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2023 NBA Free Agency: Best Available Wings and Their Top Landing Spots

Eric Pincus

Old-school basketball was built around point guards and centers, but the wing position has arguably grown to be the most important in the modern NBA. It's also the broadest, ranging from combo guards like Jordan Clarkson and Donte DiVincenzo to taller, rangy scorers/defenders (or both) like Kyle Kuzma and Jerami Grant.

The league has a new collective bargaining agreement, which may initially curtail spending. But some teams anticipate a rising salary cap over the coming years with a new broadcast deal on the horizon. It will be fascinating to see who gets paid and by whom.

In Part 2 of three, how will the market shake out for the best available free-agent wings, and who are their potential suitors?

*Check out Part 1: Best Available NBA Free-Agent Guards and Their Top Landing Spots.

Kyle Kuzma Is Staying, Probably

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The Washington Wizards don't have a lead basketball operations executive after parting ways with Tommy Sheppard, so it's difficult to project the team's direction. For an incoming general manager, the expectation will be competing for a playoff spot, not rebuilding—at least, that's what several competing executives believe.

With that in mind, Kyle Kuzma was one of the Wizards' best players last season. At almost 28, Kuzma will opt out of his $13 million player option to lock in a lucrative new deal. The buzz around the league suggests that it will be with Washington.

The question will be price, and Kuzma will need competing bids for leverage. Fortunately, he may be young enough to entice teams that project to have cap space to make a run, like the Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic, Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder. He just needs one offer near the $30 million range to push the price up for the Wizards.

Washington should be able to afford Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis and Kuzma. Whether that's enough to make a playoff run in the East is questionable, but that probably doesn't get in the way of Kuzma getting paid by the (GM pending) Wizards this summer.

Blazers Recommit to Jerami Grant?

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The Portland Trail Blazers are in a similar position as the Wizards. Both have a veteran star guard eager to make a playoff run after an early offseason and a critical wing free agent to pay. The Blazers will likely continue building around Damian Lillard, leading to a recommitment to Grant.

Once again, the question is price. Grant will reach 30 before the end of next season and is probably looking for a reasonable raise above his expiring $21 million. Portland can give him up to five years, one more than competing franchises. Perhaps he's willing to take a little bit less annually for a longer deal in the $20-$25 million range.

Even paying $45.6 million for Lillard next season, the Blazers aren't heavily leveraged. The team has some flexibility to upgrade the roster with its non-taxpayer mid-level exception (NTMLE) and trades.

If the franchise decides to go in a completely different direction, by offloading Lillard, Grant would likely need to seek a new home. That might be at a room team like the Jazz, Pacers, Thunder or Rockets.

Hart Continues the Trend in New York

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The trend continues with Josh Hart and the New York Knicks. The 2023 free-agent class isn't especially deep, and most top-coveted wings will likely stay where they are.

The Knicks got appreciably better after acquiring Hart from the Trail Blazers ahead of the deadline. He will almost certainly decline his $13 million player option for a multi-year deal in New York.

Hart may be more of a borderline starter/sixth man than Kuzma and Grant, and he is likely a sub-$20 million-a-year player in this market. Teams over the cap won't have more than the $12.2 million non-taxpayer mid-level exception (projected), which could drop Hart's starting figure to the $15 million range.

He would need a team with cap room to show interest, like the Pistons, Rockets, Pacers, Thunder, Magic, Spurs and Jazz, to get more from New York. The Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Hornets could also end up below the salary cap, depending on their own free agents.

Competing executives will point at the Knicks' relationship with CAA Sports, which happens to represent Hart, as to why it's a "no-brainer" that Hart is back—not to diminish what he's brought to the club since the trade.

Clarkson Potentially Available?

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The Utah Jazz were the surprise package for the first half of the season before injuries and shifting priorities changed the team's direction. Instead of chasing a postseason berth, the Jazz made a series of trades focusing on the future.

