Updated Rankings for Top Available 2020 NBA Free Agents

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistNovember 22, 2020

Updated Rankings for Top Available 2020 NBA Free Agents

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The NBA is in the middle of an unprecedented offseason that'll be crammed into a very tight fit.

    Free agency tipped off Friday, and the opening night of the regular season is Dec. 22. How can teams assemble rosters, hold training camps and be ready for meaningful games in just a few weeks?

    Well, for starters, identifying and signing free agents quickly is key.

    And that's exactly what happened Friday and Saturday. For a running tab on all the action, go here. To know who the best available players are, scroll below.

    But first, a word on how those players were selected.

    Predicting the future is next to impossible, but recent numbers give us some indication of how players will perform next season.

    Age is a factor as well. If two players with similar size, stats and skill sets hit the market and one is five years younger than the other, he may have an edge (unless a specific team is looking for experience).

    Versatility is also key. As the NBA continues to lean into positionless basketball, players who can guard multiple positions, hit threes and create a little have gained value. The league still has specialists, but a well-rounded base of skills is becoming increasingly important.

Anthony Davis

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    Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

    Few free-agency classes across history featured as obvious a No. 1 as 2020's Anthony Davis.   

    Just now on the verge of his prime, Davis is a 27-year-old big with almost no discernible weaknesses. He can defend all over the floor, clean the glass and carry an offense from the post or the extended mid-range. Over the last two seasons, he's even shown burgeoning playmaking and three-point shooting.

    As he continues to grow, Davis has a chance to become the best player in the NBA during the life of his next NBA contract, which will almost certainly be with the Los Angeles Lakers.

    "Davis plans to opt out of his $28.7 million player option and re-sign with the Lakers," Shams Charania wrote for The Athletic. "Davis and his agent, Rich Paul, will hold meetings in the coming weeks to discuss the situation and the contract term that is most sensible for Davis."

    Considering the fact that AD will have 10 years of service in two seasons, a deal that allows him to re-enter free agency in 2022 makes the most sense. Then, he'll have access to the 35-percent-of-the-cap max deal that decade-long veterans can sign.

Brandon Ingram

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    After three seasons of flashes from Brandon Ingram, it all came together in Year 4. His length, playmaking ability and jump shooting coalesced toward 23.8 points, 4.2 assists and 2.4 threes in his first run with the New Orleans Pelicans.   

    And that breakout just happened to occur in the last season of Ingram's rookie contract, making him the most coveted restricted free agent in the 2020 class.

    Prying him away from the Pelicans will likely be difficult, no matter how badly suitors want him. New Orleans can match any offer sheet he signs, and a long-term top two of Ingram and Zion Williamson is on the track to perennial playoff appearances.

    They didn't play much together this season, due to Williamson's delayed debut, but teams had a whale of a time containing them when they did.

    In the 901 possessions in which the two young stars shared the floor, the Pelicans were plus-9.9 points per 100 possessions (95th percentile). Add fellow youngster Lonzo Ball to that mix and the net rating climbs to plus-13.1 (98th percentile).

    With Ingram scoring from the perimeter, Williamson dominating inside and Ball engineering possessions and leading charges in transition, this trio has a chance to be one of the league's best in the near future. Regardless of the price tag, New Orleans will be hesitant to forfeit that future.

Hassan Whiteside

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Playing with Damian Lillard has its perks, as Hassan Whiteside should now be able to attest.   

    In 2019-20, he posted career bests in true shooting percentage, offensive box plus/minus and individual offensive rating

    His basic numbers leap off the screen, too: 18.5 points, 16.1 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per 75 possessions.

    Most importantly, the Portland Trail Blazers were better (a lot better, actually) when Whiteside was on the floor. He bought into a role that called for less usage than he got in the past, but he still defended with the effort and intensity needed to be a clear plus on that end.

    Gone were the days of block-chasing and occasionally moping up and down the floor. In Portland, Whiteside was a legitimate defensive anchor and rim-rolling weapon.

    If he can maintain the kind of focus he had in 2019-20, he should help whichever team signs him this offseason.

Marc Gasol

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    John Amis/Associated Press

    Marc Gasol turns 36 in January, but his passing ability and defensive savvy should help him be a net plus for at least a couple more seasons.

    In 2019-20, the Toronto Raptors were plus-10.1 points per 100 possessions with Gasol on the floor and plus-3.7 with him off.

