Free Agent Stock Watch

Free Agent Stock Watch: Southwest Division

For the rest of the regular season and postseason, Hoops Rumors is taking a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this offseason. We consider whether their stock is rising or falling due to their performance and other factors. Today, we’re focusing on a handful of Southwest players.


Jalen Brunson, G, Mavericks

2021/22: Minimum salary
2022/23: UFA
Stock: Up ⬆️

Brunson will never be considered the Mavericks’ best pick in the 2018 draft – that honor belongs to backcourt partner Luka Doncic – but he has become one of that draft’s best values. Selected 33rd overall, Brunson has gradually taken on a larger role in Dallas and is enjoying the best year of his career in 2021/22, averaging 16.2 PPG, 4.9 APG, and 3.8 RPG on .498/.368/.845 shooting in 73 games (32.0 MPG).

Brunson’s four-year, $6.1MM rookie contract was a great deal for the Mavs, but they’ll have to give him a massive raise if they want to keep him. Because he’s a second-rounder who signed for four years, the 25-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent this summer rather than restricted. That should give him more leverage in contract negotiations, as should the interest he’s reportedly receiving from the Knicks and Pistons.

The rumored asking price for Brunson’s next deal is $80MM for four years, which seems within reach — other guards like Fred VanVleet, Lonzo Ball, and Malcolm Brogdon have signed similar contracts in recent years, and Brunson’s representatives can make a case that his résumé matches up favorably with what those players had accomplished when they finalized their respective deals.

Dennis Schröder, G, Rockets

2021/22: $5.89MM
2022/23: UFA
Stock: Down ⬇️

Schröder’s stock has yo-yo’d up and down drastically in the last two seasons. After famously turning down an extension offer worth a reported $80MM+ from the Lakers, Schröder settled for a one-year, $5.9MM deal with Boston in free agency. He outperformed that contract early in the season, prompting some discussion about how the Celtics – who would have only held his Non-Bird rights at season’s end – wouldn’t be able to afford to bring him back.

However, Schröder eventually fell back down to earth and became a trade chip for the C’s, who sent him to Houston. Initially viewed as a possible buyout candidate for the lottery-bound Rockets, the veteran guard earned some early praise for his impact on the team’s young guards. But Schröder’s overall numbers in 15 games in Houston, including a .393 FG% and a .328 3PT%, probably won’t convince offseason suitors that he deserves a raise on his 2022/23 salary.

Lonnie Walker, G/F, Spurs

2021/22: $4.45MM
2022/23: RFA
Stock: Up ⬆️

After a promising 2020/21 campaign in which he averaged a career-high 11.2 PPG in 60 games (25.4 MPG), Walker got off to a dismal start this season, shooting just 38.5% from the field and 29.3% on threes through his first 51 games (22.5 MPG).

He has played far better since the trade deadline, putting up 18.7 PPG on .471/.388/.667 shooting in 13 appearances (27.2 MPG) before he went down with a back injury on March 18. Having rejuvenated his value as he nears free agency, Walker is set to return from that back issue on Wednesday.

The Spurs have been better with Walker off the court than on it, and his overall numbers this season still aren’t great, but he looks like a much safer bet to receive a $6.3MM qualifying offer (making him a restricted free agent) than he did two months ago.

Kyle Anderson, F, Grizzlies

2021/22: $9.94MM
2022/23: UFA
Stock: Down ⬇️

Anderson’s stock has dipped a little this year, but that’s in large part due to how good he was in 2020/21, when he posted a career-best 12.4 PPG and 3.6 APG and established himself as a legitimate three-point threat for the first time (36.0% on 3.8 attempts per game).

Those numbers are all down this year (7.4 PPG, 2.6 APG, .323 3PT%) as Anderson has moved to the bench and seen his minutes cut back. The Grizzlies’ overall success, including a 53-23 record, works in Anderson’s favor, but his +3.2 net rating is among the worst on the team.

