Every NBA Team's Updated 2020 Free-Agency Big Board

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistNovember 20, 2020

Every NBA Team's Updated 2020 Free-Agency Big Board

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Much has changed in the NBA free-agency landscape since we last big-boarded.

    The draft addressed several teams' needs, and a handful of impactful trades soaked up cap space while changing roster makeups in significant ways.

    Some things remain unaltered, like the general absence of teams with room to spend big.

    As it stands now, just two—the New York Knicks and the Atlanta Hawks—project to have max-salary space. With the 2020 free-agent class lacking max-level stars (Anthony Davis excluded; he's going to stick with the Los Angeles Lakers), it'll be intriguing to see how the few clubs with cash decide to spend it. Perhaps even more exciting for the majority of teams that lack cap room, the mid-level exception could stretch exceptionally far this year.

    Expect several teams to fire offers with that $9.3 million annual value at a half-dozen of the same targets.

    Based on individual team needs and financial constraints, we've put together an updated big board for all 30 clubs. Get those checkbooks out. It's time to do some spending.

Atlanta Hawks

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    Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press
    • Brandon Ingram
    • Gordon Hayward
    • De'Anthony Melton

    This is an ambitious list, but the Atlanta Hawks project to have just under $43 million in cap space, which is more than anyone else. They're equipped to aim high.

    The New Orleans Pelicans can and should give Brandon Ingram the max, but Atlanta ought to extend an offer sheet, as well. Ingram is a blossoming offensive player who added tons of beyond-the-arc volume last year, earning his first All-Star nod in the process. Heading into his age-23 season, he would not only fit perfectly into the age range dictated by 22-year-old Trae Young but would also help Atlanta achieve its goal of getting significantly better for the 2020-21 season.

    Now that Gordon Hayward, per Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic, has turned down his $34.5 million player option to hit the open market (possibly because he's got a wink-wink understanding on an extension with a team toting lots of cap space), Atlanta should strongly consider the veteran forward. A sign-and-trade agreement is also possible.

    Secondary playmaking was a critical failing of last season's Hawks, and there aren't many forwards or wings better equipped to function as de facto point guards than Hayward. He could run the second unit on his own, succeeding where Evan Turner failed a year ago.

    De'Anthony Melton wouldn't address the playmaking concerns as effectively as Hayward, but he might be the most useful backcourt defender on the market. The Hawks will always have to hide Young, and Melton can check either guard spot while also causing trouble off the ball. The rangy combo guard has ranked at or above the 97th percentile in steal rate at his position in each of his two professional seasons.

    Kris Dunn doesn't make the full big board, but he'd offer even more defensive versatility—with the tradeoff of slightly inferior offense.

Boston Celtics

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    Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press
    • Paul Millsap
    • Harry Giles III
    • Maurice Harkless

    Already deep into the luxury tax, the Boston Celtics' options are limited. Even though Gordon Hayward has opted out of the $34.2 million he could have been owed, they don't have cap space.

    So in the event a roster spot becomes available, the team's best tool to fill it may only be the taxpayer mid-level exception. Assuming the Celtics don't significantly trim their tax bill, it might not even be wise to use that $5.7 million resource when, after pricing in the tax penalty, it might cost the organization two or three times that much in real dollars.

    Paul Millsap will probably have better offers, but if he departs the Denver Nuggets, the Celtics would give him one of the better chances to wind down his career on a winner. Boston could utilize him as a center against second units when Robert Williams III's game wouldn't make for a good matchup, and the veteran's shooting and intelligence could juice an offense that sputtered during key moments of the 2020 playoffs.

    Harry Giles III would be a bolder upside play.

    He was once regarded as the top high school prospect in the class of 2016, but injuries knocked his career off course in college and the NBA. Though he's only had the opportunity to show flashes, he seems to have a keen passing eye for a center and plays with an energy level that makes it seem like he's got a swarm of hornets in his shorts. There could be a ton of untapped potential in the 22-year-old.

    Finally, everyone loves three-and-D wings, and Maurice Harkless remains one of those. At least theoretically.

    Once a critical piece to some very good Portland Trail Blazers teams, Harkless fell off the radar splitting time between the Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks last season. He's still a rangy 6'7", and he can defend both forward spots. At 34.7 percent from deep last season, Harkless also showed he could contribute as a catch-and-shoot option, albeit on low volume. He could probably be had for the minimum.

Brooklyn Nets

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    Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press
    • Joe Harris
    • Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
    • Andre Roberson

    Joe Harris has the Brooklyn Nets over a barrel since their status as a definite taxpayer (only the Golden State Warriors project to have a higher bill) means they can't replace the free-agent sniper if he departs.

    Few teams have the space to tempt Harris with a large deal. But even if the Nets only have to compete with a multiyear offer at the full mid-level, the tax penalties piled on top of that $9.3 million annual salary would get painful in a hurry.

    A passable defender whose off-ball offensive value makes him an ideal fit alongside high-usage stars like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, Harris is among the league's very best shooters. He shouldn't be cheap to retain.

    Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot won't cost nearly as much. He flashed rotation-level performance in the bubble, which should spur the Nets to guarantee the 25-year-old's $1.8 million salary for 2020-21. A team in Brooklyn's financial position needs dirt-cheap production wherever it can find it, and TLC, coming off a 38.8 percent hit rate on threes, offers that on the wing.

    Andre Roberson is a pure long shot. It just makes sense to gamble on a guy who, only a couple of years ago, was one of the most disruptive and switchable wing defenders in the league. The 6'7" forward returned to play seven games last season after recurring knee issues cost him nearly two full years of action, but he's still only 28, and the Nets could use a lockdown defender to supplement what should be a dominant offense.

    Considering the health red flags, Roberson could be gettable on a non-guaranteed minimum deal—another bonus for the tax-hit Nets.

Charlotte Hornets

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The Charlotte Hornets didn't address their center situation in the draft, opting instead to take LaMelo Ball with the No. 3 pick.

    That makes Christian Wood an absolute no-brainer.

    Assuming much of the Hornets' future offense will revolve around Ball, Wood's ball skills and explosive downhill game make him an able pick-and-roll partner. The spacing he offers wouldn't hurt either if Ball's jumper takes some time to come around.

    Serge Ibaka should also get a call from Charlotte, though it's harder to imagine the veteran abandoning a fringe contender for a rebuild. Montrezl Harrell could also be a consideration up front.

    Bogdan Bogdanovic might seem superfluous with Ball, Devonte' Graham and Terry Rozier on the roster, but the Hornets shouldn't be making decisions based on fit at this stage. Rozier, for example, is a fine rotation player. But you can never have too many playmaking guards, and Bogdanovic, a restricted free agent, profiles as a better fit with both Graham and Ball.

Chicago Bulls

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press
    • Derrick Jones Jr.
    • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
    • Jae Crowder

    It's hard to know how far the full mid-level exception will stretch this offseason. We always assume every team will use its full arsenal of roster-building options, but are we sure that'll be the case with revenues declining?

    That's a roundabout way of saying the Chicago Bulls might get more than expected for the MLE, which will check in at $9.3 million per season and can run up to four years with 5 percent annual raises.

    Chicago's targets should generally be of the defense-first variety, with positional versatility also weighing into the calculations.

    Derrick Jones Jr. could play either the 3 or the 4 while injecting athleticism and disruptive defense to a rotation that could use both. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's catch-and-shoot game makes him the more intriguing offensive weapon, and he might actually be more valuable defensively because he can handle both backcourt spots. When you project to start Coby White and Zach LaVine, that's going to be important.

    Finally, Jae Crowder, another potential casualty of the Miami Heat's focus on 2020-21 space, could accomplish a lot of what Jones does on D, albeit via positioning, toughness and smarts instead of quick-twitch athleticism. Don't expect the 30-year-old to match the 44.5 percent he shot from deep in 20 games with Miami last year, but his career long-range hit rate of 34.0 percent (and willingness to let the three-ball fly) is just enough to keep defenses honest.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press
    • Justin Holiday
    • Tristan Thompson
    • Derrick Jones Jr.

    It'd be nice if the Cleveland Cavaliers had the cap room to get involved in restricted free agency, but they're in the same unfortunate position as Chicago: over the cap and stuck with the MLE as their best talent-acquisition tool.

    That said, Cleveland might want to view free agency as a chance to sign a player it could later trade for picks or younger options at the deadline. That's a big part of why Justin Holiday lands on the Cavs' big board.

    Three-and-D wings are always in demand.

    Though it's possible the Indiana Pacers will give Holiday all the financial incentive he needs to stick around, Cleveland could at least give the 31-year-old forward something to consider with a three-year offer at the full mid-level. Holiday hasn't made life-changing money in a nomadic career, and at his age, this offseason might be his last chance to lock in a significant salary. If he comes close to last year's 40.5 percent shooting from deep, the Cavs will have no shortage of trade suitors at the deadline.

    Tristan Thompson is an unrestricted free agent who, if Cleveland can retain him using Bird rights for $8-10 million per season on a short-term deal, could also provide a solid deadline return. Pay too much, though, and nobody will be interested in a non-stretch big.

    Jones is the one big-board option Cleveland should aim to keep long-term. He's only 23 and could cover for a lot of the defensive miscues caused by a young backcourt and human turnstile Kevin Love.

    Rookie Isaac Okoro figures to fill that role eventually, but rookies are almost never ready to help right away.

Dallas Mavericks

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
    • Derrick Jones Jr.
    • Jerami Grant
    • Mason Plumlee

    This makes it three straight big boards for Derrick Jones Jr., and let's just be clear on something now: He's going to reappear several more times. It's rare for a 23-year-old with real potential and excellent defensive chops to hit unrestricted free agency. Everyone with the MLE should be clamoring to sign him.

    That list includes the Dallas Mavericks, who have Dorian Finney-Smith and now, following a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers, Josh Richardson as their designated stoppers. But the Mavs could put Jones' bounce and quickness to even better use.

