Every Team's Top Potential Free-Agent Targets After 2019 NBA Draft

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistJune 21, 2019

Every Team's Top Potential Free-Agent Targets After 2019 NBA Draft

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    Finally, mercifully, after months of radio silence, we can talk about NBA free agency now that the draft is over.

    Here's hoping you read that with your sarcasm font turned on. Free agency has dominated every discussion over the past year or so. That's how the league works now. Most of the moves on draft night were analyzed in terms of how they impact this year's market—and rightfully so.

    Imagining every team's top target is a necessary exercise so close to the June 30 start date. Depth-chart outlooks are slightly clearer, and more concrete cap-sheet projections are beginning to take shape.

    Plus, Thursday's draft—and lead-up to it—most definitely shook things up. 

    The Utah Jazz's priorities have shifted following the acquisition of Mike Conley. The Boston Celtics seem to be on the verge of losing both Al Horford and Kyrie Irving and are now one of this summer's biggest mysteries. The Phoenix Suns have...weirded up their situation.

    Forgive us for advancing free-agency speculation even further. Please also note that we're not sorry.

Chasing Their Own Stars

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    Charlotte Hornets: Kemba Walker

    Kemba Walker has said staying in Charlotte is his top priority, and that he's willing to take less than the five-year, $221.3 million supermax for which he's eligible to make it happen. Ergo, this isn't complicated: The Hornets need to focus on keeping him.

    This becomes more complicated if Walker ends up demanding the supermax. That's a real conversation. Pretty much every cheaper iteration is not.

    Giving Walker his regular full-Bird max (five years, $189.7 million) would vault the Hornets into luxury-tax territory. They cannot afford to care. Losing Walker sends the franchise into a full-tilt rebuild without a distinct cornerstone.

    Charlotte can figure out how to cut costs later, or owner Michael Jordan can commit to paying the tax for the first time. The bigger question(s): Will Jeremy Lamb price himself out of town? And if so, who can general manger Mitch Kupchak get with the mini mid-level exception (or less) to replace his shot creation?

    Outside free-agent target: Rodney Hood


    Golden State Warriors: Kevin Durant (player option)/Klay Thompson

    Kevin Durant's Achilles injury and Klay Thompson's torn ACL should not change the Warriors' approach. Next year will be a slog with both stars missing most, if not all, of the season, but offering five-year maxes to each remains the smartest play. They can aim to resume dynastic dominance in 2020-21.

    Golden State is apparently thinking along these lines, according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst. That's smart. Durant is still a flight risk, but a five-year, $221.3 million windfall has to hold more appeal after he suffered a devastating injury. Thompson's return is a non-issue. He'll be back if the Warriors don't get cute during negotiations.

    Filling out the rest of the roster will be a bigger problem. The Warriors project as a taxpayer even if Durant bolts. That leaves the mini mid-level exception. They have Kevon Looney's Bird rights but need more help on the frontline assuming DeMarcus Cousins bounces. Adding another shot-creator, while a must no matter what, becomes mission critical should Durant head elsewhere.

    Outside free-agent target: Austin Rivers 


    Milwaukee Bucks: Khris Middleton

    Khris Middleton shouldn't be a flight risk if the Bucks offer a four- ($146.5 million) or five-year max ($189.7 million). They seem prepared to go that far.

    Trading Tony Snell and the 30th pick to the Detroit Pistons leaned out the 2020-21 cap sheet, ostensibly arming Milwaukee to bankroll the current core down the line without wallowing deep inside tax. This deal also carved out a more workable path to re-signing Brook Lopez.

    Carrying free-agent holds for Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon (restricted) while waiving George Hill ($1 million guaranteed) gives the Bucks somewhere between $12 and $14 million in cap space, depending on what they do with their other non-guaranteed deals.

    That's noticeably more than the non-taxpayer's mid-level exception ($9.2 million), and it should be enough to retain Lopez. Milwaukee can then go over the cap to hammer out deals for Brogdon and Middleton without regard for the luxury-tax apron.

    Outside free-agent target if Lopez stays: Kyle O'Quinn

    Outside free-agent target if Lopez leaves: Dewayne Dedmon


    Orlando Magic: Nikola Vucevic

    Having Mo Bamba on the docket would render Nikola Vucevic expendable if the Magic were in the middle of a rebuild. They're not. They're in that awkward territory between a youth movement and trying to compete. 

    Vucevic jibes with Orlando's two timelines. He is working off his first career All-Star bid, can carry the offense on his own for smaller stretches, is an underrated interior defender and, above all, shouldn't cost the moon.

    Bigs outside the megastar tier are more prone to getting squeezed. Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, Kristaps Porzingis (restricted), Karl-Anthony Towns et al. are the exceptions. Vucevic is closer to the rule.

