Every NBA Team's Top Target in 2021 Free Agency

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterJuly 9, 2021

Every NBA Team's Top Target in 2021 Free Agency

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    NBA free agency is set to kick off on August 2 at 6 p.m. ET, which is when teams and players can begin negotiating. A moratorium period will last until August 6 at 12:01 p.m. ET, after which players can sign their new contracts.

    With only two teams left in the playoffs, the 28 other squads can focus solely on the offseason, including a free-agent class that features plenty of starters and quality role players.

    Based on available cap space, team weaknesses and positional needs, these are the top targets every team should be chasing.


    Note: These are the top outside free-agent targets only and do not include players already on the roster.

Atlanta Hawks: PG Patty Mills

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 10.8 points, 1.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.6 steals, 41.2 FG%, 37.5 3P%, 91.0 FT%, 24.8 minutes

    Age: 32

    Ideal Role: Backup point guard

    Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk made it clear that he wants to find a reliable veteran behind Trae Young this offseason, as Rajon Rondo and Lou Williams both had a shot at the job last year. With Rondo traded and Williams now set to become a free agent, the Hawks will once again be on the hunt.

    As Chris Kirschner of The Athletic wrote:

    "Schlenk did say that he does plan on improving the backup point guard position this offseason. It's been a revolving door since Young's rookie season, and the Hawks do need more production out of the position. Whether or not the Hawks use some of their midlevel exception or use their draft pick, they'll likely try getting someone who can fit with the team moving forward instead of constantly having to replace that spot."

    Patty Mills has been one of the NBA's best backup guards for the past decade, and he won an NBA title with the San Antonio Spurs in 2013-14. He's a reliable ball-handler who can get his own baskets as well, is a good three-point shooter and has 90 games of playoff experience.

    If the Hawks re-sign restricted free agent John Collins to a max or near-max deal, they won't have much breathing room below the luxury tax, so finding a backup point guard like Mills for the mid-level exception or less is a must.

Boston Celtics: PG T.J. McConnell

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 8.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 1.9 steals, 55.9 FG%, 31.3 3P%, 68.8 FT%, 26.0 minutes

    Age: 29

    Ideal Role: Starting point guard

    The Boston Celtics have a vacancy at point guard after trading Kemba Walker to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Al Horford, one that could be filled internally by Marcus Smart or via free agency with T.J. McConnell.

    Boston is virtually destined to go into the luxury tax this offseason if it re-signs free-agent shooting guard Evan Fournier. While chasing someone like Mike Conley or Kyle Lowry in free agency would be nice, the Celtics likely won't be able to lure them with their $5.9 million taxpayer mid-level exception.

    The Celtics have to hope this near $6 million amount is enough to land McConnell, one of the NBA's better passers and defenders at the guard position.

    Indiana's backup point guard finished first in steal percentage (3.4 percent) and 11th in assist percentage (34.3 percent) this past season and is a high-efficiency shot-maker from inside the arc. Boston finished 27th in assist percentage this season (56.6 percent) and could use a pass-first point guard like McConnell in a starting lineup that features Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

Brooklyn Nets: F Nicolas Batum

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 8.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.0 steals, 46.4 FG%, 40.4 3P%, 82.8 FT%, 27.4 minutes

    Age: 32

    Ideal Role: Backup guard/forward/center

    The Nets will be bargain-hunting in free agency since they're already $17.6 million over the luxury-tax line before making any additions to the roster, per ESPN's Bobby Marks. The most they can offer an outside free agent is their taxpayer mid-level exception of $5.9 million, which they'll need to use wisely.

    Nicolas Batum would check a lot of boxes for the Nets after his bounce-back year with the Los Angeles Clippers. His 6'8", 230-pound frame allows him to defend multiple positions, he made over 40 percent of his threes last season, and he proved that he could be productive next to multiple All-Stars.

    Brooklyn could use Batum as a small-ball center, a ball-handling guard or a floor-spacing wing depending on who else is on the floor, and his ability as a long defender would help take pressure off Kevin Durant.

    The Charlotte Hornets still owe Batum $18 million over the next two seasons, so he may willing to sign a cheaper deal than other veterans with his skill set.

