While the NBA is preparing for the 2020 season to resume in Orlando, NBA executives are preparing for the 2020 offseason. The 2020 offseason is crucial for many teams. It allows them to either dump salary in preparation for the loaded 2021 free-agent class or make key signings to put their team over the edge. I believe we will be looking back at this free-agent class and see who took themselves out of contention for 2021’s top free agents by mismanaging their situation. Below is a list of players teams either can’t afford to pay, players teams should move on from due to short and long-term fit, and players teams should trade to improve their cap situation or roster.
Players Teams Can’t Afford
After becoming the media proclaimed “Curry Stopper”, Fred VanVleet will covet a lot of attention in free agency. While arguably the heart and soul of the Raptors, VanVleet could command a contract in excess of 25 million dollars this free agency class, especially this free-agency class’s lack of star power. If a cap heavy team such as the New York Knicks or Detroit Pistons fail to draft a point guard, expect these teams to be major contenders to overpay VanVleet. The question becomes how likely is Toronto Raptor’s Executive Masai Ujiri to match these overpays. My answer is not so likely.
While Van Fleet became an instant fan favorite with his work ethic and style of play he is not worth $30 million. Averaging nearly 18 points and 6.5 assists per game while shooting 39% from three, VanVleet had a great season. But it’s not an all-star level season for a point guard in the NBA. Retaining VanVleet won’t put you over the hump as a title contender. Neither will it allow you to tank for picks. Signing VanVleet for this amount of money also makes it difficult for the Raptors to be major players in the 2021 free-agency class. After years of building a winning culture that can attract free agents, 2021 is the summer to test whether free agents will finally want to come to Canada. The Raptors cannot afford to not find this answer.
Part of the Los Angeles Clipper’s success has stemmed from their ability to efficiently utilize their cap space. Making smart financial decisions gave them the opportunity to acquire both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. This philosophy should not stop now that they are title contenders.
Montrez Harrell is so valuable to the Clippers because he and Lou Williams have some of the most team-friendly contracts given the level of play that they produce. At two years $12 mil, Harrell is due for a payday. I fully expect Harrell to command a salary above $20 million. While the Clippers have bird rights meaning they can extend beyond the cap to sign Harrell, is it the best option for the future Clippers? While many will argue that the 2020 free agency class is weak, which it is, the 2021 free agency class will be loaded. In 2021, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert, Victor Oladipo, Anthony Davis, and Steven Adams are expected to be available. Signing Harrell will take the Clippers out of the 2021 conversation and force the team into its current ceiling. Therefore, I don’t think it is the right move for the Clippers to resign Harrell.
— CardsGonePro (@CardsGonePro) November 7, 2019
Players That Should Sign Elsewhere
Davis Bertans made the Spurs regret letting him go for nothing. The emerging Bertans averaged 15.4 points per game. He also had incredible shooting splits including shooting 42.4% from three on 8.4 attempts per game. At the power forward position, Bertans offers the opportunity to boost any team’s middling offense. What’s also nice is that Bertans is only 27, four years younger, and less injury-prone than Danillo Gallinari. Arguably a better shooter as well, expect Bertans to reach a deal close to $20 mil. With the lack of modern power forwards that can play the perimeter, Bertans will be in high demand by many teams.
This is why it becomes a problem for the Wizards. Do the Wizards really want to get into a bidding war for Davis Bertans? If you’re signing Bertans for that kind of money, you expect him to start. But with the team expecting to trade Beal for draft capital, it makes no sense. You don’t want to put Davis Bertans on the bench with that kind of contract in order to play your lottery pick rookie. Davis Bertans doesn’t elevate the Wizards to a playoff-contending team. Nor is he a long-term building block. His role is best served as being a strong complementary piece to a championship-contending team. The Wizards should save the money as there is no point in paying a guy just to pay him.
With the lack of star power coming out this free-agency class, expect Gallinari to be one of the most coveted prospects. Gallinari fits the modern NBA very well. An elite shooter at the power forward position with playmaking ability, teams like the Miami Heat will covet this missing piece. With the Thunder paying Chris Paul and Steven Adams, the Thunder may look to use their salary cap to become a deeper team. Their bench was a huge weak spot for the team in 2020, with the team lacking a presence outside of Dennis Schroder and Nerlens Noel. Foregoing Gallinari’s 25+ million deal in favor of a Serge Ibaka return at around $17 million gives them additional funds to fill out their bench.
Throughout the season, Derrick Favors has shown an inability to fit with the Pelican’s fast-paced, youthful offense. An old-school center that hasn’t yet been able to adapt to the modern NBA, Favors finds himself sitting on the bench for a Pelicans team with Jaxson Hayes and Zion Williamson in the frontcourt.
