Building Every NBA Team's Free-Agency Whiteboard Ahead of Offseason

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 1, 2018

Building Every NBA Team's Free-Agency Whiteboard Ahead of Offseason

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    For most NBA free-agency shoppers, there's a difference between the ideal additions and the actual haul.

    Since multiple teams are often pursuing the same players, contingency plans become necessities. Signings can come fast and furious as soon as the market opens, so clubs must be ready to pivot from Plan A to Plans B, C and beyond.

    Luckily, we're here to help.

    Rather than just pegging a top option for every team, we're extending the logical shopping lists. These trusty whiteboards will walk through every club's first, second and third priorities based on spending power and team needs for the upcoming free-agency frenzy.

Atlanta Hawks

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Plan A: Jabari Parker

    If the Hawks splurge on a big-ticket item, they should do it for a player like Parker. At 23 years old, he'd fit the timeline of John Collins, Taurean Prince and the upcoming No. 3 pick. Parker could also be the rare restricted free agent available at a discount, since he's twice torn his ACL and his current employer already has five eight-figure salaries on the books.

    Parker is a 49 percent shooter for his career and was a 20-points-per-night scorer in 2016-17. He has offensive-centerpiece potential, which should especially entice the Hawks if they move on from leading scorer Dennis Schroder.


    Plan B: Dante Exum

    Whether Schroder stays or goes, the Hawks need more depth at point guard. Isaiah Taylor is the only other floor general on the depth chart, and he's a 41.3 percent shooter who doesn't have a guaranteed contract for 2018-19.

    That's reason enough to take a long look at Exum, the fifth overall pick in 2014. Injuries have plagued the early portion of his career (166 games missed the last three seasons), but he still possesses an intriguing combo of length and athleticism. If he could develop into a starter, Atlanta would blanket opponents with long limbs all across the perimeter.


    Plan C: Mario Hezonja

    Hezonja, the fifth pick in 2015, could fill a void at combo forward and perhaps eventually provide both athleticism and spacing. He once looked like a candidate for both the dunk and three-point contests. He's also coming off his strongest season to date and is already an established source of versatility (10-plus percent of career minutes at three different positions).

Boston Celtics

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    Plan A: Marcus Smart

    Forget about Smart's anemic shooting marks—he played as critical a role as anyone in this season's stingiest defense. Boston yielded 3.6 fewer points per 100 possessions with him than without.

    Tack on the emotional lift he provides, and that's enough to convince him he's staying around.

    "I'm here," Smart said, per's Tom Westerholm. "They're already planning for me to be here."

    The Celtics should want him back. The only question is whether they'll be able to afford him. The restricted free agent recently told's Jackie MacMullan he's "worth more than $12-14 million," a number that would seemingly blow past Boston's budget.


    Plan B: Aron Baynes

    If there isn't enough money for Smart, then Baynes becomes the next logical choice. The bruising center had one of the club's widest on/off splits (plus-6.9 net rating with him, plus-1.8 without) and provided an active presence at the rim with 10.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per 36 minutes.

    He flashed a capable three ball in the postseason (11 makes at a 47.8 percent clip), which only increased his value. As long as he's still in the Shamrocks' price range, he'd make sense to keep around.


    Plan C: Jarrett Jack

    Boston needs point guard insurance. It looks like this club has two capable starting lead guards in Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier, making the latter a logical trade candidate with restricted free agency awaiting him after next season. Even if both are kept, there's still a void created by Shane Larkin's free agency.

    Why shouldn't this spot just go to Larkin? Because the veteran Jack looks like the sturdier option. He's been a better shooter from every level for his career, and his bigger build makes him easier to play alongside other point guards.

Brooklyn Nets

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Plan A: Aaron Gordon

    The Nets don't have the flexibility to throw max money at Gordon, but offering something in the $15 million annual salary range could be an interesting experiment. Could he find more lucrative offers elsewhere? It's possible, but money is tight almost league-wide. Would Orlando automatically match it? You'd think, but then again, this isn't the front office that brought him onboard.

    Gordon fits a lot of what Brooklyn needs at the 4 spot, especially if he can rediscover whatever it was that allowed him to bury 41.3 percent of his triples from October to December. He's an elite athlete, and he'd give the Nets a lot of switchability on defense alongside the likes of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie.


    Plan B: Joe Harris

    Harris probably had the best season that virtually no one noticed. His career-best 41.9 three-point percentage included an almost automatic conversion rate of 46.7 percent after the calendar changed. Not to mention he was the Association's top finisher among players who attempted at least 200 drives with a scorching 62.7 percent shooting mark.'s Zach Lowe reported in February the Nets "view Harris as a potential core player going forward." Given how much time it took the 26-year-old Harris to get his NBA career rolling—he played 56 games his first two seasons combined—Brooklyn might value his play more than that of any potential suitor.


    Plan C: Alex Len

    Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson loves testing a player's limits. Brook Lopez seldom sniffed the three-point arc before entering Atkinson's system and launching more than five triples per game during his lone season in it. Tyler Zeller spent just 10.3 percent of his NBA career under Atkinson, but the stretch accounted for 76.5 percent of his career three-point attempts.

    Maybe Atkinson can work his magic on Len, too. The 2013 No. 5 pick saw his minutes trimmed by the Suns each of the last two seasons, despite averaging a per-36-minute double-double each of the last four campaigns. It's hard to imagine Len costing much in this cash-strapped, center-clogged market, making him an interesting buy-low option for a club with only Jarrett Allen and Timofey Mozgov in its center rotation.

Charlotte Hornets

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Plan A: Fred VanVleet

    Charlotte enters this offseason with the flexibility of flight tickets. Free agency basically offers one option to improve—the taxpayer mid-level exception—and it, like rebooking fees, carries a steep financial price.

    But if the Hornets bite the bullet and go external shopping, they must find a more reliable option behind Kemba Walker than Michael Carter-Williams. VanVleet, a Sixth Man of the Year finalist, could be that trusted reserve—or perhaps Walker's replacement if Charlotte's revamped front office ships out its most decorated player.

    VanVleet seems an optimistic target as a restricted free agent who shot 41.4 percent from distance and more than tripled his turnovers (1.0) with assists (3.2). But if the Raptors are hesitant to spend big with two other point guards on the roster, maybe the Hornets can sneak VanVleet into their shopping cart and race for the express lane.


    Plan B: Treveon Graham

    Bright spots were hard to find on Charlotte's second unit, but Graham found a way to stand out during his sophomore season. He played three different positions, converted 41.2 percent of his threes and earned the trust of a team that only extended him 189 minutes just one season ago.

    Now, the 24-year-old could be positioned to fetch a higher offer than the penny-counting Hornets are willing to match. But if he fits the budget, he checks off boxes for versatility and outside shooting.


    Plan C: Shane Larkin

    If VanVleet proves too rich for the Hornets' blood, pivoting to the less expensive Larkin might make some sense. His career numbers don't jump off the page, but he's shown flashes of explosiveness and shot-making.

