2024 Free Agency

15 key free agents entering 2024 NBA offseason

A star-studded group of players is set to enter free agency when it officially tips off on June 30.

The Clippers have two of the top names to watch in free agency: James Harden and Paul George.

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Free agency moves fast in the NBA, and faster than usual this summer with teams permitted to negotiate with their players one day after the Finals. That’s how Indiana’s Pascal Siakam (reported four years, $189.5 million) and Sacramento’s Malik Monk (reported four years, $78 million) got yanked off the board so quickly, both choosing to stay right where they finished the season.

Other names on this list of 15 key free agents could come off this week before rival teams officially get to woo them starting Sunday. Chances are, more will stay and re-sign rather than leave. But there still figures to be enough talent in play to spruce up some needy rosters:

1. Paul George, LA Clippers (Player option)

2023-24 stats: 22.6 ppg 5.2 rpg 3.5 apg

Notes: It might seem like a hoops dream: the Philadelphia 76ers need a two-way wing precisely of George’s capabilities and George should welcome a suitor with a maximum contract to offer. And yet we got the recent report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania that the team’s interest in the Clippers free agent has “waned.” Could it be that the word is out George doesn’t want to leave Los Angeles at all? Now 34 and still a diligent defender, George had the best shooting season of his career, coming up a bit short of the vaunted 50-40-90% club.

2. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers (Player option)

2023-24 stats: 25.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 8.3 apg

Notes: When James was possibly the most ballyhooed free agent in NBA history, staging his Decision in 2010, he had just averaged 29.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 8.6 assists for Cleveland. His numbers this season weren’t much different, and his 3-point shooting was up from 33% to 41%. But NBA crystal balls can get cataracts at age 39 — will James’s production drop considerably at some point soon? Besides, James opting out of his $51.4 million Lakers’ deal seems more about bookkeeping and leverage than another grand shopping excursion.

3. Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers (Restricted)

2023-24 stats: 25.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 6.2 apg

Notes: Free-agent markets in which the top targets stay put lack drama and are far less fun than the nine-figure game of musical chairs we get some summers. But sometimes it’s nice to see a fellow’s hard work rewarded right where he delivered and fits best. The league’s Kia Most Improved Player winner has taken big year-to-year steps since arriving in 2020 and he became an All-Star this season, seizing the void opened by James Harden’s trade. It’s inconceivable he’ll leave his gig as Joel Embiid’s sidekick.

4. OG Anunoby, New York Knicks (Player option)

2023-24 stats: 14.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.1 apg

Notes: If free agency were an exact science, replicable in a lab, Anunoby would be among the most sought-after signees ever. New York went 20-3 with the 26-year-old wing on the court after acquiring him from Toronto as the calendar turned to 2024. Could Anunoby’s All-Defensive and underrated offensive play spark a team, at that pace, to 71 victories? The Knicks would be thrilled to add five or 10 victories to their 50, which is why Anunoby won’t have to go anywhere to double the $19.9 million salary he’s opting out for 2024-25.

5. Isaiah Hartenstein, New York Knicks (Unrestricted)

2023-24 stats: 7.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.1 bpg

Notes: No player had “He’s gonna get paid!” said about him this season more than Hartenstein, whose minutes, opportunities, and production soared while New York bigs Mitchell Robinson and Julius Randle dealt with injuries. Even with the Knicks’ cap limitations, the 7-footer can nearly double his $9 million salary. He’s another key piece for a team that mostly needs to stick together and stay healthier.

6. DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls (Unrestricted)

2023-24 stats: 24 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 5.3 apg

Notes: DeRozan will be 35, entering his 15th season, and seems out of sync with a Bulls team that finally looks ready to concede it’s time to rebuild. Then again, sending out Alex Caruso for OKC’s Josh Giddey might be a surgical move to replace Lonzo Ball as a playmaker, whose 35 pre-injury games with Chicago in the first half of 2021-22 teased what their team could become. Frankly, a team such as the Sixers — a contender that can pay DeRozan and use his scoring and clutch ability — would seem a far more satisfying fit if the veteran is willing to move East.

7. James Harden, LA Clippers (Unrestricted)

2023-24 stats: 16.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 8.5 apg

Notes: Each time we’re tempted to write off Harden and any sense of future, he roars back just enough to advise against that. He’ll be 35 next season but his value to the Clippers was undeniable and the 72 games he played were the most since 2018-19. He’s been on wheels with four teams in five years and he already has been paid upwards of $340 million in his NBA career, so staying put in his native L.A. seems the likeliest plan.

8. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Denver Nuggets (Player option)

2023-24 stats: 10.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.4 apg

Notes: Caldwell-Pope has been generating a lot of speculation as a player who a) could help many teams, b) might be affordable, and c) perhaps is gettable. That’s a trifecta that can pay off beyond expectations in free agency. From his humble beginnings in Detroit 11 years ago, the 6-foot-5 wing has helped the Lakers and the Nuggets win rings, hitting 40% of his 3-pointers the past five seasons. Orlando and Philadelphia have emerged as teams who might deal Denver another free-market blow (the Nuggets lost Bruce Brown to free agency last summer).

9. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors (Unrestricted)

2023-24 stats: 17.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.3 apg

Notes: Probably no free agent has as much sentiment attached to his business this summer as this Golden State stalwart. He was, after all, a vital part of the franchise’s ascension as a four-time champion over the past decade. But he also missed two full seasons with injuries, he’s 34, his athleticism has dipped and the Warriors are at a different place in regaining relevancy. Thompson’s 3-point accuracy of 38.7% was the second lowest in his 13 seasons, he played 77 games, and his per-36 numbers were right at his career averages. But the same reservations that have slowed the Warriors’ offers to Thompson could chill the market.

10. Tobias Harris, Philadelphia 76ers (Unrestricted)

2023-24 stats: 17.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3.1 apg

Notes: The concept of “What has he done for them lately?” would hurt Harris in what teams might be willing to do for him now. A mid-impact forward averaging $36 million a year the past five seasons also averaged just 9.0 points for the Sixers in their first-round ouster vs. New York. Harris will turn 32 next month but he has high miles on his tires after stops with five teams in 13 seasons. A niche role for teams such as New Orleans, Utah or San Antonio has been floated.

11. Tyus Jones, Washington Wizards (Unrestricted)

2023-24 stats: 12 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 7.3 apg

Notes: Widely touted as the “best backup point guard in the NBA” during his four seasons in Memphis, Jones started all 66 games in which he played for the woeful Wizards. At 28, he might have more value to a top contender in his old role but he’s in his prime and his just-completed contract ($29 million over two years) has raised his expectations and cap hit. Brooklyn, San Antonio, Toronto or staying put in Washington are among the possibilities.

12. Immanuel Quickley, Toronto Raptors (Restricted)

2023-24 stats: 17 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.9 apg

Notes: Maxey won’t have to go anywhere to cash in from the Sixers, and Quickley — drafted four spots (25th) after his Kentucky teammate in 2020 — might not either. Of course, the 6-foot-3 point guard moved once already, sent to the Raptors in December in the OG Anunoby-R.J. Barrett trade. Being “restricted” limits leverage but Toronto needs Quickley, who thrived in his larger role with the new team.

13. Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans Pelicans (Unrestricted)

2023-24 stats: 12.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.1 apg

Notes: The big guy started all 82 games but his minutes and touches dropped after the All-Star break and his fit as the Pelicans’ front line got healthier wasn’t great. Players his size (6-foot-11, 265 pounds) have regained some value in the 3-point crazy league, but as a situational backup center, he might not top the $15.4 million he was paid this season.

14. D’Angelo Russell, Los Angeles Lakers (Player option)

2023-24 stats: 18 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 6.3 apg

Notes: Opting out of a salary worth $18.7 million might make sense for Russell because staying with the Lakers might have had him in trade talks anyway. The veteran guard has had a knack for perking up in contract years, but his postseason shooting in the first-round loss to Denver undercut his case. It’s feasible Russell will return to the Lakers or will trade a pay cut for extended years with another team.

15. Malik Beasley, Milwaukee Bucks (Unrestricted)

2023-24 stats: 11.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.4 apg

Notes: Beasley signed a one-year minimum deal last summer for a chance to start and showcase his skills. He achieved the former, starting more games (77) than in any two previous years combined. But he came up short on the latter. His 41% shooting on 3-pointers and his effort were assets, but defensively the Bucks still sagged with an attackable backcourt (Damian Lillard was at the other spot). Beasley can get back to earning the $14 million-plus he got on his previous deal if he provides his old value as a shooter off someone’s bench.

2024 Free Agent Tracker

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Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.

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