2021 NBA Free Agency Breakdown
It is that time of the year to get ready for another NBA season. The 2021 NBA offseason has led to a ton of new faces in new cities. We saw some blockbuster trades and a few stars signing with new teams. This free agency class did not have the big names of previous offseasons, but it consisted of players who would help make mid-tier playoff teams into contenders and bubble playoff teams into back-end playoff teams. This article breaks down the fit of the top 15 free agents of the 2021 offseason.
Chris Paul: 4 Years, $120 Million Contract with the Suns
Before Paul's breakout 2020-2021 season, it would have been crazy to think he would decline his $44.2 player option for the upcoming season. Paul's leadership at the point guard position was what the Suns have needed for years to pair with Devin Booker. Last season, Paul made a second consecutive all-star game and missed only two games at age-35. After being a key cog to the Suns NBA Finals appearance, it made sense for Paul to secure a long-term contract. Paul had a chaotic 2021 playoff, suffering a shoulder injury and getting COVID-19. He still managed to average 25.5 PPG and 10.3 APG in the WCS, 24 PPG and 8.8 APG in the WCF, and 21.8 PPG and 8.2 APG in the Finals. It was a memorable playoff performance by one of the best point guards in NBA history. Paul deserved the figure of this Contract and will hope to continue his form of the last two seasons into his upper 30's. This deal marks his AAV as 13 of all point guards in the NBA for the 2021-2022 season. This falls between Jamal Murray and Kyle Lowry.
DeMar DeRozan: 3 Years, $85 Million Contract with the Bulls
DeMar impressed across the league with his performance last season. DeRozan
set a career-high in assists, averaging 6.9 a game. DeRozan will not have the playmaking responsibilities with the Bulls as Lonzo should be the primary ballhandler. He will have to prove he can play off the ball and improve on the 26% from the 3 he shot in the last two seasons. Although he still has an elite mid-range game, Derozan will have to space the floor to open up scoring opportunities for LaVine and Vucevic. This was a questionable signing but proves the Bulls want to go all-in after trading multiple first-rounders for Vucevic at the trade deadline last season. DeRozan is still at the back end of his prime at 32 and could make the Bulls an explosive offensive team. This deal marks his AAV as 10 of all shooting guards in the NBA for the 2021-2022 season. This falls between D'Angelo Russell and Jaylen Brown.
Devonte' Graham: 4 Years, $47.3 Million Contract with the Pelicans
Graham is another one of the undrafted players of this free agency class that has been underrated their whole career. Graham had a breakout 2019-2020 season, averaging 18.2 PPG and 7.5 APG while shooting 37% from 3. Graham's numbers regressed last season with the arrival of Lamelo Ball, but he still had a terrific season in the games he played in(He missed 17 games due to injury). This was a significant get for a Pelicans team that had to fill Lonzo's playmaking void with his departure to Chicago. Graham saw an attractive opportunity to run the point guard position with Zion finding his superstar level. He can play off-the-ball with an elite spot-up shooting ability from the perimeter. Graham is an underrated passer, which should help Ingram and Zion to find easy buckets. This deal marks his AAV as 33 of all point guards in the NBA for the 2021-2022 season. This falls between Jordan Clarkson and Cade Cunningham.
Duncan Robinson: 5 Years, $90 Million Contract with the Heat
Re-signing Robinson was a major priority for the Heat this offseason. The contract has had its critics due to Robinson's liability as a perimeter defender, but 3-point shooting will get players paid in today's NBA. Duncan is a key cog in Spoelstra's offensive system to get shooters open off-the-ball. He finds a way to get open off-ball with constant movement and coming off different types of off-ball screens. Robinson has been crucial as a floor spacer to balance the lack of shooting Miami has at other positions. He has the shooting range to open up driving lanes for Bam, Jimmy, and Lowry. After being an undrafted player, Robinson has developed into an elite 3-point shooter the last two seasons, shooting 45% and 41%. This deal marks his AAV as 15 of all small forwards in the NBA for the 2021-2022 season. This falls between OG Anunoby and Davis Bertans.
Evan Fournier: 4 Years, $78 Million Contract with the Knicks
Fournier has always been one of the more underrated offensive players in the league. He won't beat you with athleticism but has the skill and shooting ability to find ways to score. Fournier was in the middle of a career year with the Magic last season before being traded to Boston. Fournier shot an elite 46% from 3 with the Celtics but was never a long-term fit there with the competition at the wing position. He has found a new home that he will immediately be the starting shooting guard. This is a lot of money for someone who has been a defense liability (0.5 Defensive Win Share last season). The Knicks seemed desperate this offseason to find scoring to help out their breakout star Julius Randle. Fournier is turning 29 this season and has a few prime years left. This was not the big name Knicks fans were looking for, but Fournier's offensive abilities as a scorer and playmaker will help Randle avoid double teams like he did last season. This deal marks his AAV as 18 of all shooting guards in the NBA for the 2021-2022 season. This falls between Joe Harris and Norman Powell.
Jarrett Allen: 5 Years, $100 Million Contract with the Cavaliers
The Cavs were very wise to trade for the mobile big man when the Nets were locked in on trading for James Harden. Allen has been one of the more valuable defensive centers with his ability to switch out on guards. His next step will be developing an outside offensive game that should start with a mid-range jumper. The Cavs have a loaded frontcourt with Mobley, Markkanen, and Love, but all 3 of them can play power forward. I expect the Cavs to get great value with this Contract as Allen is only 24 years. This deal marks his AAV as 9th of all centers in the NBA for the 2021-2022 season. This falls between Clint Capela and Myles Turner.
John Collins: 5 Years, $125 Million Contract with the Hawks
Before last season, many criticized Collins for turning down a $90 million extension. After helping lead the Hawks to the ECF, Collins made the right decision to play out last season.
