How Every NBA Team Should Handle Their Own Free Agents

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistOctober 30, 2020

How Every NBA Team Should Handle Their Own Free Agents

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    With the NBA reportedly aiming for a pre-Christmas start to the 2020-21 regular season, we may be on the verge of a truncated offseason the likes of which we haven't seen before.

    The draft is scheduled for Nov. 18, giving teams approximately one month to finalize rosters between then and opening night. Compare that to the typical timeframe of around four months between a June draft and October season tipoff.

    Cramming much of the offseason, including free agency, into four weeks could lead to chaos. So, it's as important as ever for teams to know how they'll approach their own free agents.

    Most teams around the league have big decisions to make when it comes to the continuity of their rosters. Do they look to avoid the chaos and try to bring everyone back? Or, do they embrace this unusual moment and shake things up?

    In anticipation of the madness, let's take a look at how each team should generally approach their own free agents.

Atlanta Hawks

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Jeff Teague, Vince Carter (retiring), Treveon Graham
    Restricted: Skal Labissiere, Damian Jones, DeAndre' Bembry, Charlie Brown Jr.


    Player: N/A
    Team: Brandon Goodwin ($1.7 million)

    Partial guarantees: N/A 

    The Atlanta Hawks should clear the deck. According to Yahoo Sports' Keith Smith, they're one of six squads projected to have cap space this offseason, and one of three projected to have enough room for a max contract.

    That doesn't necessarily mean they should sign a max player, but having that flexibility going forward, especially when the second contracts of Trae Young and John Collins are right around the corner, is key.

    If there is one player from the above group to prioritize, it's Skal Labissiere. The 24-year old appeared to be making strides toward rotation-level play with the Portland Trail Blazers last season, when he averaged 12.0 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per 75 possessions.

    Labissiere doesn't figure to command any huge offers in restricted free agency, so if Atlanta can secure him for a few million a year in hopes that he pops as he nears his prime, it should.

Boston Celtics

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    Todd Kirkland/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: N/A
    Restricted: Brad Wanamaker, Tremont Waters, Tacko Fall


    Player: Gordon Hayward ($34.2 million), Enes Kanter ($5 million)
    Team: Daniel Theis ($5 million), Semi Ojeleye ($1.7 million), Javonte Green ($1.7 million)

    Partial guarantees: N/A

    The subject of whether the Boston Celtics should pursue a Gordon Hayward trade is one for another article. Suffice to say, the buzz is out there about a possible move.

    The obvious move for the Cs is picking up the team option on Daniel Theis. His 2020-21 salary will take up less than five percent of the projected $109 million cap, which is ridiculous value.

    Last season, Theis was 36th in the league in box plus/minus (a "box score-based metric that estimates a basketball player’s contribution to the team when that player is on the court," according to Basketball Reference).

    Even if he's undersized at 6'8", Theis is a fearless defender who can stretch the floor a bit (34.4 percent from three for his career). If something along the lines of the "Hayward for Myles Turner" trade that ESPN's Zach Lowe recently discussed did materialize, Theis would still be on a bargain deal for a backup big.

    No one else here really moves the needle one way or another. Boston's core of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker is locked in. Everything else is supplementary.

Brooklyn Nets

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Joe Harris, Wilson Chandler, Tyler Johnson, Henry Ellenson
    Restricted: Chris Chiozza, Jeremiah Martin


    Player: N/A
    Team: Garrett Temple ($5 million), Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot ($1.8 million)

    Partial guarantees: N/A

    The focus for the Brooklyn Nets should obviously be Joe Harris. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving both presumably ready for the 2020-21 campaign, there won't be a ton of possessions for anyone else on the roster. And two ball-dominant superstars makes a player like Harris crucial.

    The veteran floor spacer will move around off the ball when KD and Kyrie are handling it. There's no indication Harris will complain about a lack of scoring opportunities. And he'll convert a higher percentage of his catch-and-shoot looks than just about anyone else in the league.

    In 2019-20, Duncan Robinson was the only player who topped Harris' marks in both catch-and-shoot attempts (324) and catch-and-shoot effective field-goal percentage (66.2).

    The issue, of course, is how much Harris might command on the open market. He's an unrestricted free agent, so Brooklyn won't have the opportunity to match any offers he signs with other teams. With $72.4 million committed to Irving and Durant next season, the Nets don't have a lot of wiggle room, but if they can secure Harris for around $10 million annually, they should probably do it.

    One other name worth mentioning here is Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot's. The 25-year-old wing possesses a solid combination of (6'7") and athleticism, and he just shot 38.8 percent from three. His $1.8 million team option is a no-brainer pickup. 

Charlotte Hornets

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    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Bismack Biyombo, Willy Hernangomez
    Restricted: Robert Franks, Kobi Simmons, Ray Spalding, Dwayne Bacon


    Player: Nicolas Batum ($27.1 million)
    Team: Devonte' Graham ($1.7 million), Caleb Martin ($1.5 million), Jalen McDaniels ($1.5 million)

    Partial guarantees: N/A

    We'll start with the obvious one here. The Charlotte Hornets will undoubtedly pick up the option for Devonte' Graham. He led the team in scoring last season, and he's set to make less than two percent of the salary cap in 2020-21.

