1 Free Agent Every NBA Team Should Already Be Thinking About

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 27, 2020

1 Free Agent Every NBA Team Should Already Be Thinking About

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    Forget the million times NBA personnel have talked about taking things one day at a time.

    This entire league lives in the future.

    Playoff participants are already thinking about postseason rotations. Lottery participants are scouting the top freshmen-to-be and searching for the best good-luck charms. And everyone—players, executives, media, fans—is thinking about free agency.

    It's never too early to craft offseason plans. Even if things are subject to change between now and July, we know enough about team dynamics, contract statuses and cap situations to determine the one free agent each team should already be thinking about.

Atlanta Hawks: Brandon Ingram (Restricted)

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    The Atlanta Hawks moved a step closer to completing their core with the deadline deal for Clint Capela, but they could bulk up the spots between their new big man, Trae Young and John Collins. They have serviceable wings in Kevin Huerter, De'Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, but they could use more shot-creation and star potential at those spots.

    Enter Brandon Ingram.

    Maybe the sinewy scoring forward proves impossible to pry away from the New Orleans Pelicans, but what do the Hawks have to lose by shooting their shot? He could be Young's ideal costar out of the gate, freeing the 6'1" guard from shouldering the Association's fourth-highest usage rate. Ingram, an 80th percentile isolation scorer, can both carry the load himself and spread it around among his teammates.

    Ingram is comfortable enough on the perimeter to fit the rotation as is, but he could also slide up to the 4 spot should Atlanta deem the Collins-Capela combo untenable. The Hawks have more spending power than anyone, and Ingram would be the ideal addition from both skills and timeline standpoints.

Boston Celtics: Gordon Hayward (Player Option)

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    Gordon Hayward holds a $34.2 million player option for next season with the Boston Celtics. There is no guarantee he'll pick it up since he has looked like his old self this year and would be one of the top players on the market if he enters it.

    Either way, the Shamrocks should want him back.

    He's arguably their most versatile player. He can function as both a featured scorer and a primary playmaker. He's piecing together an absurd 50.8/38.4/85.9 shooting slash. He defends multiple positions. He knows Brad Stevens' system better than anyone.

    Boston fares 3.6 points better per 100 possessions with Hayward than without. That's the second-best split among its seven players to log 1,000-plus minutes.

    Whether Hayward returns to All-Star status or tops out as a strong starter is moot. He can increase this club's championship odds, and if he does bolt, the team can't easily create the cap space to replace him. Maybe that's why Brian Robb of the Boston Sports Journal reported the Celtics have interest in a long-term agreement with the Swiss Army knife swingman.

Brooklyn Nets: Joe Harris (Unrestricted)

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    Superstars can be complemented in myriad ways, but a sniper who can drag away defenders might be the most valuable. In other words, even if Joe Harris sees a big bump from his $7.7 million salary, he'll be worth it to the Brooklyn Nets for maximizing the spacing around Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

    "We value him tremendously, and I'm sure the league values him tremendously," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said of Harris, per Newsday's Greg Logan. "But he's a big part of our culture, a leader, has all the intangibles, has improved his defense."

    Atkinson forgot to mention that he owns a three-point cannon. Dating back to 2017-18, Harris has the 16th-most triples with 464. Over that same stretch, he has the second-best splash rate among the 144 players with 200-plus threes at a sizzling 43.5 percent.

    The Nets don't have another marksman like him, and with $132.9 million already on next season's books, they don't have the flexibility to find one, either. Unless Harris leads to a bidding war, he's almost certainly a keeper.

Charlotte Hornets: Brandon Ingram (Restricted)

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    Tyler Kaufman/Associated Press

    Brandon Ingram has history with the Charlotte Hornets even if he's never been a Buzz City baller.

    For starters, he's a North Carolina native who honed his skills about 200 miles away in Kinston. He later cemented his status as the No. 2 pick of the 2016 draft during his one-and-done stay at Duke University, which is even closer to the Queen City.

