Looking Ahead: Top 2021 Free Agents

SHENZHEN, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 07: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of Greece reacts during FIBA World Cup 2019 Group K match between USA and Greece at Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre on September 7, 2019 in Shenzhen, China. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Free agency is always one of the craziest times in the NBA. Groundbreaking deals happen just minutes after midnight, many of which completely change the league’s landscape. This summer’s free agent class is likely to be different, as there are very little star names and mostly role players. Next summer is a different story, however, as the 2021 free agents will certainly break the bank. It has potential to be the most historic free agent class in NBA history as the list of elite players is endless. There is still time for extensions to be made before the summer of 2021, but for now the class is stacked.

Looking Ahead: Top 2021 Free Agents

Veteran Help

Before diving into the list of stars, there will be plenty of veterans seeking their last NBA contract in 2021. Although they are not likely to be All-Stars, they have the experience and quality to transform a team. This includes the likes of Danny Green, Blake GriffinKyle LowryChris Paul, and Lou Williams.

Green has seemingly taken a step back this season, but he is not asked to carry a heavy offensive role with the Los Angeles Lakers. What Green brings to the table will always be needed. He is a great perimeter defender and a sniper from the three-point line. An older Green will be a necessary veteran role player for a top squad.

Griffin has been slowed down by injuries lately. His greatest asset is his explosiveness, much of which is gone. He has a hefty player option, one that he is likely to accept, but if he does not he will be snatched up quickly. The same player option narrative goes for Paul. Paul was named an All-Star this season, but age is catching up quickly. His player option may be too much to turn down, however.

Lowry will be fresh off a massive one-year extension. At 34 he is still putting up great numbers as a leader of a contending team. He can very well be a starter past 2021, but at worst an ideal sixth man. Williams has created a reputation of an elite bench player and can score in bunches. Contending teams will be all over him in 2021.

Premiere Role Players

Some players can become stars on lottery teams or opt to be terrific third or fourth options on great teams. The 2021 free agents who fall in this category are Spencer DinwiddieNorman PowellJosh RichardsonKelly Oubre, and Dennis Schröder.

Dinwiddie, Powell, and Richardson will be restricted free agents. For a couple years now Dinwiddie has been ready to be a legitimate starter. He has been held to a bench role in Brooklyn, but is more talented than that. Normally he would back up Kyrie Irving, but with Irving injured Dinwiddie has been putting up roughly 21 points, seven assists, and three rebounds per game. Any team looking for a point guard will definitely consider him. Powell often features off the bench for the Toronto Raptors, averaging 16 points and four rebounds per game. It is clear he is ready to start. Lastly, Richardson is an important piece on the Philadelphia 76ers. His production has taken a slight hit this season, but he is surrounded by more scorers.

Oubre is a fantastic scorer who has blossomed with the Phoenix Suns. As an unrestricted free agent, expect many playoff teams to inquire about Oubre as a third option. He may not want to spend the rest of his prime on the rebuilding Suns. Schröder, also an unrestricted free agent, has found great success off the bench for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He is similar to Dinwiddie in that he can be a phenomenal bench talent but also a starter.

The Developing Youth

2021 will feature a strong crop of developing and young restricted free agents. This includes Jarrett Allen, OG AnunobyJohn CollinsJonathan IsaacKyle KuzmaLauri Markkanen, and Derrick White.

Allen was on the verge of breaking out before the Brooklyn Nets signed DeAndre Jordan. At only 22, he is a terrific rebounder and shot-blocker. Allen, without a doubt, is a starter in this league. Anunoby has quickly developed into an elite defender. In addition, his offensive game continues to grow. His importance to the Raptors cannot be understated.

Collins has all the tools to become a future All-Star. The high-flying forward is becoming more and more of an offensive threat with an outside shot, and can also rebound and block shots. Isaac is similar to Anunoby in the sense that he does not light up the score sheet, but is of the utmost importance to his team.

