2021 NBA Free Agents: Rumors, Predictions Based on Late-Season Buzz
For a number of NBA teams, this summer's free-agency period will be about one thing: getting the point.
Point guard, that is.
Sure, there are some big names in the free-agent pool this time around, such as Mike Conley Jr., DeMar DeRozan, Andre Drummond, Victor Oladipo and Kawhi Leonard, but in today's league, it's all about the floor generals and their ability to run the offense, engineer pick-and-rolls and space the floor with long-distance shooting.
While teams won't be clamoring for the likes of Damian Lillard or Stephen Curry, there are players like Kyle Lowry, Lonzo Ball and Chris Paul up for grabs.
Whether they hit the market or not, that's a triumvirate of lead guards who can definitely help franchises.
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors, Unrestricted
Kyle Lowry wasn't moved at the trade deadline, but that wasn't because the Toronto Raptors weren't trying to make a deal.
The problem was that team president Masai Ujiri felt that teams weren't offering what he and the organization felt Lowry was worth.
"I've viewed him as somebody that can go out and put a stamp on what you can do this year," Ujiri told Aaron Rose of Sports Illustrated. "Teams that I saw, I know that if he goes to those places, I've lived it, I've seen it and especially these teams. I know what the guy does. I know who he is."
Fast-forward to the present day, and the 35-year old point guard is still playing at a high level with no signs of slowing down. Through 46 games, the six-time All Star is averaging 17.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game while shooting a respectable 39.6 percent on long balls.
According to The Athletic's Sam Amick and John Hollinger, the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers were all interested in securing Lowry's services and the interest in him is still high.
"Really good," one general manager told Amick and Hollinger about the market for Lowry. "There's teams with money and not a lot of players, so I think he's going to do really well."
Miami will have the money to sign the 15-year veteran this summer, while his hometown team, the 76ers, will need to get creative if they still have eyes for him after the season.
Either way, look for Lowry to be a major contributor on a title contender after this summer.
Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns, Unrestricted (Player Option)
It goes without saying that most point guards in the league will have what Chris Paul is having.
At 36, he's still playing at an elite level and hitting step-back jumpers over the outstretched arms of Father Time.
For the Phoenix Suns, that means that they have the leader they have been missing for a long time and have clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2010, when they were led by Hall of Famer Steve Nash.
CP3 made the All Star team for the 11th time this season, and he has the Suns running like a well-oiled machine. He's also helped unlock Devin Booker's potential and has the young star taking that next step to superstardom.
Conventional wisdom says that Phoenix will want Paul to run it back next season, but with him having a one-year, $44.2 million player option for next year, he could well decline and become an unrestricted free agent and sign with a team that has the best chance at winning a championship.
With a record of 48-19, the Suns are in second place in the Western Conference and, by all accounts, are the future of the league.
But will that be enough for Paul to stick around? Only time will tell.
"I mean first and foremost, I love it here," Paul told The Athletic's Sam Amick. He continued:
"I don't know how many years I've got left. I don't really think about that either. I feel too good.
"Seriously, this summer, I have no clue. As much as I'm involved in the union and stuff like that, I don't know what anybody's teams are, (what their) caps are, I don't know none of that stuff. I just play. And like I say, I'm lucky to have my brother, my brother who helps. I focus on playing."
Lonzo Ball, New Orleans Pelicans, Restricted
It must be difficult to be Lonzo Ball.
Not only is he one of the few big names from his draft class who didn't get a major contract extension like Jayson Tatum, De'Aaron Fox, Donovan Mitchell and Bam Adebayo, but he also has to watch as younger brother LaMelo electrifies the league as a rookie.
Still, the elder Ball has quietly made his own noise this season.
For starters, he's scored a career-high 33 points this year—twice—and he's shown he can be a deadly long-distance shooter when he wants to be.
Through 53 games with the New Orleans Pelicans, Ball is averaging 14.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists.
But the biggest breakthrough for the fourth-year guard is his improved shooting. He's shooting career bests from the floor (41.4), from three (37.6) and from the free-throw line (78.1).
The problem for Ball is that with Zion Williamson's max contract looming and Brandon Ingram already on a max deal, the Pelicans likely won't be able to pay him.
According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Andrew Lopez, that means that New Orleans will likely make the point guard available for sign-and-trades this summer:
"Ball was involved in trade discussions with several teams before last month’s trade deadline, with the LA Clippers, Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets and Atlanta Hawks among the teams showing interest, sources said. Some executives came away from those talks with the belief that Ball might be available in a sign-and-trade in the offseason as a restricted free agent."
Ball's days in a Pelicans uniform might be numbered, but there are plenty of teams in the league that could use his high basketball IQ and court vision.