1 Prediction for Every Team in 2020 NBA Free Agency

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 2, 2020

1 Prediction for Every Team in 2020 NBA Free Agency

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    NBA free agency is always unpredictable, but this year's version takes the label in a completely different direction.

    No one knows when it will start, how long it will last or even where the salary cap will sit. In that sense, it will be unlike anything we've experienced.

    When it comes to player movement, though, it's not going to reshape the hoops landscape how some free-agent classes do. There wasn't much cap space to begin with, and even that amount is in question given the staggering financial hit of the season's suspension. There aren't many potential spenders at this point, and that group is mostly comprised of long-term rebuilders.

    Our crystal ball, then, isn't envisioning a ton of notable movement in this market. We'll use it to make one prediction for all 30 teams, valuing accuracy over boldness for the most realistic guide.

Atlanta Hawks: John Collins Gets a Non-Max Extension

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Since 2010, only nine players have totaled 2,800 points and 1,500 rebounds over their first three seasons. John Collins is one of them. He's also the group's leader in true field-goal percentage (63.4).

    The 22-year-old produces like an All-Star (21.6 points, 10.1 rebounds this season), and he's seemingly in a state of perpetual improvement. Before the campaign's suspension, he was cruising toward career bests in threes (1.4), blocks (1.6) and three-point percentage (40.1).

    He looks like a cornerstone, and that's how the rebuilding Hawks should handle him. While they could delay his new deal until next summer, they should make the splash signing now while the pool of potential spenders remains so shallow.

    Some around the league have suggested "hesitation" on Atlanta's part about giving Collins "significant money," per The Athletic's Chris Kirschner, but an annual salary in the $20 million range feels like a win for both sides. That's generational wealth for Collins and flexibility for the Hawks, both in terms of saving some spending money and making it easier to move the bouncy big man if there's too much overlap between him and Clint Capela.

Boston Celtics: Gordon Hayward Picks Up Player Option

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    Gordon Hayward had one season erased by injury and another impacted by the resulting rust. He finally looks back to his old form, but he has still had to work around some medical obstacles. He also celebrated his 30th birthday in March.

    Finding long-term security on a new contract will surely have some appeal. But it won't come close to the attraction of a gargantuan $34.2 million salary, which he can collect by picking up his player option and again playing a featured role in the Celtics' championship chase.

    As an added bonus, if he maintains (or even picks up) his play next season, he could find a much richer deal available in 2021 than whatever will be on the table in this year's market.

    "It's too much money to pass up," a general manager told Heavy.com's Sean Deveney. "... He can opt in this year and then take a big contract next year. When you look at what he has done since his injury, he has only gotten better. He could get better next year and be ready for the summer of 2021."

Brooklyn Nets: Joe Harris Gets Paid

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    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    Kevin Durant will turn 32 before next season starts. Kyrie Irving will be 29 before it's finished. Both are coming off significant injuries. The Nets don't have a ton of time to construct a contender around their talented twosome.

    They're acting with urgency, too. They cut ties with coach Kenny Atkinson, who "never connected" with Brooklyn's stars, per Shams Charania and Alex Schiffer of The Athletic. They're searching for a third star who would presumably boost their championship chances more than their young talent can.

    That same mindset should steer Brooklyn toward locking up long-range sniper Joe Harris. Few things are more helpful for offensive superstars than a marksman who demands constant attention. Defenses know better than to leave Harris alone. He has the 15th-most triples since 2017-18, and his 43.6 percent connection rate over that stretch is third-best among players with 200-plus makes.

    He'll be costly to keep, but if the Nets are as ready to pay the luxury tax as they say, then giving him a new deal should be a no-brainer.

Charlotte Hornets: Make Max Offer to Brandon Ingram

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    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    The Hornets are quietly assembling some interesting complementary parts, but they're missing the kind of star who could bring the buzz to post-Kemba Walker Buzz City.

    Brandon Ingram would be a dream get. He's young, long and incredibly skilled. You already know he made his All-Star debut this season. You may not realize he also became just the eighth player 22 or younger to average 24 points, six rebounds and four assists.

    That's reason enough for Michael Jordan and Co. to route every armored truck in the Carolinas toward Ingram's direction. But it gets better. The smooth swingman is a North Carolina native who played his high school hoops in Kinston and his college ball at Duke.

