Every NBA Team's 2020 Free-Agency Big Board

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistOctober 22, 2020

Every NBA Team's 2020 Free-Agency Big Board

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    NBA free agency is coming. It doesn't yet have a set date. And the Nov. 18 draft will happen first. And the transaction moratorium will be lifted before that. But free agency is coming, sometime so soon it would be a blatant act of betrayal not to build a big board for every team.

    These, let's call them priority rankings, are purely from a bird's-eye view. They do not always reflect actual rumors or priorities. They are suggestions exactly zero front offices asked for.

    Each team will have three spots, listed in order of decreasing "They should totally try to get him!" importance. Incumbent players are given priority, but at least one outside name will be included in every case.

    Targets will be determined by measuring franchise directions, roster needs and projected spending power. Since we don't yet know where next year's cap will land, this season's $109.1 million marker will be our default.

    Certain impact players won't be making many appearances across our big-board goulash. That's by design. We won't waste our time on those deemed minor-to-nonexistent flight risks. "Gettable names only" is our motto.

    And away we go.

Atlanta Hawks

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press
    • Brandon Ingram (restricted)
    • Joe Harris
    • Bogdan Bogdanovic (restricted)

    Potential Brandon Ingram pursuits may be a futile endeavor. Quality restricted free agents are impossible to poach, and tying up cap space in a player you won't get is a good way to miss out on other opportunities.

    The Atlanta Hawks have the flexibility not to care. They can tender Ingram a max offer sheet at roughly $27.3 million and still have more than $15 million with which to play, depending on how they handle their own free agents. If all they do is ensure the New Orleans Pelicans pony up Brinks-truck money to keep their star, then so be it.

    At the same time, this isn't a matter of setting an undefined market. Ingram is getting a max offer, if not from Atlanta then from one of the other few teams with the necessary space. New Orleans might even give it to him before he has the chance to shop around. It has the right to match whatever offer he receives, and cutting out the song-and-dance portion of restricted free agency helps build goodwill between franchise and star.

    Chasing Ingram is instead a sign-and-trade play. The Hawks have all the space, but the Pelicans aren't letting him walk for nothing. Giving up cap room and then assets on top of that would sting a little, but Ingram is worth the trouble. He is both a secondary creator and from-scratch scorer, someone who can genuinely allow Trae Young to get moving off the ball. Atlanta shouldn't hesitate to put the No. 6 pick and its young wings—Kevin Huerter, De'Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish—on the table if New Orleans gets pocket-shy.

    Pivoting to Joe Harris and Bogdan Bogdanovic is no less ambitious. It'll take serious money to scare the Brooklyn Nets or Sacramento Kings, respectively, out of keeping their own. The Hawks have that kind of cash and can use both. Harris guarantees spacing for what was the league's worst three-point shooting team this past season, while Bogdanovic can manufacture his own looks and alleviate Young's ball-handling burden.

Boston Celtics

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    Matt York/Associated Press
    • Aron Baynes
    • Shabazz Napier/Brad Wanamaker (Early Bird restricted)
    • Chris Boucher (Early Bird restricted)/Noah Vonleh

    Generating a free-agency big board for the Boston Celtics is difficult. They're limited by both their spending power–the mini mid-level exception—and body count. Assuming Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter pick up their player options, Boston will have 12 players on the books after guaranteeing Daniel Theis' salary. And that's before factoring in three first-round picks.

    Roster shuffling is inevitable. The Celtics will be drafting and stashing at least one player, if they even keep their picks, and can look to offload the smaller salaries of Kanter and Vincent Poirier to make room for others.

    Though Boston has plenty of bigs on the docket—Kanter, Theis, Grant Williams, Robert Williams III—the mini MLE figures to net a higher-caliber center than guard. Aron Baynes is on the loftier end of the spectrum but may not be totally out of reach. The Phoenix Suns needn't spend a boatload to keep him with Deandre Ayton in tow, and it's tough to pinpoint another team that might offer him the non-taxpayer mid-level exception.

    Sticking with Brad Wanamaker allows the Celtics to funnel their best free-agent tool toward the center spot. But if they're looking for someone who provides more shot-making variance, Shabazz Napier looms as a should-be-cheap-enough option.

    Failing the acquisition of a veteran big, Boston should angle for less-entrenched fliers. It isn't clear if part or all of the mini MLE gets Chris Boucher away from the Toronto Raptors, but he has flashed highlight rim protection and three-point range. Noah Vonleh doesn't promise as much defensive activity around the basket, but he spreads the floor, should cost next to nothing and may be due for a redemption season after a lack of opportunity with the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves.

Brooklyn Nets

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press
    • Joe Harris
    • Paul Millsap
    • Moe Harkless

    Retaining Joe Harris has to, has to, has to top the Nets' list of offseason priorities. They don't have the money to replace him as a projected taxpayer, and they need someone who profiles as a seamless fit next to their many ball-handlers.

    Trades may eventually shake up Brooklyn's roster, but for now, it has Spencer Dinwiddie, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert. All four have the chops to work away from the ball, but that's not their inclination. Harris is a natural in that role. More than 40 percent of his looks this season were catch-and-shoot jumpers, and over 85 percent of his made buckets came off assists. He is mission-critical to striking offensive balance.

    Finding a combo forward or floor-spacing big who can unlock five-out lineups from the center spot is next up. Paul Millsap emphatically checks the latter box. He showed his age during Denver's playoff run (35), but he can still tussle with 4s and is a quintessential small-ball-5 option if the Nets decide Durant will be better off pestering power forwards following his recovery from a ruptured right Achilles.

    Moe Harkless is a rock-solid backup plan if the mini mid-level exception isn't enough to lock down Millsap. He can guard just about every wing spot and should be able to sponge up some minutes as a micro 5 if KD is his frontline partner.

    Brooklyn needn't concern itself with Harkless' iffy three-point marksmanship. He hit 37 percent of his triples, on low volume, before getting traded from the Los Angeles Clippers to the New York Knicks and would enjoy high-end looks beside Durant and Irving. More than that, the Nets don't have a No. 1 wing defender. And while Harkless isn't the ideal person for the job, he's a better fit for that responsibility than Durant or Taurean Prince.

Charlotte Hornets

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press
    • Christian Wood
    • Harry Giles III
    • Josh Jackson

    Thinking bigger will be tempting for the Charlotte Hornets. They are among the scant few teams that will have cap space over the offseason and might see a path back to the fringe-playoff picture with the No. 3 pick and a splashy addition.

