NBA Free Agency Rankings: Top 50 Players on the Market
Free agency has been underway for a while in the NBA despite what the league's calendar might read. If we believe the rumors, the hype and the signs, plenty of futures have played out .
Nothing's official yet, though. And until it is, we must operate as if everything's up in the air. Because, really, isn't it?
The NBA offseason didn't become great theater on the back of predictability. Players change their minds. Plans run astray. The done becomes undone. And even if everything at the top plays out according to what's assumed, we still have, well, everyone else.
In advance of this summer's cap-space craze, we've ranked the top 50 free agents slated to be on the market. Everything factors into this pecking order: performance last season, age, health, developmental arc, expected contract value and projected fit.
Benefit of the doubt will be given whenever necessary—namely to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Devastating injuries impact their standing, but not by much.
Players on non-guaranteed deals who weren't waived as of Thursday did not receive consideration for this offseason hierarchy. Best fits were named for each free agent. They took into account suitors' cap space and the plausibility of signings, and one spot was granted to incumbent teams unless the player in question is a virtual goner.
Tough Cuts and Exclusions
These players came oh-so-close to making the cut or were waived after Thursday and thus ineligible for consideration:
- Khem Birch
- Thomas Bryant
- Reggie Bullock
- DeMarre Carroll
- Willie Cauley-Stein
- Wilson Chandler
- Wayne Ellington
- James Ennis
- Jeff Green
- George Hill
- Justin Holiday
- Richaun Holmes
- Cory Joseph
- Frank Kaminsky
- Enes Kanter
- JaVale McGee
- Markieff Morris
- Nerlens Noel
- Jabari Parker
- Elfrid Payton
- Austin Rivers
- Rajon Rondo
- Thabo Sefolosha
- Ish Smith
- Garrett Temple
50. Reggie Bullock
Reggie Bullock is the ideal superstar accessory.
Most of his looks come as catch-and-shoot treys, which he drilled at a 38.9 percent clip last season (34.8 percent with the Los Angeles Lakers). And he has depth beyond standstill machinations. At 6'7", he can get off looks coming around screens, and he'll have more to offer as a side-action cutter on a team without cramped spacing.
Operating off the dribble isn't his bag. If chased off the three-point line, though, he's shown the control necessary to dish kick-outs. His own finishing in those situations could be better, but that spot playmaking is more important.
Managing Bullock on defense is effortless. He is dependable, not elite. He won't need help in most one-on-one situations, and coaches can get away with throwing him on point guards for short-to-moderate bursts.
Whatever team signs him will not be disappointed. The Lakers, on the other hand, may be. They need to renounce Bullock's $4.8 million cap hold to dredge up near-max space. He's a goner if they need to use it. They'll still have the $4.8 million room exception in that scenario, but Bullock should command comfortably more.
Best Fits: L.A. Lakers, Houston, Portland
49. Taj Gibson
Dramatically upping his volume from beyond the arc and getting more comfortable above the break are the next steps in his development. He becomes more useful than ever if he succeeds, which is unheard of for someone in an age-34 season.
In the meantime, Gibson props up his stock with reliable, high-IQ basketball. He is both a functional rim-runner and pick-and-popper, with a steady post game. Someone with his length should be more of an imposition protecting the basket, but he makes up for it with unrelenting work on the offensive glass and intractable defense on the block.
Brokering more than an afterthought contract would be easier for Gibson if he could survive long stretches at center. The Minnesota Timberwolves couldn't hang defensively when he occupied the middle. Rival offenses threw parties at the rim.
Another team might have more faith in Gibson-at-5 minutes. His value will jump if he finds it.
Best Fits: Minnesota, Golden State, Washington
48. Ed Davis
Ed Davis would not be a glamour signing. He's a reserve big who has never been the strongest rim-runner or paint protector, and playing him more than 17 or 18 minutes per game is most likely a sign of trouble.
Hold Davis' limited skill set against him at your own risk. He still has value between the margins. As SI.com's Rob Mahoney wrote:
"By trade, Davis is a rebounder and defender—one who happens to score almost incidentally. There's not a lot of money in it, by NBA standards, though Davis has carved out a nice career for himself on hustle alone. Teammates adore him. Coaches respect him. There's nothing especially modern about Davis or his basketball sensibilities, but a physical backup five is an enduring commodity."
