The 2020 NBA free agent class doesn’t have the same star power that we saw the past couple of years when players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, and Kyrie Irving all switched squads after hitting the open market. But with that said, there will still be a ton of talent available over the offseason. Some players that have already established themselves as worthy of a big-time investment — guys like Anthony Davis and Brandon Ingram — will command major money on the market regardless of how well they play when the 2019-20 season resumes in Orlando at the end of July. For others though, how they perform in Orlando will have a major impact on their next contract. Here’s a look at five soon-to-be free agents who could boost their stock with a solid showing in Orlando.
1. Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Clippers (Unrestricted)
Montrezl Harrell is already in line for a big day payday after increasing his per-game scoring and rebounding totals in each of his first five seasons, but he could boost his stock even more with a solid showing in Orlando. Since being drafted in 2015, Harrell has developed from a relative unknown into a multi-faceted big man capable of scoring nearly 20 points per game (he averaged 18.8 this season), doing damage on the glass (7.1 rebounds per game), and also providing some solid interior defense.
Thanks to his major contributions off of the bench for the Clippers, Harrell is in line for the league’s Sixth Man of the Year Award this season. though he certainly has the talent to be a starter somewhere. If he plays a pivotal role in a deep Clippers playoff run, there will likely be no shortage of suitors interested in signing Harrell as a starter and paying him as such.
2. Gordon Hayward, Boston Celtics (Player option)
Gordon Hayward has a player option worth $34 million for the 2020-21 season, but if things go well enough in Orlando he could end up turning down that option in favor of a new, multi-year deal in free agency. Hayward has recovered well from the gruesome leg injury that he suffered at the onset of the 2017-18 season, and he has shown flashes of being the All-Star-caliber player that he was in Utah before the injury occurred. However, some questions still exist about his night-in, night-out durability after such a tough injury, and in turn about his long-term ceiling. A dynamic playoff run could help to squash such concerns.
If Hayward, 30, is able to help lead the Celtics deep into the postseason, while knocking down shots and consistently displaying his athleticism, he could show potentially interested suitors that he is still capable of being a top option on a contender. Last time Hayward was a free agent, his status as a prime target was a no-brainer. Unfortunately for Hayward, that’s not the case this time around, but he could help his own case in a big way in Orlando.
3. Hassan Whiteside, Portland Trail Blazers (Unrestricted)
At one point in time, Whiteside was one of the most promising young big men in the league. He led the NBA in blocks in 2016, rebounds in 2017, and he was named to the All-Defensive Second-Team in 2018. However, after that, his play plateaued, and he fell out of favor in Miami. He was traded to Portland last offseason, and he has enjoyed a resurgence of sorts with the Blazers. On the season, he averaged 16.3 points, a career-high 14.2 rebounds, and a league-high 3.1 blocks per game while serving as the team’s starting center with Jusuf Nurkic sidelined. At 31, Whiteside has shown that he is still a starting-caliber center in the league. If Whiteside can continue to prove that in Orlando by providing Portland with a reliable post presence on both ends of the floor, and in turn help the Blazers push into the playoffs (they’re currently 3.5 games out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference), he will do himself a major favor when it comes to his next contract.
4. Alec Burks, Philadelphia 76ers (Unrestricted)
Alec Burks was putting up career-high numbers (16.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game) with the Warriors this season. With All-Stars Steph Curry and Klay Thompson both sidelined with injury issues, Burks was able to take full advantage of the increased on-court opportunity (he averaged 29 minutes per game in Golden State). But then he was traded to Philadelphia in February and he saw his playing time and stats dip as a result. In Philadelphia’s crowded perimeter rotation Burks saw his minutes drop by nearly 10 per game, and saw his scoring fall from 16.1 points per game to 10.7. His shooting percentage dipped by nearly five percent also, as he struggled to find his rhythm in a new offense.
As a perimeter player with solid size (he’s 6’6”) and the ability to consistently knock down shots from long distance, Burks, 28, could be in position to garner a solid deal over the offseason. In order to do that though, he will need to emerge as a key cog and legitimate perimeter threat for Philadelphia and, in turn, show that he can do more than just put up empty numbers on an injury-riddled Warriors team. Orlando will provide him with an opportunity to do just that.
5. Marcus Morris, Los Angeles Clippers (Unrestricted)
The league’s Orlando return will provide veteran forward Marcus Morris with the perfect platform to audition for the offseason. Morris has only been a member of the Clippers since February and has only played 12 total games with the squad so far, but as the team’s starting power forward, Morris will get an opportunity to show that he could be a great piece for a championship-level team moving forward. No one will be looking to build a team around Morris in free agency, but if he shows that he can play off of superstars Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George, knock down shots when asked to, and play reliable defense there will be plenty of teams looking to add him to their roster. Morris, 30, signed a one-year deal with the Knicks in free agency last offseason. With a solid showing in Orlando, he could potentially land a multi-year deal.