    Other than that, Charlotte doesn't have a lot of no-brainer "we have to bring him back" players hitting free agency. If you had to pick a second priority, it might be Caleb Martin.

    The forward is in the same age range as Graham. And though he appeared in fewer than 20 games this season, the Hornets were significantly better when he was on the floor. He has sort of a jack-of-all-trades game that is certainly worth exploring for just the $1.5 million it would cost to pick up his option.

    The wild card for Charlotte, of course, is Nicolas Batum. It's tough to imagine the soon-to-be 32-year old who just averaged 3.6 points turning down $27.1 million, but if he did, Charlotte would become one of the few teams with a max cap slot.

Chicago Bulls

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: N/A
    Restricted: Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine, Shaquille Harrison, Adam Mokoka


    Player: Otto Porter Jr. ($28.5 million)
    Team: N/A

    Partial guarantees: N/A

    As was the case with the Hornets, the Chicago Bulls' outlook has an awful lot to do with the decision of the guy with the massive player option.

    Otto Porter Jr. would have a much easier time justifying walking away. He's 27 years old, and when healthy, is still the kind of multipositional 3-and-D player who can move the needle in today's game.

    In 2019-20, the Bulls were plus-2.0 points per 100 possessions when he shared the floor with Zach LaVine. Their season-long net rating was minus-3.4.

    In terms of restricted free agents, there are decent arguments for all of the above, assuming the prices aren't prohibitive.

    Kris Dunn and Shaquille Harrison are two of the league's top ballhawks, and both have positive net rating swings. Their perimeter defense can help Chicago compete for a playoff spot in 2021.

    Adam Mokoka offers some intrigue based on athleticism alone. He didn't play enough as a rookie to give a great feel for his game, but at 22, there's still time to mold that.

    Finally, there's Denzel Valentine. He lost an entire season to injury in 2018-19, but he was showing signs of potential as a positionless playmaker the year before. As an NBA sophomore, he put up 10.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 27.2 minutes.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Tristan Thompson, Matthew Dellavedova, Ante Zizic
    Restricted: Matt Mooney, Levi Randolph


    Player: Andre Drummond ($28.8 million)
    Team: Jordan Bell ($1.8 million), Alfonzo McKinnie ($1.8 million), Dean Wade ($1.6 million)

    Partial guarantees: N/A

    Right off the bat, we can take the biggest name off this board. Back in June, Andre Drummond told ESPN's Le Batard & Friends, "I definitely will be in Cleveland," when asked about his player option.

    The decision isn't hard to understand. There isn't much cap space out there, and the market for centers, especially more old-school centers, has been difficult to gauge for years. He's much better off taking the nearly $30 million on his contract for 2020-21.

    Other than that, the Cleveland Cavaliers' general approach to most of their free agent class should be to simply let them walk, unless they're willing to return on much smaller contracts.

    For sentimental reasons, that may be a tough outcome for Tristan Thompson. He's spent his entire career in Cleveland and was a key cog on the 2015-16 championship team. The Cavs need to steer all the way into a rebuild, though. Perhaps if Thompson is willing to take "Udonis Haslem in Miami" legacy deals, this would be a different discussion.

Dallas Mavericks

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    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Courtney Lee, J.J. Barea, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Trey Burke
    Restricted: Antonius Cleveland, Josh Reaves


    Player: Tim Hardaway Jr. ($19 million), Willie Cauley-Stein ($2.3 million)
    Team: Michael Kidd Gilchrist ($1.8 million)

    Partial guarantees: N/A

    There aren't many tough decisions here. The Dallas Mavericks only played Courtney Lee in 24 games last season. He's likely on to another team this offseason.

    J.J. Barea, on the other hand, seems like a candidate for the kind of legacy deal discussed for Cleveland's Thompson. And in Barea's case, taking something like the veteran's minimum with Dallas makes sense. He has a ton of history there, and he's not likely to get any more from another organization.

    As for the options, Dallas probably won't do much handwringing if Tim Hardaway Jr. and Willie Cauley-Stein both pick theirs up.

    THJ was an excellent floor spacer this season, shooting 39.8 percent from three on over seven attempts per game. The Mavs were significantly better when he shared the floor with Luka Doncic than they were when Luka played without him.

    And if he's on the books for 2020-21, not only can he provide similar value on the floor, he might be Dallas' best trade chip (assuming, as we should, the Mavs won't move Luka or Kristaps Porzingis).

    Cauley-Stein, meanwhile, barely played for Dallas after he was traded there, and he opted out of the season restart in Orlando. But Rick Carlisle has maximized a number of rim-rolling centers over the years. Cauley-Stein could boost his value by picking up this option ahead of unrestricted free agency in 2021. It'd be hard to blame him for turning it down, though. Beating $2.3 million on the open market is within reach.

    Finally, there's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Like WCS, he didn't play much for the Mavs in 2019-20, but $1.8 million isn't much to pay for a roster roll of the dice.

Denver Nuggets

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Paul Millsap, Mason Plumlee, Noah Vonleh
    Restricted: Torrey Craig


    Player: Jerami Grant ($9.3 million)
    Team: P.J. Dozier ($1.8 million), Monte Morris ($1.7 million), Keita Bates-Diop ($1.7 million)

    Partial guarantees: N/A

    There's little doubt Paul Millsap was a positive contributor for the Denver Nuggets when he was actually able to be on the floor.

