This year’s NBA offseason is much later than usual, but it is here. We don’t know exactly when free agency will begin, but it’s time to look at the players who could change teams.
Remember last summer? The hype, the surprises, the news helicopter following Kawhi Leonard in a SUV in Toronto? This will be nothing like that. Sorry. While stars could be traded, the 2020 free-agent class is far less splashy than 2019’s or 2021’s. Recalibrate your excitement level accordingly.
As always, there are player options and team options to consider here. Those will be noted, and the following players have not been included because I’m assuming they will not actually be free agents: Mike Conley, Jabari Parker, Kelly Olynyk, Rodney Hood, Avery Bradley, Cameron Payne, Svi Mykhailiuk, Tony Snell, Nicolas Batum, James Johnson, Stanley Johnson, Mike Muscala, Mario Hezonja.
And with that, here are 75 upcoming free agents, grouped into categories that make sense, or at least make sense to me. (This list was originally published during the hiatus, but has been expanded and updated.)
The magnificent seven
These are not superstars, but they are difference-makers. Getting any of these guys would be a win for teams trying to compete immediately, and some of them should interest rebuilding teams, too.
Can I interest you in a 26-year-old guard who can make plays against elite playoff defense, stretch the floor and force turnovers? VanVleet is quietly one of the best defensive guards in the league, making up for his lack of height with a rare combination of basketball IQ, strength and anticipation. He’s also a valued leader in the locker room, and he has shown he’s completely fearless taking big shots on the biggest stage. His suitors have to wonder how close they’d have to get to the max to price the Raptors out.
It doesn’t seem like a great idea to let Bogdanovic go, but the Kings’ front office is not the same one that chose to keep him past the trade deadline. Sign-and-trade scenarios could make sense, and I’d personally like to see him on a team that has a less ball-dominant point guard. The Bucks would reportedly like to get their hands on him.
Harris is exactly the type of player Brooklyn should want next to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. He is not just a lights-out shooter; he is a lights-out shooter who is comfortable shooting on the move, with a ridiculously quick release. He can attack close-outs, too, and he is a solid enough defender. The question here is how much luxury-tax pain the Nets are willing to endure.
Gallinari has slipped a bit as a defender and is now much more suited to play the 4 than the 3, but set himself up for another payday with a strong season in Oklahoma City. On the offensive end, Gallinari remains one of the more versatile and efficient forwards in the league and a prime candidate for a sign-and-trade. He turned 32 in August, though, and his production had wild swings against Houston in the playoffs. One interesting question: After almost getting him at the trade deadline, would Miami sacrifice its 2021 cap space with a multi-year offer?
By not trading Bertans at the deadline, the Wizards telegraphed that they intend to re-sign him. The 27-year-old was a revelation this season, taking advantage of the greenest light any stretch 4 has ever had. He took 10.7 3-pointers per 36 minutes, an unprecedented number for a frontcourt player, and made 42.4 percent of them
The Sixth Man of the Year somehow upped his usage after the Clippers signed two superstars, showing off a more refined face-up game than just about anyone thought he could develop. Once an energy guy, Harrell is now a refined offensive weapon who still does all the hustle things that got him on the court in the first place. There are questions about his viability in the playoffs, but it’s unclear how much his poor performance in the bubble will cost him — he left Orlando after the death of his grandmother, and he couldn’t play at his normal standard when he returned. Los Angeles doesn’t have many avenues for improvement, so it will presumably try to re-sign him or figure out a sign-and-trade.
In his last 15 games, the undrafted journeyman averaged 22.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, and about a steal and a block while shooting 56.2 percent and making 41 percent of his 3s. The Pistons were essentially tanking, but that doesn’t make those numbers any less real — after the Andre Drummond trade, Wood was singlehandedly keeping them in games. Detroit should obviously try to keep him, but he’s an unrestricted free agent and the few teams with money to spend will likely try to throw it at him. He’s still just 25, an age when players with his skills and physical tools are essentially never available. Unlike the other six players in this group, however, he is a bit of a mystery man due to the sample-size issue.
