NBA Free Agency 2021: Latest Rumors and Signing Predictions for Top Stars
We've reached the doorstep of 2021 NBA free agency. Though teams cannot officially sign players until August 6, they can begin negotiations starting at 6 p.m. ET on Monday. Several notable names are slated to hit the open market, and many of them are likely to have new homes lined up by Tuesday morning.
An interesting wrinkle to this year's edition of free agency is that some of the top targets—specifically, Lonzo Ball and John Collins—will be restricted free agents. This means that offer sheets and sign-and-trades will be pieces of the equation.
Sign-and-trades will be in play for some unrestricted free agents as well, and we're undoubtedly going to see a ton of cash thrown around on outright offers.
What's the latest buzz with a little more than 24 hours to go before free agency? Let's take a look.
The New Orleans Pelicans extended a qualifying offer to Ball, making him a restricted free agent this offseason. However, the Pelicans may lose the 23-year-old to an offer sheet.
According to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes (h/t Mark Schanowski of ABC 7 Chicago and Stadium), Ball plans to work out a contract with the Chicago Bulls, barring a major "hiccup."
This follows a report from Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer, who noted that there was mutual interest between the two parties.
"For the Bulls, there's believed to be mutual interest with Lonzo Ball on a four-year deal worth over $80 million. If the Pelicans do not renounce Ball, that agreement would have to come via an offer sheet, which New Orleans would have the option to match," Fischer wrote.
Fischer also mentioned the Boston Celtics as potential suitors for Ball. At this point, though, it appears that Ball is most likely to join the Bulls.
Prediction: Ball signs four-year deal with Chicago
Once again, though, New Orleans may be left out when it comes to a point guard.
According to Grant Afseth of DallasBasketball.com, the Miami Heat appear to have the inside track to landing Lowry.
"The Miami Heat currently are viewed as the front-runner to sign veteran point guard Kyle Lowry in free agency, a league source tells [DallasBasketball.com]," Afseth tweeted. "The Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Pelicans remain serious suitors for Lowry's services."
Dallas reportedly leaned into their Lowry pursuit after giving up on Kawhi Leonard, who has a player option with the Los Angeles Clippers.
"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.
As Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel noted, though, Lowry has been linked to Miami since before the in-season trade deadline.
Prediction: Lowry signs three-year deal with Miami
Collins is perhaps even with Ball as the top restricted free agent available this offseason. The 23-year-old Atlanta Hawks power forward is reportedly drawing interest from the Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs, according to Fischer.
However, it looks likely that a return to Atlanta is in Collins' future.
"It appears the Atlanta forward will likely re-sign with the Hawks following their sprint to the Eastern Conference Finals on a deal that could surpass $120 million in total value, sources said," Fischer wrote.
This meshes with what ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said during the NBA draft broadcast (h/t Zach Hood of Peachtree Hoops)—that there's "optimism" about a Collins return in Atlanta. Stein reported that other teams share a similar view.
"Teams interested in Atlanta restricted free agent John Collins, league sources say, are increasingly operating under the premise that Collins can’t be lured away from the Hawks because he is intent on re-signing with them," Stein wrote.
Another team could always swoop in and lure Collins away with the right offer, but it's looking like he is effectively off the market.
Prediction: Collins signs four-year deal with Atlanta