    That's...underwhelming. This year's free-agency landscape isn't littered with big names, and the Hornets don't have the effortless wiggle room to try seducing the few available heavyweights. They'll be sitting at under $20 million in spending power after accounting for the third overall pick's salary. That's not nearly enough money to acquire the kind of player who tilts fortunes on his own.

    Christian Wood represents a nice go-between. It should cost more than mid-level money to get him away from the Detroit Pistons but not all of Charlotte's available space. Offering something in the neighborhood of $12 to $16 million annually over three years might it get done.

    Going that high for Wood, who has fewer than 120 career games under his belt, is steep but not indefensible. He's young enough, at 25, to jibe with a more gradual timeline, and his comfort from deep and when putting the ball on the floor allows the Hornets to play him in tandem with Cody Zeller and other 5s. Lineups with him at center should be killer.

    In the event Charlotte favors frugality, Harry Giles III is a nifty alternative. He doesn't have Wood's floor game, but he's a crafty passer with some stretch to his offense. The Hornets can get away using him next to Zeller, too.

    Prospective wing targets would be higher on the board and populate more spots if they actually existed. Pickings are slim. This year's class doesn't boast a lot of wing options overall and is even thinner on those who make sense for a team in Charlotte's position.

    Josh Jackson verged on dominant in the G League this season while also putting together some nice defensive moments during limited run with the Memphis Grizzlies. Still only 23, he mixes upside with affordability and stands to deepen what is, as currently constructed, a nonexistent wing rotation.

Chicago Bulls

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press
    • Kris Dunn
    • Glenn Robinson III
    • Sterling Brown (restricted)

    Kris Dunn has defended his way to the top of the Chicago Bulls' to-do list. They need more playmaking and shooting out of their backcourt minutes, and the new front office regime might not value him as highly, but he effectively pestered a bunch of star guards and wings before a sprained MCL in his right knee ended his season.

    All-Defensive shoo-ins don't grow on trees. The Bulls might have one. And with so few teams able to bid above the mid-level exception for him, they have no business letting him go—particularly if he winds up costing noticeably less.

    Beefing up the wing rotation is almost all Chicago should care about after Dunn. A healthier Otto Porter Jr. will help, and the No. 4 pick might turn into a combo forward, but the Bulls need more. Porter and Thaddeus Young are the only actual wings on the roster, and the latter is more of a big unless he's hitting threes.

    Chicago will join the overflow of squads hocking the nontaxpayer MLE, capping its options by default. Higher-profile names—Jae Crowder, Joe Harris, Marcus Morris Sr.—will either cost more or head to better situations for equal money. That leaves the Bulls to peruse targets with less sheen.

    Glenn Robinson III isn't the staunchest defender, but he can match up with non-star wings and hit 40 percent of his threes before getting traded to the Philadelphia 76ers and missing time with injuries. Sterling Brown is more of a wild card on offense, but he buried 36.3 percent of his catch-and-launch triples with the Milwaukee Bucks this year and, though 6'5", can capably guard 1s up to small-ball 4s.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press
    • Derrick Jones Jr.
    • Josh Jackson
    • Wes Iwundu (Restricted)

    Derrick Jones Jr. has been relentlessly linked to the Cleveland Cavaliers—and for good reason. They need wings, like any wings, but especially wings who bust their butt on defense and don't break the bank. Jones would give them a body to stick on point guards through power forwards, and it shouldn't take the entire non-taxpayer MLE to pry him away from the Miami Heat if he's signing a multiyear deal.

    Working around his offensive constraints isn't an afterthought. The complete absence of a jumper is a drain on spacing, especially when he's deployed alongside a non-shooting 5.

    Cleveland doesn't have the luxury of caring—not too much anyway. It remains in talent-acquisition mode, and Jones would offset some of the liability with his activity on the break and the explosion with which he attacks open spaces in the half-court. Miami has found some success using him as a screener, too.

    Josh Jackson becomes a more palatable option if the Cavaliers are set on acquiring more polished offense. He averaged 20.3 points and 4.3 assists in extensive G League action this year while downing 38 percent of his threes, though his 60.3 percent clip at the foul line leaves plenty of room for skepticism.

    Wes Iwundu can actually top Cleveland's board if it's willing to dangle most, if not all, of the MLE to wrench him from the Orlando Magic. He is a pesky defender at every wing spot and showed more three-point touch over the latter half of last season. From Jan. 1 onward, he drained 42.9 percent of his deep balls, albeit on less than modest volume.

    Other wings are larger headline-grabbers, but Iwundu has "shrewd investment" written all over him. Upping his outside volume gives him a clear path to three-and-D territory, and he'll hold even more utility if the pull-up jumper he's already taking starts to fall at a higher rate.

Dallas Mavericks

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press
    • Fred VanVleet
    • Danilo Gallinari
    • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (player option)/Avery Bradley (player option)

    "The Dallas Mavericks are gonna be at the head of the line in pursuing Giannis [Antetokounmpo]" ESPN's Brian Windhorst said on a recent episode of The Jump (h/t Mavs Moneyball's Ryan Mainville). "They want to have a third star. They want to keep their books clear for 2021. I wouldn’t expect them to add any major free agents this year."

    Dallas' purported cap conservation has its merits. Every other team in the league, including his incumbent Milwaukee Bucks, should want to sign Giannis. But the Mavericks, unlike most other suitors, have Luka Doncic on which to sell him.

    That's kind of the point here, though: The Mavs have Luka Doncic. They just flirted with a 50-win pace. They're closer to contention than not—so much closer if Kristaps Porzingis can go an entire season without getting hurt.

    Sitting tight shouldn't be an option. Giannis could sign a supermax extension with the Bucks before next season. He could choose another team in 2021 free agency. Capitalizing on Doncic's ascendance into MVP territory should be all that matters. Additional cap space can always be carved out later, if and when Giannis shows an interest.

    Dallas isn't ticketed for cap space unless Tim Hardaway Jr. declines his player option but can explore sign-and-trade possibilities, built around the No. 18 pick and some of its middle-rung salaries, for glitzier flight risks like Fred VanVleet or Danilo Gallinari. Either gives the offense another creator to lean on during crunch time.

    If the Mavericks are married to their 2021 plans or can't punch above the mid-level exception, they should default to looking for help on the wings. Avery Bradley and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope don't provide much secondary creation, but they can get stops and hit threes, and one of them is bound to be expendable to the Los Angeles Lakers if they both opt out.

Denver Nuggets

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press
    • Jerami Grant (player option)
    • Paul Millsap/Torrey Craig (restricted)
    • Wesley Matthews (player option)

    Incumbent free agents will have to be the Nuggets' first point of contact. Too many key rotation players are hitting the open market, and they cannot spend above the non-taxpayer's mid-level to replace them (aside from sign-and-trades, of course).