There is not a long list of free agents who meaningfully helped their stock in the restart, but these four certainly did. If it were easy to raise your game in the playoffs, everybody would do it.
Dragic was smart to accept a sixth-man role in the regular season season, since it let him feast on opposing bench units and run the show when Jimmy Butler was off the court. He was always capable of starting, though, and was phenomenal when given the opportunity in the playoffs. Before Game 1 of the Finals, in which he suffered a plantar fascia injury, Dragic averaged 20.9 points, 4.7 assists and 4.2 rebounds in 34.6 minutes in 15 playoff games, wreaking havoc with his pick-and-rolls. He and the Heat reportedly want to work something out, and I wonder if he’d sign a one-year deal with a high salary (and help them preserve their 2021 space).
Rondo was instrumental in the Lakers’ championship run. Opponents kept daring him to shoot, and he made 40 percent of his 3s on 4.6 attempts per 36 minutes. More importantly, with Rondo on the court and LeBron James on the bench, Los Angeles scored 117.7 points per 100 possessions in the postseason, a 10-point increase from the regular season and a reflection of the fact that he knows exactly how to exploit opponents’ weaknesses. Playoff Rondo might have earned a raise.
The versatility is what’s appealing: Grant makes open 3s, guards every position and can attack a closeout and dunk on you. His on/off numbers were ugly in the regular season, but he was impressive as a starting small forward in the playoffs, especially when tasked with guarding Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. He will reportedly opt out of the $9.3 million he’s owed next season, but there is mutual interest in a new contract with the Nuggets.
After a strong showing in the playoffs, the 3-and-D-and-a-little-bit-more guy is expected to decline his $8.5 million option. It is hard to imagine him leaving the Lakers, though, unless another team swoops in and wildly overpays him. There should be a healthy market for the 27-year-old Caldwell-Pope, given that he can fit anywhere and everybody wants wings, but Los Angeles has his Bird rights and seems like the perfect spot for him.
Nine trusty vets
A selection of veterans who were either never stars or aren’t anymore, but can help your stars be their best selves. Far more valuable to contenders, but capable of providing structure on a young team, too.
Millsap remained important to Denver’s defense this season, but had a rough go of it on offense in Orlando. The Nuggets could conceivably bring him back, but Grant will be a bigger priority and losing Millsap would make it easier to find minutes for Michael Porter Jr. At 35, and with a history of knee trouble, he will likely be looking at short-term deals to play between 20 and 30 minutes a night for a contender.
The rebuilding Cavaliers were reportedly interested in extending Thompson’s contract earlier this season, but then they traded for Andre Drummond. He doesn’t make much sense in Cleveland anymore, but the partnership could continue if it can’t find a suitable sign-and-trade. At a certain point, though, Thompson needs to do the dirty work for a contender again.
Given that the Pelicans were 10 points per 100 possessions better with Favors on the court this season, they should think about re-signing him — and having his Bird rights gives them an advantage. He doesn’t seem like the cleanest offensive fit with Zion Williamson, but, pre-bubble, New Orleans was dominant on both ends in the minutes they played together.
Baynes was a dependable backup (and sometimes a starter) in Boston, but in Phoenix, he had something of a breakout. It is reasonable to think he will find another home, partially because the Suns played so well without him in Orlando and partially because there isn’t a team that can’t use a stretch 5 who can facilitate, set crushing screens and protect the paint. If Phoenix lets Dario Saric go, however, it should try to retain Baynes.
After an inefficient first month with the Clippers, Morris shot much better in the bubble. They can re-sign him at a starting salary of $18 million at most, and it’s hard to see any of the teams with cap space going higher. His skill set makes him a theoretical fit just about anywhere, but Los Angeles probably didn’t give up a first-round pick for him just to watch him walk.
