Best unrestricted free agents in 2023 NBA offseason

Best unrestricted free agents in 2023 NBA offseason originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Ready to go shopping this summer?

As the NBA calendar starts to shift focus from the postseason to the offseason, one of the pivotal periods of the year transpires – free agency.

Depending on a team’s salary cap situation, they can offer a player a certain amount of money to join the squad for a certain number of years.

The upcoming period in 2023 is shaping up to be an intriguing one, particularly among the unrestricted options, which is the anchor of this exercise as players carrying restricted or player/team options might change with time.

So, who are the best unrestricted free agents to watch for in 2023? Let’s look at 10, ranked in no particular order:

The Dallas Mavericks gambled on pairing Irving with Luka Doncic to make a playoff push, but they pursued the wrong star from Brooklyn (hint: KD). They completely collapsed in the Western Conference standings and missed the play-in tournament entirely, thus allowing Irving another chance to start fresh elsewhere. The off-court issues that have followed Irving the past few years will be considered by suitors, but there’s no doubt he can elevate a team in the right scenario.

Elite two-way wings who can create off the dribble consistently are not easy to come by. Grant has become that type of player since blossoming in Detroit a few seasons ago, and Portland got solid production out of him last season despite missing the playoffs. The 29-year-old posted 20.5 points on a 48/40/81 shooting split and can defend multiple positions, so there will certainly be pursuers.

Milwaukee’s first-round exit was a tough pill to swallow, but it’ll be even tougher if Lopez goes elsewhere in free agency. The 35-year-old center can still stretch the floor and protect the paint at an elite level, even if he’s understandably lost even more speed than he already had. A 7-foot-1 center who shoots 37% from deep on 4.7 attempts and blocks 2.5 shots a game? That’s simply elite.

The Miami Heat have the best scouting and development network in the league, and it’s not really close. They’ve become one of the pure success stories for discovering hidden gems and extracting high-level play from them when other teams overlooked them. Vincent is one of them. The former Stockton King in the G League turns 27 for next season but has been playing on a minimum deal while being a core member of Erik Spoelstra’s rotation the last few seasons. The 6-foot-2 combo guard can play on and off the ball and is reliable on defense thanks to his speed and IQ. He won’t be getting paid the minimum anymore.

Vincent’s teammate, Max Strus, is in the same boat as a UFA and deserves a mention in this list.

Westbrook hasn’t been worth the $40-plus million he was getting paid for a few seasons, but his value definitely recouped itself with the Los Angeles Clippers, particularly in the playoffs. He still has that odd anomaly of a game where he explodes as a scorer, and his defense when fully locked in remains a scary sight for opposing guards. Those qualities alone should see teams inquiring about his services, and the Clippers probably will end up being one of them.

The Sacramento Kings definitely needed Barnes to deliver in the regular season as they played a playoff game for the first time in 17 years, but then he completely disappeared in the first round. Sometimes NBA players are just that – great for regular-season success but not at the level needed to win playoff games. It’s why certain players – such as D’Angelo Russell – didn’t make this list. But Barnes is essentially like a Jerami Grant-lite in terms of a 3-and-D archetype (47/37/85 shooting split), so it’ll be interesting to see if Sacramento wants to keep him – and for how much.

Curry didn’t have quite the individual season he would’ve hoped for his first full year in Brooklyn, but then again the whole Nets franchise was in complete disarray. The soon-to-be 33-year-old can still shoot the lights out when he’s got it going, and hit 40.5% of his 3s this past season on 3.8 attempts. A team in need of an extra scoring boost – and a tough shotmaker – off the bench should be monitoring Curry’s situation.

The Toronto Raptors forked over three draft picks – one first and two seconds – to grab Poeltl from San Antonio at the deadline. The team as a whole underperformed quite incredibly, but the 27-year-old center recorded strong individual numbers that should see teams calling in search of an efficient paint scorer who can protect the paint and reliably rebound. Toronto, if it wants to run it back, would be wise to re-sign him.

Wood never broke out in Dallas as the Mavericks probably would’ve liked after trading for him, but they also didn’t help their case to optimize him. Wood reverted to his old sixth-man role from Detroit in 2019-20 that saw him break out in the first place, and he still averaged 16.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks on a 52/38/77 shooting split as a floor-spacing big man. At 27 years old, Wood should look for a team where he can start consistently on what could be his last big contract. 

One of the underrated ingredients to the Kings’ success this season was the utilization of depth under Mike Brown. But one of the players who may have been under-utilized was Lyles, a 6-foot-9 power forward who could also operate as a small-ball center. Sacramento’s best ever NBA offense tended to open up whenever Lyles played, and he also stepped up with clutch shots in the first round against Golden State. His numbers don’t jump off the stat sheet, but some team will get an immediate-impact role player who’s currently 27. The Kings should make sure that’s them.

Honorable mentions

Naz Reid: A soon-to-be 24-year-old center from Minnesota who can also stretch the floor, help protect the paint and is extremely athletic with plenty of potential to tap into, particularly on defense.

Patrick Beverley: Turns 35 soon and his 3-point shooting isn’t as sharp as it once was, but in short spurts can provide crucial defensive value. He’s the type you hate to play against but want on your team.

Nikola Vucevic: Another floor-spacing big man who can score through the post down low and has reliable availability, but how much will the soon-to-be 33-year-old command?

Kelly Oubre Jr.: His streaky scoring ability is quite unique, but he doesn’t exactly raise a team’s ceiling as a starter despite being 27 years old. Being a sixth or seventh man for a contending team would be the way to go.

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