    Ingram is almost the perfect main character for Charlotte's chapter, but there's a catch. He's a restricted free agent, and it's hard to see the New Orleans Pelicans letting him go. That said, there's no harm in the Hornets holding the Pels' feet to the fire by getting Ingram's signature on a max-level offer sheet.

Chicago Bulls: Otto Porter Jr. Takes Player Option

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    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    You know the "Door No. 1 or Door No. 2?" setup of some game shows? Apply that to Otto Porter Jr.'s offseason, and it looks something like this.

    Door No. 1 includes all the uncertainties of a cash-strapped market and its cloudy interest in a player who has never been a star and has struggled with injuries the past two seasons. Door No. 2, meanwhile, is already open and contains a guaranteed $28.5 million by way of his player option with the Bulls.

    Guess which door he's choosing?

    Truth be told, that could be good news for the Windy City. Porter will be overpaid, but the Bulls are short on impact wings, and that's exactly what he was upon arrival at the 2019 deadline. He played 15 games before a shoulder injury shut him down, averaging 17.5 points on 48.3 percent shooting (48.8 from three), 5.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists. He was the only Bull with a positive net rating.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Andre Drummond Stays Put

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    The Cavaliers are in the crawling stage of their latest post-LeBron James rebuild. If they couldn't attract elite talent when they rostered the King, they certainly aren't luring them in with Kevin Love, Collin Sexton and Darius Garland as bait.

    So Cleveland assessed its options and effectively made its free-agency splurge at the deadline, adding Andre Drummond for next to nothing (expiring contracts and a future second-rounder). His $28.8 million player option and the Association's declining interest in interior centers made him a salary dump.

    That's how he's valued on the open market, so he has to know he wouldn't sniff a similar salary in free agency.

    "According to multiple sources, Drummond picking up his option remains most likely," Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor reported. "It's also most logical. Just look at what the Pistons received at the deadline. ... That's a perfect portrait of his declining value."

    The silver lining for Cavaliers fans is that Drummond has purpose (just not $28.8 million of it). He has the highest career rebounding percentage of the last 50 years (24.5), and he's on pace to post a personal-best scoring average for the second straight season (17.7).

Dallas Mavericks: Tim Hardaway Jr. Declines Option, Inks New Deal

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    Tim Hardaway Jr. has long offered an intriguing blend of shooting and athleticism, but his production never matched up to the four-year, $71 million deal he signed in 2017. It still isn't quite there, which will tempt him to pick up his $19 million player option.

    But he should shoot for a longer deal in Dallas, which has proved to be the perfect NBA home. It's easier to choose his spots (and up his efficiency) by playing off Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. Not to mention, Hardaway has picked up some hands-on pointers from head coach Rick Carlisle, who is one of the swingman's biggest fans.

    "I just love the way he plays," Carlisle told reporters. "He goes hard, he cares about winning, and he is one of our leaders. ... Tim is about the right stuff. He is a culture guy, he gets onto teammates, and he cares. Guys like him aren't growing on trees."

    Hardaway has a top-20 three-point percentage among volume shooters (40.7) and Dallas' third-highest scoring average (15.8). If he would lower his annual salary for a longer deal, the Mavs could lock up their ace shooter and still have the flexibility for a major purchase before Doncic needs his first colossal contract.

Denver Nuggets: Jerami Grant Stays, Paul Millsap Goes

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    The Nuggets probably aren't bringing back both Jerami Grant and Paul Millsap. That's not an official report, but the tea leaves seem pretty certain.

    They already felt a budget crunch and opted to move Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez at the deadline. They'll soon go from paying Jamal Murray $4.4 million to $29 million. They can't crowd the 4 spot, since that's where freshman phenom Michael Porter Jr. primarily plays. And they have other free agents to pay, like wing stopper Torrey Craig and maybe backup big man Mason Plumlee.

    Denver, then, is left choosing between its free-agent 4s. (Grant holds a $9.3 million player optionbut declining it seems a safe bet.) Millsap has the edge in skill and versatility. Grant is younger and far more athletic. Since the Nuggets' best players are 25 (Nikola Jokic) and 23 (Murray), Grant is the better option to keep the contending window open for longer.

