NBA Free Agents 2020: Rumors and Predictions for Isaiah Thomas, Pau Gasol, More

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 5, 2020

NBA Free Agents 2020: Rumors and Predictions for Isaiah Thomas, Pau Gasol, More

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    We're now more than two weeks into NBA free agency, and unsurprisingly, most of the big-name players are off the market. Many of the proverbial dominoes fell within the first few days, but arguably the biggest—newly minted NBA champion Anthony Davis—didn't land until late this week.

    To no one's shock, Davis re-upped with the Los Angeles Lakers on a new five-year max deal.

    It was always widely assumed that Davis would return to Los Angeles, but now that the move is official, the collective basketball world can turn its attention back to the players who are still available.

    We're down to mostly role-players, aging veterans and potential comeback stories at this point, but that doesn't mean that some of them won't have a substantial impact on the coming season.

    Here, you'll find rumors and predictions for some of the top remaining options.

Isaiah Thomas Could Be Poised for a Bounce-Back Season

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    A few short years ago, point guard Isaiah Thomas appeared to be an up-and-coming star in the NBA. During the 2016-17 season with the Boston Celtics, he averaged 28.9 points and 4.5 assists while shooting 46.3 percent from the floor. Then, Thomas was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, dealt with a lingering hip issue and was never the same centerpiece player again.

    Thomas was serviceable with the Washington Wizards last season, averaging 12.2 points in just over 23 minutes, but he was a shadow of his former self.

    According to Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix, however, that former self may be waiting to be unleashed.

    "Have been talking to people that have watched or played with Isaiah Thomas in recent months," SI.com's Mannix tweeted. "There's a consensus: That's a different guy. He may never be the player he was in Boston but he is significantly better than the broken down player we saw the last couple of seasons."

    If Thomas is indeed closer to 100 percent than he has been in recent years, he could be a late-offseason steal for a team willing to take a chance.

    A return to Boston doesn't seem logical, as the Celtics recently added Jeff Teague. However, a return to Washington—which traded Thomas to the Los Angeles Clippers last season, who subsequently released him—might.

    Following the trade of John Wall, the Wizards are looking to become a contender around Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal. Having Thomas as an extra scorer off the bench could prove valuable.

    Prediction: Thomas joins Washington

Could Pau Gasol Return to the Lakers?

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Former NBA star Pau Gasol won two titles with the Lakers, and there's a chance that he could join the newest L.A. championship squad. Los Angeles recently brought in his brother, Marc Gasol, who stated that Pau would have interest in a return.

    "I know Pau loves L.A. and loves the Lakers," Marc said, per Spectrum Sportsnet. "Obviously, he feels like it's home. I'm sure he would love to come back, but that's a question for Rob and ownership.”

    LeBron James was asked point-blank if there's a chance that Pau Gasol could become a Laker once again, an idea he did not dismiss.

    "We'll see," James enthusiastically told Allie Clifton of Spectrum Sportsnet.

    While Los Angeles has been busy bringing in players like the younger Gasol, Dennis Schroder, Wesley Matthews and Montrezl Harrell, there's room for another role player on the squad. However, it doesn't feel like Pau would be an ideal fit.

    With Davis back on a five-year deal and James signing his own two-year extension, the Lakers appear to be as committed to the long-term plan as they are a 2020-21 run. The 40-year-old Gasol would only play into part of that game plan.

    In the NBA, Pau Gasol last played for the San Antonio Spurs and Milwaukee Bucks during the 2018-19 season.

    Prediction: Gasol does not rejoin the Lakers

Will Dion Waiters Find a Home Before the Start of the Season?

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    One of the more intriguing role-players still available is former Cavaliers first-round pick Dion Waiters. The fourth overall selection in the 2012 draft, Waiters has never blossomed into a star. However, he was a solid contributing scorer for a few seasons with the Miami Heat before being traded to the Lakers last year.

    In seven regular-season appearances with Los Angeles, Waiters averaged 11.9 points in just over 23 minutes per game. He was less of a factor in the postseason, scoring a total of just 10 points in five games.

    Still, Waiters could be a fine pickup for a team looking to add bench scoring on the cheap. However, as Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel recently pointed out, there won't be a rush to sign him.

    "More likely to be added during the course of the season than into an already crowded training camp," Winderman wrote. "It could wind up playing out as it did last season, with Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith as the emergency scorers to be named later by some deficient team."

    While Thomas could potentially be a bounce-back star in the making—and Pau Gasol is a complete unknown after not playing last season—Waiters is what he's going to be as an NBA player. He can come off the bench, drain a few threes—he shot 37.7 percent from beyond the arc two seasons ago—but he's not going to be a high-volume scorer.

    For a team that wants him, Waiters is there for the taking—and potentially will be well into the regular season.

    Prediction: Waiters will still be available when the season kicks off.