The NBA offseason rarely disappoints. For fans of teams out of a championship hunt by Groundhog Day, the summer truly is the best time on the basketball calendar, and the post-Finals portion of 2019 has, thus far, been as captivating as advertised. Kyrie Irving exchanged Boston Celtics green for the Big Apple and the Brooklyn Nets, and he will (eventually) team up with Kevin Durant. Anthony Davis joined LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Russell Westbrook is now with James Harden and the Houston Rockets.
On paper, the 2020 NBA free agent class doesn't leap off the screen as did this year's did months before the morning of June 30, 2019. In fact, many already are looking ahead to 2021, which is understandable since MVPs such as LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo, not to mention Rudy Gobert and CJ McCollum, could become available. This is the Association we're talking about, though, and nobody should sleep on the entertaining uncertainty that awaits fans, players, front offices and the league once the next NBA champion is crowned.
San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan essentially enters a contract season after he celebrates his 30th birthday in August. While his current deal includes a player option for 2020-21, one would imagine he wouldn't be without a home for long were he to test free agency. His three-point shooting was downright abysmal last season (15.6 percent), and that could lead to the Spurs trading him to a contender in need of somebody capable of averaging 21-6-6 in his sleep. San Antonio must determine if DeRozan is the big fish the team wants to snag ahead of what may be a stacked 2021 free agency class.
It's now fair to ask if Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward will ever be the same following the horrific and gruesome leg injury he suffered in October 2017. In fact, Bleacher Report's Greg Swartz suggested the C's should shop the 29-year-old. Hayward's contract includes an option that will pay him over $30 million for the 2020-21 campaign regardless of where he calls home this coming fall. Unless he surprisingly reclaims his 21.9 PPG form as a starter, he'll wait another year to enter free agency.
Injuries are a concern regarding Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jeff Teague. The 31-year-old appeared in only 42 games last season due to multiple physical setbacks, and his campaign ended prematurely following ankle surgery in April. In mid-July, Jace Frederick of the St. Paul Pioneer Press explained the Timberwolves are planning to have Teague, among others, off the books to splash cash on better players next summer. Teague averaged 12.1 PPG and a career-high 8.2 AST in 2018-19.
Out of nowhere, Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet caught fire in the spring after the birth of his son, and he did well to hassle Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry on defense while averaging 14 PPG and shooting over 39 percent from three-point range in the Finals. He becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer, but he's also only 25 years old. The Raptors need a strong young core to avoid what could become a painful roster restructuring.
After center Hassan Whiteside opted into the final year of his contract , the Miami Heat happily traded him to the Portland Trail Blazers. Now part of a lineup that includes Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Zach Collins while Jusuf Nurkic works to recover from the horrifying leg injury that downed him in March, Whiteside, who averaged double-doubles in each of the past five seasons, can put his roller coaster Miami tenure behind him and, potentially, earn one last major payday. Per L. Hostetler of Blazer's Edge, Jason Quick of The Athletic recently touched upon how Lillard believes he can get the best out of Whiteside.
Those running the Sacramento Kings may say center Willie Cauley-Stein, the sixth selection of the 2015 NBA Draft, never truly found consistency or took any real steps toward reaching an elite status during his four seasons with the club. Per ESPN, the big man and his agent would retort it was time for both parties to move on, And move on Cauley-Stein did when, as Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, the 25-year-old accepted less cash to sign with the Golden State Warriors. That deal includes a player option for the 2020-21 campaign, meaning Cauley-Stein will again be playing with eyes focused on a future contract.
Forward Danilo Gallinari probably wishes he entered free agency this July coming off his best season rather than next year. Gallinari averaged 19.8 PPG, 6.1 REB and shot 43.3 percent from beyond the arc in 68 starts, and then he was traded by the Los Angeles Clippers to the Oklahoma City Thunder so L.A. could acquire Paul George. The 6-foot-10 three-point threat will write his own ticket as long as he shows he can stay healthy for the majority of the 2019-20 season.
In April, Gregg Doyel of the Indy Star wrote why he believed, at the time, the Indiana Pacers must trade either Domantas Sabonis or Myles Turner. The Pacers may not agree. As Charlie Clifford of WISH-TV out of Indianapolis reported earlier this month, the club extending Sabonis "is now a top priority." The 23-year-old, who could hit restricted free agency next summer, was a Sixth Man of the Year candidate after he averaged 14.1 PPG, 9.3 REB, 2.9 AST, and 0.6 BLK while shooting 59 percent from the field, all of those career highs. Per NBA.com, Sabonis led the Association in double-doubles tallied by players coming off the bench with 27 (he added three double-doubles as a starter).