Collins is precisely the power forward the Hawks need to pair up with Trae Young. Collins is the modern-day big man that every team in the NBA searches for. He does not require the ball in his hands as he gets his offensive as a dynamic rim roller and off catch-and-shoot 3s. Collins is a premier 3-point shooter for his position, shooting 40% from 3 in his last two seasons. He can play center as well when Capela goes to the bench. Collins is a plus defender that can switch on to guards at times. His subsequent development will be polishing his offensive skills, creating for himself off the dribble and passing. This was a surprising contract with his numbers regressing from last season, but the Hawks did not want to see another team give him a similar deal. This deal marks his AAV as 9 of all power forwards in the NBA for the 2021-2022 season. This falls between Julius Randle and Draymond Green.
Kawhi Leonard: 4 Years, $176.3 Million Contract with the Clippers
Kawhi has been one of the elite 2-way players in the league over the last five years. Following his championship with Toronto, he saw an excellent opportunity to help the Clippers become relevant again. It was a rough first season that ended with a blown 3-1 lead vs. the Nuggets. Kawhi had a great opportunity last season to carry the Clippers to their first NBA title before tearing his ACL in the Western Conference Semifinals. Kawhi will likely miss the entire 2021-2022 season. The Clippers are hoping Kawhi can still be elite in 2022 as he is only 30 years. After his injury conflicts with the Spurs, expect the Clippers to play this cautiously. The Clippers will need Kawhi as they move into their new stadium in 2024. Kawhi has been a great fit with Paul George, and they have finally found the point guard to complement these elite wings with Reggie Jackson. This deal marks his AAV as 3 of all small forwards in the NBA for the 2021-2022 season. This falls between Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
Kelly Oubre: 2 Years, $26 Million Contract with the Hornets
Oubre had a slow start to his last season with Golden State as he was adjusting to their system. The first month of the season, he shot 22% from 3 and 37% from the field but improved to put up shooting splits of 32% from 3 and 43.9% from the field for the season. Oubre missed the last eight games and the two play-in games with a left wrist injury but did not require surgery on the wrist. Oubre's breakout season came in the previous season with the Suns, averaging 18.7 points a game. Look for Oubre to have plenty of competition at the wing position with Miles Bridges and Gordon Hayward already there. Oubre should be a terrific off-the-ball player to surround Lamelo's passing ability with. Oubre's deal could come out to be a bargain for the Hornets if he can return to his Suns form. This deal marks his AAV as 21 of all small forwards in the NBA for the 2021-2022 season. This falls between Joe Ingles and TJ Warren.
Kyle Lowry 3 Years, $90 Million Contract with the Heat
Lowry brings the championship experience and grit mentality that fits right in with this Miami Heat squad. There comes risk with giving a 3-year deal to a 35-year-old point guard, but Lowry's shooting and playmaking should help him age well as he plays into his upper 30s. Lowry missed several games down the stretch of last season, but this would not have been this case if the Raptors were in the playoff hunt. Look for Lowry to provide spot-up shooting next to the playmaking of Jimmy and Bam. Lowry is still a knockdown 3 point shooter, shooting 40% from 3 last season. Pat Riley is looking for one previous ring, and this could explain the signing of Lowry. This deal marks his AAV as 14 of all point guards in the NBA for the 2021-2022 season. This falls between Chris Paul and Terry Rozier.
Lonzo Ball: 4 Years, $80 Million Contract with the Bulls
The one aspect that will make this Contract go south is Lonzo's durability. He missed 17 games last year, which was an improvement from the beginning of his career. His ability to push the ball and find open teammates in transition will help the offensive output of Lavine, Derozan, and Vucevic. The Bulls were desperate for an elite defensive guard that Coby White could not provide them. With his 6'9 wingspan, Lonzo has proved to be a pest against opposing point guards. Lonzo has developed his 3 point jumper since he tweaked his shooting form. After joining the Pelicans for the last two seasons, he has shot 38% from 3 in each season. This improvement helped him get this Contract as NBA teams were concerned if his 3-point shot would develop. This deal marks his AAV as 19 of all point guards in the NBA. This falls between Fred Vanvleet and Marcus Smart.
Mike Conley: 3 Years, $72.5 Million Contract with the Jazz
Conley had a memorable 2016 offseason when he signed a five-year, 153 Million Contract (richest in NBA history at the time). Since the Jazz traded for Conley in the 2019 offseason, Conley has regressed from his Memphis form. He has struggled to stay healthy, missing 5 of the 6 playoff games in the Western Conference Semifinals vs. the Clippers. Conley has been a terrific complement to Donovan Mitchell, allowing Mitchell to play off the ball when they share the floor. He tied his career-high when he shot a 41% from 3 last season. It will be tough for Conley to live up to this Contract with his injury history going into his age-34 season. The Jazz will need a healthy Conley to push into the elite of the Western Conference. This deal marks his AAV as 16 of all point guards in the NBA. This falls between Terry Rozier and Malcolm Brogdon.
Norman Powell: 5 years, $90 Million Contract with the Blazers
Powell was the third option the Blazers have been looking for with Nurkic's durability issues. He was a key piece for the Raptors team that won in 2019 and became a primary scoring option after the departure of Kawhi. Powell can score at all three levels and create for himself, which helps when CJ and Dame go to the bench. His ability to space the floor is essential, but he does not bring much defensively, as shown by his 0.4 Defensive Win Shares. During these five years, Powell is only 28 years old and should still be in the middle to the back end of his prime. This could be a bargain, looking at others that signed larger contracts than Powell. This deal marks his AAV as 19 of all shooting guards in the NBA for the 2021-2022 season. This falls between Evan Fournier and Bogdan Bogdanovic.