While Anderson is still a versatile defender who provides some value on the wing, teams interested in him this summer will probably view last season’s increased offensive output as an aberration rather than a sign of things to come on that end of the floor.

Tony Snell, G/F, Pelicans

2021/22: Minimum salary
2022/23: UFA
Stock: Down ⬇️

The only player on the Pelicans’ 15-man roster who doesn’t have a contract for next season, Snell was a throw-in the CJ McCollum trade last month. He had a few solid games after arriving in New Orleans, but has since fallen out of the rotation and probably isn’t part of the team’s plans beyond this season.

Snell signed a minimum-salary contract last summer with Portland following a season in which he made 56.9% of his three-point attempts. With that number down to 35.3% in 2021/22, another minimum-salary deal is probably a best-case scenario for him this offseason.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Central Division

For the rest of the regular season and postseason, Hoops Rumors is taking a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this offseason. We consider whether their stock is rising or falling due to their performance and other factors. Today, we’re focusing on a handful of Central players.


Zach LaVine, G, Bulls

2021/22: $19.5MM
2022/23: UFA
Stock: Up ⬆️

LaVine is dealing with a knee injury that has diminished his explosiveness, but it hasn’t slowed him down too significantly — he hasn’t scored fewer than 20 points in a game since the All-Star break, and he’s coming off a 33-point showing in Utah on Wednesday.

While the injury is a short-term concern that may need to be addressed surgically in the summer, there’s no reason to believe at this point that it will be a nagging issue in future seasons. LaVine is still significantly outperforming his current contract and is in line for a maximum-salary deal this summer, likely with the Bulls.

Collin Sexton, G, Cavaliers

2021/22: $6.35MM
2022/23: RFA
Stock: Down ⬇️

Sexton is also dealing with a knee injury, but it’s more serious than LaVine’s. The Cavaliers guard appeared in only 11 games before meniscus surgery sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

The fact that Sexton averaged 24.3 PPG with an efficient .475/.371/.815 shooting line in 2020/21 shouldn’t be overlooked, but there are a number of factors working against him. With Darius Garland and Caris LeVert under contract for next season and Sexton entering restricted free agency in an offseason when few teams will have cap room, the Cavs will have plenty of leverage in negotiations. Concerns about Sexton’s knee and his defense may further limit his ability to secure a significant raise.

An eight-figure annual salary is still certainly within reach for Sexton, but a payday in the $80-100MM range no longer looks like a good bet.

Bobby Portis, F/C, Bucks

2021/22: $4.35MM
2022/23: $4.56MM player option
Stock: Up ⬆️

Portis raised some eyebrows when he settled for a two-year, $9MM deal with the Bucks in 2021, giving the club a “hometown” discount after winning a title in Milwaukee. That agreement included a second-year player option, so Portis has the opportunity to revisit the open market in 2022. At this point, it’s hard to imagine he won’t take advantage of that opportunity.

With Brook Lopez out for much of the season, Portis has been thrust into a larger frontcourt role and has responded with a career year, averaging 15.3 PPG and 9.1 RPG on .484/.405/.752 shooting in 61 games (28.9 MPG). He’ll have Early Bird rights this time around, putting him in a better spot to get a raise from the Bucks, who shouldn’t expect the 27-year-old to once again accept a team-friendly rate.

Cory Joseph, G, Pistons

2021/22: $4.91MM
2022/23: $5.16MM player option
Stock: Up ⬆️

The Pistons have been one of the NBA’s worst teams since the start of the season, and any national attention they’ve gotten has focused primarily on Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, and the rest of their young core. Their 30-year-old journeyman point guard shouldn’t be overlooked though — Joseph is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career in Detroit this season, averaging 8.1 PPG and 3.8 APG with a career-best .423 3PT% in 59 games (24.8 MPG).

Joseph may be happy with the Pistons and not interested in seeking a change of scenery. But if he decides to opt out this summer, he should certainly be able to earn a raise, perhaps from a team much closer to title contention.