    So, he knows the area. And he knows the lead executive, too. Before general manager Mitch Kupchak was running the show in Charlotte, he was steering the Los Angeles Lakers to spend that second overall selection on Ingram, a player he felt had "no ceiling."

    The sentimental reasons for Charlotte to chases Ingram are numerous, and the basketball reasons are even more overwhelming. He's the star presence they've lacked since Kemba Walker left, and he could serve as the centerpiece of a quietly intriguing nucleus of Devonte' Graham, Terry Rozier, Miles Bridges and PJ Washington.

    If Ingram is unattainable, the Hornets could set the center market with an aggressive offer to Montrezl Harrell or Jakob Poeltl.

Chicago Bulls: Anthony Davis (Player Option)

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    The Chicago Bulls, like most NBA teams, are an Anthony Davis away from being really interesting. What separates the Bulls from other AD dreamers, though, is the fact they share a hometown with the single-browed superstar.

    Maybe that means nothing, but any potential connection with an all-galaxy elite is worth exploring. Plus, the big fella didn't exactly destroy the Windy City's dreams when asked during a November event if he would consider suiting up for the Bulls.

    "Honestly, it's nothing like playing at home," Davis responded, per ESPN's Eric Woodyard. "I don't know. ... I mean, I am a free agent next year, but we'll see. It's a possibility."

    There are a million reasons to think this won't happen.

    Davis is contending for the crown alongside LeBron James in Los Angeles. Chicago is in danger of missing the playoffs for the third straight year, and it has struggled to find consistency beyond scoring guard Zach LaVine. Oh, and the Bulls would need to shed a ton of money to afford Davis, too, so this almost certainly isn't happening.

    But long shots hit once in a blue moon, and the Bulls have little to lose by exploring this from every angle. If they fall short on Davis, pivoting to a plug-and-play wing like Maurice Harkless or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is another option.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Andre Drummond (Player Option)

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    The Cleveland Cavaliers added Andre Drummond at the deadline for a reason, right? His $28.8 million player option for next season might seem onerous to most, but the Cavs swear they're fine with the cost.

    "Absolutely, we consider him a potential long-term play," general manager Koby Altman said, per B/R's Greg Swartz. "Obviously, he has a player option that if he picks up, we think we're in good shape in terms of our cap space. There's no better money spent than on Andre Drummond if he picks up his option."

    Some of the word choice there is interesting, but it roughly translates to, "We're prepared if he exercises his option." That seems a near certainty given the dearth of teams with significant cap space this summer and Drummond's minimal trade market (all he cost Cleveland was a pair of expiring contracts and a future second-rounder).

    Drummond has his worth. He's historically awesome on the glass (highest career rebounding percentage, minimum 5,000 minutes), and his size-athleticism combo makes him a theoretical pick-and-roll partner for Darius Garland and Collin Sexton. The Cavs probably weren't signing someone of significance this summer anyway, so they should be fine footing the big bill and seeing if the 26-year-old is worth re-signing in 2021.

Dallas Mavericks: Bogdan Bogdanovic (Restricted)

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    Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

    The Dallas Mavericks need help to access major money in free agency. Namely, they need Tim Hardaway Jr. to decline his $19 million player option, and they could scratch out a bit more flexibility if Willie Cauley-Stein opts out of his own $2.3 million option.

    If the basketball gods grant the Mavericks the chance to buy, Dallas should consider the aggressive route. Having an MVP candidate like Luka Doncic on a rookie-scale contract is the ultimate form of flexibility, and if the Mavs feel they're ready for another leap, they could put a massive offer on the table for Bogdan Bogdanovic.

    If nothing else, they should already have Doncic's blessing.

    "We are friends, he is a great player, I could learn a lot [from him]," Doncic said of Bogdanovic in May 2018 (h/t EuroHoops.net).

    Despite having the most efficient offense in NBA history, the Mavs could grow even more potent with Bogdanovic. He could ease the playmaking burden on Doncic, spread the floor as a spot-up sniper and create his own looks off the bounce. It might take a metric ton to steal him away from the Sacramento Kings, but the Mavs could justify the cost if they see more growth potential for the third-year swingman.

