NBA Free Agency 2021: Projecting the Biggest Contracts Next Year

Jake RillSenior Analyst IIIMay 23, 2020

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, right, looks to drive against Charlotte Hornets forward P.J. Washington in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
Nell Redmond/Associated Press

There's a good number of star NBA players who have played for numerous teams during their career. That list includes LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis. Milwaukee Bucks star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo isn't on that list, but it's possible that will change in 2021.

Set to play his eighth season for the Bucks in 2020-21, Antetokounmpo could potentially hit free agency following that campaign. If he does, he'll certainly be one of the top prizes of the offseason, as the reigning NBA MVP is one of the best players in the league today.

James, Leonard and Paul George all have player options for the 2020-21 season. And while it's possible they'll hit free agency and leave teams, that may be less likely for them than some of the other top players set to be on the market following the 2020-21 season.

Here are predictions for several top players who could become free agents in 2021 and where they'll end up by the end of that offseason.

                   

Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF

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It's possible that Giannis Antetokounmpo could sign a super-max extension to stay with the Milwaukee Bucks into the future. However, there's also a chance that Antetokounmpo hits free agency in 2021 and goes on to switch teams for the first time in his NBA career.

Either way, Antetokounmpo is on track to make more than the $27.5 million he's set to earn with the Bucks during the 2020-21 season. And with plenty of interested teams should he become a free agent, one intriguing option would be him signing with the Golden State Warriors to try to win his first career NBA championship (if he doesn't win one in Milwaukee before then).

As Josh Schrock of NBC Sports pointed out, Antetokounmpo's max contract would start at $37.5 million for the 2021-22 season. It may take some work for the Warriors to make it happen, but Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle said that Golden State has been "preparing for years to make a bid for Antetokounmpo," so it may already have a plan.

Antetokounmpo shouldn't turn down the opportunity to play for a successful franchise and potentially have a fellow superstar or two as teammates. So, an early guess is that Antetokounmpo gets paid and signs a max contract with the Warriors to enter a new phase of his career.

Prediction: Antetokounmpo signs max contract with Warriors.

                   

Rudy Gobert, C

Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

There's a chance the Utah Jazz will trade Rudy Gobert before he gets to the end of his current contract. And while he's eligible to sign a supermax extension with the team, Gobert's long-term future looks like it could be on track to happen somewhere other than Utah.

Gobert reportedly had been having issues with fellow Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell, but he recently told Bleacher Report's Taylor Rooks that "their relationship is great." It doesn't change the fact, however, that Utah may eventually have to make a decision between Mitchell and Gobert as both are likely to sign large new deals within the next few years.

For Gobert, he's proved that he's worthy of a big payday, particularly because of his defensive play. He's a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, and this season, he earned his first career All-Star selection and has averaged 15.1 points, a career-high 13.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in 62 games.

Assuming Gobert stays with the Jazz for the 2020-21 season, they might not want to sign him to a supermax extension and commit that much money to him for the long term. Still, Gobert is likely to sign a big deal with some team and continue to be a top defensive player in the league moving forward.

Prediction: Gobert signs a large, multiyear deal with a team other than the Jazz.

               

Steven Adams, C

Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

With Chris Paul holding a player option for the 2020-21 season and Danilo Gallinari set to become a free agent this upcoming offseason, the Oklahoma City Thunder's roster might look a bit different by the time Steven Adams could hit free agency in 2021.

It's possible that could mean the Thunder will enter a rebuilding phase and might not be a playoff contender for a few years. Or they could find a way to still say competitive while replacing some key pieces, as they still have a talented young building block in point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Adams could also be a part of Oklahoma City's core moving forward, as he's still only 26 and likely will continue to be a productive player for a while. This season, the 7-foot center has averaged 10.9 points and 9.4 rebounds in 58 games.

While the 2020 offseason and the season to follow could greatly change the Thunder's plans, there are reasons to believe Adams will stay in Oklahoma City beyond the 2021 offseason. An early prediction is that he'll sign a sizable multiyear deal with the Thunder and continue to be a valuable piece of their starting lineup.

Prediction: Adams re-signs with the Thunder on a multiyear deal.

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