Always viewed as a weaker class than the 2019 or 2021 groups, the 2020 free agent class has taken a considerable hit in recent months, as many of next year’s most intriguing potential free agents have agreed to contract extensions, taking them off the market for the next several years.
Since the 2019/20 league year began, Draymond Green, Kyle Lowry, and Eric Gordon are among the veterans who have taken themselves out of the 2020 free agent class by signing extensions. Meanwhile, almost every high-ceiling player eligible for restricted free agency in ’20 inked an early rookie scale extension. That group includes Ben Simmons, Jamal Murray, Pascal Siakam, Jaylen Brown, Buddy Hield, Domantas Sabonis, and Dejounte Murray, among others.
The upshot? An already-thin 2020 free agent list has thinned out even further. Still, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still several intriguing names among the players who are expected to be available next offseason.
Below, we’ve taken our first crack at ranking the top potential free agents for 2020. While this is our first extended look at 2020’s best free agents, it won’t be our last. Extensions, injuries, breakout years, trades, and poor performances figure to affect these rankings over the course of the 2019/20 season, so we’ll eventually be revisiting the list to make updates and changes.
Our list reflects each player’s current expected value on the 2020 free agent market, rather than how we think they’ll perform on the court for the 2019/20 season. For instance, older players like Marc Gasol and Paul Millsap have strong short-term value, but didn’t crack our top 20 because they’ll be 35 next summer and are unlikely to sign huge, long-term deals. In other words, age and long-term value is important.
Here’s the first installment of our 2020 free agent power rankings:
- Anthony Davis, F/C, Lakers (player option): A three-time member of the All-NBA First Team, Davis is certainly worthy of the No. 1 spot on a free agent list, regardless of whether the class is weak or strong. However, he’ll be the only superstar on the market in 2020 and there are no indications at this point that he won’t simply re-sign with the Lakers. If that changes, it’ll make the ’20 offseason a whole lot more interesting.
- Brandon Ingram, F, Pelicans (RFA): One of the only top 2016 draft picks who didn’t sign an extension this year, Ingram is showing that he deserved one, with 25.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 4.0 APG, and a .522/.444/.741 shooting line through 10 games. As long as he remains healthy, he’ll be a strong candidate for a maximum-salary contract.
- Andre Drummond, C, Pistons (player option): Although he has earned a couple All-Star nods over the years, Drummond has generally hovered below the NBA’s top tier of centers. He’s making a case early this season that he deserves a spot in that group, with a career-high 19.6 PPG and a league-leading 17.0 RPG. He has even taken great strides to address his free throw deficiencies, with a career-best 69.4% mark so far in 2019/20.
- DeMar DeRozan, G/F, Spurs (player option): DeRozan could end up exercising his $27.7MM player option for 2020/21, but he’s still just 30 years old and this summer might be his best chance for one last big payday. Despite the Spurs’ early struggles and his increasing aversion to three-point shots (he’s 7-for-49 since arriving in San Antonio), DeRozan is scoring as efficiently as ever, with a career-high .518 FG% through 14 games.
- Gordon Hayward, F, Celtics (player option): Hayward, who is sidelined with a broken left hand, will need to finish strong this season to hold onto this spot or potentially move higher. But before that injury, he looked like his old self, averaging 18.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG, and 4.1 APG on .555/.433/.842 shooting in his first eight games. Like DeRozan, Hayward is no lock to turn down his player option, since it’s a big figure ($34.2MM) and few teams will have cap room to pursue him.
- Danilo Gallinari, F, Thunder: Gallinari is showing this season that his career year with the Clippers in 2018/19 wasn’t a fluke, as most of his per-minute rates are in the same ballpark as last season. Assuming he can play in at least 65 or 70 games this season and maintain those numbers, he’ll be highly sought after by teams in need of a stretch four.
- Fred VanVleet, G, Raptors: After his coming-out party in last season’s NBA Finals, VanVleet has carried that success over to the regular season, with 17.2 PPG and 7.6 APG through 13 games. He’s just 25 years old, and after starting alongside Kyle Lowry earlier this season, he has been proving since Lowry injured his thumb that he can handle the starting point guard job as well.
- Mike Conley, G, Jazz (early termination option): Is it an overreaction to Conley’s slow start to place VanVleet ahead of him? Maybe. Still, as Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer points out, Conley’s downward statistical trends, injury history, and diminishing athleticism are causes for concern. If Conley bounces back, he’ll rise on this list. If he doesn’t, he may end up opting into the final year of his current contract and collecting his $34.5MM ETO salary.