T.J. Warren, F, Pacers

2021/22: $12.69MM
2022/23: UFA
Stock: Down ⬇️

Having officially been ruled out for the rest of 2021/22, Warren will enter unrestricted free agency having played just four games in the last two seasons due to foot injuries. It’s been an unfortunate run for the veteran forward, who had a great 2019/20 season and looked like one of the NBA’s very best scorers in the Walt Disney World bubble that summer.

What Warren has gone through is reminiscent of what happened to another former Pacer, Victor Oladipo, following his breakout years in Indiana. Oladipo battled leg injuries for two seasons and ultimately settled for a minimum-salary contract when he became a free agent.

Unlike Oladipo last year, Warren should be healthy when he reaches the open market this summer. But given how little teams have seen from him over the last two years, he may not be able to do a whole lot better than the minimum deal Oladipo got.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Northwest Division

For the rest of the regular season and postseason, Hoops Rumors is taking a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this offseason. We consider whether their stock is rising or falling due to their performance and other factors. Today, we’re focusing on a handful of Northwest players.


Jusuf Nurkic, C, Trail Blazers

2021/22: $12MM
2022/23: UFA
Stock: Up ⬆️

A lengthy injury absence preceding a player’s free agency typically doesn’t help that player’s stock, but Nurkic’s value is on the rise despite the case of plantar fasciitis that will sideline him for at least four weeks and could end his season.

Prior to his injury, the veteran center was playing his best basketball of the season during a four-game winning streak (21.5 PPG, 14.0 RPG, and 4.3 APG). As a result, it’s safe to assume shutting him down was more about keeping the Blazers’ tanking efforts on track than it was about any long-term health concerns. After all, Portland has had essentially a neutral net rating (-0.1) during Nurkic’s minutes this season, compared to a -11.7 mark when he’s not on the court.

Nurkic looks like a good bet to get a new contract worth at least the $12MM per year he’s currently making — and likely more than that.

Derrick Favors, C, Thunder

2021/22: $9.72MM
2022/23: $10.18MM player option
Stock: Down ⬇️

Favors’ per-minute production hasn’t declined significantly during the last two seasons, but his 15.3 minutes per game in 2020/21 and his 16.7 MPG this season are the two lowest marks of his career. Injuries and DNP-CDs have also limited him to just 39 games so far in ’21/22.

At age 30, Favors should still have plenty left in the tank, and he could reverse the trend of his declining playing time if he ends up in the right situation next season. But he won’t get a contract offer on the open market that exceeds the value of his player option ($10.18MM). I’d expect him to opt in and then try to work with the Thunder on a trade or buyout.

Danuel House, F, Jazz

2021/22: Minimum salary
2022/23: UFA
Stock: Up ⬆️

Once a key three-and-D rotation player in Houston, House saw his numbers dip in 2020/21 and slide even further to start this season, leading to his release. It took him a little time to find a permanent new home following a 10-day deal with the Knicks, but he has hit his stride again in Utah, averaging 6.7 PPG with an impressive .453 3PT% in 18 games (18.8 MPG).

House isn’t the type of player who is a threat to go off for 30 points on a given night (his career high is 23), but his ability to knock down three-pointers and defend multiple positions could be very important for a Utah team hoping to make a deep playoff run. A strong postseason showing would further boost House’s stock entering the summer.

Josh Okogie, G/F, Timberwolves

2021/22: $4.09MM
2022/23: RFA
Stock: Down ⬇️

Okogie has received praise from head coach Chris Finch for his leadership and his attitude, but the former first-round pick is no longer part of the Timberwolves’ regular rotation, having logged just 48 minutes across seven games since the start of February. He has some value on defense, but doesn’t provide enough on offense to warrant consistent minutes.

While Minnesota can technically make Okogie a restricted free agent this offseason, doing so would require a $5.86MM qualifying offer — I expect the team to pass on that QO, letting Okogie become an unrestricted FA.

