The summer of 2019 will go down as one of the wildest free-agency periods in NBA history. Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard entered as the headliners, but no one expected the surprises their decisions triggered. Durant’s decision to go to Brooklyn opened up an unlikely scenario of D’Angelo Russell heading to Golden State, while Leonard chose the least talked about team of his three targets and was joined by Paul George in a blockbuster trade.
Restricted free agents like Malcolm Brogdon, Terry Rozier and D’Angelo Russell hardly ever get an opportunity to change teams, but that’s what happened in this rollercoaster offseason.
Don’t expect the same fireworks in 2020. Teams spent about half as much money in 2018 as this year’s $3 billion. Next year it may be even lower.
The ‘20 free agency class is headlined by a couple of All-Stars and several complementary role players. This offseason’s splurge means teams won’t have the same cap space available next July, with next year serving as a bridge year between ‘19 and the star-studded 2021 class. Several teams will be reluctant to spend big dollars in order to position themselves for Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Blake Griffin, Paul George and others the following offseason.
Still, next offseason’s list includes intriguing names that could have a substantial impact on a roster. Marc Gasol, Caris LeVert, Serge Ibaka, and Derrick Favors were some of the players who just missed the cut. This is also predicting Gordon Hayward and Andre Drummond will opt into the final year of their deals, making them free agents in 2021.
Here are the top available free agents in 2020:
1. Anthony Davis, Lakers
Davis and his agent, Rich Paul, made no secret about his future plans. Davis wanted the chance to play in a big market and got his wish with a trade to the Lakers. Davis has a player option next season that’d pay him about $25 million. He’s expected to decline that and sign a long-term max deal with the Lakers.
2. Draymond Green, Warriors
Green’s decision process will likely mirror what Klay Thompson faced this summer. Thompson announced his signing on Instagram with a caption stating, “There was never a doubt.” Green has said that he took a discount in 2015 in order for the Warriors to sign Durant in 2016. Like Curry and Thompson, his hometown discount days may be over. Green is the one free agent available who could be considered for a max contract. His playmaking ability and defense have fueled the Warriors’ championship run.
3. DeMar DeRozan, Spurs
DeRozan is the second player on the list who has a player option next season. It’s a certainty that Davis will decline his, but DeRozan will be left to make a tough decision. DeRozan would be the top guard available and could ensure himself long-term security. Declining the option would lead to DeRozan turning down about $27.8 million. DeRozan’s ability to score is still as potent as ever in San Antonio. He finished last season with the best field goal percentage since his rookie season. Accepting his player option would leave him being on the second tier of available free agents in 2021. Next offseason, he would be the main guy that teams covet to fill a scoring void.
4. Kyle Lowry, Raptors
Lowry will be a 34-year-old point guard coming off a big $33 million payday. Lowry’s play next season will go a long way in determining his value. Leonard and DeRozan are no longer Raptors, but the team should still be a playoff contender. Five consecutive All-Star appearances place Lowry in the top five. With Leonard’s departure, Lowry’s scoring numbers should also go back up.
5. Paul Millsap, Nuggets
This offseason, the Denver Nuggets opted into Millsap’s $30 million team option. The decision was somewhat surprising, but Millsap’s value goes above points and rebounds. The veteran is a defensive anchor on a young, talented Nuggets team. Millsap will be 35 next offseason, but his style of play could fit any NBA roster.
6. DeMarcus Cousins, Lakers
Cousins’s true value will be determined after he finishes his season-long audition with the Lakers. At his best, Cousins is one of the top offensive players in the NBA. Achilles and quad injuries played a role in Cousins looking a step slow in Golden State, resulting in a dry market in free agency. He still managed to average 22.8 points, 11.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and a career-high 2.1 blocks per 36 minutes. Cousins recently posted a picture where he looked to have lost weight. A full offseason of basketball and no injuries could allow Cousins to finally get the big payday that he’s missed the past two seasons.
7. Brandon Ingram, Pelicans
Ingram is the first restricted free agent on this list. Ingram has shown steady progression throughout his first three seasons, so a fourth-year jump should be in the cards. Ingram will slide into a new role with the New Orleans Pelicans, but he’ll have one of the most respected offensive coaches in the NBA in Alvin Gentry. This could be the season Ingram’s tantalizing upside comes together.
8. Buddy Hield, Kings
When Hield was traded to the Sacramento Kings in a package for DeMarcus Cousins, it wasn't viewed as enough. No one is making those statements now. Hield is coming off a career-high 20.7 points per game. Shooting is valued more than ever, so the Kings won’t allow their prized possession to leave easily.
9. Eric Gordon, Rockets
Gordon’s consistently been one of the Rockets’ best offensive weapons. Shooting is at a premium, and he offers a lot of it. Gordon has made 200 or more three-pointers in each of his three seasons with the Rockets. A versatile player who has proven he can start or come off the bench for a contender, Gordon will be sought after next summer.
10. Jaylen Brown, Celtics
The first of the Celtics’ two talented forwards is up for a new deal next season. Brown will be a restricted free agent. Inconsistencies have plagued Brown early in his career. His minutes, scoring, and shooting numbers all took a dip last season. With Kyrie Irving out of the fold, Brown will have every opportunity to put together his best season yet. Brown is oozing with athleticism that’s led to highlight reel plays, and he’s also an improving three-point shooter.
Honorable Mention: Goran Dragic, Heat
Dragic’s last healthy season resulted in his first all-star appearance. He was limited to 36 games last year but has plenty left to offer. Dragic’s crafty playing style gives him the ability to play point or shooting guard. He’s also become a better defender with the Miami Heat. Dragic played his lowest amount of minutes since 2011 this year, but managed to pour in 13.7 points and 4.8 assists per game. When healthy, Dragic has proven he is a dangerous offensive weapon.