    Paying him a ton of money over the shorter term is fine. The Magic don't need to overthink this unless Vucevic gets a massive three- or four-year offer from someone else. Even then, they might have to grin and pay it. Orlando isn't a free-agent destination, and the Magic need to renounce both Vooch and Terrence Ross just to dredge up meaningful cap room.

    Outside free-agent target: Darren Collison


    Philadelphia 76ers: Jimmy Butler/Tobias Harris

    Running it back should be more attractive than ever to the Sixers. Their four-star core only appeared in 21 games together through the regular season and playoffs, and Golden State's expected regression, coupled with the rampant uncertainty in Boston and Toronto, opens the door for Philly to burst onto the intimate title-favorites scene.

    Jimmy Butler is the top priority if the Sixers are forced to choose. He is their most reliable closer, and his transition to pseudo-point guard during the playoffs proved to be huge. Maybe he takes a haircut on a five-year deal, but Philly doesn't have the runway to mess around. Offer him the full boat, and be done with it.

    Rounding out the rotation with a backup big, another playmaker and shooters will take precedence after the Sixers tackle the futures of Butler, Tobias Harris and JJ Redick. The latter's price point will be a guiding force if Butler and Harris get penciled in for maxes. Philly has scenarios in which it keeps all three and retains access to the full MLE.

    Outside target: Danny Green


    Toronto Raptors: Kawhi Leonard (player option)

    Congratulations to the Raptors. They won the NBA title and, equally important, made the Los Angeles Clippers sweat Kawhi Leonard's free-agency decision in the process, per Windhorst.

    Plenty of people still believe he's going to L.A. Windhorst also added that Leonard may give the New York Knicks a meeting. Whatever. The Raptors have made their case, and it is a damn good one. Leonard is their everything unless he leaves.

    And if he does, they have a decision to make: Do they start over or try to retool around Marc Gasol (player option), Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam?

    Leonard was acquired under the guise Toronto would blow it up without him. It isn't that easy anymore. Siakam is fast-tracked for stardom, and while the Raptors (probably) won't have real money to spend this summer, they're in line for squeaky-clean books in 2020 and 2021. 

    Outside target if Leonard stays: Garrett Temple

    Outside target if Leonard leaves and they don't rebuild: Dorian Finney-Smith (restricted)

    Outside target if Leonard leaves and they start over: Youthful projects (Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Stanley Johnson (restricted), Furkan Korkmaz, etc.)

Focusing on Incumbent Non-Stars

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    Atlanta Hawks: Dewayne Dedmon (Early Bird)

    Absorbing the salaries of Allen Crabbe and Solomon Hill effectively nuked the Hawks' cap space, along with any idea that they'd become major free-agency players. They can drum up around $13 million in spending power if they renounce Dewayne Dedmon, but they're better off keeping him.

    Atlanta needs a very specific big man to pair with John Collins up front—someone who can space the floor around his dives to the basket and protects the rim without tripping over himself when coaxed into defending outside the paint.

    Dedmon is that player. Nearly 40 percent of his field-goal attempts last season came as catch-and-fire threes, on which he shot 38.1 percent, and he is a functional deterrent around the basket. 

    A Collins-De'Andre Hunter frontline has massive appeal in smaller lineups but will struggle to hold up on defense. Dedmon, 29, is a good placeholder in the meantime. Atlanta is interested in bringing him back on what The Athletic's Shams Charania called a "balloon one-year deal."

    Signing a short-term agreement poses some risk for Dedmon, but the Hawks can make it worthwhile if they push it two seasons and use his early Bird rights to offer a starting salary up to $12.6 million.

    Top outside free-agent target: Maxi Kleber (restricted)


    Cleveland Cavaliers: David Nwaba (non-Bird restricted)

    Luxury-tax concerns will follow the Cavaliers into free agency whether they trade JR Smith's partially guaranteed deal ($3.9 million) or waive him themselves. Owner Dan Gilbert has not shied away from expensive bottom lines in the past, but this summer is different.

    Cleveland isn't a contender or anything close to it. Burning the mini mid-level exception ($5.7 million) is harder to stomach unless an impactful young player unexpectedly falls into that price range.

    Keeping David Nwaba should top the Cavaliers' to-do list. Acquiring talent is the general goal, but they need wings and defensive spunk more than ever after getting Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr., both guards, at Nos. 5 and No. 30, respectively. (Any Dylan Windler fans out there?)

    Nwaba is a force despite standing only 6'4". He matches up with positions 1 through 3 and has shown he can hold his own one-on-one versus bigger wings and small-ball 4s. His shooting is far from polished, but he canned 35.7 percent of his wide-open treys in 51 appearances last season. Cleveland isn't going to do any better for the money it can offer.