    In addition to locking down wings and opening up the opportunity to play effective zone defense, Jones would also add an exciting dimension as a roll man on offense. His shooting is limited, but with Kristaps Porzingis spacing the floor at the 5, Dallas could punish teams with Jones rolling hard to the rim.

    Luka Doncic could spoon-feed him four dunks per game, easy.

    Jerami Grant is probably out of Dallas' price range, and you'd assume the Denver Nuggets will have to get up toward $12-15 million per season to keep him around. But the Mavs should put in a call for a five-position defender who can hit a spot-up three.

    Finally, if the Mavericks aren't keen on using their full MLE, and if Dwight Powell doesn't look ready to reprise his high-end roll-man gig following a torn Achilles, Mason Plumlee could come cheap. The 30-year-old center can't do much, but he can rim-run and find shooters on the short roll.

    Overhanging all of Dallas' decisions: the high priority on 2021 space. The Mavs are in a tricky spot in which offering multiyear contracts directly inhibits their grander (Giannis Antetokounmpo-related) plans. There are always ways to clear room when the time comes, but don't be surprised if the Mavericks have a hard time finding useful free agents who'll take one-year deals for less than $10 million.

Denver Nuggets

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
    • Jerami Grant
    • Nerlens Noel
    • JaMychal Green

    Jerami Grant proved his value at just the right time, outperforming Paul Millsap in the bubble and providing enough on both ends to suggest he can start at small forward alongside Michael Porter Jr.

    Grant's defensive prowess and increasingly reliable three-point shooting make him the easy pick as the Denver Nuggets' top priority. He won't be cheap to keep, especially with cap-space teams like the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks ready to pay up. Expect the Nuggets to offer him four years for at least $50 million and hope that's good enough.

    If Grant's price tag rises that high, Denver might want to get thriftier with the rest of its decisions.

    Nerlens Noel routinely grades out as one of the more impactful defensive bigs in the league, and he's coming off a minimum salary with the Oklahoma City Thunder. If Denver could snag him, he'd be a cost-effective replacement for potentially departing frontcourt free agents Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee.

    JaMychal Green has declined his $5 million player option with the Los Angeles Clippers, per Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic. It would take an offer of at least $10 million over two years for that opt-out to make any sense.

    Denver might not be willing to go that high, but his ability to defend centers in smaller lineups and hit spot-up threes would be valuable for the Nuggets. Doubly so if Grant is deployed mostly as a wing defender going forward.

    Finally, we're assuming the Nuggets can retain restricted free agent Torrey Craig. If he leaves, Denver should scrap the Noel and Green plans and do what it can to chase Jae Crowder, Derrick Jones Jr., Justin Holiday or another big wing who can defend.

Detroit Pistons

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
    • Fred VanVleet
    • Christian Wood
    • Kris Dunn

    Prior to the acquisition of Trevor Ariza, it seemed the Detroit Pistons would have to choose between Fred VanVleet and Christian Wood. Now, it appears they won't have the space to make a competitive offer for VanVleet without making significant changes elsewhere on the roster.

    The selection of lefty point guard and pick-and-roll maestro Killian Hayes was another signal FVV wasn't in the Pistons' plans. If there's any way for that to change, Detroit should pursue it.

    If Detroit re-signs Wood using Early Bird rights, it can agree to that deal for just under $10 million per year. But if Wood commands $12-15 million per season, the Pistons would have to use cap space to keep him at that pay rate, which would definitely take them out of the running for VanVleet.

    Kris Dunn doesn't offer much on offense, but a team that intends to hand significant minutes to a rookie guard needs a defensive bodyguard. Dunn can handle that role with aplomb.

Golden State Warriors

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press
    • Justin Holiday
    • Wesley Matthews
    • Kent Bazemore

    Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka topped the Golden State Warriors' board until they drafted James Wiseman on Wednesday. Now Kevon Looney (if he's not part of a future trade) and Marquese Chriss can assume backup roles as the rookie presumably cuts his teeth on the first unit.

    The wing is where Golden State needs more help anyway—and that was true before Klay Thompson's Achilles injury punched the organization square in the gut. Kelly Oubre Jr., acquired Thursday in a deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, will help. But he essentially slots into the wing role Thompson would have occupied, so depth at the position remains a critical issue.

    Two of the Warriors' three big-board selections should be familiar. Kent Bazemore made his NBA debut with Golden State but was dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers for Steve Blake(!) in 2014, the year before that first championship season. Justin Holiday played 59 games for that 2014-15 title-winner but has bounced around the league since.

    Wesley Matthews declined his player option for the minimum, which suggests he either thinks he can do better or that there's a multiyear agreement out there for him. Maybe he'd be amenable to a large portion of the Warriors' $5.7 million TPMLE. Chances are, Holiday and Bazemore will be looking for more than that.

Houston Rockets

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
    • Serge Ibaka
    • Paul Millsap
    • Chris Boucher

    The Houston Rockets' future is harder to predict than that of any other team. As a result, so are their free-agent intentions.

