Stefan Bondy: Top 10 players available on NBA’s


NEW YORK — We’ve written about this before and the trend has remained true: free agency in the NBA ain’t what it used to be.

The stars have learned that it’s better to secure the extension through Bird Rights — thereby maximizing their contracts — and pick the destination later by requesting a trade. Kevin Durant did it. Bradley Beal did it. Dame Lillard could do it next.

As a result, the upcoming free agency won’t include a franchise player changing teams for a fourth straight year. The 2019 class was a doozy and we may never see it again.

But there are some game-changers available, even if most of the top free agents will likely re-sign with their current squads.

Below is a ranked list of the top-10 free agents. The negotiation period begins at 6 p.m. on June 30 — although we know tampering is commonplace beforehand — and deals can become official July 6:


— Age: 33

— Incumbent team: Sixers

— Last season’s salary: $33 million

There have been persistent rumors about Harden seeking a reunion with the Rockets, but our sense is that’s mostly a negotiation tactic. The Rockets have copious cap space and could offer Harden a large contract. They’re also in a rebuild and don’t make sense as a partner for Harden. More likely: Harden re-signs with the Sixers and tries for another title alongside Joel Embiid.


— Age: 29

— Incumbent team: Raptors

— Last season’s salary: $21.3 million

Picking VanVleet’s next destination is tough. The Raptors are certainly in the running to retain their championship point guard, but VanVleet will have no shortage of suitors. The Rockets and Magic have the cap space to sign VanVleet outright. Other teams — the Suns, the Sixers, the Bulls and Timberwolves — are sign-and-trade candidates.


— Age: 31

— Incumbent team: Bucks

— Last season’s salary: $38 million

Just opted out of a $40.4 million player option so you know he’s looking for a massive deal. That’s risky for a player who only managed 33 games last season due to injuries. But the Bucks aren’t in a position to let Middleton walk. Their championship window is closing with Giannis Antetokounmpo as the centerpiece, which is why Middleton’s return to Milwaukee is the likely outcome.


— Age: 33

— Incumbent team: Warriors

— Last season’s salary: $25.8 million

Green is a diminished version of his All-Defense days but he’s a winner and a legend at Golden State. I’d say it’s smart to bet on Green returning to the Warriors, but there are other teams that could jump into the fray like the Sacramento Kings.


— Age: 31

— Incumbent team: Mavericks

— Last season’s salary: $38.9 million

I’m done predicting Kyrie Irving’s movements. He’s all over the place. But we can say this confidently: the Mavericks are highly motivated to re-sign him. They gave up draft picks to acquire him from the Nets and feel compelled to salvage a backcourt with Irving and Luka Doncic. Irving may very well take the money. He could always force a trade somewhere else with the Lakers looming.


— Age: 29

— Incumbent team: Blazers

— Last season’s salary: $21 million

The Blazers are reportedly eager to re-sign Grant on a large multi-year deal, but the franchise is also in a precarious position. Portland has yet to determine whether it’s keeping Dame Lillard, and that decision could easily have ripple effects that result in Grant moving elsewhere. If the Blazers trade Lillard and enter a rebuild, it makes little sense to bring back Grant. Then he’ll hit the market.


— Age: 32

— Incumbent team: Bulls

— Last season’s salary: $22 million

The Bulls will give Vucevic a new three-year contract in free agency, according to reports. Like with Portland, those plans could be disrupted if the Bulls decide to tear it down and trade Zach LaVine. Vucevic is a skilled big man but his lack of athleticism has set a lower ceiling for his career. This could be his last big contract.


— Age: 27

— Incumbent team: Wizards

— Last season’s salary: $13 million

The Wizards are starting over and probably won’t re-sign Kuzma, who is eager for a big payday after averaging 21.2 points last season. Look for teams with cap space to jump into this sweepstakes — the Jazz, Kings, Mavericks, Cavs, Pistons, Rockets, others. Kuzma’s free agency will be interesting.


— Age: 31

— Incumbent team: Jazz

— Last season’s salary: $13.3 million

Similar to Kuzma, Clarkson is looking for a multi-year deal in the range of $20 million annually. He rejected an extension offer from the Jazz last season (mainly because he wanted more money than the Jazz could offer at that point). Nobody willingly stays in Utah for that long and several teams — including the Lakers — have been linked to Clarkson.


— Age: 26

— Incumbent team: Nuggets

— Last season’s salary: $6.5 million

The steal of last year’s free agency (along with Jalen Brunson), Brown would probably like to re-sign with the Nuggets. But a return is unlikely since the champions are capped out and don’t hold Brown’s Bird Rights.

©2023 New York Daily News. Visit nydailynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Source link

Comments are closed.