Jeff Green, F, Nuggets

2021/22: $4.5MM
2022/23: $4.5MM player option
Stock: Up ⬆️

After years of settling for minimum-salary contracts, Green earned a two-year, $9MM commitment from the Nuggets last summer. The veteran forward will turn 36 years old later this year, so he initially seemed like a safe bet to pick up his $4.5MM option for 2022/23. But that’s no longer a given, based on the way he has performed this season.

Stepping into a larger role than anticipated due to Michael Porter Jr.‘s extended absence (and, to a lesser extent, Vlatko Cancar‘s season-ending foot injury), Green has averaged nearly 25 minutes per game in 63 appearances (51 starts) for Denver, scoring 10.5 PPG on 51.4% shooting.

While he has struggled from beyond the three-point line (30.1%), Green has been a crucial contributor this season for a Nuggets team trying to survive without two of its top scorers (Porter and Jamal Murray). It might be enough to justify an offseason opt-out — if he finishes the season strong, Green could potentially land one more multiyear deal.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Southeast Division

For the rest of the regular season and postseason, Hoops Rumors is taking a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this offseason. We consider whether their stock is rising or falling due to their performance and other factors. Today, we’re focusing on a handful of Southeast players.


P.J. Tucker, F, Heat

2021/22: $7MM
2022/23: $7.35MM player option
Stock: Up ⬆️

Tucker will turn 37 years old in May, and there aren’t many non-stars in the NBA who could realistically turn down a $7.35MM guarantee at that age. Tucker might be in position to do so though. He has been everything the Heat hoped for this season, starting 56 games, playing stellar defense, and knocking down a career-high 44.9% of his three-point attempts. If that performance carries over to the postseason and he plays a key role in a deep playoff run, Tucker could realistically command one more multiyear contract this summer.

Mohamed Bamba, C, Magic

2021/22: $7.57MM
2022/23: RFA
Stock: Up ⬆️

Entering 2021/22, Bamba was facing a make-or-break year. He had battled injuries and failed to take major steps forward in his first three seasons after being drafted sixth overall in 2018. If this season had resembled his first three, he would’ve been hard-pressed to find more than a minimum-salary deal during his upcoming free agency.

Bamba has responded to the challenge, starting 52 games so far for a rebuilding Magic team and establishing new career highs in PPG (10.2), RPG (7.9), BPG (1.8), and MPG (26.1), among other categories. While he hasn’t yet reached the level that some envisioned when he was drafted, his ability to protect the rim and hit the occasional three-pointer (34.5% on 3.6 attempts per game) should make him a popular target for teams in need of a center this offseason.

Bamba will be a restricted free agent if Orlando extends him a $10.1MM qualifying offer. I expect the Magic will do so unless they don’t see Bamba as part of their future.

Thomas Bryant, C, Wizards

2021/22: $8.67MM
2022/23: UFA
Stock: Down ⬇️

Bryant hasn’t been bad since returning to action following his recovery from a torn ACL, but he hasn’t been the same player he was prior to the injury in 2019-21, when he averaged 13.4 PPG and 7.0 RPG with a .411 3PT%.

The Wizards have a -11.7 net rating when Bryant plays this season, compared to a -1.2 mark when he doesn’t. And there’s no guarantee he’ll see consistent minutes the rest of the way if Kristaps Porzingis stays healthy — Bryant was a DNP-CD in Porzingis’ Wizards debut on Sunday.

Gorgui Dieng, F/C, Hawks

2021/22: $4MM
2022/23: UFA
Stock: Down ⬇️

The Hawks presumably envisioned Dieng being a regular part of the frontcourt rotation when they used part of their mid-level exception to sign him last summer. And for a while, he was.

Dieng played in 28 of Atlanta’s first 33 games, but following a stint in the health and safety protocols and the emergence of Onyeka Okongwu, his role has all but disappeared. Dieng has only appeared in 12 of the team’s last 30 games, logging more than eight minutes just three times during that stretch. At this point, it’s hard to imagine the 32-year-old getting another offer above the minimum this summer.

