Finding Landing Spots for Top NBA Free Agents Still Available

Eric Pincus@@EricPincusFeatured Columnist ISeptember 13, 2022

DENVER, CO - APRIL 10: Carmelo Anthony #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers smiles during the game against the Denver Nuggets on April 1, 2022 at the Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)
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While most of the NBA's offseason has wrapped up with training camps just weeks away, several quality veterans remain available as free agents. Go back five years, and the list would be exceptional.

Unfortunately, time has gotten the best of these former All-Stars. Most franchises would rather try to develop a younger player with potential than use a valuable roster spot on an aging veteran.

Let's discuss where the top free agents could land.

No Shortage of Experienced Guards

The majority of teams already have at least two lead guards that are expected to play the lion's share of the minutes, with a younger third to develop as a prospect.

The Los Angeles Lakers have three veterans in Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn, but that could change should the franchise decide to move Westbrook via trade. Per Marc Stein, the Lakers could reunite with Dennis Schröder "depending on how the rest of their roster develops."

Whatever went south between Schröder and the Lakers on an extension back in 2020-21 is water under the bridge. He's a known quantity and probably the best available free agent. The Lakers don't need him as situated, but if a Westbrook trade comes to pass that also costs the team Nunn, a Beverley and Schröder pairing is reasonable. The team could also experiment with sophomore guard Austin Reaves at the point.

It's also worth mentioning that Eric Bledsoe is with Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, who represents several Lakers, including LeBron James and Anthony Davis. At nearly 33, Bledsoe hasn't looked especially productive his last couple of seasons.

The Charlotte Hornets started LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier but have no third point guard on the roster. Isaiah Thomas filled that role last season and could still return. Other options could include Bledsoe, Elfrid Payton or even D.J. Augustin, who started his career in 2008 with the franchise. Of those listed, Thomas is the best scorer, Payton is the top defender and Augustin is the sharpest shooter.

Last year, both Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie played significant minutes for the Dallas Mavericks. Brunson left in free agency to the New York Knicks, leaving a spot open in the rotation. Luka Doncic (or rookie Jaden Hardy) may take those minutes.

The Mavericks, like most teams, may wait to evaluate their roster first. With enough experienced veterans on the free-agent market (or possibly through trade), Dallas probably won't rush to add another guard.

The Phoenix Suns had Payton as the third point behind Chris Paul and Cameron Payne. Unless the franchise believes two-way guard Duane Washington Jr. has that covered, Phoenix could still fit another ball-handler on the roster.

The San Antonio Spurs haven't replaced Dejounte Murray (traded to the Atlanta Hawks) with an experienced veteran but may want to focus entirely on player development.

Another name to keep an eye on is Kemba Walker, who is expected to be waived by the Detroit Pistons before the start of the season (barring an unexpected trade). Walker, just a year removed from averaging 19.3 points per game for the Boston Celtics, may not get more than a minimum offer should the Pistons set him free.

Other backcourt options available: Lou Williams, Rajon Rondo and Ryan Arcidiacono

Plenty of Former All-Star Bigs

Experience and size can be found in free agency in former All-Stars like Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin, DeMarcus Cousins, LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul Millsap. Other longtime veterans like Tristan Thompson and Hassan Whiteside are also available.

The Boston Celtics have both Al Horford and Robert Williams III. They also have Luke Kornet hoping to make the team with a $300,000 guarantee. If not Kornet, Boston may need some help up front, but that decision may not come until midway through the season.

Both Griffin and Aldridge were on the Brooklyn Nets last season. Either could return, but the Nets seem intent on using Ben Simmons and Nic Claxton at power positions.

The Los Angeles Clippers are light behind Ivica Zubac, with forwards Marcus Morris Sr., Robert Covington and Nicolas Batum the likely options behind Zubac. The Clippers may wait to see what camp invite Moses Brown can do in that role before considering a veteran.

The Miami Heat may rely on Bam Adebayo as their primary center, with Dewayne Dedmon behind him. Still, the team doesn't have an apparent starting power forward to replace P.J. Tucker. Are the Heat banking on rookie Nikola Jović playing a significant role? Only Griffin seems a viable fit, but Miami may try Jimmy Butler up front before signing additional help.

Are the Portland Trail Blazers set on Drew Eubanks backing up Jusuf Nurkic? Pencil in a pivot some 20 games in if Portland finds it has a size deficiency. If not a Whiteside reunion (he averaged 15.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.9 blocks a game in 2019-20 for the Blazers), perhaps Howard is a fit?

Other bigs available: Greg Monroe, Ed Davis

Very Few Wings

Carmelo Anthony is the standout on the slim list of potentially impactful wings. The former All-Star can still shoot and average double figures in a bench role. While the Celtics could use a scoring forward to replace Danilo Gallinari (knee), they aren't interested in Anthony, per Brian Robb of Mass Live.

The Lakers have more significant issues to resolve first, but don't cross them off entirely. L.A. has made an effort to bring on younger, more athletic players, but the team still lacks shooting (at least on paper).

According to The Athletic, the Golden State Warriors are keeping a roster spot open for Andre Iguodala, whose career is winding down. He still may offer value in leadership and part-time play for the current champs.

While the Hornets seemed intent on bringing back Miles Bridges, he's facing domestic violence and child abuse charges and may not be on the NBA radar this coming season.

Others available: Wayne Ellington, Ben McLemore, Jeremy Lamb, Avery Bradley, Lance Stephenson

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.