Gasol was not himself in the playoffs, particularly on offense, but he made everybody around him better on both ends before that. The question here is whether or not he still wants to play in the NBA — he was reported to be signing with FC Barcelona, though the team has denied it.
Ibaka picked a good time to have the best 3-point-shooting season of his career, and he deserves credit for the strides he has made in Nick Nurse’s offensive system. He’s not the intimidating shot-blocker he was in Oklahoma City, but in most other ways he’s better.
No player did more to refurbish his reputation than Howard did in 2019-20. As long as he continues to be satisfied with focusing on the select few things that he does at a high level, he can age gracefully after an awkward few years. (Howard will turn 35 in December.) The title doesn’t hurt, either, even if teams targeted him in pick-and-rolls and Los Angeles had to remove him from the rotation multiple times.
Crowder’s shooting is unpredictable, but he clearly fits in Miami as a low-usage role player. He has always been a multipositional defender, and his ability to stand his ground against bigger players was essential throughout the playoffs. If he can’t work out a (likely short-term) deal with the Heat, other win-now teams will call.
Eight big (and medium-sized) names probably staying put
For various reasons, these potential free agents are widely expected to re-sign, opt in or extend their contracts. They’re too relevant to go unmentioned, though, and in some cases there are variables to consider.
No one expects Davis to leave the Lakers, but he’s expected to opt-out of the final year of his contract and sign a new one. My prediction: He signs a three-year deal with an opt-out after the second season, which would allow him to hit free agency again in 2022, with 10 years of service. At that point, he will be eligible to sign a long-term contract that starts at 35 percent of the salary cap.
There were valid reasons for the Pelicans to take a wait-and-see approach with Ingram rather than signing him to an extension last October. Now he’s an All-Star and a Most Improved Player candidate and he’ll soon be a max player. His single-season transformation as a shooter is genuinely historic — not even Pascal Siakam improved his free throw percentage, 3-point percentage and 3-point volume that drastically at the same time. You can try to get him to sign an offer sheet, but surely New Orleans will match it.
In theory, the 30-year-old Hayward could turn down his $34.2 million player option and sign a long-term deal either in Boston or elsewhere. If that seems unlikely, it’s because $34.2 million is a lot of money. Another reason to pick up the option: More teams will have cap space in the summer of 2021, and if he stays healthy next season he can raise his value.
As efficient as he was this season, where is DeRozan getting a payday this summer? The few teams with space aren’t logical landing spots, and it’s hard to come up with a realistic sign-and-trade scenario. Bet on him taking his $27.7 million and hitting free agency in 2021.
Everything is on the table here. Fournier is about to turn 28, so it’s not crazy to imagine a young-ish team giving him a long-term deal. He is also one of the few players on the Magic’s roster who can reliably score. He has a player option worth more than $17 million; if he picks it up, Orlando could extend him through 2024.
Drummond is on the record saying he’s exercising his option to remain in Cleveland. He is owed $28.8 million, and nobody’s giving him anything close to that this offseason. The Cavs essentially got him for free at the trade deadline. [updated]
Same deal: Porter’s option is worth $28.5 million, and he’s coming off a season mostly lost to a foot injury.
This one is a bit more interesting because Hardaway is coming off a career year and might see a chance to capitalize on it. He almost certainly won’t do better than the $19 million he can make by opting in, though, and what shooter wouldn’t want to keep playing with Luka Doncic?
Nine restricted free agents of some intrigue
These young players didn’t get their contracts extended, and they’re not secure in their status the way Ingram is.
A heady player who has developed into an excellent defender and always had a good feel on offense. The breakout hasn’t happened yet, though, and Poeltl’s game doesn’t scream star potential. I’d be surprised if the Spurs didn’t match a reasonable offer sheet.
Beasley was an awesome buy-low acquisition back in February, but now the Wolves might have a difficult decision to make. The teams with cap space could use a young wing (Beasley turns 24 in November) who can fill it up. Based on how efficient he was after the deadline, the price could be higher than Minnesota initially anticipated.