Charlotte Hornets: C Jarrett Allen

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 12.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 61.8 FG%, 70.3 FT%, 29.6 minutes

    Age: 23

    Ideal Role: Starting center

    Charlotte could have up to $22 million in cap space, per ESPN's Bobby Marks, which it should spend on a new starting center to replace Cody Zeller.

    Even if the Cleveland Cavaliers end up matching whatever offer sheet Allen signs in restricted free agency, the Hornets should still pursue him before moving on to other options.

    The Hornets could offer Allen a four-year, $94.6 million deal and hope the Cavs don't match, especially if Cleveland ends up drafting USC big man Evan Mobley third overall.

    While Allen rarely shoots from outside the paint, he did show potential after his trade to the Cavs (6-of-19 from deep). But he will primarily be a pick-and-roll finisher with his ability to rise over defenders for dunks (76.1 percent shooting at the rim).

    Allen could transform the Hornets defense if they are able to pry him away from Cleveland, while Richaun Holmes and Nerlens Noel are serviceable backup plans.

Chicago Bulls: PG Lonzo Ball

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 14.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.5 steals, 41.4 FG%, 37.8 3P%, 78.1 FT%, 31.8 minutes

    Age: 23

    Ideal Role: Starting point guard

    Getting Lonzo Ball to Chicago will be complicated for a number of reasons, but the Bulls should still pursue all avenues to land a potential franchise point guard.

    Ball is a restricted free agent, so the Bulls may need to negotiate a sign-and-trade with the New Orleans Pelicans, who might prefer rookie Kira Lewis Jr. long term. Chicago can create more cap space by waiving Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young, each of whom have partially guaranteed contracts, but they're both valuable rotation pieces.

    The Bulls can use restricted free agent Lauri Markkanen as a bargaining chip as well if they don't want to offer him a new contract.

    A backcourt of Ball and Zach LaVine would feature plenty of scoring, playmaking and size. It would also let LaVine focus more on his own scoring, which he's become one of the best in the NBA at.

    Making a deal for Ball might not be easy, but he should still be Chicago's top free-agent target.

Cleveland Cavaliers: PG Goran Dragic

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 13.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 0.7 steals, 43.2 FG%, 37.3 3P%, 82.8 FT%, 26.7 minutes

    Age: 35

    Ideal Role: Backup point guard/sixth man

    Going into the fourth year of their rebuild, the Cleveland Cavaliers should follow the Atlanta Hawks' model and start adding some veterans around their young core.

    Backup point guard was an issue for the Cavs all season with Matthew Dellavedova missing 59 games, and they could use someone with Goran Dragic's playoff experience to have around Darius Garland and Collin Sexton. At 6'3", he'd be the tallest member of the trio by a few inches as well.

    Dragic will only be a free agent if the Heat decide not to pick up his $19.4 million team option, in which case the Cavs could offer him their full $9.5 mid-level exception.

    Even a new deal for Jarrett Allen will leave Cleveland plenty of space below the luxury-tax line to sign Dragic and a few other bargain vets.

Dallas Mavericks: SF Kawhi Leonard

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.6 steals, 51.2 FG%, 39.8 3P%, 88.5 FT%, 34.1 minutes

    Age: 30

    Ideal Role: Starting small forward/franchise co-centerpiece

    While Kawhi Leonard will likely stay home in Southern California with the Los Angeles Clippers, the Dallas Mavericks need to go all-out in their recruitment of the two-time Finals MVP.

    Signing Leonard to pair with Luka Doncic would immediately vault Dallas into title contention. The Mavericks already have terrific role players and the league's best young talent in Doncic, and Kristaps Porzingis looks more suited for a third-star role.

    According to Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer, Dallas at least has a chance at landing Leonard:

    "Dallas is considered by some executives to be the most serious threat to land Kawhi because of Luka Doncic's presence and the front office's ability to create maximum cap space or work out a sign-and-trade. During Leonard's years with Nike, he also developed a good relationship with Nico Harrison, the Mavs' new general manager and a former longtime executive at the company."

    It'll be difficult for them to land Leonard and re-sign Tim Hardaway Jr., but a starting five of Doncic, Hardaway, Leonard, Porzingis and Maxi Kleber would arguably be the best in the NBA.