Measured contributions are not unimportant. Davis has some switch to his game, even if he sometimes defends out of control, and will break up possessions midrotation with his long arms. His offense is not made for TV. He is ubiquitous on putback chances, and though he doesn't have the best hands, coaches don't worry about him playing past his means.
Jumpers are a last resort—or weird two-handed non-dunks right in front of the rim. He may not be the most explosive diver off screens, but he's slippery when given room away from the ball.
Davis doesn't have to worry about having a market. It might take a while to develop, but he'll have a fairly strong one.
Best Fits: Brooklyn, Memphis, Oklahoma City
47. Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose's season is hard to nutshell. His numbers look good on paper, but their rosiness was inflated by a scorching-hot start that quickly proved unsustainable.
Prior to Jan. 1, a stretch spanning 32 games, Rose averaged 18.9 points and 4.8 assists while slashing 48.6/46.2/83.8. After the turn of the calendar, he put up 16.5 points and 3.5 assists on 47.6/12.5/88.5 shooting in 19 appearances.
Small sample sizes shouldn't be taken at face value. This is different. Rose's dip in efficiency is more reflective of his track record. He was never the guy to sink a high percentage of set three-point attempts, let alone off-the-bounce triples. Even his ankle issues and season-ending elbow injury, while bad luck, are more indicative of what to expect.
Counting on Rose to play like a fringe All-Star for a majority of the schedule is unfair to him. He isn't meeting that bar again. He can headline an offense in spurts. The Timberwolves pumped in 114.5 points per 100 possessions with him as the primary ball-handler—stretches he spent without Jeff Teague (and Jimmy Butler) but that included Karl-Anthony Towns.
Rose should be able to keep a second unit afloat on his own if he stays healthy. He's a viable starting option, at least offensively, when partnered with another primo scoring threat.
Best Fits: Minnesota, Detroit, Indiana
46. Tyus Jones (Restricted)
Tyus Jones is not among the restricted free agents in line for a massive offer sheet. Playing for the Timberwolves has meant ceding status to starrier prospects and a more immediate timeline. Jones' offensive game is a developmental project, and it shows.
His handle has gone from touch and go to more under control, and he can pilot a functioning pick-and-roll. But his overall effectiveness is bogged down by an uneven scoring profile. He is a shaky three-point shooter and erratic when dribbling into jumpers, and with the exception of 2017-18, he's been an unsteady finisher around the rim.
Left ankle issues and Minnesota's regime change are at least partially responsible for Jones' underwhelming performance in 2018-19. He is worth a little faith. He just turned 23 and is shooting 41.3 percent on long twos over the past two seasons. His defensive stands alone warrant court time. Lazy passes are a no-no on his side of the court, he doesn't give up on plays after getting screened out of them, and he's sneaky talented at ending possessions as the helper.
Best Fits: Minnesota, Orlando, Phoenix
45. DeAndre Jordan
DeAndre Jordan's value has melted over the past two years. Sudden declines are not atypical for bigs who have always relied on their bounce—especially for rim-runners in the pace-and-space era—and Jordan has not helped himself with his laissez-faire approach to getting back in transition.
Extracting value from him is easier in smaller doses. He has proved durable enough to crack 30 minutes per game, but he's best served in a more finite role that staggers his minutes against switchable lineups.
Offenses with competent playmakers will have no trouble capitalizing on his dives to the basket, and he remains a force on the glass, albeit in rebound-chasing form. Older heads aren't supposed to learn new tricks, but Jordan is making more complicated passes from set high-post positions and smarter reads in handoff situations.
Tasking him with the livelihood of a defense overextends his skill set. He's not covering up for a shallow perimeter rotation. But he turns on the half-court jets every once in a while and can generally stick with his own assignment even if it requires journeying beyond the restricted area. Opponents shot 57.9 percent when challenged by him at the bucket last season, a solid mark among higher-volume rim protectors.
Best Fits: Brooklyn, L.A. Lakers, whoever signs good friend Kevin Durant
44. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope catches a lot of flak, but only some is deserved. His freelancing is a functional migraine. Dribbling into low-percentage jumpers remains a specialty, and his commitment to getting out in transition is too often dwarfed by a subsequent devotion to short-circuiting fast breaks with pull-up threes.
