NBA free agency started at 6 p.m. ET on Friday, Nov. 20. By the end of the weekend, nearly 90 percent of roster spots were filled.
Free agents reached agreements with teams quickly this year as part of a condensed offseason. With training camps set to begin Dec. 1 and Opening Night of the 2020-21 season only weeks away, front offices around the league knew they had to act quickly in order to help their squads find some sort of chemistry beyond, “Hey, so I’m your teammate now. What’s up?”
Given that the biggest names on the market have found landing spots — Anthony Davis is just figuring out what kind of contract he wants to sign with the Lakers — now seems like a good time to evaluate the best bargains and worst overpays of the offseason.
(Note: No obvious max extension candidates here like Donovan Mitchell or Jayson Tatum. Those deals were always going to happen.)
Best contracts of 2020 NBA free agency
Marc Gasol, Lakers (two years, $5.3 million)
Gasol is not the same force he once was in Memphis. His play in the “bubble” was uninspiring, to put it kindly. He could be getting close to retirement.
And yet, Gasol should be a tremendous fit with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. He can be a post scorer and facilitator on the offensive end, and he is a good enough shooter to space the floor (38.5 percent on 3-pointers last season) on Davis’ dives to the rim. Defensively, he ranked in the top 10 of advanced metrics like ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus and FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR. Frank Vogel will love that.
At the paltry price of a little over $5 million, Gasol is a steal for the defending champs.
Serge Ibaka, Clippers (two years, $19 million)
Speaking of former Raptors big men, the Clippers recovered nicely after losing Montrezl Harrell and JaMychal Green by signing Kawhi Leonard’s old teammate. Ibaka should be an upgrade over Harrell, especially in a playoff environment. He is a more versatile offensive weapon and offers more size at the power forward and center spots.
The Lakers should be heavy favorites to repeat, but the Clippers aren’t that far behind.
Christian Wood, Rockets (three years, $41 million)
Over the Pistons’ final 20 games of the 2019-20 season, Wood averaged 19.5 points and 8.5 rebounds while shooting 54.7 percent from the field and 38.4 percent from beyond the arc. Sure, it’s a small sample size on a bad Pistons team, but Wood is just scratching the surface of his ability at age 25.
Will Wood actually get to play alongside James Harden and Russell Westbrook? Or will he be part of a Rockets rebuild? Regardless of how Houston approaches the future, it’s worth seeing what Wood can become.
Kris Dunn, Hawks (two years, $10 million)
The Hawks were one of the worst defensive teams in the league last season. It started at the point of attack with Trae Young being nothing more than a turnstile against opposing guards.
Insert Dunn. The former Providence star has emerged as a legitimate perimeter stopper and should be able to take the toughest assignments on a nightly basis. He isn’t much of an offensive weapon, but he won’t need to be with Young and Rajon Rondo running the show.
Jae Crowder, Suns (three years, $30 million)
Phoenix could use a little bit of everything Crowder does well. He shoots the ball competently enough to give Devin Booker and Chris Paul room to operate, and he can slide down positionally if the Suns want to play small-ball without getting clobbered on the defensive end. Plus, he’s a veteran with playoff experience. That will only help a franchise trying to break a 10-year postseason drought.
Following a run to the NBA Finals with the Heat, Crowder could have easily landed in the “He got WHAT?” club. The Suns were smart to find a player of Crowder’s caliber on a reasonable deal.
Worst contracts of 2020 NBA free agency
Gordon Hayward, Hornets (four years, $120 million)
Is Hayward a bad player? No, of course not. Could he be a 20-5-5 guy in Charlotte? Definitely possible. It’s moreso the terms of the contract that should sound alarms.
The Hornets will be paying Hayward a high price as he ages out of his prime, and the 30-year-old comes with a rough injury history. Additionally, the Hornets could be on the hook for Nic Batum’s salary over the next three seasons if they elect to waive and stretch him in order to create the cap room necessary to sign Hayward, meaning Hayward would essentially cost $39 million in each of the first three seasons of his contract.
Sources: Boston and Charlotte have worked on a sign-and-trade for Gordon Hayward that would land Celtics a trade exception, but Hornets have first been trying to find a third team for Nic Batum’s $27M contract to see if there’s a way to avoid waiving-and-stretching his money.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 25, 2020
If the goal is to do whatever it takes to make the playoffs, uh, OK then. But this just feels like skipping steps in a rebuild.
Jerami Grant, Pistons (three years, $60 million)
Mason Plumlee, Pistons (three years, $25 million)
It’s incredibly strange that the Pistons appeared to have little interest in retaining Wood, who is far more interesting as an upside play than Grant or Plumlee. It’s not as though $14 million per year would have broken the bank.
Even putting the Wood situation aside, why trade for Dewayne Dedmon and Zhaire Smith only to waive-and-stretch them so you can sign Grant and Plumlee? That’s a lot of work for guys who top out as role players.
Grant in particular could struggle to live up to his deal. He will have to take major strides as an offensive creator, and Detroit’s lack of spacing may hinder his development in that area.
Malik Beasley, Timberwolves (four years, $60 million)
After being traded to the Timberwolves in February, Beasley had a nice 14-game stretch, averaging an efficient 20.7 points. It’s not hard to understand why Minnesota wanted to keep the 24-year-old guard. Still, this is a bit of an overpay for someone who will be competing for minutes with D’Angelo Russell, Ricky Rubio, Anthony Edwards, Jarrett Culver and Josh Okogie.
Away from the court, Beasley is facing charges of drug possession and threats of violence after he allegedly pointed a gun at a family outside his Minnesota home back in September. The Timberwolves released a statement last month saying they were “aware of the charges” and “take these allegations seriously and will let the legal process run its course.”
As The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski put it, this is a significant “show of faith” from the Timberwolves.