Thus far, the NBA restart bubble has unfolded according to plan. As the seeding schedule continues to unfold and the postseason proper draws nearer, however, teams who aren't playoff-bound are going to start eyeing the 2020-21 season.
Doing so, of course, means plotting out a strategy for free agency. While only a handful of teams—like the Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Clippers and Toronto Raptors—appear truly capable of emerging from the bubble as champions, the 2020-21 season is wide open for the teams with the cap space to chase stars and the willingness to spend it.
Just look at how the aforementioned Clippers and Lakers were assembled this past offseason—via trade and free agency.
Though the start of free agency isn't scheduled until October, it's not too early for us to take a look ahead at the top players expected to be available and the teams who can afford to target them.
Top Players Eligible for Free Agency
Anthony Davis, PF, Los Angeles Lakers
Last year's top trade target could be this year's top free agent. Anthony Davis has a player option for the 2020-21 season and will reach free agency if he decides not to exercise it. There's a very real possibility that one of the league's few truly elite talents will be available this fall.
While it would make sense for Davis to opt-in with the Lakers—especially if they prove to be a championship team this year—Davis insists that he hasn't put much thought into his decision.
"It didn't cross my mind during the three-month, four-month break," Davis said, per Ron Gutterman of Lakers Nation.
Expect Davis to be at the top of many teams' wish lists in the coming months.
Gordon Hayward, SF, Boston Celtics
Like Davis, Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward has a player option for the coming season. While Hayward is 30 years old and has dealt with multiple injuries this season, he is still one of the league's better players when fully healthy.
This season, Hayward has averaged 17.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists in roughly 34 minutes of action per game.
Hayward will be an attractive target if he hits the open market. However, given his age and recent injury history, he may be more interested in opting-in for a $34 million payday next season. Doing so would give him another opportunity to push for the playoffs with Boston while also landing some financial security.
Fred VanVleet, PG, Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet was far from being a household name before last season's run to a title. However, the Wichita State product is now in the national spotlight and should be one of the top young targets in free agency this offseason.
The 26-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent and will reach the market if the Raptors don't extend him first.
This season, VanVleet has averaged 17.9 points, 6.6 assists and has shot 39.5 percent from beyond the arc. He dropped 36 points on the Miami Heat earlier this week in a game that will catch the eye of point-guard-needy teams.
In an underwhelming class of young unrestricted free agents, VanVleet should be one of the prizes of October and should be in line to receive a hefty payday.
Other Notable Unrestricted Free Agents
Hassan Whiteside, C, Portland Trail Blazers
Marc Gasol, C, Toronto Raptors
Serge Ibaka, PF, Toronto Raptors
Danilo Gallinari, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder
Montrezl Harrell, PF, Los Angeles Clippers
Projected Salary Cap Space
New York Knicks: $5.59 Million
Los Angeles Clippers: -$781,677
Orlando Magic: -$1.92 million
Charlotte Hornets: -$2.4 million
Utah Jazz: -$2.8 million
Phoenix Suns: -$3 million
San Antonio Spurs: -$3.7 million
Los Angeles Lakers: -$4.5 million
Indiana Pacers: -$11.9 million
Chicago Bulls: -$15 million
Milwaukee Bucks: -$15.6 million
Houston Rockets: -$16.5 million
Dallas Mavericks: -$19.9 million
Memphis Grizzlies: -$20.8 million
Minnesota Timberwolves: -$22.6 million
Brooklyn Nets: -$26.5 million
Boston Celtics: -$27.5 million
New Orleans Pelicans: -$28.7 million
Philadelphia 76ers: -32.4 million
Detroit Pistons: -$33.2 million
Golden State Warriors: -$33.9 million
Atlanta Hawks: -$34.6 million
Oklahoma City Thunder: -$46.9 million
Sacramento Kings: -$48.9 million
Cleveland Cavaliers: -$48.5 million
Washington Wizards: -$53.3 million
Portland Trail Blazers: -$59.5 million
Miami Heat: -$65.8 million
Denver Nuggets: -$68.8 million
Toronto Raptors: -$75.6 million