The 2022-23 NBA season changed the dynamic of the league in more ways than one. As the 2023 playoffs fast approach conclusion, sights are already set on free agency and which teams will make power plays to strengthen their chance at a championship.
Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting names that will hit the open market as either restricted or unrestricted free agents this offseason. The Portland Trail Blazers aren’t in line to acquire all of these players—some should even be avoided—but there’s still room for them to window shop through this list with the intent to spend. Opportunity might come by courting these free agents directly, or by sifting through players dislodged as these higher-profile players change teams.
Philly and Harden Headed for Divorce?
James Harden played like an MVP caliber player through the first five games of the Philadelphia 76ers’ Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Boston Celtics, yet in games 6 and 7, produced like a role player. Philadelphia and Harden may part ways.
Rumors have swirled that Harden, 33, will opt out of his contract and is eyeing a return to the Houston Rockets or another team that will provide him with a chance at winning and freedom.
A tertiary role on the Milwaukee Bucks has fruitful written all over it. While Milwaukee is tied to an excess of $158 million next season, should they clear cap space this summer and entice Harden to take a pay cut in the name of winning, the former scoring champion would provide the Bucks with offense and an insurance policy should any of their top scorers be injured in 2023-24. He also would not diminish their all-world defensive lineup.
The Miami Heat and New York Knicks are two additional teams that could be matches made in heaven. Miami is still in the throes of playoff battle, hoping to win it all this year. Whether they do or don’t, adding Harden as reinforcements to a franchise that is never afraid to open up their checkbook would solve point guard questions that the team currently has.
The Knicks are also on the books for over $150 million next season, but could move Derrick Rose and Evan Fournier’s contracts, totaling roughly $34 million. Both have fallen out of their rotation.
Dillon Brooks is Not Going to China
The internet is a cruel place. It can also circulate folly at times. Did Memphis Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks get the better of Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar LeBron James in their first round matchup? No. Was his trash-talking antics irksome at times throughout the year? Maybe. But Brooks has a lot to offer any team — grit, elite defense and streaky offense.
In come the Phoenix Suns. Back-to-back cataclysmic playoff flameouts leave Phoenix needing to make a change. Add that to an aging Chris Paul and DeAndre Ayton who may walk out of the door this summer, and the Suns will need a balance of offense and defense, something Brooks can provide.
The Dallas Mavericks went from a Western Conference Finals appearance in 2022 to a well documented plunge down the standings after landing Kyrie Irving at the trade deadline. Their defense was a major problem. Brooks has the tools to fortify their perimeter while Dallas making an additional move in the interior could remedy their problems in a hurry, even if he and Mavs guard Theo Pinson have a long standing feud.
Draymond Green the Man For the Blazers
The NBA world loves to get on Golden State Warriors restricted free agent Draymond Green for what has been labeled ‘triple singles,’ but those who appreciate basketball see that his impact on the game is still felt even at this juncture in his career.
The Blazers have several issues. They turn the ball over far too much. They are in desperate need of a secondary playmaker that can set the offense in motion. And, they lack a dynamic interior presence. Green quite literally is the quintessence of all the voids that the franchise has.
Green has made it known that he would like to retire a Warrior. But, money talks and the Blazers have had a dearth of key rotational players with championship experience in the Damian Lillard era. To keep Lillard committed to Rip City, bringing in his avowed close friend Green would only help and not hurt.
The stability he brings to an offense, added to his dyamism in the pick-and-roll and his still-top-notch defense warrants a hard push from Portland’s front office this summer.
The Warriors also have $201.7 million in payroll next season. That only means one thing — someone’s got to go. Jordan Poole may be the odd man out but they’ll still owe a boatload of money moving forward without him.
Green has $27 million remaining on a player option. If he opts into a sign-and-trade or if the Warriors look to bail on the final year of his contract, Portland’s interest might be piqued.
As For Kristaps Porzingis?
Washington Wizards center Kristaps Porzingis is another premiere restricted free agent that the Portland Trail Blazers should have their eyes on. He is everything they’d want from a man in the middle. Tall, athletic and capable of spacing the floor and protecting the rim.
The main indictment on Porzingis has been his ability to play well in the playoffs, facilitating his departure from the Dallas Mavericks and leaving him in Washington.
Additionally, the Sacramento Kings enjoyed a surprise season, making the playoffs for the first time since 2006. While Domantas Sabonis has been a new-age image of his father in many respects, the Kings could use a true center to relegate Sabonis back to the power forward slot and afford their lineup to get much bigger.
The Kings lost the blocks battle against the Golden State Warriors in their first round defeat, and Porzingis would give Sac-Town an additional bona fide 20-plus point-per-game scorer.
Owed upwards of $36 million in 2023-24, Porzingis will likely want more money on his next deal as he is coming off of a career scoring year where he averaged 23.2 points per game.
Taking a Chance on Victor Oladipo
There are other notable names that will hit the open market in the offseason, but a name that could be had for a steal is Miami Heat guard and restricted free agent Victor Oladipo. Injuries have plagued Oladipo since his final season with the Indiana Pacers unto this day, but when he’s taken the court, he’s shown that he can still score and especially in last year’s playoffs, play big time minutes down the stretch and make his presence glare on the defensive end.
The Toronto Raptors are in limbo. While not proclaiming Oladipo a franchise savior, the Indiana University product could make a major difference on their roster. The Raptors owned the No. 29 bench offense in the NBA this past regular season, being one of only six second-units to fail to average 30 or more points per game.
While Toronto led the association in steals per contest, Oladipo would provide much needed offensive firepower to their bench should he remain healthy and return to a semblance of his former form.
The Blazers aren’t the only team in transition this summer. League-wide parity leads to increasingly complex decisions about rosters and contracts. 2023 might feature a number of familiar players changing destinations. If Portland wants in the mix, they should have a chance.