Chicago Bulls

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Plan A: Zach LaVine

    Last summer, the Bulls made LaVine a centerpiece of their return package for in-prime All-Star Jimmy Butler. That says everything you need to know about how Chicago will treat LaVine's foray into restricted free agency, even if negotiations get a little messy.

    "We obviously value Zach a lot, and we think he's a part of our future," Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said, per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, "but he has the opportunity to explore things."

    It's a smart ploy on Chicago's part that could save some coin going forward. LaVine will still ink a big deal—he was one of 15 players to average 18 points, three assists and two triples in 2016-17—but it might not be the bank-busting variety. He shot a career-worst 38.3 percent in the 24 games he played during his return from a torn ACL.


    Plan B: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

    The Bulls need a two-way wing to bring their improving nucleus together. Caldwell-Pope is among the top non-star wings on this market, and at 25 years old, he's close enough to the career schedules of Kris Dunn (24), LaVine (23) and Lauri Markkanen (21) to fit this core.

    Caldwell-Pope just had his best campaign as an overall shooter (42.6 percent), an outside marksman (38.3) and a rebounder (5.2). His relentless end-to-end activity would also be a boon for the Bulls' 28th-ranked defense.


    Plan C: David Nwaba

    At this point, you might be wondering about the whereabouts of Windy City native and Simeon High product Jabari Parker. Meanwhile, we're suggesting the Bulls plot a different path forward, since Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis already operate as scoring 4s.

    Nwaba, though, has a niche as one of the lone stoppers on the league's third-worst defense. He's athletic and energetic and plays with the desperation of someone who debuted as a 24-year-old G League call-up. He might always have offensive limitations (19-of-57 from three over his first two seasons), but he'll provide value more often than not.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    Plan A: LeBron James

    You might as well call this Plans A through Z. This is the second time the Cavs have employed this generation's best player, and, like before, they'd be devastated if he left.

    "If James is not here next season, sources said, [Cavs owner Dan] Gilbert will not want to pay anything in tax penalties,"'s Joe Vardon reported. "In that case—a James departure via free agency—the Cavs may strip down and start over."

    The first time James walked, Cleveland nosedived from 61 wins to 19. This collapse could be worse. Those Cavs weren't annual finalists like LeBron has made this version. And if you're talking about James bolting and then taking a hatchet to what's left, Cleveland could go from the Finals to the top half of the lottery in a single season.


    Plan B: Jeff Green

    For sanity's sake, let's assume James stays—then Cleveland should do what it can to ensure Green does, too.

    He's far from perfect and sometimes serves as the NBA's model of inconsistency. But his good nights are potent enough to make him look like James' best teammate (perhaps a reason for LeBron to bolt?), and Green's combination of size and athleticism can give a different dimension to this frontcourt.

    Green played this summer for the veteran's minimum. If that's an option again, he's worth the investment.


    Plan C: Ersan Ilyasova

    It should feel jarring for Rodney Hood not to be in this spot (or the one above it, for that matter). But it's hard to paint the restricted free agent as a future helper when he's presently banished from the playoff rotation.

    Ilyasova, though, could provide an instant lift. He'd fit the frontcourt-spacer role once occupied by Channing Frye, only Ilyasova also offers more athleticism and mobility.

Dallas Mavericks

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    Plan A: DeMarcus Cousins

    The last time the Mavericks were relevant they had Tyson Chandler manning the middle. Cousins is skilled in a way Chandler could never fathom.

    "He's an unbelievable player," Dirk Nowitzki said of Cousins, per Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. "Probably the best center we have in this league, or one of them. He's a load down there. ... He's one of the toughest players to guard and he can pass, too, out of the double-teams. He's a pretty complete player."

    Cousins is also coming off a ruptured Achilles, which not only casts a cloud over his future but potentially warps his market in free agency.

    The Mavs should see how this plays out.

    They haven't abandoned hopes of competing during Nowitzki's twilight, so their roster already boasts a good number of complementary role players. If Cousins can approach his pre-injury form—25.9 points, 11.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists over the past four seasons—he's one of the only free agents who could potentially get them back to the postseason and the only one who might come at a discount.


    Plan B: Clint Capela

    If Dallas doesn't think big on draft night, it could try filling its center void by swiping the starting center of a fellow Lone Star State resident.

    Remember when Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson dubbed Nerlens Noel "a Tyson starter kit," per Adam Grosbard of the Dallas Morning News? Well, Capela is much further along in the Tyson Chandler cloning process, already delivering rim protection, lob finishing and enough lateral quickness to survive perimeter switches.

    It's tough to tell if there's a magic number for an offer sheet that Houston wouldn't match, but what's the harm in Dallas finding out? If the Mavs aren't enamored with other free agents, they shouldn't miss out on much during the waiting period on Capela's offer.


    Plan C: Julius Randle

    Dallas' possible interest in Randle involves more than his Plano, Texas, roots. He'd also be an intriguing addition to their frontcourt, perhaps serving as both Nowitzki's frontcourt partner for the near future and then assuming the starting center gig as a small-ball 5.

    It'll be worrisome for whichever club throws major money at Randle, since he's neither a shot-blocker nor a floor-spacer. That said, there aren't many players his size who can create offense and defend multiple spots the way he does. His offensive versatility could make him a potent screening partner for Dennis Smith Jr., while a Randle-Harrison Barnes frontcourt sounds like it could cover a ton of real estate defensively. 

Denver Nuggets

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Plan A: Nikola Jokic

    The Nuggets have a $1.6 million team option on Jokic for 2018-19, which sounds like an absurd luxury for someone with building-block production (18.5 points, 10.7 rebounds, 6.1 assists). But the number is misleading. Should Denver exercise the option, it would send the ultra-skilled big man to unrestricted free agency next summer. Decline it, and he'll become a restricted free agent this offseason instead.

    No debate is needed to determine the next logical step.

    "The sooner we can get his signature on a long-term contract, the better," Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said, per Gina Mizell of the Denver Post.

    Jokic is the transcendent talent this organization had lacked since Carmelo Anthony's forced departure. Jokic does everything on the offensive end, serving as the fulcrum for what's been a top-six attack this season and last. Giving him all the money as soon as possible is the only way to go.


    Plan B: Will Barton OR Tyreke Evans

    Forgive us for cheating, but this probably comes down to economics. Both Barton and Evans can fill critical roles as second-team creators and outside shooters. It's just a matter of which will do it for cheaper, since Denver would already be well over the cap with a new deal for Jokic and player options likely picked up by Wilson Chandler and Darrell Arthur.

    Evans is more of a recognizable name (2009-10 Rookie of the Year) and has also produced bigger stat lines. But Barton is younger and hasn't had the recent health problems Evans has encountered (129 absences the past three seasons). This could go either way, just expect Denver to opt for the road less expensive.