Denver Nuggets: Jerami Grant (Player Option)

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Denver Nuggets could win 60 games this season. Their top two scorers are 25 (Nikola Jokic) and 23 (Jamal Murray) years old. They'll likely do the bulk of their free-agent shopping in-house.

    Some might see the first order of business as Paul Millsap, considering he's both a regular starter and their No. 4 scorer. But fifth on the scoring list is Jerami Grant, who should be cheaper ($9.3 million player option) and better fits the core's timeline since he's about nine years younger than Millsap.

    Grant shines in a complementary role, which is all the Nuggets need from him considering Jokic has already made his All-Star ascension and both Murray and Michael Porter Jr. could do the same in the near future. He can handle most defensive assignments, dazzles in transition (74th percentile) and owns a 39.3 three-point percentage since the start of last season.

    Millsap was invaluable in helping the Nuggets through their maturation period, but this team knows how to win now. It might still want a future with him, but he'd need to accept a lot less money (he's making $30.4 million this season) and might be forced into a reserve role going forward. Grant might be the safer bet, and he works as both a support starter now and perhaps Porter's backup down the road.

Detroit Pistons: Fred VanVleet (Unrestricted)

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    Congratulations, Detroit Pistons. You're no longer on the hook for Andre Drummond's colossal contract. Now, can you actually put this added flexibility to good use?

    That won't be easy in this market, but Fred VanVleet could help make sense of whatever this roster will become. He's a scorer, table-setter and sniper all in one, and he's served enough time alongside Kyle Lowry that he should be able to co-exist with Derrick Rose for however long Detroit keeps the former MVP around.

    Granted, the last time the Pistons splurged on a floor general, it blew up in their face (sorry, Reggie Jackson, but it's true). This situation is different. It's not about projecting what an up-and-comer could do in an expanded role, but rather landing one of this season's breakout ballers.

    VanVleet is one of 21 players averaging at least 17 points and six assists. He sits 11th on that list in win shares (5.0), one spot behind Trae Young and two up on Bradley Beal. VanVleet also spent two seasons under Dwane Casey in Toronto, so he should enjoy a smoother transition than most free-agency imports.

Golden State Warriors: Justin Holiday (Unrestricted)

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    It's tough to characterize the Golden State Warriors as bargain hunters when they could, as The Athletic's John Hollinger noted, "easily have the highest payroll in league history next season." But that's the point; they've already invested most of their money into this roster, and any major purchases this summer will be made on the trade market (perhaps using their lottery pick, their massive trade exception or both).

    So, in terms of free agency, they will, in fact, be sifting through the clearance section for minimum deals and maybe options on the taxpayer mid-level exception. They need low-maintenance, plug-and-play contributors who can fill specific niches alongside their established stars.

    How about a reunion with Justin Holiday, who was just getting his three-and-D career going when he won a title with the Dubs in 2014-15? He supplies almost endless amounts of energy, a decent amount of defensive versatility and enough of a three-point touch (career-high 41.7 percent this season) to keep opponents honest.

    At least eight teams had interest in Holiday last summer, per B/R's Michael Scotto, so maybe his market will be too rich for the Warriors to afford. But maybe he's itching to contend with the team, the coaching staff and the front office that granted him his first real NBA opportunity.

Houston Rockets: Marvin Williams (Unrestricted)

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    Are we the only ones who think there's a non-zero chance that head coach Mike D'Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey view the list of free agents through three-point goggles?

    We're (mostly) joking, of course, but no one digs the long ball more than the Houston Rockets. They own each of the top three and four of the top five highest single-season averages in three-point attempts per game, all set during their past four years. Assuming they don't opt for a dramatically different direction this summer, any free agent with a fiery three-ball is probably somewhere on their wish list.

    Dating back to 2013-14, Marvin Williams has averaged 2.1 triples per 36 minutes and splashed them at a 37.6 percent clip. That alone should get him on Houston's radar, and the fact he can handle most frontcourt assignments on defense might bump him to the top of the list.

