2017 NBA Free-Agency Big Board: Top 25 Remaining Players
We're in the thick of wait-it-out free agency, as NBA teams hold out for late-stage bargains while hoping, in many cases, nobody else swoops in with a pricey offer for their own free agents.
With three of the top four players on our board falling under the restricted label, we could see this period of uneasy inactivity stretch on for a while. Nobody wants to extend an offer for more than they could match on the open market.
That's just throwing money away, though resolving situations quickly in restricted free agency can sometimes send a message to the player in question that the organization values him enough not to let the market dictate terms.
Nerlens Noel, JaMychal Green and Mason Plumlee are all dangling out there, and their teams, so far, have been content to leave them hanging.
Pulled from our initial top 100 list at the start of the offseason, these are the best remaining free agents available.
25-21: Jennings, Withey, Morrow, Terry, Motiejunas
25. Brandon Jennings, PG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 7.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.1 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 78
Jennings had a golden opportunity with a Washington Wizards team in desperate need of reserve help last year. All he had to do after coming over in a midseason waiver pickup was outperform former backup point guard Trey Burke, who'd been one of the league's worst players to that point.
Jennings responded with 3.5 points on 27.4 percent shooting in 23 games with Washington.
A capable ball-handler who makes few mistakes with the rock, Jennings' poor shooting and lack of defensive punch mean he's a fourth guard on a good team.
24. Jeff Withey, C, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 2.9 points, 2.4 rebounds, 0.1 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.6 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 76
Withey moves reasonably well for a 7-footer and ranked sixth in the league in blocks per 100 possessions last season (among players logging at least 400 minutes). He's not a starter, but he brings steady rebounding and rim protection in a backup role.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Withey met with the Clippers last week.
23. Anthony Morrow, SG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 5.5 points, 0.6 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.5 steals
Top 100 Ranking: 75
One of the greatest shooters in league history (look it up; he ranks 11th in career three-point percentage) has had a hard time finding a home of late. Maybe that goes to show there are limits to the NBA's ongoing love affair with the long ball.
Morrow will land somewhere, and everyone will wonder again how such a knockdown sniper falls out of the rotation. (Defense. The answer is defense.)
22. Jason Terry, SG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 4.1 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.3 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 74
If Terry finds a landing spot for his career 38 percent conversion rate from three-point range, he'll be the third-oldest player in the league. If Manu Ginobili retires, he'll move up to No. 2 on the active list.
Who says this stage of free agency is missing drama?
21. Donatas Motiejunas, PF/C, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 4.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.3 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 73
Sweet post moves and a short burst of excellent three-point shooting (in 2014-15) make D-Mo a gamble worth taking, especially if someone can snag him for the minimum.
The Golden State Warriors have one more roster spot and could use a center. Just sayin'.
20. Terrence Jones, PF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 10.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.0 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 70
It's too early to say Jones is running out of chances. The guy's still just 25 years old and has career averages of 10.5 points and 5.7 rebounds. But he's also missed at least 28 games in each of the last three seasons while bouncing from the Rockets to the Pelicans to the Bucks in a two-year span.
Jones is skilled offensively, but he hasn't found a consistent role since 2013-14 with Houston.
Good for more than a block per game for his career, the 6'9" lefty is a 33 percent three-point shot away from being highly coveted. For now, a make-good deal at the minimum seems likely.
19. Ty Lawson, PG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 9.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.1 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 69
Lawson salvaged his career with a solid stint as the Sacramento Kings' backup point guard in 2016-17, and while he lacks the size and shooting to regain the starting status he enjoyed earlier in his career, he can still break down a second-unit defense.
Surround Lawson with shooting, and his ability to get into the lane still plays. He's a high-end reserve who could help several teams in need of trustworthy ball-handling.
It'd probably be best if Lawson didn't have to play the 25.1 minutes per game he averaged last year, but in a more functional offense than Sacramento's he could duplicate his averages of 9.9 points and 4.8 assists in reduced playing time.
