Pay Attention to These Names on the 2021 NBA Free Agency Market

By Akiva Wienerkur   August 1, 2021 

Pay Attention to These Names on the 2021 NBA Free Agency Market

The NBA free agency period begins August 6, and with another shorter-than-normal offseason, expect a flurry of moves as teams attempt to retool quickly and make a run at the postseason.

The Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns will be good examples that many teams look at, even if they had bad seasons. Both teams missed the playoffs a season ago, but the Suns made the NBA Finals and the Hawks made the Eastern Conference Finals this season. Both used free agency and trades to significantly – and quickly – improve their rosters and turn into contenders. 

There are several impact players available in free agency. Here is a look at five who could change teams, rattle the NBA futures market, and make a huge impact.

Chris Paul

After being acquired by the Suns in a trade with Oklahoma City, Paul seemed thrilled to be in Phoenix and led the Suns to one of their most successful seasons in franchise history. As the Suns were making their run to the Finals, Paul seemed like a sure bet to re-sign in Phoenix and that is probably still the most likely scenario. Paul himself seemed like that is his plan after the season ended. 

Jul 20, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) against Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) during game six of the 2021 NBA Finals at Fiserv Forum. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

However, Paul is good friends with LeBron James. And the Lakers are the Lakers, so they’ll be tied to rumors about any big-name free agent on the market. Paul is nearing the end of his career, even if he is still playing at a high level. With the Lakers, Clippers, and Warriors all banking on better health and some offseason moves returning them to contender status in the offseason, it is no guarantee that the Suns can replicate their run. Paul finding a way to team up with James and Anthony Davis might give him one more shot at a championship.

Expect the New York Knicks to also be in play for Paul if he does show interest in leaving Phoenix.

Kyle Lowry

Lowry won a championship for the Raptors and is arguably the best player in franchise history. But, with the Raptors signing Fred VanVleet long-term last offseason and in position to possibly draft point guard Jalen Suggs with the fourth pick in the draft, Toronto seems likely to move on from their franchise cornerstone.

Don’t expect Lowry to be chasing a championship situation, either. Reports indicate that Lowry is looking for another big contract as a priority over playing for a title contender, so he could have suitors as a result. The Lakers have interest in him and tried to trade for him last season, but look for New Orleans to make a strong push to bring him in to pair with stars Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.

Kawhi Leonard

After the Clippers have essentially met all of Leonard’s demands the last two seasons, it would be a surprise if Leonard leaves his hometown in free agency. But that doesn’t mean other teams won’t try to get him.

The Heat, Knicks, and Mavericks are all preparing to make a run at Leonard. Miami has long coveted Leonard and Pat Riley has a long track record of being able to lure star free agents to South Beach. Dallas is also an intriguing spot, and Leonard and Luka Doncic have had major playoff duels the last two seasons. 

Jun 14, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) moves the ball against Utah Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic (44) during the second half in game four in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. at Staples Center. Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

All of those rumors should be taken with a massive grain of salt though, as the most likely scenario is Leonard remaining in Los Angeles.

Mike Conley

If you’re in need of a star veteran point guard, this is a good free agency class for you as Conley joins Lowry and Paul as former All-Stars on the market. Conley is coming off of a good season with Utah and the Jazz will press hard to keep him as he fits their system perfectly.

But he’s also getting toward the end of his career and the Jazz have had two straight disappointing playoff showings. If Conley’s priority is to chase a championship, he might try to do that with a team like the Lakers if they strike out on Paul or Lowry. New York and Dallas are also both logical spots for him to land should he decide to leave Utah.

DeMar DeRozan

DeRozan is somewhat polarizing because his reliance on the mid-range is not a favorite among the analytics community. But DeRozan is still an effective scorer who can get to the free throw line and he averaged a career-best 6.9 assists per game.

May 19, 2021; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward DeMar DeRozan (10) shoots for three-point shot over Memphis Grizzlies forward Kyle Anderson (1) during the first quarter at FedExForum. Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

DeRozan is unlikely to return to the rebuilding Spurs. He’s from Los Angeles and has been linked to the Lakers. The Knicks are also a potential landing spot, and Washington has reportedly considered pursuing him, although the Wizards could also go a different direction and trade stars Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook to hasten a rebuild.

Other free agents to watch

The above five players are probably the biggest names on the market. But there are inevitably more under-the-radar signings that make huge impacts as well. Here are five less heralded players who could make a big impact in the right situation:

1. Richaun Holmes, Kings center

2. Lonzo Ball, Pelicans guard

3. Tim Hardaway Jr, Mavericks guard

4. Dennis Schroeder, Lakers guard

5. Bobby Portis, Bucks center

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