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2024 NBA free agent rankings, predictions: Where will top 20 sign?
National Basketball Association

2024 NBA free agent rankings, predictions: Where will top 20 sign?

Published Jun. 25, 2024 9:48 a.m. ET

With the Celtics' championship parade having concluded, it's time to turn our attention to NBA free agency. This year's crop of available players might not feel exciting, but it does include an all-time great, a few future Hall-of-Famers and some potential steals. 

A reminder of the free agency rules: Teams cannot negotiate contracts with players on other teams before 6 p.m. EST on June 30. Starting this year, though, they can negotiate with their own players. That's how the Indiana Pacers and Pascal Siakam were able to agree to a four-year, $189.5 million extension, as reported by ESPN, and the Sacramento Kings and Malik Monk were able to agree to a four-year, $78 million deal, also per ESPN.

One thing to keep in mind when analyzing the market: The Bird Rights trap. This is the idea that if a team is so far over the cap that it wouldn't be able to replace a player if he left, it's usually better off going over the cap when re-signing its own players (i.e.: taking advantage of their "Bird rights) and bringing said player back.

Below is a list of the top 20 available free agents, along with a prediction of where they'll end up. 


1. LeBron James, Lakers — player option, 39

James has a $51.4 million player option with the Lakers that he must decide on by June 29. Expect James, 39, to decline that option and sign a new deal — which will likely be the last of his NBA career. It's worth noting that, because of the over-38 rule, no team, including the Lakers, can sign him to a contract for more than three seasons. He's no longer the game's best player, but James is still a force coming off an All-NBA season (25.7 points, 8.3 assists and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting a career-best 41 percent from deep).

Prediction: The Philadelphia 76ers will try luring him with their cap space. And look for the Dallas Mavericks to get into the mix. But LeBron loves living in L.A, and in recent years has made clear that he's done taking pay cuts. It'd be shocking if he didn't re-sign with the Lakers. The bet here is that he opts out and signs a new three-year deal for $160 million, which will come with a no-trade clause. 

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2. Paul George, Clippers — player option, 34

The most interesting free agent on the board, George, 34, has a $48.8 million player option for the 2024-25 season with the Los Angeles Clippers, which he'll likely decline. From there, his future will come down to whether the Clippers are willing to match the max offer (four years, $221.1 million) the Sixers are likely to offer. Does the fact that Kawhi Leonard took a pay cut when he signed his extension in January (three years, $154 million) mean the Clippers can't then offer George the full max? This will be one of the more consequential questions of the off-season.

Prediction: The Clippers are moving into a new arena, already have Leonard signed and still won't have any cap room even if George leaves. All that being the case, the bet here is that they offer George the full max — or close to it — and he re-signs. 

3. Tyrese Maxey, 76ers — restricted, 23

This is just a formality. The only reason Maxey wasn't extended last off-season was so that the Sixers could maintain cap space for this summer. 

Prediction: As soon as the Sixers finish utilizing that cap room, a Maxey contract — for the max of five years and $205 million — will be announced.

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4. OG Anunoby, Knicks — player option, 26 

Anunoby has a $19.9 million player option that he'll decline. From there, his situation is similar to George's. The Sixers are lurking with all their cap space and Anunoby is a perfect fit for their roster. Given how well he'd fit around Joel Embiid and Maxey, they're likely comfortable offering him a max, even given his injury history (he's missed 32 regular season games in each of the past two seasons). That said, the Knicks need him. They were 20-3 with him in the regular season and 6-3 in the playoffs. 

Prediction: Anunoby returns to New York, but the threat of the Sixers forces them to fork over a four-year deal in the $200 million range.

5. DeMar DeRozan, Bulls — unrestricted, 34

DeRozan is one of the more interesting names on the market this season. He's still excellent (24 points and 5.3 assists per game last season) and is a beloved teammate. But he's not a great 3-point shooter, meaning he's an iffy off-ball option, and he no longer has the pop to be a primary option. The Bulls can offer him a three-year, $130 million deal. Or he can take a pay cut from a contender if he wants to go ring chasing. Or maybe the Sixers will chase him if they're unable to secure George or Anunoby. 