Teams with a higher degree of spacing would have more luck with Caldwell-Pope. He is a willing passer when able to swing the ball to orbiting shooters, and players who fancy themselves dipsy-dooers off the dribble should commit more turnovers.
Upping his catch-and-fire looks should be the goal of whichever team signs him. Less on-ball work is inherently simpler, and Caldwell-Pope placed in the 79th and 82nd percentiles during his two seasons with the Lakers.
Best Fits: L.A. Lakers, Charlotte, Miami
43. Wesley Matthews
Wesley Matthews is only a step above Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. He's a more consistent defender off the ball but an even starker offensive acid trip. He considers himself a post-up artist at times and frequently dribbles into ill-advised pull-up jumpers, on which he shot just 32.0 percent after joining the Indiana Pacers.
Enduring Matthews' doing-too-much pluck isn't always worth it. But it can be. He has knocked down more than 38.0 percent of his spot-up threes in each of the past six seasons, and his recent injury history has not impacted his motor.
Since March 2015, Matthews has had a torn left Achilles tendon, hip and hamstring issues and a fractured right leg. That clearing 30 minutes per game while flying around, sometimes aimlessly, remains his baseline is flat-out ridiculous.
Best Fits: Indiana, Detroit, Philadelphia
42. Terry Rozier (Restricted)
Putting Terry Rozier even this high is a gift.
Almost everyone on the Boston Celtics struggled amid an undefined and overcrowded pecking order. Some, like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, began to find themselves. Rozier did not. He also had a hand in creating their tumultuous locker room dynamic.
It would be one thing if Rozier's muted 2018-19 campaign was solely a matter of opportunity. It should not be viewed that way. His claim to more favorable treatment rests with his performance after Kyrie Irving went down in 2017-18. And hey: He was good. He wasn't spectacular.
Rozier averaged 14.7 points and 5.0 assists while hitting 37.0 percent of his threes to close 2017-18 following Irving's knee injury, but he shot just 36.5 percent overall and only slightly moved Boston's offensive needle. It was the same story in the playoffs. He barely shot 40.0 percent from the floor, and his outside accuracy dipped. He had his moments—ask Eric Bledsoe—but the Celtics inevitably leaned harder on Brown and Tatum.
Buyers need to be optimistic. Rozier is only 25. They should also beware.
Best Fits: Chicago, Indiana, Phoenix
41. JaMychal Green
Frontcourt mobility is more important than ever, and JaMychal Green has the combination of nimble feet and strength to extend the boundaries of a rotation's versatility.
Neither the Memphis Grizzlies nor Los Angeles Clippers used him in volume at the 5 last season, but he has that range, mostly when playing against second units that won't test his lack of size at the rim. His side-to-side agility and length serve him well in space and permit him to log a lion's share of his minutes at the 4 without much regard for matchups.
Green isn't so much of a sure thing on offense. Stretch bigs are no longer novel at power forward. He has withstood the progression by transitioning from mere floor spacer to knockdown shooter. He put in 40.3 percent of his threes last season on 4.6 attempts per 36 minutes and kept perimeter defenses on tilt with strong screens and dives to the bucket.
Perhaps the most meaningful proof of Green's utility came during the Clippers' six-game first-round set with the Golden State Warriors. He nearly tripled the number of possessions he logged at center during the regular season in a truncated span while draining 55 percent of his spot-up treys. Los Angeles posted a plus-12.9 net rating in that time, with an offense that absolutely sang.
Best Fits: L.A. Clippers, Brooklyn, Golden State
40. Rodney Hood
Rodney Hood's market earned a vote of confidence from the Portland Trail Blazers when they traded for Kent Bazemore. They cannot offer Hood more than the $5.7 million mini mid-level exception as of now, and this deal suggests he has already priced himself out of town, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Figuring out Hood's value is difficult. A lot of cap space is floating around, and he has the trace appeal of a shot creator who can work off the ball.
Hood drilled 36.0 percent of his pull-up threes during the regular season and pumped up Portland in the playoffs with a mixed bag of tricks. Through 16 games, he shot 55.2 percent on drives while earning frequent trips to the foul line, nailed 56.0 percent of his pull-up twos and swished 41.4 percent of his standstill triples.
Better from-scratch scorers are available, and Hood cannot be entrusted with a high volume of pick-and-roll initiation. But he has the goods to be a third or fourth option, and complementary weapons tend to get paid. It'll be a surprise if he nets substantially less than the non-taxpayer's mid-level exception ($9.2 million).