Dunn is unique for a guard in 2020: An all-world defender who can be completely ignored behind the 3-point line. There will be teams interested in trying to account for his glaring flaw or help him eliminate it, but how much will they be willing to pay to do so?
I’m a sucker for playmaking bigs, and Saric’s feel for the game and moxie have always stood out. The less rigid the offensive system, the better he will look, and he might have made himself some money as the Suns’ smallball 5 in Orlando.
If you’re shocked to learn that Boucher turned 27 in January, know that he is a late bloomer who wasn’t even discovered until after his 19th birthday. His emergence off the Raptors’ bench has been impressive, but how much more will he grow?
Brown’s shooting numbers have dropped everywhere aside from the free throw line this season, but teams might still be interested in seeing what happens if he’s not splitting time with a bunch of similar wings. He defends and rebounds well for his size.
Memphis stole Melton from Phoenix last summer, and giving him consistent minutes changed its season. As long as the price isn’t crazy, the Grizzlies should look past his poor shooting and sign him long-term — he fits well next to Ja Morant and is one of the best young defenders in the league.
Another Grizzlies find and darling of draft nerds everywhere, Konchar went undrafted and spent most of this season with the Memphis Hustle. His pre-bubble production, though, was absurd: Per 36 minutes, he averaged 11.9 points, 11.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.8 blocks with a 72.3 percent true shooting percentage in the nine games he spent him in the Grizzlies’ rotation. Teams will definitely study those games, but it’s unclear if anybody will take a chance on him with an offer sheet.
McLaughlin is unknown to most NBA fans, but he could be a sneaky acquisition by a smart team, provided that the offer sheet is rich enough that Minnesota doesn’t automatically match it. In the last 15 games of the season, he averaged 16.5 points, 8.5 assists and 2.3 steals per 36 minutes, while shooting 55.2 percent and making 41.5 percent of his 3s. The 3-point shooting might not be sustainable, but he can definitely run a pick-and-roll and get to the rim at this level.
The famous four
Three of these guys have signed max deals and the other was on his way to doing that before an injury. Now, they’re just looking for the right opportunity.
Anthony said he wants to end his career in Portland, and his time there has undeniably gone better than his stops in Oklahoma City and Houston (despite his volume of long 2s going up and his accuracy going down). He’s 36, but as long he can keep hitting corner 3s, he can keep relieving pressure on the Blazers’ guards. Also: We’ll probably continue to hear Knicks rumors because of the CAA connection.
Whiteside’s counting stats look great, and he’s not the only one responsible for Portland’s awful defense. He doesn’t fit there if Jusuf Nurkic is healthy, though, and there can’t be many teams who care about his numbers anymore.
Maybe the Lakers give him another shot on a minimum contract and hope he can get healthy. His ability to facilitate from the high post would add some diversity to their offense and take some pressure off of LeBron James. I just can’t fathom Cousins being their first or second priority, considering how well things went with JaVale McGee and Howard (and, when it truly matters, Davis) manning the middle.
The 31-year-old Thomas made 41.3 percent of his 3s with the Wizards, and that didn’t stop them from dumping him. Sigh. The good news, though, is that he says he finally has his full range of motion back and is pain-free. Now he needs to prove he can be effective at the rim again — without doing that, his defensive limitations will scare teams away. [update]
Five under 25
Only one of these players has any kind of track record when it comes to contributing to a winning team, but they all have upside.
Not many people were paying attention to the Nets after Kyrie Irving was ruled out for the season, but those who did were in for a treat whenever Chiozza was in the game. The 5-foot-11 guard has already drawn VanVleet comparisons — he’s a sturdy defender, a creative passer and, if his hot shooting is sustainable, he’ll never play another minute in the G League.
