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NBA Free Agency 2023: Top players available and Predictions



With the NBA season and the Draft finally behind us, all eyes turn towards free agency. The annual free agency period of the offseason begins today at 6, while the annual moratorium period, meaning that players can agree to terms on new contracts with teams and trades can also be agreed upon starts on July 1st. However, no signings or trades will become official until later in the week. We've already seen plenty of player movement through trades leading up to the NBA Draft and free agency, and we could see even more player movement starting this evening. This free agent class is loaded once again with former and current NBA Champions, former MVPs, and previous Defensive Player of the Year recipients. Players like Kyrie Irving, Draymond Green, Khris Middleton, and more are all set to hit the open market. With free agency beginning in a few hours, here are some of the top players available and my predictions on where several of them will sign.

 

UFA - Unrestricted Free Agent

RFA - Restricted Free Agent


Kyrie Irving, PG (31 yrs, UFA)

Irving’s drama-filled tenure in Brooklyn finally came to an end during the season once the Nets traded Irving to the Mavericks. Irving’s free-agent market will be hard to predict based on reports from around the league. The eight-time All-Star is still one of the most talented guards in the NBA, however, some teams are concerned about the plethora of off-the-court issues that Irving has had in recent years; which have resulted in him missing games and distancing himself from his team(s). Now, add in the large contract that a player like Irving will demand and his increasing age, and you’ll see that teams aren’t going after Irving as aggressively as they have in the past. Many NBA fans would be excited to see Irving reunite with LeBron James and join the Lakers, however with their current cap space situation, that move seems unlikely. Reports are circulating that Irving will visit with other teams during free agency and is looking for a team he can “spend the rest of his career” with. It’ll be interesting to see where Uncle Drew lands this summer.


Draymond Green, PF (33 yrs, UFA)

Green has been one of the cornerstones of the Warriors franchise and their four champions, but after declining his $27.5 million player option, Green will be a free agent. It was widely expected that Green would opt out of his player option as he’s looking to sign a contract worth around $100 million or more. Golden State’s front office has made it clear that re-signing Green is their top priority this summer, and after trading Jordan Poole to the Wizards, they have the cap space to grant Draymond’s contract wishes. Although his numbers won’t blow you away, Green’s role and meaning to the Warriors are invaluable and would be impossible to replace. Green is a former Defensive Player of the Year winner and is a perennial All-Defensive team recipient. He’s the vocal and emotional leader for Golden State and it’s hard to imagine him continuing his career anywhere else. But, other teams are interested in Green’s services, with the Kings being considered one of the more aggressive suitors of the four-time All-Star. The Trailblazers, Lakers, and Mavericks are also rumored to be considering Draymond Green.


Fred VanVleet, PG (29 yrs, UFA)

VanVleet went from undrafted to an NBA champion during his seven-year tenure with the Raptors, but after declining his player option, the 2022 All-Star will hit the open market. The 29-year-old veteran should have plenty of suitors as he’s one of the top Point Guards available in this free-agent class. One of those teams will obviously be the Raptors, who can offer VanVleet a contract of up to five years and $233 million. The current buzz is that VanVleet will be seeking close to $30 million or more per year regardless of where he signs. The Wichita State product started 69 games for the Raptors last season and averaged 19 points and 7 assists per game. Current rumors around the league are suggesting that the Rockets will be very aggressive in pursuing VanVleet, but the Raptors will make a strong push to bring him back as well.


Khris Middleton, SF (31 yrs, UFA)

Middleton recently declined his player option which was worth more than $40 million, making him an unrestricted free agent. The Bucks are in a tough spot with Middleton and 2023 DPOY runner-up Brook Lopez hitting the open market, but it’s hard to imagine Middleton leaving Milwaukee. Middleton has paired perfectly with Bucks superstar Giannis Antetkounmpo when he’s been able to stay healthy and helped lead the organization to their second championship in history back in 2021. Although he’ll turn 32 soon and has been plagued by injuries of late, his two-way ability will have the Bucks and others tuned in to his market. If he does decide to leave Milwaulkee, he can sign a four-year contract for close to $200 million with another team. However, it is expected that the former All-Star will return to Milwaukee as Yahoo Sports has reported that the two sides are working on a new long-term deal. But if Middleton were to sign elsewhere, the Kings are a team to watch.


