It’s official – the NBA’s 74th draft is over, and we keep plowing forward in what’s going to be a speedrun of an offseason, with only a little under 5 weeks until the start of the 72 game regular season. Next, the event on deck is free agency, a process which typically spans multiple weeks if not months in a normal year. But this year, things will go down fast and it’ll all seem like a blur, with players looking to be on a team in time for the start of training camp. We’ll do our best to prepare you for what’s ahead, with a glimpse of what’s happened, the top free agents and teams who could sign them, and some predictions and rumors to top it off. Also, be sure to stay tuned to our website, Discord server, and our Twitter account for 24/7 updates from the NBA’s most trusted sources.
What’s Happened So Far
Before we go into free agency, there’s been player and team options to be decided on, and they’ve been coming in left and right over the past week. Here’s some of the notable ones:
- DeMar DeRozan (SAS) – Accepted $27.74M option.
- Andre Drummond (CLE) – Accepted $28.75M option.
- Anthony Davis (LAL) – Declined $28.75M option.
- Gordon Hayward (BOS) – Declined $34.19M option.
- Jerami Grant (DEN) – Declined $9.35M option.
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (LAL) – Declined $8.54M option.
- Rodney Hood (POR) – Declined $6.0M option.
If you’re a Laker fan, don’t panic – Davis opting out is for no reason other than to try and reach a longer term extension with the NBA’s champion, a team that he’s expressed happiness with, and the city that he wants to spend his prime in. Drummond and DeRozan opting in isn’t surprising – with financial uncertainty due to the pandemic, there was no guarantee that either player would draw a maximum contract on the open market.
Hayward is where it gets interesting. Over the past week, there’s been a lot of talk in terms of what would happen with Hayward, with some rumors going around that he wanted a fresh start after an injury-riddled three seasons with the Celtics. The 30 year old finally regained his all-star form last year with 17.5 point, 6.5 rebound, and 4.1 assist averages after missing all but one game of 2017-18 and playing on a mediocre level in ’18-19, but only played 5 games in the postseason due to injury as Boston fell to the Miami Heat in the conference finals.
Yahoo Sports’ Chris Hayes reported that the Atlanta Hawks were looking to be a likely destination for Hayward on Tuesday, whether it be via a sign-and-trade or opting out and signing with them directly. It got to the point where Boston was so desperate not to lose a third all-star for nothing – Kyrie Irving and Al Horford both walked last offseason – that they extended the deadline for Hayward to decide on his option while they tried to reach a long term extension or a sign-and-trade deal so that some positive value could come out of it. Unfortunately for the C’s, word came in on Thursday that Hayward would opt out.
Grant, Caldwell-Pope, and Hood opting out isn’t necessarily surprising. Grant has grown into a excellent two-way forward who could get paid quite a bigger salary than what he was making, while Caldwell-Pope and Hood are two valuable shooters who have decided to test the waters despite subpar seasons.
Setting the Stage: Top Free Agents, Cap Space Leaders.
With all that out of the way, it’s on to look at what’s coming up. Rumors and predictions will be up soon, but first, some raw data. Here’s the top free agents who will hit the open market, and the teams with the most cap space open to make a splash.
Top Free Agents
|Marcus Morris Sr.||LAC||PF||16.7||5.0||1.4|
|Tim Hardaway Jr.***||DAL||SG||15.8||3.3||1.9|
** = Undecided Team Option, RFA if Declined
*** = Undecided Player Option
Top Cap Space
Take this one with a grain of salt. The figures shown are not official – it doesn’t account for rookie contracts, or any player/team options that haven’t been accepted yet. It’s the maximum cap space a team could have, but for most of the teams, the actual figure is probably lower.
|Team||Cap Room||2019-20 Record|
|New York Knicks||$48.21M||21-45|
|New Orleans Pelicans||$29.42M||30-42|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||$13.38M||44-28|
|Portland Trail Blazers||$10.41M||35-39|
So how exactly do we interpret all of that? Here’s a hint of what could happen, with some of the note-worthy rumors and storylines that have developed over the past week or so.
The Hayward Sweepstakes
After declining the option, Gordon Hayward is hitting the market, and there’s no shortage of teams in play to add the former all-star. According to the New York Times’ Mark Stein alone, the New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers, and Boston Celtics are all with the Atlanta Hawks in terms of being expected to make a push.
New York can provide Hayward with a similar situation to Atlanta – except with the biggest market in the league. The Knicks have been trying, trying, and still trying to ink that big free agent over the past few years, and adding Hayward would certainly put this team on the right track, even if they fall short of the playoffs year one. After drafting the polished, NBA-ready 22 year old Obi Toppin to join R.J. Barrett, it seems like the Knicks are ready to win, and shouldn’t be written off.
We’ll go over Atlanta in more detail as a destination in the next section, and the advantages of Boston, contract-wise (can offer an extra year and slightly more yearly money), are legitimate, but all signs are pointing to Hayward wanting out. What about the Pacers?
Hayward to Indiana could see yet another title contender in the East. With Victor Oladipo expected to return to all-star form, and good pieces such as Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, Malcom Brogdon, and T.J. Warren returning, the Pacers may be Hayward’s best non-Boston spot if he wants to win a championship before the end of his prime.
Hayward wouldn’t be anything near a max player during a normal year, but with no real free agents on his level out there, and plenty of teams with cap room and the intent to use it, he could land a very nice contract. This signing could absolutely shift the balance of power in the East, and it’s the top story to watch as free agency kicks off.
