Free Agency Stock Report: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?
With the Lakers leaving the Magic Kingdom with the 2019-20 NBA Championship in hand, free agency is now upon us. There are multiple players who will be looking for major paydays on new teams, even with an unclear financial landscape.
Over the course of the NBA bubble, both in the seeding games and the playoffs, we saw some impending free agents improve their standing in Orlando with steady or surprising play under the bright lights of the postseason.
So whose stock went up, whose went down, and whose remained steady this summer and fall? Let’s discuss
(Disclaimer, before anyone says “what about the Lakers veterans??”, fear not - they will be getting their own spotlight.)
Goran Dragić - Rising ⬆️
Miami started the surprising Kendrick Nunn at point guard for most of the regular season. Veteran Goran Dragić was coming off the bench, and it looked as if we had seen the last of the Slovenian star as a full-time starter. Fast forward to the Bubble, where Nunn missed time due to testing positive for COVID-19, and Dragić returned to the starting lineup with aplomb.
After a respectable regular season off the pine, the Dragon posted playoff averages of 19.9 points per game on 45/45.9/81.4 shooting splits. With a torn plantar fascia in his left foot suffered during Game 1 of the NBA Finals, his absence against the Lakers was noticeable. Miami sorely missed the veteran’s multi-faceted scoring ability and playmaking skills.
Nevertheless, Dragić’s postseason was fantastic. He proved that even at age 34, he can be a great fit in many championship-contending backcourts this offseason, whether he stays in Miami or not.
Joe Harris - Steady ➡️
Reliable 3-and-D wings are a valued commodity in the NBA, and there’s no reason why Joe Harris won’t be suitably paid this offseason. With another elite shooting percentage from deep this season with 42.4%, Harris continued to show he wasn’t a one-trick pony, putting the ball on the floor and revealing a growing offensive versatility.
16.5 points and 10 rebounds per game, while shooting 52 percent from the field and 58.3 percent on six attempts per game during the Raptors sweep of the Nets may seem like a small sample size, but Harris’ growth as a player should have a number of teams looking to add the 29-year old’s skillset to their squad.
For the Nets, he remains THE offseason priority, as the sweet-shooting Harris will provide the perfect spacing weapon around Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.
Jerami Grant - Rising ⬆️
One of the clear standouts for players who have done nothing but raise their value during the pointy end of this NBA season, Jerami Grant has continued to win suitors through the Denver Nuggets’ inspiring playoff run. To put it frankly, the man has earned a bag.
Showing versatility on the defensive end guarding Anthony Davis and LeBron James in the Western Conference Finals, while having multiple 20-point games to ensure the Nuggets came back from 3-1 deficits against both the Jazz and the Clippers, Grant was phenomenal in Orlando.
The 26-year old built on an impressive season with playoff averages of 11.6 points and 3.3 boards on 40.6/32.6/88.9 shooting splits.
Showing a diverse skill set could have the 26-year old inserted into any contending squad with ease. Expect Denver to have a fight on their hands to keep the blossoming star, who could eat up a big chunk of the limited money available this offseason.
Montrezl Harrell - Falling ⬇️
Through a variety of factors, Montrezl Harrell’s play during the postseason was eye-raising, and for the wrong reasons. The 2020 Sixth Man of the Year had a fantastic regular season with 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, forming a strong one-two punch off the Clippers’ bench with Lou Williams. However, Harrell had to leave the Bubble due to a family emergency, and once he returned, things never seemed to click for the big man.
In a playoff campaign that ended in a 3-1 blown lead to the Nuggets, Harrell’s numbers dropped to 10.5 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. More concerningly, the 26-year old had struggles against some of the best offensive big men in the league in Kristaps Porzingis and Nikola Jokic, and has perhaps given enough evidence that Harrell is not ready to be a team’s starting five.
While rumors are swirling around that teams like Toronto are interested in the 6”7’ center, given Serge Ibaka hits free agency and Marc Gasol is going to play in Spain, Harrell will not receive as big of a payday as his regular season would have indicated. Nevertheless, Harrell remains an important piece for a Clippers team looking to rebound from a poor postseason exit.
Carmelo Anthony - Rising ⬆️
It’s been a long-time coming, but Carmelo Anthony has finally accepted and excelled in a supporting cast role. This change might save and prolong Melo’s NBA career. After struggling during stints in Oklahoma City and Houston, Anthony was out of the league before the Portland Trail Blazers signed the 36-year old to a one-year deal in November.
The 10-time All Star looked fantastic playing as the third-scorer behind the Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum backcourt, but especially thrived during the bubble with Portland’s wing depth decimated. Finally, we saw a little of Olympic Melo, who found his groove as a catch-and-shoot player with 47 percent shooting from deep during the seeding games, and 42 percent in Portland’s first-round loss to the Lakers.
Still able to get a bucket with the best of them, Anthony’s 15.2 points and five rebounds per game in Portland’s one playoff series should have teams viewing Anthony in a whole new light.
Danilo Gallinari - Falling ⬇️
Arguably one of the marquee free agents before the NBA’s resumption in Orlando, it will be intriguing to see how Danilo Gallinari’s poor series against the Houston Rockets impacts the 32-year old’s offseason value.
After putting up 18.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, while shooting the ball at 43.8/40.5/89.3 splits, Gallinari’s struggles were a major reason why the Thunder couldn’t get past the Rockets. In particular, the forward’s scoring dropped off, only posting 15 points per game, and his three-point shooting mark falling all the way to 32.4 percent.
While it may only be one series, a similar situation happened last season while Gallinari was on the Clippers. His three-point percentage dropped from 43.3 percent in the regular season to 30.2 percent in the LAC’s first-round exit.
Gallinari’s size and shooting makes him an attractive frontcourt option for several playoff teams including the new NBA Champion LA Lakers, and the vanquished Miami Heat. Whether front offices will view the Italian Stallion’s playoff struggles as a concern or not remains to be seen.
Fred VanVleet - Steady ➡️
Fred VanVleet’s regular season had already put the undrafted guard near the top of the free agency class, showing his ability to lead the Toronto Raptors in Kyle Lowry’s absence, in a campaign that showed last year’s NBA Finals performance was no fluke.
VanVleet’s stock kept rising during the postseason, with his combination of playmaking, high-caliber defense and hot shooting saw the Raptors guard post a playoff statline of 19.6 points, 6.9 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 39 percent from deep.
The Raptors will be eager to sign their undersized spark plug long term, but expect teams like Detroit and Phoenix all to look at VanVleet as the guard to lead their squad towards postseason success.
Paul Millsap - Falling ⬇️
While providing some big moments and stretches for the Nuggets in both 3-1 comebacks, veteran forward Paul Millsap didn’t play consistently enough to do his impending free agency any favors. After averaging 11.6 points per game in the regular season - his lowest mark since the 2009-10 season - Millsap’s struggles continued despite a great playoff run for the Nuggets.
Across three series, Millsap averaged only 8.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists, with shooting splits of 39.8/34.1/79.6, in 24.2 minutes per game. With the Nuggets looking to see more growth from Michael Porter Jr in the starting lineup, Millsap’s days as a starter are probably behind him.
However, with six double-digit scoring games in Denver’s improbable playoff run, the 35-year old can still play a role for a contender’s bench unit. It just will not be on as big of a contract as Millsap may have envisaged.