The NBA is not always about basketball. Year in and year out, a handful of new contracts get signed all throughout the season. The business side of the NBA is certainly one of the more fascinating aspects of the league as countless rules, exceptions, and the likes have been implemented. If we were to talk about the intricacies of the contracts, it would take hours with how massive the depth it can cover.
With all the new contracts being handed out each season, it cannot be helped that old ones expire. Whether the expiring player re-signs with his team, it is all up to a couple of factors. Said factors involve not only the production of the player but also the kind of contract the player signed.
In order to understand some of the terms that will be used in this article, we will give a brief description of what they are. Unrestricted means a player can sign with any team he chooses to for as long as the team offers him a contract. Restricted means a player can sign with any team that offers him for, as long as his old team does not match the contract offered. When it's a player/team option, it is up to either the player or the team whether or not they want to terminate the contract a year or two earlier.
Now that all of that is out of the way, here is each team’s star player bound to leave during free agency.
The Atlanta Hawks are certainly one of the younger teams in the NBA, with their core including rookies Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, and some of the "older" young players in John Collins, Taurean Prince, and DeAndre Bembry. Usually, young teams fail to win many games throughout the regular season, and that can be expected of this Hawks team.
Going forward, it is hard to imagine a spot for Kent Bazemore. Bazemore is certainly talented enough to contribute to a winning team, and the Hawks are a couple of years away from being a legitimate playoff threat in the Eastern Conference.
Unlike the Hawks, the Boston Celtics are title contenders for years to come. Standing atop of the Eastern Conference last year, the Celtics are a formidable foe this season as they get Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward back from injuries. Young players like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum also look like they can carry the franchise in the future.
With that in mind, it might be hard to imagine a player walking away from a potential dynasty but Marcus Morris might decide to do so. Morris is not getting younger, and if a team offers him a big contract, it might be hard to decline.
D’Angelo Russell has had quite a career in only four seasons. Deemed as the future of the Los Angeles Lakers, the point guard was traded to the Brooklyn Nets last offseason as a way to dump the awful Timofey Mozgov contract. This year Russell has somewhat disappointed, getting benched in back-to-back games. The former Ohio State Buckeye certainly does not look happy watching close games from the sideline.
A team will certainly offer a near max contract to Russell and the Nets might just refuse. If they do so, it might be best for both parties to move on from one another.
There are rumblings around the league that the Charlotte Hornets are ready to move on from Kemba Walker. Walker was a lottery pick by the then Charlotte Bobcats back in 2011. He led the franchise back to relevancy with his stellar play, but year after year, Walker’s name can always be found in the rumor mill as a potential trade candidate.
With his expiring deal, the Hornets will certainly look for something in return, as opposed to letting him walk for free, but the price they are searching for might be too steep. If they balk on deals they find unworthy, then Kemba might just walk away during free agency this offseason.
The modern NBA consists of power forwards and centers taking threes, and Bobby Portis certainly is more than capable of doing so. A member of the Chicago Bulls, Portis might have more value in free agency than most people think. A player that can stretch it to the three-point line and defend in the paint is the norm for the modern bigs.If a team offers a big contract to Portis, the Bulls will most likely not have any money to match as they have to pay Zach LaVine as well.
Currently, the Cleveland Cavaliers are a mess. With multiple reports of the veterans wanting out and the dysfunctional development of Collin Sexton, it might be fair to put in all the upcoming free agents of the team.
But the most likely to leave is Rodney Hood. Hood ha had an up-and-down career plagued with nagging injuries and a disappointing playoff run last year. We can confidently say that he is not happy playing for the Cavs.
While only a handful of teams have a use for Hood, there is at least one that will offer him a small contract and that might be enough for Hood to bolt out of Cleveland.
The Dallas Mavericks are in a weird bubble as of the moment. They have a bunch of young and talented players in Luka Doncic and Dennis Smith, and they also have a bunch of veterans ready to contribute to winning, namely Harrison Barnes, Dirk Nowitzki, and of course, Wesley Matthews. The makeup of the team certainly does not scream championship contender but rather a developing team.
With Matthews, we have a veteran who can contribute to a championship team with his shooting and defense. Matthews is nearing the end of his career, and at this point, winning a ring and getting paid to do so might be the best option for him.
One of the more surprising teams in the NBA this year are the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets are off to a blazing start, led by center Nikola Jokic and their terrific guard rotation consisting of Gary Harris, Jamal Murray, and Monte Morris.
The odd man out is Isaiah Thomas, who has yet to be fielded due to injury. It has been well-documented that Thomas wants to be a big part of the offense and if the Nuggets continue to win without him, it might rub the point guard the wrong way, and if that happens, he is definitely getting out Colorado.
