NBA Free Agency 2021: Rumors, Predictions for Lauri Markkanen, Dennis Schroder

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistAugust 10, 2021

Los Angeles Lakers' Dennis Schroder handles the ball during an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas, Thursday, April 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Just a little over a week after NBA free agency officially started, the cupboard is getting bare for difference-makers. 

Most of the names who could play key minutes for a contender have already been scooped up, and many teams have already turned their attention to the trade market to fill any need on their roster. 

That puts free agents who could still have an impact, such as Lauri Markkanen and Dennis Schroder, in precarious positions.

Both could play a role on a contender.

Markkanen's shooting (40.2 percent from three in 2020) as a seven-footer gives him a high floor as a role player and at 24 years old there's still a chance he develops into something more in the right situation.

Schroder was a starter on the Los Angeles Lakers this season and put up 15.4 points and 5.8 assists per game playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. He brings enough experience and playmaking to the table that he could be a secondary playmaker on a playoff team or provide veteran guidance on a rebuilding roster. 

Both are still looking for homes and both are the subject of rumors connecting them to new teams. Let's take a look at the latest buzz and make some predictions as to where two of the top remaining free agents will land. 


Both Pelicans and Hornets Interested in Markkanen

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Markkanen's free-agency situation is complicated by the fact that he's a restricted free agent at this point, and the Chicago Bulls are still in a position to match any offer sheet their forward would receive. 

The 24-year-old has made it clear he would like to leave the Windy City. He told Finnish journalist Antti-Jussi Sipila (h/t Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports) that he was looking for a "fresh start" in free agency. The forward has seen diminishing production since his second year in the league with Chicago. 

But the situation still puts the Bulls in charge. It's likely that a sign-and-trade is the only scenario by which Markkanen gets to make his exit now. 

Fortunately for him, there are two teams reportedly interested in making that move. 

NBA insider Marc Stein has reported the Pelicans could be looking to engage in a sign-and-trade to add Markkanen. His shooting could be a good complement to Zion Williamson's playmaking and bring shooting to a team that was bottom five in three-point shooting last season. 

Stein also had intel on the Bulls' asking price, noting they want a first-round pick to make the deal. 

Jordan Schultz of ESPN reported the Charlotte Hornets have "emerged as a sleeper team" to bring in the Finnish forward, who would be intriguing as a pick-and-pop partner with LaMelo Ball. 

Of the two teams, the Pelicans are best suited to make the move. They still have multiple future first-round picks from both the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers and none figure to be early selections. 

The Hornets, meanwhile, have the Pelicans' 2022 first-round lottery-protected pick they could include in a sign-and-trade. 

The Pelicans are already in a position where they need to put the best team around Williamson as possible. They also have a recent history of working with the Bulls as they just completed a sign-and-trade to send Lonzo Ball to Chicago. 

That should help grease the skids for another move. 

Prediction: Pelicans Acquire Markkanen in Sign-and-Trade


Celtics Looking to Add Dennis Schroder

Basketball: Boston Celtics Kemba Walker (8) in action vs Los Angeles Dennis Schroder (17) Lakers at TD Garden.
Boston, MA 1/30/2021
CREDIT: Erick W. Rasco (Photo by Erick W. Rasco/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images) (Set Number: X163511 TK1)
Erick W. Rasco/Getty Images

Schroder's reported decision to turn down a four-year $84 million extension from the Los Angeles Lakers in March may be a disastrous one if the current pattern continues. 

With pretty much all of the major cap-space across the league already evaporated, the 27-year-old is looking like the loser of a high-stakes game of musical chairs. 

Schroder will turn 28 right after the season starts and is coming off a season in which he was an important contributor on a high-profile team. However, that team has moved on from him already and his financial options are dwindling. 

That might be good news for the Boston Celtics. Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer reported the C's are "engaged in conversations" to add Schroder. 

Those rumors continue to heat up. Brian Robb of MassLive reported the team is waiting on Schroder's answer on a one-year contract they have offered the point guard. 

Whether that comes through a sign-and-trade with the Lakers or the team utilizes their non-taxpayer mid-level exception. The rumor mill has been relatively quiet on the point guard, so it's possible the Celtics aren't looking at much competition here. 

From a playing time and financial standpoint, this could be the German's best available move. Playing alongside Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum isn't the worst thing in the world, and the Celtics need point guard help to soften the blow of Kemba Walker's departure. 

A one- or two-year deal on a mid-level exception would allow him to continue playing on a playoff team in the East while hitting free agency again before hitting 30. 

Prediction: Schroder Signs One-Year Deal with Boston