    This assumes, of course, the 33-year-old is still seeking NBA employment this summer. Back in January, he told Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer he was contemplating retirement, stating, "I could do it or I could not."

    Houston should hope for the latter.

Indiana Pacers: Marcus Morris Sr. (Unrestricted)

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    The Indiana Pacers are mostly committed to running it back, which isn't the worst option for a top-six seed with several ascending players. But they should have the full mid-level exception at their disposal, meaning they have an opportunity to add a rotation player.

    Marcus Morris Sr. would be quite a coup. Win-now teams should all be in hot pursuit (as they were at the deadline) since he can fill multiple needs that all contribute to success.

    Need a big wing defender? Check. How about an off-ball shooter? Check. What about a bruiser who can bang with big bodies on the interior? Check. Or an injection of both toughness and a touch of shot-creation? Check and check.

    Plant Morris in the Circle City and one of the Association's better-balanced rosters would grow even more complete. There would be an array of lineup combinations at coach Nate McMillan's disposal as Morris can fit alongside one, none or both of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner.

Los Angeles Clippers: Montrezl Harrell (Unrestricted)

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    This might be a 1a, 1b summer for the Los Angeles Clippers since they have two major free agents to address. It could depend on what happens between now and July to determine whether the Clips prioritize Montrezl Harrell or Marcus Morris Sr., both of whom should command significant interest.

    Morris has an argument for the top spot. He's easier to plug into lineups since his defensive versatility and perimeter shot-making fit with virtually any quintet.

    But Harrell is four years younger, and he's already shown a higher ceiling than Morris ever established.

    Take out the latter's inflated production with the dismal New York Knicks during the first half of this season and his previous career high was 14.1 points per game, which came on 43.4 percent shooting over 35.7 minutes per contest. Harrell averaged 16.6 points on 61.5 percent shooting in 26.3 minutes per game last season, and he's up to 18.8 on 58.0 percent shooting in 28.2 minutes per contest this time around.

    If the Clippers are forced to choose, there might be enough in Harrell's favor to lean slightly in his direction. But L.A. will probably try everything in its power to keep both. That not only gives it the best shot at success next season, but it also communicates an all-in commitment to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, who could both enter free agency in 2021.

Los Angeles Lakers: Anthony Davis (Player Option)

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    The Los Angeles Lakers didn't have a winning record last season. Now, they're the class of the West with conference-best marks in winning percentage (.786) and net rating (plus-7.1).

    A number of factors are behind that transformation, but none are greater than the addition of Anthony Davis. By pairing him with LeBron James, the Purple and Gold have given themselves the ultimate cheat code. Over the 1,201 minutes shared by the elites, the Lakers have thrashed opponents by 10.2 points per 100 possessions.

    "They can do things together, given James's size and strength and Davis's mobility and versatility, that would make Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar envious," Marc Stein wrote for the New York Times.

    Clearly, it's in the Lakers' best interest to keep this relationship going for more than one season. Once Davis ditches his $28.8 million player option, the franchise should have all the Brink's trucks on standby. He's as obvious as max-contract candidates come, and getting the deal done could be a mere formality.

Memphis Grizzlies: De’Anthony Melton (Restricted)

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    The Memphis Grizzlies took one look at the upcoming free-agent crop and decided they wanted no part of its primary players. So, rather than carrying loads of cap space into the summer, the Grizz invested their funds early by extending Dillon Brooks and trading for Justise Winslow and Gorgui Dieng.

    Memphis has already done the bulk of its offseason work, essentially, but it will need to address De'Anthony Melton's upcoming free agency. Given the team's trajectory and his own, paying up to keep him should be an easy call.

    The 6'2" guard has been Grind City's energizer. He's a feisty on-ball defender and a disruptive presence away from it. He has the fourth-highest steal rate and third-most deflections per 36 minutes (minimum 500 minutes). He also paces Memphis regulars in net rating swing as the Grizzlies are plus-7.1 with him and minus-5.3 without.