    Over the course of his three seasons in Denver, the Nuggets were plus-7.5 points per 100 possessions when Millsap was on the floor and minus-0.2 when he was off. The problem, of course, was that he averaged just 53 appearances per season due to injury.

    That history and the fact that he's closing in on his 36th birthday make a future without Millsap in Denver seem likely. Unless (and you may be sensing a running theme through this slideshow) he's willing to come back on a much smaller deal.

    Mason Plumlee may not be in line for a huge contract from Denver either. He's six years younger than Millsap and top 75 in the league in box plus/minus over the course of his career, but the Nuggets have Bol Bol waiting in the wings on a rookie contract. It might be time to see what he can do as a backup 5.

    Next, there's Torrey Craig. He certainly works hard on defense and seems to have a place in the hearts of many Nuggets fans, but he's never come close to posting a positive net rating swing. If he signs an offer sheet elsewhere, it shouldn't be too hard for Denver let him move on.

    Regarding the team options, P.J. Dozier and Monte Morris are no-brainer pickups. Keita Bates-Diop is a bit more of a debate, but at that price, it's probably worth the flyer.

Detroit Pistons

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Brandon Knight, John Henson, Langston Galloway, Justin Patton, Jordan McRae, Christian Wood
    Restricted: Thon Maker, Jordan Bone, Louis King


    Player: Tony Snell ($12.2 million)
    Team: Bruce Brown ($1.7 million), Svi Mykhailiuk ($1.7 million), Khyri Thomas ($1.7 million)

    Partial guarantees: N/A

    This offseason is all about Christian Wood for the Detroit Pistons. After scratching clawing to find his place in the NBA for four years, he had a breakout campaign in 2019-20 that should secure him a longterm deal.

    The 25-year-old big was 30th in the NBA in box plus/minus, with averages that scream modern 5: 22.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, 1.5 threes and 1.5 blocks per 75 possessions, with a true shooting percentage nearly 10 points above the league average.

    When he was on the floor, the Pistons, who won 20 games this season, played like a 48-win team.

    So, Detroit should be willing to spend to keep Wood. And fortunately, they're one of just six teams projected to have cap space this offseason. Their biggest competition for the big man might be Charlotte. He'd make sense with the New York Knicks too, but they're reportedly thinking of taking on salary dumps with their cap space.

    Other than that, the Pistons would probably fine letting the rest of the unrestricted free agents walk. It would make sense to bring 23-year-old Thon Maker back if whatever offer sheet he signs isn't overly burdensome. And each of those team options should probably be picked up, as they combine to equal about five percent of the 2020-21 cap.

    That leaves Tony Snell, who'd be wise to pick up the $12.2 million player option. The chances of him getting a deal worth that much from anyone else are slim.

Golden State Warriors

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: N/A
    Restricted:  N/A


    Player: N/A
    Team: Ky Bowman ($1.5 million), Mychal Mulder ($1.5 million), Juan Toscano-Anderson ($1.5 million)

    Partial guarantees: Marquese Chriss ($1.8 million/$800,000), Damion Lee ($1.8 million/$600,000)

    Given how much money is committed to Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green, the Golden State Warriors need as many bargain-basement contracts as possible to fill out the roster.

    That makes it pretty easy to imagine all five of the names listed above being back in 2020-21.

    The players on partial guarantees, Marquese Chriss and Damion Lee, are particularly important. Both could very well be in the rotation for a team hoping to get back into championship contention.

    Last season, Lee averaged 12.7 points and shot 35.6 percent from three. He could be a solid third guard who wouldn't be called on to play heavy minutes unless Curry or Thompson got injured.

    Chriss, meanwhile, finally showed hints in 2019-20 of the potential that made him a top-10 pick in 2016. With the Warriors, he seemed more committed to defense and even showed some passing chops. With Kevon Looney being the only other traditional 5 under contract for 2020-21, Chriss could be in line for a fairly substantial role.

Houston Rockets

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    Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    Free Agentss

    Unrestricted free agents: Bruno Caboclo, Tyson Chandler, DeMarre Carroll, Jeff Green, Thabo Sefolosha
    Restricted free agents: Michael Frazier, William Howard, Chris Clemons


    Player: Austin Rivers ($2.4 million)
    Team: Ben McLemore ($2.3 million), David Nwaba ($1.8 million), Chris Clemons ($1.5 million)

    Partial guarantees: N/A

    The next 12 months could include an awful lot of changes for the Houston Rockets. This offseason, they've already hired a new coach (Stephen Silas) and promoted someone into Daryl Morey's old role (Rafael Stone).

    Whether the new brain trust is bought into the microball strategy pioneered by Morey and Mike D'Antoni remains to be seen. If they are, bringing back players like Bruno Caboclo, DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Green to be "centers in name only" makes some sense.

    Austin Rivers coming back would help too. It'd be a hit to Houston's already thin bench if he opted out and left, but the Rockets also shouldn't be keen to break the bank for someone who's had exactly one above-replacement-level season (he's never been above average).

    For the team options, the low dollar values on all three makes it tough to let them go. That's especially true of Ben McLemore.

    Last season, Houston was plus-11.0 points per 100 possessions when McLemore shared the floor with James Harden, compared to plus-1.4 when Harden played without the veteran floor spacer.