    No in-house free agent is more important than Jerami Grant. Denver forked over a first-round pick to get him last offseason, and he's become one of the league's most versatile three-and-D weapons. He has connected on 39.1 percent of his triples over the past two seasons—his touch admittedly waxed and waned in the playoffs this year—and can tussle with four positions at the other end.

    Simplified even further: The Nuggets tabbed Grant as the primary defender on LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard in the postseason. They don't have anyone to effectively pick up that slack. Nor can they afford any free agent who might.

    Torrey Craig and Paul Millsap should only be seen as slightly lesser priorities. Craig matches up defensively with guards, wings and select bigs; he'd be a scorching-hot commodity if he swished more than 33.3 percent of his wide-open treys. Millsap aged ungracefully at times during the playoffs, but he has turned into a nice spot-up shooter (46.4 percent on catch-and-fire threes) who can still attack off the dribble and holds up at both the 4 and 5.

    Denver does need to poke around the big-man market with Mason Plumlee also coming off the books, but minutes at center can be filled on the cheap...and by Millsap. Bolstering the perimeter rotation continues to be of greater importance, and Wesley Matthews fits at both ends, simultaneously capable of offsetting Craig's potential departure, diminishing reliance on the offensively enigmatic Gary Harris or just deepening the Nuggets' well of bodies to throw at opposing wings.

Detroit Pistons

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press
    • Christian Wood
    • Jevon Carter (Early Bird restricted)
    • Josh Jackson/Wes Iwundu (restricted)

    Detroit has the runway to shop bigger. The Hawks are the sole team guaranteed to have more cap space, and only the Miami Heat and New York Knicks have plausible paths to joining them. The Pistons are free to drive up the price of restricted free agents or go full bore after Fred VanVleet.

    To what end, though? Detroit doesn't have the proximity to postseason contention to justify spending with next year alone in mind. Atlanta at least has its blue-chip cornerstone in Trae Young. The Pistons' win-now fate is tied to the health of Blake Griffin. Overpaying VanVleet or even surrendering assets in a prospective sign-and-trade for Brandon Ingram (restricted) is more counterproductive to their long-term view.

    Bringing back Christian Wood could technically fall under that same umbrella. Detroit should have the stomach to pass on him if his cost mushrooms beyond reason. On the bright side, it probably won't. Not enough teams have cap space, and the Pistons can reconcile paying low-to-mid eight figures for a 25-year-old combo big who stretches the floor and has flashed off-the-bounce pizzazz.

    Hunting for upgrades at point guard verges on hilariously hopeless. Choices start wearing thin after VanVleet and the 34-year-old Goran Dragic. Someone like Kris Dunn (restricted) or De'Anthony Melton (restricted) would rain fire on defense, but neither offers enough playmaking to eclipse their shaky jumpers.

    Jevon Carter is the more tantalizing fit, if slightly riskier. He defends end-to-end and is extremely plug-and-play on offense. He shot 45.2 percent from three for the season with the Phoenix Suns, including 55.2 percent through eight appearances at Disney.

    Gambling on a youngish wing registers as another good use of the Pistons' spending power. Josh Jackson's playmaking affords him a higher-end feel, but Iwundu is the safer defensive investment and becomes a real difference-maker if he can up his three-point volume and refine his pull-up jumper.

Golden State Warriors

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    John Leyba/Associated Press
    • Justin Holiday
    • Paul Millsap
    • Wesley Matthews (player option)

    Will the Golden State Warriors keep the No. 2 pick? Who will they take if they do? Who are they trading for if they don't? Will they use the Andre Iguodala trade exception ($17.2 million)? Who are they getting if they do? Will they dangle the Minnesota Timberwolves' 2021 first (top-three protection) in trade talks?

    Somewhere in that thicket of questions is the issue of the mini mid-level, whether they'll use it and who they can get for it.

    The idea that they won't spend it is hard to endorse. Their core is incredibly expensive, and teams will be feeling the squeeze of lost revenue from this season and beyond, but they're obligated to maximize the window of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. They don't have the depth around them to holster the mini MLE.

    Reuniting with Justin Holiday would be a big-time win even if he costs the entire MLE. The Warriors are bone-thin in the wing department after Andrew Wiggins, and everything Holiday does best is scalable. More than 55 percent of his attempts with the Indiana Pacers came as catch-and-fire threes, on which he shot 40.1 percent, and he was a viable threat in transition. His length on defense also translated to serviceable minutes at the backup 4 spot.

    Paul Millsap won't sniff Golden State's purview if it wants a larger body. Aron Baynes or Marc Gasol (if he's even available) would be more in line with that vision. But Millsap is more matchup-proof in the postseason, and a frontcourt partnership with Green should get plenty of stops, prospective rebounding deficit in mind.

    Wesley Matthews' postseason defense should have him on the radar of any pseudo-contender. He effectively battled with Jimmy Butler when Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer let him, and the Warriors sorely need another perimeter worker bee who allows them to juggle Thompson's matchups post-ACL injury.

Houston Rockets

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press
    • Paul Millsap
    • Markieff Morris
    • Nerlens Noel

    Instructing the Houston Rockets from the comfort of our armchairs is a lot harder following the departures of Mike D'Antoni and Daryl Morey. Not only must we wonder whether team governor Tilman Fertitta will shell out the entire mid-level, but the two driving forces behind microball are now gone.

    New general manager Rafael Stone worked with Morey, so the Rockets aren't about to entirely abandon their functional ecosystem. Without knowing who they hire to succeed D'Antoni, though, it's impossible to understand how firmly they're tethered to their no-center setup.

    This board is built under the guise they mostly stay the course.

    Paul Millsap is an idealistic small-ball 5 who can spare Robert Covington and P.J. Tucker from guarding too many behemoths—and who also arms the Rockets with a half-answer to Anthony Davis. His three-point splits have seesawed over the years, but he converted 43.5 percent of his long balls this past season on 3.6 attempts per 36 minutes. Houston will, presumably, expand that volume, and his increased familiarity working away from the ball in Denver primes him for said transition.

    Markieff Morris is essentially a lower-end version of what Millsap could bring. He doesn't guarantee as much resistance against 5s but jibes with the Rockets' current interpretation of the center position, and he just shot 42 percent from distance during the Los Angeles Lakers' postseason push.

    Nerlens Noel countermands how the Rockets play—for now. Stone and the next head coach may place more of a premium on actual centers. Even if they don't, having a big in the reserves who isn't a 38-year-old Tyson Chandler can only help. And neither Noel nor the Rockets should need much of a grace period. He does a lot of the same things Clint Capela did, just in smaller doses.

