2018 NBA Free-Agency Big Board: Top 25 Free Agents Remaining

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 2, 2018

2018 NBA Free-Agency Big Board: Top 25 Free Agents Remaining

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    David Phillip/Associated Press

    The first 24 hours of 2018 NBA free agency witnessed both the market opening and the dam bursting.

    Before the hoops world could think about getting any shuteye, Paul George, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant had agreed to re-sign with their respective clubs. By Sunday's end, LeBron James had agreed to join the Los Angeles Lakers, via a Klutch Sports announcement, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had agreed to another go-round with the Purple and Gold, per ESPN's Chris Haynes.

    As far as marquee names are concerned, this relatively thin crop already looks picked apart.

    But there are still a number of attractive hoopers-for-hire.

    We've compiled the top 25 players still up for grabs and examined both what they offer and how their markets are taking shape.

25. Alex Len

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    Barry Gossage/Getty Images

    As the 2013 No. 5 pick, it's hard to characterize Alex Len's first five NBA seasons as anything other than a disappointment. But that won't matter to big-man bargain-hunters, who could look at the 25-year-old's quietly productive track record and see a worthwhile investment.

    He's never averaged even 24 minutes per game, which makes the rest of his counting categories appear underwhelming—7.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks. Stretch those same numbers out on the per-36-minute scale, though, and they jump to 13.1, 11.8 and 1.9, respectively.

    He's also produced a positive defensive box plus/minus each of the last four seasons, and his player efficiency spiked to 19.4 this most recent campaign. While he offers zero offensive spacing—his average shot distance in 2017-18 was only 2.7 feet—he can finish plays on post-ups (59th percentile) and pick-and-rolls (77th percentile), and he's not a liability at the charity stripe (career 70.7 percent).

    So far, that hasn't brought his market above faint whispering, which isn't entirely surprising when he had to settle for his qualifying offer last summer. That said, he was mentioned by The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor as a "realistic target" for the Washington Wizards, who might need frontcourt help after losing Marcin Gortat and Mike Scott while only adding Thomas Bryant on a waiver claim.

24. James Ennis

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    James Ennis has worn four different jerseys over four NBA seasons. Will this be the summer he finally finds a longterm home?

    He has an interesting skill set, even if he isn't always as consistent as clubs would like a 28-year-old to be. He has the ideal build and athleticism for the modern wing, plus a serviceable three ball (career 35.9 percent). That sounds an awful lot like the three-and-D player every club could add.

    Ennis' market is unsurprisingly active. The Detroit Pistons have made re-signing him "a priority," per ESPN's Ian Begley, who says the Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets and Brooklyn Nets are among the other teams with interest.

    Ennis is far more solid than spectacular, but his salary should reflect that. He shouldn't be counted on for shot-creation, but he'll guard multiple positions and add offensive value as both a transition finisher and spot-up shooter.

    Provided he gets plugged into the right role with appropriate expectations placed upon him, he should have a chance to stick with his next employer.

23. Michael Beasley

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    Michael Beasley gets buckets. Asking him to do anything more requires ignoring the first 10 years of his career.

    He’s instant offense, a microwave, a spark plug—any of the cliches attached to offensive fireballs. He’s nothing else consistently, but the self-proclaimed “walking bucket” doesn’t need to be, not after topping 20 points per 36 minutes and shooting north of 50 percent each of the last three seasons.

    Sources told Marc Berman of the New York Post at least four clubs could have interest in Beasley, including the champs. The New York Knicks are likely going forward without him after adding scoring forward Mario Hezonja, per Berman.

    Point-production aside, Beasley struggles to past most numbers tests.

    Fewer than 13 percent of his career shots are threes, and he spends more time in the mid-range than at the basket. He’s topped two assists per game once. Only six players had a higher isolation frequency (20.8 percent of his possessions), even though he’s only a mediocre finisher (65th percentile). New York’s defense was 4.2 points better per 100 possessions without him.

    But teams that want Beasley probably need buckets, and he can get them in his sleep.

22. Jamal Crawford

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    Richard Shotwell/Associated Press

    Age hasn't changed much of anything for Jamal Crawford, who, at 38 years old, still dances off the dribble, piles up bench points and keeps converting four-point plays.

    He has thrice been named Sixth Man of the Year, and his play hasn't budged far off his award-winning levels. The volume wasn't there last season (second-fewest minutes, third-fewest points of his career), but he still supplied 17.9 points and 4.0 assists per 36 minutes.