Indiana Pacers

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    Mike Ehrmann/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Justin Holliday, JaKarr Sampson
    Restricted: Alize Johnson, Brian Bowen II, Naz Mitrou-Long


    Player: N/A
    Team: N/A

    Partial guarantees: T.J. McConnell ($3.8 million/$1 million)

    T.J. McConnell has quietly developed into one of the league's sturdier backup point guards. Despite the lack of a three-point shot, the Indiana Pacers were slightly better with McConnell on the floor. And his 9.7 assists per 75 possessions ranked third in the league, behind only LeBron James and Ricky Rubio.

    Bringing him back for just over three percent of the 2020-21 salary cap is almost a no-brainer.

    The other pressing matter for Indiana is Justin Holiday's unrestricted free agency. The 31-year-old journeyman proved an effective 3-and-D wing last season.

    No one in the league matched Holiday's combination of defensive box plus/minus (1.8) and three-point percentage (40.5) this season. And you have to drop the qualifiers a decent amount to add names like Patrick Beverley, Marc Gasol and OG Anunoby.

    For a team that will likely have plenty of possessions reserved for Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. Warren and Victor Oladipo (assuming he isn't traded), having a relatively low-usage contributor like Holiday is important.

Los Angeles Clippers

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Marcus Morris Sr., Montrezl Harrell, Reggie Jackson, Patrick Patterson
    Restricted: Johnathan Motley


    Player options: JaMychal Green ($5 million)
    Team options: Joakim Noah ($1.7 million)

    Partial guarantees: N/A

    Reigning Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell has been a vital contributor to the Los Angeles Clippers over the last three seasons, but it's fair to wonder how well he fits on the current roster.

    This postseason, L.A. was plus-110 with Ivica Zubac on the floor and minus-68 with Harrell. It was plus-123 when Harrell didn't play. The undersized, unlimited hustle big man isn't terribly difficult to scheme around in the playoffs, especially when he doesn't space the floor.

    Harrell's bigger problem may be on the defensive end, though. In the West, which features Nikola Jokic and Anthony Davis, Harrell can be targeted and bullied to great effect.

    If he's looking for a monster deal this offseason, the Clippers might have to let him look elsewhere.

    Marcus Morris is another unrestricted free agent who'll likely garner some interest. He's a better theoretical fit with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, though.

    With those three on the floor, L.A. has a ton of defensive switchability and great floor spacing.

    JaMychal Green picking up his player option shouldn't be a problem for the Clips. He can shoot a bit, and $5 million isn't cap crippling.

    Bringing Joakim Noah back might make some sense too, especially if Harrell leaves. He's nearing the end of his career, but he had a solid 2018-19 and wouldn't asked to do a ton as Zubac's backup.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Markieff Morris, Dion Waiters, Jared Dudley, JR Smith, Dwight Howard
    Restricted: Kostas Antetokounmpo


    Player: Anthony Davis ($28.8 million), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($8.5 million), Avery Bradley ($5 million), JaVale McGee ($4.2 million), Rajon Rondo ($2.6 million)
    Team: N/A

    Partial guarantees: Quinn Cook ($3 million/$1 million)

    There are a lot of names here, but the only major difference maker is Anthony Davis. According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, he plans to opt out and look for a longterm deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, who should give him whatever he asks for. AD is the kind of player who can totally dictate the terms of his deal, much like LeBron James and Kevin Durant have over the years.

    Other than that, L.A. is now one of those teams that can probably fill out its roster with solid older players who'll take veteran minimums to compete for a title. That's probably the route the Lakers should pursue with Markieff Morris and Dwight Howard.

    The player options are out of their hands, but if they can sell Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Avery Bradley on returning, they should at least try. They're obviously not stars, but that much money for decent shooting and perimeter defense is important with so much committed to the stars at the top of the roster.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Josh Jackson, Anthony Tolliver
    Restricted: De'Anthony Melton, Yuta Watanabe, John Konchar


    Player: N/A
    Team: Jontay Porter ($1.5 million)

    Partial guarantees: N/A

    The Memphis Grizzlies have one of the most intriguing young rosters in the NBA. Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. are the headliners, but a few of their 2020 free agents could fit nicely next to those two for the foreseeable future.

    We'll start with De'Anthony Melton. ESPN's Kevin Pelton projects him to have the 11th most wins above replacement over the next three years of this offseason's entire free-agent class.

    That likely has a lot to do with his defense. On that end, where he averages 5.3 defensive rebounds and 2.3 steals per 75 possessions, Melton can be a nightmare for opponents.

    And all the transition opportunities his defense created gave him one of the best net rating swings in the NBA. When he was on the floor, Memphis was plus-5.8 points per 100 possessions, compared to minus-4.4 when he was off.

    And because his basic numbers are relatively uninspiring, the Grizzlies may not have some huge offer to match to keep him around.

    John Konchar is another restricted free agent that Memphis should be intent on keeping. He only appeared in 19 NBA games, but he looks like a potential jack of all trades who won't demand too many touches. In 20 G-League games, the 6'5" wing averaged 12.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.8 steals and 0.7 blocks in 29.1 minutes.

    Finally, there's Jontay Porter. He missed all of 2019-20 with knee injuries, but he's worth $1.5 million for his potential. In 2017, he was a trendy favorite of draft wonks.

