie for Anthony’s Hall-of-Fame services at a discounted price. Though Anthony is no longer in a position to command a top salary and role, he can become selective with assessing which team would be the best fit and give him the best odds to win his first NBA title.

Duncan Robinson, Miami Heat: Restricted free agent

The Heat invested in Robinson, believing he could turn into the shooter he is today. In the past two seasons as a regular in the rotation, Robinson averaged 13.3 points and shot 42.7% on 3-pointers. There’s room in the rotation for great, floor-spacing shooter even with defensive shortcomings.

DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs: Unrestricted free agent

DeRozan’s wish to play with the Lakers might be a pipe dream now that the Lakers acquired Russell Westbrook. But with the Spurs likely to shift more attention to their young roster, expect DeRozan to accept a relative discount on a team that gives him a better shot at winning an NBA title.

Evan Fournier, Boston Celtics: Unrestricted free agent

Fournier increased his value with the Celtics, shooting 46.3% on 3-pointers, and with his performance in the Olympics for France, including 28 points in an upset victory over the U.S. Boston traded for Fournier and only had to give up two second-round picks in the deal. The trade was made for the present and the future, but other teams may be in a position to outbid the Celtics.

Dennis Schroder, Los Angeles Lakers: Unrestricted free agent

Schroder has hopes to attract lucrative offers, but that remains unclear given his poor playoff showing and the compressed market. Regardless, the Lakers will hope to re-sign him even at a high offer for two reasons. The Lakers have his Bird Rights and don’t have a viable alternative to fill his roster spot. The Lakers could then execute a sign-and-trade during free agency or next season presuming he has a better outing.

Derrick Rose, New York Knicks: Unrestricted free agent

After showing he can play again at a high level while remaining healthy, Rose will enter free agency with an open mind. Rose will see which teams offer the biggest paycheck and role and which championship-contending teams are looking for a relative discount. But how that shakes out could depend on what happens to other NBA point guards, including Dennis Schroder, Kyle Lowry and Spencer Dinwiddie.

Reggie Jackson, Los Angeles Clippers: Unrestricted free agent

The Clippers surely can’t bank on acquiring Jackson on a veteran’s minimum deal. But Clippers and Jackson have mutual interest to continue their partnership. The Clippers need additional depth considering the uncertainty of Kawhi Leonard’s health and the need for Paul George to have depth around him. Though Jackson will surely attract plenty of lucrative interest elsewhere, expect Jackson to stay with the Clippers – presuming they give him a reasonable offer.

Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers: Restricted free agent

The Cavs have been high on Allen ever since they scouted him during a low-key workout at a high school gym in Alexandria, Virginia, during the 2017 playoffs. Having a young, rim-protecting big who can also run pick-and-rolls is necessary in the NBA. The Cavs want him as part of their future, but it will be interesting to see what teams in need of a center make him an offer.

Norman Powell, Portland Trail Blazers: Unrestricted free agent

One of those second-round picks who made himself a valuable player, Powell is in line for a salary increase and long-term deal. There is some free agent depth at the wing position, but Powell is an NBA champion who can shoot 3s and defend. Portland is definitely in the mix, and Boston could be, too, if the Celtics don’t re-sign Fournier. The Blazers traded for Powell last season, and he remains their top priority in free agency, especially given limited spending capability.

Victor Oladipo, Miami Heat: Unrestricted free agent

Injuries have slowed Oladipo’s growth. He has played in just 88 games in the past three seasons, but just before that he developed into a two-time All-Star with the Indiana Pacers – including All-NBA and All-Defense honors. Just 29 years old, he has the skillset that teams in need of a guard will try to sign.

Spencer Dinwiddie, Brooklyn Nets: Unrestricted free agent

Dinwiddie played in just three games last season, sustaining a partially torn ACL in his right knee in the first week of the season. He has been cleared to play and will be high on teams’ priority list in free agency. In 2019-20, Dinwiddie, who has great size, averaged 20.6 points and 6.8 assists but he needs to improve his shooting efficiency from the field and 3-point range.

Will Barton, Denver Nuggets: Unrestricted free agent

Expect the Nuggets to make it their main-free agency priority to re-sign Barton. He has become a dependable shooter and defender during his seven years there. Barton arguably could become more valuable next season considering the uncertainty on when and how point guard Jamal Murray will return from an ACL injury in his left knee. Though Barton declined his $14.7 million player option, expect Nuggets to re-sign him at a slightly higher price tag on a multi-year contract.

Danny Green, Philadelphia 76ers: Unrestricted free agent

While his future might remain uncertain depending on if and when the Sixers trade All-Star Ben Simmons, Green’s services will be valued in Philadelphia and elsewhere. He’s a proven shooter on a team that needs plenty of them. So do all 29 other NBA teams. So while Green certainly can’t command max salary, he could still field offers in the $10-15 million range so he can help a team space the floor, knock down some 3’s and defend some perimeter players.

Tim Hardaway Jr., G, Dallas Mavericks: Unrestricted free agent

Hardaway had another fine season improving his scoring and shooting. The past two seasons he has been a reliable 40% 3-pointer shooter, and in Dallas’ first-round playoff series, he averaged 17 points and shot 40.4% on 3s. The New York Knicks were criticized for giving him a four-year, $70.9 million deal in 2017, but he’s now in line for a similar deal.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA free agency, rumors: The best available and where they could go