You might have heard that the 2020 NBA free agent class is really, really bad. It’s true. The 2019 class was replete with stars, and the 2021 class has strong potential to be incredible. But 2020 just doesn’t have any real juice.
What’s interesting is the lack of juice the 2020 free agent class has actually made it worse! Teams stopped trying to amass 2020 salary cap space due to the dearth of available stars. This widespread lack of focused cap space then led some potential free agents to take extensions to delay their free agency when they otherwise may have rolled the dice. The bad free agency fed on itself.
Still, there are free agents available, including one superstar (technically speaking). Teams are just going to have to get creative to vastly improve their teams this summer. Let’s dig into the top 20 free agents of 2020.
1. Anthony Davis
It seems highly unlikely Davis will leave the Lakers given how well everything has gone in Los Angeles. So Davis isn’t so much a free agent as a superstar waiting for the opportunity to get a very large contract from the team with his Bird rights. LA will offer a max on Day 1, Davis will almost assuredly take it. The only question is whether it’s as long as possible or whether Davis pushes for something like a three-year deal with a fourth year early termination option. With LeBron James now 35, it wouldn’t be the craziest thing to guard against.
2. Brandon Ingram (restricted)
The only other 2020 all-star who will be a free agent this summer is Ingram, who has restricted status. New Orleans is widely expected to offer a max or near-max deal to Ingram, and the Pelicans would almost assuredly match any offer sheet if Ingram doesn’t take the team’s offer. It’s highly unlikely Ingram plays for a different franchise next season.
Ingram has really put it all together this season after showing bursts of stardom in LA. With Ingram and Zion Williamson, New Orleans has two stars in hand and needs to develop or find one more to push them into contention in the next few seasons.
3. Fred VanVleet
VanVleet is the best unrestricted free agent who won’t get a max offer from his team and thus has real potential to switch teams. He’s been excellent for Toronto this season and should pick up an average annual salary near $20 million. Note that he’s 26 years old — old for a young player, but younger than the next player on this list.
4. Bogdan Bogdanovic (restricted)
Bogdanovic has been lost in Sacramento much of this season after the Kings invested in Buddy Hield (who would otherwise have been a restricted free agent this summer). But teams remember what Bogdanovic did last season and what he did as maybe the best performer in the FIBA World Cup last summer. Bogdanovic is 28 years old, though, so teams chasing him with big offers that could make the Kings pause can’t expect much additional improvement based on Bogdan hitting his age-based peak: he’s likely already there. With De’Aaron Fox coming due for a payday and continued question marks up front and with the Hield-Fox pairing defensively, this is a restricted free agent with a real shot at being poached.
5. Andre Drummond (player option)
Detroit clearly did not want to be in the business of paying Drummond a lot of money given how little they traded him for at the deadline. Other teams didn’t get into the summer bidding by outbidding Cleveland on the trade market. Cleveland is paying Kevin Love a lot of money to do the same things as Drummond, basically (with more range and less defense). I don’t get the fit and I don’t know where Drummond will end up. This is a big danger zone free agency market for Drummond — you wonder if he might just opt into his $25 million contract for next season and try to rack up stats next year.
6. Montrezl Harrell
Harrell’s free agency will be mighty interesting. He’s a stat stuffer who has heretofore been amenable to coming off the bench like a young Paul Millsap. If that holds, a team with a range-limited starter (Phoenix?) could probably talk themselves into him as a super-sub. He’s probably too expensive for the Clippers going forward. Finding a Lou Williams-like figure to connect with on the pick and roll will be vital. How about Terry Rozier in Charlotte?
7. Gordon Hayward (player option)
Hayward has a $32 million player option. If he opts for free agency, his average annual salary will probably not reach that level. But long-term security may be important after his injury tribulations, and Hayward has had a strong season for Boston. I’m not exactly sure who the market will be for Hayward if he does opt out. Are the Celtics interested in locking him up at a smaller number for the next couple of years as Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum get expensive?
