NBA Free-Agency Rankings: Top 100 Available Players
And so the focus shifts.
The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are done beating their respective halves of the NBA into a pulp. Now it's time for everyone to try their hand at improvement, using the draft, the trading market and the free-agency period to restock and add new bodies into mix.
But who's available on this year's open market? Though it's not as star-studded as we've seen in previous summers, there's still plenty of talent at every position, which is why we're looking to identify the top 100 players.
These rankings aren't meant to reflect current standing after the 2016-17 campaign. Nor are they intended to show how players will stack up for 2017-18 alone.
Instead, they reflect what we can expect over the duration of their next contracts, assuming each player is able to sign for up to four years. That benefits up-and-comers with plenty of untapped potential, and it hurts veterans who might retire within the next few seasons.
It's only fair, since that's the type of thought process general managers will engage in for the next few months.
100-96: Carter-Williams, Sessions, Green, Cunningham, Green
100. Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 6.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks
Michael Carter-Williams is lucky you can't teach size. That's what keeps giving him opportunities at the NBA level, especially as he continues to learn how he can best utilize his 6'6" frame on the defensive end. He was more disciplined than ever with the Chicago Bulls, posting the best stopping season of his young career.
Of course, he still can't shoot. His value will always have an upper bound unless he can figure out that perimeter stroke, and connecting on a career-worst 23.4 percent of his shots from outside the three-point arc doesn't indicate he's trending in the right direction.
99. Ramon Sessions, PG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 6.2 points, 1.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.1 blocks
No team wants Ramon Sessions to be the crown jewel of its free-agency haul. The 31-year-old floor general no longer offers much upside on either end of the court, especially coming off a year in which he shot 38.0 percent from the field and 33.9 percent from downtown.
But assuming his shot returns during the 2017-18 campaign, he's a steady veteran presence who can capably lead a second unit. He won't take over games, but he's skilled in enough different areas that he can hold steady and avoid making too many mistakes—something many backup 1s have trouble with at the sport's highest level.
98. Gerald Green, SF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 5.6 points, 1.8 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.1 blocks
Gerald Green's athleticism doesn't seem to be going away. Though he won't be winning any more Slam Dunk Contests now that he's firmly into his 30s, his spring-loaded legs still allow him to keep defenders off guard when he's spotting up on the perimeter. They can't play him too tight, or else he'll burst to the hoop for an easy finish around the rim.
Still, Green's stock has to drop as his gravity continues to diminish. The year in which he shot 40 percent from downtown while taking 6.2 triples per game for the Phoenix Suns is rooted firmly in the past, negated by the next three years—all of which saw him connect at a lower clip than the league average.
97. Dante Cunningham, SF/PF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 6.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks
Dante Cunningham chose to turn down $3,106,500 from the New Orleans Pelicans to hit free agency, and he'll likely receive a similar amount of money on a longer deal. He's still an athletic interior defender with the foot speed necessary to slow down players on the perimeter, and his improved shooting makes him an intriguing stretch option.
But is Cunningham's stroke a fluke? He connected on 39.2 percent of his 2.7 three-point attempts per game in 2016-17, but he'd never taken more than 2.2 in any prior season and had failed to hit more than 31.6 percent of those looks. If the strides are legitimate, this placement could wind up being far too low.
96. Jeff Green, SF/PF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 9.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.2 blocks
It may be time for NBA teams to stop falling into the Jeff Green trap. He's commanded exorbitant salaries throughout his 20s, even as the production has lagged behind expected levels. Even more importantly, he's consistently made teams worse while he's been on the floor.
During his 2016-17 season with the Orlando Magic, for example, the team's net rating dropped by 3.7 points per 100 possessions when he played. Part of that stemmed from his poor fit alongside the Magic's many other bigs, but it's time for whichever squad signs him next to realize he belongs in a smaller role that's more suited to his versatile ability but lack of any exemplary trait.
95-91: McDaniels, Mack, Hibbert, Grant, Felicio
95. KJ McDaniels, SG/SF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 4.2 points, 1.7 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.4 blocks
K.J. McDaniels has yet to receive even 15 minutes per game with anyone since the Philadelphia 76ers traded him away during his rookie season. The Houston Rockets buried him on the bench for nearly two years, and the Brooklyn Nets only granted him 14.7 minutes per contest once he found his way onto the roster midway through the 2016-17 campaign.
But McDaniels has consistently flashed potential, routinely compensating for his missing jumper with athletic defense and a willingness to do the little things. With the Nets, he averaged 15.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks per 36 minutes while continuing to display an unorthodox style by protecting the hoop as a true swingman.
94. Shelvin Mack, PG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 7.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.1 blocks
Shelvin Mack couldn't break through the Utah Jazz's point guard carousel, but it's clear the 27-year-old veteran has the ability to settle in as an impressive backup. As an adequate defender and distributor who typically avoids mistakes while running the show, he can provide positive production without many detrimental plays.
Of course, Mack won't have much upside in the modern NBA until he develops a three-point jumper. He hit only 30.8 percent of his triples during his second season with the Jazz, and that's only slightly below his career average (32.1 percent). If that doesn't change, it'll be hard for any contender to allocate more than 20 minutes per game to him.
93. Roy Hibbert, C, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 4.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.2 steals, 1.0 blocks
As the NBA continues its breakneck shift into the pace-and-space era, Roy Hibbert's skills will continue to hold less value. He doesn't have the lateral quickness to switch onto smaller players, and it's far too easy to exploit his immobility by dragging him away from the paint and mitigating his impact.
But the 30-year-old is still 7'2", and he's still in possession of superior instincts when allowed to showcase his rim-protection prowess. The Denver Nuggets may not have valued his interior work after trading for him and limiting him to 1.8 minutes per game in six appearances, but he allowed opponents to shoot just 43.3 percent at the hoop while facing 10.6 shots per 36 minutes for both the Nuggets and Charlotte Hornets, with whom he spent 42 games.
92. Jerami Grant, SF, Team Option
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 5.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.4 steals, 1.0 blocks
"[Jerami] Grant, meanwhile, just concluded his third NBA season, is one of the team's two or three best athletes, can potentially guard three positions, can switch onto perimeter players and ended up knocking in 38 percent of his threes (though almost every one of his attempts was open)," Fred Katz wrote for the Norman Transcript while evaluating the deal that sent Grant from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Ersan Ilyasova and a protected 2020 first-round pick.
Grant was objectively bad during his third NBA season, finishing No. 459 among the 468 players in ESPN.com's RPM. He still showed a number of marketable skills—the athleticism, versatility and shooting mentioned by Katz chief among them. And those, combined with the malleability inherent to 23-year-olds, allow him to remain an intriguing free-agent target should the Thunder decline his $1,524,305 team option.
Update: The Oklahoma City Thunder picked up Jerami Grant's option for 2017-18, per The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.
91. Cristiano Felicio, PF/C, Restricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 4.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.2 blocks
A raw big from Brazil, Cristiano Felicio is still coming into his own. He won over the hearts of many Chicago Bulls supporters with his vicious dunks and passionate play, but it's even more exciting to think about what he could eventually bring as a rebounder and defensive presence.
Felicio still makes plenty of mental mistakes, and he's improving his conditioning so he can eventually expand his role. However, he's already one of only 25 players to post a defensive box plus/minus of at least 0.5 and a total rebounding percentage north of 16.0 during each of the last two seasons, which offers legitimate reason to believe there's plenty of untapped potential waiting to be realized.
90-86: Sefolosha, Splitter, Sullinger, McLemore, Casspi
90. Thabo Sefolosha, SF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 7.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks
"It's coach's decision," Thabo Sefolosha said about receiving such limited run in the playoffs, even after fully recovering from his groin injury, per Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "It's a tough sport. I'm obviously not happy about it, but at the same time I'm going to keep rooting for my team and help in any way I can. I'm going to stay focused and when Coach needs me I'm ready, but there is only so much I can do at this point."
Midway through the 2016-17 campaign, it seemed like Sefolosha might eventually settle in as a top-50 free agent. But after injury concerns struck during the tail end of the season and he became virtually unplayable throughout the Atlanta Hawks' first-round loss to the Washington Wizards, fears that the defensive ace is past his prime have become fully justifiable.
89. Tiago Splitter, C, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 4.9 points, 2.8 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.1 steals, 0.1 blocks
If only Tiago Splitter's body worked. It's been five years since he logged even 60 games in a single season, dropping down to 36 in 2015-16 and then just eight with the Philadelphia 76ers during the 2016-17 campaign. He's dealt with countless injuries, though a strained right hamstring and strained right calf were the primary culprits this time around.
When Splitter is able to play, he's worth rostering. He's an efficient finisher around the hoop, a physical threat on the glass and a strong interior defender who can body up against bigger players and display enough quickness to slow down smaller foes. Those moments don't completely negate the pervasive injury concerns, but they do keep giving him more chances to finally stay healthy.
88. Jared Sullinger, PF/C, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 3.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.1 blocks
The 2016-17 campaign was a series of unfortunate events for Jared Sullinger. After signing a one-year deal with the Toronto Raptors, he struggled to get healthy and bounced between the big league team and the D-League's Raptors 905. After only 11 games alongside Kyle Lowry and Co., he was traded to the Phoenix Suns, who waived him before he could log a single minute.
