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2020 NBA free agents to monitor in the Orlando bubble

Brooklyn Nets v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The 2019-20 NBA restart is scheduled to begin on July 30 in Orlando, with 22 of the league’s 30 teams coming together inside a “bubble” (er, campus) at Walt Disney World. While the Atlanta Hawks are not participating, the eyes of the basketball world will be trained on the action, with Hawks-based observers having a particular interest in one segment of players.

In short, the Hawks have a bundle of salary cap space to work with as free agency looms in October. While there are other options (i.e. trades) in which to utilize that salary cap flexibility, Travis Schlenk and company have the ability to lure free agents to Atlanta with lucrative offers this off-season and, to that end, some “scouting” can take place in the coming days and weeks.

In this space, we’ll take a wide-ranging look at some potential free agents, while noting that not all of them will actually hit the market. For ease, they are broken down in groups — and in alphabetical order within them — and, as explained, several players may not be free agents at all.

Finally, this list includes only players that are scheduled to participate in the bubble, with Davis Bertans, Kris Dunn, Malik Beasley and others omitted for that reason.

Let’s rock.

High-priced and seemingly unlikely

The Hawks have more salary cap space than any team in the NBA as the off-season looms. As such, Atlanta could conceivably spend big but, in short, this isn’t the best year to have overwhelming cap space to sign free agents.

  • Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers — Every team in the NBA would love to sign Anthony Davis, and the Hawks could present him with a full max offer on day one of free agency. However, exactly no one believes that Davis will leave the Lakers, so he’s on this list simply for accuracy.
  • Danilo Gallinari, Oklahoma City Thunder — Gallinari is a tremendous offensive forward and he would help any team on that end of the floor. Given his age (32 in August), defensive questions and asking price, he doesn’t seem to be a likely fit in Atlanta.
  • Marc Gasol, Toronto Raptors — Gasol is a tremendous player that would help any team. He also makes very little sense for the Hawks as currently constructed.
  • Montrezl Harrell, L.A. Clippers — Like Gasol, Harrell is a very effective player, even if in a very different way. He will likely have some high-priced offers but, for a Hawks team with a relatively full frontcourt, a partnership doesn’t make too much sense.
  • Gordon Hayward, Boston Celtics — As noted above, some of the players on this list won’t actually hit free agency and Hayward is perhaps the most glaring example. On paper, he would actually be quite intriguing for the Hawks as a player who can dribble, pass and shoot with good size and high-end pedigree. Hayward does have a $34.1 million player option for 2020-21, though, and he probably isn’t opting out of that without substantial assurances.
  • Serge Ibaka, Toronto Raptors — Unlike his current teammate in Gasol, Ibaka can at least play some at the 4, making him a bit more interesting for the Hawks. Still, he wouldn’t come cheap and, without a deal elsewhere, it is hard to see why either side would have much interest.
  • Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors — VanVleet is very, very good. At 26, he is an established, two-way guard with defensive aptitude and the ability to create shots for himself and others. In some ways, he would work well with Trae Young, especially with VanVleet’s stocky, physical approach defensively. In the end, though, he’s probably too small to justify the kind of massive financial investment needed to lure him away from Toronto and other suitors.

The (very) expensive restricted options

Because restricted free agents are usually younger, there is a natural fit with the Hawks and this grouping. Restricted free agency can be perilous, however, and two players will demand big-time contract offers, even before considering the likelihood that the incumbent team will match.

  • Bogdan Bogdanovic, Sacramento Kings — Bogdanovic’s situation is more nuanced than Ingram’s situation (see below). For one, Bogdanovic is already 27 years old and he didn’t produce at the level that Ingram did in 2019-20. As such, the asking price is lower but, considering the public sentiment that the Kings will match any reasonable offer, it would take a substantial overpay to lure Bogdanovic. He would make a lot of teams, including the Hawks, better, but there are pitfalls to any high-end pursuit.
  • Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans — Aside from Davis, Ingram is the best free agent available. In addition, he turns 23 in September, and Ingram just posted a season in which he produced a 59 percent true shooting on 28 percent usage. On paper, he would be a great target for the Hawks but, to put it plainly, everyone in the NBA assumes the Pelicans will match any offer.

