NBA Free Agents Who Would Be Foolish to Change Teams
With NBA free agency set to happen sometime this fall, players should already be thinking about where they would like to spend next season.
The 2020 free-agent class lacks much star power, but there are plenty of quality starters and rotation players who should draw interest from opposing squads. While greener pastures await for some, others are already in the perfect situation and should only be seeking to stay home and get paid.
The following seven players should re-sign with their current teams and build on an already solid foundation.
Derrick Favors, C, New Orleans Pelicans
Somewhat lost in the hype surrounding Zion Williamson and the breakout play of Brandon Ingram in New Orleans this season was Favors, the Pelicans' starting center and defensive anchor.
On a team that features plenty of scorers, Favors played his role perfectly. He finished his limited shot attempts at a high efficiency (61.7 percent), pulled down 21.4 percent of all available rebounds (ninth-highest among players who played at least 1,000 minutes) and boasted the team's best on/off rating. The Pelicans were 9.0 points per 100 possessions better with Favors on the floor in the regular season, a full 1.4 points higher than Williamson.
The Pelicans put together one of the NBA's best starting lineups towards the end of the season, with the five-man unit of Favors, Williamson, Ingram, Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball registering a plus-18.1 net rating in 282 minutes together.
Favors has expressed an interest in returning to New Orleans, per Jacob Rude of LonzoWire.
"I enjoyed the role I was in, I enjoyed being around the young guys, being around this organization," Favors said. "Hopefully, I can come back, but we'll see what happens."
With Ingram likely signing a max deal and Ball eligible for a contract extension as well, the Pelicans front office can't write Favors a blank check this offseason. Settling on a multi-year deal around $10 million annually should be fair for both sides, and it would give Favors the opportunity to stay with one of the best young cores in the NBA.
Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Dallas Mavericks
Tim Hardaway Jr. has a few options this offseason.
He can choose to pick up his nearly $19 million player option to stay in Dallas, opt out and re-sign on a longer-term deal or look elsewhere in free agency.
Between the three, Hardaway should consider only the first two options.
It may not be possible to find a team willing to match his $19 million player option, despite his strong season. The 28-year-old became a reliable third scorer and spot-up shooter for Dallas, averaging 15.8 points while shooting 39.8 percent from deep. He feasted off passes from Luka Doncic, knocking down 42.1 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes during the regular season.
Hardaway's first priority should be to try to work out a longer deal with the Mavericks, even if it means making less money in the first year. Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are one of the NBA's best young duos, with the former looking like an MVP lock in the next few seasons.
Dallas had the best offense in the NBA this year and was seriously pushing the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round until losing Porzingis to a knee injury.
With a great coaching staff, the chance to play with one of the best players in the league and a guaranteed $19 million next season, there's no reason for Hardaway to leave the Mavericks.
Montrezl Harrell, C, Los Angeles Clippers
The NBA's Sixth Man of the Year this season, Montrezl Harrell has become a critical component to the Los Angeles Clippers' title hopes.
Despite starting only twice for L.A. all year, Harrell still put up 18.6 points on 58.0 percent shooting, 7.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in his 27.8 minutes per game. While Ivica Zubac opens games for the Clippers, Harrell often finishes them.
The only reason for Harrell to want to leave the Clippers would be to pursue a starting job or a larger role, one that would likely come on a team without title aspirations. The New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Hornets all project to have significant cap space and could offer him a starting job, but none even made the playoffs this season, much less have the talent to compete for a championship anytime soon.
Re-signing with the Clippers means staying with perhaps the deepest and most talented team in the NBA, one that has Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, Landry Shamet and Zubac all under contract next season.
The four-man unit of Harrell, Leonard, George and Williams has been fantastic all season, registering a net rating of plus-15.0 in 135 total minutes.
Harrell may feel the temptation to start somewhere else, but he should prefer to stay on the Clippers' bench and compete for titles year after year.
Goran Dragic, PG, Miami Heat
Goran Dragic was great as a sixth man all season for the Miami Heat, but his playoff performance should have teams lining up for his services in free agency.
The 34-year-old is averaging 22.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.2 steals while shooting 42.9 percent from three as Miami's starting point guard this postseason. Miami is now 7-0 in the playoffs after taking a 3-0 lead over the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks and sweeping the Indiana Pacers in the first round.
