NBA Free Agents 2021: Rumors, Predictions for Potential Offseason Targets

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IApril 23, 2021

NBA Free Agents 2021: Rumors, Predictions for Potential Offseason Targets

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Earlier this week, the NBA announced its schedule for free agency during the upcoming offseason. The league's 30 teams will be allowed to begin negotiating with players on Aug. 2 at 6 p.m. ET, then free agency will officially begin on Aug. 6 at 12:01 p.m. ET.

    There's a lot that will happen on the NBA calendar before reaching that point, though, including the end of the 2020-21 regular season and the playoffs. So, while we can project which players may be available this summer, plenty can change before then.

    Here's a look at some of the buzz regarding several top players who could be heading for free agency this upcoming offseason, along with predictions for where they will end up for the 2021-22 season.

Lonzo Ball, PG

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    There was plenty of buzz surrounding Lonzo Ball ahead of the trade deadline last month, but he ended up staying on the New Orleans Pelicans.

    However, the point guard is set to become a restricted free agent after the season, so it's possible his time in the Big Easy won't extend past this summer.

    According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Andrew Lopez, there were some NBA executives who came away from trade discussions with the Pelicans "with the belief that Ball might be available in a sign-and-trade in the offseason as a restricted free agent." The report noted the Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets and Atlanta Hawks were among the interested teams at the deadline.

    But Windhorst and Lopez also reported New Orleans has "expressed interest" in keeping the 23-year-old, who is averaging a career-high 14 points, 5.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds in 44 games this season.

    New Orleans is a team on the rise with a lot of young talent, and it may want to keep Ball in its lineup for the long term.

    It could be exciting to see Ball return to Los Angeles, though. He attended Chino Hills (Calif.) High School and UCLA before playing his first two seasons with the Lakers. The Clippers could use a young point guard, and it would be intriguing to watch him play with Kawhi Leonard (if he returns) and Paul George.

    If the Clippers arrange an enticing sign-and-trade offer for the Pelicans to consider, perhaps Ball will be on the move again.

    Prediction: Ball goes to Clippers in sign-and-trade

Victor Oladipo, SG

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    Marta Lavandier/Associated Press

    Victor Oladipo was dealt to the Miami Heat ahead of the trade deadline on March 25, but he's only played four games since joining due to a right knee injury. It's an ailment that could also impact the type of offers that the guard, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, may receive this summer.

    Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that it's "increasingly unlikely" the 28-year-old "will get anything near a maximum deal this summer, in terms of annual dollars or even years, from the Heat or elsewhere." He has been limited to 88 games since the start of the 2018-19 season due to injuries.

    However, Oladipo could boost his value if he plays well upon his return. And it is expected he'll get back on the court for the Heat this season, as ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski recently reported that his missed games have been more of a "precaution" (h/t Hoops Hype).

    Before the Indiana product was traded to the Heat, there had been reports of him wanting to go to Miami. If he doesn't get any huge offers, then perhaps it could be more likely he could return in 2021-22.

    So, while it's still early and Oladipo's play could dictate his market, the guess for now is that he'll return to the Heat next season.

    Prediction: Oladipo re-signs with Heat

Lauri Markkanen, PF

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    Can the Chicago Bulls be a successful team with both Lauri Markkanen and Nikola Vucevic on their roster? And can both of these big men excel while playing in the same lineup? It appears there are some in the NBA who believe the answer to that latter question might be "no."

    "In the right kind of system, Markkanen could be a really good player," an Eastern Conference executive told Bleacher Report's A. Sherrod Blakely. "I don't know if Chicago is it; it's certainly not it if they think him and Vucevic can play together."

    Perhaps that means Markkanen, who will be a restricted free agent after the season, could be leaving the Bulls and joining a new team for the first time in his NBA career. And if that happens, Blakely noted one team could be an early favorite.

    "The pool of teams that will have the salary-cap space to make a run at Markkanen is limited, but multiple executives and scouts anticipate the San Antonio Spurs will make a strong offer this summer," he wrote.

    With LaMarcus Aldridge retired, it makes sense that the Spurs would be interested in a player such as Markkanen. So the early prediction here is that the 23-year-old will find his way to San Antonio, perhaps via a sign-and-trade with Chicago.

    Prediction: Markkanen goes to Spurs in sign-and-trade