Heading into 2017-18, the stress fracture in his foot should be healed, allowing the 25-year-old big man to resume what was once a promising career. It's unlikely Sullinger will ever be a featured player in the starting lineup, but he's certainly capable of using his size (6'9", 260 lbs) and physicality to become a quality rotation big, especially as his touch around the hoop returns.
87. Ben McLemore, SG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 8.1 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.1 blocks
The idea of Ben McLemore was always better than the actual version. Billed as an extreme three-and-D player with the athleticism to become so much more on offense while he was leaving Kansas, the No. 7 pick of the 2013 NBA draft has been a bust in the truest sense. He's failed to contribute positively in almost any area.
That said, he's also improved throughout his professional career, to the point that his three-point percentage has risen during each season. It topped out at 38.2 percent in 2016-17, which should be more than enough for him to get one more shot with a different organization now that the Sacramento Kings have withdrawn their qualifying offer, per ESPN.com's Chris B. Haynes.
86. Omri Casspi, SF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 5.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.1 blocks
It's been an interesting journey for Omri Casspi, who served as one of the league's more underrated players only two years ago. The Sacramento Kings inexplicably buried him behind lesser contributors on the depth charts, he suffered from a few random maladies, he was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans, he fractured his thumb during his first game in a new uniform and then he struggled to find his shot upon a return with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
But put Casspi in the right situation, and he can still thrive. He's in the midst of his athletic prime, remains a tremendous shooter from the perimeter and can contribute in a number of different areas once he's allowed to settle in and regain the rhythm he was forced out of throughout a trying 2016-17 season.
85-81: Meeks, Baynes, Holiday, Beasley, Hawes
85. Jodie Meeks, SG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 9.1 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.1 blocks
A constant stream of injuries has limited Jodie Meeks to only 39 games over the last two years. That's not an average; it's a total. He's been unable to stay on the court, and that spells trouble for his aging curve—particularly troublesome when he'll celebrate his 30th birthday during the heart of the offseason.
But Meeks possesses the one skill that will always get him another contract: He can flat-out shoot the basketball. Even during these last two injury-riddled go arounds, he's connected on 41.1 percent of his triples while taking 3.7 attempts per game.
84. Aron Baynes, C, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 4.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.5 blocks
It's all about strength here. Aron Baynes remains one of the most physically talented players in the NBA—not because he can jump out of the gym, but because he's so strong that it's impossible to move him from his position on the blocks. That applies to both ends of the court, though he's at his best when he's planting his feet and refusing to allow his mark interior positioning in the half-court set.
Baynes hasn't received too many opportunities with the Detroit Pistons, but he's looked the part of a quality defender whenever he's received run. That's pushed him to opt out of $6,500,000 and pursue a new contract, and he should be able to find a home that moves him up in the rotation and tests his merits over lengthier durations.
83. Justin Holiday, SG/SF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 7.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.4 blocks
Justin Holiday can do just about everything on the basketball court. Whether he does so consistently is an entirely different question.
The athletic swingman has flashed quality perimeter defense time and time again. He's displayed an impressive ability to finish plays around the hoop, and he occasionally looked the part of a sharpshooter before slumping and dragging his three-point percentage back down to its season-end mark of 35.5 percent. Showing consistency and filling a bigger role stand between him and potential status as a top-100 player, so teams bidding for his services will have to hope no one is too high on his upside, thereby preventing him from signing a reasonable deal.
82. Michael Beasley, SF/PF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 9.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks
Michael Beasley's game contains plenty of holes. He's an atrocious defender and a lackluster distributor. He doesn't showcase the rebounding prowess that made him such an intriguing prospect while racking up double-doubles at Kansas State. He can turn the ball over far too frequently for someone who doesn't typically demand possession.
But he's also done something differently since gaining confidence with the Houston Rockets in 2015-16. Both during that season and the follow-up campaign with the Milwaukee Bucks, he shot the ball with confidence, taking the same difficult looks he's always shown affinity for but actually connecting on them. And that lends him enough value as an off-the-bench gunner to land a long-term deal.
81. Spencer Hawes, PF/C, Player Option
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 6.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.6 blocks
If Spencer Hawes opts out of his $6,021,175 deal with the Milwaukee Bucks (originally signed with the Los Angeles Clippers), he'll surely get another look. The demand for bigs who can space out the court has never been higher, and Hawes' sharp-shooting habits continue to serve as his most obvious skill.
The center is a solid rebounder and has shown improvement as an interior defender, but it's his knack for stepping out to the perimeter and knocking down jumpers that lends him the most value. He never got it going in Charlotte, shooting 29.1 percent from beyond the arc in 35 games before he was traded to Brewtown, but history indicates a progression to the mean is coming shortly.
Update: Hawes opted into his contract with the Milwaukee Bucks for 2017-18, per The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.
80-76: Muhammad, Galloway, Jennings, Jerebko, Withey
80. Shabazz Muhammad, SF, Restricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 9.9 points, 2.8 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.1 blocks
Now that his touch shots around the basket are improving, Shabazz Muhammad is growing into the dangerous offensive threat he was supposed to be when leaving UCLA. He still doesn't have much range and struggles immensely on the defensive end, but his ability to get to the hoop and finish plays in traffic lends him enough value to become a rotation mainstay.
Heading into the 2016-17 campaign, Muhammad had connected on 64.2 percent of his shots from within three feet. That number rose to 69.7 percent during what could be his final season with the Minnesota Timberwolves—by no means an insignificant increase when 35.3 percent of his looks came in that area.
79. Langston Galloway, SG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 7.9 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.1 blocks
Langston Galloway's contract depends largely on which version suitors buy into.
Will they be swayed by the player who averaged 8.6 points and 2.2 rebounds for the New Orleans Pelicans while shooting 37.4 percent from the field and 37.7 percent from downtown? Or will they be sold by the Sacramento Kings version, who increased those respective percentages to 40.4 and 47.5 while averaging more assists in fewer minutes? Sample sizes have to matter, but it's by no means unrealistic to think the 19-game set in Sacramento is a legitimate representation of the 25-year-old's ability.
78. Brandon Jennings, PG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 7.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.1 blocks
When a team signs Brandon Jennings, it knows what it's going to get. That won't be defensive excellence, since the point guard can often become disengaged on the less glamorous end. It won't be sterling work as a distributor, nor will he provide unorthodox production on the glass.
But he will score. Jennings misses plenty of shots, but he tries to make up for them by catching fire in short spurts, throwing flames as he attempts to prove the hot-hand theory has some semblance of validity. At this stage of his career, he's best doing exactly that off the bench, so long as teams are willing to accept what they're in for.
77. Jonas Jerebko, PF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 3.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.2 blocks
Stretchy bigs are all the rage, which is great news for Jonas Jerebko as he attempts to get one last lengthy contract. Even in his 30s, he can still shoot the rock well enough to draw defensive attention away from the stars he supports.
Jerebko's work on the glass isn't what you want from a man who spends all of his minutes at either power forward or center (only in small-ball lineups), and his defense is merely average. But his willingness to spot up on the perimeter and connect at a 38.3 percent clip over the past four years has plenty of value in the modern game.
76. Jeff Withey, C, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 2.9 points, 2.4 rebounds, 0.1 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.6 blocks
Jeff Withey didn't receive enough credit for his work with the Utah Jazz, which is largely because he filled such a small role behind Rudy Gobert. But he was a legitimate defensive stud—just as he's been since breaking out for the Kansas Jayhawks half a decade ago—who could hold his own on the glass and play within himself on offense. That last attribute often goes overlooked, but it's vital for players who are attempting to specialize in one facet of the game.
And get this: Withey was one of only nine players with a defensive box plus/minus of at least 2.5, a total rebounding percentage north of 16.0 and a true shooting percentage no worse than 58.0 percent during the 2016-17 campaign. He'll never play as many minutes, but he's close to serving as a (very) poor man's version of Gobert, DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard.
75-71: Morrow, Terry, Motiejunas, Lauvergne, Tolliver
75. Anthony Morrow, SG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 5.5 points, 0.6 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.5 steals
Shooting is the one skill that takes the longest to fade, and Anthony Morrow isn't anywhere close to losing his touch. That shouldn't happen for at least a few more years, giving teams full confidence that they can sign him to a lengthy deal and then watch as he capably fills a speciality role.
Morrow inexplicably struggled during his final time with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but he bounced back nicely during a short late-season stint with the Chicago Bulls, shooting 42.9 percent from beyond the arc while taking 5.8 attempts per 36 minutes. Since he headed into 2016-17 as a career 42.5 percent shooter from downtown, that's about what we should expect going forward.
74. Jason Terry, SG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 4.1 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.3 blocks
Perhaps one of the 2016-17 season's biggest surprises was Jason Terry's finishing as a positive in some advanced metrics, despite playing out his age-39 campaign with a limited role. He literally came closer than ever to playing league-average defense, per DBPM, and his mark in ESPN.com's defensive real plus/minus was actually positive.
Terry understands all the nuances of proper positioning, allowing him to jump into passing lanes and shepherd his assignments into disadvantageous spots. That, coupled with the continued threat of his outside shooting, allows him to retain value even as he plans to celebrate his 40th birthday shortly before the start of the 2017-18 campaign.
73. 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
It's simply too soon to give up on Donatas Motiejunas, even if he's failed to match the hype in any of his previous stops. He flashed potential with the Houston Rockets during the first four years of his professional career and did the same during his one season with the New Orleans Pelicans, but the positive play has only come in spurts.
