Best Free Agents Still Available That Teams Need to Pounce On

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2018

Best Free Agents Still Available That Teams Need to Pounce On

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Believe it or not, NBA free agency isn't over yet.

    The marquee players have already gone about their business, but some noteworthy names remain on the market. None of them have the leverage necessary to broker huge deals, which is part of their charm. They pack a serviceable punch without coming close to breaking the bank.

    Prospective destinations for these remaining free agents will be presented without much regard for roster spots. Plenty of teams have more than 15 players under contract, but most also tout enough non-guaranteed pacts to squeeze in another body if they so choose.

    Squads with no real reason to futz with their makeup—here's looking at you, Utah Jazzwill not be suggested. Everyone else is fair game.

    Note: David West was deliberately excluded here because he's too much of a retirement risk.

Jamal Crawford

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Age (as of Feb. 1): 38

    2017-18 Per-Game Stats: 10.3 points, 1.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.1 blocks, 41.5 percent shooting, 33.1 percent three-point shooting

    Advanced Stats: 13.0 player efficiency rating (PER), minus-132.24 total points added (TPA), minus-5.43 real plus-minus (RPM)

    Free-Agency Status: Unrestricted

    Jamal Crawford remains unsigned, and Isaiah Thomas wants to know why.

    It's a fair question. Crawford has never been the most efficient scorer, but his handles, side-to-side gait, self-aplomb and general capacity to get buckets are ageless. He has pumped in fewer than 15.5 points per 36 minutes only once in his career—17 seasons ago, when he was a rookie.

    Second units light on shot creation could use him. What he lacks in efficiency, he makes up for with gall. Players willing and unafraid to generate looks from scratch offer value in their volume.

    Crawford is a tough-shot-making OG. His accuracy on tightly contested field goals last season (42.4 percent) outpaced his overall clip. And contrary to another microwave scorer like Nick Young, he brings an element of break-in-case-of-emergency pick-and-roll initiation.

    Sources told ESPN.com's Zach Lowe at the onset of free agency that the Golden State Warriors and Crawford shared "mutual interest." That reciprocal attraction may still exist if the former is prepared to punt on Patrick McCaw (restricted) or use all of its roster spots.

    Ben Simmons "liked" a tweet that called for the Philadelphia 76ers to sign Crawford. Maybe they can bring him in to fill the rogue-possession quota Marco Belinelli left behind. 

    Pinpointing an exact home for Crawford is tough this late in the game. Rest assured, though, he'll find one.

    Best Landing Spots: Golden State, Miami, Philadelphia

Rodney Hood

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Age: 26

    2017-18 Per-Game: 14.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.2 blocks, 42.9 percent shooting, 38.1 percent three-point shooting

    Advanced Metrics: 14.3 PER, minus-63.90 TPA, minus-4.23 RPM

    Free-Agency Status: Restricted

    Restricted free agents have been squeezed left and right, but Rodney Hood is being absolutely squished. He has almost no hope of landing what he will consider a fair deal.

    Contract talks with the Cleveland Cavaliers have stalled after they failed to "put what Hood feels is an acceptable offer on the table," according to Yahoo Sports' Jordan Schultz. If the two sides don't bridge the gap soon, Hood could opt to sign his $3.5 million qualifying offer, play out the 2018-19 campaign and re-enter the market next summer as an unrestricted free agent.

    Bet on that happening. Hood needs an offer sheet to force the Cavaliers' hand, but he probably isn't getting one. The Sacramento Kings are the only team with appreciable cap room, and they've already made their primary plays by chasing Zach LaVine and signing Nemanja Bjelica. If they were going to Kangz things up, they would have done it by now. 

    Another squad could offer Hood part of the mid-level exception, but the Cavaliers would match that price point in a heartbeat. And they specifically don't have the incentive to do anything more than wait out his market. They signed David Nwaba and traded for Sam Dekker. They aren't in a desperate spot. 

