Best Potential Landing Spots for the Top 5 Remaining 2015 NBA Free Agents
The meat of the 2015 NBA free-agent market has nearly been picked to the bone, but there are still some tasty scraps left over.
Several intriguing targets remain, all of whom have unique skill sets to sell to potential employers.
The stars are off the market, but right-fit role players are available to help clubs scratch some nagging itches. There are big bodies offering energy, athleticism and polished abilities. There are perimeter players who can light the lamp from distance, set the table for teammates and ace multiple defensive assignments.
And that's only among the top five free agents still available, whom we have ranked based on their track records, proven strengths and growth potential.
But our discussion doesn't end there. Free-agency shoppers can't afford to focus on individual prowess alone. New additions have to fit into their team's preferred style of play while also shoring up existing weaknesses or augmenting current advantages.
Using those same parameters, we have found fitting homes for each member of our unclaimed quintet.
5. Dorell Wright, SF: Los Angeles Lakers
Defensive versatility and outside shooting were two of the most costly assets on the 2015 free-agent market, but the Los Angeles Lakers could find a rare bargain-priced three-and-D wing by luring in Dorell Wright with part of their $2.8 million room exception.
Wright, a Los Angeles native, would reportedly welcome a return to his hometown, according to CSN Northwest's Jabari Young. The Lakers need to pounce on this opportunity, as none of their current small forward options are comfortable fits.
ESPN.com has volume scorer Nick Young sitting atop the depth chart for now, with rookie Anthony Brown (the 34th pick of this year's draft) slotted behind him. Lakers coach Byron Scott also has plans to deploy Kobe Bryant at multiple positions.
"Kobe can play 1, 2 and 3," Scott told NBA.com's David Aldridge. "There's no doubt in my mind. And there's some games, against some teams, where he'll probably play 4."
In today's NBA, the 6'6", 212-pound Bryant is probably big enough to handle either forward spot in the right matchup. But that's only if the 36-year-old can stay healthy. He's suited up just 41 times in the past two seasons combined while dealing with a torn Achilles, a fractured tibia and a torn rotator cuff.
The Lakers need depth, and Wright is capable of at least providing that.
He's a sturdy defender who can handle different assignments. He's more limited on the opposite side, but he can be a quantity-plus-quality marksman from long range. In 2010-11, he led the league with 194 three-point makes while converting 37.6 percent of his perimeter looks.
4. Norris Cole, PG: Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers might be playing for the future, but they still need someone to fill their glaring void at point guard in the present. Norris Cole, a feisty defender with championship experience, could be a solid solution to their problem.
He's reportedly found his way onto the Sixers' radar, a source told Sheridan Hoops' Michael Scotto, and the reason for that interest isn't difficult to identify.
Philly flipped former Rookie of the Year and starting point guard Michael Carter-Williams at last season's trade deadline and never really replaced him.
Isaiah Canaan packs a potent three-point stroke, but he brings little else of value. Pierre Jackson can be an electric scorer, but at 5'10", he could struggle to generate high-percentage looks against NBA defenders. Turnovers are also an issue, as Jackson coughed up four per game during his otherwise dominant 2013-14 run through the NBA Developmental League.
Tony Wroten remains a wild card, despite having three NBA seasons under his belt. He's coming off a partial ACL tear, and he's never been the most consistent contributor inside the lines.
"At times, he's a super effective offensive player by attacking and finishing at the rim," wrote Liberty Ballers' Jake Pavorsky. "Mostly, he can start jacking up ill-advised threes, or trying to throw passes like he's looking to [build] his And 1 Mixtape Tour audition reel."
Cole runs hot and cold as well, but he offers more stability than Philly's in-house options. He's a disruptive defender, capable scorer (career 10.7 points per 36 minutes) and serviceable setup man (career 4.3 assists per 36).
The New Orleans Pelicans have the option to match any offer the restricted free agent receives, but the Sixers have enough financial flexibility to afford Cole if they really want him.
3. Kevin Seraphin, C: Dallas Mavericks
Eventually, the Dallas Mavericks will need to give some serious attention to the interior void left by DeAndre Jordan's about-face.