The Heat love his defensive versatility, and you know how fast he is and how high he jumps. In the playoffs, however, he went from being a key part of the rotation to only playing sporadic minutes. Any team investing in him is either making a bet that it can help him develop as a shooter or making a bet that it can make up for his glaring weakness in other ways.
Jackson had to start over with the Hustle, and the No. 4 pick in the 2017 draft didn’t make his Grizzlies debut until late January. He’s still a bit wild, he’s just 23 and he produced well just before the hiatus.
The Suns could decline Diallo’s option to maximize cap space, even if they remain open to bringing him back. I like his finishing out of the pick-and-roll, and he shows occasional flashes of adding to his game, but he didn’t have much of a role for Phoenix in the bubble. There are more polished bigs that will come just as cheap, but if you’re a rebuilding team, Diallo is worth a flier.
Giles has been all over the place since his redshirt rookie season, and I’m still confused about the Kings declining his fourth-year option. I’m also confused by the way he bounced in and out of Luke Walton’s rotation, sometimes getting DNPs and sometimes starting. It feels like it’s time for a fresh start.
Eight reserve guards
Need someone to run a pick-and-roll?
What a time for a breakout season, and what a nice move by the Jazz to pick him up. Trading long 2s for 3s should pay off pretty well for Clarkson, whose scoring off the bench was desperately needed in Utah.
Credit Teague for recognizing when moving to the bench would suit him. He won’t be an exciting signing, but I expect he’ll be playing the same role for a playoff team next season.
Augustin would have been much better off if he had been on the market last summer, following the two most efficient seasons of his career. He’s still out there looking like Jameer Nelson for the Magic, though, and the 32-year-old’s shooting percentages would likely be higher if he had some semblance of spacing around him.
Burks’ Philadelphia stint was a mixed bag, but he could still be attractive to a team in need of a bucket-getter. One of those teams could be those same Sixers, even though he’d be a better fit if he could still get to the line the way he used to.
I thought the Pistons would capitalize on his career season by trading him before the deadline. They apparently couldn’t get much in return, but if you’re in the market for a combo guard, you could do much worse.
Rivers could stay in Houston, where his game fits perfectly, or he could try his luck at getting more than the minimum somewhere else. Picking up his $2.4 million player option is probably the right call if the Rockets bring most of the band back, but, with Mike D’Antoni and Daryl Morey out, nobody knows what is next.
Wanamaker was a steadying presence for the Celtics throughout the regular season, and he had his moments in the playoffs, too. Boston will surely try to improve its bench, but he could still be a part of it. His toughness and ability to play on and off the ball could be appealing to other contenders, too.
The Nets have a $5 million option on Temple, and that’s a perfectly reasonable number. If they choose to let him hit free agency, it’s because they’re trying to avoid a gargantuan luxury-tax bill, at which point other teams in need of a big guard who does a little bit of everything — on and off the court — would try to snap him up quickly.
Six reserve wings
Everybody wants more wings. Everybody.
Bazemore’s forays into playmaking have diminished since leaving Atlanta, making him more of a 3-and-D guy. You wish the 3s were more consistent, but you’ll still like having him around.
The strengths and weaknesses have been the same all along: Fantastic, versatile defender, but he won’t do much with the ball and playoff opponents will ignore him on the perimeter. Denver needed his defense in the playoffs, but the offensive limitations make his future there murky– and will limit his value around the league.
If he were younger, I’d argue that his 40.5 percent shooting from deep should get Holiday a real payday. He’s 31, though, and there will be skepticism about that holding up based on his track record. Nonetheless, he is an appealing 3-and-D option.
Matthews’ option is worth $2.7 million, and while he hasn’t been any different with the Bucks than he was with the Mavericks and Pacers, being a starter on a team that dominated in the regular season could potentially get him a raise in this market.
It doesn’t sound like he wants to go anywhere, but I’d be shocked if Milwaukee brought all its wings back. Connaughton is easily the best athlete of the bunch, and he has a superpower.