Detroit Pistons: Christian Wood Departs

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    The Pistons deemed Christian Wood worthy of a no-risk waiver claim last offseason, and he rewarded their curiosity with a head-turning breakout.

    He was a per-minute monster early in the year, and he upped the entirety of that production when a featured role finally came his way. Over his final 15 outings, he averaged 22.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.7 threes and 1.0 blocks while shooting 56.2 percent from the field and 41.0 from three.

    One might assume the Motor City will do everything in its power to keep him around, but it's complicated. As Pistons.com's Keith Langlois noted, the team only has Wood's early Bird rights, which only matters for a contract with "a first-year salary of slightly more than $10 million." If Wood commands more than that, the Pistons are just another bidder (at least in business terms).

    Given his combination of size, skill and athleticism, Wood could easily rocket past that number. He's a 24-year-old who has shown glimpses of All-Star ability, and he's an unrestricted free agent. He can—and should—spark a bidding war among the rebuilders, and while the Pistons will surely be involved, their lack of contract advantages makes it safer to pick the field.

Golden State Warriors: Add Size

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    The Warriors might be synonymous with small ball, but Steve Kerr prefers to use it as the ace up his sleeve. Draymond Green often closes the most critical situations at the 5, but only 9 percent of his career minutes have been at center. Usually, the Dubs have a more traditional center to withstand the interior bruising: Andrew Bogut, Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee, etc.

    Golden State doesn't have that center on next season's roster. It's hard to say what's even around on the frontcourt. Green's player efficiency rating is in a four-year decline. Kevon Looney can't stay healthy. Marquese Chriss' contact is partially guaranteed for next year and Dragan Bender is unsigned beyond this season, and neither is exactly a proven win-now contributor.

    The Warriors have to get bigger. It's unclear how they feel about the draft's top big man, James Wiseman—Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle reported they weren't interested; B/R's Ric Bucher heard otherwise—and even he'd only be of so much assistance to a championship chase as a raw 19-year-old.

    Golden State could use the taxpayer mid-level exception to court a free-agent veteran like Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol or Paul Millsap. It could also try turning the $17.2 million trade exception from last summer's Andre Iguodala into a usable big man. Either way, it has to scratch this itch for size.

Houston Rockets: Spend the MLE on a Shooter

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    When the Rockets veered into super small ball by shipping out Clint Capela at the deadline, they had two goals in mind.

    The first was to unclutter the interior so Russell Westbrook could barrel toward the basket in a wide-open attack lane. That part of the process worked to perfection. He averaged 31.7 points on 54.6/38.5/72.6 shooting in 11 games after the swap.

    But the deal also helped Houston access the non-taxpayer mid-level exception that should be more valuable this year than most given the dearth of cap space. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said the flexibility should net "a significant player" in free agency, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

    Just like at the deadline, the Rockets will try to give their stars maximum support. In this case, that means buying the best shooter the MLE can buy. If that's enough to fetch Joe Harris or Davis Bertans, the NBA's second-best offense grows even more potent.

Indiana Pacers: Explore Myles Turner Trade

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    Teams tried prying Myles Turner out of the Circle City during last year's draft, but the Pacers declined all overtures, per ESPN's Zach Lowe. The phone calls kept coming into the season, but a January update from Lowe said the Pacers "continue to turn away teams" who have their eyes on Turner.

    But Indiana can only kick the can on splitting up its bigs for so long.

    The team can't feature both Turner and Domantas Sabonis. It needs to choose, and if you paid attention this season, you might assume it already did. Sabonis, who snagged a $77 million extension before the campaign opened, turned the Pacers' third-highest usage rate into his first All-Star selection. Turner, meanwhile, had his fewest points and shots since his rookie season.

    Still, teams keep calling about Turner for a reason. He's the only player to tally 100 blocks and 50 threes in each of the last three seasons. Despite the down season on the stat sheet, his value should still be high, especially as cash-strapped clubs turn to the trade market to find their biggest additions. The Pacers have to field those inquiries.

Los Angeles Clippers: Marcus Morris Sr. Stays, Montrezl Harrell Goes

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    In a perfect world, the Clippers bring back both Marcus Morris Sr. and Montrezl Harrell. That not only keeps this roster as competitive as possible—they would have limited resources for replacements—but it also communicates a willingness to spend to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, who can each escape his deal in 2021.