Denver Nuggets: PG Derrick Rose

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 14.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.0 steals, 47.0 FG%, 38.8 3P%, 86.6 FT%, 25.6 minutes

    Age: 32

    Ideal Role: Sixth man

    With Jamal Murray's ACL tear likely to sideline him for a good portion of the 2021-22 season, the Denver Nuggets could use another scorer and ball-handler in their backcourt.

    Derrick Rose played a huge role in helping the New York Knicks get the No. 4 seed following his trade from the Detroit Pistons, registering an on/off rating of plus-11.5 while shooting 41.1 percent from three.

    The Nuggets can't offer Rose the same kind of money the Knicks can, but Denver is far closer to competing for a championship, especially if Murray can make a full recovery before the playoffs.

    While Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. can carry the scoring load in the starting lineup, getting Rose to spice up the bench would keep Denver near the top of the West until Murray comes back.

Detroit Pistons: G/F Talen Horton-Tucker

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 9.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 45.8 FG%, 28.2 3P%, 77.5 FT%, 20.1 minutes

    Age: 20

    Ideal Role: Sixth man

    Talen Horton-Tucker could either be one of the biggest bargains or busts when the dust settles on free agency.

    Horton-Tucker could get a hefty offer sheet in restricted free agency from a young team looking for potential. The Los Angeles Lakers, who have plenty of other players to re-sign, may not be able to match it.

    A wing with the size of a linebacker (6'4", 234 pounds), Horton-Tucker is a crafty scorer and playmaker when he gets into the paint. He finished third on the Lakers in assist percentage, behind only LeBron James and Dennis Schroder (20.8 percent), flashing a skill set that would make him an ideal sixth man in Detroit.

    His outside shot needs a lot of work (28.2 percent from three), but he's still young enough and inexperienced enough (71 career games in two years) to make a big improvement with the right coaching.

Golden State Warriors: PG Reggie Jackson

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 10.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.6 steals, 45.0 FG%, 43.3 3P%, 81.7 FT%, 23.0 minutes

    Age: 31

    Ideal Role: Sixth man

    While Reggie Jackson's playoff performance (17.8 points, 3.4 assists, 40.8 percent from three) figures to earn him a big payday in free agency, a lot of point guards above him are also waiting to be paid. Jackson will have to decide if he wants to chase one more big contract or take less to join a title contender like the Golden State Warriors, who can only offer him their $5.9 million taxpayer mid-level exception.

    The Warriors should love to have Jackson as their backup point guard and sixth man, especially with his outside shooting improvement and white-hot playoff run.

    Jackson would also give Golden State the option to go small with a lineup of him, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green launching an all-out offensive attack.

    Getting Jackson out of Los Angeles would be a bonus as well, as he was the Clippers' third-best player behind Kawhi Leonard and Paul George during their run to the Western Conference Finals.

Houston Rockets: PF/C Lauri Markkanen

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 13.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 48.0 FG%, 40.2 3P%, 82.6 FT%, 25.8 minutes

    Age: 24

    Ideal Role: Starting power forward

    It's hard to imagine Lauri Markkanen returning to the Chicago Bulls. He moved to the bench following the trade for Nikola Vucevic, so he could use a fresh start on a team that needs his floor-spacing abilities more.

    If the Houston Rockets take shooting guard Jalen Green with the second overall pick, they should want to surround him, Kevin Porter Jr. and John Wall with shooting and keep the driving lanes open.

    The 7-footer averaged 17.3 points and 5.9 rebounds as a starter, has an incredibly difficult jumper to contest, and he can spend time at both power forward and center.

    Markkanen isn't a good low-post scorer or a facilitator, but his skill set would be a natural fit in Houston.

Indiana Pacers: G/F Tim Hardaway Jr.

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 16.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.4 steals, 44.7 FG%, 39.1 3P%, 81.6 FT%, 28.4 minutes

    Age: 29

    Ideal Role: Starting shooting guard

    New Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle should want to bring Tim Hardaway Jr. over from Dallas with him. He's a big, athletic two-guard who made 40.9 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes this past season.

    Hardaway would fit nicely between Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert in the starting lineup, giving the Pacers yet another reliable scorer in their quest to forget last year and begin a new playoff streak.