    That leaves Hood to work from a position with zero leverage. He cannot even sign a clearance-rack deal and try rebooting his value elsewhere. He must get Cleveland to cut him loose to gain that level of control.

    Teams should sniff around anyway. Maybe they get lucky and the Cavaliers decide to let him walk regardless of cost. Is that likely? Not at all.

    For all of his warts, Hood isn't someone Cleveland should junk without getting something in return. He is semi-comfortable creating his own offense, shooting 36.9 percent from three for his career, and he has the size (albeit not the length) to match up at pretty much every wing spot.

    Best Landing Spots: Cleveland, Sacramento

Josh Huestis

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    Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

    Age: 27

    2017-18 Per-Game Stats: 2.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.6 blocks, 33.0 percent shooting, 28.7 percent three-point shooting

    Advanced Stats: 5.4 PER, minus-77.15 TPA, minus-3.31 RPM

    Free-Agency Status: Unrestricted

    Josh Huestis would've already been scooped up if his game included an offensive wheelhouse. It doesn't. 

    Huestis is a specialty scorer without an area of expertise. He's a wild-card finisher around the rim and hesitant to put the ball on the floor. More than 90 percent of his looks last season came without taking a dribble.

    His three-point stroke is to-be-determined at best. He attempted only 10 treys through his first two years, hitting six, before turning in a 28.7 percent dud amid more volume (115 attempts) last season.

    Some team should still roll the dice on Huestis. His defensive malleability is legitimate, if a little bit raw. His 7'1" wingspan and jittery feet make him a match for almost anyone who lines up at the 2, 3 or 4. 

    Just look at the players who he spent the most time defending last year: CJ McCollum, TJ Warren, Alec Burks, Trevor Ariza, Jonathon Simmons, Klay Thompson, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Taurean Prince, Khris Middleton and Lou Williams. Also of note: Paul George was the only member of the Oklahoma City Thunder who logged more possessions opposite Ben Simmons.

    Signing Huestis isn't akin to a defensive panacea. He's a fifth or sixth wing, not much else. And the offensive trade-off will not be worth it for everyone.

    But the Thunder managed to keep their attack afloat during his court time, according to Cleaning The Glass. A team equally confident in its on-ball playmakers and more sure of its spacing should have no trouble finding a use for Huestis' defensive tools.

    Best Landing Spots: Houston, Minnesota, New Orleans

Patrick McCaw

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Age: 23

    2017-18 Per-Game Stats: 4.0 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.2 blocks, 40.9 percent shooting, 23.8 percent three-point shooting

    Advanced Stats: 7.4 PER, minus-67.80 TPA, minus-5.54 RPM

    Free-Agency Status: Restricted

    Patrick McCaw did not enter restricted free agency to much fanfare—or a market at all—after failing to make a sophomore leap with the reigning champs.

    Injuries certainly haven't helped his case. McCaw missed the final leg of the regular season and most of the playoffs with a bruised lumbar spine. Before that, he waged battle with a concussion, strained back and fracture in his left wrist.

    How much of that is responsible for his sophomore stall remains to be seen. McCaw saw both his three-point percentage and attempt rate drop, which is never a good sign. He converted 65.4 percent of his shots around the rim, but he struggled when searching for offense on the ball. He shot only 36 percent on his attempts off drives to the basket.

    McCaw's defensive progression was similarly disappointing. With a 6'10" wingspan, he should be wreaking more havoc against pick-and-rolls and in one-on-one situations. The Warriors surrendered more than 112 points per 100 possessions when he played, according Cleaning The Glass. They coughed up even more (113.9) when he shared the floor with Draymond Green.

    Still, McCaw doesn't turn 23 until October. And he has the injuries as a built-in excuse. He's worth further exploration as a secondary ball-handler and committee perimeter defender. It seems like the Warriors intend to keep him around, as Golden State Of Mind's Brady Klopfer explained:

    "Golden State remains with only 13 players on guaranteed contract; they can have up to 15, though they've strongly suggested that they'll only carry 14. That the Warriors have yet to fill that 14th spot, with very few quality free agents remaining, suggests that they're holding onto it for McCaw. There haven't even been rumors of free agents that Golden State is interested in; the lack of news from the Warriors camp makes it feel like the roster is already set, even if, on technicalities, it isn't."