Veterans Zaza Pachulia and Samuel Dalembert are Band-Aid options at best. Sophomore Dwight Powell and rookies Maurice Ndour, Satnam Singh and Jarrid Famous lack the track record to even be considered as such.
The Mavs still need more underneath, and it doesn't sound like they're done shopping yet.
"The addition of Dalembert likely is not the last move the Mavericks will make," wrote Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News.
Kevin Seraphin wouldn't be a home run signing, but he's better than what the Mavs have found so far.
At 25 years old, he should still be pushing toward his prime. But he's not a mystery prospect after having spent the previous five seasons with the Washington Wizards. While a tad undersized at 6'9", Seraphin is a willing and able banger on the block. He's a slick scorer out of the low post, and his offensive range stretches well beyond the restricted area.
Last season, he buried 42.9 percent of his 182 shots from outside of 10 feet. He also held opponents to just 47.6 percent shooting at the rim, which was a lower mark than those surrendered by Jordan (48.5) and Pachulia (52.3). Seraphin has averaged 15.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per 36 minutes in each of the last two seasons.
The Mavs reportedly targeted Seraphin as an emergency plan in the event that Jordan backtracked on his commitment to join them, a source told NBA.com's David Aldridge. That Seraphin remains unsigned and Dallas has added other pieces might indicate this pairing won't come to fruition, but it makes a ton of sense on paper for both sides.
2. J.R. Smith, SG: Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers saw both the good J.R. Smith and the maddening one last season. That's perhaps why they have neither pushed him out the door nor rushed to bring him back on the big-money deal he was likely seeking after declining his $6.4 million player option for 2015-16.
Smith can be an incendiary scorer. He erupted for 20-plus points 13 different times last season despite seeing less than 30 minutes a night.
But he needs a clearly defined role to be at his best. If he's allowed to freestyle, strange things can happen. In April 2014, he launched an NBA-record 22 triples in a single outing. This past April, he attempted more threes without taking a single two-point shot than anyone ever had (17), according to the Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN Stats & Info).
Structure is the key to maximizing his impact. The Cavs have the established hierarchy to give him exactly that.
Surrounded by the likes of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, Smith found his niche as an off-ball gunner. He knocked down 41.9 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes with Cleveland, a conversion rate that ranked sixth among players with at least four such attempts per game.
The volatility created by his rapid-fire trigger has apparently scared would-be suitors off, but a second go-round with Cleveland could help Smith prove he can play a prominent role for a title contender.
"He'd be wise just to come to some sort of one-year deal with the Cavs," wrote Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer. "Playing in Cleveland puts him in the best position to have a good season and then hit the market for the 'Money Summer' of 2016 when the salary cap rises at least 30 percent."
Smith won't find a better situation than his last one, and the Cavs have both the top-tier talent and depth to keep him in the right lane.
1. Tristan Thompson, PF: Cleveland Cavaliers
Tristan Thompson's journey into restricted free agency has yet to answer the questions of when he'll get paid and how much. But the question of if a new contract is coming from the Cleveland Cavaliers has seemingly been answered for months.
Thompson isn't going anywhere. LeBron James, who shares an agent with the 24-year-old power forward, has made that perfectly clear.
"Tristan should probably be a Cavalier for his whole career," James said in May, via CBS Sports' Matt Moore. "There's no reason why he shouldn't. The guy is 24 years old, he's played in 340-plus straight games, and he's gotten better every single season."
How's that for a ringing endorsement? And remember, it's coming from the league's most powerful player.
It's also not the only one James has offered up. When asked on Twitter recently whether he felt Thompson would re-sign, James responded, "Yeah, of course he will. Means way too much to our team success!"
Cleveland's frontcourt could be a bit crowded this coming season, but it still needs Thompson's energy, rebounding activity, defensive versatility and youth.
He shot a career-best 54.7 percent from the field in 2014-15, while holding top-10 rankings in offensive boards (274, fifth overall) and offensive rebounding percentage (14.5, fourth). Pressed into a larger role by Love's shoulder injury in the opening round, Thompson tallied 10.8 rebounds, 9.6 points and 1.2 blocks a night in 15 postseason starts.
Given the medical histories of Love and Anderson Varejao, the Cavs can't afford to sacrifice their interior depth. And they won't. Thompson will work his way back into the mix once both parties can find the middle ground in their negotiations.