New NBA Free Agency Predictions and Landing Spots

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRFeatured Columnist IVJuly 4, 2022

New NBA Free Agency Predictions and Landing Spots

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    After a busy few days, the 2022 NBA free agency period has begun to quiet down, although there are still plenty of quality veterans available.

    The majority of these players will be looking to latch on with contenders, especially ones who recently lost free agents at key positions.

    After already guessing where players like Deandre Ayton, Collin Sexton, Dennis Schroder and others will end up, here's where more of the top free agents should sign.

Hassan Whiteside: Los Angeles Clippers

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    Whiteside is a former league leader in rebounding and blocked shots and has now transitioned into one of the better backup centers in the NBA.

    As a reserve behind Rudy Gobert with the Utah Jazz last season, Whiteside still put up 8.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and shot 65.2 percent overall in just 17.9 minutes per game.

    Among all players who challenged four or more shots per game at the rim, Whiteside ranked eighth overall by holding opponents to 53.1 percent shooting. This was a stingier rate than what guys like Myles Turner, Kristaps Porzingis, Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis registered.

    The Clippers should be in the market for a backup center to Ivica Zubac after Isaiah Hartenstein left to sign a two-year deal with the New York Knicks.

    Whiteside would only have to fill minutes as a rebounder and rim protector and wouldn't need to play a big offensive role with a stacked roster that features Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Norman Powell, John Wall, Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris Sr.

    After signing minimum deals the past two years, getting Whiteside on another veteran contract is important for the Clippers, who already project to have the highest payroll in NBA history with $191.8 million committed thus far.

Austin Rivers: Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Trading for Rudy Gobert gave the Wolves arguably the best frontcourt in the NBA but gutted the backcourt in the process.

    Both Patrick Beverley and Malik Beasley were shipped to the Utah Jazz in the trade, while free agent Josh Okogie left to sign with the Phoenix Suns. The Wolves have since signed sniper Bryn Forbes but could use another ball-handler and defender to make up for the losses of Beverley and Okogie.

    Rivers is still just 29 despite now going into his 11th NBA season. He's played in 60 total playoff games over seven postseason appearances and would help bolster what's become a somewhat decimated bench following the trade for Gobert.

    Rivers' value lies in his versatility. He can line up at either guard position, act as a playmaker or scorer depending on the situation and plays solid defense. As a member of the Denver Nuggets last season, he also hit 37.0 percent of his catch-and-shoot three-pointers.

    If D'Angelo Russell has to miss time, Rivers can step in as a starter, something he did for the Nuggets 18 times last year. He's used to sharing the floor with stars following his time beside Nikola Jokic, James Harden, Bradley Beal, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and Anthony Davis. He would be an excellent locker room addition to a Wolves team looking to chase titles for the foreseeable future.

    The Gobert trade was huge for Minnesota, but it also means they'll likely need another guard like Rivers in the rotation now.

Carmelo Anthony: Los Angeles Lakers

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    Even now at 38 years old, Anthony has proven he can still be a reliable floor-spacer and offensive threat off the bench for a contender.

    He averaged 13.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists and a career-high 0.8 blocks for the Lakers last season while also hitting 37.5 percent of his threes. Los Angeles needed his outside shooting, and Anthony still made an overall positive impact in his 19th season by registering a plus-2.0 swing rating (64th percentile) per Cleaning the Glass.

    With every year now possibly being his last, staying with the Lakers or entertaining a reunion with the New York Knicks should be Anthony's only two considerations.

    "If Carmelo wanted to come back and ... have his final year in the NBA here [with the Knicks], that was on the table, and I haven't heard anything about it being off the table," SNY's Ian Begley reported.

    As tempting as going back to New York may be for nostalgic reasons, the Lakers are a better basketball fit. They can offer Anthony a bigger role, given that the Knicks have Julius Randle and Obi Toppin already filling the power forward spot.

    There's also the all-time scoring list to think about, as Anthony sits just 307 points behind Shaquille O'Neal for eighth place and 1,711 points from hitting 30,000 career points. If he wants any chance of moving up higher (Wilt Chamberlain is still 3,130 points ahead in seventh), he'll need another few years in a role like he played this past season.

    Anthony gets to spend at least one more year with LeBron James by staying in Los Angeles, and the Lakers could actually be a contender again if they can somehow get Kyrie Irving and Joe Harris or Seth Curry from the Brooklyn Nets.

DeMarcus Cousins: Phoenix Suns

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    After losing JaVale McGee in free agency to the Dallas Mavericks and with Deandre Ayton's future in Phoenix looking doubtful, the Suns should jump at the chance to sign Cousins while they still can.

    The 31-year-old proved he could still play while with the Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets last season, continuing to be a force on the glass and as an offensive hub.

    Cousins put up per-36-minute averages of 21.6 points, 13.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.1 blocks in 48 games last season. He also made 55.4 percent of his shots from inside the arc while showing a decent three-point stroke (30.3 percent).

    The Suns already re-signed center Bismack Biyombo to be their defensive force at center, and Cousins could give them an offensive option as well. Injuries over the past four years may prevent him from playing much more than 20 minutes a night, but the Suns have enough talent on the roster that Cousins wouldn't need to play a huge role.

    The four-time All-Star would give Phoenix the depth they may very well soon need at the center position.

T.J. Warren: Memphis Grizzlies

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    Bubble T.J. Warren is still the vision NBA teams should be hoping for, even if the veteran forward has missed almost two full seasons while dealing with a stress fracture in his foot.

    One team that can be patient with his return to the court and could use a rotation wing? The Grizzlies.

    Memphis has enough talent up and down the lineup to let Warren take his time easing back into NBA game shape, and the departure of Kyle Anderson in free agency means the 28-year-old could be a valuable backup at both forward positions.

    In his last healthy season, Warren averaged 19.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals and shot 53.6 percent overall and 40.3 percent from three. With starting power forward Jaren Jackson Jr. recently undergoing surgery for a stress fracture in his foot, Warren would give the Grizzlies a potential starter to fill in if Jackson has to miss the beginning of the 2022-23 season.

    The Grizzlies also have their entire $10.5 million mid-level exception to use and could offer Warren a large chunk or all of it to help convince him to sign. With cap space disappearing all over the league, Memphis would represent the best combination of winning, role and money for Warren.

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