NBA Free Agents 2020: Predictions for Isaiah Thomas and Top Available Players

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 8, 2020

NBA Free Agents 2020: Predictions for Isaiah Thomas and Top Available Players

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The NBA free-agent pool looks a bit like the Thanksgiving spread after folks have filled their plates, gone back for seconds and reheated some leftovers the day after.

    It's mostly picked apart at this point, but there's still a few worthwhile options if you know where to look.

    From a scoring guard with a superstar past to a couple of floor-spacers rich with experience, we'll spotlight some of the best available players and predict where they could land.

Ersan Ilyasova

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Originally included in the abandoned Bogdan Bogdanovic sign-and-trade, Ersan Ilyasova was instead waived by the Milwaukee Bucks before his $7 million salary was guaranteed for 2020-21.

    That was a sensible decision. At 33 years old with defensive limitations that will keep him off the floor late in critical games, he's probably not worth $7 million—especially to a team already knee-deep in big spending.

    Drop his pay rate near the minimum, though, and his combination of size (6'9") and shooting (career 36.5 percent from three) becomes much more intriguing. While he's primarily a spacing specialist, he also contributes on the glass (career 8.9 rebounds per 36 minutes).

    If he makes the most economic move available, the Turkey native could be headed back overseas. But if he wants to keep chasing an NBA ring, he should sniff out a contender in the market for a jumbo shooter.

    Prediction: Ilyasova signs with Golden State Warriors.

Kyle Korver

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Throughout NBA history, only three players have netted more career triples than Kyle Korver. Tack on the fact that his career three-point percentage is 10th-highest of all time, and you're clearly looking at one of the finest sharpshooters the game has ever seen.

    Granted, his next club won't get credit for his past production, but it can benefit from the reputation he's deserved.

    Even at 39 years old, he's too lethal of a long-range sniper to be left unattended for even a second. He'll always have the attention of his matchup, and he can have three or four sets of eyeballs drawn his way depending how he's moving off the basketball and racing around screens.

    The offensive value of his gravitational pull is enough to offset the defensive weaknesses of a near-40-year-old who was never a great athlete. Plug him into a modest, specialized role alongside an elite passer, and he'll be weaponized whenever he steps inside the lines.

    Prediction: Korver signs with Los Angeles Lakers.

Isaiah Thomas

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The Brink's truck never came for Isaiah Thomas, who torpedoed from stardom to barely hanging on at a tragically accelerated speed.

    A hip injury that first surfaced in the 2017 playoffs is the primary reason. Just prior to the ailment, he pieced together back-to-back All-Star seasons and landed fifth in the 2016-17 MVP voting. He averaged a whopping 28.9 points per game and paired that production with an equally impressive 46.3/37.9/90.9 shooting slash. But it's been a near-vertical drop ever since.

    The 31-year-old has donned four different jerseys over the past three seasons and could've rocked a fifth had the Los Angeles Clippers not waived him after acquiring him at the most recent trade deadline. He can still score (19.6 points per 36 minutes during this stretch), but the efficiency isn't the same (38.6/34.5/83.8), and he's struggled to create the same separation.

    Maybe age caught up with Thomas quickly, but given the glowing reports about his recent work, it's surprising no one has targeted him for at least a deep reserve role to see if there's some spark-plug ability left in him.

    Prediction: Thomas signs with Orlando Magic.


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