The BBNBA’s takeover of the Orlando Bubble is finally over, but its era of domination is just beginning.
Los Angeles Lakers co-superstar and recent winner of an NBA Finals ring, Anthony Davis, headlines an underwhelming 2020 NBA free agency class in what will be a reduced and truncated offseason. The actual start day for free agency has still yet to be made official, however, we do know that the NBA Draft is Nov. 18 and the tentative plan is to tipoff the 2020-21 season on Dec. 22, meaning free agency would likely fall sometime shortly after the Draft.
Davis is easily the most talented player available, Kentucky alum or not, but his free agency experience shouldn’t be anything close to the drama-induced departure he made from New Orleans. It has been widely reported and expected that Davis will re-sign with the Lakers. But aside from the multi-time All-Star, there are nine other former Wildcats who are set to be free agents this offseason. Let’s break down every single of them.
*Keep in mind, this is a group of one-time ‘Cats who played in the NBA last season.*
Anthony Davis (player option: $28.7 million)
A deal between Davis and the Lakers shouldn’t take more than a couple of days to become official once free agency hits, if there isn’t already an unspoken agreement. Alongside aging superstar LeBron James, Davis has a fantastic set up in L.A. that can lead to another immediate shot at competing for an NBA Title and in the years to come, especially if the Lakers can find a way to add a young third star. The goal for years now has been to get Davis to Laker Land and now that he’s here, he’s not going anywhere.
The only unknown is just exactly how much money he’ll earn from the Lakers’ next offer, which will surely be in the $180 million-plus range. Davis will likely earn anywhere from the $32-35 million per year mark, depending on where the final salary cap figure lands for the upcoming season (which is expected to be under recent projections due to COVID-19).
As Lebron James told him, this is Anthony Davis’ franchise now.
Anthony Davis: LeBron James tells me Lakers are my team https://t.co/f3SN1PfYAH
— Kurt Helin (@basketballtalk) October 23, 2020
Rajon Rondo (player option: $2.6 million)
Rajon Rondo’s situation with the Lakers is a bit different than Davis’.
He’s coming off an NBA title and one of the best stretches he’s played over the last few years looking to cash out with one final contract before his best years are officially behind him. The 34-year old reportedly declined his $2.6 million player option with L.A. but has not ruled out a return to the defending champs.
I’ve said in the past that I would wager Rondo earns somewhere in the $5 million per year range, probably on a one-year deal, which could come from the Lakers or another contending team looking for a proven and veteran leader at backup point guard. The crosstown Clippers or Brooklyn Nets are two teams to would keep an eye on.
Lakers’ Rajon Rondo will opt out, hit free agency https://t.co/vlNW9oVU8a
— BasketballNews.com (@basketbllnews) October 15, 2020
Willie Cauley-Stein (player option: $2.2 million)
I don’t think even Willie Cauley-Stein’s agent knows what his contract value as a free agent looks like, but it’s probably not what they were hoping for when he left the Kings not that long ago. The 27-year old has a $2.2 million player option to return to the Dallas Mavericks if he so chooses, and it might be his best bet at trying to earn a larger and lengthier deal in the future.
After leaving Sacramento under less-than-ideal terms, WCS spent half of the 2019-20 season with the broken down Golden State Warriors before being traded to Dallas where he played in just 13 games. He then decided to opt-out of the Mavericks’s playoff run in the Orlando Bubble as he welcomed the birth of his first child. Cauley-Stein hasn’t played consistent and productive basketball since the 2018-19 season, but he still can provide value as a rim-running seven-footer. Staying in Dallas and playing next to Luka Doncic is a better option than most.
— Willie Trill Cauley-Stein (@THEwillieCS15) October 26, 2020
Enes Kanter (player option: $5 million)
Enes Kanter could go either way with his player option as a member of the Boston Celtics. He’s owed just over $5 million this coming season if he chooses to pick it up, or he could try his luck on the open market. Considering his inconsistencies during Boston’s postseason run, you have to wonder if he would garner much interest as a free agent, however, he did play a steady role off the bench throughout the regular season.
I believe that Kanter could likely find a partner that would be willing to shell out $5 million per season for him, but I’m not sure if that team will be in a better situation than the Celtics. From the outside looking in, Kanter loves the city of Boston (as he did when he most recently played for the New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers) and was a person that his teammates loved having around and inside the locker room. He’s still only 28 years old, so the possibility of attracting a long-term deal is still alive, but the importance of winning and playing time will surely be a deciding factor for him, as well. He could get stuck on the Celtics bench if he opts-in.
It’s been reported by The Athletic that Kanter is leaning towards opting-out, but the report also acknowledges that financial strains this offseason due to the runoff effects of the coronavirus will make finding a longer deal for him more difficult than it normally would be.
Hamidou Diallo (team option: $1.1 million)
The Oklahoma City Thunder will likely bring back third-year guard Hamidou Diallo, who is owed just $1.1 million on his club option this offseason. The former Wildcat made an impressive leap from his rookie to second season, doubling his stats and playing time before an untimely injury knocked him out of the rotation.
The breakout performance from fellow Thunder guard Lu Dort during the seeding games and into the playoffs has Diallo behind the pack a bit now compared to the start of last season, but all indications point to OKC keeping Diallo around for another year of development.
Nerlens Noel (unrestricted free agent)
Starting with Nerlens Noel, we now get into the batch of unrestricted free agents who are free to sign with whoever they want for however much they want once free agency begins. Noel will likely be the most sought-after of the five BBNBA’ers I’m about to mention, but none of them will figure to be considered “splash” signings. That being said, they absolutely can be impact players on quality teams.
Noel made just $2 million a season ago and will head into free agency for the fourth time since he famously turned down a massive offer sheet worth ~$70 million from the Mavericks back in the 2017 offseason. After spending the last two seasons in OKC, primarily as the backup to starting center Steven Adams, he doesn’t have much hype surrounding his free agency, but he’ll surely have some suitors. I would imagine the Thunder will be one of the first teams to come calling in an effort to keep him around as a piece they are comfortable with, offering Noel somewhere in the $3 million per year range over the course of a season or two.
Patrick Patterson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (unrestricted free agents)
Patrick Patterson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are both in similar situations in that they can provide an immediate service to a good team: Patterson as a stretch-four and MKG as an above-average on-ball defender. You know exactly what you’re going to get from these two, which does cap their value to a certain degree.
Patterson made $2.3 million a season ago with the Clips while MKG was sitting at just $800k from Dallas after being bought out by the Charlotte Hornets for over $12 million. Both of them will likely try and sign for the league minimum, which should be over $2 million each.
Wenyen Gabriel and Brandon Knight (unrestricted free agents)
Wenyen Gabriel and Brandon Knight are on the other end of the league’s contract minimum spectrum compared to Patterson and Kidd-Gilchrist. Gabriel, who actually had a decent stretch to end the season with the Trail Blazers, and Knight are both back of the rotation players at this point in their respective careers.
Gabriel has more upside than Knight as the 23-year old bundle of energy who fights harder than 99 percent of the NBA on every possession, but he has yet to put together a consistent enough sample size to prove he’s worth a tidy deal in the offseason. I would imagine some team elects to snag Gabriel for cheap as a developmental piece and he could even remain in Portland. As for Knight, the 28-year old is on the backend of his days in the NBA. Several injuries over the years have diminished his ability to impact the game and he hasn’t been able to play a healthy stretch of basketball since 2017. If he does find a team, it will be for the bare minimum on a lottery squad in need of a backup guard.