    Outside free-agent target: Stanley Johnson (restricted)


    Memphis Grizzlies: Delon Wright (restricted)

    Selecting Ja Morant at No. 2 does not invite the Grizzlies to let Delon Wright walk. He is the crown jewel from the Marc Gasol trade, and they have room for another backcourt body after dealing Mike Conley to the Jazz.

    Wright's limitations as a jump shooter shouldn't scare off Memphis. He played beside other guards during his time with the Raptors, fared extremely well firing on the catch in 2017-18 and has always been a willing mover and shaker off the ball.

    His defensive portability also keeps in theme with the rest of the Grizzlies roster. They traded up for Brandon Clarke on draft night, still employ Jae Crowder for now and already have Kyle Anderson and Jaren Jackson Jr.

    Scoring against them in the half court will be a chore if Wright comes back. If nothing else, his capacity to match up at both guards spot is a godsend for Morant's defensive learning curve.

    Memphis might want to think about reeling in another playmaker, but Anderson and Wright are solid secondary options next to Morant. Landing a combo big is more pressing even if Jonas Valanciunas stays put.

    Outside free-agent target: Kevon Looney


    Minnesota Timberwolves: Tyus Jones (restricted)

    Picking up Jarrett Culver (No. 6) was a good move by the Timberwolves. He should be a defensive monster at both the 2 and 3, with the bandwidth to shimmy up to the 4 on occasion. Some have doubts about how his lack of explosion will impact his half-court shot creation, but he's dangerous when he generates some separation.

    Point guard remains the Timberwolves' biggest issue, and they might as well look in-house to address it.

    Karl-Anthony Towns hasn't been shy about recruiting D'Angelo Russell. He better brace himself for disappointment. The Timberwolves will be working with the non-taxpayer's mid-level exception unless they shed a ton of salary.

    That money can net an outside option, and Minnesota needs one of those, but the pickings are slim. The Timberwolves don't have the cap space to bid on rival restricted free agents, and many of the mid-end options aren't worth significant investments.

    Darren Collison is a name to consider, but he turns 32 in August, and Minnesota doesn't look poised to win now. Tyus Jones is only 23, with plenty of room to grow on offense. He may never be a reliable playmaker out of the pick-and-roll, but he's at least a tough-nosed defender who fits the Timberwolves' (apparent) timeline.

    Outside free-agent target: Reggie Bullock or Darren Collison


    Washington Wizards: Tomas Satoransky (restricted)

    More than half of the Wizards roster is entering free agency, and they'll need to be prudent about who they re-sign.

    John Wall's recovery from a ruptured left Achilles tendon will cost him most of next season, and Bradley Beal's future could be up in the air depending on who Washington hires as its general manager. This isn't a roster that warrants many reinvestments.

    Tomas Satoransky is above the Wizards' ambiguity. He gives them an added layer of playmaking in Wall's absence and has enough experience working off the ball to mesh with whatever form this core takes in the long run. Not one of Washington's other rotation staples posted a higher assist rate on drives, and Satoransky averaged as many points per spot-up possession as Joe Harris.

    Failing an over-the-top offer sheet from another admirer that threatens to muck up the Wizards' long-term payroll even further, he is a player they should consider borderline indispensable. Almost all of their other free agents are replaceable, and they can keep costs down by targeting youthful fliers on their second and third chances who don't cut into Rui Hachimura's reps at power forward.

    Outside free-agent target: Mario Hezonja

Max-Star Shoppers

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    Brooklyn Nets: Kyrie Irving

    This isn't so much a suggestion as a submission to the inevitable. The Nets and Kyrie Irving have been dancing around and toward one another for the past few weeks, and it doesn't seem like their dalliance rests on the acquisition of another star.

    "Two high-ranking sources told me whatever qualms any teams might have about adding Kyrie Irving without Kevin Durant, the Nets are all-in," the New York Post's Brian Lewis tweeted. "One would think they'd love both, but Brooklyn is still very interested in Irving with or without KD."

    Two max stars is still the plan. After already sending No. 17 and Allen Crabbe to the Hawks, the Nets shipped No. 27 to the Los Angeles Clippers, creating even more flexibility and grabbing a 2020 first-rounder in the process.

    Renouncing D'Angelo Russell would now give them nearly $70 million in cap space—just shy of what it'll take to max out both Durant and Irving ($70.9 million). They can make up the difference by offloading one of their (many) smaller salaries in exchange for future draft compensation or as part of a larger trade.

    Landing Irving won't feel like a huge win without getting another star. (Brooklyn has more than enough room to sign a second max player with seven to nine years of experience.) The Nets can always re-up Russell, but his defensive fit with Irving figures to be untenable. And yet, letting him walk would be weird if he's not being replaced by another star.