    But—hot take alert—we don't live in a perfect world. The Clippers have to think about flexibility for the rest of their roster needs. They don't have a playmaking point guard signed beyond this season, and some have questioned their center rotation.

    Plus, L.A. isn't the only team bidding. The Hornets need a new center and a go-to scorer. Harrell, a North Carolina native, could address both needs. The Pistons are in a similar spot, minus the hometown connection.

    Harrell's contract talks could prove too rich for the Clippers. Morris' won't reach that high, and given what L.A. paid at the trade deadline, this franchise should be ready to pay whatever it (reasonably) takes.

Los Angeles Lakers: Anthony Davis Opts out for Three-Year Deal

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Anthony Davis declining his $28.8 million player option felt like a formality. But under the league's new economics, it's possible that's the best the Brow can do.

    "It might not make as much sense for Davis to opt out as initially thought," B/R's Eric Pincus wrote. "If the cap drops far enough, Davis may want to maximize his income by opting in and then either signing an extension or re-signing in 2021."

    Without knowing where the cap is headed, though, the safe money remains on Davis declining his option and signing a new deal to stay in Southern California.

    Lakers fans might hope for a five-year max, but look for Davis to find a balance between cashing out and keeping his options open. A three-year deal with an opt-out in 2022—when he's a 10-year vet and can ink an even bigger max—helps maximize his earnings and keep pressure on the front office to field a contending-caliber roster around him.

Memphis Grizzlies: De'Anthony Melton Returns

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    The Grizzlies could've played a part in free agency, but they effectively spent their cap space early. Between deadline deals for Justise Winslow and Gorgui Dieng, plus Dillon Brooks' contract extension, Memphis already invested its money.

    But the organization will want to find enough funds to cover De'Anthony Melton's restricted free agency.

    His willingness to do the dirty work allows the Grizzlies' higher-profile youngsters to shine. He's a scrappy, physical defender and a willing ball-mover. Memphis had nine players clear 1,000 minutes this season. Melton led that group with a plus-10.4 net rating differential; Brandon Clarke was No. 2 at plus-2.8.

    Keeping Melton is a must. Retaining Josh Jackson would be nice, too, but Melton is the clear priority.

Miami Heat: Finally Get Danilo Gallinari

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    The Heat had Danilo Gallinari in their grasp at the trade deadline and with him, a potential path through the Eastern Conference playoffs. The two sides were discussing a contract extension, but that's where things fell apart. Back-and-forth negotiations on a short-term extension never yielded an agreement, per B/R's Michael Scotto.

    So Gallo still calls Oklahoma City home, and Miami tries to make do without the extra scoring and shooting threat its offense needs. That could (and should) all change this summer.

    The Heat have the cap space to throw a massive one-year deal (or two years with a team option) at Gallinari, and that wouldn't have any bearing on their grandiose designs for 2021. Gallinari, meanwhile, can join a contender that will pay and feature him like a star.

    It's a match made in hoops heaven. Unless Anthony Davis decides he wants to sample South Beach, Miami could not make better use of its flexibility this summer, and Gallo isn't finding the same combination of dollars and team success anywhere else.

Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Declines the Supermax

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    A supermax extension offer is coming for Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks have already said as much (and paid dearly for doing so).

    His decision will be felt across all angles of the basketball world. The 25-year-old should be en route to collecting his second consecutive MVP award. He has made Milwaukee into the overall wins leader this season and last. He's such a dominant force that he could transform virtually any team into a contender.

    Everyone wants to know whether he will stay or go, but that's not exactly what his supermax deal would indicate. There's a scenario in which he sticks with Milwaukee but bypasses the supermax for a shorter agreement.

    "Part of the NBA's cachet is that the landscape can change quickly," The Athletic's Danny Leroux noted. "Free agency, trades and the draft keep talent moving and the shift towards shorter contracts has further amplified the whirlwind. Committing to a team for six seasons largely takes a star out of that process for better and worse."