- Bogdan Bogdanovic, G/F, Kings (RFA): After a slow start to the season, Bogdanovic has been scorching hot over his last six games, with 21.3 PPG, 6.7 APG, and 2.3 SPG, plus a .530/.565/.933 shooting line. He won’t keep up that pace, but the 27-year-old is showing he’s a versatile option who can play multiple positions, score, and set up his teammates.
- Otto Porter, F, Bulls (player option): Porter is no superstar, but he has been one of the NBA’s more reliable three-and-D forwards in recent years, with a .427 3PT% since the start of the 2016/17 campaign. Harrison Barnes is a good point of comparison for Porter — last summer, at age 27, Barnes turned down a $25MM+ player option to sign a four-year, $85MM deal. Porter, 27 in June, could look to make a similar move with his $28.5MM player option in 2020 if he has a good year.
- Montrezl Harrell, C, Clippers: Viewed at the time as a throw-in in the 2017 blockbuster that sent Chris Paul to Houston, Harrell has evolved into one of the Clippers’ most important players and a legit Sixth Man of the Year candidate. The 25-year-old is establishing new career highs in PPG (18.9), RPG (7.4), and APG (2.6) so far while making at least 60% of his field goal attempts for a fifth straight season.
- Serge Ibaka, F/C, Raptors: It may feel as if Ibaka has been around forever, but he’ll only be 30 years old when he reaches unrestricted free agency next offseason. And even though he has been relegated to a bench role in Toronto, his per-minute numbers suggest he’s still capable of being a starter and a solid rim protector.
- Evan Fournier, G/F, Magic (player option): Fournier is probably miscast as the primary perimeter scorer for a Magic team that lacks offensive creators. Still, his on/off-court numbers this season reflect his value to Orlando’s offense. The club has a 109.6 offensive rating when he plays, compared to a dismal 91.9 mark when he sits. Fournier will have to pass on a $17.2MM player option to reach the open market, which isn’t necessarily a lock.
- Derrick Favors, C, Pelicans: While Favors had long been a solid contributor alongside Rudy Gobert in Utah, the trade that sent him to New Orleans cleared a path for him to show that he’s a starting center in his own right. Injuries have slowed him in the season’s first month, but Favors’ performance in the Pelicans’ upset win over the Clippers last Thursday showed what he can do — he posted his third consecutive double-double that night, with 20 points and 20 rebounds, including nine offensive boards.
- Marcus Morris, F, Knicks: There could be several recently-signed Knicks returning to the free agent market next summer, but Morris is the only with a straight one-year contract, making him a lock to reach the open market. He’s showing in the early going this year that he can handle a larger scoring role (18.6 PPG, .455 3PT%), though any contending team that signs him will probably want him to be more of a role player.
- Jerami Grant, F, Nuggets (player option): Grant is capable of placing higher on this list, but the 25-year-old has struggled to adjust to his new home in Denver this season, with just 9.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, and a .300 3PT%. At his best, Grant is a versatile three-and-D weapon who can play multiple positions. So far though, the Nuggets have a +13.7 net rating when he’s off the court and an ugly -7.2 mark when he plays.
- Tristan Thompson, C, Cavaliers: Thompson likely wouldn’t have cracked my top-20 list during the preseason, but he has been impressive in his first 13 games. The 28-year-old big man is doing his usual thing on defense and on the boards (10.1 RPG), and new head coach John Beilein has empowered him to do more on offense too — Thompson is averaging career highs in PPG (14.5), APG (2.2), and FGA (11.6).
- Joe Harris, G/F, Nets: The Nets are off to a slow start, but it’s not because of Harris, who has once again been one of the NBA’s most dangerous long-distance shooters. He’s knocking down 43.2% of a career-high 5.7 three-point attempts per game this season.
- Dillon Brooks, F, Grizzlies (RFA): An up-and-coming three-and-D wing, Brooks is back in the Grizzlies’ starting lineup this season, and the team has played significantly better when he’s on the floor. Memphis has a -1.3 net rating in Brooks’ 381 minutes; in 296 minutes without him, that rating plummets to -17.0. He’ll also be just 24 years old next July, so a team that likes him should have no qualms about investing long-term.
- Malik Beasley, G, Nuggets (RFA): Like his teammate Grant, Beasley would be higher on this list if not for his slow start. I expected Beasley to play a major role for Denver this season, but he has been a victim of an overcrowded rotation as of late, totaling just 19 minutes – with two DNPs – in the team’s last five games. On the plus side, he’s still making 40% of his three-pointers.
Disagree strongly with any of our rankings? Feel like we omitted any players that should be in the top 20? Weigh in below in the comments section to let us know!
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.