    If he goes to a contender, which seems likely for a player of his stature and experience, Gasol will likely play in a reduced role. And he may be able to pack even more of a punch in limited minutes and on fresh legs.

DeMarcus Cousins

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    A torn Achilles ended DeMarcus Cousins' 2017-18 after 48 games. He came back from that injury for 30 games in 2018-19, but a torn ACL eliminated all of last season.

    Still, the 30-year-old 5 who could've been described as "lumbering" even before the injury woes is reportedly drawing interest from teams around the league.

    He isn't likely to ever post the kind of gaudy numbers he did earlier in his career, but sheer size and underrated passing ability could make him a positive contributor going forward.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Rondae Hollis-Jefferson posted a career low in minutes per game, but he may have rehabbed his value a bit in his lone season with the Toronto Raptors.

    The 6'6", multipositional forward showed a greater willingness to defend and averaged more assists per possession than he ever has before.

    For someone who isn't likely to be called on to do a lot of scoring for whatever his next team is, those team-first attributes will be key in finding a consistent role and minutes.

Juancho Hernangomez

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    In theory, Juancho Hernangomez is sort of a Davis Bertans-lite. At 6'9", he commands bigger defenders. And his three-point stroke pulls those bigs away from the paint. He just didn't have too many chances to show it with the Denver Nuggets.

    After he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, though, Hernangomez averaged 12.9 points and 2.1 threes (while shooting 42.0 percent from deep) in 29.4 minutes.

    The sample size was only 14 games, but you could clearly see the fit for Hernangomez as a spacer on the flank of a pick-and-roll.

Dario Saric

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Dario Saric showed loads of promise as a playmaking and shooting 4 in his first two seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers, but he's struggled to live up to it since then.

    Still, at 26, the restricted free agent is not exactly over the hill. He has plenty of time to get more consistent as a shooter, defender and passer. Whatever team signs him will be betting on that possibility.

    If you take his career peaks in assists per 75 possessions (3.2), three-point percentage (39.3) and box plus/minus (1.3), it's not hard to see why some team might make that bet.

Shaquille Harrison

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    Paul Beaty/Associated Press

    Shaquille Harrison only has three seasons and 139 games of NBA experience, but he's already 27 years old. That limits his upside a bit.

    But over the course of his brief career, he's proved himself a solid perimeter defender, with the potential to be stellar on that end.

    Over the course of his career, he's tied for 23rd (and 10th among non-bigs) in the league in defensive box plus/minus.

    And his averages of 5.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.3 steals and 0.9 blocks per 75 possessions are unmatched by anyone in that stretch.

Kyle O'Quinn

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    Michael Owens/Associated Press

    Kyle O'Quinn has spent much of his career as a third-string center who's struggled to find consistent minutes. He's generally productive when he makes it onto the floor, though.

    Over the last three seasons, he's recorded a 2.6 box plus/minus and averages of 14.4 points, 12.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.6 blocks per 75 possessions.

    There's always the worry that numbers like that won't translate to a bigger role, but there's more than enough there to suggest O'Quinn can be a contributor.

    His passing is especially intriguing. With a big who can find the open man, guards and wings get more catch-and-shoot opportunities that can boost the team's efficiency.


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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Chris Boucher

    Though he's heading into just his fourth NBA season, restricted free agent Chris Boucher will turn 28 in January. In 2019-20, he got his first chance to showcase his talent in a somewhat consistent role.

    And he was pretty productive, averaging 17.9 points, 12.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per 75 possessions.

    Markieff Morris

    Markieff Morris didn't have a big role with the Los Angeles Lakers once he joined the eventual champions. In the 2019-20 regular season, he averaged 14.2 minutes and 5.3 points in L.A.

    In the playoffs, though, he had some big moments. Those averages bumped up to 18.3 minutes and 5.9 points, but most importantly, he shot 42.0 percent on 3.3 three-point attempts per game.

    And the Lakers' postseason net rating was comfortably better when he was on the floor.

    As a playmaking and floor-spacing big who can spend some time at the 4 or the 5, Morris still has value to provide teams.

    Noah Vonleh

    Noah Vonleh has been in the league for six seasons and has yet to post a single above-average campaign, according to box plus/minus.

    Still, he's only 25 years old and 6'10". With career averages of 0.9 blocks and 0.9 steals per 75 possessions, and a tease at stretch-big ability in 2018-19, he's worth a flier.

    Aron Baynes

    Aron Baynes proved himself as more than a bruiser last season with the Phoenix Suns. He posted career highs in points (11.5) and threes (1.4) per game while shooting 35.1 percent from deep.