Still, Motiejunas will get more chances because he's a young 7-footer who can capably protect the rim and has shown the ability to hit threes. That second part of his game has by no means been consistent—he's a career 30 percent shooter from downtown, and he hit 23.4 percent in 2016-17—but the simple fact that some shots have swished through the net means the intrigue will inevitably persist.
72. Joffrey Lauvergne, PF/C, Restricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 5.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.1 blocks
Only age pushes Joffrey Lauvergne ahead of Motiejunas—and just by a smidgen, at that.
The 25-year-old big man still has another year remaining to catch up in other areas, and he could easily do so by finding an advantageous situation that would allow him to play to his strengths. He's not best when left alone as the last line of defense, and he shouldn't be taking so many triples, so much as stretching out the floor with mid-range jumpers while also attacking the hoop. He's a slightly worse player than Motiejunas right now, but the upside is still there.
71. Anthony Tolliver, PF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 7.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.3 blocks
If only Anthony Tolliver had come around a decade later...
Just as he's learning how to play modern basketball at a high level, he's moving away from the athletic prime that would allow him to function as a diverse scoring threat. But even still, the fact he's coming off a season in which he hit 39.1 percent of his three-point attempts while taking 3.5 per game should play nicely during free agency, especially since he's also demonstrated he can defend multiple positions at an adequate level.
70-66: Jones, Lawson, Ferrell, Williams, Reed
70. Terrence Jones, PF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 10.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.0 blocks
It's not any one thing this southpaw does that makes him impressive, so much as his continued ability to be a passable player in almost all facets of the game. Relying on him to fill a singular role is a mistake, since he's at his best when contributing across the board.
During the 2016-17 campaign, only five players appeared in no fewer than 50 games and averaged at least 16 points, eight rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block per 36 minutes while turning the ball over fewer than twice during the same stretch. Jones was a member of the club, along with Myles Turner, Kenneth Faried, Nikola Vucevic and Richaun Holmes.
69. Ty Lawson, PG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 9.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.1 blocks
Though it may be hard to remember, Ty Lawson was once one of the NBA's best offensive point guards. He displayed a tremendous knack for creating his own shots from all over the floor, and his vision was nothing short of elite. That's no longer true after off-court issues and declining play forced him to leave the Denver Nuggets and ply his trade with other organizations, but the physical tools shouldn't be too far gone.
Lawson never found much success with the Houston Rockets or Indiana Pacers, but he joined the Sacramento Kings in 2016-17 and quietly excelled. Though he'll never again be a bona fide starter, the return of his finishing ability and penchant for finding open teammates will allow him to serve as a top-tier backup for at least a few more years.
68. Yogi Ferrell, PG, Team Option
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 10.0 points, 2.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.2 blocks
No one could have predicted Yogi Ferrell's rise to prominence. Undrafted out of Indiana, he failed to stick with the Brooklyn Nets before latching on with the Dallas Mavericks and making Deron Williams immediately expendable. That's not because he was better than Williams, per se, but because the upside he offered at such a reasonable price was more valuable.
It's highly unlikely that Ferrell will truly become a free agent—not when the Mavericks can retain his services at the meager cost of $1,312,611. But if he did, teams would be after his steady offense and moderate upside, especially since it comes in a 24-year-old frame.
Update: The Dallas Mavericks picked up Yogi Ferrell's option for 2017-18, per ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon.
67. Deron Williams, PG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 11.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.1 blocks
Even though Williams was waived in favor of Ferrell, that's not purely because of his on-court skills. Williams was simply too expensive, and it was time for the rebuilding Dallas Mavericks to move on and open up more opportunities for younger players.
As the 32-year-old floor general proved with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he still has a bit more in the tank. He's no longer a passable defender and can go through stretches of cold shooting, but his aptitude for catching fire and then building upon his hot shooting by punishing off-balance defenders with devastating crossovers renders him somewhat valuable.
66. Willie Reed, C, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 5.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.7 blocks
Willie Reed still has to prove himself in a larger role, and his age (he just turned 27) makes it more unlikely teams will take expensive fliers on him. But the big man has done everything possible to prove he deserves a chance, thriving in the areas expected of 6'11" contributors.
During his second season, Reed failed to demonstrate much range. Instead, he finished 56.8 percent of his shooting attempts while punishing opponents around the rim. He didn't quite prevent them from doing the same, but that should change as he gains more experience and stops allowing 50.6 percent shooting at the hoop. Throw in his 11.6 rebounds per 36 minutes, and you have quite the intriguing late-bloomer.
65-61: Ilyasova, McGee, Allen, Young, Clark
65. Ersan Ilyasova, PF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 13.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.3 blocks
Don't expect much defense from Ersan Ilyasova. He may step in and take the occasional charge—he led the league with 36, leaving him two clear of Marreese Speights and eight ahead of Kemba Walker—but his value stems almost solely from his offensive acumen and occasional stretches of glass-eating excellence.
Ilyasova continues to understand spacing as well as any power forward, which lets him fill gaps and finish easy buckets or create separation for his teammates by spotting up on the perimeter. When he gets there, he's more than capable of drilling spot-up attempts, which he did 35.3 percent of the time while playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks in 2016-17.
64. JaVale McGee, C, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 6.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 0.2 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.9 blocks
According to the advanced metrics, JaVale McGee should be far higher in these rankings. He thrived in all three of the measures listed above, thanks to his willingness to buy into his role with the Golden State Warriors and only participate in the most efficient plays. Plus, he allowed opponents to shoot 50.6 percent at the rim during the regular season, and that number is down to 39.5 percent during the postseason (through two games of the NBA Finals).
But it's still too soon to fully trust the 29-year-old center. Immaturity and a lack of self-awareness has bitten him in the past, and he could flop in a location that doesn't pigeonhole him into an advantageous role quite as well. It's in his best interest to remain with Golden State, but his play might have priced him out of that market.
63. Tony Allen, SG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 9.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.4 blocks
Is Tony Allen ever going to stop functioning as a valuable defender?
He was more limited than ever during the 2016-17 season, but the 35-year-old just keeps showing off impressive defensive chops. Even if he doesn't make an All-Defensive team this time around, he posted a 2.4 DBPM and a 2.15 DRPM, which leaves him behind only Kyle Anderson among the 99 players ESPN.com classified as 2s. Regardless of position, Allen trailed 38 players in DRPM—a rather strong mark for a shooting guard.
62. Nick Young, SG/SF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 13.2 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.2 blocks
Even if it seemed like Nick Young improved dramatically under head coach Luke Walton's supervision, it's tough to foresee that trend continuing as he moves deeper into his 30s. When his athleticism declines, there's only so much he can do while already playing lackluster defense.
Still, Young deserves plenty of credit for the strides he made with the Los Angeles Lakers, particularly those that came at the beginning of the year when he seemingly couldn't miss from downtown and was fully engaged on the preventive end. He fell back to earth throughout the season, but he demonstrated enough that he should receive interest from a number of contending teams now that he's opted out of his $5,668,667 deal and is likely willing to serve as a secondary offensive piece for a second unit.
61. 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
Which Ian Clark is for real? The one who thrived at the beginning of the season, averaging 7.6 points per game during his first five appearances while slashing 51.9/41.7/83.3? The one who slumped during the end of the year, slashing 45.0/18.2/87.5 in his final 14 games? The one who's shown the ability to explode off the pine during the playoffs?
Thus far, it's impossible to tell. But since Clark has shown he can put up points in bunches both as a spot-up threat and pull-up shooter, someone will surely be willing to pay so that they can find out before anyone else.
60-56: Bogut, Williams, Carter, Len, Rose
60. Andrew Bogut, C, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 2.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.9 blocks
When he's healthy, Andrew Bogut remains an impressive defender. He can hit cutters with his on-target feeds. His screens are brutal (and occasionally illegal), constantly helping to free up his teammates as they're moving toward open shots along the perimeter.
But Bogut can't rank any higher when there are so many concerns about his health. Now 32 years old and in possession of a lengthy sheet of medical issues, he's coming off a season in which he played just 27 games and broke his left tibia right before the playoffs. Trusting him on a long-term deal is foolish.
59. Alan Williams, PF/C, Restricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 7.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.7 blocks
Perhaps this is an aggressive spot for Alan Williams after he logged just 15.1 minutes per game for the Phoenix Suns during his sophomore season. He doesn't have the most impressive pedigree after going undrafted out of UC Santa Barbara, and he's made somewhat more expendable by the presence of so many up-and-coming bigs in the desert.
But Williams hasn't just impressed during his limited action.
He's dominated at times, establishing himself as one of the league's best per-minute rebounders. So long as he can continue to play quality interior defense, score efficiently around the hoop and pull down so many boards that he's one of just six players—Andre Drummond, DeAndre Jordan, Hassan Whiteside, Joakim Noah and Thomas Robinson are the others—to average at least 14 per 36 minutes each of the last two years, he'll be well worth a bigger contract and far more run.
58. Vince Carter, SG/SF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 8.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks
According to NBA Math's total points added (TPA), only 39 players provided positive value on both ends of the floor while logging at least 1,500 minutes during the 2016-17 campaign. They range from Russell Westbrook's record-setting season to Kelly Olynyk's barely positive contributions on both offense and defense.
Vince Carter stands out for a different reason. Of those 39, only 11 were in their 30s. Just Dwyane Wade (age-35 season) and Pau Gasol (36) were on the wrong side of 35. Carter, however, was 40 and will celebrate his 41st birthday in January, proving he can still—if he decides to keep plying his trade—contribute while well outside his athletic prime.
