Ah, the NBA free agency class of 2020, better known as the class trapped between the spectacular fireworks show of 2019 starring Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Kawhi Leonard and the bonkers 2021 class led by Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bradley Beal.
The fact that Anthony Davis, a 2020 free agent, seems inclined to remain with the LA Lakers deflates the star power of this class. Of course, that could change between now and next July. Stranger things have happened. (Witness the ridiculous offseason we just experienced.)
After Davis, there are many high-end restricted free agents, some portion of whom could sign extensions between now and October. The unrestricted free agents after Davis tend to have lots and lots of question marks. In my experience, that makes free agency even more intriguing, especially since there won’t be a ton of salary cap space to throw around.
To get a sense of what players’ clocks start at the opening bell of training camp, here’s a ranked list of the top 20 potential free agents of 2020, with the next 35 listed afterward. Free agency is only 11 months away. Get ready!
1. Anthony Davis (player option)
Davis will likely decline his player option and sign a max contract with the LA Lakers. However, if things go terribly, terribly wrong at STAPLES Center this season ... I mean, it’s not like the Lakers have ever traded for a young, dominant big man to pair with their aging legend a year before the young star becomes a free agent, only for that star to bolt, right? Right?
2. Draymond Green
Green is the No. 1 free agent teams might actually be able to get. The Warriors’ salary cap sheet has finally become a nightmare, while Green will be 30 and looking for a major payday. How well he plays on a revamped Golden State team should impact the interest level across the league. He’ll likely get a max from somewhere, it’s more a matter of whether the Warriors will offer the same, or whether he’ll need to leave the nest to get paid.
3. Pascal Siakam (restricted)
The Raptors aren’t letting Siakam get away, and chances are he has a max extension before the season even begins.
4. Jaylen Brown (restricted)
Brown is an interesting case because it’s not like the Celtics to commit money unnecessarily, so the defensive wing could go into 2020 as a restricted free agent shopping for offer sheets. He should get an enormous offer, provided he continues to show offensive progress on a Celtics team in transition.
5. DeMar DeRozan (player option)
DeRozan may decide to remain with the Spurs for $28 million, given the crunched landscape. Or he could end up as the most sought-after free agent on the market if Green’s value degrades and the players above him are locked in. San Antonio might feel pressure to overpay to keep him so that the Spurs don’t slip into mediocrity in Gregg Popovich’s last couple of years on the sidelines.
6. Andre Drummond (player option)
Drummond feels particularly gettable in this class, given how things have gone in Detroit. He did actually improve last season, too, even though the Pistons were a sad little team. Interesting player at this point in his career.
7. Buddy Hield (restricted)
Quietly one of the best, most prolific shooters in the league. The Kings will almost assuredly lock him up. But, you know, Kings. Everyone’s got to keep on eye on him.
8. Caris LeVert (restricted)
This is either way too low or way too high for LeVert, everyone’s favorite future All-Star who is already 24 with a career average of 11 points. Brooklyn can’t get cap space again for the foreseeable future, so one imagines they’ll lock him up to keep the talent level around Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant high.
9. Brandon Ingram (restricted)
This could be too low for Ingram, who played quite well down the stretch for the Lakers until a frightening blood clot issue ended his season. Ingram could be the top scorer on a potential playoff team in New Orleans, but uncertainty around the medical issue could play a big role in how the Pelicans and other teams see him next summer.
10. Danilo Gallinari
Gallinari was nearly an all-star last season for the Clippers, and now he’ll play alongside Chris Paul in Oklahoma City. What a world. He just had the best season of his career at age 30. How the encore performance goes will determine how comfortable some other team (not likely the Thunder) is in extending a long contract.
11. Eric Gordon
Gordon is the same age as Gallinari and did not do his best work last season. Being a designated shooter off the bench for James Harden and Russell Westbrook will sure be an interesting twist in what has been a fascinating career. Gordon is really athletic but doesn’t rely on that facet of his game, so it’ll be interesting to see how his style ages.
