NBA Free Agency 2020: Latest Predictions for Goran Dragic, Sleeper Targets

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 2, 2020

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) dribbles the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Sunday, March 8, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Nick Wass/Associated Press

The best move an NBA team can make isn't always a blockbuster.

Now more than ever, free-agent shoppers will be on the lookout for undervalued contributors. With budgets tightened nearly across the Association, competition could be fierce for the second and third tiers of the player pool.

Knowing the super-sized difference a sleeper signing can make—think how much mileage the Golden State Warriors got out of signing Shaun Livingston and how little attention the addition received at the time—the following three contributors can easily outperform the amount of their next contracts and the fanfare (or lack thereof) paid to their announcements.


Goran Dragic, Miami Heat

A late-career move to Miami's second unit has invigorated the Dragon, and he's back to being one of the more quietly effective offensive weapons in the game.

He's never been a more active shooter from distance (2.2 threes per game), and he's still burying an above-average amount of his attempts (37.7 percent). He's also more than doubling his turnovers (2.5) with assists (5.1) and continues getting what he wants around the basket (67.8 percent shooting within three feet) despite being a 34-year-old with limited athleticism.

He should have his share of suitors in free agency, especially as "Plan A" targets start coming off the board. He'd be a fun get for the Dallas Mavericks alongside fellow Slovenian Luka Doncic, Dragic could scratch the Philadelphia 76ers' itch for more scoring and shooting and he could help the Atlanta Hawks avoid complete collapses playing in relief of Trae Young.

But Dragic might not find a better situation than his current one, as the Heat have enough depth to keep from burning him out but also need his contributions. Miami also has the flexibility to throw a big short-term offer at him, so long as it's off the books in time for the Heat to go whale hunting next offseason.

Prediction: Dragic re-signs with Heat.


Serge Ibaka, Toronto Raptors

The Raptors moved a first-round pick and a prospect to get Serge Ibaka at the 2017 trade deadline and inked him to a three-year, $65 million deal that summer. Clearly, the franchise is a fan of his game.

He collected his first championship ring with the Raptors last season and will be competing for another when this campaign restarts. If you're struggling to think of reasons why he'd look elsewhere in free agency, so is he.

"I'm going to stay, bro," Ibaka said in a recent interview. "This place is beautiful. ... It's a beautiful city, beautiful people here and then we have one of the best teams. Why leave?"

If this sounds like Ibaka's free agency should be an open-and-shut case, then let us remind you about the business of basketball. Ideal situations don't always stay that way.

There might be mutual interest in a reunion now, but the Raptors also have to address the free agencies of Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol, Chris Boucher and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, all while leaving enough in the coffers to chase Giannis Antetokounmpo next summer. That's more than enough to squeeze out Ibaka, whose rim protection and floor spacing would fit perfectly with the Golden State Warriors.

Prediction: Ibaka signs with Warriors.


Jordan Clarkson, Utah Jazz

Save for a partial-season run with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017-18, Jordan Clarkson has spent the bulk of his career on bad teams. That's always made his stat sheet a little tricky to read, since even though his scoring numbers looked impressive, there was no real evidence they contributed to winning.

A Dec. 2019 trade to Salt Lake City has helped him provide that proof. The Jazz are 23-11 since his arrival and 1.8 points better per 100 possessions with him than without—not an insignificant number as a reserve on a team with a strong starting lineup.

He adds some missing off-the-dribble creativity, and his three-point shot has never looked better (personal bests of 2.1 threes per game and a 36.8 percent connection rate).

Given that the Jazz are in win-now mode and don't typically lure in free agents, they'll probably do everything they can to keep Clarkson.

"Chances seem good that the Jazz keep Clarkson in the fold," The Athletic's Tony Jones wrote. "He will be priority, and having his Bird rights and the ability to go beyond the salary cap to try and keep him is an advantage."

Prediction: Clarkson re-signs with Jazz.


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