Fresh NBA Free Agency Predictions and Landing Spots from Latest News

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 2, 2021

Fresh NBA Free Agency Predictions and Landing Spots from Latest News

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    The 2021 iteration of NBA free agency opens at 6 p.m. ET Monday.

    But it's already alive with rumblings about who could be going where and for how much.

    When the market opens, it's sure to move early and often.

    Let's get out in front of it, then, by rounding up the latest buzz and using it to guide our predictions for the top hoopers.

Andre Iguodala Goes Back to Golden State

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    In July 2019, the Golden State Warriors made the business to decision to trade Andre Iguodala for financial flexibility to help pivot after Kevin Durant's departure. Nearly three months later, Iguodala was saying he'd live at least the next five or six years in the Bay Area and acknowledging he forgot at times he was no longer a Warrior, per NBC Sports Bay Area's Monte Poole.

    The split never felt permanent, in other words, giving the trade less "Goodbye" vibes and more of a "See you later" feel.

    Later became now when the Miami Heat reportedly, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, decided against picking up Iguodala's $15 million team option for next season. He is already expected to chat with the Warriors, per Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press, though the Los Angeles Lakers also have interest, per ESPN's Jordan Schultz.

    The Lakers are interesting. They're arguably closer to championship contention, and their franchise follows the lead of Iguodala's old agent, Lakers president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka.

    But they don't have the history with Iguodala that the Warriors do. They didn't win three championships with him like the Warriors did. They don't have the Silicon Valley connections to appeal to to his business side as the Warriors have.

    Iguodala's pull back to the Bay Area should be strong. The interest from the Dubs' side might be even stronger since they need reliable vets to help them return to the championship chase.

    Prediction: Warriors sign Iguodala to a two-year deal with a team option.

Kawhi Leonard Signs One-Plus-One Deal with Clippers

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    While optimism is the prevailing emotion of the NBA offseason, free agency bursts plenty of bubbles, too.

    Like all the Kawhi Leonard dreamers hoping for a split from the Los Angeles Clippers, for instance.

    They surely saw Sunday's report by Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes that Leonard declined his $36 million option for next season. They may have also seen the previous rumblings that he possibly has issues with the L.A. medical staff.

    That might be enough for a glass-full fanbase to convince itself Leonard is coming to town.

    There's just one problem: Leonard isn't leaving. That's not technically set in stone, but why would he?

    In 2019, fresh off a title run with the Toronto Raptors, he chose his hometown of Los Angeles as his landing spot. He even handpicked Paul George as his running mate. While the Clippers haven't made good on their championship potential yet, they do have three playoff series wins to show for his first two seasons.

    Who can offer greener grass than Leonard's lawn? Joining the Dallas Mavericks or Miami Heat feels like a lateral move at best, and if that's how he sees it, why would he uproot for that? Bolting to the Big Apple to sign with the New York Knicks would be a step in the wrong direction.

    The only unknown is what kind of contract Leonard will sign with the Clippers next. He could lock in to a lengthy deal, or he can sign a short pact to delay his big contract until 2022, when the team has his full Bird rights and can offer the five-year max.

    Prediction: Leonard re-signs with Clippers on two-year deal with player option.

Chris Paul Inks New Three-Year Pact with Phoenix

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    It wasn't long ago it seemed virtually impossible for Chris Paul to even consider declining his $44.2 million player option. Even he couldn't see it, telling Sports Illustrated's Rohan Nadkarni in early 2020 there was "no chance" he'd decline the option to grease the gears for a trade to a contender.

    Then, the Point God did a lot of...well, Point God-ing and proving just how transformative his touch can be.

    In 2019-20, he gave purpose to an otherwise listlessly rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder and helped them trounce preseason expectations with a .611 winning percentage and the fifth seed in the Western Conference. His encore was even better, as he powered the Phoenix Suns out of a decadelong playoff drought and into the NBA Finals.

    In free-agency terms, he became a player who could find a better deal on the open market than a one-year balloon payment of $44.2 million. He might have to sacrifice some 2021-22 salary, but with his 36th birthday behind him, he might have more appreciation for a three-year deal in the $100 million range.

    Paul reportedly declined the option, per Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic. If Phoenix knows what's good for the franchise, it should already be prepared to pay what it will take to keep Paul. There's "optimism" that he and the club will work out on an agreement, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

    The Suns just saw flashes of their core's potential, and it delivered them within two wins of their first NBA title. They'd be foolish not to pay the floor general.

    Prediction: Paul signs three-year deal to stay with Suns.

Heat Win Kyle Lowry Sweepstakes

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    The Miami Heat might only be a year removed from an NBA Finals run, but they have plenty of questions to answer after following a ho-hum regular season (40-32) by being swept out of the opening round.

    Kyle Lowry might be only two years removed from celebrating a championship with the Toronto Raptors, but he and the team could be ready for change after an injury-riddled and loss-filled season.

    See where we're headed?

    The Heat need a difference-maker on the perimeter who can organize the offense, make open shots and defend at a level coach Erik Spoelstra can live with. Lowry, who turned 35 in March, needs a championship contender on the same timeline he is, ideally one that shares his relentless approach at both ends of the floor.

    Miami and Lowry need each other, and they have the perfect matchmaker in Jimmy Butler. He is the central superstar in South Beach and a close enough friend of Lowry to make him the godfather of his daughter.

    This makes too much sense to not happen, and both sides seem to know it. Everything "is clearly pointing toward" Lowry linking up with Butler and the Heat through a sign-and-trade, per B/R's Jake Fischer. Look for Miami to double down on this partnership with a four-year max extension for Butler, too.

    Prediction: Lowry is signed-and-traded to Heat for Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa.


    Stats courtesy of and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted. Salary information via Basketball Insiders.

    Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.