Skip to main content

NBA Free Agency: Latest Buzz and Intel Around the League

With NBA free agency just hours away, here’s what’s circling around the league.

Latest rumblings ahead of the (ahem) official start of free agency Thursday night…

  • Let’s start here: don’t count on superstar movement in the next few days. Rival executives expect Bradley Beal to re-sign with Washington on a five-year max contract, Zach LaVine appears headed back to Chicago and James Harden and the Sixers seem to be on the same page on a three-year deal that will give Philadelphia the flexibility to pursue frontcourt help—with Heat forward P.J. Tucker atop Daryl Morey’s wish list.

  • As has been widely reported, Dallas is bracing for a significant offer from the Knicks for free agent to be Jalen Brunson, a move New York has been telegraphing, shedding the contracts of Kemba WalkerNerlens Noel and Alec Burks (thanks, Detroit). Publicly, the Mavericks have been optimistic about retaining Brunson (“Until he tells us he doesn’t want to be here, we’re optimistic,” said Mavs GM Nico Harrison on draft night), but there is an understanding internally that they won’t get him back for a nickel less than what New York—or anyone—is willing to offer. Brunson wanted a four-year, $55 million extension last fall. He would have accepted it again last January. Dallas declined to offer it, and now the Mavs will be faced with the likelihood that the Knicks, helmed by Leon Rose, Brunson’s former agent, will clear enough cap space to make Brunson a four-year, near max-level offer, as well as the opportunity to be a lead guard—something he could not be in Dallas, where Luka Dončić operates as the de facto point guard.
    • There is a belief that Dallas has its breaking point with Brunson, likely in the range of $20 million per season (a reminder that $20 million in Texas, which has no state income tax, goes almost as far as $25 million in New York). As solid Brunson was last season—and in addition to Brunson being an efficient 16-point per game scorer, he’s widely respected amongst coaches and teammates—there is a feeling that the combination of Spencer Dinwiddie and Tim Hardaway Jr., along with a cheaper free agent (Goran Dragic) could replace Brunson’s production.
    • Atlanta gave up a haul to acquire Dejounte Murray, including three first-round picks with two, in 2025 and ’27, unprotected, per ESPN. On paper Murray, 25, appears to be a terrific fit. He’s an athletic, defensive minded playmaker coming off his first All-Star season. That’s exactly the kind of player Hawks GM Travis Schlenk was looking to pair next to Trae Young. The question is why San Antonio was so willing to move Murray. For weeks, rival executives have been trying to figure out why the Spurs, who love to lock up homegrown talent, were so eager to move off Murray, who has two years remaining on his contract. The easy answer: San Antonio is looking to tank for a crack at Victor Wembanyama, a European super prospect—and projected top overall pick in 2023—who has drawn comparisons to Giannis Antetokounmpo.

    • Deandre Ayton’s future remains a mystery. Ayton wants a max contract. The Suns don’t want to give it to him. The question is, can Ayton generate enough interest to force Phoenix’s hand? The Suns don’t want to lose Ayton for nothing, and there’s a belief among rival execs that if Ayton does land a max offer sheet, Phoenix will match it. But there’s a growing sense, from both sides, that it may be time to move on, preferably via sign-and-trade. But to where? Detroit’s interest cooled after Jalen Duren fell into the Pistons’ lap on draft night and GM Troy Weaver filled most of his free cap space with Knicks castoffs. Brooklyn, in need of athleticism in the frontcourt, likes Ayton and could piece together a package headlined by Joe Harris. But Ayton’s options, for now, appear limited.
    Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins (20) reacts with Trae Young s brother Tim after the Hawks defeated the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Atlanta may not be done making moves, with John Collins’s name floating around as a potential trade chip.

    • The Hawks remain engaged with teams on John Collins, with the Hawks signaling they are not done revamping the roster.

    • Boston isn’t expected to pursue any radical changes after last season’s surprising Finals run. An extension for Grant Williams is possible—Williams emerged as a reliable role player last season and team president Brad Stevens, who locked in Robert Williams to a team-friendly extension last summer, is expected to pursue a similar deal for Grant Williams—and the Celtics will work something out with Al Horford, whose $26.5 million salary next season, the last year of his deal, is partially guaranteed for $19.5 million. Bench scoring, particularly on the perimeter, is the priority. Boston is less than $100,000 under the cap, per ESPN, but they are armed with the $6.5 million midlevel exception and five trade exceptions ($17.2 million, $7 million, $5.9 million, $2.2 million and $1.8 million) that Stevens says he is fully empowered to use, regardless of luxury tax consequences. Internally the Celtics are high on Sam Hauser, and former lottery pick Aaron Nesmith has potential, but Boston will be aggressive in trying to add someone to the mix.

    • The market for restricted free agent Collin Sexton has shrunk the last few days, with Detroit burning through most of its available cap space and Washington acquiring Monte Morris in a trade with Denver. Sexton has said he wants to return to Cleveland. The Cavaliers say they want him back. The question is, can the two sides agree on a number? The Cavs are expected to match reasonable offers for Sexton—two execs pegged Sexton’s value at $10-12 million per season—increasing the chances that Sexton, a 24-point per game scorer in ’20-21, returns to Cleveland.

    • An interesting free agent will be Mo Bamba, the fourth-year center who will not be tendered a qualifying offer by Orlando. Bamba, the sixth overall pick in 2018, has great physical tools (7’0”, 231 pounds with a 7’10” wingspan) and shot 38% from three last season. He has been maddeningly inconsistent, however, leading to the Magic’s decision not to tender the 24-year-old a qualifying offer. The Lakers and Raptors are expected to be among the teams interested in Bamba, per sources. Orlando has not ruled out a Bamba return, a source told SI, but the Magic have set a price for Bamba and are unwilling to go above it.

    • Many in the NBA see Utah’s hiring of Will Hardy—and the five-year deal Hardy was given—as a signal the Jazz are poised for a rebuild. There has been interest in Rudy Gobert—Atlanta, before the Murray deal, was considered a potential landing spot—while Donovan Mitchell, who has three guaranteed years left on his contract, would bring back a hefty haul of assets. If Utah signals it is open to offers for Mitchell, New York, which has rebuilt its draft war chest, is expected to make a strong run at the All-Star guard. The question seems to be when, not if, Jazz CEO Danny Ainge pushes the reset button. 

    More NBA Coverage: