The NBA’s typical spending spree was put on hold amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but the free agency rumors will start kicking up again soon as the 2019-20 season ends.
After last year’s wild chase for Kawhi Leonard, this round of free agency may disappoint fans who are eager to see chaotic movement. There is still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the 2020 class of free agents, though, because of the lack of clarity on the NBA’s financial situation.
It will be more difficult than usual to predict which teams will take big swings with signings and trades, but it’s never too early to examine the overall free agency landscape.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this year’s free agency period, including the top available players.
When does NBA free agency start in 2020?
NBA free agency was originally scheduled to kick off on Oct. 18 at 6 p.m. ET, but as The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported on Sept. 8, the NBA and National Basketball Players Association agreed to push back the dates for the NBA Draft, free agency and the start of the 2020-21 season.
NBA free agents 2020: Best players available
Lakers forward Anthony Davis is widely expected to re-sign with Los Angeles this offseason, so this group will be light on star power. However, there are plenty of solid players that should hit the market depending on their contract situations.
In addition to the list below, a few other noteworthy names: Carmelo Anthony (unrestricted), Mike Conley (player option), DeMarcus Cousins (unrestricted), Andre Drummond (player option), Evan Fournier (player option), Marc Gasol (unrestricted), Joe Harris (unrestricted), Dwight Howard (unrestricted), Serge Ibaka (unrestricted), Paul Millsap (unrestricted) and Marcus Morris (unrestricted).
|Free agent||Current team||Contract status|
|1. Anthony Davis||Lakers||Player option|
|2. Brandon Ingram||Pelicans||Restricted free agent|
|3. DeMar DeRozan||Spurs||Player option|
|4. Fred VanVleet||Raptors||Unrestricted free agent|
|5. Montrezl Harrell||Clippers||Unrestricted free agent|
|6. Gordon Hayward||Celtics||Player option|
|7. Bogdan Bogdanovic||Kings||Restricted free agent|
|8. Goran Dragic||Heat||Unrestricted free agent|
|9. Davis Bertans||Wizards||Unrestricted free agent|
|10. Danilo Gallinari||Thunder||Unrestricted free agent|
Salary cap uncertainty
The most important question ahead of free agency isn’t about any individual player. It’s about whether the salary cap will drop dramatically and force teams to re-evaluate how they construct their rosters.
With ticket and arena revenue temporarily gone, the big number for next season could look far different from the 2019-20 cap, which was set at $109.14 million. One possible way to avoid a huge shift: use the “smoothing” idea pitched prior to free agency in 2016.
Instead of a steep drop, the concept would be to keep the cap artificially high for the 2020-21 season — potentially around the current $109 million — and achieve the needed 50-50 split by every player taking an equal percentage pay cut. …
Artificially inflating the cap would have benefits for both sides. For players, it would be a way to avoid penalizing those entering free agency after this season. …
For teams, an inflated cap would allow the league to remain somewhere near its current financial structure. A sudden drop in the cap could see a lot of teams plunged into the tax that weren’t projecting to be in it. It also would allow teams with large payrolls to avoid unexpectedly massive luxury-tax bills. On the other hand, those massive luxury-tax bills could help boost the league’s smaller markets.
At this point, it’s impossible to say with any confidence what the cap will be when free agents start negotiating with teams. But it wouldn’t be that surprising if the “smoothing” option ultimately wins out and keeps the cap in that $109 million range.
Lou Lamoriello’s early plan for Islanders to take next step
With the 2020 free-agent signing period beginning Oct. 9, Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello has made it clear his priorities are in-house.
Having finished just two wins away from qualifying for the Stanley Cup final, the Islanders proved to have a more durable foundation than many believed when they carried a seven-game losing streak into the coronavirus shutdown that suspended the regular season in March.
Lamoriello evidently saw this playoff run as a sign of what he should do this offseason, saying during his end-of-the-season press conference that his only focus has been communicating with each and every restricted and unrestricted free agent on the roster.
“There’s room for improvement internally and if we can get better externally, we’ll certainly do that,” Lamoriello said on a Zoom call Tuesday afternoon. “But right now we’re going to focus in on keeping our team together.”
The Islanders’ top four UFAs are Andy Greene, Matt Martin, Derick Brassard and Tom Kuhnhackl, while Mathew Barzal, Devon Toews and Ryan Pulock are RFAs. Without any of those free agents signed, the Islanders have $8.9 million in cap space.
The pandemic-induced flat salary cap could threaten Lamoriello’s plan to keep this band together.
When the GM of the year reflected on the Islanders’ longest playoff run in nearly three decades, he said the most gratifying part was the team effort. And that is why Lamoriello is looking internally.
“It wasn’t just one player, or two players, or three players, the whole roster participated in whatever success we did have in getting ourselves two away from playing in the finals,” he said. “That to me was the most satisfying, gratifying. The good feeling that each and every player had for each other when they had success, whether a player scored an overtime goal or made a big defensive play or it was a different goalie in a game and the excitement that the goalie who didn’t play had for the person who was in the net.
“Those were the things that really were gratifying, that this was really a team. This was a collection of different talents who really came together and wanted to have success as a group and put aside anything individually.”
Lamoriello said there wasn’t a finalized RFA qualifying list yet, but that there will likely be “one or two that we will not qualify.” With Barzal, Pulock and Toews the clear priorities, bubble players like defenseman Sebastian Aho may not be extended a qualfying offer. Forward Josh Ho-Sang is expected to receive a qualifying offer, The Athletic reported Tuesday.
Considering Lamoriello explicitly said in March that he would match a qualifying offer for the 23-year-old Barzal, adding that it wasn’t his intention to even let it get to that point, it seems the Isles are comfortable with their RFAs situation.