Cody Martin, G/F, Hornets

2021/22: $1.78MM
2022/23: RFA
Stock: Up ⬆️

Cody’s twin brother Caleb Martin has gotten more press for his breakout year in Miami, but Cody has also taken his game to another level this season. He has averaged career highs virtually across the board, putting up 8.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.3 SPG and a .465/.406/.692 shooting line while playing an important role in Charlotte’s rotation.

While he’s probably not in line for a massive payday, Cody has assured himself of a qualifying offer (it’ll likely be worth $2.23MM) and should have some leverage to negotiate a multiyear deal with the Hornets, who won’t want to lose him in unrestricted free agency in 2023.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Playoff Edition

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. With the playoffs in full swing, we take a look at players on teams still alive in the postseason:

Lou Williams, Hawks, 34, PG/SG (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $24MM deal in 2018

When the Clippers and Hawks swapped veteran point guards at the trade deadline, the general consensus was that Los Angeles pulled off a coup landing Rajon Rondo. It doesn’t look that way right now. Rondo has only played nine minutes in the last four games against Utah, while Williams had 15 points, three assists and two steals in 23 minutes during Atlanta’s dramatic Game 5 comeback at Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Williams may not possess Rondo’s leadership qualities, but he’s been instant offense for many seasons wherever he’s played. The 34-year-old has been in the league since 2005 but he can stick around a few more seasons due to his offensive prowess.

Jeff Green, Nets, 34, PF (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.56MM deal in 2020

It’s amazing to think that the Jazz had no use for Green midway through last season and put him on waivers. The Rockets scooped him up and he was highly productive. He’s doing the same thing for the Nets. After a solid regular season, Green battled a foot injury that sidelined him for six postseason games. Back in action, Green delivered a monster performance in Game 5 against Milwaukee, firing in 27 points while draining 7-of-8 3-point attempts. Green won’t have any trouble finding work as an unrestricted free agent this summer, whether he re-signs with Brooklyn or joins another contender.

Reggie Jackson, Clippers, 31, PG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.33MM deal in 2020

A TNT broadcaster called Jackson “Mr. June” as he made several clutch baskets in Game 5 at Utah on Wednesday. He’s not on the level of baseball’s “Mr. October” but this Reggie Jackson is proving to be a consistent playoff performer for the Clippers. He averaged 15.4 PPG against Dallas in the opening round, including a 25-point outing in Game 6. He scored 29 points in Game 2 and 22 in Game 5 against the Jazz. Jackson has also kept his turnovers down to a minimum. After having to settle for the veteran’s minimum in free agency last year, he’s due for a substantial raise when he enters the market again this summer.

Mike Conley, Jazz, 33, PG (Down) – Signed to a five-year, $152.6MM deal in 2016

Conley finally got his first taste of the All-Star Game this season. He got off to an impressive start in these playoffs, scoring 20 or more points in the first three games against Memphis. The injury bug soon bit him as Utah closed out the series and he’s been sidelined with a hamstring strain throughout the second round. That’s the main concern with Conley as he enters unrestricted free agency – he’s had numerous leg injuries in recent seasons. That could limit the amount of years teams will be willing to offer him.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Western Conference

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. With the playoffs in full swing, we take a look at players from the Western Conference:

Andre Drummond, Lakers, 27, C (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $794K deal in 2021

Drummond had a golden opportunity to show he could perform in the biggest moments. He was reportedly promised a starting spot by the Lakers after he reached a buyout agreement with Cleveland and cleared waivers. Drummond withered in the spotlight and was benched for Game 6 of the first-round series with Phoenix.

Coach Frank Vogel lavished praise on Drummond after the season, saying “We’re hopeful that he’s a Laker for a long time.” That seems like a long shot, considering how the postseason played out.

The two-time All-Star is still only 27 but his status has fallen dramatically over the past two seasons. He might be fortunate to receive the mid-level from a team seeking an elite rebounder.