The man turned 39 this season, but his 3-point percentage remains higher than that. He fit as wonderfully as expected offensively next to Giannis Antetokounmpo and might have his pick of contenders again if he doesn’t retire. At this point in his career, though, there are defensive limitations here
Four reserve forwards
A few years ago, all of these guys played small forward. Now three of the four spend some of their time at center.
It’s such a waste that Harkless finished the season as a Knick. He fit just fine in Los Angeles, but it’s not a mystery why the Clippers wanted an upgrade — we’ve seen opponents ignore him on the perimeter in the playoffs.
Non-shooting forwards are almost extinct, so it’s fitting that Hollis-Jefferson wound up on a team named after a dinosaur. He guards every position, and, in the regular season, the Raptors made up for his lack of range about as well as they could have hoped.
Hernangomez needed the trade to Minnesota just as much as Beasley did, and I suspect he will stick around and space the floor for D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns. If the Wolves go forward with all these guys, though, their defense is going to be a nightmare.
Playoff Rondo got most of the attention, but Morris also had something of a revival in the playoffs. I still can’t believe how well he played in the Houston series.
Five reserve bigs
One of these players signed a four-year, $41 million contract in 2016. Another one turned down a four-year, $70 million contract in 2017. Do not expect anything like that this time.
Apparently, Green has been a smallball 5 all along. At least that was the impression he gave off after a fantastic first-round series against the Thunder. Green didn’t fare as well against the eventual champs in the second round, but, after a rough few months with the Jazz, his Rockets stint painted him in a much better light.
The 30-year-old makes sense in Denver’s system because he can facilitate from the high post. He has always been good at staying vertical in the paint, too. It seems extremely unlikely, however, that Millsap, Grant and Plumlee will all be back.
Noel shot 68.4 percent in OKC this season, up from 58.7 percent the previous year, thanks to its more organized, Chris Paul-led offensive system. He is still just 26 and a fine lob target, and on defense he’s disruptive, even if he’s not always in the right place.
Leonard lost his spot in the rotation in the bubble but played his role well when he had it (and, yes, remained a good teammate when he didn’t). I just wish he’d shoot more 3s, given how accurate he is.
Len isn’t trying to be a stretch 5 anymore, and he’s looked more comfortable since being traded to Sacramento. It’s the wrong era for him to truly shine, but he’s a fine backup.
And finally, six bigs with options
It’s a scary market for role-playing big men.
Should Kanter pick up his $5 million option? The Celtics are a good place to be and that’s decent enough money for a center who is targeted on pick-and-rolls, doesn’t protect the rim and doesn’t space the floor, but … I don’t know. He’s such a good scorer and rebounder that he might be able to get more elsewhere, and Boston’s frontcourt is crowded.
Hmm, $2.3 million catching lobs from Luka or testing the market? This would be an easier decision if Cauley-Stein had been seeing more minutes in Dallas. The argument for opting out is that, while there are plenty of centers available, none of them can switch like him.
The story before the bubble: Good player, rough 2019-20 season. He was much better in Orlando, though, and by the end of the playoffs just about everybody thought he should’ve been getting more minutes at center. Walking away from $5 million guaranteed still seems a bit dangerous, however.
The Lakers have his Early Bird rights if he opts out, and McGee been productive enough to do so and hope for a raise … provided that he isn’t too worried about the fact that he watched almost all of the playoffs from the bench.
If we’re assuming the Bucks are going to exclusively use drop coverage against pick-and-rolls next season — and maybe they won’t, given how they went out — then this is the perfect situation for Lopez. The most important question, though, is whether or not another team will pay him more than his $5 million player option and use him the same way. I wouldn’t bet on it.
The Knicks took a shot on Portis, and they can’t possibly want to pay him $15.8 million to give it another go. He’s 25, so there’s still time for him to become more than a shoot-first, shoot-second scorer, but, unlike Kanter, he isn’t efficient enough to justify all the bad defense.