Predicting Final Landing Spots for 10 Best 2013 NBA Free Agents Still Available
Don't finalize those 2013-14 power rankings just yet. That would be just plain disrespectful to the handful of remaining free agents who can still make a difference for NBA teams seeking just that.
Sure, there's the distinct feeling these free agents are sort of like the kids left standing there after all the teams got picked in grade school. But that's not entirely fair. Some of these free agents have good reasons for waiting. Greg Oden, for example, has used this summer to meet with teams and demonstrate his readiness to return.
That kind of patience could pay off big if those teams like what they see.
Front offices and coaching staffs will also spend the next few weeks assessing just what they have on their rosters already, using fallout from Summer League and upcoming training camps to get a feel for personnel. From there, needs for specialists like Ronnie Brewer or depth like Ivan Johnson become more clear.
An injury or two could impact the market as well, suddenly creating a new need for services.
Sit tight. This ain't over yet.
10. Sam Young, SF
Sam Young's numbers won't wow you, and that's exactly why he's still a free agent despite contributing to the Indiana Pacers' stout defense last season.
He'll find a home sooner or later, though. Young's made his living as a defensive specialist since averaging over seven points a game in each of his first two seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies. As his shot's eluded him, Young's found other ways to make contributions. The way Pacers head coach Frank Vogel put it, "If you need one of your wings to guard a 'four,' he'd be your guy" (via NBA.com's Mark Montieth).
With teams always looking for an opportunity to go small, Young's become a useful—albeit sparingly used—response.
The Sacramento Kings were reportedly interested in Young earlier this month, even after agreeing to terms with Carl Landry and acquiring defensive specialist Luc Mbah a Moute from the Milwaukee Bucks. Teams like the Kings need all the defense they can get, so Young does have that going for him.
Sacramento also has the means to sign Young should be somehow demand more than a minimum offer. With a "room exception" still available despite having used nearly all of this summer's cap space, the front office could theoretically offer Young a deal at just over $2.6 million.
Chances are it won't take all of that to snag him.
Best-Guess Destination: Sacramento Kings
9. Tyrus Thomas, F
Getting amnestied by the Charlotte Bobcats won't land you on too many Top 10 lists.
Welcome to the NBA in August, when making Top 10 lists just got a lot easier. In fairness to Tyrus Thomas, he probably wouldn't still be a free agent if he hadn't spent his last four seasons battling injury and existence as a Bobcat. Neither of those things bodes especially well for a player's free-agent value, but nor was there much Thomas could do about it.
Recall that Boris Diaw also fell out of favor in Charlotte back in March 2012. The organization waived the veteran forward amidst a historically dreadful season. Diaw's career all but officially bottomed out, the San Antonio Spurs picked him up midseason and before long Tony Parker's countryman was starting in the Western Conference Finals.
A 180-degree change of scenery could do similar wonders for Thomas, at least if he can stay healthy after playing no more than 54 games in any of his last five seasons.
Those injury struggles have reportedly scared off the New York Knicks already, which should tell us something about the market for Thomas' services. If anyone's going to sign him, it won't be for much—and it won't be to serve as more than a prospective rotation player.
A handful of young teams may be wise to roll the dice. After a season in which the Portland Trail Blazers bench couldn't get much worse, Thomas could join Robin Lopez, Dorell Wright and Earl Watson among the club's quietly savvy summer additions. He'd also make sense for a team like the New Orleans Pelicans, who could use another long defender if they aren't planning to keep Al-Farouq Aminu beyond this season.
Thomas would afford New Orleans another long, athletic body who just might grow alongside a young and rapidly improving roster.
Best-Guess Destination: New Orleans Pelicans
8. Daniel "Boobie" Gibson, G
USA Today's Adi Joseph reported earlier this week that Daniel Gibson "turned himself in Monday morning on second-degree battery charges."
Gibson supposedly broke some guy's jaw in New Orleans, but he had this to say in a statement to TMZ:
Earlier this month during the Essence Music Festival, I was involved in an incident with other individuals while I was out with my wife. It's unfortunate that some see opportunity in taking advantage of people who work hard for what they have achieved. Once all the facts of the incident come out, I expect to be fully vindicated.
