The Washington Wizards have made re-signing sharpshooting forward Davis Bertans in free agency a top offseason priority, but in order to do so they may have to outbid some teams with lots of money to spend.
The Hawks, Knicks and Suns are already expected to pursue him, NBC Sports Washington has learned, with Atlanta shaping up to be particularly aggressive. The Hawks will have by far the most cap space this offseason of any team, according to Spotrac. The Suns will have the seventh-most and the Knicks the eighth-most. The Wizards are 12th on the list.
The exact figures are unknown because the league salary cap for the 2020-21 season has not been finalized. The cap is expected to be lower than initial projections because of lost revenue due to the coronavirus.
Whatever the cap ends up being, the Wizards will be able to exceed it with a new contract for Bertans, as they hold his Bird Rights. But they also plan to avoid the luxury tax and would have to fit Bertans in around the substantial money already allocated for John Wall and Bradley Beal.
Wall is due 35 percent of the salary cap and was previously projected to earn $41.3 million next season, while Beal is due to receive $28.8 million. Beal's contract then escalates the following season in the first year of the extension he signed last October.
A lower cap figure would mean less money for the Wizards to spend, but they remain very motivated to keep Bertans, NBC Sports Washington was told. They rebuffed offers at the trade deadline and made a bet they could keep him. Bertans will be an unrestricted free agent.
There is also interest from Bertans' side. He thrived in his first year with the Wizards, setting career-highs in points per game (15.4), rebounds (4.5), minutes (29.3) and threes made (3.7). He served a much larger role in their offense than he had previously during his days with the San Antonio Spurs.
Bertans is also intrigued by the role he could play next season alongside Wall, who in many respects would be a perfect complement to his game because of his passing ability. Bertans could be the third scoring option on a playoff contender if he stays in Washington.
But this offseason may represent the best opportunity in Bertans' career to cash in on free agency. He turns 28 in November and, if he earns a three- or four-year deal, it will take him into his 30s.
What Bertans will ultimately receive in average annual value is unclear, but league sources still expect him to fall in the $15-20 million per year range, as the Athletic reported in December, before the league shut down.