18. Deron Williams, PG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 11.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.1 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 67
Granted, he's 33, an age when points guards who haven't spent the last half-decade battling injury tend to wear down. But Williams proved he could hit an open look by drilling 41.5 percent of his treys after joining Cleveland's ultra-spaced offense last season, and his size allows him to guard both backcourt spots in a pinch.
There hasn't been much buzz about him so far, and he won't be a major needle-mover wherever he lands. But D-Will isn't finished.
17. Willie Reed, C, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 5.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.7 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 66
Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders reports the Hawks have an eye on Willie Reed, making them one of several teams who've shown interest since free agency began. The list includes the Heat, Pacers, Sixers, Rockets and Hawks.
A solid screen-setter who can elevate to finish lobs, Reed would be an excellent backup center—or possibly even a starter if surrounded by enough perimeter shooting to truly unlock the threat of his rim-rolling.
He has to be accounted for by a defense, even though his scoring is extremely dependent on dunks. Guys who can impact a team's attack without doing anything besides catching and finishing aren't that easy to find.
He lacks the touch and dexterity of JaVale McGee, but that's an otherwise reasonable comparison.
16. JaVale McGee, C, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 6.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 0.2 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.9 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 64
Head coach Steve Kerr wants JaVale McGee and his 121.4 on-court offensive rating back next season, but to say he's confident in a reunion is stretching it.
"I would love to have JaVale back," Kerr told Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News. "We all want him back. But we'll see how all that goes. He's a free agent, he's exploring his options. He was great for us last year, such a good teammate, high energy. But we'll see."
Kerr is a realist. He knows McGee's lob-catching, shot-blocking, high-efficiency scoring should command far more than the minimum salary the Warriors can afford.
Somebody will get a terrific backup big man in McGee, and the Warriors will be worse off without one of last season's best redemption stories.
15. Tony Allen, SG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 9.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.4 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 63
Turner Sports' David Aldridge reported talk of a sign-and-trade that could send Tony Allen to the Los Angeles Clippers, reuniting him with his former coach as a member of the Boston Celtics. But that was all the way back on July 5, and the only hint about Allen's future since then was his deletion of the Memphis Grizzlies from his Twitter bio.
All that really tells us is where one of the league's best perimeter defenders won't be playing next year.
Allen cripples postseason offense with his lack of shooting, but there's a lot to be said for a scrapper who chews up regular-season minutes and opposing wings.
14. Ian Clark, PG/SG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 6.8 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.1 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 61
Hey! An actual rumor!
Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times reports Ian Clark and the Milwaukee Bucks are making eyes at one another.
"Several sources said the Bucks have expressed interest in Ian Clark," Woelfel wrote, "who played a key role off the bench for the reigning champion Golden State Warriors the last two seasons. The interest is apparently mutual."
Clark lacks the handle and vision to play the point, and he's a little too small to handle bigger shooting guards on defense, but he can hit an open shot and brings championship experience. What's more, he'd add scoring to a Bucks backcourt that could use it.
I say consummate this thing, Bucks.
13. Andrew Bogut, C, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 2.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.9 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 60
We should all have Andrew Bogut's optimism.
The former No. 1 overall pick and not-so-long-ago elite defensive anchor is staying positive about his immediate prospects and long-term future, despite his last several seasons ending with injuries.
"I feel pretty fresh, believe it or not," Bogut told RSN Radio in Melbourne. "Thankfully it wasn't a joint injury. The one positive over breaking a leg, if there is such a thing, is it heals stronger than it was before you broke it. I reckon once this heals, I should be good to go and hopefully I've got three or four years left in me."
Bogut's tenure with the Cavaliers ended after 58 seconds last year, thanks to that aforementioned broken leg. But he intends to play three or four more seasons and says a handful of teams are in the mix to sign him.
If he can stay on the floor, he's at least a solid backup at the 5.
12. Alex Len, C, Restricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 8.0 points, 6.6 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.3 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 57
The draft slot, fifth overall in 2013, and the hope for growth that comes with it may be all that's keeping Alex Len relevant on the free-agent market.
