The NBA’s 2021 free agency period tips off tonight at 6 p.m. ET and there will be a spending binge as teams go shopping for the talent they dream will bring them success — however, each franchise measures it.
Eight teams enter the offseason with at least the potential for significant cap space:
- New York Knicks — $53.5 million
- San Antonio Spurs — $48.9 million
- Dallas Mavericks — $34.3 million
- Oklahoma City Thunder — $30.9 million
- Toronto Raptors — $23.1 million
- Miami Heat — $20.5 million
- Detroit Pistons — $17.5 million
- Charlotte Hornets — $8.8 million
The bottom four from the list above could use cap holds and exceptions to operate as over the cap teams. The Heat, for example, are likely to pursue big-ticket free agents aggressively. If they get a bite, they would renounce players (and possibly make a trade) to clear cap room for the signing.
The Hornets will almost certainly opt to keep their midlevel exception, rather than renounce it to create a smaller piece of cap room.
The Wizards have a full roster and significant lineup holes. At a minimum, they need a starting point guard and backcourt depth. NBC’s Dan Feldman reports that Washington is “likely” to acquire Nets PG Spencer Dinwiddie via sign-and-trade. That’s potentially an okay move, depending on how much they pay him.
In my analysis, Dinwiddie’s been basically average the past several seasons. He’s not a terrific shooter or defender, and it’s difficult to know what he’ll be able to do after missing most of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. A healthy Dinwiddie is likely to provide solid, professional guard play.
If Washington isn’t already locked on Dinwiddie, they’d be wise to consider spending on New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball. Ball, coming of his second above-average season, will be entering his age 24 season with markedly improved shooting (37.5% from three-point range two seasons ago, and 37.8% this season). In addition to being terrific in transition, Ball’s a quality playmaker who crashes the boards and defends.
Using Caldwell-Pope at SF even though he’s just 6-5 seems reasonable given the paucity of wing options in free agency. The SF market is so weak that former Wizard Otto Porter Jr. could get full MLE even though his last healthy season was 2017-18. He played just 28 games last year.
The Wizards have enough space under the luxury tax to spend their full midlevel and biannual exceptions. They could also be players in the sign-and-trade market for Dinwiddie, Ball or another offseason target. They should have sufficient ammunition to add talent and production to the roster, if they use their available player acquisition resources wisely. The Westbrook trade gives them several tradable salaries.
Below is a list of prominent free agents, their age next season, their PPA and their status — unrestricted free agent, restricted free agent, player option or team option. This list is not comprehensive. If you’re interested in someone specific, put the name in the comments or email me at kevinbroomwrites at gmail.
PPA is my overall production metric. It’s pace neutral and includes accounting for defense and “degree of difficulty” based on the level of competition faced when the player is on the floor. In PPA, 100 is average, higher is better, and 45 is replacement level.
2021 NBA Free Agents
|G||Bruce Brown Jr.||25||BRK||131||RFA|
|F||Tim Hardaway Jr.||29||DAL||108||UFA|
|F||Otto Porter Jr.||28||ORL||102||UFA|
|F||Kelly Oubre Jr.||26||GSW||102||UFA|
|F||Gary Trent Jr.||23||TOR||80||RFA|