    Either way, the Nets should remain locked on Irving. He is an upgrade over Russell and someone other stars have a history of wanting to play alongside. (Jimmy Butler, anyone?)

    Non-max target: Nikola Mirotic


    Los Angeles Clippers: Kawhi Leonard (player option)

    Kawhi Leonard will be nothing if not harder to poach after winning a title with the Raptors. That won't stop the Clippers. It can't. They spent the entire year linked to his free agency and have plenty of cap space.

    They might as well shoot their shot.

    It helps that the Clippers have the flexibility to sign Leonard and another bigwig. They'll have to reroute Danilo Gallinari to max out a second player, but Al Horford's presumed departure from the Celtics paves the way for a more affordable option.

    As Marc Stein of the New York Times wrote: "The belief making the front-office rounds tonight is that Al Horford already knows there's a four-year contract worth in excess of $100 million waiting out there for him June 30...knowledge that led to Horford's talks with the Celtics dissolving."

    The Clippers can juuust about get to that level without trading Gallinari if they renounce all of their own free agents and waive their non-guaranteed contracts. They can also still flip Gallo for around $10 to $12 million in cap relief and keep Patrick Beverley's hold on the books. 

    Point being: They have a bunch of different avenues to explore, as well as the strongest non-Raptors sales pitch to throw at Leonard.

    Non-max target: Al Horford


    Los Angeles Lakers: Kemba Walker

    Whether you believe the Lakers botched the timing of the Anthony Davis trade doesn't much matter. ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported that they didn't understand the implications of completing the deal on July 6 instead of 30 days after the No. 4 pick signs. Her colleague, Adrian Wojnarowski, heard the timing was intentional.

    Once more: This doesn't matter for our purposes. The Lakers are still doing everything they can to stretch out their cap space. Worst-case scenario, they complete the Davis trade, offload and renounce everyone other than him, LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma and enter free agency with around $30 million in room.

    Maxing out Kemba Walker will cost more ($32.7 million), so it remains important that they wedge their way into the trade that sent the No. 4 pick from New Orleans to Atlanta. This is ongoing as of Thursday night, per ESPN's Dave McMenamin. Figuring out a way to include $3.7 million in additional salary—Isaac Bonga, Mo Wagner and guaranteeing about $200,000 of Jemerrio Jones' contract—allows them to complete the Davis trade after using max cap space.

    In the event the Lakers fail, they can at least get close enough to Walker's max for a meeting. Maybe he takes slightly less to chase rings. Or, again, perhaps Los Angeles will have his full salary available.

    Others will no doubt want the Lakers to chase Irving or Leonard. They are both ideal. Walker feels more realistic. Irving is heavily linked to both New York teams, and the Leonard sweepstakes appears to be a two-team race between the Clippers and Raptors. 

    If either one expresses a desire to join Davis and James, the Lakers must of course shift focus. For now, they need to meld ambition with plausibility. Walker can approximate the Irving-James partnership from Cleveland and might be more open to playing third wheel after making just two postseason appearances in eight years with the Hornets.

    Non-max target: Seth Curry


    New York Knicks: Kevin Durant (player option)

    Kevin Durant's Achilles injury doesn't give the Knicks license to pivot into an alternative—mostly because they don't have one.

    Davis is a member of the Lakers. They might lose Irving to Brooklyn. The consideration they may get from Leonard feels like a smokescreen. They've never really been linked to Butler. Walker and Tobias Harris could be options, but neither completely turns the franchise's fortunes.

    Durant still can.

    Next year will be a wash, but New York won't have nothing to show for it. RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, Dennis Smith Jr. and the other kids will get tons of reps while losing enough to guarantee the Knicks earn higher-end lottery odds. They'd then go into 2020-21 with a (hopefully) healthy Durant, more seasoned youngsters, another top pick and, if they play it correctly, gobs of cap space.

    And who knows, bagging Durant now might still help them woo another star. At the bare-naked minimum, after snagging another high lottery pick while he rehabs, they'll have the ammo to pursue whatever disgruntled A-lister hits the chopping block next summer.

    Non-max target: Noah Vonleh (non-Bird)

Restricted-Free-Agent Bidders

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    Boston Celtics: Malcolm Brogdon (restricted)

    Look, I'm not quite sure what the Celtics are doing.

    They had a solid draft, exiting with Romeo Langford (No. 14), Grant Williams (No. 22), Carsen Edwards (No. 33) and Milwaukee's 2020 first-rounder (top-seven protection, via Phoenix). And they can now get to more than $33 million in room if Al Horford and Kyrie Irving leave as expected and they renounce most of their other free agents. 

    Still, so many questions remain.