The Phoenix Suns still have Tyson Chandler, and they just committed three years and $17 million to Alan Williams, presumably with the intention of using him as a backup 5. That doesn't leave much room to pay Len, who has yet to deliver on his lottery promise.
Fortunately for Phoenix, the market for Len's services remains frigid.
If he signs the Suns' qualifying offer and sticks around for one more year before hitting unrestricted free agency, it might be best for all parties. Maybe the pressure of a contract year is what he needs to reach his potential.
11. Derrick Rose, PG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 18.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.3 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 56
Derrick Rose has had contact with both the Knicks and Bucks, according to Ian Begley of ESPN, but nothing has materialized yet.
Separating the former MVP from the dysfunctional atmosphere in New York could help his production, which actually reached its highest levels in a half-decade last year. Not since his last All-Star campaign in 2011-12 had Rose's player efficiency rating and true shooting percentage been so high.
Rose will always come toting baggage. His injury history, past glory and messy 2016-17 season mean distractions are indivisible from his game.
That's a lot to sign up for in a backup point guard, which is what Rose should probably be going forward.
10. Luc Mbah a Moute, SF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 6.0 points, 2.2 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.4 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 51
Nobody's under the impression that Luc Mbah a Moute was the catalyst behind the Los Angeles Clippers' first unit posting a plus-15.8 net rating last year. He was clearly the fifth-most important player in that quintet behind Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick.
But come on, people. He must have been doing something right.
Mbah a Moute is a good defender whose 39.1 percent hit rate from long range last year makes him a perfect fit in a league valuing versatility and stretch more than ever. Maybe his gains from distance aren't real, and maybe he's losing just enough lateral mobility that teams aren't sure he's quick enough to handle top-option wings.
But it's not going to cost a lot to find out how much of what he showed last year is sustainable, as Mbah a Moute only opted out of $2.3 million to hit free agency.
Beating that on a two-year deal shouldn't be hard.
9. Marreese Speights, PF/C, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 8.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.5 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 50
Scoring sixth men don't have to be guards.
Marreese Speights knocked down more than twice as many threes last season as he'd attempted in his entire career previously, morphing into a true long-range specialist. Among players 6'10" or taller, only Kevin Love and Marc Gasol matched Speights' averages of at least 19.9 points per 36 minutes and 37.2 percent from three.
You'll give something back on defense when he's on the floor, but Speights will take a charge and rebound the rock.
In addition to reliable, high-volume shooting from your first big off the bench, you could do a lot worse.
8. Nikola Mirotic, PF, Restricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 10.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.8 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 44
"We want Niko back, and we think Niko wants to be in Chicago," Bulls GM Gar Forman told reporters Monday. "When you have those two things at the end of the day, there's usually a way to get something done."
Fair enough, but the lack of a resolution to this point suggests Mirotic and the Bulls have different ideas about the terms of a new contract.
Like so many other situations involving restricted free agency, the Bulls have little incentive to make an offer before another team sets the price—which they could then match. Why spend more than necessary, especially as the market dries up and fewer teams have money spend?
Mirotic could be a featured scorer on a Bulls team that is clearly rebuilding without Jimmy Butler. Unless he can squeeze something close to $15 million per year out of Chicago, which seems unlikely at this point, taking the qualifying offer and putting up big numbers ahead of unrestricted free agency in 2018 wouldn't be the worst way to go.
7. Manu Ginobili, SG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 7.5 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.2 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 39
If Manu Ginobili comes back for one more season, it'll be with the San Antonio Spurs. Imagining him in another uniform is impossible, and his absence from the free-agent news cycle indicates he's not shopping around.
All that radio silence is scary, though, which is why we need to start a crowd-funded initiative to make sure he comes back.
The league (and the world) isn't ready for life without Manu just yet.
The logistics will be tricky, but maybe we can get to Ginobili and inform him there might be $10-12 million in supporter-generated funds available in an offshore account...if he doesn't retire. We'd have to wink a lot when telling him this to convey the secrecy.
He's sharp. He'll get it.
Whatever he winds up earning from the Spurs would be less consequential.
