As we begin the post-All-Star, pre-playoff lull that seems to afflict the NBA each season – where restings are commonplace, game-plans are tightly held and superstar minutes are restricted – now is the perfect time to start looking towards the future.
It might only be March, and the 2020 playoffs are still well over a month away, but it’s never too early to start analyzing what this year’s edition of NBA free agency might hold. Because, rest assured, front offices around the league are doing exactly that.
While the 2020 offseason is likely to be nowhere near as wild as the famously-stacked 2021 edition (do you think Giannis might be in high demand?) there’s still plenty for franchises and fanbases to get excited about.
In this article we’ll take a look at a few of the top projected free agents for this offseason, and make a cheeky prediction as to where they’ll sign.
Anthony Davis – Los Angeles Lakers
Davis is – without a doubt – the biggest name on the potential free agent market, but at this stage it seems like a mere formality that he’ll re-sign with the Lakers on a long-term deal.
The Lakers (apparently as more a sign of formality and respect) offered Davis a max contract extension at the start of this year which would’ve seen the star forward/center make $145.6M over the next four seasons. If you think that number looks a little small, you’re not wrong. By declining, entering free agency and then signing a new contract, Davis is eligible to sign a deal worth nearly $204M.
That’s more like it. At this stage – with the Lakers firmly in contention for a championship and the chemistry between LeBron James and Davis off the charts – there is absolutely nothing to suggest Davis remaining in Tinseltown is anything but a formality.
Likely Destination: Los Angeles Lakers
Andre Drummond – Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs picked up Drummond for a song from the Pistons, and while the 26-year-old center has repeatedly maintained he intends to pick up his $28.8M player option in Cleveland, there’s still every chance he chooses to opt-out and take his chances on the open market.
Drummond has – in many respects – become slightly underrated as a result of the Pistons’ horrendous start to this season. He is a historically-incredible rebounder with the highest career rebounding percentage in NBA history (minimum 5,000 minutes) and has already shown signs of forming a formidable pick-and-roll tandem with the Cavs’ pair of combo guards in Darius Garland and Collin Sexton.
Given the league wide lack of cap space as teams stockpile for the summer of 2021, there’s little chance of Drummond finding a contract worth anywhere in the vicinity of that player option, which likely means he’ll stay in Cleveland and both parties can reassess his worth after next season.
Likely Destination: Cleveland Cavaliers
Brandon Ingram – New Orleans Pelicans
Amidst concerns about the recurrent blood clots that stunted his 2018-19 season, the Pelicans chose not to offer Ingram an extension over the most recent offseason.
They may live to rue that decision. Ingram – a first-time All-Star – has been lights out this entire year, and is forming the kind of on-court relationship with Zion Williamson that GMs dream of. The lanky forward is now set to become one of the hottest properties on the free-agent market, and the Pelicans have a race on their hands to try and re-sign him.
The suitors will be plentiful, but the most obvious is the Charlotte Hornets. Ingram is a North Carolina native, who went to college at Duke and who has a healthy working relationship with Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak – the man who decided to take Ingram with the second pick in the draft as an executive on the Lakers.
Ingram is the perfect second-tier star that small market teams crave. If New Orleans can’t find the resources to make him a market-level offer, we would not be surprised to see Ingram take the max elsewhere.
Likely Destination: Charlotte Hornets
DeMar Derozan – San Antonio Spurs
While Derozan has been serviceable in San Antonio since infamously arriving as part of the Kawhi Leonard deal, it’s probably time for both parties to start afresh.
Derozan and LaMarcus Aldridge are both on the wrong side of 30 (in age and point-scoring ability) and given the team appears unlikely (never say never) to make another playoff run, youth – in the form of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Lonnie Walker IV – and a revamped offense is likely to be the order of the day for San Antonio’s offseason. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for two wily veterans whose midrange-heavy game-styles don’t exactly fit the modern NBA.
