We have had a few days to take a deep breath since the NBA Draft, but now it is time to kick back into full gear for what is one of the most exciting stretches in the entire NBA offseason with the beginning of free agency. One questionable draft pick can immediately be forgotten with a splash signing in free agency, and like many superstars have shown before, the entire trajectory of a franchise can be changed with one massive contract. Here we will rank the top 10 players who are hitting free agency and what they could bring to the franchise who goes all in for them.
1. Kawhi Leonard
Result: Plans to sign supermax with Los Angeles Clippers
Ever since Leonard entered the league from San Diego State, he has lifted every franchise to a contending team and won a pair of championships along the way. He may have even brought one to the Clippers for the first time in team history if he did not partially tear his ACL during their playoff run that came up short in the Western Conference Finals that he was not able to participate in. It is expected that Kawhi will return to the Clippers with Paul George and continue to search for the team’s first title, but if he shockingly decides to take his talents elsewhere, the entire league will be turned upside down. Of course, this is completely unexpected, and he will most likely return to the Clippers, but we could be in for some real fun if the soft-spoken star makes the most noise he ever has with a switch to a different market.
2. Chris Paul
Result: 4 years, $120 million with Phoenix Suns
Paul was definitely expected to stay with the Suns coming into the offseason, and it did not take a lot of time for a deal to be made for the experienced guard who nearly brought the Suns their first NBA title in franchise history. The 11-time All Star is no stranger to switching teams, although he seems to have found a happy home with the otherwise young and hungry Suns who were two wins away from getting Paul his first NBA title in his illustrious career. Russell Westbrook being traded to the Lakers ended all rumors of Paul teaming up with LeBron and AD, so he will go back to Phoenix as both him and the Suns will search for their first NBA title that slipped through their fingers in 2021.
3. John Collins
Result: 5 years, $125 million with Atlanta Hawks
While Trae Young did most of the heavy lifting to take the Atlanta Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals, Collins flew under the radar as a major impact player, and it is hard to believe the Hawks go that far without him. After enduring trade rumors early in the season and having every sign pointing to this being his last year in Atlanta, Nate McMillan revived his Hawks career, and he has signed a long-term deal to stay with the team who drafted him. Collins is a freakishly athletic stretch-four who worked extremely hard to add a three-point shot to his game and he has done just that after only four years. He is an integral part of the Hawks deep rotation and alongside Young and the rest of the young stars in Atlanta, he could be a crucial part of a dominant team in the Eastern Conference for years to come.
4. DeMar DeRozan
Result: 3 years, $85 million with Chicago Bulls
While DeRozan does not look like the modern wing player in the NBA given his lack of three-point shooting prowess, he still impacts the game in plenty of ways and could elevate a team from good to great with his addition. We all know of his mid-range mastery that has taken him to four All-Star games, but two underrated aspects of his game that he improved on in San Antonio are his playmaking abilities and free-throw efficiency and volume. The Bulls are making a concerted effort to take a lot of pressure off of Zach LaVine, who has blossomed into a star, by bringing in two solid ball-handlers in DeRozan and Lonzo Ball. LaVine will be able to use his explosiveness and athleticism a lot more with off the ball movement and rim runs to create space and shots for the three stars who have joined him since the trade deadline.
5. Mike Conley
Result: 3 years, $72.5 million with Utah Jazz
Of the three veteran point guards, Conley is the youngest at 33 and he still has plenty of life left in him. He was a huge part of the Jazz obtaining the league’s best record averaging 16 points and six assists per game, which earned him his first career All-Star appearance. He has already agreed to a 3-year, $72-million deal with the Jazz, so the drama around which team he will play for has already past, but he is still one of the best point guards in the game even if he does not quite qualify as a superstar. The Jazz will be contenders once again with Conley running the backcourt with Donovan Mitchell.
6. Kyle Lowry
Result: 3 years, $90 million with Miami Heat
The third veteran point guard on this list has already agreed to a sign-and-trade to join the Heat, a deal that seemed inevitable after Goran Dragic’s option was picked up by the Heat yesterday. The Raptors took a step-back in 2020 and a lot had to do with Lowry’s nagging injury that only allowed him to play in 46 games. After six consecutive All-Star game appearances, Lowry did not make the team in 2020, but he still showed that he has what it takes to lead an offense with 17.2 points per game and over seven assists. The Heat are receiving a polished point guard who knows what it takes to win a championship and after a disappointing 2020 season, both the Heat and Lowry will be looking to bounce back in a big way in 2021.
7. Lonzo Ball
Result: 4 years, $85 million with Chicago Bulls
We have our three veteran guards on the market already, but Ball is the one young guard who is going to have a change of scenery and get a lot of money doing so. He has completed a sign-and-trade to join the Chicago Bulls and play alongside Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic, with DeMar DeRozan coming along for the ride after signing a contract to come to Chicago. Although the Bulls had to give up the 8th overall pick to do so, they have created an underrated big three (or four) that might not meet the level of the Brooklyn Nets, obviously, but should have them competing for a top-five seed just like the Knicks and Hawks did a season ago. Ball is making great strides in his development and starting to live up to his 2nd overall selection with an improved three-point shot and flashy playmaking that was always going to succeed coming out of college. Keep an eye on newly hired head coach Billy Donovan and the up and coming Chicago Bulls in the East this year.
8. Jarrett Allen
Result: 5 years, $100 million with Cleveland Cavaliers
After being sent off to the Cavaliers from the Nets before the trade deadline, Allen found a long-term home in the Cavs frontcourt. He has already signed a 5-year, $100 million deal to stay in Cleveland and torment opposing frontcourts alongside #3 overall pick Evan Mobley from USC. These two should dominate together for years to come as Mobley has already shown his ability to play with another center by his side with the Trojans. If Colin Sexton and Darius Garland continue to develop and make great strides, the Cavs are already a sneaky playoff team who can put some pressure on a top seed in the postseason if they squeak their way into the playoff picture.
9. Dennis Schroder
Prediction: 1 year deal with New York Knicks
Schroder showed his poise and leadership abilities this season with LeBron James and Anthony Davis both missing extended time and handing the reigns to the former Hawks and Thunder point guard. The Lakers struggled, but Schroder was able to keep them in the playoff picture with 15 points per game and over five assists as well. Any team looking for a veteran guard to take care of the ball and run the offense should be looking right at Schroder. The Lakers went with Russell Westbrook in a huge trade essentially ending any chances of re-signing their guard, but Schroder will undoubtedly find another home and should make a decent pay-day will doing so.
10. Norman Powell
Result: 5 years, $90 million with Portland Trail Blazers
Powell is a player who took a huge step in 2020 raising his scoring average from 8 to 16 two seasons ago and then again from 16 to nearly 19 points per game this season with the Raptors and Trail Blazers. He should be in for a huge contract and the Blazers are rumored to be excited to offer him one after his contributions to the team after he was traded at the deadline. Powell has blossomed into a knockdown shooter on the wing, and he does it from all over the floor. He does most of his damage from beyond the arc, but he is also capable of scoring on the move inside the arc as well. The trio of Lillard, McCollum, and Powell making shots in the backcourt is a scary sight for opposing teams and could help the Blazers make some noise in a loaded Western Conference next season.