Best Fits: Detroit, Orlando, Washington
39. Bobby Portis (Restricted)
Bobby Portis' numbers have quietly jumped off the page for two seasons. Among everyone who has seen as much court time since 2017-18, Karl-Anthony Towns is the only other player averaging more than 20 points and 10 rebounds per 36 minutes while shooting better than 37 percent from distance.
This production has come without much substance. Portis hasn't yet contributed to a winning team or put it together on defense. The latter is troubling if he's going to play so much center.
The progression of his above-the-break attacks makes him a nightmare cover at the 5, but he gives back just as much at the other end. Opponents shot 71.8 percent against him at the rim for the season, and Washington coughed up 115.0 points per 100 possessions whenever he manned the middle.
Youth lacks self-control, and Portis is only 24. But his undisciplined style, while part of his charm, is a wrinkle the Wizards or his next team must iron out. That won't curb interest. It might, however, prevent him from landing the $16 million-per-year offer he's seeking, according to The Athletic's Tony Jones and Fred Katz.
Best Fits: Washington, Brooklyn, New Orleans
38. Maxi Kleber (Restricted)
Maxi Kleber would shoot up this list if he played a larger role or received more run at the center spot. Most of his minutes with the Dallas Mavericks have come at the 4, and his scant time at the 5 has not yielded good defensive returns.
Only so much of that falls on Kleber. Teams shot well at the rim with him at center, but he didn't have much support in front of him. Dallas' wing rotation last season included Harrison Barnes (before his trade to the Sacramento Kings), Luka Doncic, Dorian Finney-Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Justin Jackson—just one of whom is a clear defensive plus (Finney-Smith).
Squads with more impactful perimeter stoppers will have an easier time getting by with Kleber at the 5. If not, he has shown the outside-in quickness necessary to hang at the 4. He is an asset either way.
Frontlines assembled around floor-spacing rim protectors are the dream. Kleber checks both boxes. He splashed in 35.3 percent of his threes on 5.2 attempts per 36 minutes last year and was even deadlier after Jan. 1, draining 41.0 percent of his triples. His block totals don't disarm, but opponents shot just 55.7 percent against him at the rim—a top-25 mark among 165 players who faced at least 150 point-blank looks.
Best Fits: Dallas, Atlanta, New Orleans
37. Kevon Looney
Kevon Looney became indispensable to the Warriors long before their rash of injuries. Head coach Steve Kerr is reluctant to put him in the starting lineup or play him 30 minutes per game, but he is Golden State's line to positionless defense without having to force Draymond Green to battle opposing centers.
Guards have a tough time cooking Looney on switches, and he is a stout rim protector for someone who stands 6'9". So many of his covers don't even get traditional looks on the basket. He sticks with ball-handlers step for step, often forcing contested baby jumpers and floaters, more than a few of which he'll get a hand on.
Sticking Looney in the middle can come at the cost of defensive rebounds without supplementary size around him. It is a different story at the other side. He works his butt off to create second-chance opportunities, even when it means shooting the gap between the three-point arc and basket.
Only seven players posted a higher offensive rebounding rate during the regular season.
Golden State doesn't run enough pick-and-rolls to render a verdict on Looney's screen-and-dives, but he's a good cutter who is content to subsist on put-backs and transition opportunities. The ease with which this offensive role can translate will invite far-flung interest.
Bigs tend to get squeezed on the open market, but this isn't last summer. More teams have cap space, and Looney proved critical to the Warriors' cause even as he labored through a fractured rib cage in the NBA Finals. They'll probably need to offer a small bag to keep him.
Best Fits: Golden State, Atlanta, New Orleans
36. Robin Lopez
Don't let Robin Lopez's smaller-time role last season fool you. The Chicago Bulls were—and still are—in rebuilding mode. Only after injuries and trades ripped through their frontcourt did Lopez become pivotal to the rotation.
"This summer, Lopez will have the freedom to find a team more aligned to his circumstances," SI.com's Rob Mahoney wrote. "The appeal isn't big production or big minutes but in small things. Lopez makes a living off of setting screens and boxing out, by grabbing offensive boards and warding off drives to the rim. It isn't glamorous work, but damn if it doesn't help."
