5 teams that could get rocked in NBA free agency
You’ll have to excuse Rob Pelinka is he doesn’t have time to celebrate. Mere hours after brushing the confetti off his shoulders and ringing the champagne out of his clothes, the Lakers’ Vice President of Basketball Operations was back in the office to figure out how to keep his NBA Championship-winning roster together.
NBA free agency is scheduled to begin after the league's annual draft, and when it does, more than 75% of Pelinka’s team will be eligible to receive offers. Anthony Davis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, and JaVale McGee can all opt-in to player options, while Dion Waiters, Markieff Morris, Jared Dudley, and Dwight Howard will become unrestricted free agents.
The Lakers aren’t the only team with serious roster concerns. Here are five other teams that could get rocked in NBA free agency.
The Raptors could look dramatically different in 2021. Former Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol has hinted at returning to Spain to finish his career in front of family and friends, while former champs Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet are both expected to be hot commodities on the open market.
The Raptors would do well to bid adieu to Ibaka, who turned 30 in September, but VanVleet is critical to keeping Toronto relevant in the Eastern Conference. The hard-nosed combo guard was among the most improved players in the league in 2019-20, and is coming off a stellar postseason run in which he averaged 19.6 points and 6.9 assists per game. He won’t be cheap, but VanVleet is a key part of the Raptors’ future along with Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby.
The Nuggets reached the Western Conference Finals in 2020, but they may be headed for a first round exit in 2021 unless they re-sign forwards Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee, both of whom are unrestricted free agents. Millsap’s defense and veteran leadership were key in the Orlando Bubble, while Plumlee is a disruptive frontcourt player who impacts the game at both ends of the court with his hustle and tenacity.
Denver will also have to find some money in their couch cushions for forward Jerami Grant, who is likely to opt out of his player option after averaging close to 16 points per game against the Lakers in the playoffs. The 26-year-old is precisely the kind of hyper-athletic wing that every team now covets.
Los Angeles Clippers
It may not have been his choice, but Doc Rivers escaped from L.A. at just the right time. The Clippers could lose NBA Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell as well as Marcus Morris Sr., Patrick Patterson, and Reggie Jackson, all of whom are free agents.
Few fans would shed any tears over seeing Patterson or Jackson skip town, but Harrell, in particular, would leave a huge void. The 26-year-old jumping bean averaged 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game in 2019-20, and has emerged as a fearsome rim runner and shot swatter in his five seasons in the league. The Raptors, Mavericks, Bulls, and Knicks are all expected to reach out early.
Not only do the Heat have to cope with losing the 2020 NBA Finals, but they could also have to cope with losing half their roster once free agency tips off. Goran Dragic, Jae Crowder, Meyers Leonard, Udonis Haslem, Derrick Jones Jr., and Solomon Hill are all unrestricted free agents, while Kelly Olynyk has a player option.
It’s safe bet that Haslem isn’t jumping ship, but Dragic and Crowder will both attract interest from teams looking to add quality veterans with deep playoff experience. Jimmy Butler must be feeling exhausted just thinking about it.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers made a splash in the bubble by clinching the eighth seed in the West and scaring the bejesus out of the Lakers in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series. Unfortunately, many of the players who contributed to that success may not be around when the 2021 season begins.
Center Hassan Whiteside and forward Carmelo Anthony are both unrestricted free agents, and Portland has five other players on its roster who are either restricted free agents or have player options. That’s especially bad news for a team that had the highest salary in the league in 2019-20. Tough decisions are looming, and they could cost the Blazers a chance at securing an eighth straight playoff berth.