The other restricted options

While there are two players that will demand huge investments, there is another tier of restricted free agent that could be induced with a more manageable offer sheet. As a reminder, a few of the more intriguing RFA options aren’t playing in Orlando.

  • Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors — Boucher is a very cool story and he’s been good for the Raptors this season. He’s also 27 already and he’s really a big man in the modern NBA. As such, the Hawks aren’t the best fit, but he remains underrated overall.
  • Sterling Brown, Milwaukee Bucks — It was a bit of a lost season for the 25-year-old, with a smaller role in Milwaukee than he likely expected. On the flip side, that could mean a bargain for his next team, and Brown is intriguing as a supporting piece on the wing.
  • Torrey Craig, Denver Nuggets — Craig is exceptionally old for a restricted free agent with his 30th birthday arriving in December. The Nuggets may also want to keep him, especially when taking his wing defense into account.
  • De’Anthony Melton, Memphis Grizzlies — For the skinny on Melton, check out this in-depth profile from our own Andrew Kelly.
  • Dario Saric, Phoenix Suns — After a delayed NBA arrival following his lottery selection in 2014, Saric is 26 years old and he didn’t light the world on fire in Phoenix. He does check a lot of useful boxes for a rotation player, though, and the Hawks could use another combo forward with skill.

Old friends on short-term deals

To be transparent, all of these players would fit into other categories on this list, but this seemed more fun.

  • Justin Anderson, Brooklyn Nets — As a personal favorite, this inclusion was an automatic. He is also getting a chance on a Nets team that is short on rotation talent in the bubble. Perhaps the former Hawks wing can showcase himself.
  • Kent Bazemore, Sacramento Kings — Bazemore was sneaky good once he arrived in Sacramento, and that was enjoyable to see after a couple of years in the wilderness. He just turned 31 and his days as a player making $18 million annually are gone, but Bazemore can help teams as a rotation-level wing option.
  • DeMarre Carroll, Houston Rockets — The Junkyard Dog will be 34 later in July and he hasn’t played much lately. On paper, he would be an interesting combo forward option (leaning more toward at the 4 at this point) and Carroll is a tremendous locker room voice.
  • Justin Holiday, Indiana Pacers — Holiday’s tenure in Atlanta wasn’t all that impressive, but he’s been quietly effective in the recent past. The 31-year-old has a 37 percent clip from three-point range over the last three seasons and, in the bubble, Holiday will be key for a Pacers team operating without Victor Oladipo and Jeremy Lamb.
  • Kyle Korver, Milwaukee Bucks — At this stage, Korver may want to stick around Milwaukee or even retire. If he doesn’t, perhaps he could stick in the Vince Carter role as a bench shooter and locker room leader.
  • Alex Len, Sacramento Kings — The Hawks don’t really need another pure center, but Len is on the market again and Travis Schlenk signed him once before. If anything, Len was probably underrated during his time in Atlanta, and he played quite well after the trade to the Kings.
  • Paul Millsap, Denver Nuggets — After making a pile of money in Denver, Millsap hits the free agent market again and, at the age of 35, he is still the best player in this mini-category. It would be fair to say he isn’t quite the All-Star that he was in Atlanta, but Millsap remains a tremendous defensive player and he’ll be offered real money from somebody in October.
  • Marvin Williams, Milwaukee Bucks — The Bucks stealthily picked up the former No. 2 pick for their title pursuit and, as a 3-and-D forward with experience, Williams is a very helpful role player. That could extend to Atlanta, with the Hawks having room for a backup power forward type on the roster.

Supporting wings and forwards

These players won’t demand huge contracts, but they’ll have market interest... and with good reason. After all, teams can’t have too much depth at these positions.