Derozan has a player option for $27.7M, which makes things tricky. On the one hand, his value is hardly likely to increase over the next 14 months, which means he may want to ‘secure the bag’ now in the form of one last big contract with a contending team. On the other hand, it’s difficult to see any team in the NBA with the necessary cap space and the desire to spend that space on a guy like Derozan, who has a proven inability to lead a championship-winning team and who can’t shoot a three to save his life.
$149.1M is the maximum Derozan is eligible for, but you can guarantee he won’t be getting that. Like Ingram, though, Derozan’s 22.7 points per game, 5.7 assists and 53% field goal percentage perfectly fit the bill for a small-market team aching for any semblance of star power. Take your pick of the bunch.
Likely Destinations: Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Hornets.
Fred VanVleet – Toronto Raptors
VanVleet’s NBA career has been one of the most remarkable we’ve seen in recent memory.
His 2019 playoff run in the Eastern Conference Finals and in the Finals itself will never be forgotten, but perhaps what has gotten lost in all the noise of his elite shooting since the birth of his first child is the fact that VanVleet went undrafted in 2016, and only actually made his first NBA start in the 2018 playoffs.
The Raptors have a lot to figure out in this upcoming offseason, and a way to keep VanVleet will be top of the list. In the wake of Kahwi’s departure, the 26-year-old guard has bumped his scoring average by over 6 points per game this year and continues to make opposing defenses look as silly as he did the Warriors and Bucks in last season’s breakout.
Toronto need to find a way to hold on to VanVleet, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson his offseason while simultaneously keeping space open for a Giannis push in 2021. That’s no easy task, and it’s hard to see all four of those names remaining north of the border. While VanVleet will likely be the top priority it’s going to be hard for Masai Ujiri to find much wriggle-room should another team desperate for a big fish (of any variety) come knocking with a hefty offer.
Still, VanVleet is a cult hero in Canada, and we expect the Raptors to make an offer consistent with what he’s now worth.
Likely Destinations: Toronto Raptors, New York Knicks
Danilo Gallinari – Oklahoma City Thunder
Gallinari was oh-so-close to finding himself in Miami at the trade deadline, and we’re backing the Heat make him an offer he can’t refuse as soon as his contract with the Thunder expires.
In the wake of the Paul George trade, most NBA pundits presumed Gallinari would be well and truly out of Oklahoma City by now. Instead, he’s become a key piece on a championship-contending, well-consolidated playoff team.
The Heat, meanwhile, have vastly outperformed expectations, but are undeniably another wing shooter short of teams in the upper echelon.
Gallinari is 6 foot 10 and averages almost 20 points and three threes per game since the start of last season, which makes him an incredibly attractive prospect for any team in the championship window. Importantly as well, the oft-injured Gallinari has shown an encouraging propensity for staying on the floor this season, a fact which drastically improves his chances of receiving a long term deal.
The Heat are perhaps the only playoff team with genuine cap flexibility heading in this offseason. They’re going to make a big play at somebody, and Gallinari is the likeliest target. That being said, the fact that the Thunder held on to their asset is a pretty good indicator that they’ll have a crack at holding on to Gallinari – as they should. We just think the Heat are poised to make an offer he can’t refuse.
Likely Destination: Miami Heat
Joe Harris – Brooklyn Nets
In today’s NBA – with the proliferation of outside shooting – a sniper like Joe Harris is always going to hold his value.
Harris led the NBA in three-point percentage in 2018-19 with a ridiculous 47.4% strike rate. He’s returned to the mean slightly this season, but still hits at a rate better than 40% and is an invaluable contributor on a Nets team trying to remain competitive without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.
With Irving and Durant (hopefully) back to full health next season, a floor spacer like Harris is going to be an essential piece of a team that has championship aspirations. His current salary – $7.7M – is about to receive an enormous boost, but the Nets simply can’t afford to let him leave.
Unless a bidding war erupts of epic proportions, we don’t see Harris spending next year in anything but the Brooklyn black in 2020-21.
Likely Destination: Brooklyn Nets
Written and produced by SportsTips.com
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