57. Alex Len, C, Restricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 8.0 points, 6.6 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.3 blocks
Alex Len hasn't done much of note in the NBA, other than look big on the basketball court. He's occasionally shown rebounding skills and touch around the basket, but the rawness that made him an intriguing candidate for the No. 1 pick during the 2013 selection process hasn't yet translated into meaningful production.
And yet, he's still a contender to get a massive deal as a restricted free agent, if only because talented bigs are so hard to come by. You can't teach size, which Len has in his 7'1", 260-pound frame, and the potential that's still lying dormant hasn't been extinguished this soon in his career. If he's a late-bloomer, teams won't want to have whiffed on him, especially after he had more impressive showings in 2016-17 than ever before.
56. Derrick Rose, PG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 18.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.3 blocks
Derrick Rose should no longer be a starting point guard. He may continue to receive that type of role because of his name and the history that comes with it, but his atrocious defense, poor shooting percentages and inability to involve his running mates with timely passes hold his teams back. He's far better suited for work as a scoring spark off the bench, so long as he's willing to accept such a role.
Of course, that won't satisfy his fans, many of whom continue to believe he'll eventually stay healthy and return to MVP form. But one of the NBA's most misleading numbers may be Rose's points-per-game average, since it shields him from so many legitimate criticisms and may keep him from ever buying into the bench role that might revitalize his career.
55-51: Nene, Johnson, Pachulia, Bogdanovic, Mbah a Moute
55. Nene, C, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 9.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.6 blocks
It's a good thing the Houston Rockets made the playoffs, or else the world might not have gotten a full look at the spry version of Nene. He was a strong contributor throughout the regular season, but he took that to another level by averaging 10.0 points and 4.7 rebounds while shooting 70.6 percent from the field in the postseason.
The 34-year-old won't function as an upper-tier starter. It's best that he plays limited minutes to preserve his body for the most important part of the year. But his suitors know just how much he can do, and that type of impact isn't easy to find at a reasonable price.
54. Amir Johnson, PF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 6.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.8 blocks
Amir Johnson had trouble sticking in the Boston Celtics' playoff rotation, but that's mostly because he was a poor fit for the roster. It's not entirely a reflection of his skill, since he remains one of the league's most efficient contributors and can make an impact on both ends of the floor.
ESPN.com's RPM, for example, had Johnson as the No. 7 listed power forward, behind only Draymond Green, Nikola Jokic, Kevin Love, Paul Millsap, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. Regardless of how misclassified some of those players might be, it's an impressive finish that stemmed from his No. 16 placement in ORPM and No. 3 spot in the defensive component.
53. Zaza Pachulia, C, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 6.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks
Is Zaza Pachulia an All-Star? Absolutely not, even if there's a contingent that wanted him to represent the Western Conference for his work in 2016-17. But the furor associated with his voting tallies also distracted from the fact that the veteran center has been a positive presence for the Golden State Warriors.
Pachulia doesn't post big numbers, and he can sometimes struggle to finish plays around the rim. But his ability to contribute in every area—on both ends of the court, to be clear—and penchant for maximizing his physical abilities will make him a fan favorite and valuable rotation big for a while longer. Whether he's a non-essential starter or a top-end backup, he'll continue to lend to his team's success.
52. Bojan Bogdanovic, SG, Restricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 13.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.1 blocks
Bojan Bogdanovic is another one of those wings who has to be used in the right situation. If he's thrust into a role as a starter, his defense will come back to bite the organization employing him. If he's not given enough spot-up looks and is asked to consistently create his own offense, he'll wear out and start missing too many shots.
But finding the sweet spot is rewarding. In that situation, Bogdanovic can excel as a player who scores efficiently without making too many mistakes. His ability to score either as a spot-up sniper or off the bounce also keeps his defender off balance, which is rather valuable in and of itself.
51. 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
When Luc Mbah a Moute was off the floor, the Los Angeles Clippers posted a minus-0.4 net rating. That mark rose all the way to 9.5 when he was playing, thanks to improvements of 3.7 and 6.2 points per 100 possessions on offense and defense, respectively.
The offensive strides are largely a function of the men Mbah a Moute spends time alongside. But the defensive growth is quite legitimate. His versatility and ability to play power forward in a pinch made him one of the Clippers' most valuable stoppers. That shouldn't change in a different location, and he's likely pursuing one after opting out of his $2,302,135 deal to remain in Tinseltown.
50-46: Speights, Korver, Teodosic, Hardaway, Livingston
50. Marreese Speights, PF/C, Player Option
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 8.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.5 blocks
At this point, it just makes sense for Marreese Speights to turn down his player option and hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent. He showed remarkable growth during his first (and potentially only) season with the Los Angeles Clippers, which makes it much more realistic that he could strike gold before turning 30.
Speights won't ever be a defensive stud, but he was passable in 2016-17, showcasing better instincts and more discipline on the blocks. Even more impressively, he started turning his long twos into three-pointers, which allowed him to vault into a different efficiency echelon while also turning the ball over more infrequently. He's always been a solid per-minute scorer, but this was the first time he's posted an above-average OBPM.
49. Kyle Korver, SG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 10.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.3 blocks
Throughout his career, Kyle Korver has been underrated in so many different areas. He's been a solid distributor, a surprisingly adept defender and a legitimate threat to grab a few boards during any given spurt of action. But it's still the shooting that matters most, and that's not going away anytime soon.
Korver should be even more limited as he moves closer to his 40th birthday, but he's now coming off a year in which he hit a league-high 45.1 percent of his triples while taking 5.4 per game. So long as he's put in a situation where he can drill catch-and-shoot jumpers, he'll be perfectly fine for at least a few more seasons.
48. Milos Teodosic, PG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 16.1 points, 2.1 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 0.6 steals
The eye test must reign supreme for Milos Teodosic, since the advanced numbers are so limited that we can really only tell you, per RealGM.com, the veteran point guard posted a 20.47 PER and 62.2 true shooting percentage during what could be his final season with CSKA Moscow. Fortunately, we still have a good idea of what he'll be in the NBA.
Teodosic won't ever compete for an All-Star berth, and he'll likely settle in as anything from a mid-level starter to a top-notch backup. He's a tremendous shooter and one of the world's most creative passers—think about a version of Ricky Rubio whom defenders can't leave open on the perimeter. But unlike Rubio, he's also a glaring liability on the defensive end.
47. Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Restricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 14.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.2 blocks
Now that the Atlanta Hawks have given Tim Hardaway Jr. a lengthy opportunity to strut his stuff, it's abundantly clear that he has bona fide scoring chops. His presence comes with porous defense, and he's not a strong distributor. But this man was born to score the basketball.
Hardaway's shooting percentages still need to climb in the right direction, and they should as he gains comfort operating as a leading scorer. But the volume and efficiency aren't what's selling teams. It's his ability to attack off the bounce. As a wing, maintaining his numbers while creating 63.5 percent of his twos and 84.6 percent of his threes is undeniably impressive.
46. Shaun Livingston, PG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 5.1 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.3 blocks
Don't worry about Shaun Livingston's age. Even if most point guards tend to decline once they celebrate their 31st birthdays, Livingston's 6'7" frame and lanky limbs ensure he isn't like most point guards.
Even as he moves deeper into his 30s, he should continue to play solid defense for his position, smothering opponents in spite of diminishing lateral quickness. He should still be able to rise and fire mid-range jumpers or go to work in the post, forcing cross-matches that throw a defense off-kilter. His game should just age better than most others.
45-41: Randolph, Mirotic, Patterson, Tucker, West
45. Zach Randolph, PF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 14.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.1 blocks
Zach Randolph is never going to function as a game-changing defensive presence or outside shooter. His value stems from the same facets in which he's always thrived: post-up skills and rebounding prowess. So, has he maintained them as he moves closer to 40 than 30?
During the 2016-17 campaign, Randolph averaged 12.1 rebounds per 36 minutes—more than his career average of 10.7. However, he scored just 0.82 points per possession on post-up plays, which left him in the 34th percentile and indicates that while he's still valuable in other areas, his role really should be declining, whether with the Memphis Grizzlies or another organization.
44. Nikola Mirotic, PF, Restricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 10.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.8 blocks
Though Nikola Mirotic struggled with his shot throughout the first half of the season, he seemed to gain confidence after using the All-Star break to get healthy. From that point through the end of the year, he averaged 14.2 points while shooting 46.6 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from downtown. Even better, he maintained his hot-shooting habits during the Chicago Bulls' brief playoff run.
The 26-year-old might have hot and cold stretches throughout his career, but it's now clear he'll never look as unplayable as he did early on in the 2016-17 festivities. As soon as he's given a chance to let a few looks fly and encouraged to space the court, he can find the bottom of the net as well as most stretch bigs scattered throughout the Association.
43. Patrick Patterson, PF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 6.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks
If you're looking for a prototypical power forward who can contribute across the board without excelling in any one area, you've found him. Patrick Patterson is the type of player who's fantastic at filling smaller roles—as a low-level starter or upper-tier backup—but also leaves your organization wanting more, as has been the case for years with the Toronto Raptors and their desire to upgrade at the 4.
Patterson isn't the most physical defender, but he's capable of bodying up and sliding his feet to corral smaller matchups. He can pass the ball out of double-teams or swing it around the horn. He can score or rebound on the inside, but he's also comfortable stepping out to the perimeter and knocking down the occasional three. His mere presence seems to be valuable, as evidenced by his stellar finish in ESPN.com's RPM.