    This shouldn't scare away other suitors. A multiyear agreement worth whatever amount could be enough for the Warriors to go in a different direction.

    Best Landing Spots: Cleveland, Golden State, Orlando

Lucas Nogueira

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Age: 26

    2017-18 Per-Game Stats: 2.5 points, 1.8 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.9 blocks, 61.3 percent shooting

    Advanced Metrics: 17.3 PER, 37.85 TPA, 1.69 RPM

    Free-Agency Status: Restricted

    Greg Monroe's arrival likely spells the end of Lucas Nogueira's time with the Toronto Raptors. 

    Consider that the cue for another team to pounce.

    Hamstring, ankle and calf issues limited Nogueira's availability this past season. The sprained left ankle he suffered in late October did him in more than anything. Toronto's younger bigs, Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam, had long since rendered Nogueira expendable by the time he returned. His inconsistent health bill thereafter made it virtually impossible to crack the rotation.

    Give Nogueira a steadier role, and things could be different. He has the part of rim-runner down. He effectively uses his 7'5" wingspan to catch passes over opponents, and he mitigates his unremarkable explosion with a nice touch around the basket. He has placed in the 89th percentile or better as the pick-and-roll diver in each of the the last three seasons.

    Nogueira's length can betray him on defense. His tree-branch limbs make it difficult for him to navigate through traffic, and he doesn't have the lower-leg pop to dominate the glass. But he's more mobile in space than advertised, and his lanky arms enable him to break up plays from behind. He's averaging 1.8 steals and 3.0 blocks per 36 minutes since entering the NBA—marks matched only Ekpe Udoh over this span.

    With under 1,800 regular-season minutes on his resume, Nogueira remains an unknown. The center position is oversaturated, and his exploratory stints beyond the arc aren't enough to bill him as a long-term solution anywhere.

    When viewed as a cheap flier, though, he's a no-brainer.

    Best Landing Spots: Atlanta, San Antonio, Toronto

Dwyane Wade

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    Chris Elise/Getty Images

    Age: 37

    2017-18 Per-Game Stats: 11.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.7 blocks, 43.8 percent shooting, 28.8 percent three-point shooting

    Advanced Metrics: 15.0 PER, minus-62.78 TPA, minus-1.60 RPM

    Free-Agency Status: Unrestricted

    Dwyane Wade should be considered a free agent only if you believe he'll return for a 16th NBA season. He has yet to make that call, and he doesn't appear in any rush to do so.

    "In due time," he said at the end of July when asked when he'll make a decision, per ESPN.com's Ohm Youngmisuk. "Time will tell."

    Wade apparently has a lucrative offer to play in China, but it doesn't quite feel like he's at that point yet—assuming he'll ever get there. LeBron James clamored for him to receive Sixth Man of the Year love only eight months ago. Wade has some NBA hooping left in him.

    The Miami Heat remain his most likely landing spot if he staves off retirement. They need someone with experienced shot-creation flair—even if said someone is turning 37 in January and should no longer be used as a crutch.

    Plus, team president Pat Riley has said the Heat are content to wait out Wade's decision. His leaving again would be weird.

    Granted, that shouldn't prevent other squads from placing an inquiry. Wade has shown he's cool with coming off the bench. Contenders can talk themselves into using him as a second-unit hub if he's willing to play for the veteran's minimum—which, let's face it, he probably is.

    Best Landing Spots: Miami, Milwaukee, Whichever Teams Have a Banana Boat Club Member

               

    Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball Reference. Salary and cap-hold information via Basketball Insiders and RealGM.

    Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale) and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by B/R's Andrew Bailey.