    He almost occupies two roster spots in one since he works as both the backup 2-guard and the No. 3 point. His defense, energy and instincts all scratch itches for this up-and-coming nucleus, but his numbers aren't so absurd that an outside suitor is likely to blow up his market.

Miami Heat: Danilo Gallinari (Unrestricted)

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    The Miami Heat and Danilo Gallinari nearly joined forces at the deadline, but the deal fell apart at the one-inch line as the sides couldn't agree on guaranteed money for 2021-22, per Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald.

    Still, that interest existed for a reason.

    "I like Gallo," Heat president Pat Riley said, per Chiang. "And I think he would have fit in here really well."

    The Heat cleared a ton of space at the deadline, and Gallinari just so happens to be a free agent this summer. Why can't they come together a few months later than we expected?

    The Heat are better than most anticipated, but they could use another shot-creator and a legitimate stretch 4. Gallinari, a 6'10" scorer averaging 19.5 points and 2.6 triples since the start of last season, checks both boxes.

    Since Miami appears to be the only win-now squad with 2020 cap space, it's in a unique position to get Gallo this time and still maintain flexibility going forward. Perhaps a bloated one-year offer would work. The Heat would still have money to chase Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2021, while Gallinari could cash in now before re-entering a market that should be flush with big spenders.

Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo* (Unrestricted in 2021)

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    We didn't specify these had to be 2020 free agents, right? Even if we did, we'd be fine breaking the rules for this extreme exception.

    Giannis Antetokounmpo makes the Milwaukee Bucks heavyweight contenders. He could be looking at back-to-back MVP honors while possibly steering the Bucks, who once employed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson together, to the best season in franchise history. Oh, and Antetokounmpo is all of 25 years old, so yeah...his free agency is the type you plan for years in advance.

    Plus, his free agency more or less starts this summer when he decides whether to ink a five-year supermax extension with Milwaukee. If the Bucks can't get his signature, they'll be flooded with trade offers almost immediately. It seems they'll have the inside track since they've been so successful with him, but this is by no means a done deal.

    "I think he's someone who could easily say, 'I'd like to be in Milwaukee my entire career,'" his agent, Alex Saratsis, told TMJ4's Pete Zervakis. "I think he's also someone who, depending on how the team does, could say, 'I need a change.'"

    The Bucks—and a huge chunk of the Association—are more or less trapped in a waiting period until Antetokounmpo makes that call.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Malik Beasley (Restricted)

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    While the D'Angelo Russell deal highlighted a hyperactive trade deadline for the Minnesota Timberwolves, a different acquisition will soon command the organization's attention.

    Malik Beasley, a 23-year-old with a budding three-and-D skill set, was moved by the Denver Nuggets, in part due to his looming cost as a restricted free agent. But the Timberwolves presumably baked that cost into their future plans when they added him as part of a massive four-team exchange.

    If Minnesota was even slightly unsure about committing to Beasley, he has worked to remove all hesitations since landing in the Gopher State. Over his first six games with the squad, he's averaging 21.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and a whopping 4.2 threes while hitting 44.9 percent of his field goals and 43.1 percent of his threes.

    "He's a killer," Russell said, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. "I think he's playing for something right now, and he's trying to showcase who he is and how important he is to the organization, and he's doing a hell of a job so far."

New Orleans Pelicans: Brandon Ingram (Restricted)

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    On first glance, Brandon Ingram's restricted free agency is an open-and-shut case for the New Orleans Pelicans.

    They need a co-star for freshman phenom Zion Williamson, and Ingram's credentials for the gig are impeccable. He just booked his first All-Star trip, and he's supplementing his career-best 24.7 points per game with a wildly efficient 47.4/40.0/86.0 slash line. He's only 22 years old, so he's right on the same developmental timeline with the 19-year-old Williamson.

    Both were even born in North Carolina—though Williamson was raised in South Carolina—and spent their lone season of collegiate hoops under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.

    The Pels are obviously going to re-up Ingram and keep him attached to Williamson as long as possible, right? Not everyone sees it as cut and dry.