Indiana Pacers

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press
    • Justin Holiday
    • Wes Iwundu (restricted)
    • Austin Rivers (player option)

    A flat cap hurts the Pacers more than many other teams. They'll have more than $126 million on their ledger if they guarantee T.J. McConnell's salary, putting them within $7 million of the luxury tax (if it isn't scaled up). That leaves enough room below a gridlocked apron ($138.9 million) to use the bigger mid-level, but spending all of it would still put them inside the tax.

    Indiana can always increase its flexibility. Salary can be shed in possible Victor Oladipo or Myles Turner trades. Tax bills also aren't due until the end of the season, giving the Pacers time to hash out alternative cost-cutting measures.

    But their potential proximity to the tax is relevant. Hovering anywhere close to it will invariably impact how they spend. They may be hard-pressed to re-sign Justin Holiday without cannonballing into it. They can only pay him up to $5.7 million before dipping into their MLE , and that's a number other squads, most notably contenders, could be prepared to beat.

    Tax concerns still aren't an excuse for letting him walk. Holiday is too valuable to the Pacers' floor balance, fast-break opportunism and reserve defense. They had no qualms about throwing him against backup 4s. Paying him within reason, which might include using their MLE, should be the priority. They can figure out how to skirt the tax later.

    If Indiana keeps Holiday without burning its MLE and is open to then spending on someone else, both Wes Iwundu (restricted) and Austin Rivers should stumble across their radar.

    Iwundu is an athletic wing defender with an operable set jumper who has shown he can turn corners with the ball—a perfect addition to a rotation that cannot count on total availability from Oladipo. And Rivers, for his part, adds another off-the-dribble threat to the fold without denting the Pacers' wallet in the process.

Los Angeles Clippers

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    Kim Klement/Associated Press
    • Marcus Morris Sr.
    • D.J. Augustin
    • Montrezl Harrell

    Montrezl Harrell falling to the bottom of the Clippers' big board stands out in a cringe-worthy way. He's the reigning Sixth Man of the Year. He just averaged 18.6 points while dropping in 59.3 percent of his twos. He plays with unbridled, unending force.

    How is he not a top priority?

    Well, it's not that he isn't a top priority. He just shouldn't be the priority. The cost of his next deal has to matter for a Clippers team that is up against the tax and needs to chisel out more minutes for Ivica Zubac. As The Athletic's John Hollinger wrote:

    "For the playoffs as a whole, the Clippers' net rating with Zubac playing was a phenomenal +17.7 points per 100; when he didn't they were -8.3. While short-term plus-minus stats can be fluky, the Clips were also substantially better in Zubac's regular-season minutes. (+8.1 when played, +4.9 when didn't).

    "Interestingly, it was on offense where they suffered most in the Nuggets series, scoring just 97.1 points per 100 with Zubac off the floor. While Harrell's points got the attention, Zubac is low-key a fantastic complementary offensive player. He led the NBA in Offensive Rebound Rate in 2019-20, has great hands when catching passes on the move, runs the floor well, makes free throws (74.7 percent) and open 15-footers, and sports a low turnover rate."

    So few teams have the bandwidth to offer Harrell more than mid-level that his price point may not be a problem. Re-signing Marcus Morris Sr. and adding another ball-handler are more paramount either way.

    Morris' partial-season tenure wasn't always hunky-dory, but he hit 47.5 percent of his threes in the playoffs, and his defensive fit spans four positions if head coach Tyronn Lue is open to playing more small-ball units.

    D.J. Augustin would be a massive get if the Clippers can swing it for the mini MLE. He's a natural prober, knocks down catch-and-shoot threes and buried 38.9 percent of his pull-up triples in 2018-19 before dipping to 29.5 percent on those looks during the 2019-20 campaign.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press
    • Anthony Davis (player option)
    • Avery Bradley (player option)/Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (player option)
    • Danilo Gallinari

    LeBron James' teams are rarely this financially flexible. The Lakers' plethora of player options will determine just how much room, if any, they have under the tax, but the larger mid-level exception should be at their disposal unless they completely double down on what's in place.

    Anthony Davis' free agency isn't a matter of destination. He just won a championship with the Lakers after forcing his way onto the Lakers. Ergo, he's staying with the Lakers. The length of his next deal is the only aspect of his future in question.

    Los Angeles has player options galore behind him. Avery Bradley, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo all have the chance to hit the open market. It feels like at least two to three of them will.

    Bradley or KCP is the most indispensable of the bunch. The Lakers can withstand losing one. They have Alex Caruso and Danny Green. Losing both gets tough. KCP, specifically, spent a chunk of the postseason tackling the toughest wing assignments while downing 37.8 percent of his threes.

    The Lakers can get pipe-dreamy after handling their own. Bigger names might be inclined to sign a short-term deal at a discount when the market is cash poor anyway—and when the end result is championship opportunity.

    Danilo Gallinari has already said he doesn't care about the money and pretty much confirmed his departure from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Actually accepting under $10 million is a different story. But the Lakers can explore sign-and-trade possibilities built around the No. 28 pick and salary filler (Green's expiring deal?). Gallinari is worth that trouble, even after a lackluster performance during the restart.

    The Lakers just won a title, but they need another shot creator who can put pressure on defenses alongside and independent of LeBron.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    Kim Klement/Associated Press
    • De'Anthony Melton (Early Bird restricted)
    • Glenn Robinson III
    • Josh Jackson

    The Memphis Grizzlies are straddling a complicated line ahead of next year, attempting to juggle the relative success from this past season with the reality that they play in an abidingly brutal Western Conference. Ja Morant and a near-playoff berth have expedited their timeline, but by how much? And what does that mean for their offseason spending?

    Trading for Justise Winslow and extending Dillon Brooks removed the more drastic scenarios from play. The Grizzlies aren't working with actual cap space, and even mid-level-exception investments that flop seldom result in truly team-unfriendly deals.

    Making sure De'Anthony Melton doesn't go anywhere is the most dire concern Memphis faces. His defensive range and activity are irreplaceable, even when baking in his sub-29 percent clip from deep. Matisse Thybulle was the only other player to match his steal and block rates through at least 1,000 minutes.

    Fleshing out the wing rotation takes center stage after Melton. For the Grizzlies, it's an annual priority. They're best served browsing the unheralded, under-27 ranks where they'll find Glenn Robinson III and familiar face Josh Jackson.

    Already having Jackson in the program could render him a bigger focus. That's fine. But Memphis needs plug-and-playness more than upside.