The Detroit Pistons have one of the tighter payrolls in the NBA. Having to pay Blake Griffin and his max contract, along with Andre Drummond, the Pistons are sort of bound and committed to paying these two.
With that said, Reggie Bullock is an upcoming free agent, and while Bullock has been cold this year, he has shown to be a good 3-D player last year. Teams cannot have more than enough shooters and defenders; if an offer is to be made to Bullock then the Pistons will have no other choice but to watch him leave.
In one of the more controversial moves of the offseason, DeMarcus Cousins signed a one year deal with the Golden State Warriors. The reported reason was that Cousins was unhappy that no one offered him a contract because of his torn Achilles, so he joined that defending champions in a move that shocked fans all around the world.
At this point, it seems that Cousins joined them just to prove a point. If he plays well in his return, expect Cousins to get offers he deserves.
The Houston Rockets are one of the more disappointing teams this year. As they are losing games they should have won, the Rockets are off to a cold start. If this Rockets team mirrors the subpar 2016 team they had, expect Carmelo Anthony to leave this coming offseason.
Melo is currently a 16-year vet who has yet to win a championship or even make it to the Finals. If the Rockets fail to do so this year, expect Anthony to find a new home next season.
The Indiana Pacers are off to a blitzing start. Currently sitting at the top half of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, you can be sure Indiana is looking to keep this young core intact.
The odd man out is Bojan Bogdanovic, a shooter who has seen limited minutes this year due to the hot start of Victor Oladipo and Doug McDermott. If McDermott keeps this up there is no reason for the Pacers to keep Bogdanovic as he is older than McDermott and will most likely command more money in free agency.
Like the Atlanta Hawks, the Los Angeles Clippers are a young team, meaning they will lose games this season and the upcoming years. They certainly took a step in the right direction with choosing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as the point guard of the future.
There are a lot of unanswered questions for the Clippers, including Tobias Harris. Harris is at the prime of his career and he is certainly looking to win now, as opposed to waiting for the young players to grow. If Harris becomes impatient with the organization, expect him to leave this coming free agency.
Another team that is off to a disappointing start, the Los Angeles Lakers was viewed by many as a contender to come out of the west with the addition of LeBron James. So far, the Lakers have looked like the young team they truly are, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is one of the reasons for the slow start, as he has struggled to find his rhythm with his shot.
If Josh Hart continues to outplay KCP, there is no reason to keep Pope on board especially since they want to contend as soon as possible. Quite frankly, KCP might struggle to find a team to jump ship to this coming offseason.
If I were to get straight to the point, Marc Gasol has looked unhappy with the Memphis Grizzlies and rightfully so. The Grizzlies have failed to surround Gasol with a competitive roster, not counting Mike Conley. If the younger Gasol decides to test the free agency water this coming offseason, it won’t be a surprise as we all know what Marc is capable of doing in the playoffs.
An All-Star and one of the best centers in the NBA, Gasol will certainly find himself being courted by a handful of teams.
There numerous factors in play when it comes to Hassan Whiteside potentially leaving the Miami Heat. First is the vocal frustration with the lack of touches down in the post, second is the development of Bam Adebayo, and lastly, it is the contract Whiteside thinks he deserves.
If all three are taken into consideration, Whiteside will surely choose to opt out and try somewhere else and honestly, it might be best for both parties. Whiteside is still a serviceable player even with his lack of shooting, and Miami is still a playoff team without the big man manning the paint.
A little over a year ago, Eric Bledsoe was traded from the Phoenix Suns to the Milwaukee Bucks after a controversial tweet made by the point guard. With that in mind, Bledsoe never chose what team he wanted to join, and although the Bucks have surprised a lot of critics with their play this year, it is easy to imagine Bledsoe wanting to join a team that he could be the alpha man or the go-to guy.
Of course, we could also be wrong and Bledsoe is perfectly happy playing with Giannis Antetokounmpo, but where is the fun in that? If Bledsoe does decide to leave, there will certainly be a lot of teams interested.
A lot of things are happening with the Minnesota Timberwolves right now that it is borderline pitiful. Of course, the drama surrounding Jimmy Butler trumps all the other issues, but right now, the locker room in Minnesota is as unhappy as it gets.
In the middle of all the conflict is point guard Jeff Teague, who looks like he is done with the franchise. Naturally, with the search for a trade partner, teams have inquired about Teague and there is a huge chance he gets traded, but if not, expect the former All-Star to look for a new warm home.
One of the cheaper deals made this offseason, Julius Randle signed a contract with the New Orleans Pelicans. This deal is cheap not only because of how much he makes but also because of how good Randle truly is. Randle is currently in his fifth year since getting drafted and he definitely still has a lot of potential to grow as a player, but as it stands, he is playing behind Nikola Mirotic in the depth chart.
