NBA free agency 2023 – Our insiders dissect the biggest stories

NBA InsidersJune 28, 2023, 8:00 a.m. ET11 minutes of reading

What should the Celtics prioritize in free agency?

Bobby Marks breaks down how the Celtics should manage their cap space in free agency.

That The NBA free agency frenzy is almost here. Which stars will be on the move and which teams will make themselves contenders for 2023-2024?

Several players — such as Minnesota Timberwolves big man Naz Reid — have already opted out of their contracts, taking them off the board for potential teams looking to move up their rosters.

But the NBA could look very different as stars like Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard, Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden, Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, LA Clippers guard Russell Westbrook and Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving make decisions about their futures .

The league’s free negotiation period officially begins at 6 p.m. ET Friday, ahead of the league’s annual moratorium period that begins Saturday at midnight ET. Agreements can be concluded during this period, but they cannot be officially signed until July 6.

Our NBA insiders (Tim Bontemps, Kirk Goldsberry, Andrew Lopez, Tim MacMahon and Ohm Youngmisuk) take a look at this summer’s player movement landscape and dive into free agency’s biggest storylines as we prepare for one of the most emphatic periods of the offseason.

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Who has won the NBA offseason so far?

Kirk Goldsberry: The San Antonio Spurs are BACK. They may not win another title for a while, but the acquisition of Victor Wembanyama is by far the biggest offseason acquisition so far. Despite San Antonio entering the lottery with just a 14% chance of landing the first pick, the Spurs beat the odds and now the entire vibe around the team has changed.

Tim MacMahon: Spurs, the length of Wembanyama’s astonishingly wide wingspan. The franchise that gets the opportunity to select a player who would have been the top pick in any of the last 20 drafts wins at least the offseason. That’s especially true with the Spurs, who have had great success with big men who went No. 1 overall, like a some of Wembanyama’s recent dinner companions can attest.

Tim Bontemps: Spurs. Getting Wenbanyama in the door is the kind of franchise-changing move every team dreams of, and the Spurs are living it. Free agency hasn’t even begun, but it will be hard for any team to top San Antonio’s summer.

Andrew Lopez: In the non-Spurs category, how about the Boston Celtics after trading for big man Kristaps Porzingis from the Washington Wizards? Boston was able to help Washington work out a deal that also gave them two first-round picks (one of which they flipped for a number of second-rounders). Despite losing Marcus Smart to the Memphis Grizzlies as part of the deal, the addition of Porzingis gives the Celtics more offensive firepower as they chase another Finals run.

Ohm Youngmisuk: The Phoenix Suns, who got a player that has been coveted by so many teams for so long in Bradley Beal. Sure, they pretty much relinquished control of their draft, but Beal will come in renewed and motivated to win. The same must be said for Devin Booker and Kevin Durant after how things ended so badly in the second round against the Denver Nuggets. It remains to be seen how long center Deandre Ayton will remain a Sun and what new coach Frank Vogel will do at point guard, but the Beal acquisition shows that new owner Mat Ishbia wants to do what it takes to win. Phoenix has as potent a trio as any.

The upcoming free agency period will be _____.

Good time: Confusing. The new collective bargaining agreement, which goes into effect on Saturday, still has not been communicated to the teams in its entirety. Everyone is still adjusting to life under the new rules. There will be bumps along the way as franchises build their rosters.

McMahon: A whirlwind, as usual. It already has with a bunch of big names — Beal, Porzingis, Smart, Chris Paul, John Collins and Jordan Poole — being moved. This isn’t considered a particularly talented free agent class, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a busy and impactful summer trading season.

Youngmisuk: Narrator. With the new CBA and how strict it can be for taxpaying teams like the LA Clippers, it will be telling to see how many teams are operating not just for this season, but with the future in mind. A team like the Clippers, typically willing to do whatever it takes to upgrade the lineup, must walk the line of trying to win a championship with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard while making sure they don’t saddle themselves with bad contracts and a declining product down the road.

López: Cap driven. I think we will continue to see teams trying to maneuver around the new CBA rules regarding the first and second base. We’ve already seen that with the Collins trade to the Utah Jazz, which gave Atlanta some breathing room in the salary cap.

Goldberry: A relative snoozefest. Nothing is certain, but it doesn’t look like this offseason will include the kind of Woj bombs that make us jump out of bed and run to Twitter. Most of the league’s biggest superstars are locked into deals that extend beyond this summer, and trade demand has also been somewhat quiet.

What’s next for Damian Lillard after not requesting a trade?

Brian Windhorst details the latest on Damian Lillard, who did not request a trade after meeting with the Trail Blazers.

Which team will Damian Lillard be on to start the 2023-24 season?