    Plan C: Torrey Craig

    Playing on a two-way pact, Craig emerged as Denver's top stopper—which is a more flattering label than one might assume. (The Nuggets had the Association's fifth-worst defense.) Bolstered by length, quickness, athleticism and perhaps desperation, the 27-year-old stonewalled some of the NBA's premier perimeter scorers.

    His ability to juggle multiple assignments could make him an intriguing target for defensive-minded shoppers, but the fact that he's restricted and a 29.3 percent three-point shooter should make his next deal come in at a reasonable rate.

Detroit Pistons

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Plan A: Anthony Tolliver

    The scarcity of spacing in the Motor City is alarming. Andre Drummond has made five threes in six seasons, while Blake Griffin has converted just 32.4 percent of his career attempts. And that's, unfortunately, a higher mark than those of point guard Reggie Jackson (32.0) and swingman Stanley Johnson (29.5).

    That has to put a reunion with Tolliver atop Detroit's summer to-do list.

    The 6'8" forward paced the team with 159 triples. His 43.6 perimeter percentage tied for sixth among qualified snipers. There might not be another notable aspect of his game, but this one is critical—the threat of his long ball could be key in keeping the offensive airways open for Jackson, Griffin and Drummond.


    Plan B: Mario Hezonja

    Admittedly, this only works if Hezonja slips into the bargain bin. But perhaps that's possible when his player efficiency rating after three seasons is 10.7. And, he's supposed to be a shooter but only holds a career 33.2 percentage from range.

    His market value isn't where it was on draft night 2015, but is it deflated to the point that dollar-counting Detroit can afford him? Who knows. But that's for the Pistons to find out, since there aren't many upside options to potentially assist with their small forward and perimeter shooting voids.


    Plan C: Glenn Robinson III

    Is it possible for the words three-and-D and bargain to appear in the same sentence when discussing free agency in the modern NBA? It's a long shot, but maybe it could happen with Robinson.

    Despite owning a career 38.1 three-point percentage, he'll get dinged for never being a volume shooter. He's also coming off a campaign in which he didn't debut until after the All-Star break (ankle surgery) and only shot 42.4 percent overall once he did. Still, his two-way potential should appeal to the wing-starved Pistons.

Golden State Warriors

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Plan A: Kevin Durant

    No need to overanalyze what already sounds like a done deal. The former MVP and reigning Finals MVP previously told The Athletic's Anthony Slater he's 100 percent sure he'll return to the Warriors.

    "I'm not even thinking about that," Durant told Slater. "I'm here. I'm here."

    Durant plans to decline his $26.2 million player option but only to work out a new pact with the Warriors, sources told's Chris Haynes. The only interesting angle here is whether Durant will accept a discounted deal for the second straight summer.


    Plan B: Wayne Ellington

    Is this overly optimistic? Perhaps. Ellington just knocked down 227 triples at a 39.2 percent clip. Both of those numbers could sell themselves at a substantial price.

    But could the 30-year-old consider snatching up the mid-level exception to go ring chasing? While he's younger than most jewelry hunters, he also has more seasons (nine) than playoff games (seven) under his belt. Not to mention, there's a surprisingly sizable opening for a designated shooter, so Ellington could play a prominent role in his first championship chase.


    Plan C: Kevon Looney

    Who would've guessed this in October? The Dubs declined his fourth-year option and seemingly exiled him to the back of their big man rotation. Nixing his option not only routed him to unrestricted free agency, but it also prevented the Dubs from being able to bring him back for more than the declined option of $2.2 million, per The Athletic's Danny Leroux.

    If that's enough to satisfy Looney, the Warriors should be glad to pay it. He's their youngest big man bound for free agency and by far the most useful of the lot in these playoffs for his mobility and defensive versatility. He's already providing value as a specialist, and the 22-year-old's past suggests he might have more to offer in terms of face-up skills, distributing and jump shooting.

Houston Rockets

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    Plan A: Chris Paul

    Last summer's acquisition of Paul launched the Rockets into full-fledged contention. Both sides should be eager to make this more than a one-year commitment.

    "League sources consider it a mere formality that he re-ups with the Rockets, though, and one executive suggested the two sides have probably already settled on the general terms of a new deal," Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher wrote.

    Paul is already part of Houston's bulldozing foundation along with James Harden and Mike D'Antoni. That troika, which was just responsible for a franchise-record win total and one of the most efficient offensive performances ever, will make Space City a destination for anyone.


    Plan B: LeBron James

    It's incredible to think the Rockets could be in the running for James when they don't seem to have any money. But the King's banana boat buddy gives them a potential in—Paul's recruitment has already started, according to the New York Times' Marc Stein—and general manager Daryl Morey's creativity could give them a way to get this done.

    It would just require a ton of cuts to be made first, as Bucher explained:

    "The Rockets would have cap holds on or have to renounce a variety of soon-to-be free agents who were instrumental in helping them to a league-best 65 wins and pushing the Warriors to a full seven games in the Western Conference Finals. They include Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute. They most likely would have to move a couple of players already under contract as well."

    One executive told Bucher that Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson would both have to be sacrificed to make this work.

    That's a ton of movement, and it makes you wonder what Houston would even have left.

    Then again—James. Harden. Paul. You have to go full-force toward making that happen, right? 


    Plan C: Clint Capela

    Back in November, D'Antoni said he'd be "shocked" if Capela didn't become an elite center or even the NBA's best, per's Tim MacMahon. In the same piece, Morey said that Capela "couldn't price himself out" as a restricted free agent.

    That makes it sound like Capela should be regarded as more than a Plan C, even if the names above say this isn't a typical Plan C.

    But a quote surfaced after Game 7 that made Houston's priorities clear.

    "Gotta sign Chris," Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta said, per Lainie Fritz of KPRC 2 Houston, "want to keep Clint."

    Maybe that's just the realization that a dream summer for Houston would demand sacrifices. That said, losing Capela would be a tough blow. He's perhaps the ideal non-shooting center in this system, as he's an athletic rim-runner who protects the paint, defends away from the basket, crushes lobs and devours boards.

Indiana Pacers

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    Plan A: Tyreke Evans

    Indiana found stability from only one of its wing reserves—Lance Stephenson. And his was only a reliability in role (22.6 minutes per game, all 82 appearances), not in practice. He shot 42.7 percent from the field and 28.9 percent from range. There were eight different times in which he followed up a double-digit performance by scoring five points or fewer.

    This bench needs more scoring than Domantas Sabonis and Cory Joseph can supply. Evans could immediately move into its focal role while possibly serving as its top scorer, shooter and distributor.

    It's possible that, when healthy, he still has a chance to be special (or something close to that). He was one of eight players to average at least 19 points, five assists and five rebounds. The other seven have 50 All-Star selections between them.


    Plan B: Avery Bradley

    You'd be forgiven for thinking teams would trip over themselves to sign a 27-year-old who's been an all-league defender and a high-volume, 39 percent three-point shooter. But it's hard to imagine that scenario playing out for Bradley, whose earnings will be squeezed both by a depleted market and the fact that he's coming off an injury-riddled campaign.