    Antetokounmpo can really like Milwaukee and still not want to lock in his next six seasons there. The Bucks have a bunch of 30-somethings on the roster, and there's no telling how long they'll be effective or how they'll be replaced by a team in a non-destination market that will probably have a late draft pick every season. Tack on the possibility that Antetokounmpo might just prefer to play elsewhere, and it seems more likely than not he'll turn down the mammoth offer.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Malik Beasley Gets Paid

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    It's always a good sign for a restricted free agent when a team trades for him ahead of his venture to the open market. It's an even better sign when that player erupts upon arrival.

    Malik Beasley probably envisioned a long future with the Timberwolves as soon as they brokered the four-team trade that brought him to the Gopher State. He made that vision a more likely reality shortly thereafter.

    He had 23 points, 10 rebounds and seven three-pointers in his Timberwolves debut. That more or less served as an indication of what was to come. He played 14 games before the season's suspension and averaged 20.7 points and 3.5 triples while shooting 47.2 percent and 42.6 percent from three.

    Minnesota, which needs other scoring threats to keep defenders from crowding Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell, has to keep Beasley around. It could float a bloated, shorter deal his way (maybe two years in the $50 million range) or offer a longer pact with a smaller salary (say, four years, $70 million). Either way, the Wolves can't let him go.

New Orleans Pelicans: Match Brandon Ingram's Max Offer

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    You'd think Brandon Ingram's restricted free agency is a no-brainer for the Pelicans. He's a 22-year-old who just made his first All-Star appearance. They're rebuilding around a generational 19-year-old talent who needs a long-term costar. The fit is perfect.

    But the free-agency process might still get messy.

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

    One (or more) of the rebuilders probably has a max offer for Ingram, but New Orleans can force the scoring forward to prove that. The Pelicans can then match a four-year max instead of giving him the full five.

    It's risky, as players can get put off by having to drum up their own deal. At the same time, it's probably the right business move. As good as Ingram looked this season, this followed three non-star years to start his career, and two of those were derailed by injuries.

New York Knicks: Carmelo Anthony Returns

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    Back in his super-agent days, Leon Rose brought Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks once. Now that he has taken over as the 'Bockers president of basketball operations, Rose might do it again.

    Before Rose's first day on the job, Marc Berman of the New York Post was already reporting the Knicks were "expected to be interested" in an Anthony reunion. The scoring forward was pressed on the possibility in February and didn't rule it out.

    "It's hard to say because I don't know what that situation is going to be," Anthony told Newsday's Al Iannazzone. "The easiest thing to say is, 'His agent is there, he's coming back.' Until I sit down and see the whole plan, I don't know."

    Shortly after the Anthony report, there were rumblings from ESPN's Frank Isola about New York eyeing a trade for Chris Paul, another of Rose's former clients.

    The Paul situation is tricky, since there are other elements at play. Are the Thunder definitely going to deal him? Would other teams place any offers? Do the Knicks have a walkaway price point for the trade talks? Is it high enough to satisfy OKC's demands?

    With Anthony, those question marks don't really exist. He might want to see the Knicks' blueprint, but if they're already considering both him and Paul, then it sounds like they remain on the perpetual hunt for quick fixes. Anthony, who has averaged 15.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game for the Portland Trail Blazers this season, could help that effort.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Let Gallinari Leave and Shop Vets

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    OKC's better-than-expected season showed Billy Donovan's coaching acumen, Chris Paul's point-god brilliance and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's giant growth potential.

    But it changed nothing about the state of this franchise. The Russell Westbrook-less, Paul George-less Thunder remain in desperate need of a rebuild, and this offseason should help fuel it.

    Unless Danilo Gallinari's market absolutely collapses, he should be allowed to walk. The Thunder aren't in position to make major investments in a 30-something, let alone one with such a lengthy injury history.

    They are in position to shop Paul to any and every team with a point guard vacancy. He remains a ranking member of the NBA's elite—ninth in real plus-minus—but his contract is among the league's worst. It might make sense for a contender to plug their nose and pay it, but not OKC. And on that note, if anyone makes a serious offer for Steven Adams or Dennis Schroder, the Thunder must hear them out.

Orlando Magic: Evan Fournier Exercises Option

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    In a normal market, Evan Fournier perhaps could've convinced himself to decline his $17.2 million player option.

    He was having his best scoring season (18.8 points per game) and one of his best years in assists (3.2 per game), field-goal percentage (47.0) and three-point percentage (40.6). He's also approaching his age-28 season, so his next big deal is probably his last.