Kuzma has slown down this season for much of the same reasons as the aforementioned Green. When he is on though, he is a walking bucket. He is not a star, but his shooting and confidence will be welcomed on any team. Markkanen has plenty to work on, most notably his durability, but his ability to stretch the floor is ideal for today’s NBA. White is older than many players in this section, but is a terrific two-way guard.

The Prime Youth

The restricted youngsters in this category are already All-Stars or are on the verge of becoming so. This includes Bam AdebayoLonzo BallDe’Aaron FoxDonovan Mitchell, and Jayson Tatum.

Adebayo is the Miami Heat‘s second-most important player behind Jimmy Butler. The versatile center can do it all – from rack up triple-doubles to defend all areas of the floor. He will certainly be in the mix for a max contract.

Ball, a former Laker, looks to be an essential future piece for the New Orleans Pelicans. He has already built chemistry with Zion Williamson, mostly for his terrific passing and defense. Fox, another point guard, is the bread and butter of the Sacramento Kings. He is one of the quickest players in the league, and with more help around him, should become an All-Star.

Mitchell and Tatum are already proven stars in the league. Mitchell is the leader on offense for the Utah Jazz, a team that constantly makes the playoffs but seems to be missing one or two more pieces before they will be considered contenders. With that being said, Mitchell is the face of the team. Tatum finds himself surrounded by plenty of talent with the Boston Celtics, and took a massive step this season. He is an extremely explosive offensive player and a solid defender. Many expect Tatum to be one of the faces of the league in a couple years.

Top-Notch Veterans

Before going into the best of the best, there are a few 2021 free agents who are not superstars, but top-notch veterans. This includes Steven AdamsRudy GobertJrue Holiday, and Victor Oladipo.

Adams is one of the toughest and strongest players in the league. He does not light-up the box score, but does all the little things necessary for a team to win. He is still a monster on the inside and on the boards, however.

Gobert is a step above Adams. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year is a nightmare for opposing teams. His combination of rebounding and shot-blocking is second to none in the league. He also shoots at nearly 70 percent from the field, making him an efficient option in the inside. He is the perfect piece on a team with one or two offensive stars.

Holiday is one of the most underrated players in the league. He is a stellar defender – most know that. Besides that, he is also a major offensive threat, averaging 20 points and seven assists per game this season. He is capable of more than that too, but shares ball handling duties with Ball in New Orleans.

Oladipo’s injury last season put a halt in his ascent to stardom. He became the face of the Indiana Pacers and an All-Star. If he can return to that level – where he averaged 23 points, five rebounds, and four assists per game – he might be considered a max contract candidate.

The Cream of the Crop

The 2021 class features four of the league’s most elite talents – Paul GeorgeKawhi LeonardLeBron James, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

George and Leonard will both face player options with the Los Angeles Clippers. Sure, they can accept and remain teammates, but if the near future does not hold the championships they envisioned they might look elsewhere. George can do a little bit of everything, especially score at will. He is the ideal second option when with a player like Leonard, but is very capable of being the leader of his own contending team. Leonard, on the other hand, is a top three defender in the league. More than that, however, he also averages 27 points, seven rebounds, and five assists per game. As seen last season with the Raptors, Leonard can lead a team to a championship.

James is the best player of the last generation. Some might even consider him the greatest player of all time. With that being said, he will be 36 next summer. If this season is any indication, however, James still has a couple years left as one of the league’s best. He will also face a player option, but as we have seen in the past, James is not afraid of taking on a new adventure.

All eyes, however, will be on Antetokounmpo. He is the most dominant player in the league, and is on his way to winning a second consecutive Most Valuable Player award. What he is doing is historical – putting up 30 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists per game on a historically good squad. He is just 25 and is now entering his prime, meaning he will be the face of the league this decade. If he decides to leave the Milwaukee Bucks, the entire landscape of league will change.

 

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