2021 NBA Free Agency primer

Chris Paul and Kawhi Leonard lead a list of potential free agents headlining a brief NBA offseason that kicks off next week with the 2021 NBA Draft.

Paul, 36, and Leonard, 30, own player options to exit their current contracts and enter free agency.



Paul led the Phoenix Suns to a 51-21 record and the NBA Finals in his first season with the franchise. Leonard’s second season with the Los Angeles Clippers ended prematurely with a knee injury in the playoffs and he is recovering from surgery to repair a partial ACL tear.

A moratorium on signings is in place until Aug. 6, although teams can negotiate with players starting Aug. 2.

The salary cap is projected at $112.4 million for 2021-22, with teams able to work up to the luxury tax threshold of $136 million without penalty.

Chris Paul
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The San Antonio Spurs and New York Knicks are projected to have more than $50 million in cap space. The Oklahoma City Thunder and Orlando Magic are also projected to have significant cap space when free agency begins next month.

Chris Paul, Kawhi Leonard Dominoes

Paul can opt out of his $44.2 million salary for next season to re-sign with the team or go elsewhere. Should he pick up the player option, the Suns would have only around $10 million in room beneath the tax threshold.

Leonard’s option is only part of the complex equation for the Clippers. Even if he opts out, the Clippers would easily be over the luxury tax with point guard Reggie Jackson and Nicolas Batum both unrestricted free agents.

The Golden State Warriors and Brooklyn Nets are competing to be the furthest over the cap entering the offseason. The Warriors, who’ve been linked to trades since the season ended, stand more than $30 million over.

Notable unrestricted free agents include Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, Miami Heat shooting guard Victor Oladipo, Utah Jazz point guard Mike Conley, Spurs forward DeMar DeRozan, Dallas Mavericks shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. and Knicks point guard Derrick Rose.

Kyle Lowry
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

A number of enticing restricted free agents could become available. Prominent RFAs are New Orleans Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball, Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen, Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins, Cleveland Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen, Charlotte Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham and Heat contributors Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn.

And don’t forget about the free agency of the Antetokounmpo siblings.

Two-time MVP and reigning Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo signed long-term with the Bucks, but brothers Kostas (Los Angeles Lakers) and Thanasis (Bucks) are restricted free agents.



–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)