The NBA has returned with 22 teams competing for a championship in Orlando, but all 30 teams have begun preparing for next season and the upcoming free agency.
While the coronavirus pandemic notably altered the 2019-20 season, the offseason will also be different with a shortened free agency period in October. Teams must spend extra time preparing to find the right players who will improve the roster for 2020-21.
Even with fewer big names available compared to last year, there should still be plenty of drama with these notable players set to hit the open market.
Fred VanVleet To Be in High Demand
Few players have improved more year-to-year during the past few seasons than Fred VanVleet.
The point guard averaged just 2.9 points per game during his rookie season after joining the Raptors as an undrafted free agent. Three years later, he's become an impact player with averages of 17.5 points, 6.7 assists and 1.9 steals per game.
He was a key part of the Toronto Raptors title run last season, and he's been even better in 2019-20. This could lead to a big offseason for VanVleet as he hits free agency.
John Hollinger of The Athletic reported he could command $20 million per year with the Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks and Raptors as teams that could target him.
Atlanta could be especially exciting thanks to their cap space. Per Spotrac, the team is $81 million below the luxury tax line, the largest gap in the NBA.
"He is the best free-agent point guard by a mile," Hollinger added. "The Hawks would have to be comfortable starting VanVleet next to [Trae] Young and then sliding him over to the point when Young checks out."
Toronto remains a contender to re-sign the guard as he previously noted he would stay with the team "in a perfect world," per Thomas Ketko of Sportsnet.
However, the organization still owes Kyle Lowry $30 million for 2020-21, which could make things tight for next year. The team could also try to save cap flexibility for 2021 when Giannis Antetokounmpo and other big names hit the open market.
The Hawks make more sense as they look to add more talent to a team that has been among the worst in the NBA in the past three years.
Predicted destination: Atlanta Hawks
Late-Season Burst Could Lead to Big Payday for Christian Wood
Christian Wood has spent time with five different organizations over five years, but the forward seemed to finally put it all together in 2019-20.
The 24-year-old averaged 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in 62 appearances for the Detroit Pistons this season and was especially impressive after becoming a regular starter. In the last 13 games before the season was suspended because of the coronavirus, Wood averaged 22.8 points and 9.9 rebounds per game, shooting 40 percent from three-point range.
While Detroit will want to keep him, his recent play might have priced him out of an extension. According to James L. Edwards III of The Athletic, the forward could make up to $16 million per year.
A new administration in Detroit might not want to risk a big deal on a relatively unproven talent.
"Troy Weaver is coming in, that's not his guy, per se, and he's got a fresh clock," an anonymous agent told Edwards. "The last thing Weaver wants to do is hamper his payroll and flexibility going forward for a guy who ultimately might not be the game-changing player that he showed flashes of."
Edwards previously gave 70 percent odds Wood returns to the Pistons, but that was under the previous front office.
There should still be options for the forward as teams try to capitalize on his upside.
"Some in the Knicks' front office are enamored with Detroit's Christian Wood," Ian Begley of SNY reported in March.
"The Knicks are looking for a power forward who can shoot from mid-range and the 3-point line with the likely departure of Bobby Portis," Marc Berman of the New York Post added.
New York has struggled to lure top talent to the organization in recent years, but this provides an opportunity to land a potential impact player on a discount. It could be a risk worth taking for a team that needs a lot of help.
Predicted destination: New York Knicks
Anthony Davis Unlikely to Hit the Open Market
The Los Angeles Lakers gave up quite a bit to land Anthony Davis, including multiple first-round draft picks through 2024 and promising young stars like Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. The last thing they want to do is lose him after one season if he opts out of his current deal.
The good news for Los Angeles is the seven-time All-Star hasn't even thought about free agency.
"I was focused on trying to see what the NBA is going to do about this season, and if we're going to come back or not," Davis said last month, per Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register. "But it hasn't crossed my mind within this three-month, four-month break."
Davis has been everything the Lakers have hoped for this season, averaging 26.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game while helping the team earn the best record in the Western Conference entering Sunday.
The success could be enough to convince him to remain with the team beyond this year.
"Most in league circles believe that work is largely done—that L.A. is where Davis wanted to be," Goon reported.
Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports also reported Davis is expected to remain with the team despite turning down an initial extension.
Though there could have been some concern about finances during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Lakers apparently don't have to worry about that.
According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, the Lakers will "likely" have no issue re-signing Davis thanks to their television money of about $300 million per year.
The 27-year-old is eligible to receive a five-year, $202 million max contract extension and should sign it.
Predicted destination: Los Angeles Lakers