Prediction: The Josh Giddey acquisition changes the equation for the Bulls. If they do, indeed, plan on putting the ball in Giddey's hands then it doesn't make sense to bring DeRozan back. I'll guess he ends up joining the Sixers on a two-year, $90 million deal.  

6. James Harden, Clippers — unrestricted, 34

You know the deal here. Harden pushed for a trade to the Clippers last season after not getting a max contract offer from Daryl Morey and the Sixers. There, Harden flashed glimpses of brilliance, especially in the first couple of months after the trade, but struggled down the stretch and can no longer get to the rim at will.  

Prediction: The fun option would be the Sixers striking out on all their other options and then, out of desperation, giving Harden the contract he wanted last off-season. The more likely scenario is that the Clippers bring him back on a three-year deal in the $90 million range. 

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7. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Nuggets — player option, 31

Caldwell-Pope has a $15.4 million player option with the Denver Nuggets. You can be sure that he'll decline that and enter free agency. A prototypical 3-and-D wing (40.6 3P% last season who regularly locked down opposing scorers), Caldwell-Pope has played an essential role for two championship teams (the 2020 Lakers and 2023 Nuggets). He will be the primary consolation prize for teams that don't get George or Anunoby. 

Prediction: The Sixers, desperate to use their cap space, ink him to a three-year deal in the $70 million range, with the third season as a team option.

8. Isaiah Hartenstein, Knicks — unrestricted, 26

The New York Knicks would love to bring Hartenstein, who is the best center available, back. But because he was signed to such a bargain on his previous deal, the league's collective bargaining agreement only allows them to offer him a four-year, $72.5 million deal. That's a number that other teams could top, and the Oklahoma City Thunder are considered a threat. They could use a big and Hartenstein's ability to operate from the elbows means he wouldn't get in the way of the five-out offense they prefer to run. 

Prediction: Hartenstein, who loves New York and was essential to the Knicks' success, takes their deal, even if it's a little below market value. 

9. Immanuel Quickley, Raptors — restricted, 25

Another formality. The Toronto Raptors targeted Quickley when dealing Anunoby, and he impressed in his 38 games with them, averaging 18.6 points, 6.8 assists and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 39.5 percent from deep and playing great defense.

Prediction: Quickley re-signs with the Raptors for four years and $110 million. 

10. Klay Thompson, Warriors —  unrestricted, 34

This will be one of the fascinating situations of the offseason. Thompson is coming off a down season and is clearly on the decline. The question is: Does he recognize this, or does he expect to get paid like a star? If the answer is the latter, his days in Golden State could very well be done.   

Prediction: Despite Thomspon recently unfollowing the Warriors on social media, the two sides find a compromise and Thomspon returns to the Bay Area on a three-year deal for around $100 million.

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11. Nicolas Claxton, Nets — unrestricted, 25

Claxton is a young center who can provide value on both ends of the floor. He averaged 11.8 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game last season. The Brooklyn Nets have made clear they want Claxton back.  

"I think Nic is the No. 1 priority for us," general manager Sean Marks told reporters earlier this summer. "There's no doubt about that. We hope he's a Net for a very long time."

Prediction: Claxton stays in Brooklyn on a four-year, $90 million deal.

12. Bruce Brown, Raptors — team option, 27

Brown has a $23 million team option with the Raptors. He was a key cog on the Nuggets' 2023 title team and would fit in on any team with aspirations of their own trophy.

Prediction: The Raptors pick that up, and then look to flip Brown to a contender before the trade deadline, where he provides more value. 

13. D'Angelo Russell, Lakers — player option, 28

For all the flak he receives, Russell, who has a player option for $18.7 million, is still young and coming off a season in which he averaged 18 points and 6.3 assists per game while drilling 41.5 percent of his deep looks. His defense is lacking, but he's a force on offense.

Prediction: Russell should be able to exceed that player option number by opting out—and in doing so, he'd also be able to control where he plays next season, whereas if he remains with the Lakers, he's likely to be dangled in trades. So where will he end up? He fits what the Magic need, but the Lakers might not want to let him go for nothing. They can re-sign him to a three-year, $100 million-type deal and trade him later on. 

