NBA Free Agency 2021: Latest Rumors and Predictions for Chris Paul and More

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIJuly 31, 2021

NBA Free Agency 2021: Latest Rumors and Predictions for Chris Paul and More

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The 2021 NBA draft took place Thursday night, and now the next important date on the offseason calendar is the start of free agency. While that doesn't officially arrive until Friday at 12:01 p.m. ET, teams can begin negotiating with players on Monday at 6 p.m. ET.

    For some players, it may not take long to agree to deals, either with their former teams or new ones. Others will stay on the market for longer, weighing options before signing a contract for the 2021-22 season (and potentially longer).

    There have already been some major trades this offseason. Once free agency begins, the landscape of the league is likely to change even more.

    Here's some of the latest offseason buzz surrounding several notable players, along with predictions for where each will end up for the 2021-22 season.

Chris Paul, PG

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    Aaron Gash/Associated Press

    Last November, Paul was traded to the Phoenix Suns. He reunited with Monty Williams, brought veteran leadership to a young team and then helped guide the franchise to its first NBA Finals appearance since 1993. So why wouldn't Paul want to come back to Phoenix and try to do it again?

    According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, there are many who are thinking the same thing.

    "The feeling within the league now is that Chris Paul is going to stay put in Phoenix," Windhorst said on The Hoop Collective podcast (h/t RealGM). "The belief is Chris Paul will not ever be on the open market."

    Paul has a choice to make, though. He holds a $44.2 million player option for the 2021-22 season. The 36-year-old point guard can either accept that or decline it and become an unrestricted free agent. But even in that latter scenario, the Suns would hold his Bird rights, meaning they could go over the salary cap to re-sign him.

    There had been speculation that Paul could potentially join the Los Angeles Lakers, but that's not going to happen after they traded for Russell Westbrook on Thursday. Plus, Paul recently made it seem like he'll be coming back to Phoenix with a recent tweet. So expect him to come back to the Western Conference champions, even if he declines his option and works out a new deal.

    Prediction: Paul returns to Phoenix

DeMar DeRozan, SG

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    After spending the past three seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, DeRozan is likely going to be on the move this offseason. The 31-year-old shooting guard has never won an NBA title, and the Spurs don't appear to be in the best position to help him change that.

    DeRozan is set to become an unrestricted free agent, and there will likely be plenty of teams with interest. However, it may be possible to now count out the Lakers.

    Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that DeRozan had been having talks with Lakers star LeBron James about coming to Los Angeles, but that situation is no longer doable because of the Westbrook trade. That means DeRozan will have to think about other teams he may want to join.

    According to SNY's Ian Begley, the New York Knicks have DeRozan on their radar. And earlier in the week, ESPN's Marc Spears shared that the Los Angeles Clippers are also among the teams showing interest.

    The prediction here is that DeRozan will join the Clippers. He was born in Compton, California, so not only will he get to return home, but he'll join a team that will be contending for a championship next season.

    Prediction: DeRozan signs with Clippers

John Collins, PF

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    This offseason, John Collins is a restricted free agent. So while teams other than the Atlanta Hawks can try to sign the 23-year-old power forward, the Hawks are in control with the ability to match the terms of any potential offer sheets.

    Because of that, it's sounding increasingly likely that Collins will be staying in Atlanta next season.

    "Teams interested in Atlanta restricted free agent John Collins have grown increasingly pessimistic that Collins can be signed away from the Hawks, league sources say," NBA reporter Marc Stein recently tweeted.

    It makes sense that Atlanta would want to keep Collins, a four-year NBA veteran coming off another strong season. He also helped the Hawks reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2015.

    Collins ending up anywhere other than Atlanta would be a shock. Be ready to see him back with the Hawks for the 2021-22 season.

    Prediction: Collins re-signs with Atlanta