NBA Free Agency 2021: Early Look at Next Year's Star-Studded Market

Jake RillSenior Analyst IIIMay 3, 2020

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo dribbles during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers Wednesday, March 4, 2020, in Milwaukee. The Bucks won 119-100. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Morry Gash/Associated Press

Giannis Antetokounmpo's time with the Milwaukee Bucks could be coming to an end after the 2020-21 season.

The reigning NBA MVP is set to become an unrestricted free agent next offseason and could be switching teams for the first time in his NBA career. Antetokounmpo was taken by the Bucks with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2013 draft, and he's since developed into one of the league's top stars.

It's possible that Anthony Davis could also be part of the 2021 free-agent class (if he doesn't decline his player option for next season and doesn't sign an extension with the Los Angeles Lakers). LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are among the stars who have player options for the 2021-22 season, so they would become free agents if they declined them.

But it's likely that Antetokounmpo will be the top player on the free-agent market in summer 2021. Here's a look at several of the top possible free agents in that class.


Giannis Antetokounmpo, PF

Maybe Giannis Antetokounmpo will sign an extension with the Bucks and not hit the free-agent market next summer. But if he does leave, get ready for many teams to pursue the 25-year-old superstar.

Antetokounmpo has gotten better in each of his seven seasons in Milwaukee. In 2018-19, he averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds in 72 games to win his first NBA MVP Award. This season, he was averaging 29.6 points and 13.7 rebounds, both career highs, over 57 games before play was halted.

The Athletic's Danny Leroux recently reported that because Antetokounmpo is becoming a free agent in 2021, not this summer, the coronavirus pandemic is "far less likely to affect the salary cap and thus his contract value." So he's likely going to get a huge contract, whether it's from the Bucks or a different team.

Perhaps Antetokounmpo will team up with another top star to form a superteam. Or he could go to a team as its lone star and try to lead it to success. Either way, Antetokounmpo will make whatever team he joins an NBA title contender.


Rudy Gobert, C

Kim Raff/Associated Press

Not only is last season's MVP likely going to be in this free-agent class, but so is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. Rudy Gobert has played his entire NBA career, which began in 2013, with the Utah Jazz, but he could be on the move in 2021.

Gobert is only 27 and has improved over the past several years. This season, he's averaging 15.1 points and a career-high 13.7 rebounds. In 2018-19, he led the NBA in field-goal percentage (66.9) and averaged a career-best 15.9 points per game.

It's possible Gobert could leave Utah before he becomes a free agent. The Athletic's Shams Charania, Sam Amick and Tony Jones reported that a source said that there have been issues between Gobert and Donovan Mitchell and the situation "doesn't appear salvageable."

If Mitchell is moved, perhaps Gobert will still have a long-term future with the Jazz. But it will come at a high cost, as Gobert is likely going to sign a big deal when he hits free agency.


Bradley Beal, SG

Nick Wass/Associated Press

Another player who has spent his entire career with one team, Bradley Beal is also set to become a free agent in 2021 and could opt to leave the Washington Wizards. He's in his eighth season in D.C. after being taken with the third overall pick in the 2012 draft.

A consistent scoring threat, Beal was having one of the best seasons of his career before the NBA was suspended, averaging 30.5 points and 6.1 assists, both career highs, over 57 games. The 26-year-old could be heavily pursued if he decides to test the free-agent market and not sign an extension with Washington.

One thing that may not work in the Wizards' favor is the lack of success they have had during Beal's tenure with the team. Although they have reached the postseason four times since 2012, they haven't made it past the second round. And this season, they were on pace to miss the playoffs for the second season in a row.

Beal is one of the NBA's best shooting guards, so he should have no shortage of suitors if he doesn't re-sign with Washington.