    If we assume James Harden and Russell Westbrook are still on the roster this season, the Rockets should target veterans who can play center without compromising floor-spacing.

    Serge Ibaka may not want to commit to a situation as seemingly unstable as the one in Houston, particularly since the Rockets will only have the MLE to offer. Millsap might be more in line with that price range, though all things being equal, he might prefer a different, less chaotic locale to wind down his career.

    Chris Boucher is a restricted free agent who can play the 5 with energy and a willingness to shoot it from deep. If the Toronto Raptors keep the band together, it'll get costly. That could make Boucher gettable with a reasonable offer sheet.

    If one or both of Harden and Westbrook departs via trade, just replace the three names at the top of this section with "several warm bodies" and we'll be all set.

Indiana Pacers

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    Kim Klement/Associated Press
    • Justin Holiday
    • Maurice Harkless
    • Glenn Robinson III

    Whether through retention or acquisition, the Indiana Pacers should stay focused on the wing during free agency.

    What? Were you expecting we'd suggest another center to add to the logjam?

    Justin Holiday played the best ball of his career last season with Indy, and he'll be a target for several teams. It's difficult to gauge whether he'll see offers approaching the full MLE, but the Pacers should be prepared to use theirs in order to stay competitive in the market. Ideally, Indiana would use its non-Bird rights to offer Holiday a deal starting at 120 percent of what he made in 2019-20: about $5.7 million.

    Regardless of whether Indiana strikes a deal with Holiday, it should take looks at Maurice Harkless or past Pacer Glenn Robinson III. The former is still the better defender, particularly against bigger forwards, but the latter offers more perimeter scoring.

    Indiana had moderate luck convincing Myles Turner to up his three-point volume last season. If it could get GRIII on a similar plan, his value could spike. He's ranked around the bottom third at his position in long-range attempt frequency for most of his career, which saps value from his 37.3 percent accuracy rate.

Los Angeles Clippers

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Clippers don't have the means to replace Marcus Morris Sr. in free agency, so it's a good thing they can use non-Bird rights to give him up to $18 million per season on a new deal. The duration of that agreement will be interesting, but that figure, if the contending Clips choose to pay it, should be enough to retain a critical piece of the rotation.

    An agreement with Morris could mean Montrezl Harrell and JaMychal Green are both goners, but you never know how much tax the Clippers might be willing to pay. All three could be back, but Morris should be the top concern in that group.

    Wesley Matthews declined his minimum salary for 2020-21, which means the Clippers may have to use some or all of their TPMLE in any offer for him. That might be a bit of an overpay, but the 34-year-old is as steady as they come. He'll be in the right place on defense and shouldn't struggle to match the 36.4 percent he shot on threes with the Milwaukee Bucks last season.

    Assuming L.A. uses its TPMLE on a wing, Dwight Howard could fit in as a backup 5 for the minimum. Maybe he'd just as soon return to the Los Angeles Lakers, but the Clippers could win a modest bidding war by offering a second year—ideally with a partial guarantee or team option.

    Obviously, Howard won't be on the radar if Harrell is on the roster. But this is at least partially a bet that a cap-space team will nudge Harrell's price beyond what the Clips are willing to pay for a backup.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
    • Anthony Davis
    • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
    • Swing big with the MLE

    Until Anthony Davis' new deal is done, the Los Angeles Lakers shouldn't give a moment's thought to any other free-agency priority.

    Fortunately for the defending champs, there have been no indications AD is going anywhere. His decision to decline a $28.8 million player option for 2020-21 was just good business; he'll have his pick of contract options from the Lakers. Bet on him signing either a two-year max deal with an option for a third or a shorter one-plus-one agreement. The only question is in which year AD wants to re-enter free agency.

    After Davis, the Lakers should turn to another retention priority, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. A strong playoff run that included clutch shooting and double-figure scoring in five of his six Finals games against the Miami Heat should draw interest from teams with cap space. The Atlanta Hawks should head the list and could inflate KCP's market value to uncomfortable levels.

    A Klutch client, Caldwell-Pope has unique leverage to coax a comparably pricey offer from the Lakers. Los Angeles also has KCP's Bird rights and can pay him up to his max without using the MLE. If the Lakers want to keep him, they can offer a larger, longer deal than anyone else.

    One concern with meeting the asking price on KCP: moving into tax territory. The situation is fluid with so many Lakers incumbents to retain (don't forget about Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and others), but there's a chance L.A. will only have the taxpayer MLE at its disposal. If it somehow stays over the cap and below the tax, or if it creatively times its decisions, Los Angeles could bandy about one of the most enticing full MLEs in the league.

    Jae Crowder, Joe Harris, Marcus Morris Sr. and Derrick Jones Jr. should all be considerations. All those guys could have bigger offers elsewhere, but a little optimistic ambition never hurt anyone.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press
    • De'Anthony Melton
    • Kris Dunn
    • Michael Carter-Williams

    Sensing a theme with this big board?

