The 2019 NBA free-agency class was one for the record books. As a matter of fact, many consider that summer’s class to be one of the best in history. Well, by the way things are looking, it seems the 2021 class could be even more stacked.
Let’s take a look at the NBA free agents who could potentially headline the landscape-changing class of 2021.
Honorable Mentions: 2017 NBA Draft class
By the summer of 2021, players from the 2017 draft class who have yet to sign an extension with their respective teams will be hitting free agency. While most of the top guys from this class are fully expected to sign a new deal as soon as this coming offseason — with a few of them gunning for a max deal — we still have to list them here out of a technicality.
Some of the most prominent name from said class include Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, Bam Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox, John Collins, Lonzo Ball, Lauri Markkanen, and Kyle Kuzma, to name a few.
Other honorable mentions
Some other guys who did not make our top 10 but still deserve a mention include Chris Paul, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Mike Conley, Steven Adams, and Otto Porter Jr.
10. Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers
Victor Oladipo will have so much riding on the 2020-21 season, arguably even more than most of the other players on our list. The 6-foot-4 combo guard is coming off a major injury and has yet to rediscover his All-Star form.
The next campaign will determine whether or not he’s going to be an elite free agent in the next offseason.
9. Gordon Hayward, Boston Celtics
Gordon Hayward has been outstanding this season, and he was showing shades of his former All-Star self. The remainder of the 2019-20 NBA season will be crucial for his future, and next season even more so assuming he exercises his $34.2 million player option in order to be a free agent in 2021.
Hayward will be 31 by the end of the next season, so he’s likely looking at one last significant payday.
8. DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs
DeMar DeRozan made the move to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Kawhi Leonard back in 2018. Unlike Kawhi, who amazingly carried the Toronto Raptors to a championship, things haven’t exactly been as peachy for DeRozan in San Antonio.
DeRozan might be looking for a change in scenery come 2021, but first he’ll have to decide on his $27.7 million player option for 2020-21.
7. Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans
Jrue Holiday is easily the most underrated guy on our list. He’s one of the best defenders in the league at his position, a tested veteran, and a player who does not require the spotlight.
The 30-year-old might just prove to be the biggest steal of the 2021 class, though this would require him to opt out of the $27.1 million he’s owed for 2021-22. That’s no guarantee, so he still could wind up in the 2022 class.
6. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Rudy Gobert’s irresponsible actions leading up to his COVID-19 diagnosis left a bad taste in the mouth of Donovan Mitchell and some other members of the Utah Jazz. As much as the team tries to convince us that it’s all sunshine and rainbows in Utah, it’s hard for them to deny that at least some damage has been done.
This might lead to Gobert opting to test the waters in the 2021 offseason, though he will be eligible for a supermax deal this offseason.
5. Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers
When Paul George arrived with the Los Angeles Clippers during the summer of 2019, it felt like it was a dream come true for him. He was finally playing for his hometown team and was personally handpicked by the reigning NBA Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard, as the guy to go to war with.
Nevertheless, George’s current deal has a $37.9 million player option for 2021-22, so he could decide to opt out and sign a new deal.
4. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
Anthony Davis has a $28.8 million player option on his current deal for the 2020-21 season. He’s fully expected to opt out of that and become a free agent this offseason, but he’s expected to remain with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Still, some believe he might just take a short-term deal in order to hit free agency again in 2021. How the next few months play out for the Lakers could play a huge role in Davis’ decision-making process.
3. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
Could LeBron James be on the move again in 2021? Probably not. Then again, we’ve seen crazier things happen in the NBA. What if Davis decides to leave?
LeBron has a $41 million player option for the 2021-22 season, which puts him in a position to make another switch next summer if he so decides. Or perhaps he just re-ups with the Lakers for more money.
2. Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
Much like George, Kawhi Leonard also wanted the move to the Los Angeles Clippers. However, there’s going to be so much pressure on this duo to perform over the next couple of seasons.
Failing to get to the NBA Finals this season and the next could spell trouble for the Clippers, and it might just serve as Leonard’s motivation to part ways with the organization. Leonard has a $36 million player option for 2021-22, so he could opt out of that and hit free agency.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
This is the big one. The Milwaukee Bucks are expected to offer Giannis Antetokounmpo the biggest NBA contract ever, and the reigning MVP is likewise expected to put pen to paper on the long-term extension.
However, what if he doesn’t? That would certainly send the entire NBA into a frenzy and an all-out race to sign arguably the best player in the league once he hits free agency in 2021.