NBA free agency begins on Friday, June 30, and there are plenty of big names that will be on the market.
Guessing landing spots and salaries is an inexact science. It only takes one team to blow things completely out of the water, but I’m still staring into my crystal ball.
After looking at the rumor mill, my salary model, team needs, spending constraints and the general free agent marketplace, here’s my best guess at where these players will end up and how much they sign.
FREE AGENCIES: Total | PG | SG | SF
NBA free agency predictions 2023
James Harden re-signs with 76ers (three years, $135 million with partial guarantee in third year)
That figure is significantly less than the estimated maximum of $202 million over four years that another team could offer Harden and his max $210 million with the Sixers. But who gives that out to a 33-year-old in decline under a much more restrictive collective bargaining agreement?
Harden has expressed interest in a Rockets reunion, and they have the option to go out and sign him. However, the Sixers have done some things to make sure that doesn’t happen, including firing Doc Rivers, who Harden never really seemed to click with.
They desperately need him back because they have no options to replace him if he leaves, other than trying to attach assets in a Tobias Harris trade.
Three years and $135 million gets Harden close to his $47 million max in Year 1 of his deal and gives the Sixers a little wiggle room under the restrictive second apron.
Harden took less money to come back to Philadelphia last summer, and I think he’ll do the same again for his best shot at a ring.
Kyrie Irving re-signs with Mavericks (three years, $120 million with player option)
Irving can get up to five years and $272 million from the Mavericks, so this would be a cut from what he wants. But like Harden, who will offer him big money?
Only the Jazz, Magic, Rockets and Spurs could easily open up significant cap space to reach his max. Those destinations don’t make sense to him.
The Mavericks have said they want to re-sign Irving. The prospect of being stuck with him for five years if this thing goes sideways is probably uncomfortable for them.
Three years is short enough for his deal to be moved if things really go south, and he’ll have the opportunity to land another big contract in the not-so-distant future.
Draymond Green re-signs with Warriors (three years, $75 million)
Green will have other suitors on the free agency market, and he’ll probably have to take less from the Warriors to stay there. He would be an interesting option for the Kings and they have cap space. If he decides to prioritize money, then Sacramento is where I think he would land.
But Green has such a strong familiarity with the Warriors, and they seem to have him back. A three-year deal puts him on the same timeline as Stephen Curry. It would cost the Warriors well over $100 million in tax pay alone to bring Green back next season, so this could go either way.
Khris Middleton re-signs with Bucks (four years, $110 million)
Middleton opted out of $40 million next season to become an unrestricted free agent, and there is money out there for him. At 31 years old with some worrying health issues, this is his last chance to land a multi-year deal.
The Bucks are in win-now mode and can’t afford to lose him. This type of deal structure gives the Middletons more money overall, but spreads it out so their tax payment isn’t quite as steep.
Brook Lopez re-signs with Bucks (three years, $60 million)
The Bucks are legitimate title contenders, and Lopez is critical to the team’s success. They have struggled without him in the past.
He’s still a high-level player for the Bucks, and there aren’t really any strong replacement candidates since they won’t have any cap space this summer. The Rockets are reportedly interested in Lopez, so there will be competition for his services.
Lopez is 35 years old, so this contract is going to look bad. But $20 million is about what an average starter makes these days, and Lopez is still at that level.
Fred VanVleet re-signs with Raptors (four years, $130 million)
Gary Trent Jr. unexpectedly picked up his player option and took what little opportunity the Raptors had to be a cap space team out the window. That means they have no options to replace VanVleet if he leaves.
Given that they don’t appear to be ready for a rebuild, their only real option is to either bring back VanVleet or try to work out a sign-and-trade deal.
That sign-and-trade option would still have to bring back a high-level guard, and there aren’t that many available. Does D’Angelo Russell sound like an upgrade over VanVleet? I’d rather have the VanVleet.
The $130 million is likely more than the Raptors want to pay. But VanVleet was rumored to have turned down a four-year, $114 million extension during the offseason.
He wants more than that number in free agency. If the Raptors aren’t willing to meet that price tag, then the Rockets could be a real option.
Russell Westbrook re-signs with Clippers (two years, $3.8 million with player option)
Westbrook had a good experience playing on the Clippers last season, but they are extremely limited in what they can offer him – just $3.8 million in Year 1 due to cap rules.
Westbrook can make more money playing elsewhere. He could probably find a team willing to go up to the $12 million mid-level exception.
Los Angeles is a good fit for him, though, and playing on a one-year discount allows him to get a much bigger paycheck from the Clippers next season.
Austin Reaves re-signs with Lakers (four years, $98 million)
Reaves was crucial to the Lakers’ playoff run, showing he can hold his own defensively and create a secondary offense for them. He will likely get an offer sheet from another team trying to poach him, and this is the maximum he can get on the open market.
It’s going to be very expensive for the Lakers, who will likely be a taxing team next season, but they have indicated they will match any offer for Reaves. I believe in them.
Cameron Johnson re-signs with Nets (four years, $100 million)
Johnson recently turned down an extension worth about $72 million over four years, so he’s looking for a payday. The Nets have indicated they won’t let Johnson go easily. That allows Johnson to get a big trade.
He is a young 3-and-D wing that is hard to find in this league. There is smoke that the Rockets are interested in, so the Nets will have to pony up to keep him.
Grant Williams is part of the sign-and-trade (four years, $65 million)
The Celtics’ international situation is quickly becoming untenable. They will owe big money to both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, forcing them into tax and possibly other apron issues.
Williams played well for the Celtics, but he didn’t play big minutes in the playoffs. They cannot afford to pay a non-essential player.
A sign-and-trade is probably the best option for the Celtics going forward. There should be plenty of interest — Williams can shoot from deep and guard multiple positions.
A $65 million contract might sound like a lot for an off-the-bench player, but it matches the $74 million Keldon Johnson recently got.