    But even in a typical offseason, his value would be murky. As The Athletic's Josh Robbins relayed, many people around the league "do not think [Fournier] would be a top-three offensive option on an above-average team" and might be "best utilized coming off the bench" for a contender.

    Is that ever worth an annual salary in the $17 million range? It definitely isn't now. If Fournier isn't on next season's Magic, it will be because he took some awful financial advice or they traded him away.

Philadelphia 76ers: Pursue a Point Guard

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    After such an up-and-down season, the Sixers will at least examine making wholesale changes. No, that doesn't mean splitting Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons apart—although, for the right price, anything is possible—but everything short of that is worth exploring.

    Would anyone want Al Horford instead of whichever overpaid player is on their roster? Does a scoring-starved squad think Tobias Harris could be its answer? Do any rebuilders still consider Zhaire Smith interesting?

    Whether the Sixers opt for major adjustments or moves around the margins, point guard should be the focus. On the high end, it might be a blockbuster move for Chris Paul. On the lower end, it's a bargain-bin pull with more upside than unrestricted-free-agent-to-be Raul Neto.

    Philly needs more shot-creators or at least capable passers. The abundance of size and shooting shortage make it a tricky roster for the modern game, but there's an abundance of talent if anyone can solve the puzzle.

Phoenix Suns: Acquire an Impact 4

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    The Suns were lost in the Arizona desert for the better part of the last decade, but they're finally on the brink of being interesting.

    Devin Booker made his All-Star leap. Deandre Ayton positioned himself to be only the second sophomore to average at least 19 points and 12 rebounds in the last 20 years. Ricky Rubio ignited this offense with his passing and brought the defense out of the basement. Kelly Oubre Jr., Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson all brought something different (and valuable) to the wing spots.

    But lost from that discussion is an impact power forward, which Phoenix hoped Dario Saric would be. Instead, the 26-year-old averaged his fewest minutes and points, while the Suns fared 2.2 points worse per 100 possessions with him than without. They shopped him at the deadline and do not want him back next season, according to Arizona Sports' John Gambadoro (via Bright Side of the Sun's Evan Sidery).

    The Suns have the resources to do better this offseason. Free agency offers the clearest path to an upgrade such as Danilo Gallinari, Christian Wood or Paul Millsap. But if Phoenix explores the trade market, maybe it can work its way to Aaron Gordon or even Lauri Markkanen.

Portland Trail Blazers: Trevor Ariza Stays, Hassan Whiteside Goes

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    For everything that went wrong with the Blazers this season, their one-year experiment with Hassan Whiteside exceeded expectations.

    They needed him to hold down the middle while Jusuf Nurkic worked his way back from a fractured leg, and Whiteside answered the call with a career high in rebounds (14.2 per game) and his second-most points (16.3) and blocks (3.1) per game. This wasn't empty production, either. Portland actually played 9.1 points better per 100 possessions with Whiteside on the floor, giving him the highest net differential among the rotation regulars.

    Whiteside wasn't perfect, but he did exactly what the Blazers needed. That shouldn't change the temporary nature of the relationship. When Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins are healthy, there's no need for Whiteside. Even on a discounted deal, he'd clutter the frontcourt rotation and perhaps slow the development of younger, higher-upside players.

    While we have already signaled where we think Carmelo Anthony is headed (back to NYC, if you missed it), our crystal ball does have the Blazers guaranteeing Trevor Ariza's $12.8 million salary. It's by no means cheap, but if he keeps hitting his threes (40 percent over 21 games in Portland) and holding his own as a starting forward, it's better than losing him and lacking the means to replace him.

Sacramento Kings: Bogdan Bogdanovic Re-Signs, Buddy Hield Is Traded

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    Save for printing a contract offer and displaying it at the Golden 1 Center, the Kings could not have been clearer about their intentions to re-sign Bogdan Bogdanovic.

    They cleared a spot for him the starting lineup by sitting Buddy Hield. Next, Sacramento freed the funds to bring Bogdanovic back, which Marc Stein of the New York Times reported was a "major motivation" in the Dewayne Dedmon deadline deal. Considering the Kings went 13-7 after promoting Bogdanovic to the opening group, they have no reason to second-guess themselves.

