NBA Free Agency 2020: Predictions for Fred VanVleet, Goran Dragic and More
A free-agent period unlike any other could create significant surprises over the next few weeks.
There are few superstars on the open market compared to last year, especially if Anthony Davis and Brandon Ingram return to their current teams, but there are plenty of big names who can help shape the landscape of the 2020-21 season.
Teams will first need to navigate an adjusted schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic, plus a delayed draft that features its own unknowns and an uncertain salary cap. Some teams could stay conservative in free agency, allowing others to take advantage with some sleeper additions.
Here are some notable free agents who could change teams before next season.
Fred VanVleet: New York Knicks
Few players have improved their stock over the last year like Fred VanVleet.
The point guard was a role player for the Toronto Raptors during their title run in 2018-19, averaging 11.0 points per game during the regular season, but he became a go-to option this past season averaging 17.6 points and 6.6 assists per game to go with his quality on-ball defense.
It has made him one of the top free agents on the market, especially for teams who need a lot of help on both ends of the court.
One of those teams is the New York Knicks, who have reportedly targeted VanVleet as a potential free-agent option, per Ian Begley of SNY. Stefon Bondy of the New York Daily News recently added New York was among the interested parties and could pay a contract similar to Malcolm Brogdon's four-year, $85 million deal.
While the Toronto Raptors would obviously love to keep VanVleet, it would be hard for the 26-year-old to turn down this type of deal.
The Knicks certainly need an upgrade at point guard after getting minimal production from Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina last season.
Goran Dragic: Los Angeles Clippers
The Miami Heat are coming off a surprising run to the NBA Finals and will try to re-sign their own free agents for another run at the title next year, as team president Pat Riley explained.
"We know what our priorities are,'' he said, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). "It is to take care of the players that we have, that we have to make decisions on almost immediately. We know Bam [Adebayo] has a decision to make and we do with him. We know the guys that have sacrificed for us that we really like, our free agents, especially Goran."
While this could indicate Goran Dragic will return to Miami, the team is also hoping to maintain flexibility for 2021 when Giannis Antetokounmpo and others hit the open market. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the team is "preparing to go all in on the pursuit" of Giannis.
Dragic could still return on a one-year deal, and Charania reported mutual interest between the two sides, but the 34-year-old could be seeking more security this late in his career.
The point guard should also capitalize on his value after a strong showing in the postseason, averaging 19.1 points and 4.4 assists per game in 17 appearances.
While numerous teams would love to have this type of production, the best-case scenario for Dragic is landing with a contender who could offer a multi-year contract.
According to Sam Quinn of CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Clippers could offer a four-year deal worth over $40 million, giving the team another offensive weapon alongside Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. This could be a key addition to put the squad over the top after a disappointing second-round exit.
Danilo Gallinari: Atlanta Hawks
There is a lot of talk about Danilo Gallinari becoming a key addition for a contender this offseason, with Dan Devine of The Ringer projecting he could join the Bucks, Celtics, Warriors, Nuggets or several other options if he takes the $9.3 million mid-level exception.
However, he made $22.6 million in 2019-20 and isn't going to take a pay cut for no reason.
"I have a kid on the way, my first one. So the decisions are going to be made by altogether," Gallinari said on the Truth and Basketball with George Karl podcast (h/t Eurohoops). "I think the best is looking at everything. I'm not saying I'm just going to go to teams that are going to fight for the championship because I don't know if they are going to call me."
This could indicate he will join a team willing to spend, which could include an Atlanta Hawks organization that has the most cap space in the NBA, per Spotrac.
Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer reported the Hawks will be "aggressive in free agency" as they "intend to push for the playoffs."
There aren't many game-changing players in free agency, but Gallinari could certainly help after averaging 18.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. He was one of the top offensive options for the Oklahoma City Thunder, which finished fifth in the Western Conference.
He could have similar production for Atlanta, providing the team with another reliable weapon alongside Trae Young and John Collins.