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April 16, 2024

The good and the bad of the 2020 NBA free agency

By ERIC LYNCH | December 3, 2020


Erik Drost/CC BY 2.0

Gordon Hayward was one of the best players to switch teams this offseason, but the contract he received has been heavily criticized.

The National Basketball Association’s (NBA) 2020-2021 season is set to begin this month, meaning most teams’ rosters have stabilized. While there are still some interesting names that haven’t been signed yet, free agency is largely over. As usual, NBA general managers made some incredibly tactical moves while others made agonizingly questionable ones. I’m going to break down some of the best and worst moves made during the 2020 NBA free agency period.

Good: Tristan Thompson to the Celtics

Ever since the departure of Al Horford, the Boston Celtics have been struggling to deal with opposing centers. The team’s center rotation last year consisted of Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter. While Theis is a worthy starter, Kanter is barely playable sometimes. Nevertheless, it was always obvious watching them play that starting Theis wasn’t a championship formula. 

Tristan Thompson is one of the best rebounders in the entire league, averaging a double-double in his last two seasons. Inside scoring isn’t the biggest issue for the Celtics but having an experienced player like Thompson in the mix only makes the team more threatening. The move only cost the Celtics $19 million over two years, which isn’t the craziest deal, but it’s a bargain for a starter on a championship contender. With Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown both entering their primes, this team might just be the best in the East.

Bad: Bogdan Bogdanovic debacle

What started as one of the best moves of the offseason quickly became the worst. Right at the start of the free agency period, the Milwaukee Bucks announced a sign-and-trade deal that would allow them to acquire Bogdan Bogdanovic from the Sacramento Kings. The only problem was that this was seemingly impossible; it would have been against the NBA’s rules for the Bucks to have been talking to Bogdanovic before free agency began, so how did they make a deal right away?

Eventually, other teams started to complain that the Bucks were being allowed to break the rules, and throughout the next day, rumors spread that Bogdanovic didn’t even want to play for the Bucks. Although it’s still unclear whether this was a scheme to deter accusations of tampering or a legitimate miscommunication, this was a bad look for the Bucks who seemed desperate to surround Giannis Antetokounmpo with help. Bogdanovic eventually signed with the Atlanta Hawks.

Good: Atlanta Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks have been a very bad team for a long time. Struggling at the bottom of the weak Eastern Conference, the team has been taking its time developing all-star Trae Young. Last season, Young complained about the team’s lack of success, and clearly the front office took his complaint to heart. The Hawks signed budding stars Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kris Dunn as well as veterans Danilo Gallinari and Rajon Rondo. 

Not only will Trae Young not have to do everything on his own, but the team should actually be competitive. Additionally, center Clint Capela will be featured in the lineup after missing most of last season. The other young players Atlanta had been starting last year, like De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Kevin Huerter, are much better suited for roles coming off of the bench. I’m not saying they are championship contenders right now but watch for the Hawks to potentially be fighting for a top five seed in the East. 

Bad: Gordon Hayward’s contract

Gordon Hayward signed a four-year, $120 million deal with the Charlotte Hornets. If you’re unfamiliar with Hayward, you may think he’s a superstar player, or perhaps he’s a necessary piece for a championship contender. Neither of these assumptions would be correct. Hayward is a one-time all-star (in 2017) who has only been a 20 point per game scorer once, and the Hornets were 23-42 last season. 

In sum, this move makes no sense. Perhaps Michael Jordan is just a terrible general manager or maybe he sees something none of us do. In all fairness, if Hayward is healthier than he has been these past few seasons, he could be an all-star again, but that’s still not worth the money. The Hornets are a struggling team in a small market, so they may have just needed an exciting new name generate more interest in the team.

Good: Montrezl Harrell to the defending champions

And finally, I’d like to look at what I would consider to be the best move made this offseason. The Los Angeles Lakers won the championship last year, but the team wasn’t without its weaknesses. One of the biggest issues was the drop off between LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the rest of the team. They needed a third option. Montrezl Harrell, the 2020 Sixth Man of the Year, scored nearly 20 points per game while coming off of the bench last year. He makes this threatening team look unbeatable.

Now, I’ve singled out the Harrell deal partly because the Lakers got him for only $19 million over two years. But the Lakers also made several other moves that raise its potential. Acquiring Marc Gasol, Wesley Matthews and Dennis Schröder helps fill the gaps left by some of the players the Lakers lost this offseason. With moves like this, it’s hard to pick anyone else as next season’s title favorite. 

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