Where should the top NBA free agents go?

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Anthony Davis
Image: (Getty Images)

DISCLAIMER: We’ve seen time and again in the NBA that if teams zero in on someone, they’ll find creative ways to make the transaction work, whether it’s a sign-and-trade, a straight-up signing, or sudden cap-clearing moves. So, yes, we may throw some numbers around estimating who might get what based on reports (actual ones) but overall, even if certain teams don’t have the space to get someone they covet, they’ll figure it out.

Furthermore, this is just pairing the top free agents of this year’s somewhat lackluster class — respectfully, compared to 2019 and 2021 — with teams and organizations who’d make the most sense, along with what’s been reported. Finally, the rankings are not in any exact order, nor do they include Anthony Davis, because why even waste time — he’s staying.

You’ve been briefed.

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Fred VanVleet, G, Toronto Raptors

Fred VanVleet, G, Toronto Raptors

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Bonafides

Place he should go

The New York Knicks have $40 million in what Spotrac calls, ‘Practical Cap Space.’ Ian Begley of SNY calls VanVleet to the Knicks unlikely, but yesterday I wrote about why they should make a considerable attempt. If he wants to compete, and if the Raptors could offer a comparable deal, he could stay — understandably so. Presumably, Kyle Lowry could still also be moved at some point. If you’re VanVleet, do you want to be the Knicks’ savior? Not sure. But for $80 to $100 million over four years? Sheeeiiit!

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3 / 9

Gordon Hayward, F, Boston Celtics

Gordon Hayward, F, Boston Celtics

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Bonafides

Place he should go:

Kevin O’Connor said on Bill Simmons’ Podcast today that the Indiana Pacers are Hayward’s preference. Perfect! Moving right along …

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4 / 9

Danilo Gallinari, F, Oklahoma City Thunder

Danilo Gallinari, F, Oklahoma City Thunder

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Bonafides

  • The greatest NBA player from Italy
  • Still averaging nearly 20 points per game
  • The second-best Knicks draft pick of the 2000s (David Lee — Trevor Ariza right there, too)

Place he should go

The Miami Heat have had interest, even trying to trade for him at the deadline. The Atlanta Hawks, who by all accounts are dying to make the playoffs, are expected to make a run at Gallinari. The Mavericks will also be in the mix, and given their roster construction, of course they will. Gallo may be the most coveted stretch-four of this offseason, but given the potential to win now, Miami seems like his best chance at winning more than he has in his career thus far. Plus, he’s the ideal big to play alongside Bam Adebayo, given his size, shooting, and ability to stay ready.

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5 / 9

Montrezl Harrell, F, Los Angeles Clippers

Montrezl Harrell, F, Los Angeles Clippers

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Image: (Getty Images)

Bonafides

Place he should go

One of the more intriguing situations in free agency because he hasn’t garnered the same notoriety as his contemporaries. He may return to the Clippers, even though Harrell and Paul George had a reported dust-up at the end of last season. The Hawks are in the market and widely expected to do whatever their version of big-game hunting is, and Harrell wouldn’t be a shocker in the ATL, even if the fit next to Clint Capela comes into question. Teams like the Hornets and Kings are also on the must-watch list because you never know what the hell they’re going to do.

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6 / 9

Joe Harris, G/F, Brooklyn Nets

Joe Harris, G/F, Brooklyn Nets

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Bonafides

  • Became more than just a shooter while in Brooklyn
  • Nicknamed ‘Beef Jerky Joe’ by Richard Jefferson
  • Middle name is Malcolm

Place he should go

Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reported that NBA Executives believe Harris is staying in Brooklyn. What that means for a possible James Harden deal is in question. Again, it would be smart if Kyrie Irving were in that deal, but that’s obviously not what they’re planning, as far as we know. Harris is tailor-made for every shooter-starved NBA team, and in 2020, it’s damn near all of them. Because of his Bird rights situation, the Nets could afford to keep him. Although, minds change and Harris bolts elsewhere, acquiring Landry Shamet in a draft-night trade will act as insurance for his departure. Regardless of which stars they built around, Harris will make sense as a basketball fit more than most others already on the team. Other than Brooklyn, the Hawks and Knicks should poke around here.

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7 / 9

Davis Bertans, F, Washington Wizards

Davis Bertans, F, Washington Wizards

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Bonafides

Place he should go

Quinton Mayo of NBC Washington says Bertans’ first meeting will be with the Wizards on tonight at 6 p.m. If they’re willing to give him what he wants, while seeing what they have in John Wall and keeping Bradley Beal, it appears to be a thrilling situation for him. Why not just stay in D.C., where the team should be a little better anyway? Other than that: Hawks, Pelicans and Knicks in free agency are good fits where Bertans should financially get what he wants. Reportedly, the Lakers, Nuggets and, wait for it, the Celtics are interested as well.

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8 / 9

Bogdan Bogdanovic, G, Sacramento Kings

Bogdan Bogdanovic, G, Sacramento Kings

Illustration for article titled Where should the top NBA free agents go?
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Bonafides

Place he should go

So it looks like Bogdanovic won’t be a Buck after all, but that will only open his interest league-wide. He’ll enter restricted free agency, opening the floodgates to a possible balloon contract from a team like, again, the Hawks or Knicks. The Bucks have already waived Ersan Ilyasova, who was part of the original deal, but that shouldn’t forbid other teams from opting for the sign-and-trade route, as messy as this one concluded. The Lakers are going to do something other than sign Davis, right? LeBron James will be thrilled.

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