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14. Tobias Harris, 76ers — unrestricted, 31

Harris is coming off one of the worst free-agency finales in recent NBA history. He averaged just nine points per game in the Sixers' first-round loss to the Knicks and, even worse, attempted just four free throws in six games. That said, he can still do a bit of everything, and can provide value — if the price is right.  

Prediction: The Pistons were once considered Harris' future home, but that was before Trajan Langdon took over basketball operations. The problem Harris faces is that teams like the Pistons, Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets are now being run by new executives who have tons of job security and have been given green lights to rebuild. 

So where does he end up? Let's say the Pistons on a one-year, $25 million deal, with a player option for that second season. But Harris' options are hard to pin down.

15. Saddiq Bey, Hawks — restricted, 24

Bey is coming off an ACL tear, which will complicate these negotiations. On the one hand, he's a recent first-round pick who's flashed 3-and-D potential. On the other, he's coming off an awful shooting season (31.6 percent from deep) and already had one team (the Pistons) give up on him. 

Prediction: His future may depend on what the Hawks decide to do this off-season. They have the No. 1 overall pick — does that mean they're going to trade Trae Young and rebuild? In any event, the best option here may be for Bey to take a one-year deal. It prevents him from locking himself into a below-market long-term contract, and allows the Hawks to further evaluate him before making a true commitment.  

16. De'Anthony Melton, 76ers — unrestricted, 26

Melton was great for the Sixers last season — when he played. He suited up for just 33 games due to a back injury, but he's a legitimate 3-and-D wing (career 36.9 3P%) who has a little game off the bounce, too.

Prediction: Melton is a perfect complementary player on the Sixers. Look for him to remain in Philly, perhaps for two years and $40 million total.

17. Patrick Williams, Bulls — restricted, 22

The fourth overall pick of the 2020 draft, Williams' career thus has been a disappointment. Every now and then he flashes his range of skills, but he's still coming off a season in which he averaged just 10 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. Sometimes you can forget he's even on the court. 

He is, however, still just 22 years old, and he is a career 41 percent 3-point shooter, albeit on low volume. The outline of something better is there. But which teams are willing to bet on that?

Prediction: The front office that drafted Williams is still running things in Chicago. Given how wary executives can get of giving up on their own lottery picks (it doesn't exactly look good), look for Williams to remain in Chicago on a four-year, $70 million deal. 

18. Chris Paul, Warriors — unrestricted, 39

Paul isn't technically a free agent yet. He has a $30 million non-guaranteed contract for next season and the Warriors have until June 28 to waive him. That's all but certain to happen. After that, look for the league's top playoff teams to all be in the mix for his services. He's no longer the Point God, but he can still help off the bench or in a supporting role. 

Prediction: We finally get the Paul-LeBron partnership we've been waiting years for as Paul joins the Lakers on a one-year deal. Though you should keep an eye on the San Antonio Spurs, too. 

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19. Miles Bridges, Hornets — unrestricted, 26

If this were just about on-court production, Bridges would be much higher on this list. He's a big, strong forward who's a proven 20-points-per-game scorer and an excellent passer. He also been arrested for domestic violence — a charge for which he later pleaded no contest and was sentenced to three years of probation.  

Prediction: The market shuts him out and Bridges is forced to accept a one-year deal for the minimum. 

20. Isaac Okoro, Cavaliers — restricted, 23

Okoro is an elite defensive wing who was a top-five pick just four years ago. He's a below-average offensive player, but he did shoot a career-best 39.1 percent from deep last season. Most of those came on wide-open looks, but at least it means there's a chance for even more improvement here. The Cavs would no doubt like to bring Okoro back, but they're close to the luxury-tax line. It's possible the right offer sheet could pry Okoro away.

Prediction: We'll go off the board here and predict that a rebuilding team—maybe the Hornets—overpays a bit for Okoro and the Cavs are forced to let him go.  

Yaron Weitzman is an NBA writer for FOX Sports and the author of Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Most Audacious Process in the History of Professional Sports. Follow him on Twitter @YaronWeitzman.


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