    The Pacers also should have interest in bringing back T.J. McConnell, but they're only about $11 million shy of the luxury-tax line heading into free agency, per ESPN's Bobby Marks. They may have to send some contracts out first (Jeremy Lamb, T.J. Warren) or work out a sign-and-trade with the Mavericks to make the money work.

Los Angeles Clippers: G/F Alec Burks

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 12.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.6 steals, 42.0 FG%, 41.5 3P%, 85.6 FT%

    Age: 29

    Ideal Role: Sixth man

    Alec Burks played a big role in the New York Knicks' success this season, doing a little bit of everything off the bench while shooting a career-high 41.5 percent from deep.

    The Los Angeles Clippers should crave that type of versatility in their reserve unit. The 6'6" Burks can play and defend multiple positions, score for himself or serve as a floor spacer for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

    The Clippers' main focus in free agency will be re-signing Leonard, which would push them into the luxury tax. They can only offer outside free agents their $5.9 million taxpayer mid-level exception, which is nearly the same deal Burks played on for the Knicks this season (one year, $6 million).

Los Angeles Lakers: F Jeff Green

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 11.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.5 steals, 49.2 FG%, 41.2 3P%, 77.6 FT%

    Age: 34

    Ideal Role: Backup forward/center

    The Los Angeles Lakers will have to sort out their own collection of free agents first (Dennis Schroder, Andre Drummond, Talen Horton-Tucker, Alex Caruso, Markieff Morris, Montrezl Harrell, Wesley Matthews, Ben McLemore) before deciding who they can realistically afford or need on the open market.

    When the dust settles, Jeff Green should still be a useful piece. He's an athletic defender who can play power forward or small-ball center and is coming off a strong season with the Brooklyn Nets.

    LeBron James has recruited Green before (with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017-18) and could use his experience, versatility and shot-making ability once again. Green hasn't played on more than a veteran minimum contract since 2016-17, which should give the Lakers hope that they can sign him for the same.

Memphis Grizzlies: F Kelly Oubre Jr.

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 15.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 43.9 FG%, 31.6 3P%, 69.5 FT%, 30.7 minutes

    Age: 25

    Ideal Role: Starting small forward

    The Memphis Grizzlies will have approximately $22 million to spend in free agency if they decline their $13 million team option on Justise Winslow, per ESPN's Bobby Marks. Even if they want to keep Winslow around, they should try to work out a smaller contract given his injury history.

    Finding an athletic, scoring wing to play between Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. would help bump the Grizzlies up in the West, especially one who fits their timeline.

    Oubre averaged 17.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and shot 36.5 percent from three over his final 34 games with the Golden State Warriors following a slow start, showing his ability as a three-level scorer with size on the wing.

    The Warriors would likely hate to lose Oubre for nothing, but they're so far into the luxury tax that the Grizzlies could outbid them with a significant offer. As an unrestricted free agent, Oubre can choose to go wherever he wants, and he'd find more shots and a bigger role in Memphis with Klay Thompson set to return for the Warriors.

Miami Heat: SF Kawhi Leonard

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.6 steals, 51.2 FG%, 39.8 3P%, 88.5 FT%, 34.1 minutes

    Age: 30

    Ideal Role: Starting small forward/franchise centerpiece

    Much like with the Dallas Mavericks, adding Kawhi Leonard to an already talented roster would make the Miami Heat instant title contenders.

    The Heat would need to clear as much cap space as possible first, which means declining team options on Goran Dragic and Andre Iguodala and letting Victor Oladipo walk in free agency. They'd still be just short of max cap space, which means Leonard would either have to take a discount, they'd have to sign-and-trade for him, or they'd need to move young players like Tyler Herro, Precious Achiuwa and KZ Okpala to a team with cap space.

    While there's no easy answer here, getting Leonard to join a core of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo is worth pursing. As Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer recently noted, "Leonard tried to recruit Jimmy Butler to the Clippers before (Paul) George was acquired, so Miami could offer Kawhi an enticing chance to play with him."

    Leonard would have to be blown away by another team to leave the Clippers after only two years, but Miami may prove to be an attractive destination.

