2 December 2020

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Assessing the Top Ten Upcoming Free Agents:

This summer may not have the same free agents as last year, but there are still several players that can be serviceable to many teams. This list does not include restricted free agents or players with an option of any kind; only the guaranteed unrestricted free agents (barring a contract extension) are going to be mentioned. There are several players that could really help out some teams next season. To assess the free agents, we will look at their performance this season, and what teams they might join in the offseason.

10. Joe Harris:

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Without question, Joe Harris is the best shooter on this list. He’s not shooting the 47.6% from deep that he was shooting last year, but 40.6% from beyond the arc on 5.8 attempts is serviceable, to say the least. This season, Harris is scoring 13.6 points. The former 33rd overall pick has definitely made a name for himself as a great shooter.

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With Kevin Durant returning next season, Joe Harris’s role will become limited as he will be moved to the bench. When on the bench, Dinwiddie and Levert will be taking a lot of minutes. Unless they trade Levert or Dinwiddie, Joe Harris will probably explore some other teams for him to join next season.

Being the shooter he is, odds are, many teams are going to be going after him. One team he should look at is the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks have a truck-load of shooters, so why not add one more? Harris could sign with the Hawks and the Hawks could move Kevin Huerter to the bench, as he does appear to be more of a 6th or 7th man off the bench rather than a starter. The one issue with that, however, is that if the Hawks get a top-three pick, they will likely pick up LaMelo Ball or Anthony Edwards.

In case that happens, Harris should also consider joining the Golden State Warriors. Yes, he’d still be coming off the bench, but in Golden State, there aren’t many backup wings to take his bench minutes. He could also start over Andrew Wiggins if Steve Kerr gets fed up with him. Being 6’6, Harris can play the two and three spots. When he’s in as the three with Curry and Thompson, they’d have three career-40%+ shooters on the floor at the same time to make some of the craziest floor spacing in history. He would also be a good replacement for when Thompson is resting as the floor spacing will not be affected.

9. Carmelo Anthony:

Kathy Willens/Associated Press

Carmelo Anthony is finally looking like himself again. He’s not putting up 20 points per game, but that’s not his role anymore. On the Blazers, Melo’s job is to score when Lillard is out and when Lillard is tired. He has played his role very well being a third/fourth option on a team trying to claw their way back into the playoffs. Anthony is averaging 15.5 points and 6.4 rebounds in 32.7 minutes. He’s as inconsistent as ever, shooting 42.1% from the field and 36% from deep, but that’s what everyone is expecting. His role is to score in any way possible so he can take the pressure off of Lillard and McCollum.

Anthony likely isn’t going anywhere in free agency. He has told the media that he intends to retire a Blazer. His career will end happily in Portland after just three months ago, everyone thought he was done with his career in the NBA.

8. Christian Wood: 

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Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Wood is on this list mainly because of his age. He has been a great player for the Pistons and very consistent, scoring 11.8 points per game on 55.7% shooting and 37.4% from deep. He has explosive dunks and is one of the few big men that can hit the three at a high clip. With that said, there are some limitations; mainly that he is not very strong and his defense is not great. Many teams are still going to be going after him, though, as he is a 24-year-old who is showing his ceilingless potential.

Several teams asked about Wood at the deadline and were cut off immediately, but he will be a free agent and can make his own decision next season. He will likely stay with Detroit as they have a lot of money to pay him, but the team most likely in second is the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics have a gaping hole at the Center and Wood is the perfect fit. His game is similar to Theis’s, but Wood as 6’11 instead of 6’8. His height will come in handy in Boston. Although he is not the strongest, he plays hard every night and pulls in six rebounds. 

Another team interested in him is the Houston Rockets. They’ve been running small-ball for a bit now, but Wood’s athleticism and his three-point shot would likely fit in with Houston when they have to go up against Giannis, who is 6’11 and an excellent perimeter defender.

Wood will likely stay in Detroit, but he will explore other options. The 24-year-old has a bright future ahead of him.

7. Serge Ibaka: 

John Raoux/AP

Ibaka is one of the many solid Centers that is looking for a new contract. He got his ring last season with the Raptors and it may be time to move on as the Raptors are trying to get younger and build around Pascal Siakam. 

At 30 years old, Ibaka is arguably having the best season of his career. He is averaging a career-high 15.9 points per game on 51.8% shooting and 38.8% from deep. He also pulls in eight rebounds per game and is a good interior defender. He’s not the same shot-blocker he was in OKC, but he’s still a very useful player to have guarding your paint.

Ibaka’s services would be very well suited in Phoenix. 

Not what you were expecting, right?

Well think about it, Ibaka is basically Dario Saric, except good. He’s a very tall player that can hit the three and guard the interior. The difference between the two is that Ibaka is actually good at those things. The Suns need to surround Booker with help soon or he’s going to demand a trade and imagine having Ayton and Ibaka guarding the interiors; ain’t nobody going inside. Ibaka is also a very good three-point shooter so he would fit in as the Power Forward in Phoenix and help them finally make the playoffs again.

He may also re-sign with the Raptors, though, as he seems very happy in Toronto. He will be great on either team, and he will get paid handsomely

6. Hassan Whiteside: 

Sean Meagher/Staff

Whiteside is reviving his career in Portland. After a sub-par season last year in Miami, he is now averaging 15.9 points, 14.2 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks per game. He is arguably the best interior defender right now and is making a case for Defensive Player of the Year.