8. Danilo Gallinari
Gallinari would have been one of the hottest prizes of the trade deadline if the Thunder weren’t shockingly competent. OKC kept him, though, and teams will have to bid on him in July. He’s already 32 but doesn’t have an extreme amount of mileage on the odometer. His combination of size and shooting are highly alluring and the market should be robust.
9. Evan Fournier (player option)
Fournier seems like a lock to opt out of his $17 million contract for greener pastures. The question is whether, as they did with Nikola Vucevic, the Magic will double-down on a failed roster and re-sign Fournier. I don’t think they should, but I do think Fournier is a productive player who can fit in on any number of rosters.
10. Davis Bertans
Shooting is such a premium right now that Bertans is absolutely going to be a popular name entering July. Washington certainly hopes he won’t be too popular so they have a chance at keeping him despite a messy salary cap sheet. But as an unrestricted free agent looking for his first huge NBA contract, it’s going to be competitive out there.
11. Aron Baynes
Baynes is going to be so popular in free agency. The combination of tough defense, tough screen-setting and three-point shooting is perfect for a modern center. Also, the Suns have Deandre Ayton so they really should not be in the business of paying Baynes what he’ll be worth.
12. DeMar DeRozan (player option)
The maligned scorer has watched his value precipitously fall since the Raptors traded him and won a title, and since the Spurs have fallen off. Shooting guard is a tough position to have a non-shooter in the three-heavy era, but he’s still an effective scorer and secondary playmaker. There’s a non-zero chance he picks up his $28 million player option and delays free agency one more summer where there should be more teams with cap space.
13. Joe Harris
Shooting is such a premium right now! Harris is older than Bertans and a somewhat less frequent shooter, but they are equally effective and the same teams (including their incumbent franchises) will be in the market for both. Harris should be very popular and Brooklyn can probably not afford to keep him.
14. Jerami Grant (player option)
The defense-first Grant has a $9 million player option. In a normal market, he’d be a lock to beat that in free agency. With so few teams having cap space, it’s really up to Denver to set the market here. And that could depend on how vital Grant looks like the stretch run and playoffs for the Nuggets. Grant’s value might have more riding on the playoffs than any other free agent other than Tim Hardaway Jr.
15. Christian Wood
Wood is the star of the post-Drummond, Blake Griffin-less Pistons. That’s not really high praise, it’s just reality. Wood is a 25-year-old scoring forward who should attract decent attention as an unrestricted free agent. Detroit would be wise to try to retain him, assuming the Griffin era is coming to a close.
16. Tim Hardaway Jr. (player option)
Hardaway’s performance in the Mavericks’ playoff run will be an important factor in whether he picks up his $17 million player option and how comfortable Dallas is paying him if he opts out. He’s been a pretty good fit with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. But with Dallas needing one more star-level player — theoretically a elite defensive wing who can shoot, an old Shawn Marion type — they may not want to invest. Are the Knicks interested?
17. Derrick Favors
Favors is very role-specific, but the impact he had on the Pelicans after returning from injury this season showed how important that role can be. He doesn’t stretch the floor or help much in transition offense, but he’s a really solid and cerebral halfcourt defender and he helps the offense in subtle ways.
18. Harry Giles III
I still can’t believe the Kings declined Giles’ fourth-year option, making him an unrestricted free agent this summer. Inexcusable given the costs and benefits! Giles has come along lately and been an integral factor in Sacramento’s belated rush for a playoff spot. He’s just 22 years old. You don’t see 22-year-olds this promising as unrestricted free agents too often.
19. Furkan Korkmaz
Korkmaz is a cheaper and younger Bogdanovic who has had some big moments for the Sixers this season and could have more in the playoffs. He should be a nice target for basically every team with the resources.
20. Chris Boucher (restricted)
I would pay Boucher all of the money and dare the Raptors to match. Boucher is the young big man I’ve been most excited about since Ian Mahinmi (stop laughing).