  • Pat Connaughton, Milwaukee Bucks — At times, Connaughton is on the fringes of Milwaukee’s rotation, but that is a product of the Bucks being (very) deep. He is a rotation-quality player with athleticism and skill, especially if you believe in his shooting.
  • Jae Crowder, Miami Heat — Crowder is best-suited for a smaller role at this point, but he does have experience at the highest levels. There is a market for league-average wings and forwards and he qualifies. He’s also a local product from Villa Rica.
  • Marcus Morris, L.A. Clippers — Morris almost belongs on a different list, in part because of the money he is likely to make. The Clippers could (and probably will) bring him back at a substantial number.
  • Markieff Morris, Los Angeles Lakers — While not as good as his brother, Markieff Morris shot it well in Detroit this season and he could be useful for the Lakers as a deeper bench piece.
  • Wes Matthews, Milwaukee Bucks — He’ll be 34 when the 2020-21 season starts, but Matthews still has gas in the tank. He does have a small player option but, provided he opts out, teams should be trying to lure him away as a solid-or-better shooter who can defend on the wing.

Cheap wings and forwards

Unlike the players above, there are no guarantees when it comes to the contract options these free agents will have. They could provide quality depth, though, and that is valuable at a reduced cost.

  • Alec Burks, Philadelphia 76ers — Burks might have a substantial role for Philly in the bubble. He was a forgotten man for a while, but Burks can create his own shot and there is always a market for that.
  • Jeff Green, Houston Rockets — Green has been on every team in the league except for the Hawks. Well, almost. He’s a free agent again. I’m just saying.
  • Solomon Hill, Miami Heat — Technically, Hill was on Atlanta’s roster last summer, with the caveat being that he was essentially a salary dump in back-to-back trades. On the court, he’s actually useful as a depth piece at forward and, considering his lucrative contract is now over, Hill could be cheap.
  • Stanley Johnson, Toronto Raptors — Because he has a $3.8 million player option, Johnson may not be a free agent at all. He struggled this season and, unless a market materializes, the former lottery pick should opt in with the Raptors.
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Dallas Mavericks — I’ve always liked Kidd-Gilchrist and, despite a long and winding NBA career, he will be 27 in September. If you’re interested in watching him in the bubble, he’s now on the Mavericks roster.
  • Glenn Robinson III, Philadelphia 76ers — Robinson III was once a member of a Hawks Summer League team and he was pretty effective this season in split duty. He’d be one of the better options in this category for Atlanta.
  • Garrett Temple, Brooklyn Nets — Temple is 34 years old, but he can still play. Brooklyn has a $5 million team option to decide on, but he should be included anyway.

Supporting bigs

It would be fair to say that the Hawks don’t need to invest significant resources in the frontcourt, with John Collins, Clint Capela, Dewayne Dedmon and Bruno Fernando already under contract. Still, Atlanta could conceivably add another option for depth purposes. Overall, though, this is probably the group that has the least appeal to the Hawks, at least as currently constructed.

  • Aron Baynes, Phoenix Suns — Baynes might get starter money from someone after a very good year in Phoenix. It is hard to envision a scenario in which he lands in Atlanta.
  • Meyers Leonard, Miami Heat — Of the five players on this mini-list, Leonard probably makes the most sense. He can spread the floor and, through a Hawks lens, he is the kind of big man that could make sense next to John Collins.
  • Ian Mahinmi, Washington Wizards — Mahinmi became a punchline for his (ludicrous) 2016 free agent contract, but he’s an NBA player.
  • Nerlens Noel, Oklahoma City Thunder — Noel is only 26 and he was good for the Thunder this season. He is sneaky appealing on the free agent market.
  • Mason Plumlee, Denver Nuggets — At 30, Plumlee is still a productive, useful NBA player. Fit-wise, it wouldn’t be ideal in Atlanta.

Young, potentially valuable bargains

These players are as young, or even younger, than many restricted free agents, but they are freely on the market.

  • Harry Giles, Sacramento Kings — The Hawks could bring Skal Labissiere back and, even if they are very different players, Labissiere and Giles are similar in terms of background. Both were uber-elite high school recruits that haven’t carved out defined roles just yet. Giles remains quite young at 22 and, candidly, I’m a sucker for his talent. Health is a question, but Giles is intriguing.
  • Josh Jackson, Memphis Grizzlies — Things didn’t go well in Phoenix after Jackson was selected in the lottery, but he’s rebuilding his stock a bit. In the end, he’s a 23-year-old wing with pedigree and talent. That’s interesting.
  • Derrick Jones Jr., Miami Heat — If Jones Jr. could shoot, he’d get a lot more attention. With that said, he’s exceptionally athletic and very, very interesting on the defensive end. Oh, and he’s only 23 years old.

