With the 2023 NBA Finals and the NBA draft behind us now it’s time for free agency, the craziest time on the league’s calendar that has everyone burning the midnight oil and glued to their phones waiting for updates on which players are going where. The rumors leading up to the actual start of free agency, as well as what we hear once it starts are what make this time of the year so intriguing. To make matters even more interesting, every team across the league will be trying to tidy up their salary book to comply with the new CBA, which has harsh penalties for teams that go significantly over the salary cap.
In preparation for free agency, here are some key questions and answers about what to expect, who’s available and when all the chaos starts.
When is free agency?
Teams can start negotiating contracts with players on June 30 at 6 p.m. ET, officially kicking off the start of free agency. However, while those verbal agreements may be in place, contracts won’t actually become official until the moratorium period is lifted on July 6.
Who are some top free agents this summer?
If you want a list of some of the top players who could be available, check out James Herbert’s breakdown of James Harden as the top player on the list, but right at the buzzer on Thursday, Harden decided to pick up his $35.6 million player option in an effort to Harden’s shocking decision may make things move a little slower once free agency starts because some teams might wait to see where he lands, with the Clippers and Knicks listed as potential suitors. Other top names on the unrestricted free agency list include Kyrie Irving, Draymond Green, Fred VanVleet and Khris Middleton. Among the restricted free agents Austin Reaves, Cameron Johnson and Grant Williams top the list.. That list used to include
What’s the salary cap for the 2023-24 season?
The projected salary cap for next season is set at $136 million and the luxury-tax line will be set at $165 million. The new CBA added a second tax apron, creating somewhat of a hard cap for the league, and that will be set at approximately $182.5 million. Teams that pass that second tax apron will be hit with severe penalties, which include not being able to use the mid-level exception to sign free agents and not being allowed to sign players on the buyout market. It essentially dissuades the creation of superteams around the league, and may foster a more balanced playing field between the super wealthy franchises and the smaller market teams.
Which teams will have significant cap space?
There aren’t a ton of teams with significant cap space, so we’ll likely see a lot of smaller deals or trades happening. But there are eight teams projected to have meaningful cap space: the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Sacramento Kings, Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons, Utah Jazz, Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder. The Rockets will be the biggest spenders this summer, with over $60.9 million in cap space with guys like VanVleet and Dillon Brooks considered targets for the rebuilding team. The Spurs, fresh off drafting French phenom Victor Wembanyama with the No. 1 overall pick will have over $38.6 million to spend, while the Kings created roughly $36 million in cap space by shedding Richaun Holmes‘ contract on draft night to the Dallas Mavericks.
Who will be in line for maximum rookie-scale extensions?
Every summer there’s a handful of young players nearing the end of their rookie deals who are in line for major paydays with their current teams. Last summer we saw Ja Morant and Zion Williamson sign significant deals, and this offseason will be no different. The biggest name on that market is Anthony Edwards, whose development in Minnesota has taken leaps and bounds over the three years he’s been in the league. He earned his first All-Star selection this past season while averaging a career-high in points (24.6), rebounds (5.8) and assists (4.4). Edwards is in line for a five-year, $207.1 million extension this summer, which he’ll surely get after cementing himself as the future of the Timberwolves‘ franchise. The same goes for All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton, who had a career year with the Pacers after being traded from the Kings during the 2021-22 season.
Other names eligible for rookie-scale extensions include All-Star LaMelo Ball, who has struggled with injuries over the past two seasons, but when healthy is one of the most electrifying players in the league. Desmond Bane and Tyrese Maxey are other notable players who may receive significant paydays with the rookie-scale extension, but likely not at the max. Still, securing both right now is ideal for their respective teams so they don’t run the risk of losing them down the line.