D’Angelo Russell, PG (27 yrs, UFA)

Russell joined the Lakers after being traded by the Timberwolves around last season’s deadline. He was impressive in the regular season with the Lakers and early in the playoffs but struggled mightily in the WCF against the Denver Nuggets. Russell saw his minutes decline and was eventually removed from the starting lineup towards the end of the series, leaving a sour taste in the mouth of the Lakers and their fans about his short second stint with the team. Russell and the team have until Friday to agree to an extension before the 27-year-old PG hits the market, but as of now, it looks like a return to LA will only be made after free agency begins. Russell was a key piece to the Lakers’ stellar play after the trade deadline and playoff run to the WCF. The team and General Manager Rob Pelinka have said many times that they’re going to try and bring back as many members of last season’s roster as they can. But with several other players also being pending free agents and limited cap space, the Lakers will have to figure out how to best retain Russell and others. It feels like Russell will eventually end up back in Los Angeles on a new deal, but if he were to sign elsewhere, Houston and Toronto could be in play.


Cameron Johnson, SF (27 yrs, RFA)

The Nets acquired Johnson along with Mikal Bridges in their franchise-altering trade that sent Kevin Durant to the Suns and began Brooklyn’s rebuild. Johnson and Bridges both had impressive finishes to the regular season and playoffs for the Nets, even though they were swept in the first round. With Brooklyn focusing on rebuilding with young talent, retaining Johnson should be their priority, and General Manager Sean Marks has made just that very clear. In his 25 regular season games with the Nets, Johnson averaged career high in points, rebounds, assists, and steals per game. Johnson is a restricted free agent, so the Nets can match any contract offer other teams may give him, meaning he will likely stay in Brooklyn. However, the Detroit Pistons are reportedly prioritizing targeting Johnson once free agency begins.


Jerami Grant, PF (29 yrs, UFA)

Year one in Portland for Jerami Grant was a success as the former second-round pick shot the ball at an efficient rate including a career-high in three-point percentage. After playing for his third different team in four years, Grant finds himself in free agency once again. With Grant playing the best basketball of his career over the last three years, he could be in high demand by a few different teams. But with the Trailblazers claiming to be committed to building a contending team around Damian Lillard, they would be foolish to not bring back Grant. Once he enters free agency, he’ll be eligible to sign a five-year deal with the Blazers that would likely be the largest contract Grant has signed thus far. But, with Portland also allegedly targeting Draymond Green, it could be hard to keep Grant if they sign the four-time champ from the Warriors. If Grant doesn’t return to Portland, Dallas, and Detroit are considered the favorites to land Jerami Grant.


Austin Reaves, SG/PG (25 yrs, RFA)

Austin Reaves came out of nowhere last season and had a breakout year, performing as the Lakers’ third-best player down the stretch of the regular season and playoffs. Reaves was moved up to the starting lineup at the end of the season and kept that role in the playoffs. In his first career playoff appearance, Reaves averaged just under 17 points (16.9), four rebounds, and four assists per game and showed up in the biggest moments for the Lakers. Both Reaves and the Lakers have stated their interest in staying together as shown in his restricted free-agent status. The former undrafted prospect is due for a massive pay raise after his second NBA season. With the Spurs and a few others rumored to be interested in offering him a max contract, the Lakers are prepared to match any contract that Reaves is offered according to sources around the league. Although free agency hasn’t started, all signs are pointing towards “AR-15” returning to Los Angeles.


Brook Lopez C, (35 yrs, UFA)

Lopez is coming off of arguably the best season of his career which is surprising considering he turned 35 in April and missed nearly all of 2021-2022 after having back surgery early. Lopez averaged the most points and rebounds per game in a season since 2016-2017 and set new career highs in blocks per game and three-point percentage. But most notably, Lopez finished as the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year this past season. Some teams may be afraid to sign Lopez due to his age and recent injury history, but not many big men in this free agent class have his skill set. Lopez is a perfect stretch-five for today’s game because he can also post up and is one of the best rim protectors in the game right now. Milwaukee will have serious questions to answer about their frontcourt if they can’t retain Lopez. However, they may not have to worry about finding those answers as it appears that Lopez is likely to re-sign with the team along with Khris Middleton. But the Bucks will have some competition; the Rockets, Kings, Lakers, and Warriors are all reportedly interested in the NBA Champion Center as well.