    The Pacers, though, should see this as a brilliant buy-low opportunity—especially if they can't snare Evans. Bradley can't lead an offensive unit, but he can set a relentless defensive tone and contribute the other way as a hard cutter and catch-and-shoot gunner (39.6 percent this season).


    Plan C: Wayne Ellington

    Ellington doesn't have the offensive portfolio of Evans or Bradley, but he's the surest shooter of the bunch. Only five players made more threes than Ellington's 227—a record-setting number for both an NBA reserve and a member of the Heat.

    While Indiana was a top-10 shooting team by percentage, it tied for 25th in makes (nine per game). The second unit was particularly punchless from the perimeter, ranking 29th among reserve units with 2.4 threes per game—0.5 less than Ellington provided on his own off Miami's bench.

Los Angeles Clippers

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    Plan A: Avery Bradley

    Don't be fooled by the exits of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford—the Clippers aren't tearing themselves down to the studs. They made that clear at the deadline by extending Lou Williams and retaining Bradley and DeAndre Jordan (who might not find close to his $24.1 million player option on the open market) and then doubled-down by extending Doc Rivers.

    L.A. wants to be competitive—or at least wants to see if this core can compete, since injuries kept it from coming together last season. Keeping Bradley would be a smart step in that direction, and it's something the organization wants to do, according to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times.

    Simply pairing Bradley with Patrick Beverley could launch L.A. forward from a tie for 19th in defensive efficiency. Bradley's spot-up skills would also allow him to make work alongside any of the Clippers' more ball-dominant guards.


    Plan B: James Ennis

    Even amid a multitude of injuries and a swirl of moving parts, L.A. tied for eighth in offensive efficiency. It is ready on that end of the floor.

    The defense is another question and a tough one to solve on a limited budget. But Ennis and his 11.7 PER shouldn't drain anyone's dollars. What he could do, though, is slot in as an athletic, multi-positional defender and add some extra verve to what's already a top-10 transition attack.


    Plan C: Montrezl Harrell

    When Harrell gets an opportunity, he produces. That's been true each of his three seasons in the league, but he hammered the point home in what become a breakout campaign as he erupted for 23.3 points per 36 minutes while shooting above 63 percent for the third straight year.

    He's still mostly a hustler, but he won't get outworked. The Clippers have the option of matching any offer he receives and are interested in bringing him back, per Turner.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    Plan A: LeBron James

    It's hard to tell how close the Lakers (or any of his other suitors) are to landing James this summer. For what it's worth, Vegas gives the purple and gold the fourth-best odds of employing him next season (plus-550, per OddsShark).

    Could this be nothing more than an ill-fated Hollywood dream?

    On the one hand, it's hard to argue the 47-loss Lakers would be his best basketball situation, especially when they'd force him to leave the friendly confines of the East. On the other hand, Magic Johnson (!) and friends can make a pretty epic pitch—storied franchise; star-studded market; a second max slot for a hand-picked running mate; improving roster of young, cheap talent.

    James would give the Lakers the relevance they've frantically been searching for since Kobe Bryant faded out of stardom and into retirement. Plus, James' savvy and skill set would both serve as accelerators for the development of L.A.'s prospects.


    Plan B: Paul George

    This is as straightforward as it gets. The Lakers have paid a $500,000 fine because their interest in Paul—a Palmdale, California, native—has been too transparent.

    Anyone with interest in competing and money to spend should be looking at George. He's a three-time All-Defensive team selection who's also averaged 21-plus points his last four healthy seasons and connected on 37.6 percent of his career long-range looks.

    He probably isn't the best player on a great team—although some portions of his Indiana tenure might argue that—but he'd be an ideal second option. He'd make all kinds of sense for the Lakers, with or without James.


    Plan C: Julius Randle

    Randle and his agent aren't going to like hearing this, but yes, he will be on the Lakers' back burner to start free agency. That's not a knock on Randle, just the realization that he's not LeBron or Paul George.

    If the Lakers can't bring their coveted couple together, Randle is worth buying into. He's made dramatic strides each of the last two seasons, during which he's been one of seven players with per-36-minute averages of 15 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.

    His scoring, shooting and PER have improved each year he's been in the league, a trend that suggests he'd be a valuable member of this young nucleus going forward.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    Plan A: Tyreke Evans

    A robust trade market couldn't pry Evans away from Beale Street. At this point, free agency should be the same.

    Memphis' inactivity at the deadline foreshadowed likely summer spending. And really, why wouldn't the Grizzlies want to see whether Evans' resurgence is for real? Abysmal as they were last season (22-60), this is still a team committed to the present. The 29-and-over trio of Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons alone will cost $78.7 million next season.

    And who knows, maybe healthy years from all three—or at least healthy-ish for Parsons—gets the Grizzlies back into the Western Conference playoff hunt. If that happens, they'd be glad they kept Evans for his shooting, off-the-bounce creating and ability to blend with both starters and subs.


    Plan B: Wayne Ellington

    Fun fact: Ellington was a one-time Grizzly. But that's not saying much since he's a former lot of things, having worn seven different jerseys over his nine-year career.

    Still, the initial reason for the attraction is the same thing that would put him on Memphis' radar now—his "golden arm" as Heat play-by-play broadcaster Eric Reid likes to call it. And Ellington was only a promising shooter back then (July 2012). Now, he's on a short list of the league's best.

    Only three teams shot a lower percentage from three than Memphis' 35.2. Getting him back would not only goose that number but also should make the offensive end easier for Conley, Gasol and Co. to navigate. Ellington is such a prolific shooter on the move (181 points coming off screens, 12th-highest), he requires constant surveillance by all five defenders. 


    Plan C: Patrick McCaw

    No one was going to mistake this season's Grizzlies with the old grit-and-grinders. Not when Memphis ended the year tied for 22nd in defensive efficiency.

    Ideally, this club would grab someone who could plug holes on the defensive perimeter and space the floor at the other end. Finding that package at a discounted price requires creativity. Say, for instance, pouncing on McCaw after an inconsistent, injury-riddled year and banking on his potential to grow as a shooter.

Miami Heat

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    Plan A: Wayne Ellington

    The Heat are a team of attackers. Only four offenses averaged more than Miami's 47.5 drives per game. Plus, the best offensive use for Bam Adebayo and trade candidate Hassan Whiteside is having them explode to the rim for alley-oops.

    All of the above requires optimal spacing, and Ellington is by far the Heat's best source of it. He not only led the regulars with a 39.2 three-point percentage but also splashed at least 100 more triples than anyone else on the team.

    Ellington wants to stay in South Florida, but the economics are tricky. Unless the Heat shed salaries, they'd have to take a luxury-tax hit to keep him. That's a massive price to pay for a team with one playoff win over the last two seasons.


    Plan B: Dwyane Wade

    It's tempting to regard Wade as Plan A, given his sentimental attachment to the franchise. And not for nothing, he was easily their preferred late-game option once he returned.