On July 6, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweeted the Miami Heat intend to keep veteran point guard Goran Dragic and Dragic's expiring contract. The 33-year-old appeared in only 36 games last season after knee surgery sidelined him before Christmas, but it's hard to believe someone who averaged 17.3 PPG and shot over 37 percent from three-point land in 75 starts the prior campaign wouldn't attract at least some attention were he to hit the market. If Miami trades Dragic, it will be to a team that sees him as a short-term fix but also one that probably won't re-sign him.
If Serge Ibaka helps the Toronto Raptors punch above their weight after the team lost Kawhi Leonard to free agency and the Los Angeles Clippers, he'll be a fascinating free agency option. The last we saw of the center who still consistently averages over a block per outing, he rejected six shots during Game 4 of the NBA Finals and then scored 20, 15 and 15, respectively, in the last three contests of the series. Assuming Toronto stumbles, as expected, and Ibaka gets traded to another contending team where he repeats such performances, the to-be 30-year-old should expect, and receive, some good offers.
Guard Caris LeVert was the best player on the Brooklyn Nets and a revelation through Nov. 12, 2018, until he suffered a nasty leg injury that, fortunately, didn't cost him the remainder of the season. The 24-year-old remarkably returned in February, and he averaged 21 PPG in Brooklyn's playoff series loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. How will he and Kyrie Irving coexist? Can he show he belongs in a lineup featuring Irving and Kevin Durant? LeVert would only be a restricted free agent, so the Nets can embrace patience as a virtue while considering his future.
We won't pretend Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson, who has missed 68 regular-season games because of injuries the past two years, would reset the market either this summer or next July. That doesn't mean he's unplayable. As Americans were celebrating Independence Day, ESPN's Brian Windhorst was reporting the Cavs will ideally trade the 28-year-old before the 2020 deadline. When actually available, Thompson averaged over 10 rebounds a game last season, and he's appeared in 78 career playoff games and the NBA Finals on four occasions. That experience coupled with the reality he won't be pricey will put him on the radars of at least a handful of teams.
As of the typing of this sentence, 25-year-old forward Montrezl Harrell remains with the Los Angeles Clippers and, thus, has a chance to possibly hit free agency as a champion next summer. While Harrell started in only five games for the Clippers last season, he posted career highs in scoring (16.6 PPG), rebounds (6.5 REB), assists (2.0 AST), blocks (1.3 BLK) and minutes (26.3 MIN). The Clippers signing him to a two-year deal last July was a brilliant and underrated piece of business. He'll get paid a year from now.
As ESPN's Brian Windhorst wrote, the Memphis Grizzlies acquiring veteran Jae Crowder to trade him makes sense and benefits both the player and the franchise. The 29-year-old has some image repairing ahead of him after his field-goal percentages dipped to below 40 the past two seasons. The stretch-four performing well as a contributor for a playoff team before entering unrestricted free agency could expand his worth in the eyes of future contending sides searching for a reliable defensive asset at the position.
On July 9, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reported the likely-to-regress Charlotte Hornets will attempt to trade veteran forward Marvin Williams. The 33-year-old on an expiring contract won't fetch Charlotte much in return, but he could increase his future earnings by stretching the floor as part of a new rotation. Over the past two seasons, the 33-year-old, 6-foot-9 forward converted 266 of 687 three-point attempts (38.7 percent), and he averaged 10.1 PPG and 5.4 REB in 75 appearances during the 2018-19 campaign.
Marc Gasol finally earned his ring after being traded by the Memphis Grizzlies to the Toronto Raptors, and the 34-year-old who offered surprisingly good defense during the playoffs accepted his player option after the Finals. Gasol is, however, in the twilight of his career, and he'll probably be on the chopping block if the Raptors plummet down the standings before next winter's trade deadline. He's a big man with a championship who can defend and who shot over 44 percent from deep after joining Toronto. A team that falls just short of the mountaintop could see him as a final piece to the puzzle next July.
