On Aug. 2, NBA teams can begin negotiating with free agents.
This free agent class isn't as loaded as it was once expected to be, but it still features some stars and includes players at every position who have the potential to be difference-makers, from Spencer Dinwiddie and Dennis Schroder at point guard to Jarrett Allen and Richaun Holmes at center.
Having looked at the best free agents in this class, as well as destinations for the likes of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, let's take a closer look at some of the teams that hold the cards heading into free agency.
New York Knicks
This one is simple: New York is projected to have more cap space than any other team this offseason.
How much money the Knicks will actually have to spend remains to be seen, but ESPN's Bobby Marks notes that they could create up to $50.0 million in space by renouncing Derrick Rose, Alec Burks, Reggie Bullock and Nerlens Noel, each of whom will be unrestricted free agents.
While some of that money would go towards filling out their roster - the Knicks currently have eight players under contract for the 2021-22 season - they will still be in a position to pursue some of the big names in free agency, whether it's Lowry, DeRozan, Chris Paul, John Collins or Lonzo Ball.
The Knicks were arguably the most surprising team in the league this season, finishing with a 41-31 record to earn a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Given their recent success, as well as the development of Julius Randle and RJ Barrett, they're a much more attractive free agent destination than they were 12 months ago.
All eyes will be on Lowry.
The six-time All-Star will be an unrestricted free agent and is expected to draw interest from a number of teams around the league. His decision will shape what the rest of the offseason looks like for Toronto.
Generally speaking, there are three ways this can go:
- Lowry re-signs with the Raptors. With Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby not far removed from signing extensions, re-signing Lowry would likely leave the Raptors with little-to-no cap space.
- Lowry signs with another team as an unrestricted free agent. Lowry walking would pave the way for the Raptors to create around $30 million in cap space, giving them an opportunity to be players in free agency.
- Lowry agrees to a sign-and-trade. The best shot for teams that lack cap space to acquire Lowry and an opportunity for the Raptors to get something in return for him.
In other words, if Lowry does decide to leave Toronto, it could have quite the ripple effect, both for the Raptors and the rest of the league.
Following back-to-back first-round exits in the playoffs, it appears as though the Mavericks are looking to make a big move to surround Luka Doncic, who is up for a rather lucrative extension this offseason, with another star.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Mavericks are one of the teams expected to be "top suitors" for Lowry. Additionally, The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor recently reported that the Mavericks are planning to make a "hard push" to acquire Kawhi Leonard should he decline his $36.0 million player option for the 2021-22 season and test free agency.
Another player to keep an eye on: DeRozan. There's been no report as of yet linking DeRozan directly to the Mavericks, but he ticks some important boxes for them.
"We need a secondary ball handler with some size," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told The Daily Beast following the team's first-round exit to the LA Clippers.
According to ESPN's Bobby Marks, the Mavericks could have $34.0 million in room, but it would require them to renounce Tim Hardaway Jr., who will be an unrestricted free agent, and for Josh Richardson to decline his $11.6 million player option for the 2021-22 season.
If Dallas is able to create that sort of space, expect it to be aggressive.
The Heat are in an interesting position entering free agency.
On one hand, picking up Goran Dragic's $19.4 million team option and Andre Iguodala's $15.0 million team option for the upcoming season would help them match salary should a star become available, such as Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal. On the other, opting out of their team options would create up to $22.0 million in cap room.
Worth noting: Miami is another team that has been linked to Lowry in free agency. Not only that, but The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor reported following this season's trade deadline that the Heat were Lowry's preference if he had been traded because of his relationship with Jimmy Butler.
Also worth noting: O'Connor reported that the Heat are the other team expected to make a "hard push" for Leonard should he become available.
There's a chance the Heat will use some or all of their cap space to retain Duncan Robinson and/or Kendrick Nunn, both of whom will be restricted free agents. They might have a decision to make with Victor Oladipo as well. (He'll be an unrestricted free agent, but they acquired Oladipo at the trade deadline and could have interest in re-signing him, even after he suffered a season-ending injury).
But the Heat are never ones to sit back in these situations and have the resources to shake things up.
Also, keep an eye on the...
San Antonio Spurs - Will have to navigate the free agency of DeRozan, Patty Mills and Rudy Gay. Could have a lot of money to spend ($48.0 million) if those three leave.
Chicago Bulls - Will have to make some moves to create cap space, but could be in a position to add one of the better players available in free agency to their core of Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic.
Charlotte Hornets - Were one of the breakout teams in 2020-21 and have a rising star in Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball. Will likely be on the hunt for a center in free agency.
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