2021 NBA free agency: Top 21 free agents available for Bulls

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NBC Sports Chicago Staff
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2021 NBA free agency: Top 21 free agents available for Bulls originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

With the trade deadline in the rearview, it’s never too early to look ahead at the NBA’s next major player movement period: free agency.

NBA free agency always provides drama (and sometimes utter chaos), and this year should be no different with Kawhi Leonard potentially headlining a class filled with big names.

Here is everything you need to know about 2021 NBA free agency and the top players who could hit the open market.

When does free agency start?

With the NBA not operating on its normal calendar this season, there is still no set date for the start of free agency. For what it's worth, Game 7 of the Finals is slated for July 22.

What are the projected salary cap and luxury tax figures?

The 2021-22 salary cap is projected to be at $115 million, with a luxury tax threshold of $139 million.

What does the Bulls' salary cap situation look like?

The Chicago Bulls traded Otto Porter and his expiring $28.5 million price tag for Nikola Vucevic, and his $24 million salary for the 2021-2022 season means they won’t have the financial flexibility once expected. They have to spend wisely because looming in free agency of 2022 are possible extensions for Zach LaVine (set for a big raise from his $19.5 million salary) and Lauri Markkanen (who has a qualifying offer of $9 million after the Bulls declined to extend him ahead of the 2020-21 season).

Who are the top players who could hit free agency?

1. Kawhi Leonard, player option: The Klaw holds a $36 million player option that he will almost certainly decline (a new max deal would earn him $39.2 million next season). But will that be to sign a new deal with the Clippers or to join a different franchise? The rest of the league will be watching the Clippers’ playoff performance closely.

2. Chris Paul, player option: When Houston traded Paul to OKC in 2019, it seemed inevitable that the Point God eventually would pick up his $44.2 million option for 2021-22. Now? There’s at least a chance that Paul, who turns 36 in May, opts out to secure one more multi-year, big-money deal after two straight All-Star nods.

3. Jrue Holiday, player option: Holiday is eligible to receive a four-year, $134.9 million extension from the Bucks right now. If the two sides don’t reach a deal, Holiday will likely decline his $26.7 million option. The Bucks coughed up a ton for the 30-year-old point guard (three first-round picks and two pick swaps), and they can’t afford to lose him.

4. John Collins, restricted: The Hawks held on to Collins through the NBA trade deadline despite reportedly receiving a “steady stream of calls,” maybe expressing some optimism that they can retain the 23-year-old power forward. Collins reportedly turned down a $90-plus million extension from Atlanta in search of a max deal.

5. Kyle Lowry, unrestricted: The Raptors didn’t part ways with their greatest player in franchise history at the deadline despite rumors that a breakup could happen. Lowry said he will retire as a Raptor when it’s all said and done, but will he put on a different uniform before then? Though Lowry just turned 35, the point guard should receive plenty of interest in free agency with the season he’s having.

6. Mike Conley, unrestricted: The point guard has rebounded nicely in his second season with Utah and finally earned his first All-Star nod in the process. Conley, who turns 35 in October, probably won’t get the $34.5 million he’s making this season, but he should have one last big payday coming his way.

7. Victor Oladipo, unrestricted: Oladipo reportedly turned down a two-year, $45.2 million extension from the Rockets and then was traded to Miami at the trade deadline. Oladipo has struggled to stay on the court the past few seasons and hasn’t looked like his old All-Star self when he has played. So who will be willing to take a gamble on the soon-to-be 29-year-old who has been dealt four times in less than five years?

8. Lonzo Ball, restricted: Ball’s name popped up in trade rumors, but he might have played his way into the Pelicans’ future core. The fourth-year guard is enjoying his best 3-point shooting season, in addition to posting a career high in points per game. Though he will be a restricted free agent, there should be several teams trying to pry him away from New Orleans.

9. DeMar DeRozan, unrestricted: DeRozan will turn 32 later this year and has attempted fewer than two 3-pointers per game for three straight seasons. How many teams will be interested in paying up for that profile, and will DeRozan fetch something close to the $27.7 million he’s earning this season?