Backup point guard options

The Hawks need a backup point guard, and these are some pure point guard types.

  • DJ Augustin, Orlando Magic — It is hard to envision a scenario in which Augustin wants to take a 15-minute backup role but, if he does, Atlanta could use him.
  • Chris Chiozza, Brooklyn Nets — The bubble could be very kind to Chiozza. The former Florida guard has a clear path to playing time with the Nets and, if he’s good, Chiozza could have backup offers waiting in October.
  • Goran Dragic, Miami Heat — I could copy/paste the same thing for Dragic that I said about Augustin. He is likely to have better offers than what Atlanta is willing to provide.
  • Reggie Jackson, L.A. Clippers — Once tasked with a large workload in Detroit, Jackson will be operating in a pure backup role during the bubble with the Clippers. He may have larger offers elsewhere, but he can create shots, and Jackson is a bit bigger than some traditional point guard types.
  • Shabazz Napier, Washington Wizards — Napier and Ish Smith will have control of Washington’s offense in the bubble. The former UConn star hasn’t garnered the respect he deserves contractually, but Napier is a very solid backup point guard and a player the Hawks should be monitoring.

Combo guard options

While none of these players are pure point guards, they could provide backcourt depth for the Hawks and take some of the play-making burden away from players already on the roster.

  • Michael Carter-Williams, Orlando Magic — The former Rookie of the Year still can’t really shoot from long range, but Carter-Williams was sneakily good in Orlando. He can really defend and should garner some interest in a supporting role.
  • Jordan Clarkson, Utah Jazz — After many years of jokes, Clarkson was actually good in Utah this year. Defense is a problem, but he is a useful third guard who can serve as a secondary offensive engine.
  • Bryn Forbes, San Antonio Spurs — Forbes is small and isn’t a great fit (at all) next to Trae Young. What he can do, though, is really, really shoot.
  • Tyler Johnson, Brooklyn Nets — We’ll see what Johnson is able to do in Brooklyn. If nothing else, he has decent pedigree and size in the backcourt.
  • E’Twaun Moore, New Orleans Pelicans — Moore has always been a favorite of mine. He’s less of an on-ball option than many of these players, but Moore fills a 3-and-D role.
  • Emmanuel Mudiay, Utah Jazz — Would you believe that Mudiay is still only 24 years old?
  • Austin Rivers, Houston Rockets — Rivers can handle the ball a bit, defend a bit and shoot a bit. He’s a valuable player. Of note, he has a $2.4 million player option, but Rivers should get more than that on the market.

Potential targets that would cost real money

This is the list that garners most of the attention surrounding the Hawks right now. These are unrestricted free agents that are wings and forwards, combining starter aptitude with positions that the Hawks could look to bolster this offseason.

  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Los Angeles Lakers — The former Georgia Bulldogs shooting guard has a player option for about $8.4 million next season. He certainly could pick that up but, if he doesn’t, Caldwell-Pope checks a lot of boxes as a role player on a good team. That is especially true after a career-best 39 percent clip from three-point range this season.
  • Evan Fournier, Orlando Magic — Fournier also has a player option — for $17.1 million — and he could elect to stick in Orlando. He is one of the best offensive players on this entire list, but he isn’t a great defender and Fournier will be 28 when the 2020-21 season begins. He is in line for a payday if he wants one, but it will be interesting to see what the market is.
  • Jerami Grant, Denver Nuggets — Player options galore! Grant’s option is for $9.3 million but, given his public statements, it is wise to assume he’ll hit the market. He is an intriguing and versatile forward, and Grant’s development as a three-point shooter is notable. Denver’s decision-making with Grant, Millsap and others could be a driving factor, but Grant would help a lot of teams, including Atlanta.
  • Joe Harris, Brooklyn Nets — Perhaps the most widely discussed target for Atlanta, Harris is one of the only key players making the trip to the bubble for the Nets. He is an elite shooter who can defend adequately on the wing. Harris will be 29 in September, though, and he could have a robust market given the presence of a truly marketable skill.