The Biggest 2021 NBA Free-Agency Decision For Every Team

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The Biggest 2021 NBA Free-Agency Decision For Every Team

The NBA playoffs are nearing a close, which means that all 30 teams are going to enter offseason mode very soon. The draft lottery has been completed, so the draft and free agency are on everyone’s calendar. While the free agency list is not as rich compared to the year’s past, this summer will remain climactic as all teams will look to find a way to bolster their squad with hopes of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Let’s run through all 30 teams with big-picture priorities. Each team will have a tough decision in free agency, the trade market, or through the draft. Let’s take a look at what that is.

Atlanta Hawks - Re-Sign John Collins

John Collins has shown his worth this postseason for sure. In the Conference Semifinals, Collins recorded three double-doubles and five games with at least 10 rebounds. His ability to stretch the floor makes the team’s inside-outside game lethal with all the outside shooters on the floor.

Collins won’t be cheap though and the Hawks will have to find a way to keep him. After spending $160 million in free agency last offseason, the Hawks are over the cap. Atlanta has $96 million committed in salary for next year and Collins could be looking to sign a max deal that pays him close to $28 million. If the Hawks sign Collins for this much, the team will have just $12 million to fill out the rest of their roster.

Boston Celtics - Finding The Right Point Guard

Since Gordon Hayward opted out of his contract last year, the Celtics were able to avoid the luxury tax. This year, the Celtics won’t be so lucky with Jayson Tatum’s rookie extension max set to kick in. In his first year running the organization, Brad Stevens will have less than $10 million to work with filling out the roster.

The Celtics traded away Kemba Walker, which was a must, so the team needs to find a true point guard that meshes with Tatum and Jaylon Brown. The team has assets in the likes of Marcus Smart, Tristan Thompson, and a slew of rotational players. If the Celtics want to make a bid for Russell Westbrook, Malcolm Brogdon, or Damian Lillard, the team will need to find a way to free up some money.

Brooklyn Nets - How Much Is Blake Griffin Worth?

For the second straight season, the Nets are in the luxury tax. Brooklyn is already $17.6 million over the tax line, which would cause the franchise to pay $44 million. This is all before trying to re-sign any of their nine projected free agents.

At this point, we would expect to see Spencer Dinwiddie walk. The best veteran to retain is the former All-Star in Griffin, who looks healthy for the first time in years. Griffin recorded games of 18 points and 14 rebounds and 17 points and 11 rebounds against the Bucks. With a full offseason and a healthy body, Griffin could help this team. It’s on the Nets to convince him to come back for a cheap price.

Charlotte Hornets - Keep Devonte’ Graham Or Let Him Walk?

Graham had a solid season by averaging 14.8 points and 5.4 assists. However, the starting job belongs to Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball. Graham could cost the Hornets north of $22 million by the time he is signed. With free agents Cody Zeller and Malik Monk on the big board, the Hornets will need to determine which direction they want to choose.

The smart option would be to let Graham, Zeller, and Monk all walk. Re-signing Terry Rozier at shooting guard makes the starting lineup set while allowing Ball to play the bulk of the minutes is better for the team. Graham is just 26 years old, but he will not get the Hornets to the next level. Use the money and bring in some veterans to finally get Charlotte relevant in basketball.

Chicago Bulls - The Zach LaVine Dilemma

The Bulls are tasked with either renouncing free agent Lauri Markkanen or completing a sign-and-trade to maximize his value. The contracts of Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky could be waived as well. All in all, the Bulls could create up to $31 million in cap space.

All-Star Zach LaVine will be entering the final year of his contract. The Bulls could agree to an extension, but that will come at a cost of their cap space. If LaVine signed now, he could sign a deal worth four years and $105 million. He is set to make much more next year. The Bulls could use their cap to upgrade the roster now. It would give the Bulls just a one-year window because it would be unlikely the team could muster the money to re-sign LaVine.

Cleveland Cavaliers - Closure For Kevin Love

The extension for Jarrett Allen is also a real priority for the team, but the Cavaliers need to decide what is going to be done with Kevin Love. The former All-Star will not be a part of the next winning regime. Love averaged his worst points per game since his rookie year, while his rebounds were a career-low.

Love is making well above $30 million and has two years left on his deal. If healthy, Love could help a team like the Spurs or TrailBlazers who want to go a little bit smaller. If not, a buyout is a real option as well. Either way, Love is not worth keeping around for only 25 games like last year.

Dallas Mavericks - Tim Hardaway Jr.’s Contract

The emotional answer is to say that the team needs to find a trade partner for Kristaps Porzingis. With a new head coach in Jason Kidd, the team should give the combination of Porzingis and Luka Doncic one more year. A new face could make this partnership work.

