The 2021 NBA offseason is nearly upon us. The rumors are already flying as agents and front-office executives attempt to barter and bluff their way to backchannel agreements.
Technically, teams are unable to start negotiating deals with free agents until 6 p.m. ET on Aug. 2. But to be sure, it's likely more than a few marquee free agents have already agreed to new deals on the sly, the signing moratorium and tampering rules be damned.
In any case, we've seen players renege on reported agreements in the past, as nothing can be officially signed until 12:01 p.m. ET on Aug. 6. Until the ink has dried on all of the free-agent contracts, here are the top 25 unrestricted free agents available.
(Note: We're excluding restricted free agents for now; you won't see the Atlanta Hawks' John Collins or the Cleveland Cavaliers' Jarrett Allen, who are both likely to remain with their current clubs.)
1. SF/PF Kawhi Leonard, Clippers
Leonard has a $36-million player option for 2021-22, but the two-time NBA Finals MVP will almost certainly decline it in favor of a mega extension with the Los Angeles Clippers, or a shocking defection.
Even at 30 and coming off a partially torn ACL, Leonard will command an immense windfall. In his past two seasons with L.A., the reigning All-NBA first-team forward has averaged 26 points, 6.8 rebounds, five assists, and 1.7 steals per game while providing generational defense.
2. PG Chris Paul, Suns
What Paul does with his astronomical $44.2-million player option is trickier to forecast. The legendary point guard's most financially lucrative path is probably opting in for 2021-22. After all, why not give it another go with the Phoenix Suns, who were just two wins away from NBA Finals glory?
On the other hand, Paul is 36, and time is running out for him to win a ring. If money isn't his top priority, there'll be no shortage of suitors for his talents. If he thinks there's another team that gets him closer to a career-redefining championship, perhaps he'll seriously consider moving on from Phoenix after just one feel-good year.
3. PG Kyle Lowry, Raptors
Teams that strike out on luring Chris Paul will be able to reuse their pitch on Lowry, a similarly heady point man with a wealth of experience piloting playoff teams.
Like Paul, the 35-year-old Lowry is on the older side but still very productive. He put up 17.2 points and 7.3 dimes per game for the Toronto Raptors last year. Lowry would be a perfect fit with the Lakers, a team the veteran guard is reportedly open to joining.
4. SG/SF DeMar DeRozan, Spurs
Despite scoring at least 20 points per game in eight straight years, DeRozan's reputation as one of the league's pre-eminent bucket-getters has fallen from the public eye thanks in part to the San Antonio Spurs' decline.
Can the soon-to-be 32-year-old be the second-best player on a championship team? Third, even? Perhaps not, but DeRozan still averaged close to 22 points, seven assists, and four rebounds per game last year. There aren't many players capable of that production available this summer.
5. PG Mike Conley, Jazz
Conley is also in the vein of Paul and Lowry: a steady distributor who'll be 34 when next season tips off. After an uneven first year with the Utah Jazz, he bounced back with 16.2 points, six assists, and 1.4 steals per game. The Jazz outscored opponents by 16.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor en route to a league-best 52-20 record.
Since Utah will still be capped out even if it lets Conley walk, it seems likely the Jazz will look to lock him in on a long-term deal using his Bird rights.
6. PG/SG Victor Oladipo, Heat
In early March, the oft-injured Oladipo reportedly turned down a two-year extension with the Houston Rockets worth more than $45 million. He ultimately suffered a season-ending knee injury after making just four appearances with the Miami Heat.
The 29-year-old is now a few calamitous years removed from his breakout 2017-18 season, in which he made the All-NBA third team after averaging close to 23 points, five rebounds, four assists, and a league-leading 2.4 steals per game.
If he can get healthy, Oladipo is one of the league's top two-way guards. How many teams will be willing to gamble on that if remains to be seen. It seems unlikely he'll get a blockbuster deal.
7. PF/C Richaun Holmes, Kings
Holmes has averaged 13.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game with the Sacramento Kings over the past two seasons, steadily outperforming more highly touted players like former No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley. Whether from the Kings or elsewhere, the 27-year-old is in line for his first big payday.
8. PG Spencer Dinwiddie, Nets
Dinwiddie put up 20.6 points and 6.8 assists per game in 2019-20, when the Brooklyn Nets were without Kyrie Irving for much of the season and Kevin Durant for the entire campaign. Then he made three appearances in 2020-21 before suffering a partially torn ACL.
Given the uncertainty around Dinwiddie's health and the Nets now employing Irving and James Harden in the backcourt, a sign-and-trade might be best for both sides.
9. SG Tim Hardaway Jr., Mavericks
Hardaway has quietly hit a shade below 39% of his threes since arriving in Dallas midway through the 2018-19 season. Not coincidentally, Luka Doncic is the best player he's played alongside in his eight seasons to date. The 29-year-old shooting guard will continue to be best used as an off-ball scorer next to someone with Doncic's on-ball skills.