    He isn't the most efficient scorer (career 41.0 field-goal percentage), and his defense has gone from bad to worst—literally. No one had a worse defensive real plus-minus than his minus-5.37, per ESPN.com.

    But clubs with an interest in Crawford already know his strengths and weaknesses. They also know he packs enough of an offensive punch to change the outcome of games, provided he has a longer leash than the Minnesota Timberwolves offered.

    "I think, utilized properly, I can help affect winning," Crawford told Jon Krawczynski of the Athletic.

    The Philadelphia 76ers have interest in Crawford, per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Golden State Warriors are fans too, per Marcus Thompson II of the Athletic.

21. Nemanja Bjelica

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    The potential for Nemanja Bjelica often sits several stories above his actual production. That's a shame, because his total package sounds like something every club would want.

    "He [fits] the mold of the preferred big man in today's game," Derek James wrote for 1500ESPN.com. "He's got size, range and ball-handling skills. On paper, he looks like he should easily command $15 million or maybe more per season in restricted free agency."

    The 6'10" Bjelica was a jumbo-sized playmaker overseas, where he became EuroLeague MVP in 2015. This side of the Atlantic, he’s more of a stretch big with 50.4 percent of his career shots coming outside the arc.

    He looked like a marksman this past season, tallying 1.1 triples per night and converting 41.5 percent of his long-range looks. If he can hold those numbers steady—inconsistency and injuries have been his biggest NBA issues—he'll demand defensive attention on every perimeter touch, and his playmaking past will help him exploit overzealous closeouts.

    He needs consistent minutes to be most effective, which the Timberwolves didn't always offer. But when he's had prime opportunities, he's usually capitalized. He averaged 12.8 points on 49.4 percent shooting (45.9 from three), 7.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists during the 16 games in which he logged 30-plus minutes last season.

20. Shabazz Napier

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    What happened last season—did Shabazz Napier engineer a full-fledged breakout, or did he merely follow the longest hot streak of his career with a subzero spell that cost him his rotation spot?

    The stat sheet shows obvious progress. He'd never before averaged more points (8.7) or shot a higher percentage from any level (42.0/37.6/84.1). After tallying just 1.2 win shares over his first three NBA seasons, he matched that number on offense alone and topped it on defense (2.0).

    But how many breakout performers end their season by being healthy observers for two of their team’s final thee contests? Napier was twice passed over during the Portland Trail Blazers’ abbreviated playoff run, a defensible decision given his frigid play down the stretch.

    After rolling into the All-Star break with eye-opening accuracy rates of 45.1 percent from the field and 40.3 from distance, his shot never returned from the in-season vacation. Over his final 23 outings, he converted only 34.6 percent of his field goals and 32.4 percent of his triples.

    Tag that skid to the struggles of his first three seasons, and there are reasons for free-agency shoppers to be skeptical of his hot start. The Blazers opting against extending his qualifying offer was an ominous way for his free agency to start.

19. Dwyane Wade

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    Joel Auerbach/Associated Press

    Free agency presents a fork in the road for Dwyane Wade—one way leads to retirement, the other heads back to the Miami Heat.

    Those seem to be the only options for the 36-year-old.

    "If I decide to come back and play the game of basketball, I would love for it, obviously, to be in Miami," Wade told Fox Sports Radio, via Anthony Chiang of the Palm Beach Post.

    Despite Father Time's advancement, Wade's midseason move back to Miami put him right back in a featured offensive role. From the time of his return to the end of the regular season, Wade paced the Heat in shots per 36 minutes (19.0) and usage percentage (29.6).

    Come playoff time, he attempted the second-most field goals (70) despite playing just the fifth-most minutes (127). He also launched four of their nine clutch looks.

    His previous NBA mileage makes him better served for an instant-offense role than a prominent one, as he's coming off the three worst shooting campaigns of his career. But he can still dominate in spurts—two playoff outbursts of 25-plus points—and Miami has been more than happy to give him every chance to do that.

18. Kyle O'Quinn

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    Kyle O'Quinn just did the impossible—he flew under the radar while playing for the New York Knicks.

    That's because the reserve center perhaps shines brightest with subtleties. It's easy to not notice a player with career averages of 5.8 points and 4.9 rebounds in 15.2 minutes. It's harder to be unimpressed upon realizing his per-36-minute marks jump to 13.8 points on 51.8 percent shooting, 11.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.4 blocks.