Lopez's closing kick to 2018-19 will earn him a handful of suitors. He averaged 14.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists with a 62.8 true shooting percentage after the trade deadline, during which time he also ranked seventh in screen assists.
Starter money may not be available to Lopez. The league at large isn't begging to pay plodders no matter how hard they work, and few teams have openings at the 5. Among potential reserve options, though, few centers deserve a look before him.
Best Fits: Boston, Golden State, San Antonio
35. Seth Curry
Almost 250 players have averaged at least 100 three-point attempts over the past four seasons. No one is shooting them at a higher clip than Seth Curry, who has nailed 43.9 percent of his 684 outside looks (he missed all of 2017-18).
Established long-range sniping alone will not get him a massive deal. Shooters have a way of getting paid, but they won't break the bank without other strong selling points. Curry has them.
Playing behind Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum capped his minutes and on-ball responsibility, but he has more to offer. He is a consistent scoring threat out of the pick-and-roll, and his lack of size has not prevented him from becoming a solid team defender. He is rock solid at tracking pick-and-roll creators and can hold is own in one-on-one situations when he's not giving up too many inches or pounds.
Free-agent markets can always turn, but as is the case with Rodney Hood, the Blazers will be hard-pressed to keep Curry. They project as taxpayers, and the mini mid-level exception feels a beat too low. Their acquisition of Kent Bazemore seems like an attempt to replace both Curry and Hood with one player.
Best Fits: Boston, Indiana, L.A. Lakers
34. Trevor Ariza
Trevor Ariza has the leverage to broker a sizable multiyear contract. He didn't shoot the ball too well last season, and at 34, his days pestering svelte wings are numbered. But he added an extra layer of half-court playmaking upon joining the Wizards and still converted 44.7 percent of his wide-open threes for the year.
Contenders will bet on a better situation doing him good. Ariza can play more power forward as he ages, and even as his outside clips fluctuated last season, he remained lights-out from the corners.
Improving his shot quality will go a long way toward steadying his efficiency, and his time with the Wizards is nothing if not proof that he can shoulder more drive-and-kick volume when he's not lined up beside two top-tier playmakers.
Mini-MLE shoppers will sniff around, but Ariza seems like he'll get more.
Best Fits: Denver, L.A. Lakers, San Antonio
33. Jonas Valanciunas
Jonas Valanciunas caught some by surprise when he declined his $17.6 million player option. At 27, he is still relatively young, but broken-record style, the market for bigs who don't move like wings isn't especially robust.
Then again, Valanciunas might have his eye on the longer-term bag. His play with the Grizzlies warrants multiyear considerations. He averaged 19.9 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.6 blocks in 19 appearances while feasting on post-ups and flashing nifty foot speed both around and away from the basket on defense.
Parts of Valanciunas' standout performance in Memphis might be small-sample noise. But he was torching post defenders in Toronto, and his mobility and rim protection at the less glamorous end have always been too heavily panned.
Prospective suitors—which include the Grizzlies, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski—should not pay Valanciunas like a cornerstone. Building an offense that features him even as the No. 2 option is a problem, if not during the regular season, then certainly in the playoffs.
Still, he has now proved effective in short bursts off the bench and extended runs as a starter. He doesn't lock a team into any one rotation arrangement. That has value.
Best Fits: Memphis, Boston, L.A. Clippers
32. Rudy Gay
Rudy Gay should be all but penciled into a return to the San Antonio Spurs.
To say they cannot afford to lose him doesn't overstate the matter. They have no other combo forwards. They needed to push people up a position just to get by at the 3 last year, and their lopsided depth chart isn't in line to change.
Drafting Keldon Johnson only steered the rotation into more of a guard logjam. The same goes for Dejounte Murray's return from a torn ACL. The Spurs have the non-taxpayer's mid-level to dangle, but replacing Gay doesn't cut it. They need him and, at the bare minimum, someone else to fill the 3-4 quota.
Keeping Gay might be a no-brainer. Bankrolling his next deal is not. He's not a necessity by circumstance. He's been really good, and it'll cost the Spurs to retain him.
Lineups featuring him at power forward rated inside the 76th percentile of points allowed per 100 possessions without no-showing on the boards last season, and he was San Antonio's best pick-and-roll defender after Derrick White. Only six other players matched his defensive rebounding, assist, steal and block rates: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Marc Gasol, Nikola Jokic, Larry Nance Jr., Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Vucevic.