Hardaway averaged 16.6 points and shot close to 40% from the three-point range. With that said, they could let him walk and save money. By releasing cap holds of James Johnson and Hardaway, Dallas would have $20 million in cap space. That number would grow to $34 million if Willie Cauley Stein’s option is not exercised and Josh Richardson opted out. Either way, the team will have options to explore.

Denver Nuggets - Michael Porter Jr. or Aaron Gordon’s Extension

Both Porter and Gordon are eligible for extensions. Both are free agents after this season, so the Nuggets will either need to pick which one they like more or find a way to keep both in the team’s future. Unfortunately, we don’t know what the team looks like with both on the floor with Jamal Murray. The Nuggets won’t get to see what that looks like for a while as Murray recovers from an ACL injury.

Porter is 23, while Gordon is 25. Both have talents in their own right. Porter has more offensive potential, while Gordon is the better defender. An extension for either would cost the team less right now, but what if they choose the wrong player?

Detroit Pistons - Flipping Jerami Grant

After averaging 22.3 points per game, Grant was included in the talks for Most Improved Player of the Year. Grant is due $40 million the next two seasons, which is a mildly cheap deal for his production. The Pistons are not going to be contenders this year or next, so maximizing his value would be the smart play.

Grant could bring back a first-round pick from a team that is looking for a scorer. The Pistons need to find a way to haul in as many future assets, so the team can build around future No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham.

Golden State Warriors - The Value Of Two Lottery Picks

The Warriors are nearing the end of their dynasty. Steph Curry and Draymond Green are in their 30s, while Klay Thompson hasn’t played a full season since 2019. Curry showed last year that he has no plans of slowing down after winning the NBA scoring title, but it’s clear the team needs one more star to power this team back to the NBA Finals after a two-year absence.

There are some stars out there, most noticeably Bradley Beal, on the trade market. The Washington Wizards have to start thinking that it’s time to rebuild. The Warriors own the No. 7 and No. 14 picks in this year’s draft. With questions about Kelly Oubre’s future, maybe the Warriors can use their draft capital and turn it into something better.

Houston Rockets - Trading Christian Wood

Wood played like an All-Star in 41 games this season by averaging 21.0 points and 9.6 rebounds. The Rockets are going to need to take a few years to get back to winning. Thanks to the James Harden trade, the Rockets have acquired unprotected first-round picks in 2022, 2024, and 2026. That also includes future swap rights in 2023, 2025, and 2027.

In addition, the Rockets have three future first-round picks from Detroit (2022, unprotected), Milwaukee (2023, unprotected), and Washington (2023, protected). Wood is their last big bargaining chip that could likely land a future first-round pick. With Wood’s value high, the Rockets will have to determine if they want to completely strip the team of all valued players.

Indiana Pacers - Break It Up or Tear It Down

The Pacers have talent on the roster, but their players haven’t been on the same page. Malcolm Brogdon, Caris LeVert, TJ Warren, Domantas Sabonis, and Myles Turner are a playoff team on paper. However, the team has been a .500 team at best because of injuries and inconsistency.

With Rick Carlisle in the fold, maybe that will all change. The Pacers will have rumors circulating with players like Brogdon, Sabonis, and Turner on the roster. If the price is right, the Pacers could tear it down and look to retool.

Los Angeles Clippers - Re-Signing Reggie Jackson

The Clippers will have to wait until Kawhi Leonard makes his decision for the team to take its course of action. Leonard has until August 1 to exercise his player’s option. Assuming that Leonard is back for at least one more season, the combination of Leonard and Paul George will need help.

The Clippers own their 2021 first-round pick, but after that, due to their trade with Paul George, the Clippers don’t a true first-round pick until 2028. They have to include Ivica Zubac, Patrick Beverley, and Terence Mann in any package if they want to land an All-Star player. But, their biggest FA decision will be Reggie Jackson's contract.

In terms of money, the Clippers are set to be over the luxury tax. The Clippers will only have the $5.9 million taxpayer midlevel exception. Jackson’s stock is at an all-time high after scoring 20 points in the last six of seven playoff games. He could be out the door if the Clippers don’t move some money around.

Los Angeles Lakers - Who Will Stay And Who Will Go?

LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will combine to earn $102 million next season. If Montrezl Harrell picks up his player’s option, as well as signing their first-round pick, the Lakers will have just $14.5 million in cap space to stay under the luxury tax to fill eight roster spots.

