LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis and More Potential 2021 NBA Free Agents

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistJuly 10, 2019

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard celebrates after the Raptors defeat the Golden State Warriors 114-110 in Game 6 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, June 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

Teams were already carefully monitoring the NBA's 2021 free-agent class even before the group potentially added another surprise member.  

When Kawhi Leonard agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Clippers last week, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported it would be for $142 million over four years. 

Instead, the reigning NBA Finals MVP signed a three-year, $103 million contract Wednesday, with a player option for the third year, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. 

In the wake of Leonard's shorter-than-expected deal, here is a list of potential free agents in the summer of 2021, per Spotrac

         

Potential 2021 NBA Free Agents

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers*

Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers*

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers*

Chris Paul, Houston Rockets*

Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons*

Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers

Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans*

Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Gordon Hayward, Boston Celtics

Mike Conley, Utah Jazz

DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs

CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers

Julius Randle, New York Knicks**

JJ Redick, New Orleans Pelicans

Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

Lonzo Ball, New Orleans Pelicans

De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings

Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls

Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz

OG Anunoby, Toronto Raptors

Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers

       

Indicates restricted free agent

*Indicates 2021-22 player option

**Indicates 2021-22 team option

        

The first thing that stands out with Leonard's deal is how it directly ties him with Paul George in Los Angeles. 

When Wojnarowski reported the Clippers were surrendering five first-round draft picks (four unprotected), along with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari's expiring contract to the Oklahoma City Thunder for George, they did it based on the message they received from Leonard. 

"Get George, and you'll get me," Wojnarowski wrote about Leonard.

It's more apparent now than it was when the deal was announced how important George was to Leonard. Both players will have two years together to build their chemistry and try to win titles before deciding what the next step in their careers will be. 

The other big-ticket item that could be available is reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. He can sign the largest contract in NBA history next summer with the Milwaukee Bucks:

One situation that could become clear later this month involves Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards. Wojnarowski reported the 26-year-old will be offered a three-year extension worth $111 million. 

If Beal turns that down, it could serve as the impetus for Washington to explore trade possibilities, knowing he doesn't want to stay. It could also be an indication he simply wants to explore the market when he's eligible in two years. 

The Los Angeles Lakers are also in a precarious position, though it could easily work itself out as soon as next summer.

LeBron James will be able to opt out of his deal after the 2020-21 season, but what will he look like at 36 years old? Is leaving $41 million guaranteed on the table worth it for him?

Anthony Davis and his camp spent most of last season trying to find a way to get to the Lakers. He can opt out of his deal after 2019-20 and sign a long-term extension with the organization. It seems unlikely the six-time All-Star would play out his option year for $28.7 million to become a free agent in 2021. 

Players who seem unlikely to leave their option year on the table include Chris Paul, who will be owed $44.2 million from the Houston Rockets, and Blake Griffin, who has a $38.9 million option with the Detroit Pistons. 

Paul and Griffin have long injury histories. Paul will also be 36 and showed signs of significant decline last season. 

Teams will jockey for cap position with the 2021 class in mind:  

The New York Knicks were mocked for how they handled things after not signing Kevin Durant, but they only have $40 million in cap allocations for the 2021-22 season. They are positioned to once again have two max slots available for the next great free-agent class. 

If Knicks owner James Dolan can take a back seat to let the basketball people run the organization, and RJ Barrett develops like they hope, they can become an attractive destination to star players for the first time in 20 years. 

Even when it seems like things could settle down in the NBA, there is always an eye on what's coming. The potentially quiet market next summer will give way to an even wilder offseason than the one we just witnessed. 

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