    But it's unclear if the 36-year-old wants to continue his career. Not to mention, Miami's wings could crowd quickly if Ellington and Wade return to a rotation that also must make room for a healthy Dion Waiters.

    The Heat would still welcome Wade with open arms if he wants back in. But there are basketball reasons to assume Ellington is the preference.


    Plan C: Nik Stauskas

    There's a possibility Miami opens next season without Ellington or Wade. In that case, someone would need to flesh out the perimeter group, definitely at a discount and hopefully in possession of a serviceable jumper.

    Someone like Stauskas. The former No. 8 pick has struggled to live up to any of his pre-draft billing. But there's a wide enough shooting base (37.5 percent outside the past two seasons) to imagine Erik Spoelstra grooming Stauskas into becoming the Great Value version of Ellington.

Milwaukee Bucks

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    Plan A: Jabari Parker

    There's enough white noise around Parker's restricted free agency that even he has characterized his future with the Bucks as "uncertain," per Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post. But this shouldn't take too much thought.

    Parker, at 23 years old, is the second-best scorer on the Bucks. (He wasn't this season, but his last healthy campaign featured 21.4 points per 36 minutes and 49 percent shooting.) He's the biggest pressure release for fast-rising superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. And with Milwaukee lacking cap space, Parker is essentially irreplaceable if he leaves.

    Parker should be a lock to return, but you don't have to take our word for it.

    "Jabari ain't going nowhere," Antetokounmpo said, per Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "He's going to be here, and he's going to be ready for next season."


    Plan B: Will Barton

    If Milwaukee's midlevel exception could net Barton, it'd be an easy call for Bucks officials to make.

    Their roster needs more shooting, proven by their forgettable finishes in three-point makes (8.8, 27th) and percentage (35.5, tied for 21st). They're also light on serviceable subs and saw their bench rank 27th in both points (27.7) and minutes (16.8) per game.

    Barton is a sparky reserve who can score and space. He deserves a prominent place on their shopping list.


    Plan C: Kyle O'Quinn

    Milwaukee got next to nothing from its big men this past season. Bucks centers ranked 24th in scoring (14.9 points per game) and 26th in rebounding (11). The team, meanwhile, tied for the third-worst rebounding percentage (48.3) and posted a bottom-half defensive efficiency (17th).

    O'Quinn isn't the type of talent who can dramatically improve those numbers, but he'd help. He's averaged at least 14 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks each of the last three seasons per 36 minutes. He's also a savvy passer (3.4 assists per 36 over that stretch) and better equipped to bang underneath than John Henson and Thon Maker.

    The Bucks had interest in trading for O'Quinn at the deadline, per The Athletic's Michael Scotto.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Plan A: Joe Harris

    Shooting and depth are obvious areas of offseason focus for the 'Wolves.

    Their league-worst eight threes per game were nearly doubled by Houston's 15.3. Harris, who only averaged 25.3 minutes, made nearly a quarter of that on his own (1.9). His 41.9 conversion rate is more than six points higher than Minnesota's team average (35.7), and his 49.1 field-goal percentage speaks to a reliability most of the Timberwolves' second-teamers lacked. No bench played fewer minutes or scored fewer points.

    Harris' quick-fire sniping would form a mutually beneficial pairing with Minnesota's wealth of off-the-bounce attackers. Even without the marksmanship, Minnesota finished fifth in offensive efficiency. Modernizing with Harris would give that ranking some upward mobility.


    Plan B: Nemanja Bjelica

    Because the Timberwolves don't have much shooting to spare, they should guard against Bjelica's exit as a restricted free agent.

    He was a wrecking ball when featured, averaging a dozen points and 2.1 threes while hitting 46 percent from range during the 16 games in which he logged at least 30 minutes. On the season, Bjelica was good for two triples per 36 minutes and a 41.5 perimeter success rate. Both marks were second-best in the rotation.

    Head coach Tom Thibodeau leans so heavily on frontcourt openers Karl-Anthony Towns and Taj Gibson that it wouldn't make sense overpaying to match a bloated offer sheet if Bjelica gets one. But if his next pay rate is reasonable, his talents are still needed.


    Plan C: Luc Mbah a Moute

    Minnesota's length and athleticism suggest it should be unfathomable for this club to be knotted for 22nd in defensive efficiency. But there aren't enough good defenders to make up for all the sieves.

    Mbah a Moute would help. The 6'8" swingman can shape-shift to handle assignments both inside and out, and as an added bonus, he's been a 37.5 percent three-point shooter over the last two seasons.

New Orleans Pelicans

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    Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

    Plan A: DeMarcus Cousins

    There were always going to be risks with throwing major money at Cousins, and they've obviously been amplified by his ruptured Achilles. But maybe that can work out in New Orleans' favor.

    His market had long looked murky, thanks in no small part to the cap crunch. ESPN's Zach Lowe said Cousins might only have two suitors outside of New Orleans—the Lakers and Mavericks. And even at that, Lowe added L.A. could just roll over its cap space and Dallas could look elsewhere for its next center through free agency or the draft.

    A healthy Cousins is a clear max talent. This season, he had top-20 averages in points, rebounds, steals and blocks. He also finished second among centers with 2.2 threes and 5.4 assists.

    It should be impossible to get those numbers for less than top dollar, but there are factors with Cousins and this market that might make it happen. Even if New Orleans can't catch that break, though, this is still worth the risk. The Pelicans wouldn't have the money to replace Cousins if he leaves, and—maybe most importantly—Anthony Davis wants Boogie back.


    Plan B: Rajon Rondo

    Only the mercurial Rondo could bounce back in a situation like this. Last summer, he took a one-year, $3.3 million deal from a club that spent $126 million on a player at his same position (Jrue Holiday) just a few weeks before. And somehow, Rondo wound up playing a critical role in the Pelicans' playoff return, shooting his best percentage in six seasons (46.8) and averaging the third-most assists per 36 minutes of his career (11.3).

    General manager Dell Demps told reporters "in a perfect world" New Orleans would keep both Cousins and Rondo. The latter sounds definitely doable. Even at his best, Rondo doesn't stretch the floor, and prior to this season, the 32-year-old had posted subpar PERs in two of his last three campaigns.


    Plan C: Danny Green

    Danny Green could be a three-and-D bargain in this market, given supply and demand.

    Green, who has a $10 million player option, is as logical a candidate as anyone. The 30-year-old has shot below 40 percent from the field and 38 percent outside in each of the last three seasons. He's also showing signs of slippage defensively, which presumably won't get better with time.

    Still, he'd be a more inspiring option than what the Pelicans have rolled out along the wings. E'Twaun Moore belongs on the second unit, and Ian Clark hardly looked like a keeper during his first season in the Big Easy.

New York Knicks

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Plan A: Jerami Grant

    Whenever the Knicks ditch their laughable LeBron James dreams, they'll realize this must be a summer of restraint.