Serge Ibaka, Clippers, 31, PF/C (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $19MM deal in 2020

Ibaka said last month he’s been dealing with back pain all season caused by a pinched nerve. It continued to hamper him to the point where he underwent back surgery on Thursday. He only appeared in 41 games during the regular season and had been limited to two postseason games.

Several contenders were interested in Ibaka during free agency last year due to his postseason track record. He was considered the Clippers’ most important addition during the offseason but now they’ll have to strive for a championship without one of their top frontcourt players. Ibaka holds a $9.72MM option on his contract for next season and it’s a safe bet he’ll take the guaranteed money.

Langston Galloway, Suns, 29, SG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2020

Galloway signed a one-year contract for the veteran’s minimum to join an improving team seeking a second-unit shooter. He was Detroit’s top reserve a season ago but the opportunities haven’t been there in Phoenix. He only saw action in 40 games during the regular season and has made two cameos in the playoffs. The Suns have gone with a three-man rotation in the backcourt – Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Cameron Payne – rendering Galloway as a spectator. Galloway will likely have to settle for a similar contract next season from a team that promises to give him more playing time.

Tim Hardaway Jr., Mavericks, 29, SG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $71MM deal in 2017

The Mavericks need to improve their supporting cast around Luka Doncic but they don’t want to lose Hardaway. Despite his Game 7 clunker (11 points, 1-for-9 on threes), Hardaway and Dorian Finney-Smith were the team’s most impactful players besides Doncic during the first-round series against the Clippers.

The Mavericks have made re-signing Hardaway a high priority. They’ll have some competition for his services and they to be cognizant of weighing down their future cap with enigmatic Kristaps Porzingis on the books for three more seasons (including a player option). But Hardaway is in a good spot to get another lucrative multiyear deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Eastern Conference

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. With the playoffs in full swing, we take a look at players from the Eastern Conference:

Elfrid Payton, Knicks, 27, PG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $4.77MM deal in 2020

Payton’s postseason role was reduced to something rarely seen in any sport – the starting lineup cameo. He played a few ineffective minutes, then never returned to the court for two games until coach Tom Thibodeau completely gave up on him. Payton started regularly all season but his post-All-Star break woes drove Knicks fans nuts. They won’t have to worry about a repeat – Payton will be an unrestricted free agent. Payton has been a starter throughout his career but it’s hard to imagine him getting much more than the veteran’s minimum to fill out someone’s bench next season.

Evan Fournier, Celtics, 28, SF (Down) – Signed to a five-year, $85MM deal in 2016

Fournier was the biggest acquisition the Celtics made at the trade deadline and they leaned on him heavily against the Nets with Jaylen Brown sidelined. Fournier averaged 15.4 PPG on 43.3% shooting from 3-point range in 33.4 MPG. Solid numbers, but he’s not the type of player who can carry a team. Fournier is expected to seek a contract similar to the one he signed with the Magic five seasons ago but is he really a $17MM a year player? There’s a general sense that Fournier may have to settle for the mid-level exception or something slightly above that figure.

Duncan Robinson, Heat, 27, SF (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $3MM deal in 2018

Robinson pumped in 24 points in Game 1 against the Bucks, then petered out the rest of the series. That won’t hurt him in restricted free agency. The Heat have to make a lot of tough decisions this offseason – one of them will be how big an offer sheet they’d be willing to match to retain Robinson. First, they’ll have to extend a $4.7MM qualifying offer but that’s a formality. During last season’s playoff run to the Finals, Robinson averaged 11.7 PPG. He’s a career 42.3% 3-point shooter and he’ll be looking for a big payday after playing on a rookie contract.