    He turns 34 in December, so it may be all downhill from here, but his playing style doesn't exactly call for above-the-rim athleticism anyway. He'll make a solid addition to some team's bench.

    Reggie Jackson

    Reggie Jackson has had a fairly significant injury history over the last four seasons, but he had a resurgence as a reserve for the Los Angeles Clippers last season.

    In 17 regular-season games, he averaged 9.5 points in 21.3 minutes and shot 41.3 percent from three. He stayed hot in the playoffs too, when he went 17-of-32 (53.1 percent) from deep.

    He'll likely never regain his 2015-16 form, but that run with the Clippers should sell a team on his ability to contribute off the bench.


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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Emmanuel Mudiay

    Emmanuel Mudiay had a much smaller role in 2019-20 than he's had in years past, but he also posted career highs in true shooting percentage and box plus/minus.

    Under Jazz coach Quin Snyder, Mudiay learned to work within a system, and that should serve him well. He seems to have a better handle on when to deviate from the scheme and utilize his ability to get to the paint.

    Alex Len

    Alex Len has tried to embrace the growing trend of three-point shooting bigs and has seen mixed results. In 2018-19, he shot 36.3 percent from deep on 2.6 attempts per game. In 2019-20, those numbers dropped to 27.1 and 1.1.

    If he can rediscover his form from two seasons ago, he'll increase his value. But even without the outside shooting, the fact that Len is a legit seven-footer may be enough to sell some team on the idea it can unlock more production.


    Frank Kaminsky

    He may never live up to his top-10 draft status or the fact that the Charlotte Hornets turned down multiple draft picks for him, but there's still reason to believe Frank Kaminsky can be a positive contributor for some team's second unit.

    He's a legit 7-footer who can theoretically hit threes (though he's only posted an above-average three-point percentage twice).

    Langston Galloway

    Over the last three seasons, Langston Galloway has hit 2.9 threes per 75 possessions, while shooting 36.8 percent from distance.

    As a ninth or 10th man who comes in and shoots a few from the outside, he can have some value.

    Kyle Korver

    Kyle Korver has had a long, productive (particularly from three-point range) career, but he turns 40 in March. He played 16.6 minutes per game in 2019-20, but the Milwaukee Bucks were significantly worse with him on the floor.

    At this point in his career, he's a "break in case of emergency" shooter, but he'll surely knock down threes when called upon. Even in his advanced years, he's shot 41.7 percent from three since the start of the 2017-18 campaign.


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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Shabazz Napier

    Shabazz Napier quietly had his first season with a double-digit scoring average in 2019-20. He was also tied for 29th in the league in assists per 75 possessions.

    The key for Napier is consistency from beyond the arc. Last season, he was well below average, but he has it in him to be better. Over the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, the 29-year-old guard shot 37.4 percent from deep.


    Dion Waiters

    It's been an interesting recent stretch for Dion Waiters. Since the start of the 2016-17 campaign (four seasons), he's averaged 32.5 appearances per season because of injuries and suspension. In 2019-20, he appeared in just 10 games.

    When he does play, it's fair to wonder if his shoot-first game contributes at all toward winning.

    Still, Waiters is on the right side of 30 (he turns 29 in December) and has shown flashes of the kind of scoring ability that might help some benches. He might be worth another flyer, assuming it's a veteran minimum.


    Isaiah Hartenstein

    Signing Isaiah Hartenstein would be a bet on size and potential. Although he already has two years of NBA experience, the 7-footer is still younger than some of the incoming rookies drafted in 2020 (including Obi Toppin).

    In 2019-20, Hartenstein averaged 24.9 points, 14.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocks in just 32.6 minutes in the G League.

    His three-point percentage was a more-than-underwhelming 26.1, but 3.3 attempts per game from deep is encouraging.


    Frank Jackson

    This is another nod to potential. The advanced numbers on the first two seasons of Frank Jackson's career were frankly terrible, but he's only 22 years old.

    If he can rediscover the shooting ability that helped make him a prized recruit for Duke and later got him drafted, he can be a helpful end-of-the-bench guy.

    On a minimum contract, he's worth a flyer.


    Willy Hernangomez

    Willy Hernangomez has been well under 1,000 minutes in each of his last three seasons, but he's been a fairly steady presence whenever he finds some playing time.

    For his career, the 26-year-old big man has an above-average box plus/minus with averages of 17.8 points, 14.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks per 75 possessions.