NBA Free Agency 2020: Predictions for Gordon Hayward, Fred VanVleet and More

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 12, 2020

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MARCH 08: Gordon Hayward #20 of the Boston Celtics shoots over Danilo Gallinari #8 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during the fourth quarter of the game at TD Garden on March 08, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)
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This probably won't be a landscape-shifting kind of offseason for the NBA, as 2020 free agency is light on both star power and win-now spenders.

But impact players will inevitably ink new deals, and some are sure to swap jerseys in the process.

Below, we'll examine three of the biggest flight risks on the market and predict whether they'll be staying or going.


Gordon Hayward, Boston Celtics

Free agency feels like an open-and-shut case for Hayward. If he stays put and exercises his player option, he'll collect a cool $34.2 million to fill a semi-featured role on an Eastern Conference elite for his college coach (Brad Stevens).

Not a bad gig, right?

That said, it's only a one-year pact, and for a 30-year-old who already had one season erased by injury, maybe he'll seek more security. If he waits until next offseason, there will be more spenders, but there will also be far more marquee free agents, perhaps including Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, among many others.

Would Hayward stand out in that market? Would he be a priority of the Celtics, who will owe huge money to Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and (presumably) Jayson Tatum by then? Hayward has had a solid season in 2019-20, but not quite a special one (17.3 points and 4.1 assists per game), and he's already missed 19 games.

Maybe the salary is too enormous to pass up, since he clearly won't match it on his next contract. The way our crystal ball sees it, though, the bigger appeal to Hayward should be having a future with Boston, and he can set that up this offseason.

Prediction: Hayward declines player option, signs a four-year deal to stay with Celtics.


Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors

VanVleet owes a lot to the Raptors, as they gave him his first NBA opportunity, then a championship ring and finally a fully featured starting spot.

Still, this is a business, and as far as free agency is concerned, that perhaps gets Toronto nothing more than a tiny head start with VanVleet. He has already stated he'd like to stick around "in a perfect world," but that quote comes attached to the reality that free agency is seldom perfect.

The Raptors surely have some desire to keep him around. They have the second-best record in the East, and he's a major reason why. He leads them in steals (1.9), ranks second in assists (6.6) and lands third in points (17.6). This is only his fourth NBA season and first as a full-time starter.

Remember, though, Toronto has other decisions to make this offseason, like the free-agency fates of Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris Boucher. And it can only spend so much without spoiling its massive dreams for 2021.

There's a price point where it makes sense for VanVleet and the Raptors to re-up, but his market could blow past that. He'll have enough interest among the rebuilders—the Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks need long-term point guards—to make more money elsewhere.

Prediction: VanVleet signs a four-year deal with Knicks.


Danilo Gallinari, Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder don't make their surprising push to the Western Conference's No. 5 seed without Gallinari. His steady scoring (19.2) and sweet shooting (3.0 threes at a 40.9 percent clip) at the 4 spot has been invaluable to this offense, which functions at its best when he's on the floor (116.8 points per 100 possessions).

Normally, that might be reason enough for a postseason participant to keep a veteran around. But OKC isn't your normal postseason participant. It might have caught lightning in a bottle for this season, but the organization likely still requires a near complete overhaul after jettisoning both Russell Westbrook and Paul George last season.

Part of that housecleaning process should involve letting Gallinari walk. He makes too much sense for the contenders with cap space—who couldn't use a 6'10" forward with a career connection rate of 38.1 percent from three?—for the Thunder to justify covering the cost of his next contract.

The stars are seemingly aligning for Gallinari to take his talents to South Beach. The Miami Heat were reportedly hot on his trail at the trade deadline, and their roster is still screaming for a scoring forward with range. While they have their own huge plans for next summer, they also have the wiggle room to throw an enormous one-year salary at Gallinari so both can return to the market in 2021.

Prediction: Gallinari signs a two-year deal with Heat that has a team option for 2021-22.