Milwaukee Bucks: SG Victor Oladipo

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 19.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.4 steals, 40.8 FG%, 32.6 3P%, 75.4 FT%

    Age: 29

    Ideal Role: Starting shooting guard/sixth man

    The Milwaukee Bucks already have more than $140 million in guaranteed salary on their books for next season, which puts them into luxury-tax territory. Since they may try to re-sign Bobby Portis and P.J. Tucker as well, they'll need to go bargain-hunting in free agency.

    Oladipo is a high-risk, high-reward player whose timetable to return from surgery on his right quadriceps tendon is currently unclear. His surgeon told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski that he could be cleared for full-contact basketball in November, but ESPN's Brian Windhorst said there's a "good chance" that he misses the entire 2021-22 season.

    The Bucks wouldn't need Oladipo to be ready for the start of the regular season. They could let him take his time and aim for a return to the court before the playoffs begin.

    Adding a healthy Oladipo alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, Brook Lopez and others would make Milwaukee the favorites in the East. The Bucks can offer Oladipo their $5.9 million taxpayer mid-level exception with the hope of winning a title and getting his value back up for free agency in 2022.

Minnesota Timberwolves: PF P.J. Tucker

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 3.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.8 steals, 37.3 FG%, 33.6 3P%, 75.0 FT%, 26.1 minutes

    Age: 36

    Ideal Role: Starting power forward

    The Minnesota Timberwolves' rebuild needs to end.

    Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell are going into their seventh NBA season, Anthony Edwards could be an All-Star as early as next year, and there's enough surrounding talent (Malik Beasley, Ricky Rubio, Jaden McDaniels, Jarrett Culver) to win now.

    Tucker would help that cause. He's a gritty defender who doesn't need a ton of shots but can still space the floor for others with his three-point ability (39.1 percent following a trade to the Milwaukee Bucks).

    The veteran forward has played in 68 playoff games and counting the past five years, having to guard the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant along the way.

    Adding his toughness and experience to Minnesota's locker room could help push the Wolves back into the playoffs.

New Orleans Pelicans: SG/SF Danny Green

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 9.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.3 steals, 41.2 FG%, 40.5 3P%, 77.5 FT%, 28.0 minutes

    Age: 34

    Ideal Role: Backup guard/forward

    Like the Timberwolves, the New Orleans Pelicans should be desperate to end their rebuild and secure a spot in the West playoffs. Adding a veteran like Danny Green who can shoot, defend and bring some leadership to the team could help.

    A starter on the 2019 and 2020 champion Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers, Green also played a big role in helping the Philadelphia 76ers snag the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference this year. The Sixers lost three of their final four games against the Atlanta Hawks in the conference semifinals after Green strained a calf muscle early in Game 3. 

    While Brandon Ingram has the starting small forward job locked up in New Orleans, Green could compete with Eric Bledsoe and Nickeil Alexander-Walker for the 2-guard spot or serve as a reserve at both positions.

    The Pelicans' main focus will be on restricted free agent Lonzo Ball, but Green would fit the team no matter who starts at point guard next year.

New York Knicks: PG Chris Paul

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 16.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 1.4 steals, 49.9 FG%, 39.5 3P%, 93.4 FT%, 31.4 minutes

    Age: 36

    Ideal Role: Starting point guard

    The Knicks front office must be cheering for the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals. If Paul wins a title with the Phoenix Suns, why would he consider going anywhere else?

    Paul has a $44.2 million player option for next season that he reportedly "intends to decline with hopes of inking a new multiyear deal," per B/R's Eric Pincus.

    New York can clear as much as $50 million in cap space, which should be more than enough to give Paul a monster new deal and still add talent around him. Given the impact Paul had on Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton this season, the Knicks should do their damnedest to get the future Hall of Famer around RJ Barrett, Julius Randle and Immanuel Quickley.

    The Knicks are good, play in the NBA's most famous arena and have tons of cap space. If Paul is looking to put the icing on the cake of his legacy, there would be nothing like leading New York to a title.

Oklahoma City Thunder: PF/C John Collins

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 17.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.0 blocks, 55.6 FG%, 39.9 3P%, 83.3 FT%, 29.3 minutes

    Age: 23

    Ideal Role: Starting power forward

    With more than $40 in cap space to spend if they so choose, per ESPN's Bobby Marks, the Oklahoma City Thunder can throw a max deal at whoever they want in free agency.

