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NBA free agency: 11 players to watch

Raptors big man Serge Ibaka shoots over Celtics guard Brad Wanamaker during a game Sept. 9, 2020, in Orlando, Fla.
Raptors big man Serge Ibaka (9), one of the top free agents this offseason, shoots over Celtics guard Brad Wanamaker during a game Sept. 9, in Orlando, Fla.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The main event is here.

After a week when the NBA opened the doors for teams to make trades and hosted a new wave of players during the draft, including LaMelo Ball, the league will begin its free agency period, the primary mover of players around the league.

This class isn’t like most — the top names like Anthony Davis and Brandon Ingram are expected to remain with the Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans, respectively, on maximum-contract deals. It also remains to be seen how the fiscal losses suffered by teams during the pandemic will affect spending.

There’s still a lot of talent available, even if it’s nothing like 2019, when Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler and Kemba Walker all changed teams.

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Here are 11 players to watch:

G Fred VanVleet

The vibe around the league is that you’re going to have to offer VanVleet a lot of money to pry him away from Toronto, an organization that not only knows how good he is but the value of his intangibles.

G Bogdan Bogdanovic

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With his reported sign-and-trade deal from Sacramento to Milwaukee off, teams with minutes available in their backcourt should make a run at Bogdanovic. In addition to being a gifted offensive player, he’s willing to compete on the defensive end.

F Gordon Hayward

Hayward turned down a lot of money in Boston to test free agency, signaling a big payday is already in the works. Hayward’s recovery from a gruesome ankle injury seems about complete, and he’s a terrific all-around offensive player.

F Danilo Gallinari

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Clippers fans know how skilled Gallo is — his silky jumper is one of the best in the league. After another good season in Oklahoma City, Gallinari is high on the list of multiple teams, including Atlanta and Miami.

C Montrezl Harrell, F Marcus Morris

The former Clippers might be in line for big days in another offseason, but it’s hard to know if they might be victims of the NBA’s money crunch. Harrell might be more likely to leave town, but his market as an undersized center is a little spotty.

G Joe Harris

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Brooklyn can go over the salary cap to sign Harris (and that’s a distinct possibility), but he’s one of the few sharpshooters available. He’s blossomed into much more than a one-trick player.

F Davis Bertans

Bertans earned himself a big raise last season in Washington when he made more than 42% on nearly nine attempts per game. Not many players in the league can space the floor with that kind of volume and efficiency.

G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

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KCP is hitting free agency at the perfect time after a stellar performance for the Lakers in the playoffs. The Hawks have been rumored to have a lot of interest, but the Lakers should be competitive too.

F/C Serge Ibaka

Another name on the wish list of Lakers fans, Ibaka had a terrific season in Toronto, regaining his shooting touch. He’s not the defender he used to be, but he’s still a smart player and rugged rebounder who can help a contender.


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