    While they could wiggle their room to cap space by having Enes Kanter and/or Kyle O'Quinn decline their player options, they won't find realistic reasons to spend big chunks of it. Not when Kristaps Porzingis' campaign is already clouded by his ACL recovery, and especially not when patience would afford New York substantial flexibility for the 2019 free-agent class.

    Better instead to examine young, cheap options who could grow into something greater than their current form on the same schedule as New York's youngsters. Options like Grant, a 24-year-old who already defends multiple positions, excels in the open court and every now and then hints at some off-the-bounce ability that may still blossom.


    Plan B: Michael Beasley

    Basketball gods, please—Let Beasley keep being Beasley in the Big Apple. That's what he wants, and it's certainly what the people want.

    Beasley could make the 2018-19 Knicks entertaining without making them good enough to spoil their 2019 draft lottery positioning. He can score in his sleep (career 19.5 points per 36 minutes), and he's rarely scored as efficiently as he did this season (.507/.395/.780).

    The 29-year-old scoring forward will also reportedly have multiple suitors in free agency, per Marc Berman of the New York Post, so perhaps he'd be a decent trade chip once the deadline rolls around.


    Plan C: Jarrett Jack

    Jack was quietly one of the better stories in basketball this season. He parlayed a non-guaranteed pact into a starting gig, tossed out nearly three assists for every giveaway (5.6 to 1.9 per game) and gracefully transitioned into the role of mentor once the Knicks embraced a youth movement at point guard.

    "Jarrett Jack is the perfect veteran for this gangly, voice-cracking Knicks team," Bleacher Report's Sara Peters wrote. "He's that cool high school math teacher who believes in you, gets you to stop slacking off and helps you become the adult you want to be."

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Plan A: Paul George

    What matters most to George? Going back to Cali and starring for the Lakers? Chasing a title in Houston or Philadelphia? Or might there be something he saw during his first season in Oklahoma City that convinces him to stick around?

    "There was a lot to be happy about: the fans, the city, the organization," George said, per CBS Sports' Kyle Boone. "Everything has been unbelievable. It's too soon. I'd love to remain a Thunder, but that's what this summer is for."

    Was George being polite or at least savvy enough to keep his options open? Maybe, but he also witnessed the tremendous upside of the Thunder at full strength—a colossal plus-14.2 net rating during the 539 minutes he shared with Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Carmelo Anthony and Steven Adams.

    OKC can only hope that's enough to keep George around. The Thunder could be a luxury-taxed team even without him, so he'd leave a massive hole as an All-Star sidekick and probably force Westbrook to revert to his one-man army approach.


    Plan B: Jerami Grant

    Grant would be expensive to re-sign, especially if George is staying. But a decent price for Grant would make for a no-brainer decision on the Thunder's part.

    He's a dynamic finisher in transition, so the fit with Westbrook is clear. And Grant's length, athleticism and quickness could overload OKC with switching potential on defense if he's playing alongside George and Roberson.


    Plan C: Glenn Robinson III

    Might Robinson's injury issues deplete his value to the point he'd fit in OKC's price range? Seems possible. He'd be a good get for Sam Presti, too, as a 24-year-old with defensive versatility and a 39.6 three-point percentage since the start of 2016-17.

Orlando Magic

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Plan A: Aaron Gordon

    It's too early to tell what Gordon's future entails or how effective he'll be long-term lining up alongside Jonathan Isaac. But one can already say with conviction Orlando would be foolish to let its most potential-rich player since Dwight Howard slip out of its grasp.

    Gordon's shooting isn't where it needs to be yet (.434/.336/.698), and he's still put himself in the max-contract conversation. His hyper athletic, 6'9" frame is almost optimally built to be a dominant defensive force in today's NBA. His explosiveness makes him an asset as both an off-ball cutter and a pick-and-roll screener, and he's a plus-playmaker, provided he's properly deployed as a power forward.

    During Gordon's four seasons with the Magic, he has more than tripled his scoring output. Orlando must pay up to see where this is headed, especially since his exit wouldn't open substantial cap space.


    Plan B: Yogi Ferrell

    The Magic have a point guard problem, and it might be dire enough to require attention both on draft night and in free agency. D.J. Augustin, who owns a career 14.1 PER, is the only floor general inked beyond this season. Shelvin Mack, a career .427/.326/.740 shooter, has a non-guaranteed salary for 2018-19.

    There have to be more interesting options, even on a limited budget.

    Ferrell isn't the most clever shot-creator around (career 2.9 assists per game), but the Magic have a lot of secondary playmakers in their rotation. What they lack is three-point shooting (35.1 percent, 28th), and Ferrell would bring along a career 37.8 mark from distance. He might also be deemed expendable by the Mavericks, since their point guard future is in the hands of Dennis Smith Jr.


    Plan C: Mario Hezonja

    Orlando hasn't always seemed to hold the highest opinion of Hezonja, giving him just 18.4 minutes per night his first three seasons and declining his fourth-year option in October. But it must realize it'd be criminal to give up on his potential when this rebuilding club badly needs more upside.

    At worst, he's a good athlete who can play multiple positions and make things happen above the rim. At best, he's a quantity-plus-quality shooter from distance who can consistently create his own looks.

Philadelphia 76ers

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Plan A: LeBron James

    If the billboards hadn't already made it clear, Philly is fully committed to chasing James. Head coach Brett Brown said as much, or rather came as close as he could without crossing any tampering lines.

    "I think another high-level free agent is required," Brown told reporters in his exit interview. "I feel like we have the ability to attract one."

    Free agents don't come more high-level than LeBron, a four-time MVP and nine-time focal point of a Finalist. He's 33 years old but also apparently immune to aging, having just paced the Association in minutes (36.9 per game), played all 82 games for the first time and set or matched career highs in assists (9.1) and rebounds (8.6).

    There might be some basketball questions about how to fit James alongside another jumbo playmaker in Ben Simmons and an interior scorer in Joel Embiid, neither of whom are reliable outside shooters. Still, you don't pass up a chance at adding the King if it's on the table.


    Plan B: Paul George

    If Philly were focused on fit, the franchise could talk itself into George being Plan A. The five-time All-Star looks like the ideal* option to complete the Sixers' trio.

    George is a premier spacer (40.1 percent from distance this season), so he'd keep the middle uncluttered for Simmons and Embiid. George also wouldn't fight them for touches, but as a 21-point scorer his last four healthy seasons, he'd maximize the ones he gets. Adding him would also give Philly an obscene amount of length and defensive know-how on the perimeter with George, Simmons and Robert Covington.

    The Sixers probably couldn't treat George like the star he'd be received as with the Lakers, but they also seem less likely to relegate him to spot-up duties than the Rockets or Thunder. In other words, this could be George's best option to contend for the crown and play a substantial role in the pursuit.

    *A healthy Kawhi Leonard would argue that.


    Plan C: J.J. Redick

    Redick will never again be a $23 million player like he was this season, but that doesn't mean Philly regrets the investment. It should be the opposite, actually, since his sharpshooting helped the offense function, and his leadership gave this young group a guide to follow on its first playoff voyage.

