NBA Free Agents 2020: Predictions for Derrick Jones Jr., Tristan Thompson & More

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMay 31, 2020

Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. (5) in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, in Miami, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

For NBA fans, the prospect of the league returning for postseason play is exciting. For the teams that don't have a shot at reaching the playoffs, the offseason will be when the action starts.

That action could begin with free agency.

According to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the league is considering moving free agency ahead of the 2020 draft.

While this year's free-agent class is headlined by the likes of Anthony Davis, there's a strong chance he returns to the Los Angeles Lakers—a chance that could grow if they manager to win the championship. It's likely that the biggest impact moves of free agency will involve role players like Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr.

This season, Jones has averaged 8.9 points and 4.2 rebounds while playing 24.5 minutes per game and shooting 51.4 percent fro the floor. He isn't going to be a centerpiece player like Davis, but he can be a marquee addition for the right roster.

Regardless of whether he leaves or returns to Miami, Jones is likely to get paid.

"Based on his contributions to the Heat this season, including his defensive metrics, and boosted by his popularity created by his victory in the dunk contest during All-Star Saturday, Jones would appear poised for at least a four-fold raise," Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel wrote.

As The Athletic's John Hollinger pointed out several weeks ago, Miami may be reluctant to give Jones a major pay increase because it's looking to pursue a big-name free agent like Giannis Antetokounmpo  in 2021.

While Miami does have the feel of a long-term contender, Jones will probably want to strike while his market is hot.

Prediction: Jones departs Miami in free agency.


Will Cleveland Keep Tristan Thompson

Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson is another player likely to be coveted on the open market, largely for his defensive prowess and rebounding skills—he averaged 10.1 rebounds per game this season.

While bringing him back would make sense for Cleveland, the presence of Andre Drummond could make that difficult. Drummond has an option year, and if he opts-in, the Cavaliers probably won't want to pay Thompson too.

"He is a free agent. Let's assume Drummond picks up his $28 million option. Kevin Love is under contract for $31 million. [Larry Nance Jr.] has a $12 million salary in 2021," Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com wrote. "That's $71 million in three big guys. They are not going to add Thompson to that list."

And the Cavs will likely have to pay Thompson handsomely to retain him. According to Evan Dammarell of Forbes, Cleveland had trade offers for Thompson before the deadline but did not pull the trigger.

Expect the Cavaliers to roll with Drummond over Thompson next season.

Prediction: Drummond opts-in; Thompson leaves Cleveland.


Knicks Looking for Shooters?

The New York Knicks might not have a specific player in mind for free agency, but they do have a role they woud like to fill. With rookie RJ Barrett appearing to be the team's new centerpiece, the Knicks are looking for players who can mesh with him.

According to SNT's Ian Begley, this includes outside shooters:

"The obvious one for New York this season was outside shooting. That's why some in the organization see finding a lead guard who can knock down a shot as a priority for the offseason. ... One person in touch with members of the organization at the time said part of the thinking for the club's offseason was centered around finding players who complement rookie RJ Barrett."

For the Knicks, Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Harris could be the perfect target. He's still just 28 and could have several good years alongside Barrett, providing the perimeter shooting New York seeks; this season, he has shot 41.2 percent from beyond the arc.

Prediction: Knicks make a run at Harris in free agency.