12. Mike Conley (player option)
Conley will likely opt in for $34 million at age 32 unless the Jazz offer him a lucrative long-term deal that will save cap space in the short term. Conley is seen as Utah’s savior, a second playmaker and scorer to help Donovan Mitchell break through in the playoffs. It will be hard for the Jazz to let him leave if the one guaranteed season left on his deal goes sideways.
13. Fred VanVleet
The Raptors quite possibly have two priorities in the summer of 2020: keep Siakam and keep VanVleet. Fred is the tougher case because his value is high, but not max level, and because he’s an unrestricted free agent. Masai Ujiri knows what he’s doing. But this one could be a real test.
14. Bogdan Bogdanovic (restricted)
Given that the Kings just paid Harrison Barnes and will almost certainly pay Hield, Bogdanovic is starting to look like the odd man out. Bogdan is a smart player who did well off the bench for Sacramento last season. If there’s a way to financially keep him without setting up cap hell as new deals come online for the team’s other young players, the Kings would be wise to do it. If not, that’s a heckuva prize for some other team to poach.
15. Kyle Lowry
NBA champion Lowry has completed the mission in Toronto. He’ll be 34 when he hits free agency. What are the odds DeRozan opts out and the two friends team up again somewhere?
16. Dejounte Murray (restricted)
Murray missed last season with an injury and the Spurs barely survived. The two-way point guard has lots of analysts excited and he could be the player that turns San Antonio from a 7-8-9 team to maybe a 4-5-6 team. His reputation is so strong that he’ll cost a lot for the Spurs to keep him.
17. DeMarcus Cousins
Science says Boogie will struggle this season again and if he comes back as something similar to what he once was, it will be at the end of the year. We’ll see. He’ll certainly have opportunities to regain his legs and his style in Los Angeles. It’s pretty weird how few people are acknowledging the Lakers have a potential third star on their hands given how much everyone screamed about the Warriors grabbing him for the mid-level last year, right after his injury.
18. Domantas Sabonis (restricted)
Are the Pacers really going with Myles Turner and Sabonis together long-term? If not, is Sabonis obtainable as a restricted free agent? Is he trade bait?
19. Montrezl Harrell
Harrell is probably too expensive to remain a Clipper so his availability will put him high on several teams’ boards. It’s hard to come up with a team where Harrell would be a bad fit.
20. Gordon Hayward (player option)
Further removed from his injury and finally teamed with Kemba Walker five years after he signed an offer sheet to join him in Charlotte, Hayward could legitimately be an All-Star in the East. He could also be Chandler Parsons II. He likely ends up somewhere in between: a shadow of the greatness he was close to achieving, but still useful as a threatening wing.
Here are the next 35 best free agents in the class, listed without justification or explanation.
21. Otto Porter (player option)
22. Evan Fournier (player option)
23. Dario Saric (restricted)
24. Joe Harris
25. Marc Gasol
26. Serge Ibaka
27. Rodney Hood (player option)
28. E’Twaun Moore
29. Kris Dunn (restricted)
30. Bryn Forbes
31. Jerami Grant (player option)
32. Paul Millsap
33. JaMychal Green (player option)
34. Tim Hardaway Jr. (player option)
35. Jeff Teague
36. Reggie Jackson
37. Hassan Whiteside
38. Jahlil Okafor
39. Derrick Favors
40. Jakob Poeltl (restricted)
41. Goran Dragic
42. James Johnson (player option)
43. Evan Turner
44. Noah Vonleh
45. Allonzo Trier (restricted)
46. Kelly Olynyk (player option)
47. Mo Harkless
48. Jae Crowder
49. James Ennis (player option)
50. Andre Roberson
51. Markieff Morris (player option)
52. Marcus Morris
53. Robin Lopez (player option)
54. Meyers Leonard
55. Davis Bertans