James Harden Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Every Top 2023 NBA Free Agent's Biggest Question Mark

Andy Bailey

The NBA Finals are upon us, which means only two teams are still playing meaningful basketball. The other 28 have shifted to offseason mode, and you can bet the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat have an eye on it, too.

That means draft boards, trade possibilities and coaching shakeups are all subjects of conversation, but few things scream offseason quite like free agency.

Here, we'll revisit April's ranking of the top 30 free agents on the market this summer. Only this time, we're looking at the biggest question marks for each of the top 10.

Getting into this group clearly requires tons of talent, but no player is flawless or comes without the prospect of some doubt.

What are we unsure of with the top 10 guys? Scroll below to find out.


Draymond Green Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

10. Cameron Johnson (Restricted): Versatility

Cameron Johnson is a bona fide weapon as a floor-spacer and shooter. His 6'8" frame is part of what makes him a solid, switchable defensive option, too. But under a new, more restrictive cap environment, teams are likely going to save their biggest contracts for players who can also reliably create for themselves and others.

9. Josh Hart (Player Option): Shooting

For a 6'5" wing, Josh Hart is one of the game's more dynamic defenders and rebounders, but that lack of size makes shooting even more important for him than it might be for others. And though he shot 37.2 percent last season, his well-below-average 33.8 over the four seasons prior could cause some front offices some concern.

8. Draymond Green (Player Option): Portability

Draymond Green checks so many boxes. His versatile, tough-minded defense and rebounding should all travel well (assuming he travels at all). But he's also spent his entire career with the greatest shooter of all time and another player who's probably top five on that list. By merely being on the floor, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson give Green an amount of operating space that he almost certainly wouldn't get anywhere else. What happens to his playmaking in a different situation?

7. Khris Middleton (Player Option): Health

Khris Middleton only appeared in 33 games last season, but it was far from the first sign that his durability may be waning. Over the last four years, he's averaged 57.3 appearances per campaign for a variety of injuries. And he's going into his age-32 campaign. The trend isn't likely to reverse at this point.

6. Jakob Poeltl (Unrestricted): Small-Ball

The acquisition of Jakob Poeltl completely changed the Toronto Raptors' season, but his inability to command defensive attention outside the paint and career 53.6 free-throw percentage have to give teams hoping for a deep playoff run some pause. Hitting your freebies and being able to survive (or punish) small-ball lineups becomes exponentially more important in the postseason.

5. Brook Lopez (Unrestricted): Age

Brook Lopez Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Brook Lopez turned 35 in April. Even in today's NBA, that's pushing the end of a prime, especially for a seven-footer who had a back surgery in December 2021.

Of course, playing 78 games and anchoring one of the league's best defenses in 2022-23 suggests there are no lingering issues from that surgery, but it's at least an agenda item for teams who'll discuss the possible acquisition of Lopez.

His sheer size (7'0" tall and almost 300 pounds) will always make him a deterrent around the rim, but if the back or natural aging start to sap a little more mobility, he'll be easier to attack in space.

And while a 37.4 three-point percentage this season suggests he'll continue to be a valuable stretch 5 on offense, he only made 32.8 percent of his long-range attempts over the three years prior to this one. If he returns to that kind of shooting during his next contract, it'll be easier for opposing defenses to leave him alone outside.

Remarkably, in his age-34 campaign, Lopez had a career-high 63.0 true shooting percentage and his best offensive box plus/minus since 2016-17, but no one is immortal.

4. Fred VanVleet (Player Option): Size

Fred VanVleet Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images

Fred VanVleet is listed at 6'1", which makes him relatively tall among those reading this article. But in a league populated by giants, it's a definite hurdle he's had to overcome.

Even at his size, he's made an All-Star team and averaged 19.3 points over the last four seasons. That's nothing to sneeze at.

However, he's also struggled around the rim (understandably) throughout his career. He's at 55.4 percent on shots within three feet of the basket. And that's a big part of why he's had a below-average effective field-goal percentage in all but one season of his career (he was way below average this season).

And at 29, there's reason to believe he may lose a little explosiveness during the life of his next contract, which could make scoring inside even more difficult.

Of course, this question affects more than just the offensive side of the floor too. Much was made of teams playing smaller guys at the 4 and 5 during the Golden State Warriors dynasty, but the more important shift may have been the development of wing-, forward- and, in a few cases, center-sized players taking over the distributor's role.

A lot of teams can now roll out lineups where everyone is 6'5" and up, which makes defensive assignments potentially nightmarish for VanVleet.

3. Kristaps Porziņģis (Player Option): Health

Kristaps Porziņģis Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Middleton's health concerns look fairly mild in comparison to those of Kristaps Porziņģis.

The 27-year-old played in 72 games as a rookie in 2015-16, but in the seven years since, he's averaged 47.1 appearances per campaign. He missed all of 2018-19 with a torn ACL. And the 65 games he played in 2022-23 were the most he's given a team since 2016-17.

And for a 7'3" player who's dealt with the variety of injuries Porziņģis has, it's hard to imagine him suddenly becoming the picture of durability.

On the bright side, the Latvian did play more than we're accustomed to seeing him play this season, and he had arguably the best season of his career.

He posted career highs in points (23.2), assists (2.7) and free throws (5.4) per game. His 4.3 box plus/minus was also the highest he's ever registered.

In theory, Porziņģis is an almost ideal three-and-D center (he's averaged nearly two blocks per game for his career). In practice, though, he's often on the bench and in street clothes.

2. Kyrie Irving (Unrestricted): Availability

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Viewed entirely through the lens of what he does when suited up and on the basketball court, few players in NBA history have been as dynamic offensively as Kyrie Irving.

Over the four seasons since he left the Boston Celtics, the 31-year-old has averaged 27.1 points, 5.8 assists and 3.0 threes, while shooting 39.5 percent from three.

And beyond the numbers, the dazzling array of moves he has as a ball-handler, passer, finisher and jump shot-maker might be unparalleled.

Over the course of his 12 NBA seasons, though, he's only appeared in 55.9 games per year. During the aforementioned post-Boston period, that number was 40.8.

The various reasons for his absences won't be detailed here. They've been analyzed ad nauseam and all over the internet. The most important point today is that the list of reasons is long and diverse. And after 12 years of that, there's no way for a team to know how many games he'll play on his next contract.

To his credit, Irving's professionalism and locker room presence was reportedly praiseworthy following his arrival with the Dallas Mavericks in 2022-23, but there's more than enough evidence to be skeptical whether that will last.

1. James Harden (Player Option): Age

James Harden Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

James Harden has averaged 22.3 points, 10.5 assists and 7.3 free-throw attempts over the last three seasons.

Just this postseason, the 10-time All-Star had two games of at least 42 points and four others with 10-plus assists.

On the right night, Harden can still look like a dominant creator.

But he turns 34 in August. And over the same three-year period, he's started to look a lot more like a battering ram than a slasher on a lot of his drives. He rarely, if ever, elevates to the rim.

And while the high points of this most recent playoff run suggested he has plenty of time left, he also had two games in which he failed to score 10 points. He shot worse than 30 percent from the field in 6 of his 11 postseason games.

And with those 11 games as the last impression prior to potentially entering free agency, Harden "intends to decline his $35.6 million player option to become an unrestricted free agent this summer in order to secure a long-term deal," according to Bleacher Report's Chris Haynes.

Assuming that means Harden is after a three- or four-year contract, and given the apparent decline we're witnessing, would you want your favorite team to pay him $40-plus million at 37 or 38 years old?


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