The 2021 offseason is upon us and so are decision dates for 26 players. Here is an evaluation of the situations of all these players and predictions on the outcome of their options.
Kawhi Leonard (LA Clippers): $36,016,200 player option
Kawhi Leonard has several contractual options this summer with the Clippers if he plans on staying with them. He can decline his player option and become an unrestricted free agent to sign a four-year deal worth $176 million with them. He could also sign a one-plus-one worth $82 million, opt-out in 2022 and re-sign with the Clippers for a five-year deal projected at $235 million. If Leonard wants to play things safer, he could exercise his $36 million player option for 2021-22, then extend for an additional four years and up to $181.5 million, a pathway outlined by Bobby Marks.
The Clips made strides in the playoffs compared to their 2020 performance, which could give Leonard enough confidence in their front office to sign a long-term deal with them now. However, doing so would mean giving away leverage towards big decisions. If he signs another short-term deal, it would keep pressure on the front office to remain aggressive towards improving the team as much as possible. Also, seeing how he’s a Top 5 player in the league on one of the least cash-strapped teams, he will likely get a five-year maximum deal with the team next season if he signs a one-plus-one this offseason.
Prediction: Leonard opts out.
Chris Paul (Phoenix): $44,211,146 player option
Chris Paul has just crossed $300 million in career earnings and it’s possible he earns another $100 million after his championship run. Paul has a $44.2 million player option that, at age 36, seemed like a safe bet for him to exercise prior to this season. Now it might be a more lucrative option for him to decline that option and extend for more years and guaranteed money.
If CP3 exercises his player option, he can extend for an additional two years for a maximum of $97 million. That route would have him earn $140 million over the next three seasons, but there’s no guarantee the Suns would want to pay him close to $50 million annually in his late-thirties. According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, Paul is expected to decline his player option to sign a new long-term deal. A three-year deal worth $100 million would have Paul lose some money in the first year but would guarantee him an additional $56 million over the next three seasons. This might be the safest route for Paul, which is still a lot of money.
Prediction: Paul opts out.
Norman Powell (Portland): $11,615,328 player option
Norman Powell has become a very reliable offensive player over the past two seasons. His current contract was the maximum extension amount he was eligible for at the time, which is significantly higher than the minimum salary he made in his first three seasons. He has already outperformed the value of his current deal, and the Trail Blazers will be in the luxury tax if they re-sign him to what should likely be around double his current annual salary. Letting him walk after trading Gary Trent Jr. for him seems like a non-starter. Most teams with cap space have theoretical fits for Powell.
Prediction: Powell opts out.
Spencer Dinwiddie (Brooklyn): $12,302,496 player option
Spencer Dinwiddie already declined to exercise his player option shortly after the Nets got eliminated from the playoffs. He will enter unrestricted free agency in a class filled with talented point guards which should help his market despite his injury. He could be a prime sign-and-trade candidate for over-the-cap teams with the Nets ideally wanting something in return for him if he leaves. His market could be in the high-teens annually which is pretty high for the Nets if he isn’t guaranteed to close most games.
Mitchell Robinson (New York): $1,802,057 team option
What the Knicks decide to do with Mitchell Robinson will depend on how much they value him and what they end up doing with their cap space this offseason. Robinson had another season consistent with his previous two but he missed half of this year with injuries. If the Knicks view him as a starting and closing center on a potential contender, then they probably should either decline his team option and re-sign him to a new deal or exercise it and sign him to an extension. The former allows Robinson to earn more money and immediately.
Because Robinson is earning the veteran minimum, he doesn’t interfere with New York’s $48 million in cap space this offseason. If they don’t sign anyone that interests them, they could roll their cap space over in 2022 and they could re-sign Robinson afterward with his minimum cap hold. However, they run the risk of letting him walk if they exercise his team option since he would become unrestricted in 2022. The Knicks might not be in any rush to address Robinson’s long-term contract situation with another year remaining on his deal. Look for them to run another season with Robinson on his team-advantageous deal.
Prediction: New York exercises Robinson’s option
Will Barton (Denver): $14,669,642 player option
Will Barton has been very reliable in his time in Denver… minus his poorly timed injuries in the past two playoffs. The 31-year-old guard will have to weigh his potential earnings entering free agency now versus a year later. There should be a robust market for veteran wing players and at worst he could be looking a the full non-taxpayer mid-level exception (NT-MLE). If he could get an indication of an offer out there for multiple years where he earns around the same that he’s been making recently, that could be enough reason for him to opt out.
