NBA free agency: Kawhi Leonard leads star-filled small-forward class
The best free agents on the market: Centers | Power forwards
This year’s free-agent small-forward class contains some of the league’s gems. The superstar depth took a bit of a hit after Kevin Durant ruptured his Achilles tendon in the NBA Finals, but there are still All-Star level talents with plenty of depth.
Given the importance of the position in today’s NBA, teams are going to target elite small forwards right from the jump in free agency. The ideal small forward can either slide up to play some small-ball four, or slide down and also play shooting guard. Very few of the top available threes are locked in only at that position, which only adds to their value.
Here are the top potential free-agent small forwards on the market, with the negotiating period opening at 6 p.m. ET Sunday:
1. Kawhi Leonard
Leonard bounced back from an injury-ravaged season and led the Toronto Raptors to the NBA title, while also winning Finals MVP. Toronto used a progressive rest program to keep Leonard fresh throughout the season and it paid off, as he delivered one of the best playoff runs of all time. Despite the fairytale season, Leonard is still intrigued about leaving the Raptors to head back home to Southern California, but Toronto is the favorite to keep him.
Fits with: Raptors, Clippers, Lakers
2. Kevin Durant (player option)
Durant would have topped this list had he not torn his Achilles. Now, his long-awaited free agency is one that involves a different type of calculation. There are even rumors Durant could simply choose to opt in, rehab with the Warriors and hit free agency a year from now. Or teams like the Knicks or Nets could still gamble on him making a full recovery and give him a max contract anyway. Durant will still lead free agency, just in a different way than was expected.
Fits with: Warriors, Nets, Knicks, Clippers
3. Khris Middleton
Middleton picked a great year to go from everyone’s most underrated player to a first time All-Star. He’s now poised to cash in as a free agent. Because of his ability to play on or off the ball, inside or outside, as well as being a plus defender, Middleton fits with any team. He’ll have big offers, but he’s found a home in Milwaukee and is expected to team with Giannis Antetokounmpo for years to come.
Fits with: Bucks, Mavericks, Clippers, Knicks
4. Tobias Harris
Harris could have easily been on the power forward list, as he’s really just a forward in today’s NBA. That interchangeability serves him well and makes him an ideal fit for several teams. Philadelphia paid a pretty penny to get Harris at the trade deadline, so they’ll likely pay to keep him. But if ownership is unwilling to go big for both Harris and Jimmy Butler, another team could grab Harris to fill its three/four spot for the next few years.
Fits with: 76ers, Pacers, Jazz, Mavericks, Kings
5. Bojan Bogdanovic
When Victor Oladipo went down with a torn quad, it looked like the season was lost for the Indiana Pacers. Instead, Bogdanovic stepped up and was a big part of carrying Indiana to the playoffs. He’s been doing this for years on the international level, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. He’s down a bit on the list because of his age, but for at least the next few years, Bogdanovic will give a team solid scoring and better-than-you-think defense.
Fits with: Pacers, Jazz, 76ers, Kings
6. Harrison Barnes
Barnes somewhat surprisingly opted out of a contract that would have paid him over $25 million for the upcoming season. It is unlikely Barnes will ever see a single-season salary that large again, but this move gives him flexibility for the summer. It also gives the King the ability to lower his annual salary, but stretch it over more years. Or for both parties to move on entirely. Barnes still fits as a scoring three/four with just about any team.
Fits with: Kings, Pacers, Jazz
7. Marcus Morris Sr.
Morris really blossomed in Boston. The Celtics let him carry the second unit for large chunks of his two seasons in green, while also using Morris as a sometimes starter. While he’s known for his scoring, Morris is also a good defender, rebounder and passer. He fits anywhere because he’s equally good coming off the bench or starting. Some smart team is going to get a steal here.
Fits with: Celtics, 76ers, Lakers, Nets, Knicks, Clippers
8. Kelly Oubre Jr.
Oubre was acquired by Phoenix at the trade deadline and went on to play some of the best basketball of his career with the Suns. He seemed like a lock to be a priority for Phoenix as a free agent, but some other maneuvering at the draft has that in a bit of flux. The Suns are a swing team that could have cap space, or stay over the cap. If they stay over the cap, bank on Oubre re-signing in Phoenix.
Fits with: Suns, Kings, Pacers
9. Jabari Parker
What a strange trip it’s been for Parker. Twice he’s looked like he was becoming a go-to scorer and both times he tore his ACL — in 2014 and 2017. The Bulls handed Parker a two-year, $40 million deal as a free agent, but it was really a one-year, $20 million contract because the second year was a team option. Parker never really fit in Chicago and was traded to Washington at the deadline. He played well with the Wizards, but had his team option declined Saturday. Now it’s about finding a fit as a bench scorer. At just 24 years old, he can be a major weapon off the pine for a good team.
Fits with: Wizards, Jazz, Pacers, Kings
10. Rudy Gay
Gay is one of the few success stories as a player who returned from a torn Achilles tendon to be productive. At his age, he’s more of a reserve/spot starter than a guy who you can reliably plug into your opening lineup. Gay can play both forward spots and can still score from the midrange and in the post. His days of iso-ball and taking guys off the bounce are over, but he’s a reliable depth piece for a good team.
Fits with: Spurs, Lakers, Jazz, Mavericks
Other notable free agents: Trevor Ariza, DeMarre Carroll, James Ennis III, Dorian Finney-Smith (RFA), Mario Hezonja
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