    At 6'10" and 250 pounds, he's a load around the basket. The (less famous) bearded baller has converted better than 70 percent of his attempts within three feet during three of his last five seasons. But there's also a finesse to match his muscle. He made 46.1 percent of his jump shots, hit 46.8 percent of his attempts between 10 feet and the three-point arc and dropped a personal-best 4.1 dimes per 36 minutes.

    Casual fans may not have noticed, but executives have tracked his improvement.

    HoopsHype's Alex Kennedy wrote that O'Quinn has "a lot of fans around the NBA" for being both "a great energy guy [and] he's a terrific locker room presence." Marc Berman of the New York Post notes that Luke Kornet's return "is a clear indication" O'Quinn won't be back and that the Philadelphia 76ers are "reportedly showing heavy interest."

17. Kevon Looney

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Before Kevon Looney even celebrated his 22nd birthday in February, his NBA career appeared at a crossroads. The Golden State Warriors declined his fourth-year option in October and overstocked their frontcourt with other options.

    Somehow, Looney turned that seemingly dire situation into a breakout season.

    While his first two years were marred by hip injuries that required surgery, his third featured career highs in points (4.0), rebounds (3.3), field-goal percentage (58.0) and minutes (13.8). He started four games for the champs in the regular season and then opened another five outings during their postseason march to their third title in four years. His 387 playoff minutes trailed only the Hamptons Five.

    His offense is limited, but he buys floor time as both a rebounder and multipositional defender. His hoops IQ pays dividends at both ends, especially if his team can survive his lack of scoring.

    The Warriors expressed their interest in bringing him back, sources told Bay Area News Group's Mark Medina, but he's "expected to field interest elsewhere." That might mean his days with Golden State are numbered, since the franchise can only pay him up to $2.3 million per year because they declined his option.

16. Dante Exum (Restricted)

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    With only 162 appearances and 67 starts scattered over four NBA seasons, 2014 No. 5 pick Dante Exum is only slightly less mysterious than when he arrived as a potential Penny Hardaway 2.0.

    With three-year averages—his 2015-16 season was wiped out by a torn ACL—of 5.7 points and 2.2 assists, Exum isn't projected to have that bright of a future any longer. But his physical gifts still hint at something special (6'6" with a 6'9" wingspan), and he still made progress this season despite having his start delayed until March by shoulder surgery.

    While inconsistency remains an issue, his abbreviated 2017-18 campaign featured per-36-minute marks of 17.5 points, 6.6 assists and 4.0 rebounds. That's enough for executives to maintain interest in Exum's upside.

    "I think you have to look at him as a physically gifted guy who is only 22 (he turns 23 in July) and has already gone through the huge NBA learning curve," a general manager told Sporting News' Sean Deveney in March. "There are guys in this year's draft who will be 22 but aren't going to have the kind of knowledge of the league he has, and don't have the physical gifts."

    The Utah Jazz have the option of matching any offer Exum signs and have prioritized the point guard, per Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune.

15. Brook Lopez

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Brook Lopez doesn't have the profile of a typical unicorn.

    But if you boil down the definition to a big man who shoots threes and blocks shots, the 30-year-old meets those requirements.

    While many of his marks dipped to career-low levels during his first season with the Lakers, the three-ball he debuted the season prior remained in his arsenal. He averaged 1.5 makes per game and shot a good enough percentage (34.5) to function as a stretch 5.

    At the opposite end, he held his blocks average north of one for the sixth consecutive campaign. He also became one of only six players to tally at least 200 triples and 200 rejections since the start of 2016-17.

    With his points (13.0) and rebounds (4.0) either matching or setting new personal lows, he projects as a specialist now more than ever. But when his specialities feature two traits coveted in contemporary centers, he could have an easier time sniffing out decent money than some of his fellow free-agent bigs.

14. Montrezl Harrell (Restricted)

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    Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

    You're forgiven if you've miscast Montrezl Harrell as only a defensive-minded energizer. The Los Angeles Clippers had him in that bucket when they landed him in last summer's Paul swap, only to be presently surprised by the other elements in Harrell's game, as Doc Rivers told Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times in early March:

    "When we got him, we looked at him as an energy guy, a guy that can play defense. That's what he did everywhere he's been.

    "And then every practice he gets in, he keeps scoring. And scoring. And then we started thinking, 'Maybe he can score a little bit.' He's been better than that. He's been great."