    "I wonder if [Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin] will hardball [Ingram] and say, 'Get an offer,'" one executive asked ESPN's Tim Bontemps. "Where is he getting it from?"

    The Pelicans can match any offer Ingram receives, but since he looks like such a natural running mate for Williamson, New Orleans might want to eliminate any potential friction and pony up a max deal on day one.

New York Knicks: Fred VanVleet (Unrestricted)

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    The New York Knicks are so far removed from contention, one can argue they should sit out the buying portion of free agency entirely. With the front office already changing, why not overhaul the organization entirely and rent out cap space for assets?

    Well, because the Knicks are always gonna Knick, that's why. Money usually burns a hole in team owner James Dolan's pocket, and New York chases every quick-fix option available.

    If the Knicks are going to spend big anyway, they might as well target a rising fourth-year pro at a position of need. After watching the likes of Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina bungle possessions at point guard, having Fred VanVleet pilot the offense would feel like a gift from the basketball gods.

    The 6'1", 195-pounder is a two-way leader who can set a competitive edge and makes life easier on his teammates. The Knicks need someone to teach their youngsters winning habits, and VanVleet would arrive with both an inspirational self-made story to his name and a championship ring in his jewelry collection.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Juancho Hernangomez (Restricted)

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    If the Oklahoma City Thunder opt against another go-round with Danilo Gallinari—which is probably the right call considering where this group is at—they'll want another jumbo sniper who can help maintain spacing.

    Juancho Hernangomez has flashed that ability often enough to justify giving him a healthy offer sheet.

    Just last season, the 6'9" scoring forward tallied 66 threes at a 36.5 percent clip. Two years prior, he averaged 2.0 long-range makes per 36 minutes and shot 40.7 percent from the outside.

    He can be streaky from distance, but that will be reflected in his price tag. His ability to ignite is also threatening enough that even if his shots aren't falling, he might still have the defense's attention.

    He has his warts (mainly on defense), but again, that should discount his rate. At the right price, he'd be a good get for OKC as a spot-up marksman, a transition attacker and a complementary glass-cleaner.

Orlando Magic: DeMar DeRozan (Player Option)

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    In mid-November, The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor reported the offensively challenged Orlando Magic had "already expressed interest" in trading for DeMar DeRozan. At the time, Orlando had the Association's second-worst offense.

    Fast-forward three-plus months, and the Magic have now climbed all the way to—wait for it—26th in offensive efficiency.

    They don't employ any of the league's 35 players averaging 20-plus points. They're also 29th in both points per game and field-goal percentage, so it's fair to say this attack is barely functional.

    Adding DeRozan would thus still make sense.

    If he joined the Magic today, he'd have team highs in points (22.7), assists (5.2) and field-goal percentage (53.0). His 60.0 true shooting percentage would be another squad-best, and his 21.6 player efficiency rating would slot him second only behind Nikola Vucevic (21.7).

    If DeRozan somehow declines his $27.7 million player option, there won't be many teams racing to pay him like a star. As productive as he is, he's still a 30-year-old who's allergic to the three-point line. But the Magic are desperate enough for his scoring punch that they might consider freeing up some spending money to put a substantial offer in front of him.

Philadelphia 76ers: D.J. Augustin (Unrestricted)

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    The Philadelphia 76ers are already above the 2020-21 luxury-tax threshold, so they'll hope spare change covers most of their necessities. They'll have access to the taxpayer's mid-level exception, which they should utilize to correct some of their perimeter neglect.

    They need more shooting and shot-creating. A Bogdan Bogdanovic or Evan Fournier type would be perfect, but Philly lacks the funds to be that ambitious. Even Jordan Clarkson, Jeff Teague and Goran Dragic will probably cost too much.

    A more realistic approach puts D.J. Augustin in the crosshairs.

    He's going through a mostly abysmal campaign at the moment, but if he wasn't, he might not fit Philly's price range. Unless the Sixers think he's done being a productive NBA player (he's only 32), wagering on him bouncing back sounds more interesting than another trip around the block with Raul Neto.

