The 2021 NBA Finals have come to an epic conclusion as the Milwaukee Bucks took down the Phoenix Suns in six games. Eyes now turn forward to yet another accelerated offseason, as the 2021-22 season will begin in mid-October, as it did before the pandemic threw off everybody's schedule.
In the spirit of looking ahead, let's analyze the 10 best available NBA free agents. These are in no particular order. It's not a stacked class by any means, but a good team looking to become great could strike gold with the talent available. Similarly, a team on the fringes could rise to respectability with the right addition.
This list consists of the best available restricted and unrestricted free agents. Players with an option to become a free agent, like Kawhi Leonard or Chris Paul, will not be included until they officially opt out.
Kyle Lowry, PG
Given where the Raptors are right now, it wouldn't be a shock if they let the most beloved player in franchise history walk. Lowry still has a lot to offer as a quality defensive point guard who can shoot and run the offense while doing all the little things that contribute to winning basketball. Lowry will probably command the highest salary on this list and can easily contribute around the same level as last season, when he averaged 17 points and seven assists per game.
Norm Powell, SG
Powell officially announced his intention to opt out of his contract today after he was traded by the Raptors to the Blazers at the deadline this year. It would be a surprise if Portland didn't re-up, given what they gave up to acquire Powell, but he'll listen to other pitches. Powell is a springy guard/forward combo who will put up big points on occasion. He shot 41 percent from three-point land and averaged 18 points per game last season. Powell's defense comes and goes but he's athletic enough to make an impact on that end. He's 28 years-old, so envisioning a transformation into a complete 20 point-per-game scorer is tough, but he can put points on the board at a consistent rate.
Mike Conley, PG
Conley's best chance at contributing to another deep playoff run was sabotaged by a bum hammy in this year's playoffs, and now he's a free agent. Like fellow aging PG Lowry, Conley offers the steady hand of a veteran to run the offense, dishing out assists and scoring when needed. He isn't quite as good defensively at Lowry but is still a plus at that end in most matchups when he's healthy. Conley likely won't command the $30 million he made last year, but is still in line for an eight-digit payday.
DeMar DeRozan, SG
DeRozan turned in yet another 20 PPG season with the Spurs last year, owning the midrange in an age obsessed with the three-point line. DeRozan was the No. 1 option on that San Antonio team and may have to accept a downgrade in priority status if he wants to go for a shot at a championship rather than running it back (with the Spurs or someone else) as the top scoring option on a mediocre team. That will define how DeRozan's free agency will go. If he's willing to settle for an MLE deal or somthing around there, his suitors will line up around the block. But if he's looking for a deal that pays him $10 million-plus annually, that line will be much shorter.
Victor Oladipo, SG
Oladipo is coming off a brutal season marred by injuries once more. It is legitimately worth asking if he can become the same guy he was in Indiana before rupturing his quad. If he shows he's healthy to possible free agent destinations, he'll be due for a nice payday. At his best, Oladipo is a slashing scorer who shows up big-time in the clutch with a good enough jumper to keep defenses on their toes and can switch across three positions defensively. If the 2020-21 version of Oladipo is the one we'll get in the future, that 20 point-per-game average is deceiving. He's inefficient and can't do anything defensively. But name recognition matters to an extent, and he'll be getting a long look by multiple teams regardless.
Dennis Schroder, PG
Since the Lakers bowed out in the first round of this year's playoffs, reports have emerged that Schroder is looking for a deal that would pay him $20 million annually. I think he will be disappointed if those are his expectations after a subpar year in Los Angeles, but he certainly can still play good basketball. Schroder is a quick scoring guard who averaged 15 points per game on a LeBron James/Anthony Davis team last season, no mean feat. Someone will pay the man for his offensive firepower, even if he's a minus defensively.
Tim Hardaway Jr., SG
Hardaway proved himself a valuable cog of a Luka Doncic-led team last year in Dallas and Mark Cuban will likely pony up whatever he needs to in order to keep Hardaway in a Mavs uniform. The 29-year-old guard hit 39 percent of his shots from beyond the arc last season en route to averaging 16 points per game. Most importantly, he came alive in the playoffs and proved to be the only consistent source of points when Luka was either on the bench or getting swarmed by defenders. Hardaway is probably best as a No. 3 scoring option and can't play lockdown defense, but there's always a place for a guy who can generate his own offense by shooting well, and that's Hardaway.
Lonzo Ball, PG
This Ball brother is the only restricted free agent on this list, which means leaving the Pelicans is less likely than if he were an UFA. But New Orleans is reportedly tentative about re-signing Lonzo should he receive a big offer sheet from another team, and he very well might. Ball is a tenacious defender who has now shot over 35 percent from three in two straight seasons, proving that he really has fixed the horrific shot motion that plagued his early career. Ball can shoot and defend at a high level while bringing some of the best transition passing in the game to the table, all while only being 23 years-old. Ball needs a particular type of team around him to be most effective, but he'll have a lot of interest regardless when free agency opens.
Kelly Oubre Jr., SF
Oubre is sort of a weird player nowadays. He's a lengthy, athletic forward with the combination of quickness and strength that should allow him to guard four positions. On the other end of the floor, he has a good enough looking shot with the hops and aggressiveness to attack the rim. That's a type of player that gets paid big money nowadays. The problem is that, in Golden State last year, he didn't really do any of the things previously mentioned. He was a fine defender but not good enough to be considered a valuable piece on that end. He shot only 31 percent from three and 43 percent from the floor as a whole. Nevertheless, Oubre is only 25 years-old and there is a world in which he reaches his full potential to become an above-average two-way wing in the NBA. Somebody will bet on that potential. How much they'll bet is another story entirely.
Evan Fournier, SG
The Celtics will likely re-sign Fournier after giving up a chunk of their Gordon Hayward TPE and a handful of second-round picks for his services at the deadline this year. But that was Danny Ainge making the deal. Brad Stevens is in charge now, and nobody on earth knows what he's like as a GM. If Fournier hits the open market, he'll be one of the better and more consistent scorers available, making him a valuable commodity indeed. Fournier averaged 17 PPG last season on solid shooting splits (41 percent from three and 45 percent from the floor) and showed he could contribute to winning basketball in Boston after years of being the best scorer on a bad team in Orlando. He can't carry an offense on his own, but as a second or third option, you could do much worse than Fouriner.