    While the Hawks may match such an offer for Collins, it shouldn't stop OKC from pursuing the high-flying power forward in restricted free agency.

    A pick-and-roll with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Collins would be nearly impossible to stop, especially with their outside shooting abilities.

    The Thunder could also throw big offer sheets Lonzo Ball, Jarrett Allen or Gary Trent Jr., forcing their incumbent teams to pay more than they want or let them walk to OKC for nothing.

Orlando Magic: SF Duncan Robinson

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 13.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.6 steals, 43.9 FG%, 40.8 3P%, 82.7 FT%

    Age: 27

    Ideal Role: Starting small forward

    The Magic were the NBA's worst three-point-shooting team after the trade deadline (31.7 percent), and they could be even worse in 2021-22.

    New center Wendell Carter Jr. hits only 24.1 percent of his threes in his 22 games, and point guard Markelle Fultz knocked down 25.0 percent of his threes before tearing his ACL. The return of Jonathan Isaac should do wonders for the team's defense, but he's only a career 33.0 percent marksman from deep.

    Orlando desperately needs shooting, which should lead them to Robinson, one of the best outside threats in the NBA. The career 42.3 percent shooter from three could completely change the Magic's floor spacing.

Philadelphia 76ers: PG Kyle Lowry

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 17.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 43.6 FG%, 39.6 3P%, 87.5 FT%, 34.8 minutes

    Age: 35

    Ideal Role: Starting point guard

    The Philadelphia 76ers won't be able to lure Kyle Lowry with their $5.9 million taxpayer mid-level exception, but they could try to work out a sign-and-trade agreement with the Toronto Raptors.

    If the Raptors land Jalen Suggs with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft, they may be willing to send Lowry elsewhere. Much like Jimmy Butler wanting to join the cap space-less Miami Heat in 2019, the Sixers could work to obtain a star rather than lose one.

    Lowry would be the perfect point guard for the Sixers. He's a leader with championship experience, and he can still set the table for others and score for himself at a high rate.

    Working out a sign-and-trade won't be easy, of course, and may have to include Ben Simmons or Tobias Harris for salary matching purposes. If Philly had to give up either, it would be fair to ask for more in return from Toronto than just Lowry. Just including George Hill and Seth Curry may not be enough salary going out to keep the Sixers under the hard cap.

    If Lowry wants to go back to his Philadelphia roots, the Raptors should respect his wishes while also getting some assets back in return.

Phoenix Suns: G Frank Ntilikina

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 2.7 points, 0.9 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.5 steals, 36.7 FG%, 47.9 3P%, 44.4 FT%

    Age: 22

    Ideal Role: Backup point guard

    After re-signing Chris Paul (assuming he doesn't pick up his $44.2 million player option), the Phoenix Suns should look for young backup guards he can mentor and squeeze some talent out of, a la Cameron Payne.

    With Payne going from a borderline NBA player to a legitimate rotation member in Phoenix, the Suns should hope Ntilikina can become much of the same.

    The 2017 No. 8 overall pick was buried in the Knicks' rotation this past season, but he finally showed some signs of life from outside the three-point line (23-of-48). If Ntilikina can consistently hit threes at an average clip moving forward, his defense should keep him in the league.

    The soon-to-be 23-year-old still has plenty of room to grow, especially on a team that has resurrected careers before.

Portland Trail Blazers: G/F Andre Iguodala

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 4.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.9 steals, 38.3 FG%, 33.0 3P%, 65.8 FT%

    Age: 37

    Ideal Role: Backup wing/defensive specialist

    With Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum set to make over $70 million this season and a new deal for Norman Powell potentially on the way, the Portland Trail Blazers may be limited to the $5.9 million taxpayer mid-level exception in free agency.

    Portland needs to add all of the defensive help it can get after ranking 29th on that end of the floor last season (115.3 rating), preferably wings with size who can guard multiple positions.

    Andre Iguodala isn't the elite defender he used to be, but Miami's defense was stingier with him on the floor this past season. Opponents' effective field-goal percentage have dropped each of the past 10 years with Iguodala in the game, per Cleaning the Glass.

    Add in his playoff experience (170 total games) and history of success (three-time champion, 2015 Finals MVP), and Iguodala would made a nice addition off the Blazers' bench.