    Harrell's activity will always be the first thing observers notice—his sweeping 7'4" wingspan should be a close second—but energy guys don't score like he did last season. His 11 points per game don't jump off the page until you realize he only averaged 17 minutes, at least 3.4 fewer than any other double-digit scorer. After the All-Star break, he squeezed 14.6 points (on 65.8 percent shooting) into just 20.1 minutes per contest.

    His offensive range might not reach far beyond the restricted area, but he's a bulldozer around the basket. He was a 94th percentile finisher as a pick-and-roll screener, a figure with almost universal appeal in today's spread offenses.

13. Rodney Hood (Restricted)

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    Phil Long/Associated Press

    This was hardly the most interesting "What if" question of 2017-18, but what happens to Rodney Hood's value if the Jazz never trade him?

    At the time of the exchange, the 25-year-old swingman was averaging 16.8 points and drilling 2.6 triples per night at a 38.9 percent clip. He could manipulate defenders through shrewd pick-and-roll navigating, light the lamp from long distance and ignite at any time. He was only 39 games into his season, and he'd already authored 11 20-point outbursts.

    One could debate whether his ceiling extended to stardom or topped out at high-level role player, but his trajectory seemingly pointed straight up.

    That should matter for his free agency. But it can't erase the fact he was traded and never found traction with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He lost both volume stats and efficiency and then lost his rotation spot altogether. He returned to tally a combined 25 points and 14 rebounds in Games 3 and 4 of the Finals, but his paycheck had likely taken a sizable hit by then.

    He's still generating interest, per Yahoo Sports' Jordan Schultz, but logic says the offers probably aren't near what we thought he'd collect. A source told Deveney that Hood might sign his qualifying offer from the Cavaliers to try to restore his value for unrestricted free agency next summer.

12. Luc Mbah a Moute

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    For most of last season, Luc Mbah a Moute looked like a bargain. He gave the Houston Rockets defensive versatility and the highest perimeter volume of his career (one triple per game, 36.4 percent success rate), all for the clearance price of the veteran's minimum.

    But two shoulder injuries rocked his season—the first requiring a month-long absence, the second rendering him virtually unplayable (25 percent shooting, 2.6 player efficiency rating) in the playoffs.

    It's possible recency bias creates a more muted market than he should otherwise receive.

    His multipositional defense alone makes him valuable in today's Association, and his perimeter development extends his influence to both ends of the court. Houston fared 3.5 points better per 100 possessions when he stepped inside the lines.

    The next deal he signs will likely carry the bargain label in hindsight, unless Trevor Ariza's exit propels Houston to up its offer to ensure it keeps one of its long-limbed, two-way wing free agents.

11. Dirk Nowitzki

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Dirk Nowitzki is a free agent by title only. The Dallas Mavericks declined his $5 million team option to increase their buying power, maximized it by getting DeAndre Jordan's agreement to finally come and now could circle back to their longtime franchise face with the same money.

    The Mavs are likely to use their remaining $5 million in cap space to re-sign Nowitzki, league sources told Charania.

    It'd be fun to see how teams value the 40-year-old former MVP.

    He lost whatever athleticism he had, but Father Time has had trouble eroding the Diggler's skill set. The 13-time All-Star just set a new personal best with 2.6 threes per 36 minutes, and his 40.9 percent conversion rate was his fourth-highest in 20 NBA seasons.

    He was last a playoff participant in 2016, but Dallas has tried getting him back to the big dance at least once before he walks away. The Mavs were a 58-loss squad last season, but they could be poised to spring forward after adding Jordan, Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson already.

10. Wayne Ellington

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    Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

    Wayne Ellington is a specialist.

    That's not a knock, either. It's probably how his agent is pitching him to potential buyers.

    His speciality is shooting—the one thing every team in the Association is chasing—and his skills are elite. He was one of only 14 players to launch at least seven triples per game in 2017-18. In that group, he was also one of five to clear 39-plus percent from three; Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Paul George and Kyle Lowry were the others.

    That's why, despite being average-at-best defensively and limited off the bounce, he was invaluable for the Miami Heat. Among their rotation players, only Kelly Olynyk had a wider on/off split (plus-2.5 with Ellington, minus-1.6 without).

    One might assume that makes him a lock to return to Miami. It's not that simple. Unless the Heat move money off their books, a new deal for Ellington likely pushes them into the luxury tax—for a non-contending roster. With shooters getting paid even in this bear market, Ellington shouldn't have trouble scoring a balloon payment in South Beach or elsewhere.