    Robinson's offense is more translatable. Over one-third of his shots came off the catch before he was traded from Golden State, on which he posted an effective field-goal percentage of 60.8. Jackson has far more creation ingrained into his game, which makes him worth a continued flier, but he needs his G League three-point shooting to carry over to parent-club minutes before he's considered a suitable complement to the rest of the roster.

Miami Heat

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
    • Goran Dragic
    • Jae Crowder
    • Danilo Gallinari/Marcus Morris Sr.

    The Heat's outlook is wonky after their trip to the NBA Finals. They can dredge up more than $25 million in space, but that demands cutting holds for Jae Crowder and Goran Dragic. Showing the door to a pair of significant rotation players doesn't track for a team that came two victories shy of a friggin' championship.

    Giannis Antetokounmpo's scheduled foray into 2021 free agency only complicates matters. Miami is among the throng of suitors already planning around his availability, per The Athletic's Shams Charania. Tacking on long-term salary is almost out of the question if it looks like his future won't be resolved before the start of 2020-21.

    That's hardly a problem. The Heat can, and should, offer Crowder and Dragic inflated one-year deals to preserve cap space and their immediate contention window. And though both could be after more big-picture security, the market isn't conducive to such stability. 

    Crowder and Dragic probably get looped into the non-taxpayer's mid-level pool if they leave Miami, in which case a two-year deal would pay out roughly $18.9 million. Unless squads are hawking a third or fourth season, the Heat will have no trouble condensing that multiyear salary into 2020-21 alone.

    Danilo Gallinari and Marcus Morris Sr. enter the realm of possibility if Miami loses one or both of Crowder and Dragic. Its cap space could be enough to poach either from their incumbent digs. Gallinari already seems to have one foot out the door in Oklahoma City, and the Clippers cannot offer Morris a starting salary above $18 million.

    Would either be willing to play out a one-year deal worth $20-something million, assuming the Heat have it? Debatable. Miami can kick around sign-and-trade scenarios if that doesn't fly. Gallinari should be available for not much more than Kelly Olynyk and modest sweeteners, and while a multiyear agreement would throw a wrench in the Giannis aspirations, they'll-figure-it-out-later logic applies here.

Milwaukee Bucks

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    Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press
    • Wesley Matthews (player option)
    • Bogdan Bogdanovic (restricted)
    • Kent Bazemore

    Leaving a dent in free agency will be tough even if the Bucks are open to paying the tax, which they apparently are, which also means absolutely nothing, which in turn means we must proceed with reservations while still somehow acknowledging they need to do something impactful.

    Wesley Matthews checks in as priority numero uno. Milwaukee can count itself lucky if he exercises his player option—or if it doesn't take knifing into the mid-level to keep him. His shooting is streakier than advertised, but the defensive workload he carries makes a difference, and it showed during the postseason.

    Kent Bazemore stands as a nice target whether Matthews stays or goes. His defensive range spans both backcourt spots, he shot 38.4 percent from deep after joining Sacramento, and the Bucks just generally need more supporting wings with Matthews, Sterling Brown (restricted), Pat Connaughton and Kyle Korver all slated for free agency.

    Bogdan Bogdanovic is a home-run swing, the likes of which the Bucks can only hope to complete via sign-and-trade. Be warned: Those scenarios are a stretch. They will be inside $10 million of the luxury-tax apron if Robin Lopez picks up his player option and Ersan Ilyasova's salary is guaranteed. That's without adding in a new deal for Matthews or the addition of other free agents.

    Hard-capping themselves with a sign-and-trade severely hamstrings their ability to do much else, but getting Bogdanovic would be worth the resulting rigidity. The Bucks need someone comfortable creating his own shot in the half-court who can also coexist with other ball-handlers, and he's it.

    Do the Kings bite on a package of Donte DiVincenzo and No. 24 plus other salary? The answer would be a resounding no if Vlade Divac were still around. He's not. New Kings general manager Monte McNair may not be as married to bankrolling Bogdanovic's next deal.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press
    • Malik Beasley (restricted)
    • JaMychal Green (player option)
    • Justin Holiday/Wesley Matthews (player option)

    Nothing is more important to the Timberwolves than re-signing Malik Beasley. They treated him as the centerpiece in the four-team trade that cost them Robert Covington, and they don't have the cap space to replace him.

    It helps that Beasley played like he deserves to be the chief priority upon arriving in Minnesota. He averaged 20.7 points while downing 51.7 percent of his twos and 42.7 percent of his threes through 14 appearances. He'll be overstretched guarding most bigger wings, but he's a utopian offensive running mate for D'Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony.

    Fortifying the frontline defense is also a preeminent concern, but it won't be easy given the Timberwolves' price range. They'll need help to access the bigger mid-level without entering the tax if they wind up retaining both Beasley and Juan Hernangomez (restricted).

    Paul Millsap seems a tad too ambitious for this squad; he's more likely to latch onto a projected contender. Moe Harkless is too much of a spacing liability, and the Timberwolves already have Josh Okogie and Jarrett Culver to worry about. Jerami Grant (player option) would be perfect, but he'd have to force Denver's hand or just accept the MLE.

    JaMychal Green, or someone similar, is a nice middle ground. He's no lock to opt out, let alone leave the Clippers if he does, but he stretches the floor and moves his feet well enough to defend both the 4 and 5. Minnesota would have a fighting chance at cobbling together a not-terrible frontcourt defense if they have peak Green and a healthy James Johnson.

    Monitoring the veteran wing market is a no-brainer as well. The Wolves need guys who can both defend bigger wings and knock down threes. Justin Holiday and Wesley Matthews come closer to meeting that criteria than anyone else currently on the roster.

New Orleans Pelicans

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press
    • Brandon Ingram (restricted)
    • Kent Bazemore
    • Chris Boucher (restricted)

    Brandon Ingram is the Pelicans' free-agent constant. Their immediate direction is kind of fuzzy, even after hiring Stan Van Gundy as their next head coach, but keeping a 23-year-old All-Star will always trounce every other potential need.

    Outlining what comes next is more ambiguous. Is New Orleans rebuilding? Content to follow a more gradual timeline? Or is it angling for an immediate playoff berth? The Pelicans' direction will inform how they spend their non-taxpayer mid-level exception, and whether they prioritize cheaper and younger fliers or proven veterans, including incumbent Derrick Favors.

    Hedging is patently acceptable here. New Orleans needs another presence or three on the wing after Ingram, but it probably can't lure the money's-equal-or-better-elsewhere options and shouldn't yet cozy up to sign-and-trades that don't net a star.

