Top 5 NBA Free Agents to Watch 

As the dust settles on the NBA’s first playoff round, attention turns to the hot topic of NBA free agency. With big names up for grabs this year, let’s take a closer look at the top 5 NBA free agents and where they might find themselves this offseason. 

5. DeMar DeRozan – Forward  
Current Team: Chicago Bulls

To gauge Chicago’s plans for the upcoming season, simply keep an eye on how DeMar DeRozan‘s free agency unfolds. If the Bulls prioritize staying competitive, they’ll likely make every effort to retain him. DeRozan’s impact has been undeniable during his three seasons with the team, averaging 25.5 points and 5.1 assists per game, with a remarkable performance in crucial moments. He consistently ranks among the top in clutch points, never shooting below 47.1 percent in late-game situations. 

If Chicago is prepared to start rebuilding, extending a new deal to DeRozan, who will be 35 in August, becomes out of the question. While the Bulls haven’t overtly signaled a willingness to undergo a rebuild, their recent track record – just one playoff appearance in the last three seasons without any series victories – suggests it’s a possibility. The odds favor DeMar DeRozan remaining with the Chicago Bulls, with the odds set at even money to return. However, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets emerge as the runners-up, with odds of +500 and +1400. 

4. James Harden  – Guard
Current Team: Los Angeles Clippers

Harden’s last trip to free agency did not go to plan in 2023. After a fallout with the Philadelphia 76ers, where he was promised a max contract by Daryl Morey, but then received no communication during free agency, Harden chose to keep his $35.6 million player option. He decided to try unrestricted free agency again in 2024. 

Despite the Clippers’ playoff exit in the first round, which was partly because of Kawhi Leonard’s injury, Harden had a standout season. He averaged 16.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 8.5 assists, shooting an impressive 40.9 percent from beyond the arc. In the six-game series against the Dallas Mavericks, he averaged 21.2 points, 8 assists, and 4.5 rebounds, showcasing his versatility and impact on the court. 

Harden will be 35 years old in the upcoming season, His choice to opt in and pursue a trade stemmed from his aim to secure a max contract. While the Clippers undoubtedly value Harden, offering him a max deal alongside commitments to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will be tough. The Clippers are favored to keep him, closely followed by the Phoenix Suns with odds of +400, then the Orlando Magic at +500, and the Lakers at +600. 

3. Klay Thompson – Guard
Current Team: Golden State Warriors

Klay Thompson faced a tough season, straying from his usual form on the court. His shooting percentages dipped, and defensively, he was less effective, resulting in being benched for the first time since his rookie year. Now he is an unrestricted free agent for the first time since 2019 and it is highly likely we could see him sign with another team because of the Warriors struggles as a team and his personal struggles. 

According to reports, Thompson’s relationship with Warriors owner Joe Lacob has hit hurdles, as reports indicate Thompson hasn’t received assurances about ending his career with the team. Both sides lack clarity about their future plans. While Thompson does want to stay in Golden State he will listen to offers from other teams. With Thompson being 34 years old it may be time for the Warriors to finally move on. The Orlando Magic lead the pack as the favorites to secure Klay in free agency, boasting odds of +300. Trailing closely behind are the Philadelphia 76ers with odds of +325, with the Warriors following closely at +450. 

2. Paul George  – Forward
Current Team: Los Angeles Clippers

Paul George is expected to test free agency after not being able to agree to a long-term deal With the LA Clippers during the season. With James Harden also testing free agency, the Clippers have some decisions to make about who they want to give a max deal to. There are a few teams who have shown interest in Paul George, including the 76ers and Orlando Magic who have the cap space to be able to give out a max contract. 

Retaining Paul George should be at the top of the list for the Clippers, especially considering their salary cap constraints. They are projected to have a payroll of $169 million for the 2024-25 season, without factoring in James Harden’s potential re-signing. This total includes George’s $48.8 million player option, which falls short of the annual salary he could command on a full max contract. If he were to leave, they would not have the ability to sign someone who would be a suitable replacement.  

The Philadelphia 76ers are the favorite to land Paul George at +200 odds followed by the Clippers at +300 odds and something I found a little surprising is the possibility of him returning to his former team the Oklahoma City Thunder at +400 odds.

1. Lebron James – Forward
Current Team: Los Angeles Lakers

The idea of LeBron James departing the Los Angeles Lakers to join a team that drafts his son Bronny under a smaller contract seems to be put on hold for various reasons. Bronny James appears to still be developing for NBA readiness, while LeBron himself might be eyeing a final big payday. His contract expires after the 2024-25 season, but he can decline the final year of that deal and become a free agent this summer. 

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, “I don’t see this as the Lakers’ final move. I believe LeBron is positioning himself to secure a lucrative, multiyear deal with the Lakers in the upcoming offseason, potentially surpassing his current contract. However, whether the Lakers will agree to a three-year, $60 million deal when LeBron is 42 remains uncertain”

While it is likely that he will stay with the Lakers given the odds are -320 the teams that are the runners up are both of his former teams the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat each at +1300 odds. 

Teams can negotiate with free agents starting on June 30th, so there is plenty of time to evaluate the top free agents and look to make a profit betting on their next team.

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