Draymond Green, Kyrie Irving among top players to watch as NBA free agency set to open

Miami Heat guard Gabe Vincent, left, and Denver Nuggets forward Bruce Brown compete for possession of the ball during the second half of Game 5 of basketball's NBA Finals, Monday, June 12, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) (David Zalubowski, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Some of the players to watch in NBA free agency, which starts Friday evening:

Kyrie Irving, Dallas

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This one will be interesting. Irving is one of the best players in the NBA. He also tends to be a challenge, and evidently got unhappy over time at his previous stops — Cleveland, Boston and Brooklyn. It seems unlikely that Irving will want a short-term deal, but there aren't many teams that can afford him, either.

Fred VanVleet, Toronto

If Houston doesn't land James Harden — who opted in to his $35.6 million contract with Philadelphia on Thursday as a likely prelude to a trade — then maybe the Rockets take a swing at VanVleet and throw a ton of money his way. The Raptors need to decide on a direction; the next few days will show if the plan is to win right now, or take some time to reset. What they offer VanVleet will likely tell the tale. He may be moving on.

Austin Reaves, Los Angeles Lakers

Talk about a success story. Reaves was undrafted, averaged 7.3 points per game as a rookie, averaged 13 points per game this past season, and became the Lakers' third-best player behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Teams can offer him four years for almost $99 million, and that'll likely be what it takes the Lakers to keep him.

Draymond Green, Golden State

No team spends more than the Warriors. And Green might not be the easiest personality to deal with on a daily basis. But he was a very big part in all four of Golden State's recent championship runs. It's hard to envision him someplace else, though the new CBA rules raise the possibility that it'll happen.

Khris Middleton, Milwaukee

This one should be easy. Middleton, somehow, seems to remain vastly underrated. The Olympic gold medalist and NBA champion is the perfect running mate for Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, simply because he doesn't seem to care if he gets five shots or 25 shots. Expect the Bucks to write the check and keep him.

Bruce Brown, Denver

The Nuggets want to run it back with as many players who were part of this year's title run as they possibly can. Brown will have to turn down $5 million or more next season to make that happen, since the Nuggets can't offer him anything over $7.8 million for the coming season. Denver is hoping Brown bets on himself here.

Max Strus and Gabe Vincent, Miami

The Heat would not have made the NBA Finals this past season without these two players, both of whom were undrafted and became big successes as part of Miami's development program. They're in line for big paydays; probably $10 million or more awaits each starting this coming season. Miami might have to make a tough choice.

Russell Westbrook, Los Angeles Clippers

Everyone knows the common complaint about Westbrook: He's not a great 3-point shooter. But he never has been, yet is still part of the NBA's 75th anniversary team, is great with young players, is a nine-time All-Star, a two-time scoring champion and a three-time assist champion. There's one thing missing on his resume and he will bring value to a contender.

Brook Lopez, Milwaukee and Jakob Poeltl, Toronto

If teams want centers, the list starts with these guys. Lopez is 35 but had his best scoring season in six years, and that should make the Bucks want to keep him around. Poeltl is intriguing, a good finisher, has been a good rim protector more often than not, and might be entering his best years.

Kyle Kuzma, Washington

He averaged 21.2 points this past season, so it's no secret why he declined his $13 million option for 2023-24. He deserves more and will get it — and soon we'll know if he wants to be part of the rebuild in Washington.


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