McMahon: Miami heat. It’s extremely difficult to see a realistic path for general manager Joe Cronin to construct the candidate-caliber roster that Lillard has clearly said he needs to be comfortable with staying in Portland. If Cronin can’t pull off a miracle, it’s no secret that Lillard would prefer to move to Miami, which could make a fair-value offer to get an elite scorer and creator to play alongside Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.

Goldberry: Portland Trail Blazers. This is the safe choice here, but it’s also the best bet right now. Lillard’s contract is huge and includes a player option for the 2026-27 season that could pay Lillard over $60 million at age 36. Sure, a team like Miami or the Brooklyn Nets could decide to make a big move for him despite the giant cap hit, but Portland will expect a big return to export the best player in franchise history out of Oregon.

Good time: Trail Blazers because it feels like we’re going to be stuck in permanent limbo when it comes to this story. (I’m only half joking at this point.) If Lillard is traded, though, Miami feels like the only logical endpoint.

López: Trail Blazers. The Blazers and Lillard are bound to see how free agency plays out. If Portland can bring back free agent Jerami Grant and make another splash, Lillard will be in Portland.

Youngmisuk: Trail Blazers. Lillard continues to give Portland every benefit of the doubt. Maybe a few more veteran acquisitions can satisfy him. They have young talent that needs to be nurtured and could be a few seasons away, but until Lillard comes out and demands a trade, it just feels like he’ll be a Blazer to start 2023-24.

Name a player we don’t talk about enough this offseason?

Goldberry: Draymond Green. It’s not like no one is talking about Golden State’s fiery big man, but his choices this offseason warrant even more attention because they could mean the end of one of the modern NBA’s great dynasties. Team president Bob Myers, who helped build the roster, is already out, and if Green leaves as well, it’s hard to see the Dubs returning to the Finals anytime soon. If Green stays, Golden State has a real chance to contend in 2023-24.

López: Dillon Brooks. After an unceremonious divorce from the Grizzlies, Brooks will hit the free agent market. It feels like he’s been a bit under the radar due to the Grizzlies’ tumultuous end to the season, but he’s a prime target for a team looking for an All-Defense caliber player — that is, bear stingers to the side.

What moves should the Lakers make in the offseason?

Brian Windhorst talks about some of the moves the Lakers could make in the offseason.

Good time: Anthony Davis. For the whole discussion of extensions and free agency, it will be interesting to see what happens with Davis and LeBron James, both of whom could become unrestricted free agents in a year. But while James may want to keep options open with his son Bronny possibly entering the league next year out of USC, whether or not Davis signs an extension when he becomes eligible could be a sign of what’s to come in Lakerland.

McMahon: Brook Lopez, because of the potential domino effect his departure could have in Milwaukee. Same goes for Middleton, but I’m more confident the Bucks will keep him. If Lopez leaves, it’s hard to imagine how the Bucks continue as a legitimate contender. If so, rumblings will begin about Giannis Antetokounmpo’s future.

Youngmisuk: Brook Lopez, who can really bolster a team looking to make a leap into contention with his ability to stretch the floor and be an anchor on a level defenseman.

Which team has the most to prove in the upcoming free agent period?

Good time: The goats. Giannis Antetokounmpo can sign an extension this fall. Will he? And what will happen to Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez? If both remain with the Bucks, they enter next season as championship favorites. But if one of them leaves, Antetokounmpo’s future will come under immediate scrutiny. No team has more at stake in free agency as a result.

Youngmisuk: Sacramento Kings. I would love to see them make a big move. They can create $36 million in cap space by waiving Harrison Barnes and Trey Lyles, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The Kings showed they can contend, gained valuable playoff experience and are now in a position to add an impact player to build on the momentum they created this past season.

Goldberry: Sacramento Kings. The Kings were a great story last season, at least on one side of the ball, pairing the NBA’s top-ranked offense with the 24th-ranked defense. The defensive efficiency marker is the stat to watch with them going forward. The big question for Kings’ fans is, can the front office import some new talent during free agency to help them get more stops? If they can, they will light the beam even more in 2023-24.

López: Sacramento Kings. They’ve been linked to a number of forwards this summer, including free agent Draymond Green, but exactly how they use that cap space will be an interesting subplot over the next few weeks.

McMahon: The Houston Rockets, who have the largest salary cap at a projected $64 million and an owner who believes the painful part of the rebuilding process is in the past. Tilman Fertitta, who signed a three-year rebuild when James Harden forced a trade three years ago, expects a team that has drafted in the top four the past three years to be competitive in coach Ime Udoka’s first season . A reunion with Harden seems less likely than it did weeks ago, but expect Houston to target veterans like Fred VanVleet, Dillon Brooks and Brook Lopez.

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