We are now approaching one of the biggest fan favorite events of the NBA calendar — Free Agency. Throughout this period, free agents will look to capitalize on their prior season with a new payday and possibly new place to call home. The 2020-21 NBA season proved to be challenging and rigorous, through COVID-19 protocol along with a lack of fans in attendance. However, multiple players thrived, and for that they will be compensated well.
Here’s a list of five players to watch in the coming weeks of free agency. We will be using ProFitX’s real-time contract projections as a base to gauge the value of each of these players, based upon his on-court production.
The first on our list is Charlotte’s Devonte Graham, who just wrapped up his third season in the league, averaging a very respectable 14.8 points- and 5.4 assists-per-game. Graham turned out to be a steal for the Hornets, who drafted him back in 2018 with the 34th overall pick. Graham’s free agency will be very interesting to watch play out, as Charlotte has retooled their roster to be younger with some high upside players. Factor in the rising LaMelo Ball with Terry Rozier coming off of a career season and you’ll see that there might not be the same opportunity for Graham that there once was in Buzz City. While Graham’s stats are solid, they are a bit lower when compared to his sophomore year. This difference may be mainly due to lesser playing time. That alone should not affect Graham’s upcoming payday, however, as his real-time contract was worth over $15.9 million per ProFitX. Graham outplayed his deal by nearly $14 million! ProFitX lists the Hornets, Kings, Thunder, Knicks, and Wizards as Graham’s five best fitting teams, as currently constructed. Regardless of which team he is on next season, one thing is for sure: Graham will cash out.
Speaking of the Knicks, that brings us to our next player: Alec Burks. Burks signed a 1-year deal last season worth $6 million, and that turned out to be a bargain for the Knicks. Burks had a late-career renaissance as a productive sixth man who can score off the bench. The Knicks had a surprising and happy storyline last season, and Burks deserves his fair share of credit for their success. Burks had a real-time contract value of over $14.8 million last season, per ProFitX. In just 25.6 minutes-per-game, Burks averaged 12.7 points. Factor in that Burks is coming off a career-high 41.5% shooting from three and you have a recipe for a big contract in this upcoming free agency period. ProFitX lists the Knicks, Kings, Thunder, Warriors, and Raptors as the best fitting teams for Burks, as currently constructed.
Our third highlighted player might be the biggest surprise on this list: It’s the now 18-year veteran Carmelo Anthony. The Blazers signed 37 year-old Anthony back in 2019, after he had taken nearly a year off from basketball. The move completely revived Anthony’s career, and he turned out to be a quality scorer off the bench for a playoff team. Melo is coming off 13.4 points-per-game season in just 25.4 minutes-per-game. He has adapted well to the modern NBA, and shot the ball from the perimeter at the highest clip of his career — with 40.9% from three on over 4.5 attempts-per-game. Carmelo was on a veteran minimum contract last season, worth just over $2.5 million. Given that contract, his production was an absolute steal for Portland, as his real-time contract was gauged by ProFitX to be $18.5 million last season. Melo still has something left in the tank, and any contending team looking for a stretch four should strongly consider his services. ProFitX has the Blazers, Grizzlies, Kings, Bulls, and Timberwolves as Melo’s best fitting teams.
Our fourth free agent, Reggie Jackson, turned in the best basketball out of his 10-year NBA career, and was instrumental in the LA Clippers getting to the Western Conference Finals without Kawhi Leonard. After the Clippers signed him to a one-year veteran minimum contract, Jackson turned out to be one of the best signings in the prior free agency. Jackson put together a very solid regular season averaging 10.7 points-per-game in just 23 minutes per game. However, his value ballooned in the postseason, as he averaged 17.8 PPG and scorching shooting numbers of 48.4% from the field and 42% from three. Jackson’s vet-minimum contract was worth just $2.3 million last year. ProFitX had his real-time value contract worth $23.3 million. That equates to a ludicrous 900.54% return on investment for the Clippers. Jackson made a name for himself in this postseason and showed he has a lot to give in a limited role, so expect many teams to bid for him. ProFitX lists the Clippers, Kings, Wizards, Knicks, and Spurs as his best suitors in terms of fit.
Our final impending free agent is Philadelphia’s Furkan Korkmaz, who will be approaching his second free agency period. Korkmaz has developed into one of the better shooting bench players in the entire league, shooting a 39% on nearly five three-point attempts per game in his past two seasons combined. The Sixers do own full bird rights on Korkmaz, and can offer him any amount of money if they do so choose. Korkmaz was on a minimum $1.7 million deal last season. He out-performed the deal by over $6 million, with a real-time contract value of $8.1 million per ProFitX. Every team in the league values shooting, so expect there to be numerous suitors for Korkmaz if he does want to leave Philly. ProFitX has the 76ers, Kings, Pelicans, Celtics, and Raptors as Korkmaz’s five best-fitting destinations.
Devonte Graham, Alec Burks, Carmelo Anthony, Reggie Jackson, and Furkan Korkmaz are just a small sample of the abundance of free agents who can expect a huge pay raise. Each of their respective teams got great value from their talent and production. Combined, these five players’ salaries accounted for a payroll of just over $14 million — chump change in comparison to their combined real-time contract values of over $91 million. The skills and talents of the aforementioned players will make them prime targets to cash out in the coming weeks.
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