    Over the past two seasons, Augustin provided 11.0 points, 4.6 assists and 1.6 threes per night while shooting 46.2 percent overall and 42.0 percent from distance. For his career, he's a 37.9 percent three-point splasher and is almost allergic to turnovers (2.3 per 36 minutes). He could bulk up the Sixers' bench, address their shooting shortage and provide another reliable initiator—not bad for a minimal investment, right?

Phoenix Suns: Paul Millsap (Unrestricted)

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    The Phoenix Suns are in a similar place to where the Nuggets sat in 2017. They have assembled young talent, but they've struggled to land the missing piece that pushes them over the top.

    Three years ago, the Nuggets tasked Paul Millsap with filling that void and gave him a three-year, $90 million deal to do it. The Suns could ask the same of the now-35-year-old, only it shouldn't cost them nearly as much to bring him on board.

    He isn't always the easiest addition to sell to a fanbase since he won't light up the counting categories typically associated with stardom. But basketball minds appreciate his immense value as both a Swiss army knife player and a locker room leader. As Nuggets head coach Michael Malone put it during the 2019 playoffs, Millsap "is the calm for our team."

    The Suns need a playoff guide, especially one with the defensive versatility to cover some of Deandre Ayton's weaknesses at that end. Millsap, on a shorter contract with a substantial (but reasonable) annual salary, could be Phoenix's key in snapping what may soon be a 10-year postseason drought.

Portland Trail Blazers: Joe Harris (Unrestricted)

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    Hats off to Carmelo Anthony and Trevor Ariza, a pair of mid-30-somethings who are shattering all realistic expectations since joining the Portland Trail Blazers. But doesn't it say plenty—none of it good—about this wing collection that both could be acquired for almost nothing, walk in and immediately claim starting spots?

    A healthy Rodney Hood would've made the rotation look better, but this team needs more help at the forward spots. With a path to more than mid-level exception money, Portland should have the resources to find some assistance.

    Joe Harris would be perfect. He's an elite perimeter marksman, so defenses can't afford to leave him alone. That means less attention paid to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Harris also holds his own on the defensive end, finishes plays at the rim and keeps the ball moving on offense, so he isn't only a spot-up specialist.

    If the Blazers think they'll be fine without Ariza (only $1.8 million of his $12.8 million salary is guaranteed) and Hassan Whiteside, they can splurge in other areas. Harris should be the first player in their sights.

Sacramento Kings: Bogdan Bogdanovic (Restricted)

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    Sorry to break it to any rival front offices, but the Sacramento Kings aren't letting Bogdan Bogdanovic go. If that was their intention, they would've traded him for something at the deadline.

    Instead, they spent that time cutting costs, presumably to cover Bogdanovic's price tag.

    Before the deadline even passed, NBC Sports Bay Area's James Ham reported the Kings were "likely to match any offer" Bogdanovic receives as a restricted free agent. That "likely" becomes a certainty if the trade winds swirling around Buddy Hield ever spark an actual swap.

    Bogdanovic is a jack-of-all-trades in a good way. He may not have any overwhelming strengths, but he's almost without weaknesses. He works on or off the ball, shoots, scores, distributes and defends. To borrow a bit of coach speak, he makes "winning plays," and the Kings can attest to that. They've gone 9-4 since promoting him to the starting lineup; they were 15-29 before that.

    Bogdanovic may never produce like a traditional star, but he already has the star quality of elevating players around him. And even though he's 27, he could still have growth potential since he only came stateside for his age-25 season.

San Antonio Spurs: Jakob Poeltl (Restricted)

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The biggest summer decision involving the San Antonio Spurs isn't theirs to make. It's all up to DeMar DeRozan as he chooses whether to exercise his $27.7 million player option. It seems more likely than not that he will, but perhaps he'd take more years on a new deal for a lower annual salary.

    Either way, the Spurs can only sit back and watch that one. With Jakob Poeltl, though, they'll be much more involved.