    Since Simmons doesn't shoot threes and Embiid rarely hits them, the Sixers need long-range marksmen around them. Redick is one of the league's best, ranking fifth in threes (794) and second in percentage (43.9) over the last four seasons. He's someone Philly would presumably love to keep, although he could be sacrificed if needed to get the Sixers an extra star or two.

Phoenix Suns

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    Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

    Plan A: Aaron Gordon

    Before the Suns struck lottery gold, they might have put Clint Capela atop their wish list. But since they're holding the No. 1 pick and seem likely to use it on Deandre Ayton—at least, according to the latest mocks from B/R, ESPN and—they'd have little use for Capela on a mega-money deal.

    That said, they do have both spending money and a desire to accelerate their rebuild. They aren't close enough to chase the biggest fish—George would be perfect if they were—so they should instead focus on the restricted free-agent crop. And no one from that group would fit better than Gordon.

    Phoenix needs assistance on both ends; no one fared worse on offense or defense. Gordon's pliability helps more with the latter, but even on offense, how many current Suns would be more deserving of touches than Gordon beside Devin Booker?

    Adding Gordon and Ayton would require some frontcourt shuffling sooner than later. But if Phoenix paired them with either Dragan Bender or Marquese Chriss, they could use the other as trade bait to help fill a roster hole. By the time Tyson Chandler and Jared Dudley come off the books next summer, the Suns could have the flexibility and cachet to chase a legitimate difference-maker.


    Plan B: Derrick Favors

    Who plays defense among Phoenix's current power rotation? Chandler used to, but he's 35. Bender and Chriss have given little indication they'll ever be big-time contributors at that end. And that's seemingly also where all the holes in Ayton's game reside.

    While often overshadowed by Rudy Gobert, Favors has emerged as a formidable stopper in his own right. He's averaged nearly two blocks per 36 minutes for his career, and this season he yielded the fifth-lowest shooting percentage at the rim among high-volume defenders (53.1).

    This would probably also require dumping either Bender or Chriss, but the resulting trio of Ayton, Favors and Bender/Chriss would check most frontcourt boxes.


    Plan C: Isaiah Thomas

    While Ayton could scratch the Suns' years-long itch for a dominant center, there'd still be a massive void at point guard. Phoenix could patch it with a restricted free agent like Elfrid Payton or Dante Exum, but the position would still feel like a weak spot for a club looking to compete.

    The problem is the win-now options at point guard are nearly nonexistent, unless Phoenix could poach Kemba Walker out of Charlotte. Otherwise, this could be a sneaky-good summer to reunite with Thomas.

    His free-agency prospects have spiraled over the last 12 injury-riddled months, so he'll probably seek out a short-term prove-it pact. He might not find a better option than this, where he could potentially slot in as the No. 2 scorer of a club that could conceivably make one of next season's biggest leaps.

Portland Trail Blazers

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    Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

    Plan A: Jusuf Nurkic

    Full-season Nurkic never found the spark half-season Nurkic provided down the stretch in 2016-17. This year's version was still nominally Portland's third option, but he lacked the consistency that role implies. He also struggled defending in space in a way that made you think it might always be a challenge.

    And still, the 7-footer looks like a keeper if for no other reason than the lack of viable alternatives.

    "The Blazers cannot afford to lose Nurkic for nothing," Dave Deckard wrote for Blazers Edge. "They do not have a ready replacement at center. ... Giving him up without recompense would call into question the viability of the franchise's overall plan."

    Two things could strip away Nurkic's keeper status. The first would be an exorbitant offer sheet from someone else. The second would be a franchise-resetting trade of either Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum. But neither seems likely. The center market is congested, and Nurkic did nothing to bolster his stock. And any trade talk regarding Lillard or McCollum stems from speculation only.


    Plan B: Ed Davis

    Portland can't afford to keep all of its free agents this summer, but it should squeeze out a contract slot for Davis.

    His no-frills, glue-guy game is perfect not only for his energetic reserve role, but also to complement the more flashy styles of Lillard and McCollum. Davis' value doesn't always show through statistics, but he devours rebounds, stays within himself on offense and maximizes his blend of length, athleticism and hustle. Lillard is also a big Davis fan, which could hold weight with the front office.

    If this comes down to choosing between Nurkic and Davis—Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan are waiting in the wings—it'd be hard to let go of Nurkic's superior skills. But the Blazers should hope they can keep both, because each brings something else to the table.


    Plan C: Pat Connaughton

    Given Portland's financial constraints, the Blazers are bound to in-house shopping only. And while Connaughton hasn't shown as much as fellow free agent Shabazz Napier, Connaughton is the better free-agency option for a couple reasons.

    Price is the biggest one. Napier did enough this season to warrant a decent payday, and the Blazers can't sign off on much with $53.7 million of next year's payroll already earmarked for Lillard and McCollum. Position is the other factor, since it's easier to move the 6'5" Connaughton around the perimeter while the 6'1" Napier is locked at point guard.

Sacramento Kings

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    Phil Long/Associated Press

    Plan A: Rodney Hood

    The Kings need to be careful. They have a good amount of financial flexibility and the restlessness of owning the league's longest playoff drought (12 years and counting). But this isn't the summer to splurge. Not when the roster is this far away (105 losses the past two seasons) and not when Sacramento could have gobs of space next offseason if it handles this one properly.

    But there's an obvious need for more talent, provided it fits the timeline. Hood would, and he's potentially available at a discounted rate after failing to find traction in Cleveland.

    His disappearing act shouldn't be dismissed, but it also shouldn't define his future. Just last summer, he was expected to seize control of Utah's offense. While that never happened, he's still displayed a smooth shooting stroke, pick-and-roll prowess and ignitable scoring (eight games with 25-plus points). He could have a higher scoring ceiling than Bogdan Bogdanovic and more diversity in his game than Buddy Hield.


    Plan B: Mario Hezonja

    In 2015, Hezonja came off the draft board one selection before Sacramento center Willie Cauley-Stein. It sounds like the Kings have been tracking him ever since.

    "He has fans in Sacramento's front office," Jason Jones wrote for the Sacramento Bee. "... Hezonja might have been the Kings' first-round pick in 2015."

    The Kings need size on the perimeter, and the 6'8" Hezonja could bring that, explosive athleticism and three-point potential. He also shouldn't require a deal that's too expensive or particularly long.


    Plan C: David Nwaba

    The Kings were a bad defensive team this season (27th in efficiency) and might be missing one of their top stoppers the next (Garrett Temple, player option). The No. 2 pick seems highly unlikely to help with Sacramento's perimeter defense.

    But adding Nwaba would. He'll guard anywhere along the wings and never lose a defensive battle for a lack of effort.

San Antonio Spurs

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Plan A: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

    This probably sounds like a broken record, but let's spin it one more time: The Spurs could stand to get younger and more athletic on the wings. Granted, a healthy Kawhi Leonard might mask that deficiency, but San Antonio could use a better contingency plan than hoping to smooth the waters with Leonard and counting on a bounce-back season from Danny Green (assuming he even picks up his player option).