Whiteside will have several options this offseason. With Nurkic almost ready to come back, Whiteside will likely walk this offseason. Teams he could go to are the Boston Celtics or the Dallas Mavericks.

Both teams lack a talented Center and would love Whiteside’s services. The way their teams are, Whiteside would make either of those teams legit championship contenders. The Mavericks have Willie Cauley-Stein as their starting Center and although he’s a solid player, he’s not a starter on a championship team. The Celtics have the aforementioned Daniel Theis and Whiteside would be a clear upgrade over any Boston Center.

5. Goran Dragic: 

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At 33, Dragic is having himself a pretty good season. After only playing 36 games last year, it’s good to see him healthy again. He’s making a case for Sixth Man of the Year, averaging 16.3 points and 5.0 assists, while shooting 45.1% from the field and 38.7% from three.

Dragic will likely remain with the Heat. As he gets older, he will want to actually compete. He’s been very mature about being moved to the bench and he seems very happy there. He will contend every year in Miami as the Heat have one of the best all-around teams in the league. He will get solid money for his final contract since Miami had his Bird Rights, so expect Dragic to return to Miami and finish his career there.

4. Danilo Gallinari:

KIM KLEMENT / USA TODAY SPORTS

At 31, Danilo Gallinari is having one of his best seasons. He has been a huge part of why the Thunder currently hold the #5 seed in the stacked Western Conference. Gallinari has been averaging 19.3 points on 44.1% shooting and 41% from deep. He is more consistent than that looks, however as 7.3 of his 13.5 shots per game are threes, giving him an effective field goal percentage of 55.2%.

Many second-tier contenders such as the Heat and the Jazz could be pursuing him next year. The Jazz have Bojan Bogdanovic playing the Power Forward, but he would get demolished by the taller fours in the league like Anthony Davis or Al Horford. Gallinari is 6’10 and would give a huge scoring boost. The offense that would come from Bogdanovic and Gallinari from the perimeter would be insane. The defensive issues wouldn’t be the big as Gobert can hold down the fort in the paint.

The Heat also could use his services. They have Kelley Olynyk and Meyers Leonard as their Power Forwards. Both of them are serviceable players, but should not be having major roles on a championship team. The Heat signing Gallinari would make them legit contenders. Like with Gobert, Bam Adebayo could take on the interior alone and they get a huge offensive boost.

Gallinari really could make a team a contender if he is to join for the right price.

3. Marcus Morris

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Although he’s had a sub-par first six games with the Clippers, Morris proved himself to be a great player when he was in New York. With the Knicks, he averaged 19.6 points per game on 44.2% shooting and 43.9% from deep.

He won’t be the first option the way he was in New York next year, but he could find a serviceable role with almost any team in the league.

He’d fit well with the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies have Brandon Clarke as their starting Small Forward. Clarke is an exciting young player, but Ja Morant has accelerated their rebuild and they’re going to want to compete for something better than a #8 seed next year. They have Morant, Brooks, Jackson Jr, and Valanciunas at the 1, 2, 4, and 5, so the only place where they really need improvement is the 3. Clarke would become one of the best bench players in the league and honestly could develop better as the first option off the bench, rather than the fifth option as a starter. Morris would provide the team with another veteran to help lead the Grizzlies to the playoffs and really make it far.

Morris could go just about anywhere next year. He may want to stay in LA in order to contend for a championship, but he may also want to help build a young team an be apart of something special.

2. Fred Vanvleet

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Fred Vavnleet is a dark horse contender for the Most Improved Player this year. He is averaging 17.6 points, 6.6 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. He’s a bit inconsistent, shooting 40.9% from the field, but he does shoot 7 threes per game on a 38.8% clip, making his effective field goal percentage 50.3%.

The Detroit Pistons are reportedly pursuing Vanvleet for the off-season. They have a hole at Point Guard, having only Derrick Rose as a rotation-caliber floor general. Many speculate that the Pistons are going to either sign Vanvleet or draft a Point Guard in this Point Guard heavy draft. 

The Raptors will probably do a lot to re-sign the 25-year-old. Their team is getting increasingly younger as they try to surround Siakam with talent so that they can get him another ring, but Vanvleet will have at least one other option this summer to make big money.

1. Montrezl Harrell

Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

The best free agent in the off-season, many teams would love to have the services of Monterzl. At just 26, Harrell is averaging 18.6 points and 7.0 rebounds. He is shooting 57.9% from the field to make him one of the most consistent scorers in the NBA. He is also a great interior defender, but the stats won’t show that.

Harrell has many teams that are going to pursue him in the offseason. The Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, and Boston Celtics all could be fighting to get the Center. He would fit best with the Pistons or Rockets as the Pistons don’t have a true Center after trading Drummond, and the Rockets could use the 6’7 Harrell as the perfect Center for a Small-Ball lineup.

Harrell would likely sign back with the Rockets and help Harden and Westbrook be true contenders in the West. The issue with that, however, is that the Rockets have zero cap room, meaning they’d need to make a trade. On the other hand, Detroit has plenty of cap space coming into the 2020 offseason. Detroit would start Harrell and he’d be one of the older-younger players in their rebuild. Harrell, Doumbouya, Wood, and Mykhailiuk would make a solid young core to build around if free agency goes right for Detroit this year.

This offseason won’t be the most exciting, but it will have several players shaping how contenders will turn out next year. These free agents may just make the difference for next year’s championship.

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