2021 NBA Free Agency is Now a Barren Wasteland

Liam McKeone
Giannis and Kawhi
Giannis and Kawhi / Stacy Revere/Getty Images
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A sigh of relief that could be heard across the country emitted from the Milwaukee Bucks building today as Giannis Antetokounmpo announced he would be re-signing with the organization for the next five years, earning himself $228 million in the process. It is great news for small market teams across the league after the 2019 offseason saw Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Russell Westbrook depart their smaller market teams and, in the case of all but Westbrook, head to the bright lights of Los Angeles.

It is not great news for the NBA rumor mill, which drives significant engagement for dozens of aggregation accounts. It's also bad news for the enjoyable game of speculation. Because with Giannis now off the table, the 2021 NBA free agent class is completely devoid of star power and will probably stay that way.

Giannis would have been the marquee name on the board in 2021. Before this offseason, there was a chance he'd be joined by PG, Kawhi, AD, LeBron James, (who all had player options) and any one of the various young players who excelled on their rookie deals and were eligible for extensions. When the Finals ended on October 12, it looked like the 2021 offseason could bring a landscape-changing series of signings.

Fast forward two months, and things have changed. Each of the aforementioned players signed extensions with the exception of Leonard. But with George on a new five-year deal and taking into consideration that Leonard can do literally whatever he wants as a member of the Clippers, there's very little chance he would opt out in 2021. That leaves Chris Paul and Blake Griffin as the only two big names who could theoretically hit the open market should they opt out of the final years of their respective deals. But both would be certifiably insane to do that. Paul will be 36-years-old and would make $44 million if he opted in. Safe to assume he'll do that. Griffin will only be 32-years-old, but he's slated to make $38 million and with his injury history would have a tough time earning half that salary in free agency.

That leaves basically .. no one. Maybe Rudy Gobert ends up leaving Utah if he wants more money than they're willing to give after the Jazz threw the bag at Donovan Mitchell this offseason, but that would be the only modicum of true star power available. Otherwise it's not going to be a very interesting rumor season.

Which is fine. Player movement is entertaining but there's something to be said about parity and players sticking with teams, creating rivalries and iconic moments throughout their tenure. So do not mourn for the 2021 offseason.

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