Free agency is quickly approaching, with Aug. 2 being the first day teams can begin negotiating with free agents.
Ahead of free agency, we're going to take a closer look at what could happen. And today, we're looking at who the best players are at the small forward position.
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It's a group headlined by two-time Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and one that features a couple of veterans in Nicolas Batum and Jeff Green.
With that in mind, let's get to it.
5. Jeff Green, Brooklyn Nets
2020-21 averages: 11.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists in 27.0 minutes per game
A veteran who has been bouncing from team to team on minimum contracts for a while now, Green played a key role on the Nets this season, establishing himself as one of Brooklyn's most versatile defenders and unlocking its small ball lineup. He shot 49.2 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from 3-point range, both of which were the highest marks of his career.
Green is an ideal rotational player for a contender, making it a strong possibility that the Nets re-sign him.
4. Doug McDermott, Indiana Pacers
2020-21 averages: 13.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists in 24.5 minutes per game
It feels like McDermott is flying under the radar.
The No. 11 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, McDermott enters free agency following the best season of his career. Not only did he average career-highs in points (13.6), rebounds (3.3), assists (1.3) and minutes (24.5), but he shot a career-best 53.2 percent from the field while making the second-most 3s of his career (111 at a 38.8 percent clip).
Between his reliable scoring and shooting, McDermott would be a nice addition to a lot of team's second units.
3. Nicolas Batum, LA Clippers
2020-21 averages: 8.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists in 27.4 minutes per game
Batum has had quite the turnaround, going from being waived by the Charlotte Hornets in 2020 to being a rotational player on a Clippers team that made the Western Conference Finals in 2021. His versatility on both ends of the court shined with the Clippers, and he connected on 40.4 percent of his 3-point attempts, the second-best rate of his career.
Now 32 years old, Batum is an experienced and reliable player who could draw interest from contenders in free agency.
2. Kelly Oubre Jr., Golden State Warriors
2020-21 averages: 15.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists in 30.7 minutes per game
Oubre didn't quite reach the same levels with the Warriors in 2020-21 that he did with the Phoenix Suns in 2019-20.
The start of the season was particularly rough for Oubre, as he shot 37.6 percent from the field and 23.1 percent from 3-point range in Golden State's first 21 games. However, he started to pick up his play after that, ignited by a 40-point performance against the Dallas Mavericks in which he shot 14-for-21 from the field and 7-for-10 from 3-point range.
Unfortunately, Oubre missed the last 10 games of the season due to a wrist injury.
It'll be interesting to see what happens with Oubre in free agency. The Warriors gave up two draft picks to acquire him, but Oubre and head coach Steve Kerr don't seem to be on the same page when it comes to his ideal role. Will he return to the Warriors for a chance to compete for a title or will he have to go elsewhere to get what he's looking for?
1. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers
Status: Player option
2020-21 averages: 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists in 34.1 minutes per game
With averages of 30.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists on 57.3 percent shooting from the field, Leonard was having a playoffs much like the one he had in 2019 when he led the Toronto Raptors to their first title in franchise history. Then, he suffered a partial tear of his right ACL, an injury that kept him out of LA's last eight postseason games and could sideline him for much of next season.
Leonard is under contract for the 2021-22 season, but it's a player option worth $36.0 million. If he opts out of it, he will become an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with any team in the league.
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The expectation is Leonard will re-up with the Clippers should he opt out of his player option, but The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor reported that the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat plan to "make a hard push" to acquire the two-time Finals MVP if he becomes available. In which case, Leonard's free agency could get very interesting.
Originally published in NBA Argentina and translated by NBA Canada's Scott Rafferty.
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