The 2023 NBA free agent class will be rather fascinating, with new Dallas Mavericks star Kyrie Irving and former MVP James Harden at the forefront. The 2023 NBA Playoffs have only just begun, but you can bet that all 30 clubs are already planning for this summer. These days, team-building feels nearly as vital as games, and the majority of it takes place in June, July, and August.
Of course, the draft and trades are ways to improve a team's roster, but free agency is the purest form of player mobility. As a free agent, a player has complete control over his future. Perhaps, or the trade market might take centre stage over the offseason, causing some excitement.
Let's take a look at the top expected NBA free agents for this summer as the 2023 NBA Playoffs resume.
Any club interested in acquiring James Harden this summer will not be searching for the MVP version of him, but he remains possibly the finest offensive weapon available. His game has aged extremely well, as he is currently perhaps the finest facilitator in the NBA, while still delivering tremendous scoring from beyond the arc, around the basket, and from the free-throw line.
Irving seemed to be destined to play his final season in Brooklyn after picking up his option for the 2022-23 season. But, a week before the NBA trade deadline, Irving abruptly demanded a trade and was sent to the Dallas Mavericks to partner alongside Luka Doncic. With outstanding ball handling and athleticism, he is one of the NBA's top tough-shot creators. Irving has averaged 27.0 points, 6.0 assists, and 2.9 threes per game since joining the Mavericks, shooting 58.5 per cent on twos and 39.2 per cent on threes. Dallas averaged plus-5.8 points per 100 possessions with Kyrie on the court and minus-8.3 without him.
Fred VanVleet hasn't had an above-average true shooting percentage since 2017-18, but the Toronto Raptors have always been stronger offensively when he's on the court. VanVleet has averaged nearly 20 points, 6.6 assists, and 1.7 steals since the start of the 2020-21 season. Some members of the squad will assist the veteran with the Brinks Truck. A self-assured floor general who can get baskets from anywhere on the court and create for teammates. A tough defender who puts forth a lot of effort in defence.
His time with the Dallas Mavericks did not end the way everyone expected. And while his career average of just over 50 games per year is cause for concern, Kristaps Porziis has done more than enough to deserve serious attention from a slew of suitors should he reject his player option. His status has plummeted due to injuries and inadequate defence.
Vucevic, who was acquired by Chicago midway through the 2020-21 season, has not produced at the same level as he did during his time with the Orlando Magic. Last season, the gifted big man averaged 17.6 points, a nine-year low. A very excellent rebounder who can also defend the rim, but not at a high level. His speciality is facing up on opposing centres and getting baskets that way. This season, the Chicago Bulls were much poorer with Nikola Vucevic on the court, but he's still a strong shooter and passer for his position who may be more productive in a smaller role for a better club.
Grant, who is expected to be one of the top NBA free agents this summer, is hugely undervalued in the broad scheme of things. Jerami Grant has to be considered the NBA's most underappreciated 20-point-per-game scorer during the last three seasons. Grant has averaged 20.7 points and 2.1 threes per game since the start of the 2020-21 season while shooting 37.2 per cent from deep.
Green, 32, is reportedly expected to opt out of his deal rather than return to Golden State for $27.59 million in 2023-24. To some extent, he's returned to form as one of the game's top all-around defenders. Getting on in years, but still one of the finest defenders in the NBA. On the offensive end, he can hit open shots, is an excellent playmaker at his position, and can guard various positions.
He's averaged 18.2 points, 6.4 assists, and 2.8 three-pointers over the last three seasons while shooting 37.2 per cent from deep. With the Lakers, he's done well to raise his status in NBA free agency. Russell is expected to return to Southern California on a long-term deal throughout the summer.
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Kuzma, who was part of the Russell Westbrook trade to the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 2021, had a breakout season in Washington this season. The forward averaged 21.2 points per game, 7.2 rebounds per game, and 3.7 assists per game. In a more suited role—he was frequently forced to play as a first or second option for the injury-plagued Washington Wizards—he may gain some efficiency against weaker defenders.
After a disastrous season in 2022-23, it's reasonable to assume Middleton will exercise his $40.4 million contract option for the following season. Coming off an injury-plagued season, it will be a source of concern for potential suitors. When healthy, one of the game's top swingmen is capable of scoring at a high level while also guarding, creating, and rebounding.
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