Best wings available and their best landing spots

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

The league has a new collective bargaining agreement, which may initially reduce spending. But some teams are planning a salary cap increase over the next few 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 evolve for the best free agent wings available and who their potential suitors are?

*Check out part 1: Best NBA Free-Agent guards available and their best landing spots.

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The Washington Wizards don’t have a director of basketball operations after parting ways with Tommy Sheppard, so it’s difficult to project the team’s direction. For a new GM, the expectation will be to compete for a playoff spot, not rebuild — or so several competing executives believe.

With that in mind, Kyle Kuzma was one of Wizards’ best players last season. At almost 28 years old, Kuzma will opt out of his $13 million player option to sign a lucrative new contract. Buzz around the league suggests it will be with Washington.

The question will be price, and Kuzma will need competing bids to gain leverage. Luckily, he may be young enough to attract teams that plan to have cap space to make a run, like the Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic, Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs or the Oklahoma City Thunder. He just needs an offer close to the $30 million range to drive the Wizards’ price up.

Washington should be able to afford Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis and Kuzma. Whether that’s enough to make a playoff in the East is debatable, but that probably won’t stop Kuzma from getting paid by the Wizards (GM pending) this summer.

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

Again, the question is the price. Grant will hit 30 before the end of next season and is likely looking for a reasonable raise above his expiring $21 million. Portland can give it up to five years, one more than competing franchises. Maybe he’s willing to take a little less per year for a longer contract in the range of $20-25 million.

Even paying $45.6 million for Lillard next season, the Blazers aren’t heavily in debt. The team has some flexibility to upgrade the roster with its Mid-Level Exception for Non-Taxpayers (NTMLE) and trades.

If the franchise decides to go in a completely different direction, offloading Lillard, Grant will likely have to look for a new home. It could be on an indoor team like the Jazz, Pacers, Thunder or Rockets.

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The trend continues with Josh Hart and the New York Knicks. The 2023 free agent class isn’t particularly deep, and many of the most coveted wings will likely stay where they are.

The Knicks improved significantly after acquiring Hart from the Trail Blazers before the deadline. He will almost certainly turn down his $13 million player option for a multi-year contract in New York.

Hart may be more of a borderline starter/sixth man than Kuzma and Grant, and he’s probably a sub-$20 million a year player in that market. Teams over the cap will get no more than the $12.2 million non-taxpayer mid-level exception (planned), which could drop Hart’s starting figure to $15 million.

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

Competing executives will point to the Knicks’ relationship with CAA Sports, which represents Hart, to explain why it’s “obvious” Hart is back — not to diminish what he’s brought to the club since the trade.

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The Utah Jazz were the surprise of the first half of the season before injuries and shifting priorities changed the direction of the team. Instead of chasing a playoff spot, the Jazz made a series of forward-looking trades.

Jordan Clarkson was an integral part of the team’s offense, eschewing his role as sixth man for a starting spot. Is the team recommitting to the nearly 31-year-old combo guard? Clarkson must first decide on his $14.3 million player option for 2023-24. He can step aside and explore free agency or sign up and possibly extend with the Jazz (up to $20 million from 2024-25).

The answer is not entirely clear, as the Jazz has enormous flexibility. Keeping Clarkson, either as a player or as a business asset, can make sense for the team.

If Utah doesn’t offer enough, Clarkson could seek at least a $12.2 million mid-level exception or part 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 plans to have the full mid-tier — tentatively the Minnesota Timberwolves, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, Hornets, Nets, Blazers, Raptors and Wizards. Cap-space teams likely include Detroit, Houston, Indiana, Oklahoma City, Orlando and San Antonio. But would they look for what Clarkson offers on the pitch?

Pencil in Utah, but even if he stays, don’t put him on the team’s final roster until the trade deadline.

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The challenge with restricted free agency is that most big signings are agreed upon before July 1. A team cannot formalize an offer sheet to a restricted player before July 6. If the original franchise exercises its right to retain its player, the offer team may find few market impact players to hunt.

That’s too big a hurdle for most teams with immediate aspirations to make the playoffs. Last year, the Pacers were willing to make the jump 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 a renegotiation.

The San Antonio Spurs stand out as a team that might be willing to go that route this summer. Teams with just the NTMLE aren’t likely to bother. The market for restricted players will be tight, including 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 stood out as a playoff performer for the Lakers. Johnson is seen by competing executives as a centerpiece for the Nets. Look for both to get more than the NTMLE with Hachimura in the $13-16 million starting range. Johnson is thought to have a higher price tag in the $18-20 million range (more if he can get an offer sheet). Thybulle may not get more than the NTMLE but looks likely to return to the Blazers.

Williams is perhaps one of the toughest 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 pursue, or does Boston hold all the leverage? Williams can still take a one-year, $8.5 million qualifying offer to explore unrestricted free agency next season, though that’s likely a last resort.

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After the Bucks’ early extinction in the playoffs, Khris Middleton is opting for his senior year at $40.4 million or negotiating a lower long-term deal to stay in Milwaukee. The Sacramento Kings’ return to the playoffs could bring Harrison Barnes back at a mutually beneficial price.

Bruce Brown Jr. will almost certainly retire from 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 any of the NTMLE or indoor teams target him as one of a team’s top six rotational players. eliminatory.

Likewise, Donte DiVincenzo has a $4.7 million player option which he is likely to turn down. The Golden State Warriors can’t pay him more than $5.4 million in free agency.

Competing league leaders do not expect the Raptors to retain Gary Trent Jr., who could opt out of his $18.8 million contract. But he will have to do his homework to make sure the money is available in free agency (which may not be a lock in this market). Instead, he can sign up and possibly be traded by the Raptors.

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

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

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