The National Basketball Association (NBA) free agency period usually begins around this time of year. Instead, players for 22 of the teams are preparing to resume the season in a so-called “bubble” at the end of this month, with the players who may have the most to lose asking for new contracts at the end of the season.
Even though the league has done nearly everything possible to mitigate the risks, there is still a risk associated with participating in the COVID-19 outbreak. This risk cannot be eliminated. And after a four-and-a-half-month break, it will be difficult to increase the intensity of athletic activity to the point where they can manage playing eight games in two weeks, followed by postseason action for at least 16 teams. If they are within four games of the #8 seeds, two additional clubs may participate in a play-in series for the remaining playoffs playoff spots, turning this entire playoff drive into a free agency showcase.
These games will undoubtedly draw a lot of attention, especially because eight of the teams have already been eliminated from playoff contention. Even if they do not make the playoffs, players whose contracts are due to expire have an opportunity to increase their market value by performing admirably in high-pressure situations. Using a tool like BonusFinder, you can even estimate which NBA players will have the greatest impact on their team’s chances of winning a championship.
Some players have a lot to gain by taking advantage of this situation, while others have a lot to lose by jeopardizing their health and risking bad performance as a result. Nobody can blame Davis Bertans for opting not to play for a team like the Washington Wizards, which has a record of 24-40 and has little real chance of making a deep playoff run, rather than staying in the playoff race while waiting for his first substantial payday.
Let’s take a look at the five pending free agents who are most vulnerable in the coming months as they decide whether or not to engage in the game. It is worth noting that Jerami Grant was one of the most difficult players to let go of, but teams with player options were not chosen due to the volatility of the circumstances for players other than Anthony Davis.
It will be difficult for other players’ representatives to evaluate the market and decide whether or not to opt in or out of guaranteed wages until there is a fuller understanding of how the league’s salary cap will be impacted by the loss of revenue. He is almost promised a deal for the maximum amount, but it will be tough until there is a greater understanding of how next season’s pay cap will be affected.
Brandon Ingram of the New Orleans Pelicans
The former second-round pick has thrived with his new team and will be making his first appearance in the All-Star game. Under Alvin Gentry’s tutelage, Ingram is taking on a larger portion of the team’s playmaking responsibilities while also attempting more than three times as many three-point attempts per game and maintaining a shooting percentage of 38.7. When all factors are considered, his career highs of 24.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, one steal, and 0.7 blocks per game, along with a 19.2 PER and 4.9 Win Shares, have him in line for a maximum contract when he becomes eligible for restricted free agency.
When play resumes, the soon-to-be 23-year-old may be owed up to five years and $166.8 million in New Orleans, or four years and $123.6 million elsewhere. These figures are based on the projected $115 million salary cap in January, before the pandemic shut down the league; however, regardless of the circumstances, Ingram has the most to lose on the bubble, especially given that he had a serious health scare the previous season in the form of a blood clot in his arm.
Fred VanVleet is an NBA player with the Toronto Raptors
VanVleet, who reached restricted free agency in 2018 and signed a two-year, $17 million contract, was an important part of the Toronto Raptors’ championship run. He now plays an even more vital role in the team’s pursuit of the league’s third-best record. The previously undrafted free agent has established himself as a starter this season, ranking first on the team in thefts with an average of 1.9 per game.
He is also second in assists (6.6), third in three-pointers made (2.7 on 38.8 percent), and third in scoring (17.6 points). The progress in defense and playmaking is consistent with what he has shown previously in fewer minutes, but the boost in scoring has come as a pleasant surprise. VanVleet maintains his efficiency despite a heavier workload, with a career-high usage rate of 22 percent. He is maintaining his efficiency by upping his three-point and free-throw attempts.
If he maintains this level of performance on the largest platforms, he has a chance to at least double his career earnings by the age of 26. This is especially true if Toronto makes another deep playoff run this time with him as the starter.
Los Angeles Clippers’ Marcus Morris
At the trading deadline, the unexpectedly coveted commodity appeared to be well positioned to cash in with a lot of leverage throughout the offseason. As a result of the Paul George trade, the Clippers only had one future first-round pick that could be traded within the next several years, thus they used that pick to acquire Marcus Morris along with two players, a second-round pick, and the option of trading picks with another team. Because there is no other way to replace him besides the Mid-Level Exception, he should be able to negotiate a one-year contract with New York with more guaranteed money than the one he signed last summer for $15 million.
In the short sample size following the move, though, his shooting percentage dropped to a career-low 38.6 percent overall and 28.3 percent from deep. His rebounding and free throw percentages were also career lows. However, he has been a net plus on the court thus far, which helps his case, and the team did go 8-4 after the transaction, which is close to their win percentage before the transaction, which was.692.
If Morris can show that he can transition better to playing with Kawhi Leonard and George and make a more meaningful impact toon a potential Finals run, he will be able to earn a salary equivalent to or more than the $44 million that he has made thus far in his career. Another member of his team, Montrezl Harrell, was also considered for inclusion on this list; but, the market for big men has been so low recently that this stretch run may not have as much of an impact on the price he is seeking.
Bogdan Bogdanovic of the Sacramento Kings
Sacramento enters the bubble 3.5 games behind Memphis, the same gap as Portland and New Orleans, thus the Kings have a decent chance to force a play-in tournament for the eighth spot and offer meaningful minutes for the Serbian shooting guard before restricted free agency. This is because because Portland and New Orleans are both 3.5 games behind Memphis. Even though Bogdanovic’s statistics have remained consistent (14.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists versus 14.5, 2.9, and 3.5 on comparable shooting), the team improved from 15-29 to 13-7 after Bogdanovic took over as starting point guard.
Hield’s shooting percentages improved off the bench, allowing him to maintain his scoring average of 19.4 points per game, compared to 20 points per game as a starter, but playing fewer minutes. This may be the best method to proceed in the future. As a result, keeping Bogdanovic as a starter becomes an even larger priority for the squad.
Even though Sacramento is guaranteed to match any offer sheet submitted, a strong performance, once the season begins, would go a long way toward increasing his value. In August, the 2014 first-round pick turned 28, and in 2017, when he was no longer bound by the rookie scale, he shrewdly made the transition to the NBA with a three-year, $27 million contract. He now has the chance to capitalize even more significantly than previously. Bogdanovic is a player whose name you should keep an eye on because he may have previously been approached with a 51.4 million dollar offer.
Brooklyn Nets’ Joe Harris
Many greater names could be included here, but all of them have already earned significantly more than Harris, who is nearing the end of a tiny contract worth sixteen million dollars that he received as a restricted free agent two years ago. Since then, he has established himself as a reliable starter, won the 3-Point Contest, and been chosen to play for Team USA the prior summer.
Because shooting is a hot commodity, there is speculation that he might “at least double his money” in free agency, and because he is also a strong passer and defender in addition to having a 42.3 percent career mark from deep, there is also speculation that he could “at least double his money.” After earning over $20 million in the first six years of his career, a contract at that level puts a lot of things in peril, so the fact that Brooklyn is experiencing so much turmoil must be unnerving for him.
Spencer Dinwiddie’s status is uncertain after testing positive for COVID-19, DeAndre Jordan is already out after testing positive, Wilson Chandler elected to sit out, and rookie big man Nic Claxton joined Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the injured list. This was all the result of a coaching change that occurred just before the shutdown. Harris has the potential to shine in further opportunities and push a high seed closer to elimination, but as things stand, the sniper may have more to lose than he has to gain from his current scenario.