    If there is a perimeter opening, Caldwell-Pope could prove a snug fit. His 38.3-percent three ball would seamlessly blend into this movement-based offense, and there might not be a more ferocious defensive trio on the wings than Leonard, Caldwell-Pope and All-Defensive second-teamer Dejounte Murray.


    Plan B: Avery Bradley

    The same roster spot could instead go to Bradley, who might be an even stingier stopper and has loads more playoff experience.

    So, why is Bradley the Plan B option? Because he's older and smaller than Caldwell-Pope, plus Bradley had a worse shooting 2017-18 campaign from all three levels. Injuries surely slowed Bradley and perhaps drove down his price, but he might lack some of the versatility Caldwell-Pope would bring.


    Plan C: Kyle Anderson

    It's only right that we'd be a touch slow to get around to Slo Mo Anderson. But that has less to do with his lack of explosiveness than it does a possible roster crunch. If Leonard stays put and Rudy Gay exercises his player option, that might tether Anderson to the bench—while he's potentially getting paid like a starter.

    Even then, the Alamo City might still be the best home for one of the most fundamentally-sound free agents in this class. Other than a trusty three-point stroke (career 33.8 percent on a low volume), he might check off every other box for a combo forward in this system.

Toronto Raptors

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    Plan A: Fred VanVleet

    Despite the Raptors' best season in franchise history, a disheartening second-round exit could lead to sweeping changes north of the border. They've already moved on from head coach Dwane Casey and plan to "explore all options" with their roster, league sources told Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun.

    Could those alterations include letting VanVleet depart as a restricted free agent? It's possible. The Raptors might face a luxury-tax hit without ponying up the cash to keep him, and the Sixth Man of the Year finalist might be the second-best point guard on the market—and that's only if you consider Chris Paul as part of the marketplace.

    That said, both of Toronto's possible paths this summer—running it back or blowing it up—seemingly leave an opening for VanVleet. The 24-year-old has already proved a more than capable understudy for Kyle Lowry (Toronto's bench paced the field with a plus-8.3 net rating), and the front office could even see VanVleet as a capable starter in the event it uses a Lowry trade to add assets or cut costs.


    Plan B: Luc Mbah a Moute

    Impressive as OG Anunoby was as a rookie, it was telling that he proved Toronto's best defensive option on LeBron. That doesn't exactly say much for the defensive versatility of the Raptors' other forwards.

    Mbah a Moute has all the necessary attributes of a contemporary brick wall. He's nimble along the perimeter, powerful in the post and lanky wherever he's deployed. That doesn't sound like a buy-low candidate, but Mbah a Moute's late-season shoulder injury and subsequent playoff woes might limit his list of landing spots. And despite recent improvements, he's only a 33.6 percent shooter from distance for his career.


    Plan C: Kevon Looney

    Speaking of multi-skilled defenders, Looney's third-year growth from part-time spectator to full-time playoff rotation piece had plenty to do with the fact he can handle multiple assignments. Still, his scoring limitations (career 3.3 points per game) might send him to the clearance section under these market conditions.

Utah Jazz

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Plan A: Derrick Favors

    For all the attention paid to the Pelicans' twin-tower attempt, the Jazz quietly found a way to stay big and remain successful. There might not be much spacing in a Favors-Rudy Gobert frontcourt, yet that twosome still produced an elite plus-7.2 net rating across 842 minutes.

    Favors has proven capable as both a power forward and a center, providing boards, blocks and a touch of mid-range shooting wherever he's deployed. That might sound like the recipe for a substantial pay raise, and you have to remember this summer will be unlike any we've seen recently.

    "Favors will be met with the reality of an uncertain free-agent market,"'s Bobby Marks wrote. "An NBA draft that projects to be dominated by big men plus the lack of cap space in free agency could leave Favors priced out."

    That's a tough break for him, but a potentially big win for Utah. And since the Jazz's top scorer, Donovan Mitchell, just finished the first year on his rookie deal, the Utah can afford to semi-splurge on Favors.


    Plan B: Joe Harris

    Utah had four players clear 36 percent from three this season. Only one, folk hero Joe Ingles, has a certain future in Salt Lake City. Thabo Sefolosha and Jonas Jerebko have non-guaranteed salaries for 2018-19, and Raul Neto—who wasn't always a regular—is headed to free agency.

    Shooting, then, should be a summer focus, which most could have anticipated with Mitchell, Favors, Gobert and Ricky Rubio all in the starting five. That'll get Harris and his fiery 41.9 three-point percentage firmly on the radar.


    Plan C: Dante Exum

    Four years have passed since Utah made Exum the fifth overall pick, and the franchise still isn't sure what it has. Injuries have limited him to just 80 appearances the past three seasons, and he hasn't started a game since April 2017.

    But you could probably count the point guards with his length and athleticism on one hand. Before Exum was drafted, Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman set his ceiling as "a potent blend of Penny Hardaway and Russell Westbrook." Exum could wind up several stories beneath that layer and still outperform the contract he'll collect this summer.

Washington Wizards

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Plan A: Mike Scott

    Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall has high hopes for this summer.

    "Just got to add some pieces," Wall said, per NBC Sports Washington's Chase Hughes. "A lot, to be honest."

    Washington's front office could respond with a simple, sobering inquiry—"Where's the money, John?"

    Before the team spends a cent this summer, it's already roughly $7 million above the tax line, per The Athletic's Danny Leroux. The money pool is shallow enough that the Wizards might be less worried about adding pieces and more concerned with keeping what they have.

    Scott was a revelation this season after finishing the last one mostly outside the Association. He'll always be a streaky scorer, but he just showed how he can work in an instant-offense role. He pumped in 17.1 points per 36 minutes while shooting at career rates from the field (52.7 percent) and outside (40.5).


    Plan B: Shabazz Napier

    Should Washington go shopping with the midlevel exception, it may focus on finding a sturdier sub behind Wall (whose campaign was half-erased by knee surgery and other ailments). Washington's net efficiency dropped 4.7 points per 100 possessions without its lead guard.

    While Napier's track record could be cause for concern, it's possible this season will be a springboard to the type of career once predicted for the first-rounder. He not only posted personal best percentages from the field (42.0) and three (37.6), he did so while launching more than ever. He's not a prolific passer, but pairing him with Tomas Satoransky could cover that up.


    Plan C: Treveon Graham

    The Wizards look light on the wings, even if Jodie Meeks exercises his player option. The starters—Otto Porter and Markieff Morris—are solid, but Kelly Oubre makes up most of the depth behind them.

    Since Washington is shopping on a strict budget, the pickings are slim. But Graham could be an interesting target if there's a way to price him out of Charlotte. He can play and defend the 2, 3 and 4 spots, and the small sample of his deep shooting looks encouraging (43.8 percent).


    Unless otherwise indicated, all stats are from Basketball Reference or

    Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ZachBuckleyNBA.


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