6. Jonathon Simmons, SG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 6.2 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.3 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 38
Apparently nobody was blown away by Jonathon Simmons' production in an expanded postseason role.
Once he cracked Gregg Popovich's playoff rotation for good, he posted double-figure scoring in nine of his final 10 games. When Kawhi Leonard went down against the Warriors in the conference finals, Simmons was one of the Spurs' only consistent wing threats.
Yet on Thursday, the Spurs renounced the rights to Simmons, making him an unrestricted free agent, per The Vertical's Shams Charania.
The Spurs' scrap-heap reclamations don't always pan out elsewhere, and maybe trepidation about Simmons' value outside of San Antonio's system is the reason the offers didn't pour in. Now he's available for any team in need of proven wing help.
5. David Lee, PF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 7.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.5 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 35
But apparently not too much, as Lee remains unsigned.
With Dewayne Dedmon gone to Atlanta, there was a brief opening in San Antonio's frontcourt. But the Spurs quickly added Joffrey Lauvergne, a player lacking Lee's touch and overall offensive skill, but one who stretches the defense to the three-point line.
A return remains possible, but the Spurs need a defensive big now. That's not Lee's specialty.
4. Mason Plumlee, C, Restricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 10.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.1 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 26
The Denver Nuggets still plan to retain Mason Plumlee, according to comments GM Tim Connelly made on ESPNU, passed on by Harrison Wind of BSN Denver: "Roster balance is something we need to look at... We're excited to get Mason back."
Roster balance is great, but Plumlee is less important now than he was a year ago in Denver. Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap and Juancho Hernangomez all deserve minutes ahead of him.
Still, the Nuggets gave up Jusuf Nurkic (who tore it up with the Blazers, post-trade) and a first-rounder to get Plumlee. Losing him for nothing isn't really an option.
No other team has presented an offer sheet yet, so that possibility remains slim.
3. Pau Gasol, PF/C, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 12.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.4 steals, 1.1 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 23
Though his was quieter, Pau Gasol's metamorphosis into a three-point shooter last year was nearly as impressive as his brother Marc's.
The elder Gasol hit 53.8 percent of his treys while taking a career-high 104 attempts. That's a pretty good way to compensate for waning mobility and increasing defensive struggles.
While Gasol still being on the market may just be part of a broader plan to let San Antonio spend its money elsewhere first, it's also possible he's not going to sign until seeing the full winter slate at Opera San Antonio.
Macbeth again? How dreadfully pedestrian, Pau would probably say.
2. JaMychal Green, PF/C, Restricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 8.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 19
Of the nine teams with enough cash to offer JaMychal Green a contract worth at least $10 million per year, only three of them seem realistic, according to Chris Herrington of the Commercial Appeal: Atlanta, Brooklyn and Chicago.
Those three destinations might not appeal to a player like Green, who'd be going from a winning environment to one that would be...different.
But the Grizzlies haven't made Green feel welcome by playing restricted free agency the way they have, so perhaps an exit would be best for everyone.
The smart money is still on Memphis matching an offer. It can't replace Green any other way, and his value as a versatile defender who can shoot the three remains high.
1. Nerlens Noel, PF/C, Restricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 8.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.0 blocks
Top 100 Ranking: 14
Among players logging at least 1,000 minutes, Noel was the only guy in the league last year to average more than three steals and two blocks per 100 possessions.
You have to price in the injury history, and offensive limitations mean Noel, at this stage, is still only a prospective two-way talent. But you can't find defensive impact like his easily, and you'd have to think that if it didn't seem so obvious Dallas would match any offer, several other teams would have made a push to sign him by now.
As it is, the Mavericks' only risk in waiting around and letting the market set contract terms is Noel's punting long-term money and accepting the qualifying offer. If he were to do that, he'd hit unrestricted free agency next summer.
That's risky for a guy with Noel's health history, but for now, Tim Cato of SB Nation reports Noel and the Mavs are "not close" on a deal.
The longer this goes, the better it gets for the Mavericks, who hold all the leverage and have seen other teams spend up their cap space elsewhere.