That's encouraging. And hey, incidents happen—especially in New Orleans.
Meanwhile, Gibson's also pursuing a new NBA contract after spending his first seven seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Coming home to Texas also makes sense for the Houston native and former Texas Longhorns star. The Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs currently have more guards than they know what to do with, but that could always change between now and the season opener. If Dallas doesn't wind up with Leandro Barbosa, Gibson may emerge as their best Plan B.
A return to Cleveland isn't at all unthinkable, but not on terms as rich as the five-year, $21 million blood pact to which the two sides agreed in 2008. The Cavaliers still need a third-string guard behind Kyrie Irving and Jarrett Jack.
Best-Guess Destination: Cleveland Cavaliers
7. Leandro Barbosa, G
Apparently, one-dimensional combo guards are most teams' absolute last free-agent priority. Maybe it has something to do with the NCAA producing a plethora of undersized shooting guards every year. Maybe teams are just on the hunt for those increasingly rare pass-first types.
Needless to say, Leandro Barbosa isn't a player that's looking to dish the rock. The 30-year-old sixth-man specialist has averaged just 2.4 assists for his career.
He still brings value to the table, though—namely, the ability (if not preference) to shoot off the dribble. Only 48 percent of his field-goals were assisted last season according to Basketball-Reference.com, significantly less than other guards with similar skills, like Jason Terry. Teams looking for depth of the self-starting variety could do worse.
The Dallas Mavericks may be one of those teams if reports out of Brazil have any merit.
Behind starting guards Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon, Dallas' rotation is in need of another veteran ball-handler. It doesn't hurt that Calderon and Barbosa have spent time playing together while with the Toronto Raptors in 2010-11.
Best-Guess Destination: Dallas Mavericks
6. Ivan Johnson, PF
Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry wasted no time stacking his rotation with Josh Smith replacements. Thanks to new deals that brought in Paul Millsap and Elton Brand, Ivan Johnson's days with the organization appear to have reached their end.
According to ESPN's Jared Zwerling, the New York Knicks have shown interest in Johnson, at least if he's willing to accept a deal for the minimum—something he's reportedly open to "depending on situation."
I certainly can't speak for Johnson, but if the Hawks don't want you and you're still unsigned in August, it might be the right situation. Besides, Johnson could raise his profile while in New York—even without significant playing time. Just ask Chris Copeland, who cashed in to the tune of $6.1 million this summer despite averaging just 15.4 minutes a game last season.
Maybe "New York minutes" are actually longer. They were long enough for the Indiana Pacers to see something they liked, anyway.
The same scenario could work out for Johnson if he made the most of his minutes on such a highly-visible team.
Best-Guess Destination: New York Knicks
5. Ronnie Brewer, G/F
Ronnie Brewer was put on this earth to test just how much NBA general managers believe in the old adage that "defense wins championships." Ever since a couple of inexplicably productive seasons with the Utah Jazz, Brewer has been an offensive afterthought in the best of times, a liability in the worst.
Spending two seasons with the Chicago Bulls did a world of good for Brewer's value, though. He never averaged more than 6.9 points with the club, but emerged a defensive specialist under the tutelage of head coach Tom Thibodeau.
Splitting time between the New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder last season didn't work out as well , though.
Traded to the Thunder after playing 46 games with New York, Brewer never looked comfortable with his new team, ultimately falling out of Scott Brooks' rotation in the postseason. In theory, the Knicks and Thunder should have both been good fits for Brewer, a specialist ready-made to relieve guys like Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant for a few possessions at a time.
The best move for Brewer might be an encore performance with the Bulls, rejoining a coaching staff that understands his value and knows how to use him. GM Gar Forman has assembled a nice three-man rotation on the wing with Luol Deng, Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy Jr., but Brewer could still carve out 15 minutes a night in a defensive specialist role against premier perimeter scorers.
Best-Guess Destination: Chicago Bulls
4. Beno Udrih, PG
Beno Udrih's days as a starter are probably over, but the 31-year-old point guard may be the most serviceable veteran on the market. His experience running the Sacramento Kings' offense for four seasons makes him an ideal third-string fallback option.
Especially for a team like the New York Knicks.
