The Top Free Agent to Pair with Every 2019 NBA Draft Top-10 PickJune 26, 2019
The Top Free Agent to Pair with Every 2019 NBA Draft Top-10 Pick
The focus of NBA teams has shifted from the draft to free agency, with the moratorium period beginning at 6 p.m. ET Sunday.
Each of the top 10 picks would benefit if their front offices sign players who can make the game and their transitions easier.
Certain rookies will need extra spacing, specific mentorship or another scorer at their positions to take off pressure.
We pegged the realistic free agent, based on his projected cost and presumed willingness to sign, who'd pair best with each top-10 pick. Only one free agent was considered for squads that made more than one selection in the top 10 since team fit was an important factor.
New Orleans Pelicans: Al Horford with Zion Williamson, Jaxson Hayes
The New Orleans Pelicans have a whole new roster after acquiring Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart for Anthony Davis before drafting Zion Williamson (No. 1), Jaxson Hayes (No. 8 via Atlanta) and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (No. 17 via Nets) in the first round.
Now it's important for executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin to fill the gaps with the right player types.
He could be patient and target short-term deals for mid-level talent rather than making a major commitment. Or he could make a pitch to Al Horford, who may be on a different timeline than New Orleans. However, his basketball fit and leadership are too perfect for this particular young group, which he could quickly help elevate.
Ball, Ingram and Williamson (at Duke) each shot below 34 percent from three. The Pelicans need a floor-spacer from the 5, especially since Hayes isn't a threat outside the paint, nor is he ready to play starter minutes as a rookie.
Horford, 33, has developed into a legitimate shooting threat later in his career. Between his stretch potential and his defensive IQ, he'd be a strong fit next to Williamson and a textbook pick-and-pop weapon for Ball and Jrue Holiday.
Horford would also allow Hayes to come off the bench as an energy big man while he strengthens his 6'10", 218-pound body and his understanding of the referee's whistle.
A Ball-Holiday-Ingram-Williamson-Horford lineup could do damage right away while maintaining a sky-high ceiling, since Ball, Ingram and Williamson could improve dramatically over the next few seasons.
Memphis Grizzlies: Malcolm Brogdon with Ja Morant
It's unclear how much the Milwaukee Bucks will be willing to spend to keep restricted free agent Malcolm Brogdon. The Memphis Grizzlies should push them.
He'd be an ideal teammate for No. 2 pick Ja Morant, who'll go from Murray State to immediately running an NBA team in the Western Conference after the trade of Mike Conley to the Utah Jazz.
Brogdon would help take pressure off as another ball-handler. And while Morant's weaknesses consist of shooting, decision-making and defense, Brogdon will command a sizable contract for being an efficient three-and-D guard who rarely turns over the ball (10.0 TOV percentage).
The Grizzlies could use Brogdon at point to spell Morant, but he's also strong and accurate enough from deep (42.6 percent) to be a 2-guard off the ball.
New York Knicks: Kawhi Leonard with RJ Barrett
As excited as No. 3 overall pick RJ Barrett should be to land in a market like New York, he could be in for a tough year if the Knicks strike out in free agency.
A dream scenario pictures Kawhi Leonard in orange and blue, giving the Knicks an MVP candidate and Barrett a scorer to take off pressure.
Though signs point to Leonard staying in Toronto or heading west, he's leapfrogged an injured Kevin Durant on the Knicks' free-agent priority list.
With Leonard in the lineup, Barrett could play more to his strengths early, as opposed to immediately being the focal point of both the Knicks offense and the opponents' defensive game plans.
Atlanta Hawks: Dewayne Dedmon with De'Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish
After agreeing to take on the salaries of Allen Crabbe and Solomon Hill, the Atlanta Hawks won't be major free-agent players. They shouldn't want to be either. Because if they renounce enough of their free agents next summer, they could have the cap space to sign two max players to join Trae Young, John Collins, Kevin Huerter and 2019 No. 4 and 10 picks De'Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish.
Ideally, the Hawks would add veteran leadership to mentor Hunter, Reddish and one of the league's youngest rotations. That may just mean trying to bring back Dewayne Dedmon.
Continuity could be important for the returning sophomores, including Young and Huerter. Dedmon would also continue to add the rare, valued mix of three-point shooting and rim protection. Offensively, the rookies will benefit from any extra spacing they can get, particularly Reddish, who shot just 20.6 percent on contested catch-and-shoot jumpers and 38.8 percent when left open, per Synergy Sports.
Regardless, Hunter, Reddish and the rest of Atlanta's core could use Dedmon's veteran presence.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with Darius Garland
Despite a roster bound for the lottery, the Cleveland Cavaliers don't have a lot of cap room.
Their core will continue to feature Kevin Love as well as a backcourt of Collin Sexton and rookie Darius Garland, the draft's No. 5 pick.
Defense is the first question to pop when breaking down the roster. Garland and Sexton are both 6'2", and neither has a reputation for being a two-way player. At least one and likely both will have to guard bigger players.
The Cavaliers may want to target a defensive specialist like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who can pester on the ball and switch onto ball-handlers, wings or forwards.
And with Garland, one of the draft's top shooters, plus Sexton (40.2 percent from three) and Love, the Cavaliers can afford to play Hollis-Jefferson despite his limitations as a shot-maker.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Rodney Hood with Jarrett Culver
The Minnesota Timberwolves agreed to deal Dario Saric to move up for Jarrett Culver at No. 6. Now they'll turn their attention to free agency, though they don't have significant cap space.
After ranking 23rd in threes made and 20th in three-point percentage, Minnesota could try to pitch Rodney Hood. Culver would presumably be more comfortable playing next to Hood than Andrew Wiggins, a ball-dominant scorer and inconsistent shooter.
Culver has had some trouble from three as well (30.4 percent in 2018-19), so ideally, the Wolves would surround him with floor-spacers.
Between Culver, Hood, Wiggins and Robert Covington, the Wolves would have a handful of interchangeable players.
Chicago Bulls: Patrick Beverley with Coby White
Likely losing confidence in Kris Dunn, the Chicago Bulls drafted Coby White, who'll give them a needed element of pace and shot-making from the point.
It's probably worth moving on from Dunn and replacing him in the rotation by signing Patrick Beverley.
Coach Jim Boylen can let White's development dictate how much he's used early in the season. Chicago can always start Beverley and bring White off the bench in a spark role for his streak-scoring and shooting abilities.
While White, the No. 7 pick, will earn his paychecks on offense, his defense remains questionable. Staggering him with a defensive stopper like Beverley, who'd also be a strong fit next to the ball-dominant Zach LaVine, would be a logical game plan.
Washington Wizards: Brook Lopez with Rui Hachimura
The Washington Wizards won't be competing for playoff position, but they also don't want to waste Bradley Beal's prime. Brook Lopez would help to keep Beal happy and the team from bottoming out.
But he'd also be a strong fit and presence for No. 9 pick Rui Hachimura, who's a tough scorer inside 17 feet but also a limited shooter and defender.
Suddenly a three-point specialist, Lopez would create more space for Hachimura to operate while also adding rim protection behind him.
Stats courtesy of Sports Reference.