    At that time, The Stepien's JZ Mazlish wrote, "Jontay’s skill package is as good as it gets for a center, and he has hugely promising indicators in his defensive awareness and extreme youth."

Miami Heat

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Goran Dragic, Solomon Hill, Meyers Leonard, Jae Crowder, Udonis Haslem, Derrick Jones Jr. 
    Restricted: Kyle Alexander, Daryl Macon, Chris Silva, Gabe Vincent


    Player: Kelly Olynyk ($12.2 million)
    Team: Kendrick Nunn ($1.7 million), Duncan Robinson ($1.7 million)

    Partial guarantees: N/A

    The free agency approach of the Miami Heat can seem pretty complicated at first glance. They just made an unexpected run to the NBA Finals, and unrestricted free agents Goran Dragic and Jae Crowder were important components. Meyers Leonard and Derrick Jones Jr. had their moments too.

    What simplifies things for Miami, however, is their view of the 2021 free-agent class. Next summer, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George might all be available. Adding any of those three to Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo would give the Heat one of the league's strongest top threes.

    So, expect "preserve cap space for 2021" to be a guiding principle in the team's free-agency decisions this offseason.

    If players like Dragic and Crowder are willing to come back on deals that would preserve maximum flexibility for 2021, great. If not, they might have to go elsewhere.

    The options for this team aren't hard to figure out either. Kelly Olynyk will likely pick his up, given the lack of cap space on the open market. And that's fine. Olynyk is a rugged defender and good floor spacer.

    The sub-$2 million team options for Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson are no-brainers. The former started much of this season as a rookie. And the latter is already one of the game's premier floor spacers.

Milwaukee Bucks

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Sterling Brown, Kyle Korver, Marvin Williams (retiring), Pat Connaughton
    Restricted: Cameron Reynolds, Frank Mason III


    Player: Robin Lopez ($5 million), Wesley Matthews ($2.7 million)
    Team: Ersan Ilyasova ($7 million)

    Partial guarantees: N/A

    After failing to make it past the second round of the 2020 postseason, the pressure is on the Milwaukee Bucks to make aggressive moves that will convince Giannis Antetokounmpo to stick around.

    Shortly after the elimination, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that team brass met with Giannis to discuss the future:

    "MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo's 3-hour lunch with Bucks co-owner/governor Marc Lasry on Friday covered the season, how Bucks can improve roster, Lasry confirming willingness to spend into luxury tax and agreement they’ll talk again after Giannis returns from a vacation."

    Milwaukee doesn't have a ton of flexibility to make major changes right now, but further burdening the cap with past-their-prime vets doesn't make much sense.

    That means Kyle Korver and Ersan Ilyasova, both of whom had net rating swings well below zero, could be gone. Everyone else might have to be willing to take deals at or near the minimum to stick around.

    Of course, the Bucks have little control over what Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews do, but their player options are small enough that bringing them back wouldn't be a huge problem.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Evan Turner
    Restricted: Juancho Hernangomez, Malik Beasley, Jordan McLaughlin, Kelan Martin


    Player: James Johnson ($16 million)
    Team: Jarred Vanderbilt ($1.7 million), Jaylen Nowell ($1.5 million), Naz Reid ($1.5 million)

    Partial guarantees: N/A

    Malik Beasley only appeared in 14 games for the Minnesota Timberwolves, but that was more than enough time for him to make a compelling argument for a longterm deal.

    With Minnesota, Beasley averaged 20.7 points and 3.5 threes while shooting 42.6 percent from deep. And this is after a 2018-19 in which he averaged double-figures and shot over 40 percent from three.

    Having that kind of shooting to flank a Karl-Anthony Towns-D'Angelo Russell pick-and-roll would go a long way toward giving the Timberwolves a strong offense.

    The problem is that Beasley is one of the more intriguing young names in an underwhelming free agent class. It wouldn't be shocking to see some team with cap space try to overpay him to put Minnesota in a bind, much like the Brooklyn Nets did to the Portland Trail Blazers with Allen Crabbe in 2016.

    On the bright side, there aren't many teams with cap space, so Minnesota might be able to re-sign Beasley to a reasonable deal.

    The case for retaining Juan Hernangomez is similar. Like Beasley, he shot well from three after the Denver Nuggets traded him to the Wolves. In Minnesota, he averaged 12.9 points and shot 42.0 percent from three. And he has the size necessary to pull bigger defenders out of the paint.

    The other big names here are Evan Turner and James Johnson. The former is coming off one of the most burdensome deals in the league, and will almost certainly play elsewhere next season. The latter had a strong run in Minnesota, like Beasley and Hernangomez, and could be a solid trade chip if he picks up his option.

New Orleans Pelicans

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    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Derrick Favors, E'Twaun Moore, Jahlil Okafor
    Restricted: Brandon Ingram, Frank Jackson, Kenrich Williams, Josh Gray, Zylan Cheatham


    Player: N/A
    Team: Darius Miller ($7 million)

    Partial guarantees: N/A

    The obvious top priority for the New Orleans Pelicans is Brandon Ingram. They can match any offer sheet he signs, and if they let him hit the open market, that's likely to be a max deal.

    He was 51st in box plus/minus this season, but his raw numbers (23.8 points and 4.2 assists) and age (23) suggest he certainly has the potential to live up to a max.