His role and load should get a lot easier in Denver going forward now that he’s their fifth option. He’s an ideal starting shooting guard for their core and has a familiar role there. If he opts in, he becomes extension-eligible but it seems unlikely Denver would want to give him a raise heading into his mid-thirties. In 2022, both Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon’s presumed next contracts will push Denver into the luxury tax, which could complicate a new contract for Barton if he makes it to free agency. This might be the best time for him to lock in a new deal now, especially with Denver.
Prediction: Barton opts out.
Serge Ibaka (LA Clippers): $9,720,900 player option
Serge Ibaka can decline his player option and re-sign with the Clippers to a four-year deal for up to $47.8 million. His most recent back injury will likely delay any discussion on a new long-term contract. He will probably play it safe by opting in and rehabbing with the Clippers.
Prediction: Ibaka opts in.
Josh Richardson (Dallas): $11,615,328 player option
Josh Richardson has now had two down-seasons in a row since leaving Miami. His offensive struggles have really been highlighted, especially on a three-point shooting-reliant offensive system in Dallas. Despite all that, he should still garner offers for around his current annual salary with versatile wing players in demand. Even if he were to take a one-year “make good” contract for the full NT-MLE, it is probably a better opportunity to raise his stock instead of remaining in Dallas (unless Jason Kidd has big plans for him). It is possible he gets an even bigger premium than the NT-MLE on a short-term deal.
Prediction: Richardson opts out.
Bobby Portis (Milwaukee): $3,804,150 player option
Bobby Portis was already looking at a solid raise based on his regular-season performance and his recent playoff success should raise his price tag even higher. Last season he earned $8 million with the Knicks, which could be the floor of his future annual salary.
Prediction: Bobby Portis opts out.
Bryn Forbes (Milwaukee): $2,454,002 player option
Like Portis, Bryn Forbes was another marginal signing who was very productive for the Bucks. Milwaukee will likely have to use their taxpayer mid-level exception just to keep one of them. The $5.9 million salary could be a suitable raise for Forbes on a short-term deal. He could then get back on the market sooner for another raise.
Prediction: Forbes opts out.
JaMychal Green (Denver): $7,559,748 player option
JaMychal Green took a discount to re-sign with the Clippers last year on a one-plus-one for the room mid-level exception (R-MLE). He declined that option for a two-year $15 million contract which is similar to his previous deal with Memphis. It feels like his current contract equals his production on the court, a rarity with almost any contract in the league.
If he opts out, it’s hard to see him earning significantly more than he currently is. The best-case scenario for Green opting out could be securing additional years beyond 2021-22, as suggested by John Hollinger of The Athletic. The Nuggets could re-sign him this offseason to a four-year deal for up to $37.2 million if he opts out. Perhaps a three-year deal in the $24 million range makes sense for both sides?
Prediction: Green opts out.
Montrezl Harrell (LA Lakers): $9,720,900 player option
Like Ibaka, at one point it felt like Montrezl Harrell declining his player option to sign a long-term deal with the Lakers was an inevitability. After getting inconsistent playing time in the playoffs, now his future in Los Angeles seems a little more uncertain. He will still have a solid market with many teams needing a productive backup big man. While he may have a connection with Los Angeles and the organization, the Lakers’ desire to be heavy with centers and no guarantee of consistent playing time could push him elsewhere.
Prediction: Harrell opts out.
Goran Dragic (Miami): $19,440,000 team option
Miami made sure to only re-sign players on one-year deals in the 2020 season in order to maximize cap space for the 2021 offseason. They gave Goran Dragic a large first-year salary in exchange for a team option on year two. The reason for this is so they can potentially use his 2021-22 salary as ballast for a big trade if they decide not to use cap space. If the Heat exercises his team option it’s because they have a trade in place. They have until August 1 to make a decision on him and it doesn’t seem they’re close to a big trade that could involve him.
Prediction: Miami declines Dragic’s team option.
Andre Iguodala (Miami): $15,000,000 team option
Everything that was said about Dragic applies to Andre Iguodala.
Prediction: Miami declines Iguodala’s team option.
Justise Winslow (Memphis): $13,000,000 team option
The Grizzlies made a low-risk move acquiring Justise Winslow but so far it hasn’t worked out. Despite that, this decision isn’t as clear-cut as it seems. The question isn’t so much if Memphis will keep him long-term, but rather if they want to use cap space in 2021 or 2022. If they exercise Winslow’s team option, they would give him another chance while also rolling over their cap space to 2022 where they can pursue top free agents such as Bradley Beal.