42. P.J. Tucker, SF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 6.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.2 blocks
At this point, the ship has sailed on P.J. Tucker ever truly becoming a three-and-D contributor. He shot 35.7 percent from three-point territory during the 2016-17 campaign, and that was his highest mark since connecting on a career-best 38.7 percent of his treys in 2013-14.
But even if Tucker misfires frequently, he maintains his worth by playing hard-nosed defense against multiple positions and scrapping as one of the best pound-for-pound rebounders in the NBA. Teams can bring him in against a variety of matchups, and his presence on the floor enables his squad to switch on more screens and continue to stay between the ball-handler and the basket.
41. David West, PF/C, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 4.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.7 blocks
Kudos to the Golden State Warriors for teasing out even more value from David West. They knew he was a bruising defender and a deft mid-range shooter who loved thrusting a shoulder into his mark to create space for an uncontested jumper, but they weren't content to leave him in only that role.
First, they had him play 93 percent of his minutes at the 5 as an anchor in small-ball lineups, even if he'd never before spent more than 49 percent of his run at the biggest position. They also asked him to be more of a distributor, and he responded by showcasing his hidden passing chops and posting a career-high 24.1 assist percentage. It's more clear than ever just how diverse this big man's skills have become.
40-36: Collison, Ginobili, Simmons, Evans, Gibson
40. Darren Collison, PG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 13.2 points, 2.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.1 blocks
It's hard to get excited about Darren Collison, particularly now that Father Time has started to decrease the foot speed that once made him one of the NBA's quickest players. But he's a serviceable starting point guard for the time being, and he's slowly transformed into a subtly efficient player.
Shooting 41.9 percent from downtown as a point guard goes a long way. So too does dishing out 4.6 assists per game while coughing the ball up only 1.7 times per contest. Collison was one of only 13 qualified players with an assist percentage north of 24 and a turnover percentage no greater than 13 during the 2016-17 campaign, and just Stephen Curry, Mike Conley, Kyrie Irving and himself joined the club while hitting at least 40 percent of their triples.
39. Manu Ginobili, SG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 7.5 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.2 blocks
If Manu Ginobili comes back for one more season—and that's a massive if—there's little doubt he can continue to produce in a positive capacity. He'll probably operate like he's on the verge of these rankings' top 20 spots for the 2017-18 season, but the lack of longevity forces him into a lesser position.
At most, Ginobili should have one year left. He's already filling a tinier role, and it's enabled him to play some of the best defense of his career while remaining potent on offense. But his spot in the rotation can only grow so small, and the constant shrinkage indicates the end of this incredible, Hall of Fame career really is near.
38. Jonathon Simmons, SG, Restricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 6.2 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.3 blocks
As Rohan Nadkarni wrote for Sports Illustrated, Jonathon Simmons used Kawhi Leonard's postseason injury to cement his stock as an up-and-comer:
"Simmons, 27, has flashed considerable ability in limited minutes in each of the last two seasons. He possesses a bounciness to his game, and his athleticism often stands out next to a group of mostly geriatric Spurs. Simmons best utilizes his quickness on the defensive end, where he’s proven he can capably hound the NBA’s elite scorers. Offensively, Simmons’s game is rough around the edges, but he makes up for his streaky shooting by finding lanes to the rim and running out for easy scores in transition. (And he can dunk the air out of the basketball.)"
There's still some uncertainty here, but the upside is palpable. And that's doubly true because Simmons has used his athleticism to emerge as a positive defender in the San Antonio Spurs system while still showcasing breakthrough ability on offense. His two-way potential is well worth the risk of a sizable contract.
37. Tyreke Evans, SG/SF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 10.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.2 blocks
Tyreke Evans is no longer the all-around threat he was during his Rookie of the Year season with the Sacramento Kings in 2009-10. He also hasn't developed a consistent jumper, though he's grown closer than ever in recent years. He connected on 38.8 percent of his triples in 2015-16, and a hot streak after returning to the Kings midway through 2016-17 allowed him to finish the season at 35.6 percent.
But the 27-year-old's skill and ability to soak up time at point guard, shooting guard or small forward still makes him rather intriguing. He can fill so many different roles while providing unorthodox production from the wings, and he's even started to line up sporadically at the 4 in small-ball lineups.
36. Taj Gibson, PF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 10.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.8 blocks
Taj Gibson never developed into the all-around player he was projected to become. He doesn't have three-point range, struggles to pass the ball in any situation and only made 33.3 percent of his two-point attempts from at least 16 feet.
But Gibson will continue to get work deep into his 30s because of his enduring defensive ability. Whether he's protecting the rim, closing out against spot-up shooters or switching onto smaller players, he can be a lockdown presence for sustained stretches. Plus, his mental strength on the less glamorous end will also ensure he can stave off athletic declines for a while longer.
35-31: Lee, Gay, Olynyk, Waiters, Wade
35. David Lee, PF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 7.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.5 blocks
Gregg Popovich has done it again. The San Antonio Spurs head coach took a veteran version of David Lee and turned him into a beneficial defender, asking him to cover a smaller space and use his physicality to shut it down. Lee responded by playing the best defense of his career, to the extent that he finished No. 6 among Spurs in NBA Math's defensive points saved, behind only Danny Green, Pau Gasol, Dewayne Dedmon, Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Anderson. Granted, that metric includes defensive rebounding, but it's still an impressive finish for a player previously known as a sieve.
Now, the length of Lee's career should only be extended. He's still a creative and skilled offensive player who can always get a few buckets off the bench, but his two-way ability should allow him to contribute in a number of different systems and alongside a plethora of players with whom he previously would've been a poor complement.
34. Rudy Gay, SF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 18.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.9 blocks
Rudy Gay was having one of the best seasons of his career, thriving on both ends of the floor as he fully bought into his role with the Sacramento Kings. He was a dynamic offensive force who could score from all over the court, but he was just as impressive while assuming a multiposition defensive role.
Then he ruptured his Achilles in a January 18 matchup against the Indiana Pacers. Unfortunately, that's one of the most devastating injuries a basketball player can suffer, as the recovery timetable is prolonged and there's no guarantee of a return to form. The malady depresses his ranking here rather significantly, especially because Gay is now on the wrong end of 30, which makes that sought-after resiliency even more difficult to obtain.
33. Kelly Olynyk, C, Restricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 9.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks
Don't be fooled by Kelly Olynyk's second-half masterpiece against the Washington Wizards during Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. He looked the part of a superstar against John Wall and Co., exploding for 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting as rumors of a max contract were shouted from the rafters*. But that was a one-off performance, which flashed more potential than Olynyk realistically possesses.
On the flip side, the Gonzaga product is also a better player than his per-game numbers might indicate. He's grown into his 7-foot frame on the defensive end, can help out offensively in a variety of ways and has the all-around metrics to back up his positive production. Gamble on him with enough money to lure him away from the Boston Celtics, and he might just reward the faith in a bigger role.
*Those rumors never existed.
32. Dion Waiters, SG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 15.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.4 blocks
It's tough to remember because he's already been through so many phases of his career, but Dion Waiters is still young enough to experience a legitimate breakthrough. And that's what might have taken place with the Miami Heat in 2016-17. even if he'd already solidified himself as a draft bust thanks to his failure with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Head coach Erik Spoelstra gave Waiters more time as a drive-and-kick handler, and the experiment worked with aplomb. The 25-year-old blossomed when granted the confidence that comes with calling his own plays, shattering his previous high in assists per game while playing more efficient offensive basketball than ever before.
31. Dwyane Wade, SG, Player Option
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 18.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.7 blocks
Dwyane Wade's game has always been predicated upon athleticism and physicality. Even when he wasn't taking flight around the basket, he was drawing contact and earning his way to the charity stripe—a trip he'd only make after picking himself up from the floor yet again. It shouldn't be surprising that this hasn't aged well.
Though the 2-guard is a legendary figure and a lock for the Hall of Fame, he wasn't himself in 2016-17. His first season with the Chicago Bulls featured poor defense, more inefficient shooting after his hot start from beyond the arc and a negative finish in ESPN.com's RPM for the third consecutive season. This is the beginning of the end, even if Wade can still shoulder a smaller role with strong results for the next few years—if he chooses to play that long.
Update: Dwyane Wade has opted into his contract with the Chicago Bulls for 2017-18, per ESPN.com's Nick Friedell.
30-26: Miles, Snell, Monroe, Johnson, Plumlee
30. C.J. Miles, SG/SF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 10.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.3 blocks
Every once in a while, a player improves so dramatically in one area that they not only have a specialty, but their specialty is so valuable they'd be foolish to do anything but decline their player option. C.J. Miles should do exactly that, even if the Indiana Pacers would otherwise owe him $4,772,675 during his age-30 season.
During the 2015-16 season, Miles scored 1.06 points per possession as a spot-up shooter, which left him in the 76th percentile—good, but by no means truly great. This past season, the swingman caught fire and torched foes to the tune of 1.34 points per possession. This time, he finished in the 97th percentile and guaranteed himself a lot more cash.
29. Tony Snell, SG/SF, Restricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 8.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.2 blocks
Tony Snell's numbers are nothing special. But he grew throughout his year with the Milwaukee Bucks, transitioning from a player who just happened to be included in the Michael Carter-Williams trade into a potential stud sure to make plenty of money in restricted free agency.