Kyle Kuzma, PF (27 yrs, UFA)

After being traded to the Wizards in the deal that brought Russell Westbrook to the Lakers, Kuzma played out his contract and then declined his $13 million player option last week. Before the new front office took over in Washington it was expected that Kuzma would be a key part of the team’s future as they shipped off Rui Hachimura, giving Kuzma a bigger role. Although, after the trade of Bradley Beal, the future plans for the Wizards organization seem a little uncertain. Kuzma averaged career-highs in points and assists per game in 2022-2023 and showed flashes of his underrated defensive ability while in D.C. After trading Hachimura and recently dealing Kristaps Porzingis, the Wizards could be in jeopardy of losing all of their frontcourt talent if Kuzma departs. At just 27 years old Kuzma’s offensive versatility, rebounding ability, and underappreciated defensive talent have him set for a long list of suitors. Kuzma could return to D.C., but with the franchise shifting towards rebuilding, I’m not sure that will happen. Along with the Wizards, the Rockets, and Kings are the favorites to sign him.


Bruce Brown, SG/SF (26 yrs, UFA)

What a year it was for Bruce Brown and the Denver Nuggets. The franchise captured their first championship in team history and the role that Brown played in their championship run cannot be overstated. The Nuggets scooped up Brown last off-season and got an absolute steal. Bruce Brown had the best year of his career thus far, setting a new career high in points per game in the regular season and performing as a spark plug for the Nuggets. Brown’s energy and versatility on both ends of the floor have set him up for a huge payday if he elects to take it. Brown opted out of his player option with Denver which was just under $7 million (6.8) to become a free agent, but can return to the team on a 7.8 million dollar deal because they have his non-Bird rights. This would allow Brown to re-sign again next offseason for a larger deal if he chooses. It’s hard to imagine him going anywhere else while riding the high of winning a championship and showing the NBA world his skills and value to a team. If Brown were to leave Denver though, the Lakers, Mavericks, and Timberwolves are all reportedly interested in signing him.


Christian Wood, C (27 yrs, UFA)

The Mavericks traded for Wood around last year’s NBA Draft, but his role on the team was different from what most expected. The Mavs brought Wood off the bench for the majority of the season, much to the surprise of NBA fans and Wood himself. The journeyman forward averaged his lowest minutes and points per game since 2019-2020 when he was with the Pistons, a result of his smaller role in Dallas. Defensively, Wood struggled last season as did a large part of Dallas’s roster which led to them slipping out of the playoffs at the end of the year. It appears to be very unlikely that Wood makes a return to Dallas this summer, but he’ll have many teams interested in his services. The Miami Heat have been repeatedly linked to the 27-year-old big-man, along with the Milwaukee Bucks being interested if they’re unable to re-sign Brook Lopez.


Free Agency Predictions:

  • The Philadelphia 76ers trade James Harden to the Los Angeles Clippers

  • Kyrie Irving re-signs with the Mavericks

  • Draymond Green re-signs with the Warriors

  • Khris Middleton re-signs with the Bucks

  • Fred VanVleet signs with the Houston Rockets

  • D’Angelo Russell re-signs with the Los Angeles Lakers

  • Brook Lopez re-signs with the Bucks

  • Russell Westbrook re-signs with the Clippers

  • The Brooklyn Nets match an offer sheet given to Cam Johhnson by another team

  • Kyle Kuzma signs with the Houston Rockets

  • The Los Angeles Lakers match an offer sheet given to Austin Reaves by another team

  • Jerami Grant re-signs with the Trailblazers

  • Bruce Brown re-signs with the Nuggets

  • The Charlotte Hornets match an offer sheet given to PJ Washington, keeping him with the team

  • The Los Angeles Lakers match an offer sheet given to Rui Hachimura by another team

  • Jakob Poeltl re-signs with the Raptors

  • Christian Wood signs with the Miami Heat

  • Eric Gordon signs with the Memphis Grizzlies

  • The New Orleans Pelicans match an offer sheet given to Herb Jones by another team or sign him to a contract extension

  • Max Strus signs with the Indiana Pacers

  • Caris LeVert re-signs with the Cavaliers

  • Donte DiVincenzo signs with the New York Knicks

  • Kelly Oubre Jr. signs with the Detroit Pistons

  • Gabe Vincent re-signs with the Heat

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