10. Evan Fournier, unrestricted: The Celtics were willing to take on Evan Fournier at the trade deadline, but his stay in Boston could be brief with unrestricted free agency looming. The 28-year-old shooting guard can score at all three levels and play-make a little, while not being a complete liability on the other end of the court.

11. Duncan Robinson, restricted: While Robinson isn’t hitting 3s at a near-45 percent clip like he was last season, he’s still one of the league’s most feared threats from beyond the arc. The undrafted guard who was playing in the G League two years ago is in line for his first big NBA contract.

12. Andre Drummond, unrestricted: How much is a traditional center worth in a league that values stretch-fives? We’ll soon find out when the 27-year-old Drummond gets a chance to set the market. He has been dumped by two teams (Pistons and Cavs), despite the fact he is an elite rebounder, a double-double machine and, when properly motivated, an intimidating rim protector. But his lack of range could cost him. 

13. Norman Powell, player option: The swingman has been having quite a contract year, making it a near certainty he opts out of his deal. Powell, who was dealt to the Blazers at the deadline, is averaging a career-high in points while taking and making more 3-pointers than ever before, shooting a personal-best from deep.

14. Dennis Schroder, unrestricted: The point guard has proven his value since joining the defending NBA champions. He has taken pressure off LeBron James by giving the Lakers another ball-handler who can attack the rim, but his impact has been felt most at the defensive end of the court where he uses his speed, hustle and intensity to disrupt even the league’s best scorers. Hence the nickname “Dennis the Menace.”

15. Kelly Oubre Jr., unrestricted: Oubre struggled initially after being dealt to the Warriors, recently admitting he put too much pressure on himself because of the contract and financial chatter. He has recovered nicely as his shooting percentages steadily improve after a disastrous start and notably wasn't dealt at the trade deadline.

16. Spencer Dinwiddie, player option: Remember when Dinwiddie was going to let fans decide which team he played for if his bitcoin goal was reached through GoFundMe? He fell far short of that crowdsourcing goal. But he now has a chance to decide his own destination, assuming he intends on declining a player option that would pay him $12.3 million. That decision will be complicated after Dinwiddie suffered a partially torn ACL that is expected to keep him out for the remainder of the season. The 27-year-old showed last season he's capable of carrying the load offensively, averaging career highs of 20.8 points and 6.8 assists with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving sidelined.

17. Lauri Markkanen, restricted: Markkanen and the Bulls remained far apart on an extension last offseason, and the injury-plagued forward will get a chance to see what he can command on the market, with the Bulls having a chance to match any offer he receives. The 23-year-old is having his best offensive season, averaging a personal best in points per game, shooting from the field and shooting from 3. The concern is the number of games he has missed each season (14 in first year, 30 in second year, 15 in shortened third year, 20 so far in fourth year).

18. Jarrett Allen, restricted: The 22-year-old center is getting a chance to shine just in time for his payday. Initially stuck behind DeAndre Jordan in Brooklyn, and then briefly forced to share minutes with Andre Drummond in Cleveland, Allen has converted over 60 percent of his field goal attempts since the Cavs banished Drummond in mid-February. 

19. Will Barton, player option: The playmaking wing has seen a slight decrease in his playing time, shot attempts and points per game with the emergence of Michael Porter Jr. Still, he is shooting over 40 percent from deep. The veteran, with his ability to handle the ball and score in bunches, could be the missing piece for a contending team.

20. Richaun Holmes, unrestricted: Holmes has expressed a desire to remain in Sacramento, but that won’t stop other teams from showing their interest. Among the league leaders in field goal percentage, the 27-year-old said he takes pride in being one of the league’s top two-way centers. 

21. Derrick Rose, unrestricted: At 32 years old, he’s no longer the high-flying MVP he once was. But he remains a serviceable, veteran point guard -- and a healthy one at that -- who has used his speed and ability to facilitate to spark the Knicks’ offense and keep them in playoff positioning.