With Andre Drummond, Dennis Schroder, Alex Caruso, and Talen Horton-Tucker among the free agents on the board, the Lakers face paying the luxury tax for a second straight year. With the projected salaries for some of these players, the tax could reach close to $275 million. Everyone from last year is not coming back, so deciding who will stay will be a big-time decision for the Lakers brass.

Memphis Grizzlies - Trading For A Win-Now Veteran

It’s time for the Grizzlies to become the next version of the Phoenix Suns. The team owns two young stars in Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. The team is potentially one Chris Paul-like player away from breaking out of the first round. If Justice Winslow’s $13 million team option is not picked up, the Grizzlies will have close to $22 million in cap space.

Winslow averaged 6.8 points and 4.5 rebounds last year. Due to injuries, he has played a combined 37 games in the last two years. This sounds like an easy decision. The real work will be finding the right fit to mesh with this young team.

Miami Heat - Entertaining Trade Talks With Tyler Herro

The Heat is in a unique position because they could run back the same group from last year, or wipe the slate clean. Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn could leave and give the Heat up to $21 million in cap space if the Heat decline the options for Goran Dragic, Andre Iguodala, and let Victor Oladipo walk.

The Heat have been linked to trade talks with Herro since the trade deadline. Reports have suggested that the front office is fed up with his attitude towards being famous. The best case for the Heat would be to trade for players like Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard. They could offer Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn, and others, but the crown jewel around any trade package would be parting with Herro.

Milwaukee Bucks - Bringing Back Bobby Portis

The Bucks are looking to be luxury taxpayers next year. Thanks to the extensions of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday kicking in, the Bucks will have $142 million in guaranteed salary, which is $6 million over the tax line. All in all, the Bucks will have the $5.9 million midlevel tax exemption and two trade exceptions worth $4.9 million and $1.7 million.

Portis is expected to opt-out of his $3.8 million contracts after a year that saw him average 11.4 points and 7.4 rebounds. That also included shooting 47.1% from the three-point range in limited attempts. Portis could qualify for the mid-level exception, but that all depends if the Bucks want to use it on him.

Minnesota Timberwolves - Is Karl-Anthony Towns Worth Keeping?

With the two lottery picks that the Golden State Warriors own, there is speculation that the Warriors could look to make a trade with the Timberwolves, again. The Warriors easily won the trade with Minnesota last year with D’Angelo Russell. Could they pry Towns to the team as well?

While the Warriors do need a center, there are other teams in the league that do too. The Mavericks could look to deal with Kristaps Porzingis. The Celtics have been linked to Towns before. Either way, it could be coming to a close in Minnesota if the team wanted to tear it down completely. The value of Towns could likely bring back at least two future first-round picks and that is something that Minnesota will need to consider.

New Orleans Pelicans - Find A Sign-And-Trade Partner for Lonzo Ball

The Lonzo Ball experiment didn’t work in New Orleans. It’s time to move on from Ball, but New Orleans needs to maximize his value. There are teams like the Bulls and the Knicks that have a desperate need for a point guard. Both teams have pieces on their roster that could fulfill a sign-and-trade.

The Pelicans have Eric Bledsoe for at least one more year and would be over the salary cap if Ball, Josh Hart, and their first-round pick remained. With no playoff appearances in two years, it’s time to go in a different direction, so New Orleans needs to salvage whatever they can.

New York Knicks - Remain Patient Or Build

For the third straight offseason, the Knicks are the leading team in the NBA when it comes to salary cap space. If the Knicks renounce free agents Derrick Rose, Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks, and Reggie Bullock, the Knicks would have up to $50 million in cap space. After a No. 4 seed and appearance in the playoffs, it might be time to start building a contender.

Rose was sensational for the team, but at what cost is he worth it? Also, does Rose believe this team can win a championship? The Knicks have been linked to Russell Westbrook, which would be a huge salary, but a superstar that can pair with Julius Randle and RJ Barrett. With that said, this year’s free agency class is weak, so the Knicks could wait one more year and then look to spend in 2022.

Oklahoma City Thunder - The Direction Of First-Round Picks

The Thunder owns the No. 6, No. 16, and No. 18 overall picks in this year’s draft. They also own multiple first-round picks that stretch to the year 2026. With Kemba Walker and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, this team has a vintage Charlotte Hornets vibe from Walker’s early playing days. Will the Thunder keep all three first-round picks, or try and flip one to contend for a back-end playoff spot.

We saw what happens when you hang onto all of your draft capital with the Celtics. With that said, the Thunder are rebuilding, so this “big” decision will all come down to evaluating the top talent on the board.