Sacramento Kings: C Nerlens Noel

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    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 5.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 2.2 blocks, 61.4 FG%, 71.4 FT%, 24.2 minutes

    Age: 27

    Ideal Role: Starting center

    If the Sacramento Kings can't bring back Richaun Holmes in free agency, they should set their sights on Nerlens Noel. 

    The Kings were the NBA's worst defensive team this season (116.5 rating), which Noel could help rectify immediately. One of the NBA's best rim protectors, Noel is also an expert at playing passing lanes and is quick enough to defend on the perimeter.

    While he'll never be a big offensive threat or outside shooter, Noel is good at diving to the rim and finishing efficiently. For a team that finished a respectable 12th in offense, the Kings would only need Noel to be an elite defender and rim protector.

San Antonio Spurs: PF John Collins

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 17.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.0 blocks, 55.6 FG%, 39.9 3P%, 83.3 FT%, 29.3 minutes

    Age: 23

    Ideal Role: Starting power forward

    With a projected $50 million in cap room, per ESPN's Bobby Marks, the San Antonio Spurs can join the New York Knicks as the biggest spenders in free agency.

    This roster is screaming for an athletic big like Collins, as his presence would open up all kind of pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop opportunities. While DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay took up the majority of the Spurs' power forward minutes this season, both are set to become unrestricted free agents.

    San Antonio's best (and maybe only) chance to get Collins out of Atlanta is with a max deal, something the Hawks weren't willing to offer him last offseason. The Spurs could offer such a contract (likely starting around $29 million) and still have plenty of cash left over.

    If the Hawks did match Collins' offer sheet, Lauri Markkanen, Bobby Portis and Kelly Oubre Jr. could be backup options as well.

Toronto Raptors: C Richaun Holmes

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    Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 14.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.6 blocks, 63.7 FG%, 79.4 FT%, 29.2 minutes

    Age: 27

    Ideal Role: Starting center

    If Evan Mobley doesn't slip to them at No. 4 in the draft, the Toronto Raptors will need to find a center in free agency.

    Toronto can carve out $23 million in cap space if Kyle Lowry doesn't return, according to ESPN's Bobby Marks. The Raptors could offer Richaun Holmes a sizable deal to become their new starting center and then re-sign restricted free agent Gary Trent Jr.

    Holmes is an excellent rim-running center who thrived as a full-time starter in Sacramento. Among all players who defended five shots or more at the rim per game, Holmes' opponent field-goal percentage of 51.4 ranked fifth overall.

Utah Jazz: G/F Josh Richardson

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    Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 12.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.0 steals, 42.7 FG%, 33.0 3P%, 91.7 FT%, 30.3 minutes

    Age: 27

    Ideal Role: Backup wing defender

    For as talented as the Utah Jazz are on both ends of the ball, they lack wing defenders who can switch and guard multiple positions.

    Although he's limited offensively, Josh Richardson could fill that void with his 6'5", 200-pound frame.

    Richardson may have to take a pay cut to join the Jazz, as he has an $11.6 million player option for next season and Utah only has the $5.9 million taxpayer mid-level exception. The Mavericks could always work out a trade in which Richardson picks up his option first, though.

    Re-signing Mike Conley will be Utah's top priority, but it must also search for a wing defender. Richardson could be that answer.

Washington Wizards: G Cameron Payne

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    2020-21 Stats Per Game: 8.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 0.6 steals, 48.4 FG%, 44.0 3P%, 89.3 FT%

    Age: 26

    Ideal Role: Backup point guard

    Bring back the Russ and Cam dance-offs!

    Russell Westbrook and Cameron Payne, who played together on the Thunder in the mid-2010s, would form a nice combo at point guard for the Washington Wizards. Payne resuscitated his career in Phoenix this season to the point that he could command the majority of Washington's $9.5 million non-taxpayer mid-level exception.

    Payne finished 10th overall in three-point accuracy this season, which is a major upgrade over Westbrook's 31.5 percent mark.

    Following their strong end to the season, adding Payne to a bench that features Davis Bertans and Thomas Bryant would help the Wizards move up in the East.


    Salary-cap information via ESPN's Bobby Marks and Spotrac unless otherwise noted.