His evolution culminated in a playoff run during which he averaged 10.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists while shooting 50.0 percent from the field and 51.6 percent from downtown. It's a small sample—just six games against the Toronto Raptors—but it showed enough that plenty of teams in need of wing upside should be inquiring about his services.
28. Greg Monroe, C, Player Option
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 11.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.5 blocks
A trimmed-down version of Greg Monroe flipped the narrative on its head in 2016-17. Even though the Milwaukee Bucks had previously tired of him and his contract, he committed to an offseason program that paid rather large dividends, to the point that he may actually be able to make more than the $17.9 million he'd be guaranteed if he opted in.
Monroe continued to serve as a solid force on the glass and a talented interior scorer, but his improved lateral mobility and foot speed allowed him to play well on the defensive end, too. He constantly jumped into passing lanes and disrupted his foes' half-court efforts, even if he's still not going to serve as a dominant rim-protector at any point in his career.
Update: Greg Monroe has opted into his contract with the Milwaukee Bucks for 2017-18, per The Vertical's Shams Charania.
27. James Johnson, SF/PF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 12.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.1 blocks
The ways head coaches Dwane Casey and Erik Spoelstra used James Johnson were antithetical to one another. The former buried his forward on the Toronto Raptors bench and forced him into a small, defensively tilted role. The latter allowed him to blossom with the Miami Heat.
By allowing Johnson to handle the rock as a secondary drive-and-kick threat while guarding any position necessary, Spoelstra maximized what he could do. He gave him the confidence necessary to break out and keep producing at a high level, making him a late popper who should fit with virtually any competitive team that can afford him. So long as they're willing to let him use what's now the established blueprint, he'll keep looking like a two-way standout contributing in unorthodox fashion.
26. Mason Plumlee, C, Restricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 10.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.1 blocks
Though the Denver Nuggets didn't give him as much run after trading for him midway through the season, Mason Plumlee used his time with the Portland Trail Blazers to morph into one of the league's most underrated centers. His per-game numbers never stood out, but his versatility and efficiency shone through nonetheless.
Plumlee is one of the NBA's best passing centers, capable of fitting the ball into tight spaces and passing players open—as opposed to hitting them with a feed after they've done the work to create separation. He's an adequate rim protector and an adept rebounder, as well as a confident scorer when receiving feeds around the hoop. So long as you don't ask him to be a leading man, he can't help but surpass expectations on a nightly basis.
25-21: Ingles, Nowitzki, Gasol, Roberson, Mills
25. Joe Ingles, SF, Restricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 7.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.1 blocks
Joe Ingles is ready for his time to shine. He displayed every skill in the books during what could be his final season with the Utah Jazz, excelling as head coach Quin Snyder excluded more and more faith in his abilities. By the end of the year, Ingles could fill a plethora of roles on both ends.
Offensively, he was one of the league's deadliest shooters, thriving as a spot-up sniper who took pressure off Gordon Hayward and the other leading producers. But he could also handle the rock in pick-and-rolls, slowing down the pace until he picked apart a defense with precision passing. Defensively, he typically matched up with small forwards but could switch onto lead guards such as Kyrie Irving or Chris Paul and use his quick instincts and feet to slide in front of them. He simply did it all, and now he'll be richly rewarded.
24. Dirk Nowitzki, PF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 14.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.7 blocks
The time of Dirk Nowitzki dominating like a superstar is behind us, sad as that may be for fans of both the Dallas Mavericks and NBA as a whole. Injuries and advancing age have dropped his level of play, forcing him to work harder to create looks and cede more touches to his lackluster teammates.
Luckily, he's been able to mitigate some of the decline through the sheer weight of will. He can drop the ball through the net from anywhere on the court, and he's started to allocate more of his energy toward contributing on the defensive end. In 2016-17, he posted a positive DBPM for the first time since 2010-11, which helped offset his negative score on the offensive side.
23. 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
Whether Pau Gasol plays at a higher level than Dirk Nowitzki in 2017-18 is debatable. But it's far more likely the Spanish 7-footer sticks around for a lengthier period, which is the only reason he's ranked ahead of his German counterpart.
However, there's one cause for concern that makes the gap between the two bigs rather narrow: The San Antonio Spurs were so good at maximizing Gasol's skill set, especially on the defensive end. He's opted out of his deal in search of a new deal with the Spurs, but if he departs, his level could come crashing down, leaving him as a glorified offensive role player with a remarkable pedigree.
22. Andre Roberson, SG/SF, Restricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 6.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.0 blocks
Andre Roberson used the 2016-17 campaign to become one of the league's best defenders, as Dan Favale highlighted for Bleacher Report while pegging the swingman as a dark-horse threat to earn a max contract this summer:
"Roberson is a defensive whiz. At 6'7", he's springy enough to stick with point guards and strong enough to keep tabs on the occasional power forward. Markieff Morris is the only wing who defended more isolations during the regular season, and Roberson limited opponents to 40.5 percent shooting in those situations—a surprisingly low number when his assignments routinely included All-NBA bucket-getters."
The 25-year-old is an athletic marvel and a film-room junkie, and that combination has enabled him to stick with the league's toughest assignments. He's one of the few players who can defend James Harden without fouling, and the story the Norman Transcript's Fred Katz told about how he reached that point is well worth reading.
But until Roberson shows some semblance of a three-point jumper—he shot 24.5 percent on treys in 2016-17, which dropped his lifetime mark to 26 percent—he'll be unable to rise into the top 20.
21. Patty Mills, PG/SG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 9.5 points, 1.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 0.8 steals
There's always a risk that Patty Mills won't find the same level of success if he flees the San Antonio Spurs for a larger role. But at this point, it's perfectly valid to have faith in both the player and the system that's helped turn him into a devastating offensive threat.
Mills isn't a great defender, and he's merely adequate as a distributor; he doesn't typically rack up assists, but he manages to curtail his turnover figures. It's his shooting that makes him so dangerous, and plenty of teams would love to land a point guard who connected on his triples at a 41.3 percent clip in 2016-17. Better still, he did so while taking 4.5 attempts per game and requiring dimes on only 82.3 percent of the makes.
20. J.J. Redick, SG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 15.0 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.2 blocks
As J.J. Redick continues to age, parts of his game will inevitably slip.
He's already a mediocre defender who relies on quality positioning, but it'll become even tougher for him to stay between his man and the basket. He doesn't contribute much as a rebounder or facilitator these days (nor did he ever), and that's not likely to change as he moves deeper into his 30s.
But he'll still be able to shoot the basketball.
Redick wasn't able to replicate his 2015-16 efforts this past season, failing to lead the league in three-point percentage for the second consecutive campaign. Instead, he just drilled 42.9 percent of his triples while taking six per game for the Los Angeles Clippers—numbers no one throughout the entire NBA could match. In fact, Ray Allen, Stephen Curry, Damon Jones, Kyle Korver, Mitch Richmond, Peja Stojakovic and Klay Thompson are the only qualified men in league history to do so.
The sniper's stroke isn't going away anytime soon. It might become tougher for him to create as much separation, but you'll likely see a decline in shooting attempts before his efficiency levels dip dramatically. And neither of those drops may take place before his next contract ends, even if he signs a four-year deal with a new organization.
19. 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
If we were ranking these players only for their expected contributions in 2017-18, JaMychal Green wouldn't find himself in the top 20. He might be ever lower down if 2016-17 efforts were all that mattered.
But we're examining how players are expected to perform throughout the entirety of their next contracts, and Green's upside gives him a significant boost. After all, he used this past season with the Memphis Grizzlies—perhaps his last roaming Beale Street, unless the Grizz match the inevitable near-max offer sheet he'll sign with some organization desperate for a big—to prove he could hang on both ends of the floor.
Defense remains Green's calling card. He can operate in so many different settings, thriving whether he's left alone around the basket or asked to patrol the perimeter in pursuit of punier players. But his offense is beginning to catch up as he displays passing proficiency and an ability to space the court with an on-target jumper.
This must continue to improve as he moves into his prime, but it's already a good sign Green is connecting on 37.9 percent of his three-point attempts and 55.9 percent of his two-pointers from beyond 16 feet. All he needs now is a coach (and system) willing to unleash him.
18. Dewayne Dedmon, C, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 5.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.8 blocks
Pay no attention to Dewayne Dedmon's playing time during the San Antonio Spurs' run to the Western Conference Finals. He played only 8.1 minutes per game as head coach Gregg Popovich elected to go in other directions, but that's hardly a reflection of the level at which he was performing.
He was still an efficient finisher around the hoop, provided quality interior defense and thrived in many advanced metrics. The matchups just dictated rotational adjustments, and it's hard to do anything but trust one of the greatest coaches in NBA history.
Dedmon's time on the bench shouldn't curtail the inevitable payday. The league was still exposed to what he could do on the defensive end throughout the regular season, watching as he shut down the paint and showed an ability to hedge and recover against any and all pick-and-rolls. In fact, he may be one of the reasons Kawhi Leonard's defensive on/off figures were so topsy-turvy, since he was able to boost the second unit by contesting mid-range jumpers and remaining disciplined around the rim.
The 27-year-old won't ever turn into an offensive star, but he doesn't need to. He's valuable enough on the less glamorous end, and it doesn't hurt that he's both a demon on the glass and an efficient finisher who's regularly improving his touch in the restricted area.
