An early look at the class of 2020: free agency edition

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Free Agency Crest
A crest with the wording Free Agency 2020

The 2020 free agency does not hold the weight of the years of recent past where Kawhi Leonard, Kemba Walker, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and D’Angelo Russell all are on the board. Instead, we are talking Brandon Ingram, Fred VanVleet, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Danilo Gallinari.

Also, there are an estimated six teams that will have cap space above the mid-level exception. Atlanta, New York, Miami, Detroit, Charlotte, and Phoenix. At the very least, Miami has made it clear that their priority is having money in the 2021 free agency to offer to the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo, and Rudy Gobert – Miami likely isn’t alone in this thinking.

Expect for fewer fireworks in 2020 free agency that years prior, yet impact players can still be found. Here are the early groups of players that make up the 2020 free-agent class.

Max Player(s)

Brandon Ingram. That’s the entire list of players in the 2020 free-agent class that are worthy of a max contract. If the Pelicans do not offer Ingram a max deal early on, surely someone will force their hand considering he is a restricted free agent.

This season, Ingram has been a most improved player candidate and is averaging 24.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.3 assists on 46.6% from the field and 38.7% from three on high volume in his fourth season. Brandon Ingram found himself on the all-star roster this season and is well-deserving of a max contract at 22 years old.

Intriguing restricted players

Aside from Ingram, there are a handful of restricted free agents that could perk the ears of some opposing front offices. Most notable are Bogdan Bogdanovic from Sacramento and Malik Beasley from Minnesota.

Bogdanovic has had a bit of an up and down season in Sacramento. He started in a sixth-man role until he found himself replacing Buddy Hield in the starting lineup and the Kings have found their rhythm since. Bogdanovic is a two-guard that can comfortably initiate an offense and get his own shot off. He could end up pulling around $20-million.

Malik Beasley, who was recently acquired by the Minnesota Timberwolves as apart of the wild four-team trade centered around Robert Covington and Clint Capela. The Timberwolves sent a first-rounder along with Keita Bates-Diop to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez, who we will get to.

Since coming to the Timberwolves, Beasley has shined with more minutes and shots available to him. He is a prototypical 3&D two-guard that shot 42.6 percent from three on 8.2 attempts per showing in his 14 games on Minnesota’s roster. Oh, he was also averaging a total of 20.7 points on 47.2 percent from the floor.

Considering that Minnesota shelled out a first-rounder to obtain Malik Beasley’s restricted rights, they will likely be willing to pay him whatever it costs within reason. Beasley rejected a 3-year $30-million extension from the Nuggets previously, so he is likely expecting a contract around the $15-million annual price range.

Other players that younger teams with cap space (Detroit, New York, Charlotte) could try to poach away include Harry Giles III, Dario Saric, Kris Dunn, Jakob Poeltl, Juancho Hernangomez, and Torrey Craig.

Options to be watched

2020 free agency could be strengthed should some of the player options be opted-out of from Gordon Hayward, DeMar DeRozan, Tim Hardaway Jr, or Evan Fournier.

For Gordon Hayward ($34.1M PO) and Mike Conley ($34.5M PO), it is a pretty safe bet to say they will be picking those up. While both of those players could function as high-level starters on a championship team, the money is not out there for either one of them in the 2020 free agency to turn down upward of $34-million.

DeMar DeRozan has been subjected to rumors of him planning to opt-out of his upcoming $27.7-million player option by Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports. Where will his money come from this offseason becomes a more intriguing question, and this feels more like DeRozan simply wanting out of San Antonio.

Tim Hardaway Jr has performed phenomenally this season posting a career-high in both effective field-goal percentage (55.4 percent) and three-point percentage (40.7 percent on 7.2 attempts per game). There is a logic behind him taking advantage of his momentary high value in an undersaturated market and opting-out of his $18.9-million player option for more long term money.

Evan Fournier ($17.1M PO) is a greater question mark and could garner some interest from teams like the Hawks and Grizzlies that could use some veterans and shooting.

I glossed over Andre Drummond, Otto Porter Jr, and Nic Batum because there is a minuscule chance that Drummond, Porter, or Batum do not take their money and run.

Other options to keep tabs on including Kentavious Caldwell Pope, Jerami Grant, JaMychal Green, Avery Bradley, and Wesley Matthews.

Likely looking at substantial short-term deals

The Miami Heat are the team to me in this 2020 free-agent class that is most likely to pay a pretty penny for a one-year deal that can help them that season whilst maintaining the flexibility to chase bigger fish in 2021.

Older players with at least half a season of high-level play left in them, that stand out are Paul Milsap and Danilo Gallinari and to a lesser extent Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol.

Miami attempted to land Gallinari during the trade deadline, and they could potentially offer a 1-year $20-million deal to Gallinari in order to bolster their shooting at the wing.

The other guys

There are a few names that did not fall under the previous categories that are well deserving of a mention, mostly Fred VanVleet. NBA Champion Fred VanVleet that is, who finds himself hitting the market ready for life-changing money to be on the table.

For a long-term deal, VanVleet is the most intriguing player on the market after Brandon Ingram. VanVleet is averaging 17.6 points, 6.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.9 steals in the 2019-20 season so far. His shooting splits are nothing to scoff at either, currently sitting at 40.9 percent from the field, an impressive 38.8 percent from deep on 7 attempts, and 84.3 percent from the charity stripe.

While Fred VanVleet is harder to estimate, he should be within the range of Bogdan Bogdanovic and Malik Beasley, hovering around $17-million would be my estimate.

The fast approaching 2020 free agency is underwhelming compared to the upcoming year, but there are gems nonetheless that will alter the landscape of the NBA going into 2021.

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