2021 NBA Free Agents: Latest Rumors and Predictions for Lonzo Ball and More
Winning the NBA offseason isn't the same as winning on the court when it matters. However, a relatively small roster size allows NBA teams to construct championship-caliber rosters through free agency and trades more easily than teams in other sports.
The Brooklyn Nets, who added Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in the offseason then traded for James Harden, are a prime example of this strategy. While the postseason has yet to unfold, Brooklyn currently holds the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
This is why teams regularly go on spending sprees in the offseason and why even the most downtrodden of fanbases can hold out hope. If the right pieces are available, a playoff roster can come together quickly.
We're still over two months away from the start of 2021 free agency (August 2), but teams are already laying the groundwork for potential moves. Here we'll dive into some of the latest free-agency buzz and make some early predictions.
The New Orleans Pelicans have a budding superstar in Zion Williamson. One of the players acquired in the trade for former star Anthony Davis could be on the move in the offseason.
While point guard Lonzo Ball is playing well with Williamson and the Pelicans and is set to be a restricted free agent, teams are reportedly preparing to pursue him. This doesn't mean, however, that the Pelicans won't pay up to keep him.
"Teams in need of a point guard are preparing for Ball in free agency even with the Pelicans owning matching rights," ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Andrew Lopez wrote. "New Orleans has only $91 million on its books for next season, giving the team cap space and plenty of room under the tax line."
As Windhorst and Lopez pointed out, affording Ball won't necessarily be the problem. The question is whether any team will offer Ball a contract that New Orleans won't want to match.
Given how well Ball has developed while playing alongside Williamson, it feels unlikely that the Pelicans would balk at a price point that isn't overly excessive. Ball probably hasn't shown quite enough yet to make that happen.
Prediction: Pelicans match at least one offer, retain Ball
Unlike Ball, Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. He was the subject of trade rumors ahead of the deadline but ultimately remained in Toronto.
One team that has previously shown interest in Lowry, the New York Knicks, could be preparing to make another run. New York came close to acquiring him in 2013 and again have him on their wish list.
"They're keeping an eye on Damian Lillard and any other star who may seek a trade if things go sideways with their current franchises. They also have guards like Dennis Schroder, Lonzo Ball and—per SNY sources—Kyle Lowry on the radar for the offseason," SNY's Ian Begley wrote.
The Knicks appear to be close to reversing their fortunes. Their last trip to the postseason came in 2013, but the Knicks hold the fourth seed in the East. Therefore, it won't be a surprise to see New York go all-in for a playmaking guard this summer.
Whether the Knicks actually land Lowry will largely depend on whether he is willing to leave Toronto and what sort of deal he's looking to get. Expect New York to indeed make a play for Lowry.
Prediction: Knicks make a serious run at signing Lowry
Miami Heat guard Victor Oladipo is also scheduled for unrestricted free agency. Like the Knicks, Miami is a playoff contender—it currently holds the No. 6 seed in the East—and could look to keep much of its roster intact.
However, Oladipo's fate could hinge on his recovery from quadriceps surgery and whether the Heat are looking to financially restructure their roster.
"The expectation in the wake of the procedure is that Oladipo would not be ready to return to court work until November or possibly even later," Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel wrote. "...The chances of Oladipo returning to the Heat could come down to whether the team attempts to maximize salary-cap space to sign an outside free agent, such as Kyle Lowry or, possibly, Kawhi Leonard."
If the Heat are looking to chase a top free agent this offseason, they might not view Oladipo as a priority. Given the uncertainty of his recovery, Miami may be more interested in bringing in a player who can contribute immediately.
Prediction: Miami does not re-sign Oladipo