    Are they gearing up to chase a big fish? Which marquee name is signing with them if Horford and Irving are already gone? Can either of those situations be salvaged? Will the Celtics merely parlay their flexibility into new contracts for Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier (restricted) and another big before calling it an offseason?

    Something larger appears to be afoot. Sending Aron Baynes to Phoenix doesn't make much sense otherwise.

    Without knowing what that something might be, allow me to propose Malcolm Brogdon. He can play off one of Boston's many ball-handlers but run the offense in a pinch, and his length holds up on defense against both guard spots and some wings. 

    It'll probably take a max offer for the Bucks to blink. The Celtics can live with that price tag. They might even be able to max out Brogdon ($27.3 million) and keep Morris' or Rozier's hold if they shed some other salary. (Guerschon Yabusele to start.) 

    Milwaukee may match anyway, but that's not the end of the world. Boston doesn't seem like it'll be in play for superstars. Temporarily tying up cap space isn't a big deal—especially if it results in inflating the payroll of a conference rival.


    Dallas Mavericks: D'Angelo Russell (restricted)

    The Mavericks are looking to dump Courtney Lee's expiring contract, according to 247Sports' Mike Fisher, which suggests they prefer to court a no-brainer max candidate. But Russell is someone they can afford without greasing the wheels of a salary dump.

    Floating cap holds for restricted free agents Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber and Kristaps Porzingis will leave Dallas with just under $28 million in room. Russell's starting max salary checks in at $27.3 million. The financial symmetry is perfect.

    Russell is not. The Mavericks defense will be a problem when he shares the court with both Luka Doncic and Tim Hardaway Jr. The offense should be flames.

    Doncic and Russell are rock-solid complements. There will be some overlap, but two off-the-dribble attackers are a must for today's game. Porzingis is not overwhelmingly ball-dominant, so he alleviates some of the functional tension, and Russell has experience playing away from the rock. He has more to offer as a cutter, and he put down 39.4 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes last season.

    By the way: Porzingis can be the pick here. Dallas has to keep him after forking over Dennis Smith Jr. and two first-round picks while sponging up Hardaway and Lee. But restricted free agents are inherently difficult to steal. The Mavericks will keep him if they want him. 


    New Orleans Pelicans: Maxi Kleber (restricted)

    The Pelicans wanted to trade the No. 4 pick for a big man to pair with Zion Williamson. So, they did.

    In a deal that might wind up becoming part of the Anthony Davis blockbuster process, New Orleans sent Solomon Hill, No. 4 (De'Andre Hunter), No. 57 (Jordan Bone, who was shipped to Detroit) and a future second-rounder to Atlanta for No. 8 (Jaxson Hayes), No. 17 (Nickeil Alexander-Walker), No. 35 (Marcos Louzada Silva) and Cleveland's 2020 first-rounder (top-10 protection).

    Hayes and Williamson form an uber-explosive frontline, but they'll be an offensive work in progress out of the gate. New Orleans needs another big to space the floor. 

    Maxi Kleber is among the best possible answers. He splashed in 35.3 percent of his treys on 5.2 attempts per 36 minutes last season and was even deadlier after Jan. 1, draining 41 percent of his triples amid a bigger role.

    Most of his minutes in Dallas have come at the 4, which only makes him more intriguing. He's sneaky agile defending on the perimeter, but he has the size to man the 5 and live to tell the tale. Opponents shot 55.7 percent against him around the rim this past year—a top-25 mark among 165 players who challenged at least 150 point-blank looks.

    Executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin might have bigger names on his mind. The Pelicans have straightforward access to max room if they want it. Bet on their additional flexibility being divvied up among multiple guys. Their post-AD product is tantalizing, but a relative unknown. Now isn't the time to make the singular home run swing, and Kleber can log time next to either one of their frontcourt cornerstones.


    Phoenix Suns: Tomas Satoransky (restricted)

    Here's how Sam Cooper of The Timeline Podcast nutshelled Phoenix's draft-night activity: "The Phoenix Suns swapped Jarrett Culver [No. 6], TJ Warren and the 32nd pick for Cam Johnson [No. 11] and Dario Saric."

    To be fair, the Suns also carved out cap space...just not as much cap space as initially expected...because they also acquired Aron Baynes and Ty Jerome (No. 24) from the Celtics for Milwaukee's 2020 first-rounder (top-seven protection.)

    This is a shaky sequence of events at best. The Suns yet again lack direction. And they still want for a point guard. Johnson can shoot the lights out, and Jerome can make plays for others off the dribble. Neither immediately lightens Devin Booker's workload.

    Signing Tomas Satoransky would help. He is a setup man with the size of a wing who doesn't monopolize possessions. The Wizards pumped in 114.3 points per 100 possessions last season whenever he and Bradley Beal played without John Wall. Satoransky and Booker can work together in that same vein.