Orlando Magic - The No. 5 And No. 8 Picks

The Magic have to be careful at rebuilding carefully and not retooling quickly. This team could be competing in a year if the Magic are smart. Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac are recovering from injuries. The Magic own two picks in the top-10 of this year’s draft with expectations that a player took at No. 5 can help right away next year.

If the Magic are patient and draft the right players, this team could grow together. The only way the Magic can mess this up is if the team tries to compete right away next year. After dealing with Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, and Evan Fournier, they have to know that competing is not in the cards next year.

Philadelphia 76ers - Trading Ben Simmons

This will be talked about until someone up top flat out says that the team is not trading Ben Simmons. Even if they come out and say they won’t trade Simmons, we will speculate his place with the team until he is wearing a jersey on opening day.

After failing to contribute offensively, Simmons was heavily criticized after the 76ers lost Game 7 to the Hawks. The former No. 1 pick is a great rebounder, excellent playmaker, and a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. While that is all great, this is an offensive league. If the team feels they can bring in an upgrade at the cost of Simmons, it might be worth looking into.

Phoenix Suns - Navigating Through Chris Paul’s Contract

It would be very Tom Brady or Chris Paul to decline his player’s option for next year. If Paul declined his $44.2 million option, it would allow the Suns to explore depth at point guard, shooting guard, and sign a backup at center.

Instead, Paul will likely exercise his option because who wouldn’t want over $44 million. If Paul does exercise the option, the Suns could be in the luxury tax for the first time since 2009-2010. If Paul opts in, the Suns will have $10 million to fill four roster spots.

Portland Trail Blazers - Making Damian Lillard Happy

Lillard’s happiness will either come from what the Trail Blazers do to make this team better or by shipping Lillard to a team like the Lakers or Celtics. Keeping this roster together will be expensive. If the Trail Blazers retain Jusuf Nurkic, Norman Powell, Carmelo Anthony, and Zach Collins, the team will blow through the luxury tax.

The team’s roster has been bounced in the first round three of the last four years. With one Western Conference Finals appearance to his name, Lillard has to start wondering when it’s time to start something new. Lillard will have a new coach for the first time in his career. We still don’t know how he feels about that.

Sacramento Kings - Harrison Barnes’ Trade Value

Barnes had his best shooting season in three years after averaging 16.1 points, while his 49.7% field-goal percentage was a career-high. His 6.6 rebounds were also a career-high too. With the Kings needing bench depth, the team could explore trading Barnes for a couple of role players.

The Kings will likely stay patient with the likes of De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III. Bagley is due for an extension, but the two haven’t played together in a full season during their time. If both can stay healthy, we will have a better view of what the Kings need.

San Antonio Spurs - Sign-And-Trade DeMar DeRozan

The Spurs are not going to win a title with DeRozan on the team. DeRozan has 20-point per game potential and could help a team like the Lakers or Nuggets right now. The Spurs can’t be prideful and not make a deal just because they aren’t known for completing sign-and-trades.

DeRozan has given the Spurs some great seasons the last three years since being moved for Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs have a young foundation in place but could use some veteran role players to help steer them in the right direction. The Lakers make the most sense to complete a deal.

Toronto Raptors - The Cost Of Gary Trent Jr.

Since arriving in Toronto, Trent averaged 16.2 points in 17 games. The former second-round pick owns a career average of 39.3% from downtown. The team already spent over $80 million for Fred VanVleet. Would paying $10 million for Trent and investing $30 million in two three-point shooters be worth it?

The Raptors do not traditionally partake in free agency. They make their moves through the draft or the trade market. Bringing in Trent was not just for 17 games, so at what cost is he worth keeping around?

Utah Jazz - Mike Conley Jr. Contract Options

Contract extensions for Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert will begin this year. That means the Jazz will be right at the $136 million luxury tax line before free agency starts. If Conley returns on a deal worth around $18 million, the tax bill could cost Jazz $40 million.

The Jazz was the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and Conley was a big part of that. It was his first year making an All-Star team, but at 33 years old Conley has to know that this team is his last chance to win a championship. Maybe, he will take less money to return. If not, the Jazz will be singing a tune to the tax penalty.

Washington Wizards - Russell Westbrook And Bradley Beal

Some teams have one tough decision to make about trades. The Wizards have two. Theoretically, if the Wizards wanted to restart completely, they have the two best individual players to start that process. Westbrook just averaged a triple-double for the fourth time in his career, while Beal was the league’s scoring runner-up.

Both players combine for nearly $80 million in salary. Dumping that salary off, as well as recouping future draft assets, could help the Wizards start fresh. It’s one thing to have over 60% of your team’s cap space invested into two players. It’s another when your team is .500 with those players on the team.


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