9. Jusuf Nurkic (Restricted)

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    As a 7-foot plodder with zero career three-point makes, Jusuf Nurkic seems in danger of being left behind in the pace-and-space NBA. Then again, the game was already wide open in 2016-17 when he set a nightly fire under the Portland Trail Blazers with 15.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.3 steals.

    Those look like building-block numbers, especially for a squad seeking consistency from somewhere beyond its backcourt.

    Problem is those figures fell across the board for Nurkic's second go-round in Rip City. He could dominate every now and again—nine outings with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, six of them with three-plus blocks—but he was more prone to either disappearing or standing out for the wrong reasons.

    It's easy to talk yourself into or out of Nurkic as a potential target. He's 23 years old, strong as an ox and skilled for his size. He's also a walking whistle (career 5.0 fouls per 36 minutes) and entering a market short on cash and overloaded with interior bigs.

    ESPN's Zach Lowe has mentioned the possibility of Nurkic playing next season on his qualifying offer, via Blazers Edge's Sagar Trika.

8. Dwight Howard

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    Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    OK, so Dwight Howard technically isn't a free agent at the moment. In fact, he's two steps from the open market. His agreed-upon deal to the Brooklyn Nets can't be completed until July 6. Once that's settled, he still needs to reach a buyout agreement with Brooklyn.

    Technicalities aside, Howard's value is among this class' hardest to calculate.

    His numbers took an encouraging upswing this last season. His 16.6 points were his most since 2013-14. The last time he had more combined boards and blocks (14.1 per game), he and Kobe Bryant were pretending not to hate each other.

    These weren't empty numbers, either. The Charlotte Hornets fared 4.6 points per 100 possessions better with him than without.

    Of course, Charlotte later salary-dumped him onto Brooklyn to avoid the luxury tax, and Howard reportedly didn't receive the highest marks in the locker room.

    He's interesting as an interior anchor and 6'11" rim-runner. But it's perhaps telling the interest we're hearing about is coming from outside but involves his preferred destinations—the Warriors, Lakers, Pelicans or Wizards, per USA Today's Sam Amick.

7. Kyle Anderson (Restricted)

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    If the nickname "Slow Mo" didn't clue you in, Kyle Anderson is a unique player.

    He's spent the bulk of his career on the wings, despite possessing less-than-stellar athleticism and avoiding the perimeter arc like he's waging a war on analytics (career 0.6 three-point attempts per game). This might be where you notice we've given him top-15 treatment, so obviously something is working in his favor.

    There are many positive somethings, actually.

    His cerebral approach proves helpful when he's triggering pick-and-rolls or operating as a secondary playmaker. He plays within his limits, which manifests itself through elite field-goal shooting (47.8 percent for his career, 52.7 last season) and expert ball control (0.8 career turnovers per contest).

    Defensively, his length and instincts contribute to a quietly elite package. His 3.20 defensive real plus-minus ranked second among small forwards and 16th overall this past season, per ESPN.com.

6. Zach LaVine (Restricted)

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Zach LaVine has the size, athleticism and shooting stroke of a high-level combo guard. To date, though, the 23-year-old's contributions have largely been limited to volume scoring and aerial acrobatics—and the latter came few and far between upon his return from a torn ACL.

    That's the abbreviated version of how a player who anchored the Jimmy Butler trade just last summer can now appear as a possible flight risk. The Chicago Bulls, of course, must be willing to let him walk.

    "From Bulls perspective on LaVine, four years for $60 million has always felt like preferred number to them," ESPN.com's Nick Friedell tweeted. "At 23, nobody is sure what kind of player he'll become."

    LaVine's potential, explosiveness and perimeter promise (38.8 percent three-point shooting from 2015 through 2017) will attract some bidders.

    The Atlanta Hawks have interest, per NBC Sports Chicago's Vincent Goodwill, and so do the Sacramento Kings, per O'Connor. And even if Chicago's interest has waned a bit, it began in a high enough place for him to help facilitate the Butler deal.

5. Jabari Parker (Restricted)

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Nearly every column on Jabari Parker's stat sheet paints the former No. 2 pick as a no-doubt keeper for the Milwaukee Bucks. He's 23 years old, a 49 percent career shooter and a contributor of 20.6 points per 36 minutes over the past two seasons.

