NBA free agency: 5 players most likely to change teams
The shortest offseason in NBA history is set to hit a fever pitch on Friday with the beginning of the league’s annual free agency spending spree. Nearly 220 players are eligible for new contracts and rival general managers will be falling all over themselves to offer the biggest and best deals possible.
We’ve surveyed this year’s crowded landscape and have identified the five unrestricted free agents most likely to change teams.
1. Danilo Gallinari (Oklahoma City Thunder UFA)
It’s no secret that the Thunder are trying to sell everything that isn’t bolted down. OKC agreed to ship point guard Dennis Schroder to the Lakers on Sunday, and foisted Chris Paul and his gargantuan salary on the Suns a day later. The next domino to fall is Gallinari, who earned $22.6 million in 2019-20 and priced himself out of Oklahoma City’s budget after averaging 18.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.
Although "Il Gallo" doesn’t fit into OKC’s plans, he should have plenty of suitors. The Miami Heat, in particular are expected to make a big push to land the Italian sharpshooter, whose grittiness and ability to stretch the court make him a perfect fit beside Jimmy Butler.
2. Hassan Whiteside (Portland Trail Blazers UFA)
Hassan Whiteside made the most of Jusuf Nurkic’s absence this past season by averaging 15.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, and a league-leading 2.9 blocks per game. Now that the "Bosnian Beast" is fully healed, Whisteside can parlay his production into big bucks on the open market.
Expect the Wizards to be among several teams beating down his door. Washington is eager to return to relevance in 2021, but the franchise won’t get anywhere while force-feeding minutes to Thomas Bryant at the five. Whiteside would address one of Washington’s most glaring needs and would give John Wall an attractive target at the rim.
3. Serge Ibaka (Toronto Raptors UFA)
Kevin Durant has been in heavy recruitment mode this offseason, reaching out to former OKC teammates James Harden and Serge Ibaka to join him in Brooklyn. KD’s interest in the two players is understandable, but it’s unlikely the Nets will be able to afford both without crashing through the salary cap.
Our money is on Ibaka joining the Lakers instead, where he would slide in alongside Anthony Davis as the team’s starting center. The three-time All-Defensive Team selection is a huge upgrade offensively over fellow free agent Dwight Howard, and brings a wealth of playoff experience from his time in Oklahoma City and Toronto.
4. Markieff Morris (Los Angeles Lakers UFA)
Something will have to give in Los Angeles if the Lakers sign Ibaka and back up the Brinks truck for Anthony Davis. Expect Markieff Morris to be among the many casualties.
The veteran power forward averaged just 5.3 points per game after joining L.A. in February, but became a valuable member of the Lakers’ playoff rotation after the team benched Howard and JaVale McGee. Morris’ size and range make him a hot commodity, and he should have no problem finding employment after the first wave of top tier free agents are off the board.
5. Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets UFA)
There’s no question that the Nets would love to keep Joe Harris in the fold, but if Brooklyn acquires James Harden, as many now believe, the team will be forced to make some penny-pinching moves. The first could be bidding adieu to the sweet-shooting Harris, who nailed 42% of his three-point attempts and posted career-highs in points (14.5) and rebounds (4.3) per game in 2019-20.
The Hawks are expected to offer the 29-year-old Harris a "significant" multi-year deal that could be too rich for Brooklyn’s blood. Atlanta has over $40 million of cap space to play with and would love to surround Trae Young with more shooters to help spread the court.