Hawks Going All-In
It’s been no secret that the Hawks have their sights set on making a splash and adding a veteran scorer to the team in order to put one of the league’s most exciting young squads into playoff territory. With Trae Young having a breakout year and earning a starting spot in the all-star game with over 30 points a night, and a truckload of other young talent including John Collins, De’Andre Hunter, Kevin Hueter, Cam Reddish, and Clint Capela, 20-47 didn’t exactly cut it in terms of expectations, but with the most cap space in the league and the addition of Onyeka Okongwu with the 6th pick, they’re hoping to flip that record around next season. To do that, their sights aren’t set on just one of the free agents – right now, word is that Gordon Hayward, Danilo Gallinari, and Rajon Rondo could all be heading to Atlanta next year. If that happens… this could be a turnaround for the decades for the Hawks.
Not so fast, though… Hayward is far from a guaranteed signing, with a lot of competition that we just went over. But even without him, adding Gallinari alone would be a huge boost of much-needed offense into this team that didn’t give Trae Young a ton of help on that end of the court.
There is a growing belief among rival teams that Atlanta will be in pole position for Danilo Gallinari and Rajon Rondo when free agency begins later this week, league sources say— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) November 18, 2020
As @NYTSports reported on Oct. 28, Rondo is also poised to receive strong interest from the Clippers
Yahoo Sports also reported that Atlanta was in play for the 30 year old Hayward. Say for a moment that the Hawks do land all three – all of a sudden, Young has a secondary playmaker with Hayward, Gallinari would bring a scoring presence to the bench that would rival Lou Williams for the league’s best bench scorer, and Rondo would provide them with a court general and tough defender while Young was off the court – and don’t forget Hunter, Reddish, Collins, and Capela, all known for their defense, but Collins demonstrating serious all-star level scoring last season. It’s a bit of a reach to call that team a title contender, but I know no one in the East would want to face a squad that versatile and balanced come the postseason. And it could happen, given Gallinari would take a slight paycut. To all Hawks fans – don’t get your hopes too high up yet. It’s just an interesting possibility, but even if the Hawks don’t land all three, it’s hard to see them not improving the team by some margin before the start of the year.
VanVleet Likely Headed Back to Raptors
With all the talk of Hayward, it’s easy to forget that Fred ValVleet is also on the market. With 17.6 point, 6.6 assist averages for the Raptors last year in a surprising season after the 2018-19 champs lost Kawhi Leonard, he bolstered his value and has drawn the attention of multiple targets in free agency, one of them the New York Knicks.
The Knicks need a point guard, but according to Marc Berman of the New York Post, VanVleet doesn’t seem a viable option. League sources indicate that there’s mutual interest with him and the Raptors in terms of reaching an extension, and New York has no intention of giving out a maximum deal to VanVleet. While he’ll likely hear out all offers, we can ultimately expect him headed back to Toronto unless someone blows him away with max money and a great situation.
Miami Looking to Keep it Together
There isn’t much out there yet in terms of rumors (more will come over the next couple days), so this is our last big one – miamiherald.com reports that the Heat have every intention of keeping Goran Tragic and Jae Crowder, likely giving out “generous” one year offers.
A few other developing stories:
- After a bounce-back season in Portland, Carmelo Anthony could very well be headed back to the Knicks, where he made multiple all-star games before being traded to Oklahoma City and never really finding a permanent home, even being out of the league until midway through last year where the Blazers decided to give him a shot. It paid off as he averaged 15.4 points and 6.3 rebounds a night. Larry Brown Sports believes that there’s mutual interest between him and New York.
- Trusty vet Paul Millsap is expected to take his time evaluating options, with Denver making it public that they do want him back.
- 25 year old Thunder center Nerlens Noel could be headed back to Philadelphia, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. After a shooter-heavy draft, Noel could bring some much needed rim protection to the bench of a Sixers team that’s brought in . new GM and head coach after a very disappointing season last year.
That’s all the facts we have for you thus far – again, stay tuned to our media outlets for 24/7 coverage of free agency, as more rumors will start to pour in over the weekend. Teams are officially permitted to sign players beginning at 12:01 PM Eastern on Monday. To top it off, here’s a few predictions based off league intell.
- Gordon Hayward Signs with Indiana – At the age of 30 and no NBA titles under his belt, I’m fairly confident that we’ll see Hayward in a Pacers jersey by December 22nd. Leading an exciting young team like the Knicks or Hawks is most definitely tempting, but I can’t see him turn down what looks to be a near-perfect spot in terms of role and winning with a Pacers team that’s clearly just been one piece away in the last couple seasons.
- Morris, Clarkson, Harris, Ibaka Rejoin Teams – While they made our top FA list, I don’t see a scenario where any one of the four walks out from their current situation. Each of their respective teams made the playoffs and could have championship aspirations in this upcoming season.
- Pistons End up Winners – Despite heading into total rebuild mode after trading Andre Drummond for next-to-nothing at the trading deadline last year, I think Detroit will have a strong free agency and complement their incoming draft class with some young talent, and set the stage for the next few years. Wood, after breaking out post-Drummond, will probably be back, and Detroit has money to throw at RFAs such as Bogdanovic – perhaps enough money where the offers aren’t matched. The Drummond trade was made with a purpose to use the newfound cap space, not for the value they got back. They won’t be as silent as these league sources are saying.
That’s all, have a great day and feel free to leave feedback below!