ESPN's Marc Stein reports that the organization is "trying hard to convince" Udrih to join them on a minimum offer. With most contenders' backcourts already set and rebuilding clubs not looking to get any older, the Knicks stand out as one of Udrih's best opportunities to actually make an impact.
Mike Woodson's club is currently slated to roll out a combination of Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni as the primary ball-handlers, with Iman Shumpert pitching in from the 2-spot. That leaves an opening for Udrih to be more than just an insurance policy.
Best-Guess Destination: New York Knicks
3. Greg Oden, C
It's been a while since we've seen 2007 first-overall draft pick Greg Oden in action—since December, 2009 in fact. At the time, the Portland Trail Blazers' ostensible savior was putting up some pretty nice numbers. In 21 games that season, the seven-footer averaged 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks, all in under 24 minutes a game.
Even a protracted absence from the game won't scare teams away from that kind of ability. After working out with Oden this summer, San Antonio Spurs rookie Deshaun Thomas had this to say about his fellow Ohio St. alum (via the News-Herald's Bob Finnan):
Man, he looks unbelievable. He's running. He's lifting weights. You might be seeing a comeback. He looks like he's ready to go. He's running, getting in shape. I'll tell you one thing. For a big 7-footer that's all he does, running and getting in shape. He's looking right.
Of course, Thomas wouldn't be much of a pal if he said otherwise.
All the same, big men like Oden are hard to come by, and some of the NBA's best teams know it—the Miami Heat included. ESPN's Marc Stein reports that the Heat and New Orleans Pelicans are leading the pack of suitors.
I think we all know how this one's going to end.
Best-Guess Destination: Miami Heat
2. Devin Harris, PG
Update: Devin Harris has signed with the Dallas Mavericks, according to the team's PR department.
Devin Harris' offseason was almost over before it started, at least until an X-ray of his dislocated toe sidelined a three-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks. The organization subsequently went on to sign Samuel Dalembert, leaving it with little to offer Harris should the two sides return to the bargaining table.
Though Harris' future depends to some degree on how quickly he recovers, he remains an attractive and potentially inexpensive option for teams still needing a backup point guard. His deal with Dallas would have only netted him around $3 million a year, and that figure may drop absent evidence of a speedy return to health.
Keep an eye on the Miami Heat, who can still offer their $3.2 million taxpayer's mid-level exception, at least if they don't spend it elsewhere (Greg Oden). A speedy, scoring-minded point guard would immediately add something useful to Miami's current point guards tandem of Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole.
Harris can still produce. Even in limited action last season (24.5 minutes a contest), he averaged 9.9 points and 3.4 assists for the Atlanta Hawks, shooting a solid 44 percent. Even a fraction of that production would help Miami.
Of course, when compared to the Philadelphia 76ers' options at the point, Miami's tandem looks like All-Stars. Outside of journeyman Royal Ivey, the Sixers have precious little supplementing rookie Michael Carter-Williams. Oh, and Philly still has plenty of cap room that's yet to be spent.
Best-Guess Destination: Philadelphia 76ers
1. Nikola Pekovic, C
So much for the long-awaited Nikola Pekovic sweepstakes. By his numbers alone, the 27-year-old big man should have been the next to sign after Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum found new homes. Technically, he'll still be the next to go, but only after weeks of waiting.
And it's not that there's an especially difficult decision to be made, at least not as of July 24 according to the Pioneer Press' Charley Walters:
Pekovic is a restricted free agent, meaning the Wolves can match any offer he receives elsewhere. But, surprisingly, there have been no other offers, probably because teams figure the Wolves -- and Pekovic -- are intent on remaining in Minnesota.
In other words, there may not be much of a mystery as to Pekovic's destination. The few teams with the financial flexibility to sign him (e.g. the Sixers) don't have much use for a big man in the middle of his prime. He's good, but that means he'd just be one more thing standing in their way of a chance at Andrew Wiggins, potentially generating up a couple more of those pesky wins.
A 20.26 PER has never been such a turn-off.
You can't blame the Timberwolves for haggling a bit. They have a future to worry about too, one that's concerned first and foremost with keeping Kevin Love happy. Maybe Pekovic will help toward that end, but the cheaper the better. He doesn't solve the last of Minnesota's needs.
Best-Guess Destination: Minnesota Timberwolves