    The Memphis Grizzlies have solid depth up front and Ja Morant installed at point guard for, hopefully, a very long time. The through-line that links all three players above is backcourt defense. What better attribute to have on hand when you're trying to set up an offensively dynamic point guard for success?

    De'Anthony Melton should be Memphis' primary concern. He'll get offer sheets that could nudge up toward $10 million per season and might not be a great value at that number. A rangy combo guard best equipped to play the 2, Melton is an energetic havoc-wreaker on defense whose 32.7 percent knockdown rate on catch-and-shoot threes is almost acceptable.

    If Melton gets priced out of Memphis' range, Kris Dunn is the easy pivot. The Chicago Bulls surprisingly declined to make him a qualifying offer, and he brings just as much defensive punch as the top target—with less shooting but a bit more passing and downhill burst on the other end.

    Defense-first guard No. 3 is Michael Carter-Williams. Every plus and minus already ascribed to Melton and Dunn applies to MCW. He's not a threat from distance but can make life very difficult for 1s and 2s on defense. He checks in below Melton and Dunn because of his age. At 29, he's a worse fit than those two, who are 22 and 26 years old, respectively.

Miami Heat

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    Mike Ehrmann/Associated Press
    • Danilo Gallinari
    • Jae Crowder
    • Derrick Jones Jr.

    Danilo Gallinari wasn't keen on joining the Miami Heat at last year's trade deadline without an extension in place, and Miami's desire to preserve 2021 cap space meant no multiyear agreement was in the offing.

    With Giannis Antetokounmpo looking increasingly likely to sign his own long-term agreement with the Milwaukee Bucks, perhaps the Heat's stance on spending beyond this season has changed. Even if it hasn't, Miami should approach Gallo first in free agency.

    Of the teams with more than the MLE available, the Heat are clearly the best, having just reached the Finals. If a franchise like the Atlanta Hawks bowls him over with a three-year, $60 million offer, Miami is done. But maybe $20 million for one season on a true contender has more appeal now than it did several months ago. And if the Heat are willing to ditch their one-year-only rule, a Gallo acquisition would become far likelier.

    After Gallinari, Miami must turn to its own free agents. Jae Crowder and Derrick Jones Jr. are vital parts of a strong forward rotation, and both will be much easier to keep around if the Heat don't restrict themselves to one-year pacts.

    You might notice Goran Dragic's omission from the big board. He's also a priority, but the Heat shouldn't assume the bubble version of the 34-year-old guard will show up next season. It's better to expect some regression for the veteran, and with Tyler Herro appearing ready for a larger role in the guard rotation, Dragic is more expendable than either Crowder or Jones.

Milwaukee Bucks

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
    • Giannis Antetokounmpo (extension-eligible)
    • Joe Harris
    • Danilo Gallinari

    Everything starts with Giannis Antetokounmpo, who can't become a free agent until 2021. But in light of his massive influence on so many other teams' plans and the impact he has on the Milwaukee Bucks' status as contenders, he has to top the list.

    The Bucks need to secure him with a supermax before handling any other business.

    Jrue Holiday is already aboard, and we shouldn't rule out a rekindling of the sign-and-trade deal that went cold between the Bucks and Sacramento Kings for Bogdan Bogdanovic.

    Up front, Joe Harris and Danilo Gallinari are wildly ambitious targets, but the Bucks are in a position to go big. If Giannis inks that extension, the stability and certainty of contention would mean Milwaukee's money should stretch.

    The Bucks are absolutely going to get some under-market signings, certainly among the minimum-salary set. But what if they could also land a higher-end option using the MLE?

    The organization's ambition and commitment to the present will have major appeal to free agents.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
    • Jerami Grant
    • Paul Millsap
    • Malik Beasley

    Whichever forward the Denver Nuggets don't retain should expect a call from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    Jerami Grant will almost certainly rise out of Minnesota's MLE price range, but his defensive punch and spot-up shooting tick two critical boxes for a Wolves team that needs stoppers everywhere and figures to live on a diet of pick-and-pop action between D'Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns.

    Millsap's cost figures to be lower, but when you factor in the positive impact his veteran presence could have on a relatively inexperienced locker room, he might wind up being just as good a value as Grant. He and the returning Ricky Rubio would make for two valuable mentors in the room. The 35-year-old Millsap probably can't be counted on for more than 20-25 minutes per game, but he could be in Towns' ear for all 48, helping the immensely talented offensive big man apply his gifts on D.

    As for Malik Beasley, the Wolves must take care not to embrace the sunk-cost fallacy. Yes, they dealt for him last year with the likely intention of keeping the shooting guard in restricted free agency. And yes, Beasley shone on offense during his late-season stint, drilling 42.6 percent of a whopping 8.2 three-point attempts per game.

    But Minnesota should set an annual-salary ceiling around $10 million. Beasley isn't a surefire starter, and he's been an inconsistent defender his whole career. Rookie Anthony Edwards might outperform him right out of the gate. So if another team comes in with a long-term offer of, say, four years and $50 million, the Wolves should think long and hard about letting Beasley walk.