As far as the UFAs go, Lamoriello said he’d “love to have Andy back.” Having reunited with the veteran defenseman in February via a trade with the very team Lamoriello signed him to while he was at the helm of the Devils, it’s clear how high he is on Greene.
But with a relatively crowded blue line with the continuing emergence of Noah Dobson and other defensemen like locker-room favorite Johnny Boychuk, some tough decisions may have to be made in order to retain Greene.
Martin proved his worth with a career-best playoff performance, but he brings a $2.5 million cap hit to the fourth line with Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck. With all three combining for $9.5 million, more difficult decisions need to be made.
“Right now we’re certainly exploring each and every situation that potentially could take place,” Lamoriello said. “The last resort, if there is such a word, would be doing something that we would certainly rather not do. But I’m reasonably comfortable that we’ll be able to accomplish what we want to accomplish and have the team that we want to put on the ice once the season starts.”
Adam Pelech (wrist), Casey Cizikas (detached retina) and Tom Kuhnhackl (undisclosed) all underwent successful surgery after the conclusion of the season, Lamoriello said.
“They’re all in a rehab situation and all will be ready for the start of training camp whenever that might come,” he said. “There is ample time for them to heal.”
With Ilya Sorokin signed for 2020-21 and Semyon Varlamov carrying three more years on his contract, Lamoriello said the Isles’ “goaltending situation is pretty obvious.”
Expect Thomas Greiss to test free agency after five seasons on Long Island.
‘Truthful’ Luke Voit better suited for this Yankees playoff role
CLEVELAND — “Luke Voit, Observer” sounds as dissonant as “Jon Bon Jovi, Actuary.” It represents a poor utilization of resources.
Alas, Voit merely observed the Yankees’ 2019 postseason run from the dugout due to a pesky core-muscle injury.
Whatever you think of the Yankees’ chances to prevail this postseason, and your doubts are highly understandable given how they played during the COVID-reduced regular season, they likely get better with Voit healthy enough to go. Certainly, the Yankees become more entertaining with Voit in their lineup no matter how it goes down.
“I’m not gonna lie to you guys. I’m gonna sit here and be truthful about what’s going on,” Voit said Tuesday, before the Yankees and Indians launched this American League wild-card series at Progressive Field. “Sometimes it sucks. You’ve just got to say what it is. Hopefully the good times roll during this postseason and there’s not a lot of that.”
While Voit has largely spoken his mind since becoming a Yankee in an unheralded July 2018 trade, your words carry more weight when you lead the major leagues in home runs, as the 29-year-old did by going deep 22 times (an accomplishment that generated a congratulatory text message from ex-Yankee Nick Swisher, among others). Voit called out the streaky 2020 Yankees, not excusing himself, multiple times during their valleys.
He can gain even more gravitas, as well as alleviate the vibe of disappointment from this group, by resembling the guy he was on the field for the past two-plus months. Which is who he couldn’t be a year ago.
Full disclosure, I forgot that Voit made the Yankees’ AL Division Series roster last year against the Twins, only to not get in a game, as Aaron Boone went with DJ LeMahieu at first base and Gleyber Torres at second base (and Didi Gregorius at shortstop); Voit reminded me on Tuesday. Then the Yankees left him off their AL Championship Series roster, and Voit underwent surgery to repair his injury on Oct. 24, five days after Jose Altuve took Aroldis Chapman deep to end the Yankees’ season.
Back in ’18, Voit experienced his first playoffs, albeit a brief run, as he hit a not-awful, not-great .235/.381/.353 in the Yankees’ wild-card victory over the A’s and their ALDS loss to the Red Sox. Asked what he learned from his initial experience, Voit said, “It’s intense. You’ve got to be locked in every pitch.”
That appears doable given how Voit has grown with the Yankees. “There’s no question that he has a strong voice,” Aaron Boone said. “His candor, he tells it like it is — kind of shoot from the hip — is something we love about him. He’s had a presence since he got here.
“He came in here, was himself pretty much right away. It’s something we certainly encourage here. I feel like there’s more of a veteran presence about him now. His routine to be able to get ready for games. He’s definitely a strong personality in our room and obviously a key figure to our success.”
That routine includes getting the necessary treatment on his mysterious left foot ailment through which he has played — Boone said he didn’t consider starting Voit at designated hitter Tuesday, which would have enabled slick glove Tyler Wade to play second and DJ LeMahieu to slide over to first, although the manager didn’t rule it out moving forward — and using the high-velocity machine to better prepare for the opposing pitchers. The last time Voit faced Cleveland’s Game 1 starter Shane Bieber, on June 9, 2019 here, he ripped a two-run double.
“It’s all about the bat path for me,” Voit said, “making sure I’m attacking the ball directly.”
Directly is how Voit does his best work, be it hitting, speaking or practicing. Observing, the Yankees know and appreciate more than ever, just isn’t his speed.
Georgetown football player arrested in connection to DC murder
A Georgetown University football player wanted in connection to a Washington, DC, murder was reportedly arrested in Georgia on Monday.
US Marshals picked up Dijon Williams, who hails from Georgia, in a house in Gwinnett County, authorities told Fox 5 DC.
Williams, a senior wide receiver for the Hoyas, was being sought for his alleged role in the July 21 fatal shooting of Nurudeen Thomas, the report said.
Following his arrest, the university suspended Williams from the football team, which has not played this fall due to a coronavirus-related postponement.
“While we are working to learn more information, we will cooperate fully with any investigation and we stand prepared to offer resources to members of our community who may be affected by this news,” the university said in a statement to the news station.
“At this time, there are no indications that the alleged crime took place near the University.”
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