James Harden, Kyrie Irving lead 2023 NBA free agency class

The NBA churn never stops. At the conclusion of the 2023 NBA Finals, it will be time for every team–whether rebuilding, buying, or contending–to look for ways to improve their team, or, at the very least, mold their team into one that makes more sense given their timeline. And one way for teams to do that is via free agency, where players decide which team to play for based on a few reasons, including, but not limited to, financial stability, contending status, and proximity to home.

With that said, these are some of the most impactful 2023 NBA free agents whose decisions would go a long way towards determining the course of the 2023-24 season.

Player Options

These players have pending player options for the 2023-24 campaign, but they are widely expected to decline those options and enter free agency in search of a bigger payday.

James Harden

James Harden may have taken a massive pay cut during the 2022 offseason to grease the wheels for the Philadelphia 76ers, but as a result, he should be hitting free agency once again only a year later, this time in search of a maximum deal that’s more befitting of a player of his caliber.

Averaging 20-10 as the bona fide second option to MVP candidate Joel Embiid, Harden has successfully transitioned from one of the best isolation scorers of all time into a playmaking maestro, which bodes well for the Sixers (or other prospective teams, such as the Houston Rockets) as the Beard continues to age.

Khris Middleton

There are no guarantees that Khris Middleton opts out of his $40.4 million player option for the Milwaukee Bucks next season, given how injury-ravaged his 2022-23 campaign has been. However, there were rumors months ago that the Bucks small forward would supposedly choose to test his value on the free agent market, making him one of the best available secondary scorers on the market should that happen.

Kristaps Porzingis

There reportedly have already been talks between Kristaps Porzingis and the Washington Wizards regarding a potential contract extension, which could effectively keep him out of the free agent market.

Nevertheless, should an extension fail to materialize, Porzingis will be entering free agency following the most durable and productive season of his career.

Draymond Green

Draymond Green has been an essential member of the Golden State Warriors dynasty since 2014. The team’s heart, soul, and defensive anchor, the past nine years would have been vastly different for the Dubs without him around. But after an offseason where the Warriors chose to extend Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins over him, the writing could very much be on the wall regarding Green’s stint with the Dubs.

Fred VanVleet

The subject of trade rumors aplenty throughout the 2022-23 campaign, Fred VanVleet will be ending the season as a member of the Toronto Raptors. Where he begins the 2023-24 campaign, however, remains a huge question mark, especially with the Orlando Magic hot on the 2021 All-Star point guard’s tail, Markelle Fultz’ late-season breakout notwithstanding.

Kyle Kuzma

There may not be a universe in existence where Kyle Kuzma opts into his 2023-24 player option with the Wizards, making him yet another impending free agent for the team in the nation’s capital. Coming off a strong campaign, Kuzma should be a coveted target for teams looking to bolster their size and scoring in one fell swoop.

Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA)

These players are free to sign with whatever team they please, subject to cap rules.

Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving has been the subject of one controversy after another during the 2022-23 season alone, although the talent he possesses ensures that he’ll always find a home in the NBA. The only question now is whether that home remains the Dallas Mavericks, especially after their late-season collapse that has kept them out of the play-in picture.

Russell Westbrook

He may no longer be the MVP-caliber player he once was, but Russell Westbrook has proven, after his midseason move to the Los Angeles Clippers, that he still has a lot left in the tank. While Westbrook has seemingly found a home with the Clippers, LA may be hamstrung by the new cap rules, severely limiting the contract they can offer the dynamic, if inconsistent, floor general.

Brook Lopez

The Milwaukee Bucks have managed to remain the best team in the NBA (record-wise) even with Khris Middleton being a shell of himself for most of the season, and Brook Lopez played a huge part in that. Lopez has been incredible in protecting the rim, even drawing Defensive Player of the Year consideration, and his offensive versatility at his size makes him such a nightmare to defend as well.

Nikola Vucevic

Nikola Vucevic may not have the best reputation as a defender, but he has played a prominent part in the Chicago Bulls’ strong defense during the 2022-23 campaign, which should only bode well for the next contract he would command. Nonetheless, his bread and butter remains his offensive versatility, making him a target for teams in need of frontcourt scoring punch.

Jerami Grant

Jerami Grant may not have had the impact many fans expected when the Portland Trail Blazers traded for him last offseason, but he remains such a valuable piece to have in today’s wing-driven NBA. Standing at 6’8, Grant can create his own shot and hold his own on the defensive end, making him one of the best complementary pieces available in free agency.

D’Angelo Russell

His stock appeared to be taking a huge dip over the past two seasons, as the emergence of Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns pushed D’Angelo Russell down the Minnesota Timberwolves’ offensive hierarchy.

Nonetheless, the trade that brought him back to the Los Angeles Lakers seems to have done wonders for his leaguewide perception. The only question now is if it results in a huge payday for the southpaw point guard.

Restricted Free Agents (RFA)

RFAs can sign offer sheets with a team possessing cap space, but their original teams will have 24 hours (48 hours in the previous collective bargaining agreement) to match the deal. (This assumes that their original teams will be tendering a qualifying offer, which they’re expected to do.)

Cameron Johnson

Drafted 11th by the Phoenix Suns during the 2019 NBA Draft much to the confusion of fans and pundits, Cameron Johnson has proven his worth with his sweet-shooting ways at 6’8. Now with the Brooklyn Nets, Johnson has been taking on a bigger offensive burden, and his efficiency hasn’t suffered too much of a drop-off.

Other teams could try to nab Johnson away, but it’s a near certainty that the Nets match any offer sheet that comes his way.

Austin Reaves

Austin Reaves has come a long way. An undrafted guard that the Lakers took a chance on in 2021, Reaves has become one of the craftiest scorers in the game, earning his spot in the purple and gold’s starting lineup late in the year en route to a nice payday.

Rui Hachimura

Rui Hachimura felt like he needed a change of scenery, as he found himself in such a limited role with the Wizards during the 2022-23 season. Now with the Lakers, Hachimura hasn’t exactly lit the league ablaze, but his ability to create his own shot at his size makes him an attractive target for teams looking to add a bit more of a two-way punch on the wing.

PJ Washington

It has been a nightmare season for the Charlotte Hornets, but PJ Washington’s bank account would soon be stuff the majority of people can only dream of. Standing at 6’7, Washington can stroke it from deep (when he’s on, he’s on) and his defensive versatility is underrated, making him a solid role player to have for the Hornets and other prospective suitors.

The post James Harden, Kyrie Irving lead 2023 NBA free agency class appeared first on ClutchPoints.

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