New Orleans Pelicans

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    Rusty Costanza/Associated Press
    • Brandon Ingram
    • Serge Ibaka
    • Christian Wood

    It may only amount to a formality, but the New Orleans Pelicans' first order of free-agent business should be getting Brandon Ingram's signature on a rookie-scale extension.

    If they can talk him down from the full max, that's great. But if Ingram insists on the max and also demands a more player-friendly flexible structure (think a three-plus-one setup that allows him to re-enter free agency sooner than a locked-in five-year max), so be it.

    Ingram grew immensely as a shooter and scorer in his age-22 season, making the All-Star team and establishing himself as one of the best young wings in the game. You keep that guy around if you're serious about building a winner. Full stop.

    After inking Ingram, the Pels need to address the center spot. Unrestricted free agent Derrick Favors' time on the floor coincided with the only respectable defense New Orleans played last season, but he should be a fallback option. Before approaching the incumbent, the Pelicans need to put lines out to Serge Ibaka and Christian Wood to see if either has interest in the full four-year MLE.

    Ibaka is 31, which makes him a little too old for the Pels' timeline. The decision to trade Jrue Holiday was a clear signal of an imminent youth movement. But his stretch and interior defense make him an ideal partner for Zion Williamson.

    Wood blew up with the Pistons after New Orleans cut him loose, so there might be some baggage to check if player and team were to reunite. What's more, he is likely to get better offers from either the Detroit Pistons or a team with cap space. Still, he's an absolutely ideal long-term answer at the 5, where his offensive skill and athleticism could really shine.

    New Orleans may ultimately settle on Favors, but why not dream bigger first?

New York Knicks

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press
    • Fred VanVleet
    • Jerami Grant
    • Christian Wood

    The Atlanta Hawks aren't the only team that should be sidling up to every free-agent negotiation and "accidentally" dropping wads of cash from their surplus of cap space. The New York Knicks need to get in on the act, too.

    Oops! Clumsy us! We have so much of this stuff we can't keep it from spilling all over the place sometimes...Oh hey, Fred!

    Fred VanVleet, who would very much like to get paid, is the obvious primary target. He's the only point guard on the market who checks both the "good" and "young" boxes, and the Knicks should be prepared to offer him $100 million over four years. That would be a huge commitment, and it might not even be enough to pry him away from the Toronto Raptors. But New York desperately needs competent players in its backcourt, and its free-agent history suggests paying market rates won't be enough to lure top talent.

    If FVV doesn't bite, the Knicks should next try to ruin the Denver Nuggets' offseason by offering Jerami Grant a contract he can't refuse. Four years and $65 million would (again) go beyond what Grant is likely to be worth, but not by much.

    Christian Wood plays center, and so does Mitchell Robinson. That said, allowing a player who fouls everything that moves and has started a grand total of 26 games in two years to determine your franchise's free-agency priorities would be extremely Knicks. The new brain trust must endeavor to be less Knicksy whenever possible, so Wood's positional overlap with Robinson shouldn't override the young center's talent and production.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press
    • De'Anthony Melton
    • Derrick Jones Jr.
    • Harry Giles III

    Everything changed when the Oklahoma City Thunder agreed to deal Chris Paul to the Phoenix Suns. Whatever uncertainty remained about the organization's near-term goals vanished; OKC's rebuild had begun.

    With that clarity of direction come new free-agent aims. While it would have once made sense to use the MLE on a veteran wing or break the bank on a short-term contract to keep Danilo Gallinari, the Thunder must now pivot to a full youth movement.

    That means testing the waters with De'Anthony Melton, Derrick Jones Jr. and Harry Giles III—all potentially gettable* for four-year deals worth a little under $40 million, and all under the age of 24.

    The Thunder are positionally unconstrained. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort and Darius Bazley make up the young core now, and all are versatile enough to accommodate the addition of a player at any spot from 1 to 5.

    OKC's real roster-building work will be done via the draft, and 2020 is merely a precursor to a 2021 offseason that could see the organization clear as much as $70 million in cap space.

    *Giles might only cost a third of that.

Orlando Magic

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    Kim Klement/Associated Press
    • Trey Burke
    • Jordan Clarkson
    • D.J. Augustin

    This is the wrong offseason to be a team in need of backcourt help with only the MLE to spend.

    The Orlando Magic won't be in the running for Fred VanVleet, and they can't even try to blow the market away with a one-year balloon deal for a veteran like Goran Dragic. After those two, it's straight to the bargain bin.

    Trey Burke resurrected his NBA career in the bubble, providing energy and scoring for the Dallas Mavericks and bumping Delon Wright from the rotation. If his performance with Dallas wasn't a fluke, he could easily slot in as a backup 1 behind Markelle Fultz.

    Jordan Clarkson could command more than the $9.3 million MLE, and he's definitely not a point guard. But his scoring touch would make him a useful sixth man who might even close games. Orlando was 24th in fourth-quarter offensive rating last year. Every bucket helps, and Clarkson, for all his flaws, can get you a few.

