2019 NBA Finals - Game Six
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 13: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors celebrates the basket against the Golden State Warriors in the second half during Game Six of the 2019 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 13, 2019 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

A lot has changed over the course of a year, with the Golden State Warriors falling from Western Conference kings to the worst side in the West, to an unprecedented bubble tournament held at Disney World in Orlando.

In any normal campaign, most free agents would already have sorted where they were going to play next season. But this is not a normal year and free agent negotiations will not officially begin until mid-October.

Due to a mid-season stoppage in play and uncertainties over the financial stability of the NBA, the upcoming salary cap could be lowered and franchises across the country are likely to tighten their purse strings. Now, more than ever, bargain free agents could be key to business models up and down the NBA’s rankings.

Many stars set to hit free agency this Fall may now opt into any player option they have in their contracts, rather than test the fragile market.

These include San Antonio Spurs mid-range master DeMar DeRozan, big man Andre Drummond and Gordon Hayward with the Boston Celtics who are one of the favorites in the latest basketball betting odds to win the Larry O’Brien trophy at odds of + 1300. If Hayward did opt out of his player option, it means turning down $34.2 million – a risk too great to take in this market Plus, in Boston, he’s in a great situation. Playing under a coach which he loves in a team that truly competes at the highest level, with a genuine shot of winning the Larry O’Brien trophy

The players that do face an uncertain future are those unrestricted free agents. The Toronto Raptors potentially have three of the most in-demand.

Fred VanVleet

The Raptors could be forced into a bidding war to keep VanVleet. An NBA Championship winner and leader in the locker room, he possesses a rare combination of elite playoff defence and ability to hit game-winning shots in crunch time.

VanVleet is simply one of the best defensive guards in the entire association and is a very smart operator on the floor. He has terrific value in the market, especially for clubs eyeing a title challenge.

To prise him away from Toronto, suitors will likely have to offer near his max price.

Marc Gasol

Unlikely to sign a big multi-year contract at the age of 35, the Spaniard still holds value for contenders looking to rival the Raptors on the biggest stage.

Several teams looking for a big man could test the waters, but Gasol could look at Toronto as his perfect fit. The center consistently makes those around him better and a short deal in Canada seems the most probable option unless he wants a fresh challenge after lifting the 2019 championship.

Serge Ibaka

He might not be the elite rim-protector he used to be when he was the leading block maker in the NBA for two consecutive seasons, but at 31 the Congolese centre is still a strong defender that can also handle himself on the offensive end.

He shot 38% on three-pointers in the 2019/20 season and will attract many suitors this Fall.

With negotiations set to begin in October,  expect to see many developments as teams attempt to both keep hold of key players while trying to pull in new talent.