While Dragic isn't going to get a max contract, plenty of contenders should be ready to throw money at him as a starter or sixth man, hoping to capture the same magic he's providing for Miami right now.
The Bucks may be looking for an upgrade from Eric Bledsoe. Getting to be the sixth man on a team like the Portland Trail Blazers or Los Angeles Lakers could be tempting. If Dragic is willing to take a taxpayer mid-level discount, the Philadelphia 76ers could use him as their starting point guard, or the Golden State Warriors could make him the star of their second unit. The Heat seem intent on keeping cap space open for 2021, which means Dragic may only get a one-year offer to stay in Miami.
Even if he doesn't get a long-term deal, a one-year balloon contract ($15 million?) and the assurance of a starting job should be enough to make Dragic want to stay with the Heat, especially if they end up making a run to the Finals this year.
Andre Drummond, C, Cleveland Cavaliers
While Andre Drummond officially has until Oct. 17 to decide whether to pick up his $28.8 million player option, he appears to have already decided where he'll be spending next season.
"Yeah, it's going to be hard to give up, so you can count on me being in Cleveland still. I definitely will be in Cleveland," Drummond said on the Le Batard & Friends—STUpodity podcast back in June.
While Drummond could still change his mind and look to join a team with better playoff odds, he should take the money now and look to hit free agency in 2021 instead.
The Cavs went 4-4 with Drummond as a starter following a trade from the Detroit Pistons, and the two-time All-Star should get all the minutes he can handle with Tristan Thompson hitting free agency and backup center Ante Zizic choosing to leave the NBA for Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Drummond and Kevin Love make up a frontcourt that's ready to win now, and improved play from Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. could at least make Cleveland competitive on a nightly basis.
The Cavaliers also allowed Drummond to shoot threes (1.8 attempts per game), which could help him net a much larger payday in free agency next offseason.
While the Cavs likely aren't going to make the playoffs next year, Drummond should pick up his $28.8 million option and continue to put up big numbers before looking for a long-term deal in 2021.
Fred VanVleet, G, Toronto Raptors
Fred VanVleet has grown from an undrafted rookie off Toronto's bench to one of its best players as a starter, just in time to hit unrestricted free agency.
It's fair to question the Raptors' future, as Kyle Lowry (34) is entering the final year of his deal and both Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka will be free agents this fall. A core of Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and VanVleet is good, but it probably isn't title-worthy in an improving Eastern Conference.
That shouldn't be enough to make VanVleet want to jump ship, however.
Joining a team with cap space like the Detroit Pistons or New York Knicks won't get him any closer to a second championship, even if both could offer him a full-time starting job at the point.
Toronto should be good enough to make another run in the East next season with the continued development of Siakam and Anunoby, and the team should convince either Gasol or Ibaka to return as the starting center.
From there, the Raptors could have significant cap space in 2021 when Lowry's $30 million expiring contract comes off the books. According to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports, "many in league circles believe Miami and Toronto are the front-runners" to sign reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo if he leaves the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021.
If the money is right, returning to a still-loaded Raptors team that could go after the Greek Freak in a year is too good for VanVleet to pass up.
Anthony Davis, PF, Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers had to have confidence in their ability to re-sign Anthony Davis when they traded for him last summer, and nothing to this point should have them feeling otherwise.
Unless teams start gutting their rosters, the Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks and Detroit Pistons are the only three with enough cap space to offer him a max deal this offseason, per Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports. None are remotely ready to compete for a title even if Davis were to join them, however.
Davis' hometown Chicago Bulls could make a pitch and work to offload some contracts, but they'd likely need to swap some prospects for an established star even to get his attention.
Given the Lakers' success this season, Davis has no reason to have wandering eyes. Unlike Chris Bosh and Kevin Love, he didn't have to sacrifice his offensive touches alongside James since L.A. doesn't have a ball-dominant guard such as Dwyane Wade or Kyrie Irving as well. With James' move to full-time point guard, Davis is the first teammate in 17 years to outscore the four-time MVP over the course of a regular season.
Had James shown serious decline this year at age 35, perhaps Davis would be eyeing another move. But considering we've seen no such slippage from James (who led the NBA in assists and will likely finish second in MVP voting), there's no reason for Davis to do anything but sign a five-year max deal in L.A.