    D.J. Augustin wouldn't excite anyone, but he's a high-end backup who slipped under 40.0 percent from deep last year for the first time since 2016-17. If the Magic's more ambitious (but still modest) guard targets land elsewhere, it wouldn't be the worst outcome to just run it back with Augustin for another year or two.

Philadelphia 76ers

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press
    • Langston Galloway
    • Kyle Korver
    • Wesley Matthews

    Langston Galloway hit 40.7 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes in 2019-20, and though that figure seems like an outlier compared to his conversion rates on the same shots in 2017-18 and 2018-19, the 28-year-old guard also knocked down 42.3 percent of his standstill treys in 2016-17.

    Summation: Galloway's spot-up shooting seems legit, which makes him an ideal target for the spacing-obsessed Philadelphia 76ers. He'd offer more of the same skill set they got by landing Seth Curry and Danny Green in separate draft-day trades.

    It may take Philly's full taxpayer MLE to land Galloway, who'll likely be a target for several teams. Shooting plays anywhere.

    If the Sixers want to minimize their luxury-tax pains, Kyle Korver would be a cheaper option. Ancient by NBA standards at 39 and immobile defensively, Korver has his flaws. But he's one of the greatest shooters to ever lace up sneakers.

    The Milwaukee Bucks have more playing time to offer and a better chance at a ring, so including Korver and fellow Milwaukee free agent Wesley Matthews among the Sixers' targets might seem unrealistic. That said, there's no denying the need for what those two provide.

    Considering Philly will likely have to settle for minimum-salary additions anyway, it might as well poke around and see if it can weaken a prospective rival first.

Phoenix Suns

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    Matt York/Associated Press
    • Jerami Grant
    • Dario Saric
    • Kris Dunn

    By executing the Chris Paul trade prior to free agency, the Phoenix Suns made the decision to operate as an over-the-cap team. That's not a bad idea considering it enables them to use the full MLE while also giving them the chance to retain some of their own free agents using Bird rights.

    Dario Saric appears to be the most likely beneficiary of Phoenix's decision on timing. Had the Suns decided to preserve cap space, they would have renounced Saric's hold and made him an unrestricted free agent. Now restricted, Saric can sign an offer sheet elsewhere, but the Suns can match it.

    After an improved performance in the bubble that included some work as an undersized 5, Saric will likely be back.

    We've covered the value Grant brings elsewhere, and we've also noted he's likely to sign for more than the MLE. That probably pushes him beyond Phoenix's grasp, but when you have Chris Paul and Devin Booker to sell to free agents, you might as well shoot your shot.

    Kris Dunn hasn't come up often enough in this exercise. The Bulls' decision not to extend him a qualifying offer was curious since there are few superior guard and wing defenders in the league. The thought of him and Mikal Bridges wrecking opposing perimeter players together should excite the Suns. They've got offense taken care of with CP3 and Booker, so a focus on stopping power makes sense.

    Dunn could be had for only a portion of the MLE.

Portland Trail Blazers

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press
    • Paul Millsap
    • Mason Plumlee/Robin Lopez
    • Glenn Robinson III

    Rodney Hood's surprising decision to decline his $6.5 million player option gave the Portland Trail Blazers a cleaner path to cap space, but it still makes more sense for them to operate over the cap and use the full MLE.

    That's the best way for them to get Paul Millsap, who would fit perfectly into an upgraded forward rotation with emerging three-and D threat Gary Trent Jr. and recently acquired Robert Covington. Millsap could also spend time as a second-unit 5 behind Jusuf Nurkic if Zach Collins isn't ready or can't stay healthy.

    Assuming Portland doesn't bring Hassan Whiteside back at the minimum (and not a penny more), it could turn to old buddies Mason Plumlee and Robin Lopez, the latter having also surprisingly declined his player option with the Milwaukee Bucks. Those two non-stretch, non-switch bigs are dinosaurs in the modern NBA and shouldn't cost much.

    Glenn Robinson III could provide depth on the wing, possibly for the minimum.

Sacramento Kings

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press
    • Derrick Jones Jr.
    • Harry Giles III
    • Josh Jackson

    Usually, the "best player available" approach applies to the draft. For the Sacramento Kings, a team with De'Aaron Fox and nothing else in the way of top-tier assets, it applies to free agency.

    With the Phoenix Suns adding Chris Paul and the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers primed for contention in 2020-21, it also behooves the Kings to look further down the road. Sacramento wasn't particularly young last season, and it also wasn't very good. There might not be much the Kings can do about the latter with a division schedule so daunting, but they should focus on addressing the former.

    Derrick Jones Jr. makes yet another big-board appearance due to his age, 23, and defensive value. His suspect shooting makes him a tough fit if the Kings intend to play Richaun Holmes and Marvin Bagley III together up front, but again: best player available. The Kings should target him with the full MLE and cross their fingers.

