Almost five months have passed since its customary July 1 opening, but 2020 NBA free agency is almost upon us, just in time for training camp on Dec. 1. Here you will find everything you need to know this year.
When does NBA free agency start?
Date: Friday, Nov. 20
Time: 6 p.m. EST
Follow the Yahoo Sports staff’s extensive coverage throughout free agency on our rumor tracker.
Is this considered a good free agency class?
The number of stars who changed rosters over the past two years, combined with the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the NBA’s finances and a resulting absence of cap space, left the cupboard bare. Many of the stars who could be available are expected to opt into the final years of their current contracts, and many of the stars who are available are expected to re-sign with their current teams. The 2021 class, starring two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, will feature considerably more high-end talent.
Who are the best free agents?
Given how predictable free agency could be this year, it is probably best to sort players into categories. We will use Yahoo Sports contributor Keith Smith’s top-25 player rankings as a jumping off point for these lists:
Top five free agents with 2020-21 player options who will likely stay put
1. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers: The All-NBA big man has declined his $28.7 million player option for the coming season, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes, but it would come as a shock if Davis were to sign with anyone but the Lakers after helping LeBron James lead the franchise to a championship.
2. Gordon Hayward, Boston Celtics: There is less certainty that Hayward will return to the Celtics. The former All-Star’s name has been thrown about in trade rumors, and he has the option to leave on his own accord, but if he turns down the $34.2 million guaranteed to him for 2020-21, it will be awfully difficult to make it up. Even if he does seek the security of a long-term deal, Boston remains the likely landing spot.
3. DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs: The four-time All-Star initially intended to decline his $27.7 million player option if he could not negotiate a long-term extension with the team, but that was before the dust settled on the pandemic’s financial impact. It seems likelier now DeRozan will pick up the contract in hand.
4. Andre Drummond, Cleveland Cavaliers: Asked in June if he planned to exercise his $28.7 million option for the forthcoming season, the two-time All-Star center plainly told ESPN, “Yeah, it’s going to be hard to give up, so you can count on me being in Cleveland still. I definitely will be in Cleveland.”
5. Jerami Grant, Denver Nuggets: A key cog in Denver’s run to the Western Conference finals, Grant is one of few players who could opt out of his current deal and secure a bigger bag. Grant has $9.3 million owed him, but told Haynes in June, “I’m definitely not leaning towards picking up the player option.” That does not preclude him from re-signing with the Nuggets, who can offer him the most money in free agency.
Top five restricted free agents who will likely stay put
1. Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans: The former No. 2 overall pick developed into an All-Star this past season and is a foundational fit for their future. The Pelicans can match whatever offer he receives in free agency, but expect them to preempt those offers with either a maximum contract offer or close to it.
2. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Sacramento Kings: The 28-year-old supplanted $20 million man Buddy Hield in Sacramento’s starting lineup, and teams that need all the help they can get cannot lose talent for nothing.
3. Malik Beasley, Minnesota Timberwolves: Beasley averaged 20.7 points in 14 games after arriving via trade from the Nuggets, and the Wolves are not about to let that walk, even if he faces felony weapons and drug charges. Those almost will certainly limit the market for him among teams interested in poaching him.
4. De’Anthony Melton, Memphis Grizzlies: The 22-year-old proved to be a solid backup point guard this past season, and he fits Memphis’ timeline for an up-and-coming young roster building for a playoff future.
5. Kris Dunn, Chicago Bulls: The former lottery pick has found his niche as a defensive ace, but offensive limitations will limit the market for him. It is hard to see Dunn getting an offer Chicago would not match.
Top five unrestricted free agents
1. Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors: The Wichita State product transformed into a bona fide starting guard on a Raptors team that won the 2019 title and entered this year’s playoffs as a No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Toronto will certainly do its best to retain him as a backcourt partner to Kyle Lowry, but as VanVleet said on NBA veteran J.J. Redick’s podcast, “I’m trying to get paid, man. I’m not shy about that.”
2. Christian Wood, Detroit Pistons: The 6-foot-10 big man went from being waived by New Orleans in July 2019 to averaging a 24 points and 10 rebounds over the final month of Detroit’s regular season. It was a contract year if there ever was one, and he is expected to cash in on a market lacking high-potential talent.
3. Danilo Gallinari, Oklahoma City Thunder: The 32-year-old veteran played a valuable role in Oklahoma City’s surprise run to the playoffs, and his ability to stretch the floor at the power forward position is valued.
4. Davis Bertans, Washington Wizards: Another sharpshooting big man, the 6-foot-10 Bertans enjoyed a career year in his lone season for the Wizards, shooting 42.4 percent on 8.7 three-point attempts per game.
5. Montrezl Harrell, L.A. Clippers: The ever-hustling Harrell averaged 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds off the bench this past season, capturing Sixth Man of the Year honors before a disappointing playoff showing.
Which teams have cap space?
Only six teams are projected to have cap space in free agency, per Smith (variations may apply):
Atlanta Hawks: $44.3 million
New York Knicks: $42.4 million
Detroit Pistons: $30 million
Miami Heat: $21.9 million
Charlotte Hornets: $19.4 million
Phoenix Suns: $17.8 million
Most other teams can only offer up to the $9.3 million non-taxpayer’s midlevel exception. Happy spending!
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