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NBA Free Agents 2020: Predictions for Paul Millsap, Top Targets for Contenders

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistOctober 15, 2020

Denver Nuggets forward Paul Millsap (4) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, March 9, 2020, in Denver. The Nuggets won 109-95. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

While you may find similarities between NBA free-agent rankings, those values aren't necessarily reflected on specific team shopping lists.

Not every organization is trying to accomplish the same goal, so they prioritize different attributes in potential targets. Whereas a rebuilder is most likely in hot pursuit of upside, win-now shoppers are generally far more focused on immediate impact.

As those contenders shift fully into offseason mode, let's spotlight three plug-and-play veterans sure to be high priorities for these franchises.

            

Danilo Gallinari, Oklahoma City Thunder

Originally the sixth pick of the 2008 draft, the 32-year-old Danilo Gallinari may be approaching the championship-chasing portion of his career.

His sharpshooting most recently propelled the Thunder and, before that, the Los Angeles Clippers to surprise playoff trips each of the past two seasons. But he's searching for more substantial success than one-round postseason cameos.

The scoring forward was recently asked whether contending for an NBA crown is more important than the value of his next contract. His response should perk up the ears of any shooting-starved contender.

"Yes. At this time, yes," Gallinari said, per Alessandro Maggi of Sportando. "I'm not 20 anymore."

Gallinari not only has his eyes on winning, he also has the game to support a club's pursuit of exactly that. He has averaged better than two triples per outing and buried them at a 40-plus percent clip each of the past two seasons. Only two other marksman—Joe Harris and Bojan Bogdanovic—can make that claim, per StatHead.

Prediction: Gallinari signs with the Miami Heat.

            

Paul Millsap, Denver Nuggets

In previous years, Paul Millsap has booked four All-Star trips and once put pen to paper on a three-year, $90 million pact with the Nuggets. One look at his trajectory shows neither of those things will happen again.

But the versatile 6'7" forward can still fill an impact role in complementary fashion. He doesn't have a standout skill in his arsenal, but he does almost everything at an above-average level. This past campaign, he packed 11.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists into just 24.3 minutes per game while also shattering his previous career-high with a 43.5 percent connection rate from three.

Those far-reaching contributions will get him noticed, though maybe not from his most recent employer. The Nuggets already have $91.4 million on next season's books owed to only Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Will Barton. If they hope to retain Jerami Grant—who's nine years younger and far more athletic than Millsap—they almost assuredly need to budget for another eight-figure salary.

That amount of spending likely squeezes out Millsap, who could upgrade the frontcourt of almost any contender. His two-way versatility, willingness to share the basketball and ability to convert open looks seem tailor-made for Steve Kerr's system in Golden State.

Prediction: Millsap signs with the Golden State Warriors.

               

Serge Ibaka, Toronto Raptors

If it was up to Serge Ibaka, his free-agent journey wouldn't bring him back south of the border. He has expressed a desire to remain with the Raptors, the team he helped guide to the 2019 title.

Well, there's some potentially bad news awaiting Ibaka—only it's more than likely good news. If he can't get his spot back in Toronto, it's likely because he has priced himself out of its budget.

He's one of several key Raptors heading to unrestricted free agency, a group that also includes Fred VanVleet and Marc Gasol. The team may not be able to afford all three even if it wanted, since it needs to keep the coffers clean enough to make its planned run at Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2021.

Maybe Ibaka would be willing to re-sign for a discount, but he certainly doesn't need to after the season he just engineered. His per-36-minutes contributions included 20.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 1.7 threes and 1.1 blocks, plus he pieced together a tidy 51.2/38.5/71.8 shooting slash.

He's no longer the dominant defender in his prime, but he has expanded his scoring range and can still throw down around the basket. If he wants familiarity, he could find it with the Houston Rockets, where he'd reunite with former Oklahoma City Thunder teammates James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Ibaka would also allow the Mike D'Antoni-less Rockets to play bigger without spoiling their offensive spacing.

Prediction: Ibaka signs with the Houston Rockets.

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