Alex Len, Wizards, 27, C (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $1.7MM deal in 2020

Len has passed through a handful of organizations over the past four seasons. He’ll be on the move again as an unrestricted free agent. Len received 40 regular-season starts from the injury-depleted Wizards after getting waived by the Raptors. His playing time shrunk throughout the first-round series against Philadelphia – he played a grand total of three minutes in the last two games. Whether or not Thomas Bryant can effectively return from his knee injury next season, Washington needs to upgrade its frontcourt. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Ukranian-born Len explores European options.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Pacific Division

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Pacific Division:

Kawhi Leonard, Clippers, 29, SF (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $103MM deal in 2019

Until Giannis Antetokounmpo and other All-Stars decided to sign extensions, the summer of 2021 was considered a free agent bonanza. Leonard’s free agent foray two seasons ago, after leading the Raptors to the NBA championship, was one of the big stories of that summer. He chose to go to Los Angeles and the Clippers mortgaged their future by trading for Paul George to give him a superstar sidekick. It could all unravel for the franchise this year if the Clippers lose to the Mavericks in the opening round. Leonard was expected to opt out this summer so that he could maximize his salary with his current team. Now, other contenders might kick the tires to see if Leonard would be willing to jump ship again. If nothing else, the Clippers’ front office will be sweating it out until Leonard signs the bottom line.

Cameron Payne, Suns, 26, PG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $2.2MM deal in 2019

It’s become an annual and unfortunate occurrence in the NBA postseason – Chris Paul suffers an injury at the worst time. Paul’s shoulder issue has limited his minutes against the Lakers the last two games and those minutes have gone to Payne. Not surprisingly, Phoenix has lost both contests but Payne has posted respectable numbers, averaging 17 PPG, 6.5 APG and 2.5 SPG in 30 MPG. The 2015 lottery pick struggled to find an NBA home until he signed with the Suns for their games in the Orlando bubble. Payne has found his niche as a second-unit point guard and if the Suns don’t re-sign him, some other team will take him for that same role.

Alex Caruso, Lakers, 27, SG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $5MM deal in 2019

Caruso doesn’t make a big dent in the stat sheet but he’s a pesky defender and energetic spark plug off the bench. He averaged 6.5 PPG, 2.8 APG, 2.3 RPG and 1.1 SPG in 24.3 MPG during the Lakers’ run to the championship last season. He’s averaging 21 MPG through their first three playoff games this season against the Suns. Caruso seems like a nice fit on the Lakers, dutifully playing his role while knocking down the occasional 3-pointer and looking to advantage of opportunities when his defender cheats off him. The unrestricted free agent will likely get a nice bump in salary.

Hassan Whiteside, Kings, 31, C (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2.3MM deal in 2020

Whiteside was valued so much by the Heat in 2016 he was signed to a four-year, $98.4MM deal. Few teams will covet Whiteside’s services when he reaches free agency again this summer. He had to settle for the veteran’s minimum last offseason and his one season with the Kings was rather forgettable. He was relegated to backup duty, averaging 15.2 MPG in the 36 games that coach Luke Walton used him. Whiteside didn’t play after April 21, supposedly due to lower back tightness. He can still be useful as a rebounder and shot blocker in a reserve role but he’ll have to settle for the veteran’s minimum once again.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Southwest Division

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Southwest Division:

DeMar DeRozan, Spurs, 31, SG/SF (Down) – Signed to a five-year, $139MM deal in 2016

DeRozan threw in a clunker in San Antonio’s play-in game against Memphis, shooting 5-for-21 from the field. The master of the mid-range game now enters unrestricted free agency in a league that craves 3-point shooters at the wing.

DeRozan does more than just knock down 18-footers. He’s got a knack for drawing fouls and this season he averaged a career-high 6.9 assists. What will that package of skills draw on the open market? We’ll find out if DeRozan doesn’t reach an extension agreement with San Antonio. The Spurs have an exclusive window to reach a new deal with DeRozan before free agency begins at the start of August.

Lonzo Ball, Pelicans, 23, PG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $33.5MM deal in 2017

Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram said glowing things about Ball in their post-season press conferences. Ball said he would “love” to remain in New Orleans. Now, the proverbial ball is in the front office’s court.