    Kent Bazemore is simple. He can shoot. He provides some ball-handling. He should be cheap. Ipso facto: He fits whatever collection of talent the Pelicans roll out next season.

    Taking stock of the frontcourt is more complicated. Favors is a genuine defensive anchor when healthy, but Zion Williamson needs to play beside a stretch big, and New Orleans should be wary of how much it's doling out for a center with Jaxson Hayes on the roster.

    Yours truly is a Chris Boucher enthusiast. Opponents shot 10.3 percentage points below their season average inside six feet of the basket against him, and he converted 43.2 percent of his three-point attempts after the All-Star break. His fit with Zion intrigues, even if they don't make for the most disciplined defensive pairing, and Toronto may not be prepared to match a multiyear offer if Giannis Antetokounmpo is still in play ahead of 2021 free agency.

New York Knicks

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press
    • Joe Harris
    • Fred VanVleet
    • Davis Bertans

    New York's cap sheet is more fluid. It can have anywhere from the most spending power in the league to no space at all.

    Where the Knicks land on the cap-space scale depends on how they handle $1 million guarantees for Reggie Bullock, Wayne Ellington, Taj Gibson and Elfird Payton; team options on Theo Pinson and Bobby Portis; and free-agent holds for Damyean Dotson (Early Bird restricted) and Moe Harkless.

    Clearing the deck can open up more than $40 million in room. Don't bet on that scenario. This isn't the year to have max-money-and-then-some. Don't expect New York to sit on the sidelines, either. Teams that can and are willing to spend this offseason have a unique opportunity to add impact names.

    Fred VanVleet will garner the most attention. The Knicks haven't housed a point guard who ranks among the 50 or so best players in the league since approximately the dawn of time.

    Shelling out $18 to $22 million (or more) annually for VanVleet wouldn't fast-track them for contention, but it's far from franchise malpractice. He is 26 years old. He doesn't have to instruct their entire direction. Trading for a 35-year-old, pricier Chris Paul would do more to force-feed an immediate outlook—and not necessarily for the better.

    Pushing for Joe Harris and Davis Bertans stands as the safer option. They aren't primary playmakers. They're shooters. (Harris does a lot more.) They can conform to whatever shape the Knicks take. They should run slightly cheaper, but mostly, they complement everyone: stars New York eventually acquires and, equally critically, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, Dennis Smith Jr. and any other ball-handlers that stick with or join next season's roster.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
    • Danilo Gallinari/Nerlens Noel
    • Garrison Mathews (Non-Bird restricted)
    • Damyean Dotson (restricted)

    Between Chris Paul's finality-fraught Disney World goodbye and Danilo Gallinari polling Twitter on where he should sign, the Thunder appear headed for the rebuild they staved off after trading Paul George and Russell Westbrook last summer. That presumed transition inherently de-emphasizes in-house free agents who don't align with the distant picture.

    And yet, Oklahoma City should still make Gallinari and Nerlens Noel priorities. The rebuild cannot begin until they move Paul, and losing helpful players for nothing never makes sense. The Thunder could re-up Gallinari in particular with the intention of dealing him later or shipping him out in a sign-and-trade (a transaction that requires his cooperation).

    Noel, meanwhile, isn't someone the Thunder should rush to let walk. He's only 26, and he has established himself as one of the league's top backup bigs. He is useful both behind Steven Adams or in place of him, assuming the cost to retain him isn't astronomical.

    Oklahoma City's mission beyond Gallinari and Noel is the same as ever: acquire wings who can shoot. Bold, I know.

    Garrison Mathews, who played out this past season on a two-way contract with the Washington Wizards, is a human haymaker. More than 70 percent of his limited looks came as catch-and-launch triples, of which he canned 37.5 percent. And these weren't exclusively standstill gimmes. He uncorked triples from super long range and off motion. His attack mode off the dribble is worth plumbing for a team with an iron stomach.

    Damyean Dotson has turned in some nice defensive moments for the Knicks over the past few years while seeing extensive time against tougher backcourt covers and some wings. He isn't a lights-out shooter, but he found nylon on 38.9 percent of his spot-up treys this year and is among the restricted free agents who shouldn't come close to costing the entire mid-level exception.

Orlando Magic

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press
    • D.J. Augustin/Evan Fournier (player option)/Wes Iwundu (restricted)
    • Goran Dragic
    • Trey Burke/Jeff Teague

    Jonathan Isaac's torn left ACL, which is expected to sideline him for next season, invites the Magic to embrace the seismic. They have epitomized, even actively sought, mediocrity. Now's a good time to gauge the market for core players, including Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic, in service of a thorough restart.

    But demolition can never be presumed without airtight evidence. Orlando has dropped no such bread crumbs. Its track record suggests it'll double down or try treading water.

    D.J. Augustin and Evan Fournier need to be part of any Magic squad with immediate playoff aspirations. They're two of the team's three most reliable shooters (along with Terrence Ross), and Augustin is the offense's second-best prober behind Markelle Fultz. Wes Iwundu isn't a necessity, per se, but Orlando needs to replace Isaac's minutes, and he's better with the ball than Al-Farouq Aminu and perhaps Chuma Okeke.

    Shoring up the point guard spot is a must even if Augustin stays. The Magic don't have enough off-the-dribble range to leverage unless Fultz starts raining threes. His mid-range game doesn't cut it.

    Goran Dragic won't be gettable for the non-taxpayer's mid-level if the Heat want to keep him. But their obsession with 2021 cap space, coupled with the torn left plantar fascia he suffered during the Finals, may open the door for his departure. The Magic can separate themselves from actual contenders with three-year offers or by engaging Miami in sign-and-trade talks that fatten Dragic's annual salary.

    Trey Burke and Jeff Teague aren't quite Plan Bs. They're more like fail-safes. The point guard market is bleak, and Orlando could feasibly lose Augustin without getting a real crack at Dragic. Burke and Teague should both be affordable and serve different purposes. Teague is the operable game manager; Burke is ready-made to disrupt half-court defenses with drives and off-the-bounce jumpers.

Philadelphia 76ers

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    Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press
    • Alec Burks
    • Shabazz Napier
    • Bryn Forbes

    The Philadelphia 76ers' offseason checklist is as follows: shooting, ball-handling, shooting, ball-handling, shooting, shooting, ball-handling, shooting. And also shooting.

    Those pining for the Sixers to land a household name will have to hope they do so via trade. The mini mid-level exception is the apex of their free-agency spending, a real issue given how many teams (nearly all of them) need shooting and ball-handling.