    The No. 9 pick in 2016 may not possess All-Star potential, but he's more than just a big body (7'1", 230 lbs) clogging the middle. He's a reliable presence on the defensive interior, has a soft touch around the basket and will never get cheated on the glass.

    How much is that worth in free agency? Probably more than whatever is earmarked for Bryn Forbes. The Spurs might plan on keeping both, but if that isn't possible, Poeltl's combination of size, defense and vision would be harder to replace than Forbes' outside shooting.

Toronto Raptors: Fred VanVleet (Unrestricted)

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    John Amis/Associated Press

    The Toronto Raptors have loads to figure out this summer, but no inquiry is more pressing than this: How much is too much for Fred VanVleet?

    In a perfect world, the Raptors will re-sign him for the long haul. His entire NBA arc seems to be one improbable breakout after the next.

    Do you remember he was undrafted in 2016? Do you realize he made his first career start in the 2018 postseason? Do you know he's added more points per game to his scoring average this season than ever before (up 6.6 a night from last year)?

    But this isn't a perfect world. It's a reality in which the Raptors are not only facing his free agency, but also juggling the free-agency ventures of Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Oh, and it's likely just a matter of time until the next whispers arise around Masai Ujiri's future, too.

    So, even if the Raptors really, really like VanVleet, this could get complicated—and that's before factoring in any 2021 flexibility they would need to pursue Giannis Antetokounmpo. This might come down to market forces.

    Toronto probably has a target price in mind for VanVleet, but it could get interesting if any outside offers zip past that number.

Utah Jazz: Marcus Morris Sr. (Unrestricted)

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    Ned Dishman/Getty Images

    The Utah Jazz theoretically could have a ton of money to spend in free agency. All they need is for Mike Conley to decline his $34.5 million player option for next season.

    Alas, that isn't happening. So the Jazz, who find themselves needing to plug some uncharacteristic defensive leaks, will therefore be limited to mid-level spending.

    "I feel like it's not in our DNA yet to be dogs defensively as a team," Rudy Gobert told ESPN's Tim MacMahon. "It's in the program's DNA, but we don't come out every night thinking, 'I'm going to be physical; I'm going to make things hard for the other guy.' We need that dog mentality."

    Any team in the market for toughness should take a long look at Marcus Morris Sr. He has that in spades, plus defensive versatility, floor spacing and just enough irrational confidence that he can play over his head in critical stretches.

    Morris could play with Gobert and handle some of the center minutes without him. Morris can also man the 3 spot in supersized lineups. For a Utah team suddenly searching for an identity, Morris' malleability would be an asset.

Washington Wizards: Davis Bertans (Unrestricted)

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The Washington Wizards made 6'10" shooter Davis Bertans available at the trade deadline for the massive asking price of two first-round picks, per The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor.

    That more or less tipped their hands on their free-agency intentions with the big spacer, although they weren't exactly hiding them.

    General manager Tommy Sheppard said in December that the club planned to keep Bertans, per NBC Sports' Chase Hughes. After the deadline, Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix reported Washington "remains committed to re-signing Bertans this summer."

    In other words, all arrows presumably point Bertans back to the District. That sounds just fine to the sharpshooter, whose average scoring output has nearly doubled during his first season there (15.0, up from 8.0).

    "I've been happy with the chance that I'm getting here with the whole idea of what the team is doing for the future and John [Wall] coming back next year," Bertans told B/R's Michael Scotto. "With this team basically with all the guys coming back healthy, we can actually do something in the Eastern Conference."

    The Wizards may have slight reservations about overpaying a specialist, but they know his market will be pricey, and they chose to keep him at the trade deadline anyway. Considering the kind of campaign he's having from distance—3.5 triples per outing at a 42.2 percent clip—it makes all the sense in the world.

    If the Wizards re-sign Bertans, they'll have the ultimate spacing source to help free Wall and Bradley Beal.


    All stats, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball Reference and accurate through games played Feb. 25. Salary information via Basketball Insiders.

    Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.

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