Will the Pelicans extend a $14.36MM qualifying offer to Ball to make him a restricted free agent? If so, will they match any offer sheet? Should the Pelicans do so, they’re basically telling everyone they believe the trio of Williamson, Ingram and Ball is a championship-caliber core. That’s a pretty big leap of faith, considering the Pelicans went 31-41 this season with each of them playing at least 55 games. But Ball’s going to get paid this summer, one way or another.

Josh Richardson, Mavericks, 27, SF/SG (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $42MM deal in 2018

Richardson was acquired from the Sixers in a draft-night deal to upgrade their perimeter defense. According to the numbers, Richardson hasn’t made much of an impact in that area. He ranked 22nd among shooting guards on ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus ratings. Richardson’s offensive rating was even lower after averaging 12.1 PPG on 42.7% shooting (33% on threes) despite playing with a premier play-maker.

Richardson holds an $11.6MM option on his contract for next season. Perhaps he’ll seek for a multi-year deal on the open market but it may be prudent for him to take the guaranteed money and test the waters next summer.

Kelly Olynyk, Rockets, 30, PF/C (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $50MM deal in 2017

Anyone want a stretch four who averages 19 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 4.1 APG and 1.4 SPG? Those are the stats Olynyk posted in a 27-game stint with the tanking Rockets. Those numbers can be taken with a grain of salt – Olynyk didn’t suddenly turn into an All-Star level talent at 30 years old. He did show that he can still be a highly productive rotation player. For obvious reasons, Olynyk enjoyed his stint in Houston and that will factor into his decision as he heads into unrestricted free agency. If nothing else, he gained more leverage over the past two months.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Northwest Division

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Northwest Division:

Norman Powell, Trail Blazers, 27, SG/SF (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $42MM deal in 2018

Powell was a popular name at the trade deadline as numerous teams pursued the high-scoring wing. Portland won the sweepstakes by giving up a solid young player in Gary Trent Jr., as well as Rodney Hood. Powell has an $11.6MM option on his contract for next season but he’s widely expected to decline it. He’ll be popular once again after the season, this time as an unrestricted free agent. He has struggled somewhat with his 3-point shooting since Toronto traded him but he’s still averaging 17.2 PPG with the Trail Blazers. His price tag will rise even more if he excels in the postseason.

Georges Niang, Jazz, 27, SF/PF (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $5MM deal in 2018

The Jazz don’t ask Niang to score a whole lot – he’s mainly limited to a few 3-point opportunities per game – but he does all the little things necessary to retain a rotation spot on a team with the league’s best record. He’s appeared in every game this season, averaging 15.9 MPG. With several key teammates sidelined lately, Niang has stepped up his offensive production, scoring in the double-digits in eight of the last 12 games. An unrestricted free agent, Niang seems like a nice fit in Utah, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he stays put. If not, he’ll be valued as a reliable second-unit player.

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Thunder, 23, SG (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $4.6MM deal in 2018

Mykhailiuk had a golden opportunity to post some big numbers on a tanking team when the Pistons traded him to the Thunder. It would be unfair to say Mykhailiuk has flopped but he hasn’t really built up his value. He’s continued to struggle with his 3-point shot (32.2%), though he’s shown more willingness to drive to the basket and collected some steals on the defensive end. His qualifying offer is only $2MM, so there’s incentive for Oklahoma City to make him a restricted free agent. But Mykhailiuk probably won’t get an offer sheet, so he’ll either have to sign the QO or work out a contract with the Thunder.

Austin Rivers, Nuggets, 28, SG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $270K deal in 2021

Rivers basically found himself in exile in New York this season. Unable to crack Tom Thibodeau’s rotation, Rivers wound up being a throw-in at the trade deadline, then was promptly waived by Oklahoma City. Jamal Murray’s season-ending injury led to Denver offering him a 10-day contract and Rivers soon earned a rest-of-the-season deal. With Will Barton also sidelined by a hamstring injury, Rivers not only finds himself in the rotation but also in the starting lineup. He’s averaging 15.2 PPG over the last five games while draining 19 of 36 3-pointers. The postseason will give Rivers even more chances to attract interest in the free agent market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.