    His fit with the other youngsters on the roster helps too. On the season, New Orleans was plus-13.1 points per 100 possessions (98th percentile) when Ingram shared the floor with Zion Williamson and Lonzo Ball.

    From there, it's about identifying the players who fit best with that up-and-coming trio.

    Add Derrick Favors to those three and the net rating climbs to plus-14.9 (though on a sample of just 670 possessions). With little cap space and interest for bigs out there, he may be willing to return to the Pelicans for a lot less than the $17.7 million he made in 2019-20.

    If E'Twaun Moore and Jahlil Okafor take less, they could help as deep rotation pieces, as well.

    Regarding the other restricted free agents, Kenrich Williams and Frank Jackson are worth a second deal if the price isn't too high. And given their 2019-20 numbers, other teams aren't likely to throw wild offer sheets their way.

    As for Darius Miller, he unfortunately missed all of 2019-20 with a torn Achilles. Bringing him back for $7 million is likely too risky.

New York Knicks

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: N/A
    Restricted: Damyean Dotson, Jared Harper, Ivan Rabb


    Player: N/A
    Team: Bobby Portis ($15.8 million), Theo Pinson ($1.7 million), Mitchell Robinson ($1.7 million)

    Partial guarantees: Taj Gibson ($9.5 million/$1 million), Wayne Ellington ($8 million/$1 million), Elfrid Payton ($8 million/$1 million), Reggie Bullock ($4 million/$1 million)

    The New York Knicks can get real creative this offseason. And recent reports suggests they might.

    "A note on the offseason: several teams said the Knicks are open to using their cap space to take on undesirable contracts via trade," SNY's Ian Begley wrote. "The Knicks, who told teams recently they'd be open to taking on a bad contract, have not made decisions on any players with options yet."

    The Knicks can open up north of $40 million in cap space with their various team options for a so-called salary dump. Or they can pick up the options (or fully guarantee the contracts) for one or two of Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson and Wayne Ellington before including them in a trade.

    Whatever the exact mechanics may be, barring a possible trade for Chris Paul or another short-term difference-maker, the Knicks should pursue this course.

    Over the last 20 seasons, New York has the worst winning percentage in the NBA. In those two decades, it has tried chasing plenty of big names in free agency and trades. That approach has yielded little success. It's time to try a "Process"-like form of team-building.

    And that, of course, would include Mitchell Robinson. One of the lone bright spots of the last few years of Knicks basketball, Robinson has Rudy Gobert-like potential as a rim-roller and protector.

    He's 15th in the 2018 draft class in minutes played, but he trails only Luka Doncic and Trae Young in wins over replacement player.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Danilo Gallinari, Andre Roberson, Nerlens Noel, Devon Hall
    Restricted: Kevin Hervey


    Player: Mike Muscala ($2.3 million)
    Team: Abdel Nader ($1.8 million), Deonte Burton ($1.7 million), Hamidou Diallo ($1.7 million)

    Partial guarantees: N/A

    The Oklahoma City Thunder annihilated expectations in 2019-20. Running it back would be understandable. Perhaps another year of development from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander puts them closer to real contention.

    The better long-term plan may be a full-fledged rebuild (which may be what they thought they were doing last summer). Trade Chris Paul to add to an already extensive collection of assets, let the veteran free agents walk and start from the ground up with SGA and other youngsters you draft over the next few years.

    In the short term, hanging onto team options like those belonging to Abdel Nader, Deonte Burton and Hamidou Diallo is probably fine, unless there are other fliers out there OKC would rather take a chance on.

    Mike Muscala picking up his option probably doesn't move the needle much one way or the other either.

    The next couple months are the chance to truly start over (for real, this time).

Orlando Magic

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: D.J. Augustin, Wes Iwundu, Michael Carter-Williams
    Restricted: Gary Clark, BJ Johnson, Vic Law, Josh Magette


    Player: Evan Fournier ($17.2 million), James Ennis III ($2.1 million)
    Team: Melvin Frazier ($1.7 million)

    Partial guarantees: N/A

    Barring trades, the Orlando Magic seem pretty much locked into their middle-of-the-conference status. They don't project to have any cap space this offseason, so bringing back many of their own free agents may happen out of necessity.

    D.J. Augustin is one player who fits that notion. The veteran point guard made $7.3 million in 2019-20 and isn't likely to find much more on an open market so strapped for cap space.

    Bringing him back on a similar annual salary would help keep the Magic in the hunt for a playoff spot in 2021. Over his last three seasons in Orlando, the team is plus-0.6 points per 100 possessions when he's on the floor and minus-3.4 when he's off. When he shares the floor with Nikola Vucevic, that number climbs to plus-4.5.

    The rest of the unrestricted and restricted free agents should be lesser priorities, but again, Orlando may be forced to flesh out much of its rosters with players it can re-sign over the cap.

    On the options front, it seems like Evan Fournier should pick his up, though it wouldn't be shocking to see some team give him around that same amount of money ($17.2 million) stretched out over a two- or three-year deal. If he prefers a bit of long-term security, that option is available.

Philadelphia 76ers

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Ryan Broekhoff, Alec Burks, Raul Neto, Kyle O'Quinn, Glenn Robinson III
    Restricted: N/A


    Player: N/A
    Team: Furkan Korkmaz ($1.8 million), Norvel Pelle ($1.5 million)

    Partial guarantees: N/A

    New Philadelphia 76ers executive Daryl Morey is tasked with navigating one of the league's trickiest cap situations.