17. Andre Iguodala, SG/SF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 7.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.5 blocks
Andre Iguodala may not be able to shoulder a starter's load at this stage of his career, but he's effective in his role. The Golden State Warriors have learned how to use him perfectly, seldom asking him to contribute as a scorer but instead relying on his contributions in every other area.
If Iguodala needs to function as a lead ball-handler, he can do so. If he's tasked with guarding an opposing wing known for high-scoring exploits, he tackles the responsibility with nary a second thought. If he's asked to act as an off-ball threat, he'll do exactly that.
Put simply: Iguodala plays the part of a lineup chameleon. He can change his game without missing a beat alongside any combination of teammates, regardless of whether he's at the 2 or 3 in a traditional lineup or working against bigger bodies in a small-ball unit. That, in and of itself, carries a significant amount of appeal.
Plus, consider this: Iguodala's per-game stats aren't particularly impressive, but his advanced metrics are. Among the 81 players listed as small forwards by ESPN.com, just 12 topped him in ORPM, while 19 finished ahead in DRPM.
Finishing top 20 on both sides is nothing to sniff at.
16. Robert Covington, SF/PF, Team Option
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 12.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.9 steals, 1.0 blocks
To be clear, Robert Covington won't technically end up being a free agent. He could hit the market without being waived to cut a non-guaranteed salary—why you won't see such a player like Rajon Rondo—but the Philadelphia 76ers are never going to decline his team option. Why would they want to get rid of such a talented player when they can have him under contract for $1,577,230?
But if the Sixers somehow turned down the option, Covington would demand plenty of attention.
Even if he couldn't replicate his 2015-16 three-point percentage, he bounced back from a rough start and improved his offensive game throughout the 2016-17 season. That's just gravy for the Sixers, since the brunt of Covington's value comes on the defensive end, where he's quietly become one of the league's more valuable players.
According to NBA Math's defensive points saved, only 23 players added more value on the preventive side this year. That's already an impressive finish, but it's even better for a man who sat at No. 93 on the minutes leaderboard, since volume is necessary to have high scores in the components of TPA.
Covington understands the fundamentals of perimeter defense, and he's athletic enough to protect the rim, where he allowed opponents to shoot just 49.2 percent. He's becoming the total package on the defensive end, which should get him a big extension after Philadelphia picks up the final year of his contract and begins long-term negotiations.
Update: The Philadelphia 76ers have picked up Robert Covington's option for 2017-18, per an official announcement from the team.
15. Serge Ibaka, PF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 14.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.6 blocks
At this point, it seems certain that Serge Ibaka's offensive game will age well.
He never became the dominant scorer the Oklahoma City Thunder wanted him to be alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Instead, he learned how to play the modern game and became one of the league's most dangerous stretch 4s. Not only did he take a career-high four triples per game in 2016-17, but he knocked down 39.1 percent of those attempts while splitting time between the Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors.
That's not going to change in the near future. Ibaka looks the part of a legitimate spot-up threat, and moving out of his athletic prime shouldn't force him into a different role.
So, why isn't the 27-year-old ranked as high as you might expect? Well, there's legitimate reason to be concerned about his defense, even if that's the skill upon which he built his reputation during his early years as an NBA up-and-comer.
In his final season with the Thunder, Ibaka allowed opponents to shoot just 43.6 percent at the rim. That number slipped to 52.9 percent during his uninspired tenure with the Magic, and he only improved to 51.6 percent once he was traded to Toronto. He's no longer a dominant force on the interior, which significantly depresses his overall value.
14. 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
Nerlens Noel has already logged three seasons in the NBA, but he's still only 23 years old. He won't even celebrate his 24th birthday until April, which gives him plenty of time to continue improving and working toward the realization of his full potential.
But even if Noel doesn't develop, he'll be a valuable presence.
Maybe he never learns how to pass the ball out of a double-team on the blocks. Perhaps he'll never become even an adequate shooter from outside the paint, forcing his sole offensive value to come from his knack for finishing at the rim. Even in that scenario, his defensive chops and touch at the hoop make him a positive overall presence.
As soon as Noel joined the Dallas Mavericks in a midseason trade from the Philadelphia 76ers, he made an impact.
His cutting to the bucket and athletic finishes were contagious, inspiring other players to make harder bursts toward the rim or throw lobs in the right situations. His defensive intensity caught on as well. When he wasn't on the floor, the Mavs were on the wrong end of a minus-3.7 net rating, but they outscored opponents by 0.2 points per 100 possessions when he played.
Give him a similar chance, and he should keep coming through.
13. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Restricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 13.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.2 blocks
"He has the potential. He's definitely improved, gotten better each and every year he's been in the league," Reggie Jackson said of his teammate, per David Ramil of FanSided. "That's due to his work ethic and his mindset to go get it. But he's definitely capable of taking that next step."
Someone will give Kentavious Caldwell-Pope an overpriced offer sheet this offseason. Maybe it'll be max money. Maybe it'll fall just shy. Either way, the Detroit Pistons will have to decide whether to match and retain their best two-way player, as well as their best prospect.
Remember: Caldwell-Pope isn't a star yet.
He's too inconsistent on the offensive end, even if he's showing significant growth as an off-the-bounce player and a three-point shooter. He's also prone to defensive lapses, though head coach Stan Van Gundy has called him the team's best perimeter stopper, per Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.
Caldwell-Pope's free-agency stock has risen so high because of what he's going to become. The necessary drive is there, and we've already witnessed plenty of two-way improvement during his post-Georgia career. Every once in a while, he'll put together a show-stopping performance that overshadows all the tepid outings, and those should only come more frequently as his development continues.
12. Jeff Teague, PG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 15.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.4 blocks
Jeff Teague probably won't make an All-Star Game again, but that doesn't mean he'll do anything other than play at a high level for the duration of his next contract. The waterbug of a point guard remains an active presence on both ends, pestering ball-handlers with his quick hands while diving into the teeth of a defense with remarkable frequency.
The Indiana Pacers fully unleashed Teague during the 2016-17 season, and they couldn't be displeased with the results. Even if his presence didn't lead to much postseason success, he was tremendous as an individual, racking up points and assists in efficient fashion. Whether he was driving and kicking or bursting around a pick-and-roll for a floater, he was able to produce.
Granted, there was an adjustment period. But Teague recovered nicely from the early-season struggles, as Mark Montieth detailed for Pacers.com:
"It took him awhile to grow comfortable with playing for his hometown team, but not long. He hit just 15-of-61 shots in the first five games, including 2-of-18 3-pointers, but then returned to his career norms, and beyond. Although his final 3-point percentage (.357) was virtually identical to his career norm, it was a drop-off from the previous season when he hit 40 percent. He hit 38 percent over his final 77 regular season games, however, and, again, 53 percent in the playoffs."
Teague should keep producing at the same level, regardless of whether he stays with the Pacers or moves on to a new location as an unrestricted free agent. He's now proved to be far more than a product of head coach Mike Budenholzer's schemes with the Atlanta Hawks.
11. Danilo Gallinari, SF/PF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 18.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.2 blocks
To continue playing at such a high level, Danilo Gallinari will have to begin adjusting. Not because he's dealt with too many injuries—those certainly haven't helped—but because age is taking away a bit of his quickness.
The Italian forward no longer has the foot speed to stick with twitchy small forwards on a consistent basis, and he's at his best when squaring up against opposing 4s. The Denver Nuggets steered into this nicely throughout 2016-17, and there's no reason for Gallinari to go back to his previous position as older age continues to creep up on him.
But his offense is also concerning.
Gallinari's game is predicated not just upon his shotmaking ability, but his tendency to reach the free-throw stripe for easy buckets. Though his .516 free-throw rate this past season was tremendous, it can't touch his 2015-16 mark (.617). If that continues to decline, even through simple regression to his career average (.454), he'll lose some of his scoring value and be asked to continue the transition to a spot-up role at the 4.
The 28-year-old should have a few more seasons of high-quality two-way play left in the tank, but a long-term contract will be a gamble on the back end.
10. George Hill, PG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 16.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.2 blocks
When George Hill is healthy, he's one of the league's best point guards.
He proved that throughout his first season with the Utah Jazz whenever he was able to play at 100 percent. He was a lockdown defender who could prevent dribble penetration or shepherd his marks toward Rudy Gobert, and he also shot the lights out. While averaging 16.9 points and 4.1 assists, he connected on 47.7 percent of his field-goal attempts, 40.3 percent of his treys and 80.1 percent of his charity tries.
But how often was he actually healthy?
That's the biggest concern for Hill, who was limited to just 49 appearances while fighting through—deep breath—a sprained right thumb, a sprained left big toe (that flared up multiple times throughout the year), a concussion and a strained groin. The toe also prevented him from suiting up in more than eight playoff games.
Hill is already 31 years old, so imagining that he'll play at his peak level for another three years already requires some suspension of disbelief. But given his injury history, it's even more likely that a decline is anything other than imminent.
He should play at a higher level than the next two players in this countdown for 2017. But beyond that?
9. Jrue Holiday, PG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 15.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.6 blocks
Speaking of injuries...
Jrue Holiday played in 67 games during the 2016-17 campaign, and that was a new high-water mark since his All-Star go-round back in 2012-13. During the three seasons prior, he was held to 34, 40 and 65 contests.
This time around, turf toe was the primary injury. His absence at the beginning of the year can't and won't be held against him; he was missing time in support of his pregnant wife, who underwent brain surgery to remove a tumor. But the toe issue still builds upon the ever-growing list of injuries that have plagued Holiday in recent years.