    That's why it isn't surprising to hear he's reportedly swimming in suitors. Just ahead of the market's opening, Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times relayed hearing at least eight teams outside of Milwaukee had interest in Parker.

    "There's going to be interest in Parker, no doubt," a Western Conference coach told Woelfel. "Everybody knows he can play."

    What teams don't know is whether Parker can stay healthy. He's missed 145 of a possible 328 games over his first four seasons, twice tearing the ACL in his left knee.

    The fact that clubs are still interested shows how gifted of a scorer he is. But there are enough questions about his health and his defense to wonder if Milwaukee might opt against matching whatever offer sheet he signs.

4. Isaiah Thomas

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Isaiah Thomas might have the trickiest free agency of all.

    Two seasons back, he compiled max-contract credentials, finishing third in scoring and fifth in MVP voting. His stock has been tail-spinning ever since, plagued by a hip injury that ravaged his stat sheet before prematurely ending his 2017-18 campaign by necessitating surgical attention.

    So, which version is someone about to sign?

    Can Thomas get anywhere close to his 2016-17 levels, when he not only averaged 28.9 points but also did so with an ultra-efficient 46.3/37.9/90.9 shooting slash? Or is he the damaged-goods version we saw last season—an undersized scorer who didn't wow with volume (15.2 points per game) or efficiency (37.3/29.3/89.3)?

    Few players are more obvious candidates for a short-term, prove-it contract.

3. Marcus Smart (Restricted)

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Marcus Smart is a non-shooter who plays shooting guard during an era defined by shooting.

    He sounds like he should be in jeopardy of the NBA leaving him behind. And yet, he's somehow one of the 10 best free agents still available this summer.

    Set his 36.0/29.3/75.6 career slash aside, and he becomes wildly intriguing from almost every angle.

    Need a hustler? Smart was top 20 in deflections (2.9 per game, tied for 17th) and charges drawn (0.24, tied for ninth). Need a stopper? He not only defends multiple positions but also shaved 3.8 points off his matchup's field-goal percentage, had the seventh-best defensive real plus-minus at point guard (1.61, per ESPN.com) and improved the Boston Celtics' league-best defense by 3.6 points per 100 possessions.

    Smart can also create, rebound, get to the free-throw line and play any perimeter position. His lack of shooting is a concern, but it's not one nearly grave enough to outweigh his numerous contributions.

2. Tyreke Evans

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    If Tyreke Evans' body cooperates, we might look back on 2017-18 as the start of chapter three of his NBA career.

    He'd long since abandoned the spotlight seized from beating out Stephen Curry as 2009-10's Rookie of the Year. Injuries and inconsistency had sapped Evans' effectiveness, forcing him to settle on a one-year, $3.3 million contract with the Grizzlies last summer.

    He won't have to settle this time around. Not after orchestrating his most productive season since that award-winning debut.

    His final stat line of 19.4 points, 5.2 assists and 5.1 rebounds made him one of only eight players to go 19, five and five. Evans, Curry and Kevin Durant were the only ones to clear all three marks and shoot 37-plus percent from distance (Evans hit 114 triples at a 39.9 percent clip).

    Evans, who turns 29 in September, must still answer for his up-and-down trajectory and multiple medical woes (even last season he missed 30 contests). But his productivity, shot creation and improving outside shot have him in a much better position than this time last year.

1. Clint Capela (Restricted)

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Back in November, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said Capela had "near-elite two-way" potential, but the club needed "one more step, at least," from its center, per ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon.

    By year's end, Capela had secured a second-place finish in the Most Improved Player award voting. His 2017-18 stat sheet was predictably loaded with career marks, including 13.9 points on a league-leading 65.2 percent shooting, 10.8 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and a 24.5 player efficiency rating.

    He's close to the ideal non-shooting big for today's game.

    His sweeping 7'5" wingspan pays off in rim protection, helping him slice 5.1 percentage points from his opponents' shooting rates within six feet. His explosive athleticism makes him a punishing lob finisher (91st percentile pick-and-roll screener) and relentless rebounder (sixth in rebounding percentage). His lateral mobility allows him to survive most perimeter switches.

    He does everything a low-usage center should, and he only recently turned 24. Morey might have the height of Capela's ceiling pegged perfectly.


    Reported signings via NBA.com's free-agency tracker. Unless otherwise indicated, all stats are from Basketball Reference or NBA.com.

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