    Prying him out of Washington will cost a pretty(ish) penny. The Suns have that kind of cash. They'll enter the market with more than $11 million in room if they renounce all of their own free agents except for Kelly Oubre Jr. That's a good starting point. If they need to dig up more, they can look at Josh Jackson dumps.  

Teams That Can Overpay for Impact Veterans

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    Chicago Bulls: Patrick Beverley

    Patrick Beverley is pushing 31 and makes the most sense on a contender, but he's down to play with his hometown Bulls anyway. 

    “I'm a Chicago kid," he said, per the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson. "So of course I'm open to playing for the Chicago Bulls if that's a team that's interested in me. At the same time, any decision that is made, it's never personal. It's always business. I have to make the right decision for me and my family.”

    Beverley has never earned more than $6.5 million in a single season. That helps the Bulls. A fatter salary should carry weight with him, and they can eke out more than $20 million in cap space. 

    Drafting Coby White at No. 7 might compel Chicago to prioritize a wing on the open market. That's more than OK. But rookie floor generals face steep learning curves, and the Bulls have made it crystal clear they don't view Kris Dunn as a long-term solution.

    Paying Beverley above market for the next two or three seasons makes too much sense. Chicago has to think harder if he demands a four-year pact, but his fit is no doubt worth the short-term bag. He doesn't need the ball on offense, so he won't infringe upon White's development or Zach LaVine's touches, and his defensive tenacity will set an on-court and behind-the-scenes tone that gets head coach Jim Boylen's juices flowing.

    Another target: Tomas Satoransky (restricted)


    Indiana Pacers: DeMarre Carroll

    Coming up with a pick for the Pacers was wildly difficult after their trade for TJ Warren. He essentially removes all ball-dominant wings who aren't point forwards from the equation, forcing us to reckon with a market that doesn't have much of what Indiana needs most: an attacking playmaker who gets to the line without incinerating their floor balance.

    The Pacers can afford Malcolm Brogdon, Kyrie Irving, D'Angelo Russell or Kemba Walker if they renounce all of their free agents. That's not their style. Indiana is not a first-choice destination, and the team has seldom wrapped up cap space in free agents.

    Ricky Rubio is on the radar, per The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor, but he's an awkward fit. The Pacers need an off-the-dribble scoring threat to keep defenses on tilt. Rubio is selfless to a fault, and his shaky jumper makes him schemable.

    Parsing the free-agent ranks doesn't yield an obvious, mid-end answer. Tomas Satoransky is interesting but a little too reluctant to look for his own offense on the bounce. Jeremy Lamb was intriguing, but he's a question-mark passer, just like Warren.

    DeMarre Carroll is not the first, second or 25th name that springs to mind here. He doesn't check all the boxes. He shouldn't be initiating pick-and-rolls, isn't launching a bunch of off-the-dribble shots and should get more time at the 4 than the Pacers are probably willing to give unless they trade Domantas Sabonis. But he keeps the ball moving, spaces the floor at both forward spots and has been shockingly effective at getting to the charity stripe.

    Here's every player over the past three seasons with a free-throw attempt rate above 30 and turnover rate below 12 who has swished at least 350 three-pointers: Mike Conley, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Damian Lillard, Karl-Anthony Towns and...Carroll.

    Signing Carroll alone doesn't fix much, if anything. But he is an outlet the Pacers can pay while bringing back Darren Collison and rolling the dice on a should-be inexpensive ball-handler (Jeremy Lin?). That beats the nuclear scenarios in which they concede depth for an imperfect acquisition anyway.

    Another target: Jeremy Lamb


    Sacramento Kings: Al Horford

    Remember: It never hurts to try.

    Al Horford probably doesn't want to take on the role of "Old head on a plucky upstart" after slogging through Boston's shoddy locker room, but he wants to get paid, and boy, can Sacramento pay him.

    The Kings have an almost effortless $60-plus million in space following Harrison Barnes' decision to enter free agency. Maxing out Horford (four years, $164 million) takes that flexibility too far, but they comfortably beat his four-year, $100 million price range.

    Getting into a 33-year-old Horford for the next four seasons is a risk. He's worth the trouble. He fits beside both Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles, and his no-frills demeanor should set a good example for one of the NBA's youngest cores.

    If a four-year investment is too rich for the Kings to back, they could always offer him a three-year, $100 million deal. He extends the shelf life of his earning potential without sacrificing money in the short term, and Sacramento consolidates its risk by one year.

    Another target: Malcolm Brogdon (restricted)

Non-Taxpayer's Mid-Level Buyers

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    Denver Nuggets: DeMarre Carroll

    Denver needs a combo forward even if Michael Porter Jr. is healthy. Juan Hernangomez is still best suited at the 4, and the Nuggets' other "wings" don't have the size to play above the 3 spot.