They could also decline Winslow’s team option and sign a player who can contribute immediately. Even if the player isn’t a closer, they could still give that player a bloated one-year deal and maintain maximum cap space in 2022. But the Grizzlies are so deep as currently built that unless they’re signing a player just as young as Winslow, they might be better off betting on his upside again and having his salary immediately available for trade. The NT-MLE could be enough for them to add a quality rotation player.
Prediction: Memphis exercises Winslow’s team option.
Avery Bradley (Houston): $5,916,750 team option
The Rockets were set to have significant cap space this offseason after moving James Harden to Brooklyn. After trading for DJ Augustin and the 24th overall pick, and bottoming out to the second overall pick, they are now likely going to operate over the cap. Unless there is pressure to create spending power, Houston can comfortably exercise Bradley’s team option and try to trade him to a good team. If they opt him in, they would be roughly $23 million below the luxury tax with 13 players on their roster, including their three first-round picks. They could still comfortably utilize the entire NT-MLE without coming remotely close to the luxury tax.
Prediction: Houston exercises Bradley’s team option.
Derrick Jones Jr. (Portland): $9,720,900 player option
Derrick Jones Jr.’s $9.7 million player option will come in handy for him after falling out of Terry Stott’s rotation. With Chauncey Billups now the new head coach, Jones Jr. could have a new opportunity to be utilized correctly.
Prediction: Jones Jr. opts in.
Edmond Sumner (Indiana): $2,320,000 team option
Edmond Sumner had plenty of opportunities to play this season during Indiana’s injury-riddled season and made improvements all across the board. If he was entering free agency he would certainly make a raise off his $2.3 million salary. Indiana will likely want to take advantage of one more season of solid production at essentially the veteran minimum.
Prediction: Indiana exercises Sumner’s team option.
Kevon Looney (Golden State): $5,178,572 player option
Kevon Looney has already exercised his player option for next season. He probably wasn’t going to get more than his $5.2 million salary, which is slightly higher than the $4.9 million room MLE. That was the going rate for backup centers in the 2019 offseason and that price tag could return for the 2021 offseason. If he was going to earn around the same annually, he might as well do it with the Warriors.
Kris Dunn (Atlanta): $5,005,350 player option
Kris Dunn had a lost season due to injury. If he opts out, it’s hard to see him earning his $5 million player option amount. His best path probably is running it back with the Hawks and having a bounceback season. With their backup point guard situation currently in flux, Dunn should get playing time next season.
Prediction: Dunn opts in.
Willie Cauley-Stein (Dallas): $4,100,000 team option
Dallas could generate up to $34 million in cap space this offseason if they renounce all cap holds and decline Willie Cauley-Stein’s team option. They could generate more by offloading salaries such as Kristaps Porzingis and Dwight Powell. Even if Dallas is short-handed on centers after free agency, they should be able to sign a solid end-of-bench center for the minimum.
Prediction: Dallas declines Cauley-Stein’s team option.
Al-Farouq Aminu (Chicago): $10,183,800 player option
Al-Farouq Aminu has already exercised his $10.2 million player option. He could be a candidate for the Bulls to offload his salary in order to generate cap space. He could also be used in potential sign-and-trades.
Ryan Arcidiacono (Chicago): $3,000,000 team option
Ryan Arcidiacono is one of the last remaining role players held over from the previous front office. The Bulls could look to generate cap space or flexibility below the hard cap for potential sign-and-trades. With either scenario, Arcidiacono’s $3 million is in the way.
Prediction: Chicago declines Arcidiacono’s team option.
Didi Louzada (New Orleans): $1,517,981 team option
Didi Louzada’s current contract structure and the timing of when it was signed is puzzling. Getting a prospect in a soon as possible is understandable, but why did he only get a two-year deal with a team option for 2021-22? They could’ve given him at least three years with plenty of their NT-MLE remaining. Perhaps they intend on declining his team option and re-signing him to a long-term deal this offseason through his non-Bird rights or the MLE? The team option is unusual, but the answer to what they do with it might not be very complicated.
Prediction: Pelicans exercise Louzada’s team option.
Isaiah Hartenstein (Cleveland): $1,762,796 player option
Isaiah Hartenstein plans on declining his player option, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. That makes sense considering his $1.8 million amount is the veteran minimum. He should certainly at least make that on his next contract.
Prediction: Hartenstein opts out.
DaQuon Jeffries (San Antonio): $1,701,593 team option
San Antonio claimed DaQuon Jeffries at the end of the regular season so they didn’t have enough time to evaluate him. They are projected to generate close to $50 million in cap space, so Jeffries’ $1.7 million amount won’t interfere.
Prediction: San Antonio exercises Jeffries’ team option.