For the Pelicans, it doesn’t make sense to resign Favors. Favors is likely looking at an 8+ million dollar contract. Backup centers are one of the most abundant positions in the NBA and you don’t have to pay them 8+ mil a year. Guys like Kyle O’Quinn, Nerlens Noel, and Alex Len can do everything Favors does on the court for half the price or less. The Pelicans are better served using that cash to grab perimeter veteran wing players or re-sign Jrue Holiday and/or Brandon Ingram to long-term deals.
Players Likely to Be Traded
The Pacers have continued to try and make the Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis pairing work. However, both can’t play together as they lack the perimeter spacing a modern NBA offense needs. Also, both aren’t versatile perimeter defenders making opposing power forwards like Pascal Siakam wreck havoc. After signing both Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner to four-year contracts, the Pacers will have a hard time moving them. However, a first-round playoff exit may give the Pacers a reason to break this duo. I think Turner is more likely to be moved. Turner’s contract is shorter and doesn’t fit with the team as well as Sabonis. Also, Sabonis continues to improve each and every year, something we can’t necessarily say about Myles Turner. It’s very likely the Pacers look to improve their team from mediocrity by moving Turner instead of Sabonis.
However, I don’t see this happening in the offseason, but rather near next year’s trade deadline. The Pacers didn’t have a full season to evaluate the two together. While a pairing that brought mixed results on the court together, the Pacers need a larger sample size before they trade their former first-round. Expect a move to occur as the NBA returns to normal. I foresee a trade deadline move with Turner’s name involved.
Throughout the 2019-2020 season, Kyle Kuzma has not fit well with the Los Angeles Lakers. From suffering a severe foot injury in China during the USA basketball’s training camp to missing time with an ankle injury, Kuzma just hasn’t gotten into a great rhythm. With the Lakers and LeBron James having such a small championship window, I don’t see the Lakers having the patience to wait for Kuzma to get into a rhythm.
The Laker’s cap room to sign a big free agent in 2020 is limited. LeBron James set to make $39 mi, Anthony Davis set to make $29 mil if he signs his player option, and Danny Green set to make $15 million. Coupled with Kentavious Caldwell Pope, Avery Bradley, and Javale McGee all expected to sign their player options ($18 mil in total), the Lakers are strapped for cash. Essentially, the team only has 19 million in luxury tax space to build out the rest of their roster.
With the limited space, the Lakers won’t be able to bring in a star piece to surround James and Davis. Instead, they would be forced to use their remaining space to sign players via the veteran minimum. Also, the Lakers only have this year’s and 2022’s first-round picks. However, with the Lakers being such a great team, it’s very unlikely this draft capital will make a huge difference in their championship aspirations. A trade looks like the only way the Lakers would get substantially better.
Kyle Kuzma is the Laker’s only young player with high trade value. Adding an additional 1st round (2020) and another young player (Quinn Cook) could be enough to get the likes of Danillo Gallinari, Zach Lavine, or Dennis Schroeder, the point guard they desperately need. I don’t think it is enough for Beal unless they send Danny Green in the trade as well. This scenario gives the Lakers the star power they need but at the expense of cap room to build around the core. Nevertheless, I expect Kuzma to be moved this offseason.
Bradley Beal is the most likely player to get traded this offseason. A trade that has seemingly been in the works for a few seasons, Beal might finally be able to play for a contender in 2021. The Wizard’s problem is that they have too much money tied into John Wall to sign quality players to complement Beal. After a torn Achilles, most teams expect Wall to be a less than athletic version of himself. With Wall having a diminished trade value post-injury and him eating up nearly $41 mil in cap space in 2021, the Wizards lack the pieces to improve the team through trade. Free agency is no better with Wall and Beal eating a substantial portion of the cap. Further, the Wizards finished at the bottom of the standings in 2020. Free agents won’t want to come to the Wizards who show no sign of improving.
Given these issues, the only way the Wizards can improve is through the draft. However, Bradley Beal doesn’t have time to wait for these young players to develop. The only alternative is the Wizards trading Beal. Trading Beal can get the Wizards multiple draft picks and/or another young player to catapult a rebuild. I like this scenario the most for the Wizards.
I’ve seen reports of the Beal going to the Lakers. However, I don’t think this will work given the Laker’s lack of young, talented prospects and high-value draft capital. Instead, I see the Brooklyn Nets as a perfect fit. Guys like Caris LeVert and Joe Harris alongside a first and second-round pick could be enticing for both parties. For the Nets, you get an obvious third star to pair with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. For the Wizards, they get the promising Caris LeVert to join Rui Hachimura. Coupled with their lottery pick in the 2020 draft and a starting-caliber player Joe Harris, the Wizards would have pieces to build around for the coming years.
Bradley Beal is too smooth👀🔥pic.twitter.com/3wjxQEhB0y
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) July 7, 2020