NBA Free Agency 2021: Start Date, Schedule and Details

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJuly 30, 2021

NBA Free Agency 2021: Start Date, Schedule and Details

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    Jacob Kupferman/Associated Press

    The NBA reached another offseason milestone on Thursday with the 2021 draft. As many expected, Oklahoma State product Cade Cunningham went first overall, and there were few true surprises in the early first round.

    In fact, the night's biggest shocker may have been the news that the Los Angeles Lakers and the Washington Wizards have nearly reached an agreement to send Russell Westbrook to L.A. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell will be part of the deal, along with the No. 22 pick in the draft (Isaiah Jackson).

    The league now turns its attention to free agency, which will unofficially begin on Monday, August 2. Teams can begin negotiating with players then, though deals cannot become official until August 6 at 12 p.m. ET.

    Here, you'll find everything you need to know about the upcoming free-agency period, including schedule, salary-cap information and a look at the top players available.

    First, though, let's take a quick look back at Thursday night's draft.

2021 NBA Draft Recap

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Key Free-Agency Information

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    Rich Schultz/Associated Press

    Key Dates for Remaining Offseason

    August 2: Teams can begin negotiating with free agents at 6 p.m. ET

    August 6: Teams can officially sign free agents beginning at 12 p.m. ET

    August 8-17: MGM Resorts NBA Summer League in Las Vegas

    September 28: Training camps begin

    October 19: Start of regular season



    As previously mentioned, free agency will effectively start on Monday. While deals can't become official—and teams/players could back out of agreements—the flurry of unofficial deals will begin at this time. Signings can be made official at noon on Friday. 

    According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA has set numbers for the salary cap and luxury tax threshold for the next four seasons. For the 2021-22 season, the cap has been set at $112 million, while the tax threshold will b $136.6 million.

    This represents only a three percent increase over the 2020-21 cap number, which, according to ESPN's Bobby Marks, is a product of last year's revenue losses.

    Per Marks, the three percent increase was " a pre-negotiated number between the union and the league to help offset losses due to the pandemic in each of the previous two seasons."

    According to Spotrac, the New York Knicks lead the league in projected practical cap space ($49.8 million). The San Antonio Spurs are second ($48 million), while the Oklahoma City Thunder ($38.8 million), Dallas Mavericks ($34.3 million) and Memphis Grizzlies ($22.8 million) round out the top five.

    The Golden State Warriors and Brooklyn Nets are on the other end of the spectrum.

    Spotrac's projected practical cap space assumes that veteran club options are declined and that non-guaranteed players are released, so these figures may not mesh with the actual numbers when the market opens next Friday.

Top Free Agents

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    In early July, Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey compiled a list of the top 20 pending free agents and potential free agents. His top 10 is as follows:

    • 1. Kawhi Leonard, SF, Los Angeles Clippers
    • 2. Chris Paul, PG, Phoenix Suns
    • 3. John Collins, PF, Atlanta Hawks
    • 4. Lonzo Ball, PG, New Orleans Pelicans
    • 5. DeMar DeRozan, SF, San Antonio Spurs
    • 6. Mike Conley, PG, Utah Jazz
    • 7. Kyle Lowry, PG, Toronto Raptors
    • 8. Jarrett Allen, C, Cleveland Cavaliers
    • 9. Reggie Jackson, G, Los Angeles Clippers
    • 10. Kelly Olynyk, C/F, Houston Rockets


    One interesting note is that Bailey's top four free agents—and five of the top 10—aren't necessarily heading toward unrestricted free agency. Kawhi Leonard and Chris Paul both have player options for the 2021-22 season, while John Collins, Lonzo Ball and Jarrett Allen will be restricted free agents.

    It will be particularly interesting to see if Leonard and/or Paul decline their options and show a desire to find new homes this season. Leonard's situation is complicated by the fact that he suffered a partially torn ligament in his right knee that led to offseason surgery.

    It will also be interesting to see which teams take a run at Collins, Ball and Allen, if their respective teams will try locking them up long-term and/or if sign-and-trades become part of the collective equation.

Latest Buzz

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    There has been no shortage of rumors on the verge of free agency. The latest buzz on Paul is that a return to the Phoenix Suns seems likely. Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus reported last month that Paul is likely to decline his player option but try staying on a long-term deal.

    According to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, that's still the game plan.

    "He wants to be back, and they want him back, so I am fairly certain it will all get figured out. Suns can't talk to him until Aug 2nd, and you can expect them to do things the right way," Gambadoro tweeted.

    It's unclear what Leonard's future hold, but at least one team—the Dallas Mavericks—has lost interest in waiting to find out.

    "Dallas was initially expected to wait and see if Kawhi Leonard gave any indication that he was open to leaving the Clippers, but the Mavericks have moved off of those plans," NBA Insider Marc Stein wrote.

    According to Stein, the Mavericks are in on Lowry, as are the Miami Heat, New Orleans Pelicans and Philadelphia 76ers. He also reported the Pelicans could pursue Spencer Dinwiddie as an alternative to Lowry.

    New Orleans could also be eying a sign-and-trade involving Ball and Indiana Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon—though ESPN's Zach Lowe is skeptical of the rumor.

    "That's been one of the hot rumors," Lowe said on The Lowe Post podcast (h/t Michael Mulford of Lonzo Wire). "Don't know what to think of it honestly, so I haven't mentioned it because I kind of don't know if I believe it."

    According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Allen are interested in extending their partnership, but teams are going to show interested in the restricted free agent.

    "There's mutual interest between center Jarrett Allen and the Cavaliers on a new deal, but the Toronto Raptors are expected to be among the strong suitors for the restricted free agent, according to sources," Charania wrote. "Toronto has attempted to trade for Allen in the past, sources said."

    With Cleveland adding another center on Thursday—it took USC's Evan Mobley at No. 3—the Cavs may be less likely to match an offer sheet from a team like Toronto, depending on the price tag.

    Allen should get his fair share of interest in the coming days.