    The only question is whether Sacramento extends its own offer or makes him find his own as a restricted free agent. Either way, his job looks safe.

    But if he stays, Hield might have to go. The sharpshooter wasn't happy about losing his starting gig, and he could request a move if nothing changes, per The Athletic's Shams Charania, Sam Amick and Jason Jones. The Kings could even beat Hield to the punch if they're less than thrilled at the idea of paying $26.4 million to an instant-offense reserve.

San Antonio Spurs: DeMar DeRozan Opts In

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    Why would DeMar DeRozan leave $27.7 million on the table?

    Actually, let's rephrase that. Why would DeRozan decline a $27.7 million player option as a 30-year-old non-shooter in a league obsessed with perimeter shots? Why would he walk away from that money and into a market were few teams have money and most that do aren't looking to spend on a player his age?

    He wouldn't.

    "The only realistic options are he picks up his player option, and, at the very least, finishes his current contract in San Antonio or the Spurs find a way to deal him," The Athletic's Matthew Tynan wrote in April.

    DeRozan is probably going nowhere, then. Even as a gifted scorer (22.2 points per game) and improving playmaker (5.6 assists), his limitations as a shooter and a defender are too great to overlook—especially at this price. In 10 of his 11 NBA seasons, his team has played better without him.

Toronto Raptors: Fred VanVleet Prices Way Out

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    Few players will have many options in this market, but Fred VanVleet is on that list.

    As Yahoo Sports' Keith Smith put it, VanVleet "is the lone starting point guard that is expected to be available." In other words, every club with an opening at the lead guard spot will be in (heavily) on VanVleet.

    He already has a championship under his belt, so every team with winning aspirations can see how he impacts success. But even as a 26-year-old, he could convince rebuilders he has some untapped potential, as this is just his fourth NBA season, and he entered it with only 28 career starts. He also works on or off the basketball, so he can fit with almost any backcourt partner.

    The Raptors surely want him back, but they can't get carried away with his contract. They have a number of players entering free agency (including Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka), and they want to maintain maximum flexibility for 2021, according to Adrian Wojnarowski (h/t RealGM). Toronto needs to show restraint, and that could be enough for the Pistons, Knicks or another rebuilder to blow past the Raptors' offer and lure VanVleet back south of the border.

Utah Jazz: Jordan Clarkson Stays

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    Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

    If this season ever resumes, the Jazz could record 50-plus wins for the third time in four years. In fact, this should be the best team they've fielded under Quin Snyder.

    That's reason enough to avoid doing anything too dramatic. Even if Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell need to repair their relationship, the Jazz shouldn't consider moving either one unless they're forced to do so. Mike Conley is going nowhere either with $34.5 million headed his way next season.

    Utah will focus on supporting its core, not breaking it up. Keeping Jordan Clarkson should be the highest priority. He breathed new life into the Jazz bench—they were 18-12 before his arrival and 23-11 after—and played some of the best basketball of his career. Neither side should complicate this.

    "The Jazz want to keep Clarkson, and they have his Bird rights, which means they can offer him an extra year," Tony Jones of The Athletic wrote in April. "Much of the league has no salary cap space, and the teams who do have cap space aren't currently winning situations. So, the Jazz can offer money, years and a defined role to Clarkson in the prime of his career."

    Bonus prediction for the Jazz: Mitchell gets a max extension offer as soon as he's eligible and inks it immediately.

Washington Wizards: Davis Bertans Doubles Salary in DC

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    As Davis Bertans established himself as an elite shooter, the Wizards told anyone who would listen they intended to keep him past the deadline and retain him in free agency. But that didn't stop their phones from ringing.

    "There was never a doubt in my mind that we wanted to keep him," Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard told NBC Sports' Chase Hughes. "But I promise you that the more you say you want to keep somebody, the more teams don't want to believe you and they keep calling."

    Bertans made it past the trade deadline, and he's almost certainly ticketed for a major raise with the Wizards.

    His three-ball is lethal. Only six players totaled more splashes this season, and he had the fifth-best connection rate among all players with 100-plus makes. As a 6'10" combo big man, he helps provide optimal spacing, and Washington will want to keep the attack lanes clear for Bradley Beal and John Wall.


    All stats courtesy of NBA.com, ESPN.com and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.

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


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