As soon as time expired in Denver’s Game 5 victory over Miami, thus securing the franchise’s first NBA title in franchise history, our collective focus shifted from the NBA to the summer. Beginning on June 30, when free agency officially opens, clubs and players may begin discussions for the next NBA season.
A few dozen players are actually traded throughout the NBA trade season, but many more are involved in the shuffle. Only a dozen or so players in the NBA at any one moment are completely off-limits.
There is no franchise-altering superstar in the class of 2023 free agents, but there are a few players who may make a splash next year. Even if they don’t make quite as big of an impact this summer, several under-the-radar players might wind up being crucial come the 2023-24 NBA season.
3. Khris Middleton
Middleton’s 2022-23 season was marred by an injury, but he made a full recovery and averaged 24 points on 47 percent shooting, 41 percent three-pointers, and 87 percent free throws in the playoffs. Milwaukee probably won’t let him leave as a free agent because of how important he is to the franchise, but he’ll have lots of suitors.
Middleton’s knee surgery came after the Bucks were eliminated from postseason contention. By training camp, he should be well enough to return.
2. Kyrie Irving
After playing 20 games with the Mavericks, in which they ultimately gave up on a play-in place, Irving concluded with season-highs of 27 points, six assists, and five rebounds. Despite Dallas’s post-trade struggles, the club was a plus-four in net rating when both Doncic and Irving were on the court, which might prompt the front office to make him an attractive offer.
Even if he doesn’t, there will always be clubs ready to deal with Irving’s off-court issues in order to get their hands on a player of Irving’s quality.
1. James Harden
Harden has been effective as the 76ers’ point guard, even if he hasn’t been able to lead them to the playoffs. He led the NBA in assists last season, and he also averaged 21 points per game and his best 3-point shooting since his last season with OKC in 2012.
There has been persistent rumbling that Harden may return to Houston, but the clubhouse favorite is likely to be a reunion with Nick Nurse in Philadelphia.