    DeMarre Carroll fits the bill. He can defend both forward slots, and his low-usage offense slides seamlessly into Denver's system.

    Close to half of his looks last season came on spot-up threes, and he can work in the occasional off-the-dribble play. His fluctuating outside clip is a concern; he shot just 34.9 percent on his catch-and-fire treys. But he dropped in 40.5 percent of his wide-open triples and will get even cleaner looks on the Nuggets.

    Staying under the luxury-tax apron is crucial to entering Carroll's market. He probably isn't signing for the mini mid-level exception. The math will be tight if Denver picks up Paul Millsap's $30 million team option, but not impossible. 

    Aside: It turns out the Nuggets have a thing for trying to reboot damaged draft stocks. One year after taking once-upon-a-time-No. 1-pick Porter with the 14th overall selection, they scooped up Bol Bol at No. 44 from the Miami Heat. That's a pretty big, albeit no-risk, flex.

    Alternative target: Trevor Ariza


    Detroit Pistons: Rodney Hood

    Kudos to the Detroit Pistons for stockpiling wings. They acquired Tony Snell from the Bucks and drafted Sekou Doumbouya at No. 15. 

    They still need more. Doumbouya is an offensive project, and Snell, while a good three-point shooter with an occasionally aggressive defensive motor, shouldn't be tasked with making plays off the dribble.

    Rodney Hood can be. He isn't on the verge of grazing a fringe-star stealing, but he has the tools to blend the line between shot-creator and complementary marksman. He converted 36 percent of his pull-up threes during the regular season and helped the Portland Trail Blazers in the playoffs with situational attacks on the basket and spot-up jumpers.

    Detroit is free to play it safer. Someone like Darius Miller can tee up standstill threes all day, and lower-end dice rolls such as Danuel House Jr. (non-Bird restricted) and Iman Shumpert will come cheaper. But Hood is more of a complete package at his peak. The Pistons should keep him in mind even if they wind up only having the mini MLE.

    Alternative target: Darius Miller


    San Antonio Spurs: Marcus Morris

    San Antonio did not deepen its combo-forward pool on draft night.

    Luka Samanic (No. 19) is an outside-in big who should be able to switch across multiple positions. Keldon Johnson (No. 29) is a high-energy wing who shot 38.1 percent on 118 three-point attempts at Kentucky, but he doesn't have the size to hang at the 4. (Truthfully, he might have the strength.)

    Re-signing Rudy Gay, an Early Bird free agent, has become an absolute must. It isn't enough. The Spurs need another double threat up front—and preferably someone who is more of a 2-3-4 hybrid.

    Suggesting Marcus Morris errs on the side of ambition. The second half of his season failed to inspire, but his performance in the aggregate might earn him more than a $9.2 million starting salary. 

    Morris shot 45.5 percent from floater range this season, 51.4 percent on drives in general and buried 39 percent of his spot-up threes. His your-turn, my-turn offense isn't ideal for San Antonio's system, but he's not an incapable or unwilling passer. His defensive profile is both inconsistent and everything the Spurs need. So while they should be prepared to pivot, they should also be prepared to give Morris a look.

    Alternative target: Al-Farouq Aminu

Bargain-Bin Shoppers

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Houston Rockets: Thabo Sefolosha 

    Thabo Sefolosha is not Jimmy Butler, who the Rockets are "expected" to aggressively chase, according to the Houston Chronicle's Brian T. Smith. This tends to happen when teams don't have cap space or clear paths to manufacturing some: They're forced to set their sights lower.

    Houston has an outside chance of grinding out enough distance between itself and the luxury-tax apron, which would put the non-taxpayer's mid-level exception in play. Counting on that flexibility is a stretch. And even if they get it, they aren't in a position to spend it on one guy.

    Looking at Sefolosha is a payroll-proof move. He shouldn't command much, if anything, more than the minimum, and he upgrades the Rockets' frontcourt switchability.

    Over 85 percent of his possessions were played at the 4 last season, during which time the Jazz posted a 96.1 defensive rating, and he drained 43.6 percent of his threes. He might only be good for 15ish minutes per game, but he makes Houston better.

    Another target: Reggie Bullock


    Miami Heat: Justin Holiday

    Miami needs more secondary ball-handlers and wings in general. Drafting Tyler Herro takes care of the former—according to Tyler Herro.

    "Since I got to Kentucky, I continued to improve in every aspect of my game," he said, per MassLive.com's Ansar Khan. "A lot of teams haven't seen what I can do with the ball in my hands. I think I can play in the pick-and-roll, make threes off that."

    Perhaps the Heat will give Herro the long leash he'll need to showcase his creation. But they're a veteran team with playoff aspirations (for now). And even if they give him extensive run, he's not much of a wing defender.

    Justin Holiday is no airtight stopper himself, and his stock took a nosedive once he was traded to the Grizzlies. But he was a competent pick-and-roll initiator while with the Bulls and has the wingspan to defend the traditional wing spots. 

    Also: The Heat cannot be too choosy. They forecast as a luxury-tax team unless they lop off chunks of salary. They'll need to cross their fingers for Holiday to fall inside a price range that is unlikely to include them peddling their entire mini mid-level exception.

    Another target: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope


    Oklahoma City Thunder: Garrett Temple

    Anyone in line to make more than the league minimum may be too lucrative of an investment for the Thunder. They made Steven Adams, Andre Roberson and Dennis Schroder "very available" ahead of the draft in hopes of skirting the luxury tax, according to SI.com's Jake Fischer.

    Significantly tapping into their mid-level exception could be out of the question. That doesn't bode well for their offseason spending. They can still change course, but cost-cutting may be their default mode after paying the repeater tax.

    Finding wings who can handle the ball and knock down threes on a beggar's dime is a special brand of challenging. The Thunder didn't help their immediate prospects by adding Darius Bazley in the draft. His shot selection will take time to straighten out, and they don't have the margin of error necessary to give him creative license.

    Garrett Temple does not solve all the problems. His ball control is iffy when tasked with running plays in volume; he coughed up possession 25 percent of the time when initiating pick-and-rolls with the Clippers and wants for an attack mode.

    The Thunder's pecking order is better suited to his skill set. They have Paul George and Russell Westbrook to run the show. Temple can be a spot playmaker who spends most of his time launching threes off the catch. He's shooting 36.3 percent from beyond the arc since 2015-16 and knocked down 37.8 percent of his standstill threebies this past year.

    Another target: Darius Miller


    Portland Trail Blazers: James Ennis

    Portland needs wings who can hit off-the-bounce jumpers. Sophomore-year Anfernee Simons will fill part of the quota if he's given a more prominent role. Nassir Little, selected at No. 25, might do the trick in time, but he should be limited to catch-and-shoot looks until he plays more under control. (We also all know head coach Terry Stotts isn't leaning heavily on a newbie.)

    Addressing this void will be tough. Re-signing Al-Farouq Aminu drags the Blazers over the tax line, and they'll be awfully close to it if he leaves.

    Mini-MLE targets won't do everything Portland needs. We can't even be sure general manager Neil Olshey will throw around the full amount. James Ennis is a hedge against the Blazers' price range. It shouldn't take the entire MLE to get him, but he offers better than minimum value.

    Ball-handling isn't his specialty, and his career three-point splits are both wild and bogged down by tiny sample sizes. But he is a reliable enough set shooter, and his defense on the wings saved the Sixers more than a few times during the playoffs. Portland might get away with playing him at the 4 for small bursts.

    For those who want the Blazers to target a center while Jusuf Nurkic recovers from compound fractures in his left leg: I hear you. But bigs are easier to scrounge up on a tight budget. Ditto for reserve guards. Combo forwards and wings are scarcer finds.

    Another target: Markieff Morris


    Utah Jazz: Wilson Chandler 

    Utah is only confined to the bargain bin because its main attraction is already in the bag. Mike Conley arms the offense with the second from-scratch creator it has needed for years, and the Jazz are scarier for it.

    But breaking bread with the Grizzlies chewed up most of their cap space and Jae Crowder. They now have the room exception to dangle unless they waive Derrick Favors and a versatility-sapping void up front.

    Crowder was paramount to the small-ball 4 lineups that have proved so effective over the past two seasons. Without him, the Jazz have Joe Ingles and Georges Niang as their primary options in those situations. They can also re-sign Thabo Sefolosha.

    Wilson Chandler won't incite too much excitement as an alternative. He is 32, a suspect shooter and has battled injuries off and on for much of his career. But he's affordable, and more importantly, he wants to play the 4.

    "I'm more comfortable at the 4," he said in March, per the Los Angeles Times' Broderick Turner. "Most of my career I've always played the 4. But right now we've got [Danilo Gallinari] at the 4, so it's just a matter of fitting in."

    Both the Clippers and Sixers notched monster offensive ratings with Chandler at power forward. Los Angeles' defense wasn't so hot, but Philly's survived.

    The Jazz are at least as suited as the Sixers to navigate Chandler's minutes at the 4, and they shouldn't be chased away by his wild-card shooting. Crowder was hardly a beacon of consistency, and Chandler nailed 40 percent of his spot-up threes and 45.3 percent of his wide-open treys last season.

    Another target: Darius Miller


    Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.comBasketball Reference or Cleaning the Glass. 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.