If Randle thinks he can lead a young team as the building block, expect him to test the water and look for a team where he can start and be the focal point of the offense.
Trey Burke is one of three point guards in the New York Knicks’ roster that were drafted in the top 10, along with Emmanuel Mudiay and Frank Ntilikina. With how all three are being used this season, it is clear that Ntilikina is the priority in terms of development.
Not to take anything away from Frank, but so far Trey Burke has proven that he is the best out of the three right now. The league is certainly taking notice of Burke’s play and you can expect a handful of offers to the former Wolverine, as there are still teams looking for a backup point guard.
Nerlens Noel has been a surprisingly good bench player for the Oklahoma City Thunder this year. Playing behind Steven Adams, the defensive center has looked inspired given how disappointing his time with the Dallas Mavericks was.
Noel is making less money than he should make because of bad business decisions. With those decisions come growth, and this offseason he might have numerous suitors, given how good he has been playing for the Thunder.
If Noel decides to leave, he will most likely look for a team that can field him as their starting center or at least get valuable minutes to go along with a big fat contract.
It is not farfetched to say that this year might be Nikola Vucevic’s best year as an NBA player. The big man is averaging 18.3 points per game to go along with 10.6 rebounds per game, so why would he choose to leave? To put it simply, the Magic has committed to the development of Mo Bamba, the project player that is deemed a better prospect than Vucevic due to his length and wingspan.
Vucevic is in his prime as he is still only 28-years-old, certainly an age where a player is more than ready to contribute to a winning team.
Much like some of the previous entries, J.J. Redick is at the twilight of his career. After a long, illustrious career, you have to imagine Redick wanting to end it in a big fashion. Joining a better team while making more money will be hard for J.J., as the Philadelphia 76ers is seen as a dynasty in the making.
Another issue Redick will face is the development of Markelle Fultz. A former number one pick, Fultz is still seen as a core part of the 76ers’ future, meaning the coaching staff will mostly focus on his development rather than the older Redick.
This past offseason, the Phoenix Suns signed Trevor Ariza to a one-year deal. So far, Ariza’s play has been disappointing at best. In the eyes of many, Ariza only signed the deal because it was the biggest deal he was offered and there might be some truth to the sentiment.
Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren, and Mikal Bridges are all young players playing behind Ariza. If the Suns are serious in developing those guys, they will have to let Ariza walk, which might be best for both Ariza and the Suns.
Seth Curry has been a disappointment for the Portland Trail Blazers this year as he is currently playing one of the worst seasons of his entire career. Failing to imitate the success of Shabazz Napier, Curry has had his troubles leading the Blazers’ second unit.
With his bad play comes the decision for the Blazers to offer him a contract this offseason. If they deem him worthy of at least one more year to prove himself, the team will definitely offer a contract but if not, then Curry and his camp might move somewhere else where he can be the starting point guard.
Like all the veterans listed before Zach Randolph, he is definitely nearing the end of his career, but the difference is Z-Bo might have especially little left in the tank. The former All-Star has yet to play a single game this year for the Sacramento Kings.
At this point, it is already set in stone that Z-Bo will not don the blue and white of the Kings. If Randolph decides to leave, expect him to join a contender to try and win the elusive championship ring he has always wanted.
Even though Rudy Gay has been in the league for over a decade now, he is still playing at a productive rate for Coach Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs. Gay is 32 years of age but he is still averaging around 13 points and 7.0 rebounds for the Spurs.
While it is hard to imagine the Spurs letting Gay go, the idea of being the man one more time might be too tempting for him. If he decides to leave, expect Gay to join a team that will focus on him being the primary offensive player.
The Toronto Raptors are off to the best start in recent years. With the trade for Kawhi Leonard and the move of LeBron James to the Lakers, the Raptors have a great chance to make it to the finals this season. There are more reasons why the Raptors are favorites this season, and one of them is Jonas Valanciunas, who is having the best year in his entire career this year.
So why would JV leave the Raptors? It will most likely have to do with money thrown at him and the idea of having an entire offense run through him. If the Raptors win the championship this year, then it might be time for Valanciunas to try and lead a team by himself.
The Utah Jazz do not have many notable free agents this coming summer. Alec Burks might be the most notable one and even then it is hard to imagine him getting many offers this summer. With that said he might not even get more than a veteran’s minimum from the Jazz.
If the Jazz decides to not offer him any contract then it might be because of the development of Donovan Mitchell and Dante Exum.
Another disappointing team, the Washington Wizards have looked nothing more than a fringe playoff team in the weaker Eastern Conference. In their first nine games of the season, the Wizards started out with a 2-7 record.
In the middle of it all is former MVP contender, Dwight Howard, who has looked disinterested this year. If the Wizards fail to make the playoffs this season, expect Dwight to bounce to another team, specifically one that will contend.