    Focusing on the backcourt rotation is the natural point of attack. Philadelphia has size to spare up front with Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Ben Simmons. A playmaking wing would be nice, but the Sixers aren't likely to stumble into one for the mini MLE.

    Alec Burks easily takes the top spot. Philly already knows he fits. He drained 39.4 percent of his pull-up threes during the regular season, a top-seven mark among 64 players to get off at least 100 such attempts. Without his Bird rights, the Sixers just have to hope the taxpayer's MLE is enough to keep him in town.

    Bryn Forbes and Shabazz Napier can be viewed as either alternatives or, if their markets permit, tandem signings. Philly has the room to further downsize even with both Burks and Shake Milton.

    Napier is the spicier choice. He's the better passer and higher-volume driver, someone you could imagine working his way into some crunch-time lineups. But Forbes has some on-ball jiggle to him, too. He put down 40.0 percent of his pull-up triples this past season and shot 39-of-74 on drives (52.7 percent). Napier's handle gives him a higher ceiling, but Forbes' outside touch, both off the catch and dribble, renders him the cleaner fit.

Phoenix Suns

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press
    • Jerami Grant (player option)
    • Aron Baynes/Jevon Carter (Early Bird restricted)
    • Alec Burks/Dario Saric (restricted)

    Jerami Grant's inclusion is obligatory. His fit with the Suns—in the frontcourt with Deandre Ayton, spraying threes off passes from Devin Booker, running the floor adjacent Ricky Rubio—makes too much sense. Phoenix owes it to Captain Obviouses everywhere to stalk him.

    That pursuit will most likely culminate in empty hands, as the Nuggets should be willing to pay anything below $15 million per year. The Suns cannot go that high without renouncing both Aron Baynes and Dario Saric, along with declining Frank Kaminsky's team option, or offloading Kelly Oubre Jr.'s expiring salary and still ditching one of the aforementioned two.

    Whether that's too much collateral damage is a matter of preference. Count me among those who'd give up two of Baynes, Saric and Oubre. But this isn't just an issue of price point. Denver may be willing to go as high as possible.

    Phoenix can explore other outside options if Grant is off-limits, but standing relatively pat and working the trade market feels like the better-not-best-case scenario.

    Keep Jevon Carter. That's it. That's the analysis. Dogged backcourt defenders who stroke threes—he shot 55.2 percent from distance in the bubble—are consummate star complements. Baynes might be the incumbent free agent easiest to approximate, but he shouldn't cost a fortune and is super valuable if Phoenix wants to roll with a five-out lineup while not surrendering size.

    Saric's performance off the bench at Disney World may have secured him a spot in the Suns' future. He averaged 14.8 points while slashing 57.4/52.4/87.9 and might yet be the engine they need to weaponize non-Booker units. Burks is everything insurance: a cheaper option to replace Saric if the Suns get a bigger name or affordable shot creation to deploy next to him.

Portland Trail Blazers

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
    • Jae Crowder
    • Nerlens Noel
    • Carmelo Anthony/Wenyen Gabriel (Early Bird restricted)

    Jae Crowder would be more liberally listed across big boards at large if a one-year windfall from the Heat didn't feel so inevitable. But perhaps he's looking for a longer-term home. Or maybe Miami pivots into one of the many other free-agency scenarios team president Pat Riley and his front office designed.

    Regardless of the reason, Crowder will enter the MLE fray if he doesn't return to the Heat. That would at once bode well for the Portland Trail Blazers and potentially not mean anything. More than half of the league figures to be working with the non-taxpayer's MLE. The Blazers won't be the only ones peddling it to him. They'd have to distinguish themselves by offering the full monte: four years and $40ish million.

    Otherwise, the Blazers would need to discuss sign-and-trades built around Trevor Ariza's expiring salary (assuming they fully guarantee it). They should not be opposed. Getting into Crowder for four years or significant money isn't without risk considering he's 30. But they need a three-and-D wing who can rumble with larger covers.

    Signing another big is comparably important. The Blazers' distaste for using Zach Collins at the 5 combined with the need to adequately load up minutes behind Jusuf Nurkic and move off Hassan Whiteisde makes the backup center spot a huge deal.

    Nerlens Noel is a peachy-keen pivot. As Bleacher Report's Zach Buckley wrote: "He may not have Whiteside's bulk, but he offers similar length with more mobility and a better motor. Noel could even juice the offense as a more dynamic pick-and-roll screener (88th percentile to Whiteside's 63rd)."

    Taking care of Portland's own comes next. Carmelo Anthony wants to stay, and he just averaged 15.4 points while canning 38.5 percent of his threes. The Blazers also can't know what to expect from Rodney Hood (player option) post-Achilles injury. Melo should be back if he doesn't cost them their MLE. Wenyen Gabriel is worth further exploration for his offensive rebounding and potential three-point range, too.

Sacramento Kings

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    Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press
    • Bogdan Bogdanovic (restricted)
    • Torrey Craig (restricted)
    • Michael Carter-Williams

    Everything we presume about the Kings stands to change if new general manager Monte McMnair has the agency to preside over a full-tilt rebuild. This board banks on their enduring attempts to re-enter the Western Conference's playoff discussion.

    Bogdan Bogdanovic's next deal leads the field of priorities regardless of the team's direction. He may not be as much of a focus following Vlade Divac's departure, but the Kings can't afford to let him walk without compensation. If they don't want to pay him—a fair stance after ponying up for Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield, and with De'Aaron Fox extension-eligible—they should be poking around the sign-and-trade market.

    Loading up on wing defense should be the inclination after figuring out Bogdanovic's next contract. Sacramento could use another center, and declining Harry Giles III's fourth-year option was a mistake, but it has Richaun Holmes and Marvin Bagley III available for minutes at the 5. Nemanja Bjelica's prospective return ($7.2 million non-guaranteed salary) only lowers the urgency to add another big.

    Torrey Craig's career 32 percent clip from three will make some flinch, but he genuinely soups up the defense, matching up with guards, wings and select bigs. Of note: He's also 28-of-78 from deep in the playoffs for his career (35.9 percent).

    Michael Carter-Williams poses even more spacing constraints. The 29.3 percent he shot on threes with the Magic is...a career high. But they unleashed his defensive range to the umpteenth degree, using him against everyone from Trae Young to James Harden to Khris Middleton. Though he's not playable beside Fox and a non-shooting 5, the optionality he brings on defense is worth the low cost of admission—especially if his downhill playmaking persists.

San Antonio Spurs

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Caught somewhere between rebuilding-but-not-really and trying to wring another season of fringe contention from a core that just missed said mark, the San Antonio Spurs are a tough read entering free agency.

