The NBA offseason is always an exciting event to anticipate. Alongside watching young prospects participate in the NBA Draft, NBA Free Agency has been the pillar in what the headlines revolve around. Over the past decade, star players have taken free agency as an opportunity to benefit themselves on and off the floor. Heading into this offseason will be no different whatsoever.
In 2010, NBA superstar LeBron James decided to join the Miami Heat alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. While the decision left fans furious where they burned his jersey in the streets, James benefited from the decision tremendously. In four seasons with the Heat, James led Miami to the NBA Finals each season and won two titles as well. In a nationally televised event that took place, James showed that he was not hesitant on which destination he wanted to continue his career.
Another huge example is 2016 where Kevin Durant joined the Golden State Warriors. While the Warriors were fresh off of a historic 73-9 season, Durant’s decision caused a lot of controversies that still hangs around his head to this day. Per Stephen A Smith, Durant’s decision to join Golden State was “the weakest move by a superstar”. Despite the narratives, Durant won two championships in three seasons as a member of the Warriors.
Watching how both James and Durant placed themselves based on their decisions influences other stars to do the same. In recent years, the NBA has had blockbuster moves that have elevated teams’ chances of winning a title. This season’s free agency list is not as strong as in years past, but a change in scenery for these players can impact the rest of the NBA. Let’s take a look at the top NBA free agents in 2021.
1. Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard has a player option by the end of this season. If things do not work in the Clippers’ favor this postseason, there could be a chance that Leonard decides to explore free agency. As many have witnessed in year’ past, Leonard is a star that is not afraid to express his views on where he wants to play.
The Clippers have had high expectations to win a championship since Leonard’s signing in 2019. He made the decision to team up with Paul George and capture his third NBA title. Last season, the Clippers fell short in the conference semifinals after blowing a 3-1 series lead to the Denver Nuggets. Since their downfall in the NBA bubble, Los Angeles has come into this season more assertive and engaged with their new roster.
The Clippers are home for Kawhi Leonard. Although it is hard to imagine him departing, anything can happen. At 29-years-old, Leonard wants to continue to place himself in a winning environment that can result in another NBA championship.
2. Chris Paul
Playing 17 seasons in the NBA, Chris Paul has shown no signs of slowing down. The veteran point guard has elevated himself as a leader throughout the years and wants to continue to make others better. As his career dwindles down, Paul’s priority remains in search of his first NBA championship ring.
Paul had impacted winning in every organization he has played for. Last season, he led a young Oklahoma City Thunder team to overachieve expectations. The Thunder finished the season as a top-five team in the West and took the Houston Rockets to seven games in the first round. This season, Paul has continued to make his impact for a Suns organization that hasn’t seen the playoffs in a decade. Phoenix is currently one of the top teams in the NBA, and Paul wants to lead this team in the right direction come playoff time.
Like Kawhi Leonard, Paul also has a player option after this season. If he enjoys the chemistry he has built with Phoenix, it won’t be a surprise if he decides to stay. But the competitive nature of Chris Paul can allow him to explore his options and sign with a team with a higher chance at winning a championship.
3. Kyle Lowry
Kyle Lowry has paid his dues in the city of Toronto. He has elevated his game into that of an all-star caliber level and even contributed to winning an NBA championship in 2019. As Toronto failed to find Lowry a trade destination during the deadline, he now has an opportunity to figure out the next move for his career.
To Raptors fans across the world, Lowry is known as the greatest Raptor of all time. He has remained loyal to the franchise and has displayed huge performances during the playoffs. Throughout this season, Toronto has been out of the playoff race, which means it could be time to start over. A 36-year-old Lowry should be looking for a new situation this offseason.
Lowry’s ability to play on both sides of the floor will allow him to fit with any contending roster. The beauty of his game is he doesn’t have to be a number one or two option in order to be successful. However a coach utilizes him, Lowry will make necessary adjustments to help his team win.