    Sacramento can't pay Harry Giles III more than $4 million per season because it declined his fourth-year option. It wouldn't be a shock to see him get a larger offer elsewhere.

    Sacramento thought it got a little younger by adding Donte DiVincenzo and D.J. Wilson in the scrapped Bogdan Bogdanovic sign-and-trade. But unless that seemingly dead deal comes back to life, Josh Jackson, a reclamation project who showed brief flashes with the Memphis Grizzlies last year, should be another target in the organization's pivot toward youth and upside.

San Antonio Spurs

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press
    • Jakob Poeltl
    • Aron Baynes
    • Bruno Caboclo

    Jakob Poeltl's next contract will be a good indication of just how sour the NBA has become on conventional centers.

    Poeltl, 25, doesn't have star upside. He doesn't stretch the floor or thrive in switch coverages. But he rebounds the bejeezus out of the ball, can block a shot and projects as a plus defender who could start for a winning team. His restricted free agency might as well be a referendum on whether old-school bigs—even young ones—are worth anything at all anymore.

    The San Antonio Spurs should try to keep him, but spending anything over $8 million per season in this market would probably be a mistake. If Poeltl signs an offer sheet larger than that, the Spurs could redirect their focus to Aron Baynes, who started his career in San Antonio and offers the stretch Poeltl doesn't.

    Bruno Caboclo is only 25 and has played 99 games in six seasons while gradually transitioning from the 3 to the 5. The Spurs have more experience than most with a) international talent and b) reclamation projects. That seems like enough justification for San Antonio to throw the minimum at Caboclo and see what happens.

Toronto Raptors

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press
    • Fred VanVleet
    • Serge Ibaka
    • Kent Bazemore

    You can just feel the tidal wave of cash building out there in the open ocean, ready to crash down on Fred VanVleet once free agency commences. The onrushing tsunami should concern the Toronto Raptors, but they must stand firm.

    VanVleet is worth all the fuss.

    If it takes a fifth year (which only Toronto can offer) and a guaranteed total exceeding $120 million, the Raps should grit their teeth and pony up. After all, they'll still be a fringe contender if they retain FVV and Serge Ibaka, their second big-board consideration. And whenever the veteran core gives way to a younger nucleus built around Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, VanVleet will be an even more critical part of the next era.

    Kent Bazemore gets overlooked in a mostly uninspiring class of free-agent wings, but the 31-year-old rediscovered some of his defensive verve with the Sacramento Kings last year and is a career 35.1 percent three-point shooter.

    There was a time long ago when the Golden State Warriors envisioned Bazemore as a backup combo guard who could run the pick-and-roll in a pinch, too. If he's still got that dimension, Toronto should scoop him up and assign him 20 minutes per game on the second unit.

Utah Jazz

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press
    • Jordan Clarkson
    • Shabazz Napier
    • Jeff Teague

    The price on Jordan Clarkson needs to stay south of $14 million per season for the Utah Jazz to preserve their full MLE (without cutting salary elsewhere). The scoring guard's market is unlikely to move much past $10 million, so the Jazz shouldn't have an issue retaining Clarkson's reliable 15-ish bench points per game.

    Though Mike Conley looked better in the bubble, his relative flop during his first season in Utah should remain top of mind. At 33, improvement is never a good bet.

    Shabazz Napier doesn't shoot it quite as well as you'd like from distance, but he's a passable spacer at 34.5 percent for his career. The 29-year-old journeyman has low-end-starter potential in the right situation, which means he'd be a massive improvement over Emmanuel Mudiay, who played 15.7 "meh" minutes per game as the Jazz's backup point guard last season.

    Jeff Teague is a little older at 32, but his track record of respectable work at the point is longer than Napier's. That All-Star nod in 2014-15 feels like it happened decades ago, and his post-entry passes are always adventures. But we're talking backups at minimum salaries here.

    Surely Teague would be a value in that role.

Washington Wizards

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Everybody will be in hot pursuit of Davis Bertans, but the expectation should be that his price tag eventually rises high enough to exclude everyone without cap room and the Washington Wizards. That's roughly a three-team group, and Washington should be more incentivized than the other two to land the high-volume sniper.

    Bertans' ultra-deep range and ability to hit contested threes make him a force multiplier on a good offense. He demands attention 30 feet from the bucket. John Wall, who has probably lost a step after injuries and so much time off, could absolutely use the extra space the forward will create.

    Assuming the Wizards are willing to spend some or all of the full MLE, they should have eyes on the usual wing/forward suspects: Justin Holiday, Derrick Jones Jr., Jae Crowder, Wesley Matthews and maybe even restricted free agent Torrey Craig.

    Even with both Thomas Bryant and Moritz Wagner on the roster, it might be worthwhile to take a flier on Wall's former Kentucky teammate, DeMarcus Cousins. Boogie has moved beyond his double-double days after a series of lower-body injuries, but he's undeniably skilled and would only cost the minimum.

           

    Stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference and Cleaning the Glass. Salary info via Basketball Insiders.