When he's at full strength, he's a dynamic two-way talent. Few players are better on-ball defenders out of the backcourt, and Holiday's dual ability to score and distribute makes him a distinct offensive threat for the New Orleans Pelicans.
But even if he's only 26 years old, how much longer can he play at peak levels? Betting on him to stay healthy for a significant stretch of the season is a tall order, and those concerns will only multiply as he continues the ceaseless march toward his 30th birthday.
8. Otto Porter Jr., SF, Restricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks
Players who are good at everything can be quite valuable. Even if they're not great at anything, a dearth of significant weaknesses makes them appealing assets.
In the past, Otto Porter Jr. fit this bill. He could do everything at a moderate level, whether he was locking down an opposing small forward or spotting up on the perimeter. Ask him to do one thing too much, and he struggled. But it's not like he was a glaring liability in a singular area.
Then, he used the 2016-17 season to evolve.
Porter remains a solid across-the-board contributor. But he also developed into one of the league's deadliest spot-up shooters.
The 24-year-old Georgetown product produced 1.31 points per possession as a standstill marksman for the Washington Wizards, which left him in the 97th percentile. Those plays accounted for 34 percent of his offensive possessions, which puts him in unique territory. Of the 73 players who suited up in at least 50 games and used spot-ups for no fewer than 30 percent of their offense, these are the top five finishers in points per possession:
- C.J. Miles, 1.34
- Otto Porter Jr., 1.31
- Jason Terry, 1.3
- Channing Frye, 1.27
- Allen Crabbe, 1.23
Porter is no longer just "good" in every area. He's nothing short of "great" in this one.
7. Paul Millsap, PF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 18.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.9 blocks
Paul Millsap's game should age well, but it still makes sense for him to opt out of his contract with the Atlanta Hawks and pursue one more long-term deal before he hits 33. Security is more valuable than the up-front cash, even if the power forward believes he can keep performing at a high level.
And he should have that type of belief.
Millsap's game isn't solely tied to athleticism, even if he can use his hops and quickness to torment defenders. He's a savvy player who understands how to read passing lanes on defense, and he always seems to fool defenders with a quick pump and then quicker first step to the basket. But his primary skill remains his versatility, since he can typically fill any role asked of him by head coach Mike Budenholzer.
Should he return to the Hawks, he'll continue to be the heart and soul of the franchise. The schemes are built around his abilities, and they'll need to drastically shift if he departs.
But if he does leave, he's malleable enough to blend in anywhere. He could assume a defensive role with the Toronto Raptors (in the unlikely event they drum up cap space), complement Nikola Jokic nicely on the Denver Nuggets or become an offensive centerpiece for the Miami Heat.
Wherever he goes, his game will work for a while longer.
6. Kyle Lowry, PG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 22.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.3 blocks
It's highly unlikely that Kyle Lowry will continue to play at an All-NBA level as he moves deeper into his 30s. As Frank Urbina detailed for NBA Math while looking at the age of All-NBA guards in the last decade, there's a significant drop-off at 31:
"Guys who were at least 31 years old took just 11 of 60 potential spots (18.3 percent). Kobe Bryant, a pantheon-level shooting guard, accounted for four of those instances. And of the six relevant players, four either have an MVP trophy, a Finals MVP trophy or both to their name, with future Hall of Famers Chris Paul and Manu Ginobili serving as the final two.
Lowry, no matter how fun he is to watch or how much he’s improved later in his career, is simply nowhere near that level."
But there's no reason he can't still be "just" an All-Star.
Lowry's defense will slowly erode as Father Time does his thing, but his pull-up triples and well-rounded offensive contributions preserve his value. Whether he's with the Toronto Raptors or another organization, he should prosper as an indispensable piece at arguably the league's most important position.
And in case anyone is confused, it was Lowry, not DeMar DeRozan, who was indispensable this past season. Toronto's net rating dipped by 8.6 points per 100 possessions without Lowry; it improved by 4.7 without DeRozan.
5. Gordon Hayward, SF, Unrestricted
- Gordon Hayward, 22
- Jimmy Butler, 21
- Giannis Antetokounmpo, 15
- LeBron James, 13
- Andrew Wiggins, 11
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.3 blocks
Fun fact: Did you know Gordon Hayward was one of the league's premier alley-oop finishers in 2016-17?
That's a role typically reserved for hulking big men such as DeAndre Jordan or Hassan Whiteside. Long and uber-athletic forwards like LeBron James and Kevin Durant are usually on the receiving end of those feeds as well. Hayward has never fallen into either of those categories.
And yet, he had 22 alley-oop flushes last year, which puts him at No. 21 in the league, per NBA Savant. Just look at how he fared when stacked up against other players who logged the majority of their minutes at either point guard, shooting guard or small forward:
Hayward isn't just disarmingly athletic; he also possesses great instincts that allow him to wait for the opportune moments, luring defenders to sleep and then bursting to the hoop with a quick first step.
And while this isn't the biggest part of his game, it's representative of his overall progress. Hayward is learning how to maximize his physical gifts, which has helped him turn into a bona fide All-Star who's only going to keep getting better.
4. Blake Griffin, PF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 21.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.4 blocks
If you view Blake Griffin as a disappointment, I humbly request that you change your mind.
The power forward's career hasn't gone quite as expected since he burst onto the scene as a rookie phenom and kept posterizing the daylight out of Timofey Mozgov and other bigs. He's dealt with countless injuries, and he hasn't been able to steer the Los Angeles Clippers deep into the Western Conference playoffs.
But that doesn't make him a disappointment.
The 28-year-old has consistently improved his game, to the point that he's become one of the most unique players in the league. Not only does he finish plays in the post (awkward as his moves may seem) and drain mid-range jumpers to keep defenders honest, but he's also developed into a tremendous facilitator who fills a point forward role whenever his starting floor general needs a quick breather.
Griffin now has three consecutive seasons in which he's averaged at least 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists. During the last three years, only Giannis Antetokounmpo, Carmelo Anthony, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Durant, James Harden, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook have also joined that club, and only he and Westbrook have met the marks three times.
Players like Griffin don't grow on trees, and he's unequivocally demonstrated he has more than enough skill to mitigate the negative trends that will begin when his athleticism eventually starts to decline.
3. Chris Paul, PG, Early-Termination Option
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 18.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 9.2 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.1 blocks
Point guards are supposed to decline after celebrating their 31st birthdays.
But Chris Paul isn't normal.
Even if another playoff defeat is an unpleasant aftertaste to his regular-season dominance, the league's resident point god proved yet again he isn't willing to go down easily. He just keeps thriving in every facet of the game, whether he's racking up steals with his quick hands or showcasing his pinpoint passing accuracy without ever coughing up the rock.
That 7.92 RPM, per ESPN.com, doesn't just lead all point guards; it trailed only the mark produced by LeBron James throughout the entire Association. Breaking it down into its components makes Paul's score even more impressive, since he finished Nos. 7 and 22 in the offensive and defensive portions, respectively. He also doesn't lose luster when shifting to another metric, as he ranked No. 10 in NBA Math's TPA despite playing the 124th-most minutes.
He has at least a few more dominant seasons left, and even a slight decline would make him one of the league's 10 best point guards.
And that's if he ever trends in the wrong direction. Right now, we have no indications he will.
Update: Paul opted into his contract and was subsequently dealt to the Houston Rockets, per The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.
2. Stephen Curry, PG, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 25.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.2 blocks
Some players are locks to decline drastically as their age advances. Some are likely to fight off Father Time for a while, relying on skills that don't necessarily depend upon extreme athleticism.
And then there's Stephen Curry.
Even as he draws closer to his 30th birthday—make sure you send him cards next March—there doesn't seem to be any risk of a drop-off. He's the best shooter in NBA history, and it's not like smothering him with extra defensive attention slows down the three-point barrages. When you're perfectly comfortable hitting triples with hands in your face, the style of defense is virtually irrelevant.
Sure, Curry might play worse defense as he ages. Despite his reputation, he's a league-average stopper who makes up for his athletic limitations with quick hands and a strong understanding of the Golden State Warriors' schemes. He might also stop racking up assists and finishing plays around the hoop.
But given what we've seen from him as a shooter, is there any doubt he can average a ridiculously efficient 20 points deep into his 30s? Until that changes, the Warriors should have no reservations about handing him any contract he requests.
1. Kevin Durant, SF, Unrestricted
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 25.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.6 blocks
Six months makes some difference, but that's not the only reason for the slight edge Kevin Durant possesses over his teammate. Though he's marginally younger, this is about the way they play.
At the moment, you can make a case that either Durant or Stephen Curry is the best player on the Golden State Warriors. That will likely remain true in 2017-18, and it could in 2018-19 as well.
But three and four years into the future, Durant should have a slight edge.
He's the more well-rounded player, able to contribute as an elite offensive threat and a defensive ace who can shut down dynamic guards, physical forwards and post-bound bigs on back-to-back-to-back possessions. Even if one of his skills fades away, he can change his style of play to maximize the enduring talents, allowing him to fit with a wide variety of teammates and overarching systems. Curry can't claim the same, because he won't be quite the same player if—and that's a massive if—his shooting doesn't sit at the same godly level at which it currently rests.
Ultimately, though, it wouldn't be surprising if Durant fell below Curry in a retroactive set of rankings done four years into the future. What would be shocking, however, is if any other players took over the top two spots.
Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter:@fromal09.