NONE of us know when the next NBA game will be played. The news that has surfaced over the last few days isn’t what basketball fans wanted to hear though, with the realistic prospect that the 2020-21 season will be the next NBA action we see. If that’s the case an entire offseason of moves must unfold before we recommence action and there will be plenty of players that switch teams over the ensuing months. Some of them will be contracted, some will be free agents, but these 7 players are the lead candidates to be wearing different colours when play eventually does resume.
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DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs
GIVEN the financial climate in the NBA, turning down a $27.9M player option for next season isn’t the wisest move for DeMar DeRozan. I still wouldn’t be surprised if he did test the free-agent waters and opted to leave San Antonio after two seasons. His Spurs tenure hasn’t been bad by any means, with Popovich unlocking DeRozan’s playmaking prowess to help him post the best assist numbers of his career – averaging 5.9 dimes in 138 games at the club. Parting ways in the summer does make sense for both parties, with DeMar eager to finish his career chasing a title while the Spurs will happily let his contract comes off the books to ease their salary cap strain. Orlando has been linked to DeRozan in recent times and his presence could help the Magic become a consistent playoff team out East. However, I think I speak on behalf of the entire NBA community when I say a return to Toronto would be high up on everyone’s wishlist.
Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans
THERE were plenty of rumours surrounding Jrue Holiday before this year’s trade deadline with the versatile Pelican bound to attract the attention of teams in the offseason. A star on both sides of the ball, Holiday has been named to an All-Defensive team in back-to-back seasons and his two-way skillset will be coveted by teams chasing an extra piece in their pursuit of a title. Contracted for at least another season (player option for 2021-22), there is a scenario where New Orleans chooses to keep Holiday around their young nucleus as they try to establish themselves as a budding contender out West. If a godfather offer comes there way and they can get a haul of picks/young assets in return, don’t rule out seeing Holiday in a new jersey next time we take to the court.
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Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn Nets
THERE is a lot to like about Jarrett Allen, who through three seasons in the pros has established himself as a starting calibre big man in the NBA. Season 2019-20 saw the arrival of DeAndre Jordan in Brooklyn which has somewhat hindered Allen’s development as the two talls have been forced to split time at the center position. Sharing responsibility in the paint has worked reasonably well, but with 10 years difference between the pair, I was surprised they didn’t give Allen a larger portion of the minutes. Next season will be the final year of Allen’s rookie deal and even though Brooklyn can match any offer that comes his way in the offseason, there’s a chance they won’t be able to keep him around given the financial commitments they have already made to star duo Kevin Durant and Kyris Irving. Cashing him in and trading the former Texas product to a rebuilding franchise without a big man presence could be a smart route to go down.
Tristian Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers
I’M sure Cleveland fans would love to see longtime Cavalier Tristian Thompson stay in wine and gold colours, but based on their current trajectory I can’t see him signing a new contract with the franchise. Thompson was enjoying a career-best season before action was halted, averaging personal best scoring (12.0 PPG) and assist (2.1 APG) numbers to go along with a healthy 10.1 RPG. What is most encouraging is Thompson’s ability to now shoot from behind the arc with the Cavs big canning 39.1% (9-23 shooting) of his tries this year. Before season 2019-20 Thompson was 0-9 for his career behind the arc and if he can become more consistent in that area, he’s bound to garner the attention of teams in the summer. Don’t be surprised if the Rockets or Celtics come calling after failing to get their hands on Thompson during this year’s trade period.
Larry Nance Jr, Cleveland Cavaliers
IN his last two full seasons, Larry Nance Jr has been a key contributor for the Cavaliers, mainly coming off the bench and bringing a ton of energy to their second unit. Nance Jr’s wide range of skills makes him flexible enough to play a variety of roles, either as a rim-running big man, or pushing out towards the wing when the likes of Andre Drummond and Tristan Thompson are taking up residence near the hoop. This season is the first year of Nance’s new deal that is set to pay him $45 million until the end of 2022-23 season. Given the contract depreciates with every year that passes, trading Nance is a move the Cavs could easily navigate; should they choose to send him packing.
Goran Dragic, Miami Heat
PLAYING in a reserve role for Miami this season, Goran Dragic hasn’t let his per game digits slip, helping run the reserve unit for the Heat with relative success. He and Lou Williams are the only two players averaging 16 PPG and 5 APG off the pine so far this season and the 34-year old could be heavily pursued in the offseason once he officially becomes a free agent. In the final year of an $85 million deal that has stretched over the last five seasons, financial incentives might not be at the forefront of Dragic’s mind, which could rule out a number of rebuilding teams as a new destination for the Slovenian. Chicago has emerged as a suitor in recent times, but Dragic appears likely to forgo a big payday and join a contender in an effort to secure an elusive title.
Gordon Hayward, Boston Celtics
28 potential free agents currently have a player option for the 2020-21 season and none of them would earn more than Gordon Hayward – should he choose to stay in Boston. The veteran wing is slated to make $34M+ next year if he picks up his option, which, like the aforementioned DeMar DeRozan is looking more and more certain with every day that passes. ‘That’ horrific injury Hayward suffered at the start of the 2017-18 season can be blamed for a lot of his unfulfilled promise in Beantown, but the former Jazz swingman was just starting to look like his old self before play was suspended. Still, paying him the 16th highest salary next year (more than Damian Lillard, Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis) is a tough pill to swallow and given Boston’s depth of talent at the disposal on the wing, Hayward might find himself as the odd man out.
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