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Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
The NBA free agent market officially opens on Friday, Nov. 20.
Unofficially, though, teams are already ironing out their plans—and reporters are relaying rumors of what they might entail.
The latest round of whispers involves a wildly intriguing contemporary big, a veteran floor general and a positional search by a championship contender. Let’s dive in.
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Matt Slocum/Associated Press
Christian Wood might be the most fascinating player in the 2020 free-agent pool.
Undrafted in 2015, his search for an NBA home led him everywhere from the G League and China. He had cups of coffee with four different NBA teams, but he never played more than 21 games in an NBA season before 2019-20.
After edging out Joe Johnson for the Detroit Pistons’ final roster spot, Wood again took the winding road to a regular rotation role. But when Detroit dealt Andre Drummond at the deadline, that finally cleared the runway for Wood to take flight, and he promptly put together an eye-opening 13-game stretch, averaging 22.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.7 threes and 1.0 blocks.
The skill set he flashed late in the season showed no discernible weakness. He shot from distance, scored on the move, finished at the rim, blocked shots and handled defensive switches. But still, it was a 13-game stretch of an otherwise mostly forgettable career.
No one seems to know how to price that in free agency.
“Executives around the league have differing views on Wood’s value in free agency,” The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reported. “Some expect him to receive the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, which will be valued at $9.3 million annually. … Others believe he could earn up to $18 million annually.”
Either way, patience should prove quite the profitable virtue for the well-traveled big man.
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Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
In news that should surprise no one, Mike Conley reportedly plans to take the money and stay put.
The 33-year-old has an early-termination option on his $34.5 million salary for 2020-21, but Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes reported Conley will not exercise it.
Conley was never going to match that salary on the open market. Given the financial hit delivered by the COVID-19 pandemic, he might not have even been in the same zip code.
While there’s always a chance a veteran might escape a final option year in search of a longer term commitment, the finances were never going to align for Conley to consider that. He averaged just 14.4 points and 4.4 assists during his first season with the Utah Jazz, though his production at least ticked up near his normal levels in five playoff outings (19.8 points and 5.2 assists).
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Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press
The Los Angeles Clippers may have boasted the league’s most talented roster in 2019-20, but their whole was rarely, if ever, greater than the sum of its parts.
There may have been myriad factors in why that was the case, but perhaps it was as simple as not having a player capable of tying everything together. For instance, despite having four different players average 18-plus points, L.A. landed just 24th in assist percentage.
The Clippers don’t have a pass-first player on the roster. Starting point guard Patrick Beverley basically functions as a three-and-D wing. Spark-plug Lou Williams looks for his shot first before getting others involved.
The position could look different when the club returns to training camp next month.
“The Clippers are expected to be in the market for another reliable ball-handling point guard to take some pressure off of Leonard,” Mirjam Swanson wrote for the Orange County Register.
This fits with a previous report from ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith that Leonard “privately clamored” for the team to add a point guard. It will be interesting to see whether L.A. makes a major move at the position—former Clippers floor general Chris Paul is on the trade block—or does something on a smaller scale to supplement what it already has.