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LeBron James, Kyrie Irving Highlight Potential Top 5 NBA Free Agents for Summer of 2023

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CLEVELAND, OHIO - MARCH 21: LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on March 21, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Lakers defeated the Cavaliers 131-120. Jason Miller/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Jason Miller / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Every summer in the NBA there are big moves to be made, whether it’s a free agent signing or a blockbuster trade. There was a chance from some major trades this summer but, at this point, it appears that potential Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant trades have stalled, which will only serve to make next summer more interesting.

One of the many reasons that complicated a Kyrie Irving trade is that he will be a free agent next summer, so he and LeBron James could potentially be free agents if they are not signed to extensions before then.

Here are five players (plus some honorable mentions) that could be among the top unrestricted free agents, including those with player options, in the NBA next summer.

A lot could change before next summer. Players could sign extensions with their current teams, and the 2022-2023 season could bring injuries, poor performance or great performance, all of which could affect a player’s value on the free agent market.  

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Here is a very early look at the Top 5 potential NBA unrestricted free agents, including those with player options, for the summer of 2023.

LeBron James, F, Los Angeles Lakers

The 37-year-old superstar just scored 30.3 points per game last season, his highest scoring rate since 2005-2006, but the Lakers were nowhere near the postseason. While LeBron appears inclined to remain a Laker, if the 2022-2023 season goes south again, maybe that would open the door to another potential decision regarding his future. It also appears that LeBron is looking forward to having the opportunity to play with his sons in the NBA, so that could complicate the terms of any contract extension. Of note, James is eligible to sign a contract extension with the Lakers starting today, Thursday, Aug. 4. The contract can be of the one-year, $47 million variety or a two-year extension for $97 million.

Time will tell.

Kyrie Irving, PG, Brooklyn

It was a tumultuous offseason this year for the 30-year-old point guard, who wanted out of Brooklyn and then the Nets could not work out an acceptable trade to make it happen. Unless the script flips dramatically in Brooklyn next season, Kyrie could be a big free agent attraction next summer. He is flaky and not especially durable, but he has also averaged 27.1 points per game in just 103 games over the past three seasons.  

Fred VanVleet, PG, Toronto ($22.8M Player Option)

A 28-year-old who was not drafted into the NBA, VanVleet has steadily improved, literally increasing his per-game scoring rate in each of the past five seasons. He finished last season with career highs in points (20.3), assists (6.7), and rebounds (4.4) per game and even though he is not the quickest of point guards, his strength allows him to be a strong defender. The Raptors would surely want to keep VanVleet because is a productive take-charge leader who was part of their championship core.  

Khris Middleton, SF, Milwaukee ($40.4M Player Option)

A 30-year-old wing who has averaged more than 20 points per game in four of the past five seasons, Middleton is a strong complementary player who has been a quality second option for a Bucks team that has a .689 winning percentage over the past four seasons. It would be tough to opt out of $40 million, but the chance to sign a new deal for multiple seasons may carry the decision.

Kristaps Porzingis, PF/C, Washington ($30.0M Player Option)

In three seasons since returning from a torn ACL, the 7-foot-3 Porzingis is averaging 20.3 points, 8.8. rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game which, combined with ineffective defensive play, still has the 27-year-old considered as a disappointment in many circles. It has not worked out in New York and Dallas, and now Porzingis will give it a shot with the Wizards, but if he waits for free agency next summer, and performs well, he could pick his next landing spot.

Honorable Mentions: C Jakob Poeltl, San Antonio; Andrew Wiggins, SF, Golden State; C Nikola Vucevic, Chicago; C Myles Turner, Indiana; Christian Wood, PF/C, Dallas; G D’Angelo Russell, Minnesota; SG Gary Trent Jr., Toronto; PF Kevin Love, Cleveland.

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