NBA Free Agents 2020: Predictions for Anthony Davis and Top Unsigned Players
An abbreviated NBA offseason has led to a hyperactive start to free agency.
Teams are attacking the market with the urgency one would expect with training camp (already) right around the corner. The Charlotte Hornets and Toronto Raptors gave huge money to Gordon Hayward and Fred VanVleet, respectively, and clubs have followed their leads with their own big-money commitments.
The player pool hasn't dried up, though. In fact, the top two players on it when the market opened remain without a deal. So does a former first-round pick who has posted career-high scoring marks each of the past three seasons.
We'll break out our crystal ball to predict how free agency will end for these three hoopers-for-hire.
Perhaps still basking in championship bliss, Anthony Davis is in no rush to ink his next contract. But all signs point to a return to the Los Angeles Lakers, including the club's other activity in free agency.
They have loaded up in the frontcourt with players who predominantly play center (Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell) or can handle it in certain situations (Markieff Morris). All of this is reportedly designed to lighten Davis' exposure at the 5 and turbo-charge him as an unstoppable 4, per ESPN's Dave McMenamin:
"Even though Davis is more than capable at center and played the position plenty during the Lakers' postseason run, sources told ESPN that it remains a priority for L.A.'s front office to fill the roster with other reliable centers so that Davis doesn't have to bear the brunt of the position during the arduous regular season."
Davis might still be working through different contract scenarios. ESPN's Brian Windhorst opined the Brow might be mulling a one-plus-one contract to free the Lakers for a potential 2021 run at Giannis Antetokounmpo, provided the back-to-back MVP declines a supermax extension (h/t RealGM). Given the flexibility that would afford the franchise, it might be Davis' best move to increase his championship chances.
Prediction: Davis signs a one-year deal with a player option to stay with the Lakers.
It remains a matter of when, not if, the New Orleans Pelicans will finally reward All-Star swingman Brandon Ingram with his first max contract.
The restricted free agent is a lock to receive that rate, per Marc Stein of the New York Times, which might puzzle some as to why Ingram hasn't secured it yet. But The Athletic's William Guillory reported that while the Pelicans considered Ingram their top offseason priority, they wanted to complete the Jrue Holiday trade before getting it down.
Well, the Holiday deal—which included four teams and resulted in Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe coming to the Crescent City—is done. Ingram's contract should be right on its heels.
At some point, it might've been worth debating the size of the contract extended to the No. 2 draft pick in 2016. Then, he turned his age-22 season into an eye-opening breakout by pumping in 23.8 points (on 46.3/39.1/85.1 shooting), 6.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists per night.
That debate is over. The wait for an official agreement should be finished sooner than later, too.
Prediction: Ingram signs a five-year max contract with the Pelicans.
Shabazz Napier has a one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other feel when grouped with Davis and Ingram, as the 6'0" scoring guard hasn't been billed as a star since his UConn days. But given what's left on the market, Napier has as strong a claim as anyone to be the next best available.
Free agency arrived at the right time for the 29-year-old. This past season, he paired career highs of 10.3 points per game with a 55.2 true shooting percentage, all while more than doubling up his 2.3 turnovers with a personal-best 4.7 assists per outing.
Those are the kind of numbers that can get a player noticed. So, too, is the fact that in five of Napier's six NBA seasons, his teams have played better with him than without.
For clubs still in need of a second-team spark, he's an obvious target. He should have his pick of suitors, and the Philadelphia 76ers might strike the best balance of getting him in the championship hunt and having a significant role ready for him.
Prediction: Napier signs one-year deal with the 76ers.