NBA free agency will formally begin Friday evening at 6:00 p.m. ET, with the signing moratorium lasting until Sunday at 12:01 p.m. ET.
Before it starts, here’s a look at the 10 best players on the market heading into Friday night’s extravaganza.
Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers (UFA)
While he’s without question the top talent in this year’s free-agent class, including Davis on this list is more a formality than anything.
Davis opted out of the final year of his deal in order to earn a bigger contract with L.A., and may look to do the same thing again next season as he tries to maximize his earning potential in the prime of his career. His Lakers teammate, LeBron James, did the same earlier in his own career.
So while he is technically a free agent, don’t expect to see him actually in play with any team besides the defending champions.
Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans (RFA)
Another formality on this list, Ingram enjoyed a breakout year last season, earning his first all-star selection and winning the Most Improved Player Award as the change in scenery in New Orleans appeared to unlock the immense potential that made him the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft.
The Pelicans will likely offer Ingram a max deal, effectively outbidding any potential suitors for his services as they look to build a title contender around him and Zion Williamson.
Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors (UFA)
Here’s where the smoke begins.
At just 26 years of age, coming off a career year statistically and boasting championship pedigree and leadership, VanVleet is the top free agent among players that could actually be had on the open market.
He’s publicly made no bones about seeking a big payday, but he’s seen his market shrink this week with top destinations such as Phoenix and Detroit looking to be out of the running, and potentially New York, too (more on this later).
This might leave Toronto as VanVleet’s most likely destination, a move that would likely satisfy both parties as the Raptors have also made it known how important it is to them to retain VanVleet.
So, all signs seem to be trending toward a VanVleet return — it’s just a matter of what cost.
Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Clippers (UFA)
The NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, Harrell had a monster 2019-20 campaign playing for what appeared to be a rather dysfunctional Clippers team.
Though he isn’t much of a shooter, Harrell has proven to be a top-notch NBA big man because of his nearly unmatched energy on both sides of the ball and his strength on offence as a secondary playmaker who is capable of making smart reads with basketball off the short roll.
Because of his killer combination of hustle and smarts, he’s a player who would be able to fit seamlessly on just about any team.
Jerami Grant, Denver Nuggets (UFA)
This name may look a little odd if you haven’t been paying much attention to Grant over the past two seasons, but he’s quietly turned himself into one of the NBA’s top two-way combo forwards.
Grant is a player capable of defending multiple positions, a smart cutter, strong finisher and, most notably, now a reliable three-point threat, having shot 39.1 per cent from deep over the past two seasons.
The Nuggets will want to try to re-sign him, but given all the boxes he checks off teams look for in forwards, he’s sure to attract lots of attention.
Bogdan Bogdanovic, Sacramento Kings (RFA)
Possibly the most interesting RFA in NBA history, and not at all for his actual basketball skills (which are quite significant, as he’s one of the league’s best volume three-point marksmen).
Bogdanovic has been thrust into the national spotlight after a reported sign-and-trade between the Bucks and Kings fell apart as he didn’t actually sign off on a deal to Milwaukee.
Now the NBA’s reportedly investigating the failed transaction and there’s a chance this whole situation has soured Bogdanovic enough that he’ll be looking to sign anywhere else other than Milwaukee or Sacramento.
Danilo Gallinari, Oklahoma City Thunder (UFA)
Though he always comes with injury concern, Gallinari is an elite three-point shooter and an all-around dynamite scorer.
When healthy, he’s a player who can take over stretches of games with his shot-making ability and is sure to garner interest from contenders hoping to add a little more scoring punch to their roster.
Serge Ibaka, Toronto Raptors (UFA)
Ibaka enjoyed the best offensive season of his career, playing centre full time with Raptors. And while he may no longer be the imposing rim protector he once was, at age 31, the value he showed as an ultra-efficient pick-and-pop player will make him desirable on the open market.
From a Raptors perspective, they would probably like to retain him to sort out their thin centre depth, but Ibaka will be valued by other contending teams and there’s a chance he may be outside of Toronto’s price range.
Christian Wood, Detroit Pistons (UFA)
Wood enjoyed a breakout 2019-20 season in Detroit as he looked to finally unleash some of the massive talent that was always lying dormant.
A “unicorn” player, Wood showed a ton of offensive versatility as a player who can score on the inside, stroke it from three and even blow by defenders with a quick step and advanced ball-handling for a man standing nearly seven feet tall.
He’s not the best defender out there, but there’s certainly a market to be had for bigs that boast that kind of versatile offensive toolbox.
Gordon Hayward, Boston Celtics (UFA)
Last but not least, we have Hayward, who after signing a monster max deal with the Celtics in the summer of 2017 proceeded to endure three mostly injury-plagued seasons that saw his role diminish with Boston, leading to him opting out of a monstrous $34-million payday this coming season, and becoming a free agent.
Given Hayward’s last three seasons, it’s difficult to say if he’s actually lost his skills, or if that was just an anomaly and he can recapture his old all-star form.
Regardless, it was curious to see Hayward opt out of that final year of his contract as it seemed to perhaps be an indication that he has an agreement elsewhere to sign a long-term deal. If Marc Stein of the New York Times is to be believed, it could be the Knicks, who reportedly have been in hot pursuit.
Quickly getting back to the Raptors’ situation with VanVleet, if Hayward really is heading to New York, then that would cross off yet another possible landing spot for the Raptors guard.
Other noteworthy names to keep an eye on
Aron Baynes (Phoenix Suns, UFA), Davis Bertans (Washington Wizards, UFA), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Los Angeles Lakers, UFA), Jordan Clarkson (Utah Jazz, UFA), Jae Crowder (Miami Heat, UFA), Goran Dragic (Miami Heat, UFA), Kris Dunn (Chicago Bulls, UFA), Derrick Favors (New Orleans Pelicans, UFA), Marc Gasol (Toronto Raptors, UFA), Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets, UFA), Dwight Howard (Los Angeles Lakers, UFA), Derrick Jones Jr. (Miami Heat, UFA), Wesley Matthews (Milwaukee Bucks, UFA), Paul Millsap (Denver Nuggets, UFA), Marcus Morris (Los Angeles Clippers, UFA) Jakob Poeltl (San Antonio Spurs, RFA), Rajon Rondo (Los Angeles Lakers, UFA), Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers, UFA), Hassan Whiteside (Portland Trail Blazers, UFA)