After roughly 72 hours of digesting and evaluating the 2021 NBA Draft, all eyes in The Association now turn to the players who were once considered draft prospects and are now deemed free agents. At 5:00pm CST later today, 2021 NBA Free Agency officially kicks off, which means teams and players can finally connect to discuss deals, dollars, and various other details (wait, they already started talking about this stuff before today? But that’s illegal!)
While this year’s free agent class might not include uber elite names like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, or Giannis Antetokounmpo, it still has plenty of talented All-Stars at the top, including players like Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, and Kyle Lowry. In addition to those key names, the list of talented players who may potentially change area codes includes:
- Mike Conley
- DeMar Derozan
- John Collins
- Lonzo Ball
- Jarrett Allen
- Dennis Schroder
- Duncan Robinson
- Normal Powell
- Jordan McLaughlin
While some of these top players are expected to inevitably land back with their current squads (i.e. Kawhi Leonard and Chris Paul), other players like Kyle Lowry, DeMar Derozan, and Lonzo Ball are all expected to officially switch jerseys once free agency goes live. Technically speaking, Lowry may already have located his new home, but let’s remember that it’s illegal for teams to talk about this stuff before 5:00PM CST so this is likely just pure speculation (wink):
ESPN Sources: Once discussions are permitted to begin with the opening of NBA free agency on Monday, the Miami Heat are positioning themselves to become frontrunners to land Toronto's Kyle Lowry in a sign-and-trade agreement: https://t.co/hkJnpaAmYH— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 2, 2021
These next few days (and weeks) will be filled with reckless speculation and never-ending rumors/leaks, so let’s quickly take a look at some of the biggest “stories” prior to happy hour:
Staying in South Beach, it was rumored over the weekend that in addition to acquiring Kyle Lowry, the Heat were looking at reuniting him with his BFF DeMar Derozan, ideally by having DD agree to the full mid-level exception. The Heat would also likely find the salary cap creativity to bring back Duncan Robinson, while basically shedding guys like Andre Iguodala, Trevor Ariza, and Kendrick Nunn. Year-after-year the Miami Heat have thought of themselves as major players in free agency, and it looks like this may finally be the summer that they strike gold (yet again).
Update on my update: Could very well be Lonzo and Graham in double sign-and-trade, but *NOT* with Lonzo Ball going to Charlotte. Bulls remain very much in play for Ball. Could end up a very complex transaction if this happens.https://t.co/NgSDoQe49D— John Hollinger (@johnhollinger) August 2, 2021
Another hot rumor leading up to the start of free agency involves Lonzo Ball, who has been linked to many teams across the league, including the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, and Charlotte Hornets (congrats, LaVar). This latest report from John Hollinger hints at a possible “double sign-and-trade” which is technically less rare than a double-rainbow but also ten times more confusing to figure out.
Finally, as it pertains to the Minnesota Timberwolves, this is probably the best way I can sum up the difference between July and August when it comes to their free agency rumors:
LAST MONTH:— Kyle Theige (@KyleTheige) August 2, 2021
“The #Timberwolves have their sights set on Ben Simmons, John Collins, and Myles Turner.”
“The #Timberwolves are focusing on Doug McDermott, Giannis’s second cousin, and an actual rooster.”
While the Wolves have been (and continue to be) linked to upper-echelon guys like Ben Simmons and John Collins, the reality here is that they will likely strike out and be forced to pivot to second and third tier guys. While that in and of itself is disappointing, it’s also at least worth mentioning that numerous teams burned draft capital less than a week ago to shed bad contracts they signed a few years earlier in free agency, so striking out on some of the more expensive names on their list might prove to be a net positive.
Our guy Dane Moore tweeted out the Timberwolves salary cap situation over the weekend, and it paints a pretty clear picture of what Minnesota will be working with later tonight:
The Timberwolves have $7.955M of spending power to be used in the free agency window opening Monday.— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) August 2, 2021
Here's what they can spend it on:
- The mid-level exception (any free agent)
- Jarred Vanderbilt
- Jordan McLaughlin
As far as spending goes, it's a straight forward offseason. pic.twitter.com/CkQGPzpVhT
While Gersson Rosas and his team will undoubtedly try to shock the world with a trade or two that no one saw coming (remember the Ricky Rubio trade from last week?), the likelihood of them “settling” with re-signing Jarred Vanderbilt, Jordan McLaughlin, and then throwing the MLE at a Jae Crowder-type player may inevitably be their best (and only) option.
We’ll continue to update this thread throughout the night if/when major deals are announced, as well as provide any news and notes that come out about our beloved Minnesota Timberwolves. For now, make sure those Twitter notifications are setup properly, and let’s sit back and let the drama unfold.
5:04 PM UPDATE:
IT’S ALL HAPPENING! So much to unpack here, but the first dominoes are falling. Meanwhile, perhaps relevant to the Wolves earlier Re: John Collins... -YoLeo
Latest on Atlanta Hawks and restricted free agent John Collins: pic.twitter.com/FP4NemyiDi— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 2, 2021
5:14 PM UPDATE:
So the rumored Lonzo Ball to Chicago was true, but does the rest of the Devonte Graham to New Orleans and Lauri Markkanen to Charlotte also pan out?
Kyle Lowry is expected to sign a three-year deal with the Miami Heat via sign and trade with the Toronto Raptors, sources tell @YahooSports— Vincent Goodwill (@VinceGoodwill) August 2, 2021
Butler’s max contract is expected to be in the four years and in excess of $184 million, per cap experts. https://t.co/pCghWjYVJW— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 2, 2021
Looks like the Heat will be in fact pairing Kyle Lowry up to with Bam & Jimmy, while General Soreness is also getting a nice little extension as well. Rachel Nichols must be pumped for her friend! Speaking of Jimmy’s friends...
Free agent C Nerlens Noel is returning to the New York Knicks on a three-year, $32M contract, his agent @GeorgeLangberg tells ESPN. Tom Thibodeau keeps his rim protector.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 2, 2021
Free agent G Alec Burks has agreed to a three-year, $30M contract to stay with the New York Knicks, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 2, 2021
Tom Thibodeau gets two of his boys back. My condolences to the limbs of Alec and Nerlens (KIDDING THEY’LL BE FINE!). In other news... -YoLeo
Restricted free agent C Jarrett Allen has agreed to a five-year, $100 million contract to stay with the Cleveland Cavaliers, his agents Derrick Powell and Jim Tanner tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 2, 2021