    After one season, it seems abundantly clear that Al Horford isn't a great fit with Joel Embiid, but he's set to make $27.3 million per year over the next two seasons. Then, he's partially guaranteed $14.5 of his $26.5 million for 2022-23.

    Tobias Harris just finished the season 105th in the league in box plus/minus. He was 18th in salary and is under contract through 2023-24, when he's sit to make just shy of $41 million.

    Throw in Embiid and Ben Simmons, whose contracts make more sense than those detailed above on an individual level, and it's tough to find any flexibility for the foreseeable future.

    Morey is a deal-maker, so he may be able to unburden the books at some point. But with all four of those big contracts in place right now, re-signing players like Alec Burks, Raul Neto and Kyle O'Quinn with Bird rights is probably the way to go.

    As for the team options for Furkan Korkmaz and Norvel Pelle, they're probably no-brainer pickups. Korkmaz is only 23 and appears capable of filling a floor-spacing role, something Philly will desperately need as long as it has Simmons and Embiid. Pelle, meanwhile, is 27 but showed flashes of being a solid rim protector last season. Contributors (or even potential contributors) for less than $2 million are key for a cap-strapped team.

Phoenix Suns

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Aron Baynes
    Restricted: Dario Saric, Jevon Carter, Tariq Owens


    Player: N/A
    Team: Frank Kaminsky ($5 million), Cameron Payne ($2 million), Cheick Diallo ($1.8 million), Elie Okobo ($1.7 million)

    Partial guarantees: N/A 

    The Phoenix Suns are one of the six teams projected to actually have a little cap space this offseason. And it'd make plenty of sense for them to use that before re-signing any of their own free agents.

    In 2019-20, they were plus-7.6 points per 100 possessions (91st percentile) when Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Ricky Rubio were all on the floor. Finding a free agent who supplements those three could get Phoenix to the postseason.

    And after the Suns (hopefully) find that player, they should go about solidifying their bench by using Bird rights to re-sign many of the above and go over the cap.

    The priorities there should probably be a pair of guards. Cameron Payne was a huge part of Phoenix's 8-0 run in the restart, averaging 10.9 points and shooting 51.7 percent from three in 22.9 minutes. And Jevon Carter is a committed defender who showed some outside shooting ability last season.

    For the right price, Dario Saric should probably be back too. He hasn't been quite as productive with the Suns as he was with the Sixers, but you can still see hints of the floor-spacing, playmaking forward he can be.

    Another one that largely depends on the price point is Aron Baynes. He averaged 11.5 points and shot 35.1 percent from three on 4.0 attempts. On March 6, he exploded for 37 points. If he's your backup center, you're in decent shape up front.

Portland Trail Blazers

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Hassan Whiteside, Caleb Swanigan, Carmelo Anthony
    Restricted: Wenyen Gabriel, Jaylen Hoard, Moses Brown


    Player: Rodney Hood ($6 million), Mario Hezonja ($1.9 million)
    Team: N/A

    Partial guarantees: Trevor Ariza ($12.8 million/$1.8 million)

    Hassan Whiteside had one of the best seasons of his career in 2019-20. He averaged 18.5 points, 16.1 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per 75 possessions while registering a career-best net rating swing that ranked in the 92nd percentile.

    With Jusuf Nurkic healthy, though, it's hard to imagine him holding onto a starting role with the Portland Trail Blazers in 2020-21. If he's willing to come off the bench and take a pay cut, it would make sense for Portland to bring him back.

    For a team without cap space and in dire need of depth, re-signing Whiteside makes sense. It probably needs forward depth more, though.

    Carmelo Anthony hasn't had a positive box plus/minus since 2016-17, but plugging him into the lineup actually did bring some stability. Rodney Hood and Mario Hezonja picking up their options probably wouldn't hurt either, even if it's only to deepen the rotation.

    Trevor Ariza is set to make more than all of those forwards, assuming Portland fully guarantees his $12.8 million, and that's probably worthwhile too. If nothing else, that gives the Blazers a potential trade chip down the line.

Sacramento Kings

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    Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Kent Bazemore, Alex Len, Corey Brewer, Yogi Ferrell
    Restricted: Bogdan Bogdanovic, DaQuan Jeffries


    Player: Jabari Parker ($6.5 million)
    Team: Nemanja Bjelica ($7.2 million)

    Partial guarantees: N/A

    The 2020 free-agency period is all about Bogdan Bogdanovic for the Sacramento Kings. The 28-year-old wing figures to be one of the more sought-after players, and a team with cap space could really hamper Sacramento's cap situation.

    If a team like the Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons or New York Knicks threw him a huge offer sheet, matching it could make it tough for the Kings to handle down-the-line salaries of Buddy Hield (who already signed a $94 million extension), De'Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III.

    Regarding the team option of Nemanja Bjelica, the Kings might be wise to pick that up for a couple reasons. For one, he's been a clear plus over the last two seasons, thanks in large part to his ability to stretch the floor. Additionally, having that $7.2 million on the roster could be good for salary-matching purposes for future trades.

    For the unrestricted free agents, there really aren't any no-brainer re-signings. Given Sacramento's current situation, it would probably be better off using those roster spots on draftees and other fliers on younger players.

