The challenge with talking about the 2024 free agent class is that what it looks like today — on July 21, 2023 — is very different than what it will look like on June 30, 2024, when free agency opens.
For example, there is Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics. As of today he would be a free agent next summer because talks on his supermax contract extension have dragged out. However, every source I spoke with about this in Las Vegas at Summer League said the deal would get done, the sides are just negotiating a player option in the final year and trade kicker, not the core of the deal.
That's why Brown is not on this list, he is expected to sign that extension. Same idea with Anthony Davis, who is eligible for an extension starting next month, and most around the league expect the Lakers and Davis to work something out. Both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard with the Clippers have player options and are extension eligible before next season, they are not on this list but could become free agents if no deal is worked out.
Here is a list of the top, and most likely, potential free agents come July 1, 2024.
1. LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)
LeBron will have a $51.4 million player option for the 2024-25 season that he likely picks up and stays with the Lakers. However, nothing is set his stone — he hinted at retirement after not advancing to the Finals this season, and he has talked for a long time about playing with his son Bronny James (who would likely be a late first-round pick if he decides to leave USC after next season). The smart money is on LeBron picking up that option and staying with the Lakers, but LeBron is not always predictable.
Siakam trade rumors have been flying around the league, but his camp has let it be known he would not extend with whoever trades for him, saying he wants to test free agency (that may have been posturing, but it's out there). Siakam is a top-20 player in the NBA who averaged 24.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists a game last season. He has a diverse offensive game and is a plus defender. He could help a lot of teams and might be the best player available next year.
Harden is very publicly trying to force a trade to the Los Angeles Clippers, but after opting into his $35.6 million contract for next season whatever team trades for him cannot extend him — Harden will be a free agent. He also will be age 34 and has shown some decline in his game (and unhappiness in multiple settings). Harden will have to put together a 2023-24 season that makes teams want to pay up and give him three years at $30-$40 million next summer, right now that market may not be out there.
4. OG Anunoby (Toronto Raptors)
When the Raptors tested the trade waters for Siakam, most teams asked, "What about Anunoby?" Toronto shot down those queries, but Anunoby has a $19.9 million player option for the 2024-25 season that he is sure to decline and test the market (even with the new, looser extension rules under the CBA Toronto cannot extend his current deal at market value). The Raptors have Anunoby's Bird rights and can offer more money than any other team, but Anunoby will have options.
DeRozan will be 35 years old when he hits the free agent market next summer, but there will still be demand for one of the better mid-range bucket-getters in the game. He averaged 24.5 points a night last season and had a 59.2 true shooting percentage. Teams will be watching to see if there is any decline in his game, and DeRozan needs the right players around him (he doesn't defend or space the floor from 3) but he can be a boost in the right situation.
6. Nic Claxton (Brooklyn Nets)
Brooklyn will try to keep their center of the future in the borough, but Claxton will be an unrestricted free agent and other teams will come calling (he is on such a steal of a contract it's unlikely an extension happens). Claxton is an athletic rim-protecting big who averaged 12.6 points per game on 70.5% shooting last season, plus pulled down 9.2 rebounds a game. More importantly, through all the chaos in Brooklyn the last few years, Claxton has kept his head down and just gotten better each year, adding to a versatile game.
Shooting is always in demand and Hield is one of the best in the game at it, a career 40% shooter from 3 who averaged 16.8 points per game last season. There are 29 other teams who could use him and while he will be 31 when he hits the market shooting is not a skill that fades as fast as others. Hield is going to get paid by someone.