    Are they rebuilding? Leaning toward it? Or not really? Does that make them a win-now team? Or are they trying to do both—attempting to be all things, all at once, to all people?

    Jakob Poeltl's place on the board is context-proof. The Spurs need options at center beyond LaMarcus Aldridge, and Poeltl, 25, is young enough that he won't age out of a potential about-face. It remains to be seen whether he can handle a larger role. He has never cleared 20 minutes per game for an entire season and went a little foul-happy in the bubble amid increased playing time.

    This is to say, San Antonio could stand to sign another big. (It is also suddenly, and oddly, flush with perimeter talent.)

    Serge Ibaka is still probably a better alternative to Poeltl than a tandem signing. The Spurs should be inside $5 million of the tax line if Poeltl fetches his cap hold ($11.3 million), they renounce Bryn Forbes and they waive Trey Lyles ($1 million guaranteed). Ibaka, who quietly had a monster season, only makes sense if he's available for the bigger mid-level and they're not entering the tax to use it.

    Harry Giles III is the more likely add-on option. San Antonio, as a team that doesn't project as a contender, should be able to afford him and Poeltl without entering the tax. (Ibaka may also command more than the MLE.) Giles' passing from the top of the key should fit nicely within the Spurs' half-court offense, and he introduced some more long twos into his game last season, a stretch element that could let him work in concert with Aldridge.

Toronto Raptors

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
    • Fred VanVleet
    • Serge Ibaka/Marc Gasol/Chris Boucher (Early Bird restricted)
    • Wesley Matthews (player option)

    Giannis Antetokounmpo is—surprise, surprise—on the Raptors' brain, so their offseason will likely unfold with 2021 cap space in mind (unless he signs a supermax extension). And running it back, as luck would have it, is the most efficient way for them to save their powder for next year.

    Serge Ibaka and, if he remains in the NBA, Marc Gasol shouldn't have an issue signing inflated one-season deals. Both are probably looking at mid-level money if they leave. Toronto can fold two years' worth of that money, if not more, into an expiring deal.

    Fred VanVleet is another story. He's guaranteed a market beyond the MLE. The Raptors can deal with it. They will, as all teams do, have a breaking point, but they can give him at least $18 million annually in a multiyear agreement without torpedoing 2021 flexibility. Paying him basically leaves them a Normal Powell dump away from max room.

    Signing anyone of consequence beyond their own will be a challenge. They need someone to put pressure on half-court defenses, but that's harder to swing for the non-taxpayer's mid-level exception without signing another guard (like Alec Burks). And depending on how much it costs to keep the band together—or at least Ibaka and VanVleet—the Raptors won't have the room necessary to spend their MLE without diving into the tax.

    Wesley Matthews isn't so much a concession as the best bang for Toronto's expected buck. The rotation needs another wing-sized defender who can also shoot (emphasis on shoot, Patrick McCaw believers), and he helps further decongest the paint for VanVleet, Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam.

    Things change dramatically for the Raptors if they lose their main incumbents. Parting ways with Gasol, Ibaka and VanVleet would give them a line to cap space. What that means is anyone's guess. They could try to keep chugging along with targets who cost more or steer into a gap year, Warriors style. Both scenarios would render this board moot.

Utah Jazz

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press
    • Jordan Clarkson
    • Moe Harkless
    • Willie Cauley-Stein (player option)

    Jordan Clarkson's fate will dictate the rest of the Utah Jazz's offseason spending. They'll be over the (guesstimated) tax line if they match his $13.4 million salary from this past year.

    Is that too much for Clarkson? Maybe. This offseason's market is unreadable at the moment. His value to Utah isn't nearly as vague. He put up 15.6 points per game while hitting 54.7 percent of his twos and 36.6 percent of his treys after coming over from Cleveland. A healthy Mike Conley mitigates some of the need for his shot creation and spark-plug scoring off the bench, but not all of it.

    The Jazz should have juuust enough room below the tax if Clarkson leaves to use the bigger MLE without actually crossing it. That's still not a lot of breathing room either way. With or without Clarkson, they're likely looking at options who cost sub-MLE money, barring any changes to their payroll or the luxury-tax line.

    Moe Harkless' three-point shooting may be too on-again, off-again for an offense that fields a rim-running 5, but Utah can overlook his outside iffiness when it means getting someone who can line up opposite explosive wings. Neither Joe Ingles nor Royce O'Neale is built for that, at least not on an every-possession basis.

    Nabbing another big cracks the to-do list yet again after the Jazz whiffed on last year's Ed Davis signing. Willie Cauley-Stein should fit into their budget and style. He's not due for an appreciable raise if he declines his $2.3 million option, and he's a solid option on rolls to the basket. In no way, shape or form does he mime Rudy Gobert's rim deterrence, but at his best, he can fly around the half-court and disrupt everything from layups to jumpers.

Washington Wizards

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press
    • Davis Bertans
    • Derrick Favors
    • Shaquille Harrison (Early Bird restricted)

    Allowing Davis Bertans to sign elsewhere isn't really an option for the Wizards. Keeping him past the trade deadline obligates them to open their wallet rather than lose him for nothing.

    Also: He just drilled 42.4 percent of his threes on 10.7 attempts per 36 minutes. They shouldn't want to lose him, period. He is a virtuosic outlet for an offense powered by Bradley Beal and, health permitting, John Wall.

    Surfing the big-man market can technically rank lower on Washington's checklist. It has Thomas Bryant and Mo Wagner, not to mention the inside track on Bertans. But no one already in place is defensive-anchor material.

    Derrick Favors can be that steadying presence in the middle. The frequency with which New Orleans' opponents reached the rim dropped by 5.2 percent with him on the floor this season (97th percentile). His back issues are a concern—he seemed to slow down later in the year—but the Wizards should have interest in anyone who can help generate stops at a macro level.

    Shaquille Harrison follows a similar logic. He held up defensively in more true wing minutes with the Bulls this year—Luka Doncic and Caris LeVert were two of his five highest-volume assignments—and his length enables him to line up opposite certain 4s. Among everyone to log at least 2,000 minutes over the past three seasons, only Kris Dunn and De'Anthony Melton own higher steal rates.

    Chicago needs wing depth itself and can pay Harrison just as much as Washington (he can't make more than the non-taxpayer mid-level in Year 1). But this isn't Brandon Ingram. Harrison didn't start logging serious minutes until after the All-Star break. He should be considered eminently gettable, and his spotty three-point shooting (29.3 percent for his career) should keep his list of suitors in check.


    Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference, Stathead or Cleaning the Glass.

    Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale), and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by B/R's Adam Fromal.


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