San Antonio Spurs

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Marco Belinelli, Bryn Forbes, Tyler Zeller
    Restricted: Jakob Poeltl, Drew Eubanks, Quinndary Weatherspoon


    Player options: DeMar DeRozan ($27.8 million)
    Team options: Chimezie Metu ($1.7 million)

    Partial guarantees: Trey Lyles ($5.5 million/$1 million)

    It's time for the San Antonio Spurs to steer into a rebuild, which is something that can (and probably should) include Jakob Poeltl.

    This season, the Spurs were plus-5.1 points per 100 possessions when Poeltl was on the floor and minus-3.6 when he was off. Building a defense around him, Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Lonnie Walker IV could give something for Spurs fans to look forward to over the next few years.

    Of course, rebuilding in 2020-21 would probably be a bit easier if DeMar DeRozan declined his $27.7 million player option and looked for a spot elsewhere. If he doesn't, perhaps a trade might be in order. He just had one of the best offensive seasons of his career, but he also posted his 10th negative net rating swing in 11 seasons.

    Another player who fits the new timeline is Trey Lyles, and a $5.5 million salary isn't overly burdensome.

    As for Marco Belinelli, Bryn Forbes and Tyler Zeller, it's hard to see much long-term reason for securing them.

Toronto Raptors

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
    Restricted: Chris Boucher, Malcolm Miller, Oshae Brissett, Paul Watson


    Player: Stanley Johnson ($3.8 million)
    Team: Terence Davis ($1.5 million), Dewan Hernandez ($1.5 million)

    Partial guarantees: Matt Thomas ($1.5 million/$725,000)

    The Toronto Raptors are another team that could be angling toward massive cap space in 2021, when Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George might be available.

    At the moment, Pascal Siakam ($31.3 million), Norman Powell ($11.6 million), Matt Thomas ($1.8 million) and Dewan Hernandez ($1.8) are the only contracts on the books for 2021-22. So, signing players who don't eat too much into what could be around $65-70 million in space could be the priority in 2020.

    If Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka are good with one-year deals, then bringing them back makes sense. If not, it might be best to let them walk.

    All of the options are fine to pick up, as those won't impact 2021, and the salaries attached are very low.

    The exception to this whole discussion may be Fred VanVleet. If he signs a long-term deal worth around $15-20 million annually, Toronto would still have room for one max player in 2021. And VanVleet has shown an ability to handle a bigger role for the Raptors.

    This season, VanVleet averaged 21.8 points, 7.7 assists and 3.3 threes per 75 possessions while shooting 45.3 percent from the field and 41.1 percent from three when Kyle Lowry was off the floor. All five of those marks were lower when he played with Lowry.

Utah Jazz

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Jordan Clarkson, Emmanuel Mudiay
    Restricted: Juwan Morgan, Rayjon Tucker, Jarrell Brantley, Justin Wright-Foreman


    Player: N/A
    Team: Georges Niang ($1.8 million), Miye Oni ($1.5 million), Nigel Williams-Goss ($1.5 million)

    Partial guarantees: N/A

    With the last year of Mike Conley's deal becoming fully guaranteed in February 2019, the Utah Jazz are another team without a clear path to cap space. That means running it back with most or all of the above team options and restricted free agents may be in the cards.

    The biggest question is how much they're willing to spend to re-sign Jordan Clarkson.

    They can secure him on a deal with an average salary of around $15 million without diving into the luxury tax. And they can probably justify paying him that. In 42 games with the Jazz, he averaged 15.6 points and 2.2 threes off the bench. And he was often the spark for an offense that sometimes lacks fire.

    Emmanuel Mudiay, on the other hand, probably doesn't make sense for the team on any deal worth more than a veteran minimum. When Conley and Clarkson were both healthy, Mudiay was mostly out of the rotation.

Washington Wizards

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Free Agents

    Unrestricted: Ian Mahinmi, Davis Bertans, CJ Miles, Shabazz Napier, Gary Payton II
    Restricted: Johnathan Williams, Garrison Mathews, Anzejs Pasecniks


    Player: N/A
    Team: Isaac Bonga ($1.7 million)

    Partial guarantees: Anzejs Pasecniks ($1.5 million/$250,000)

    After four years, the Washington Wizards are finally free of the Ian Mahinmi contract they signed in the infamous summer of 2016.

    Flexibility still isn't a given, though. The salaries of John Wall ($41.3 million) and Bradley Beal ($28.8 million) alone make up well over half of the 2019-20 cap.

    With so little wiggle room, picking up the team option of Isaac Bonga and fully guaranteeing Anzejs Pasecniks makes sense. Locking in those low salaries is key.

    The most important pursuit, though, is for Davis Bertans.

    Last season, he averaged 15.4 points and 3.7 threes while shooting 42.4 percent from three. Stephen Curry (who's done it twice) is the only player in NBA history to match or exceed all three of those marks in a single season.

    And when he shared the floor with Beal, Washington scored a blistering 121.7 points per 100 possessions (99th percentile).

    There will be competition for Bertans on the open market, but Washington needs to do what it can to retain him.


    Stats via Cleaning the Glass, Stathead, Basketball Reference and unless otherwise noted. Salary information via CBS Sports and Spotrac.