Jordan Clarkson was integral to the team's attack, eschewing his sixth-man role for a starting spot. Does the team recommit to the almost 31-year-old combo guard? Clarkson must first decide on his $14.3 million player option for 2023-24. He can opt out and explore free agency or opt in and possibly extend with the Jazz (up to $20 million starting in 2024-25).

The answer isn't entirely clear, as the Jazz have tremendous flexibility. Keeping Clarkson, either as a player or as a trade asset, may make sense to the team.

If Utah isn't offering enough, Clarkson could seek at least a $12.2 million mid-level exception or some of a team's cap room. But he probably needs to clearly understand where his next contract is coming from to opt out.

Just under half the league projects to have the full mid-level—tentatively the Minnesota Timberwolves, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, Hornets, Nets, Blazers, Raptors and Wizards. The cap-space teams likely include Detroit, Houston, Indiana, Oklahoma City, Orlando and San Antonio. But would they be seeking what Clarkson provides on the court?

Pencil in Utah, but even if he sticks, don't ink him into the team's final roster through the trade deadline.

Are Restricted Wings Worth Chasing?

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The challenge with restricted free agency is that most of the big signings are agreed to by July 1. A team can't make an offer sheet official to a restricted player until July 6. If the original franchise exercises its right to keep its player, the offering team may find few impact players left on the market to chase.

That's too big of a hurdle for most teams with immediate postseason aspirations to clear. Last year, the Pacers were willing to take the leap on Deandre Ayton because they had other plans for their cap room if the Suns chose to match (they did). That money went to Myles Turner instead via renegotiation.

The San Antonio Spurs stand out as a team that may be willing to walk that path this summer. Teams with just the NTMLE aren't likely to bother. The market for restricted players will be tight, notably Rui Hachimura of the Los Angeles Lakers, Cam Johnson of the Nets, Matisse Thybulle of the Blazers and Grant Williams of the Boston Celtics.

Hachimura has stood out as a playoff performer for the Lakers. Johnson is believed by competing executives to be a core piece for the Nets. Look for both to get more than the NTMLE with Hachimura in the $13-16 million starting range. Johnson is believed to have a higher price in the $18-20 million range (more if he can get an offer sheet). Thybulle may not get more than the NTMLE but seems likely to return to the Blazers.

Williams may be one of the most challenging cases to predict this offseason, with his role diminishing in the Celtics' playoff rotation. Is he the kind of player a team with cap space would chase, or does Boston hold all the leverage? Williams can always accept a one-year, $8.5 million qualifying offer to explore unrestricted free agency next season, though that's probably a last resort.

Other Unrestricted Free Agents

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After the Bucks' early playoff flame-out, Khris Middleton either opts in to his final year at $40.4 million or negotiates a lower, long-term deal to stay in Milwaukee. The Sacramento Kings' return to the playoffs may lead to Harrison Barnes' return at a mutually beneficial price.

Bruce Brown Jr. will almost certainly opt out of his $6.8 million salary for 2023-24. The Denver Nuggets can't pay him more than $7.8 million, which may not be enough if one of the NTMLE or room teams targets him as a top-six rotation player on a playoff team.

Similarly, Donte DiVincenzo has a $4.7 million player option that he will likely decline. The Golden State Warriors cannot pay him more than $5.4 million in free agency.

Competing executives around the league don't expect the Raptors to retain Gary Trent Jr., who may opt out of his $18.8 million contract. But he'll need to do his homework to ensure that money is available in free agency (which may not be a lock in this market). Instead, he may opt in and eventually be traded by the Raptors.

Others who may have suitors include Kelly Oubre Jr. (who could end up back in Charlotte with the Hornets), Dillon Brooks (unlikely to return to the Grizzlies) and Caris LeVert (pencil back with Cleveland).

Jalen McDaniels and Max Strus stand out as unrestricted free agents who might find a market above the minimum this summer, among others.


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