The New Orleans Pelicans acquiring Derrick Favors on a team-friendly contract for the 2019-20 season was a steal for the organization. Not only is the 28-year-old a solid rim protector who averaged 11.8 PPG, 7.4 REB and 1.4 BLK in 2018-19 and who has appeared in over 30 career playoff games, but he's also an ideal mentor for new teammates such as rookie Zion Williamson and Los Angeles Lakers castoff Lonzo Ball. He'll help New Orleans compete for more than just respect this coming season.
We'll just come out and say it: The Sacramento Kings will extend Buddy Hield rather than let the guard hit restricted free agency unless those running the team want to lose their jobs. Hield averaged 20.7 PPG, 2.5 AST, and 5.0 RPG, all career bests, and he ended the 2018-19 regular season fourth in three-pointers (278) behind James Harden, Stephen Curry and Paul George. That's decent company for any player, let alone for a 26-year-old who shot 42.7 percent from that range. Pay the man, Sacramento.
Detroit Pistons big man Andre Drummond is a three-time NBA rebounding leader who holds a higher rebounding percentage than any player in history and averaged a career-high 17.3 PPG this past season. Would he get over $28 million for the 2020-21 campaign if he declines his player option next year? That's tough to say, considering he's a classic center with no outside shot. Waiting and attempting to increase his value could be his best business decision. That may be why Steve Hinson of Detroit Bad Boys proposed the Pistons trade Drummond this offseason.
Brandon Ingram has yet to live up to expectations as the No. 2 pick of the 2016 NBA Draft, even if his scoring averages have increased over the past three seasons, and the Los Angeles Lakers sent him to the New Orleans Pelicans in the deal that landed L.A. Anthony Davis. Ingram can impress during his debut campaign in New Orleans ahead of becoming a restricted free agent, possibly forcing his new employer to pay up. Other clubs will covet him if he again shoots nearly 50 percent from the field while averaging over 20 points a night.
The Denver Nuggets picked up the final year of Paul Millsap's deal after the 34-year-old veteran forward averaged over 17 PPG in the postseason series loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. That's a solid investment for all parties, but it's clear his prime is a thing of the past. Nevertheless, a team looking to win springtime games could do a lot worse as it pertains to a locker-room presence and playoff performer who can still start, assuming he remains healthy through the upcoming campaign.
Kevin Durant has taken his talents to the Brooklyn Nets, Klay Thompson may not play during the 2019-20 season after suffering a torn ACL in the 2019 NBA Finals and Draymond Green can enter unrestricted free agency next summer. Clearly, plenty of questions hover over the Association's toppled dynasty. As polarizing as Green can be among teammates and coaches, some of his best performances have come on basketball's biggest stages. But the three-time champion must improve his numbers from last season (7.4 PPG, 28.5 3P percent, 26.8 turnover percentage) to receive the contract he desires either from Golden State or a different team.
Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry is a reigning NBA champion who will become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Unless he and the franchise come to terms on an extension, neither should be racing to sign. The 33-year-old owns a ring, silenced those who criticized his prior postseason performances and showed he can be a key contributor alongside a superstar in a championship starting lineup. Brad Botkin of CBS Sports is one observer who believes Toronto could move Lowry ahead of the trade deadline as part of the club's rebuild.
In late June, Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri told reporters such as The Athletic's Blake Murphy the club wishes to offer 2018-19 Most Improved Player Pascal Siakam an extension. That'd be wise for the reigning champions that lost Kawhi Leonard to free agency. A proven starter for a title-winning side, Siakam is a 25-year-old forward who posted career highs across the board and shot nearly 37 percent from beyond the arc last season. He'd be viewed as a cornerstone piece if he somehow was allowed to test the market in July 2020.
As Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times wrote, the Los Angeles Lakers reworked the club's financial situation ahead of acquiring New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis after Davis waived his trade kicker to create additional salary-cap space. Such a selfless move suggests the 26-year-old is all-in on his latest basketball endeavor. Don't be so sure until he officially puts pen to paper with the organization. He still holds a player option following the upcoming season, and he wouldn't be the first big name to leave the King in stunning fashion. We're looking at you, Kyrie Irving.
Zac Wassink is a football and futbol aficionado who is a PFWA member and is probably yelling about Tottenham Hotspur at the moment. Erik Lamela and Eli Manning apologist. Chanted for Matt Harvey to start the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 2015 World Series at Citi Field. Whoops. You can find him on Twitter at @ZacWassink.