Next year is Gay's age-33 season, and he has Achilles and heel injuries in his recent rearview. That might tamp down his market. It won't allow the Spurs, or anyone else, to scoop him up on the cheap.
Best Fits: San Antonio, Dallas, Denver
31. Ricky Rubio
Mike Conley's arrival is not responsible for ending Ricky Rubio's tenure with the Utah Jazz. They made it clear long ago that this partnership had run its course.
Groans will no doubt ensue when Rubio signs his next deal. Ball-dominant guards with shaky jumpers who are reluctant to shoot in the first place are not NBA Twitter darlings. Anything above the mid-level exception over the longer haul will be spun as a risk, if not an overpay.
This holds true for certain teams. The Pacers have the hots for Rubio, according to The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor. That fit is a disappointment waiting to happen. Victor Oladipo isn't expected back from his ruptured right quad injury until December or January, and Indy needs a safety valve to relieve defensive focus on him once he does.
Rubio isn't that guy. He is an expert passer on the move, but his table-setting is somewhat neutralized by his absence of range and hesitance to fire away. He needs to be surrounded by shooters so that his offensive shortcomings aren't front and center.
If he finds that situation, he'll be golden. He remains a nuisance on defense and exists to feed those around him. Fit is more paramount to his success than it is for others, even if he ends up coming off the bench.
Best Fits: Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix
30. Al-Farouq Aminu
Al-Farouq Aminu had a stronger argument before the postseason. His defensive workload spoke for itself, and he hit just enough of his threes to avoid the "spacing liability" designation.
Historically, this hasn't changed entering the playoffs—until this year.
Defenders didn't bother showing Aminu serious attention from behind the rainbow, and he almost never made them pay. He shot 29.4 percent from deep overall and 26.3 percent on wide-open triples. It got so bad the Blazers could hardly have him on the floor during their Game 7 victory over the Denver Nuggets in the conference semifinals, and he was virtually unplayable in their (brief) Western Conference Finals tussle with the Warriors.
Maybe this gives some, including Portland, the heebie-jeebies. It shouldn't. Aminu is among the league's best defensive bridges between bigs and wings. Kemba Walker is the only player last season who guarded as many pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions (199) and post-ups (92).
One atrocious playoff stretch cannot break a player's value. Aminu will always be a spacing concern, but he's shooting 35.3 percent from long range since 2015-16 on five attempts per 36 minutes. That's more than good enough when paired with how he uses his length on defense.
Best Fits: Portland, Denver, Houston
29. Kelly Oubre Jr. (Restricted)
Kelly Oubre Jr. was never headed toward a dormant market. Restricted free agency has a way of being kind to 23-year-old combo wings. But his time with the Phoenix Suns took him from sheer upside play to "Well, damn: Maybe some team will throw him way too much money" territory.
In the 40 appearances he made leading up to the left thumb injury that ended his season, Oubre averaged 16.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 block while finding nylon on 53.2 percent of his two-pointers. He responded well to Phoenix jacking up his pick-and-roll responsibility, and his forever arms wreaked extra havoc in passing lanes.
Whether Oubre secures monster offers depends on how much the Suns and other teams trust his offensive development. He is still a wild-card shooter from the outside and looks more comfortable launching off the dribble than from set positions.
And if he's going to be saddled with ball-handling duties, he'll need to become more of a playmaker. Dump-offs and finding wide-open cutters won't do it. He has to a do a better job of holding his dribble and making more anticipatory passes.
Best Fits: Phoenix, New York, Sacramento
28. Julius Randle
Julius Randle's production begs for big-time money. He might get it.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns were the only other players last season to clear 25 points, 10 rebounds and three assists per 36 minutes. Randle isn't getting lowballed for a cramped shot selection, either. He more than tripled his career three-point-attempt rate and put in 35.8 percent of his standstill treys with the Pelicans.
Defense will cost Randle some love. He isn't a pushover when guarding in space, but he's easily thrown askew on screens. Offenses will target him in the pick-and-roll, and he's not a reactive help defender.
Interested parties have to decide if they can overcome his limitations. Running him out at the 5 doesn't help. Parades to the rim will follow. He needs to be on a team with a switchable rim protector already in place.
Best Fits: New Orleans, Brooklyn, New York
27. Delon Wright (Restricted)
Delon Wright breathed life back into his market after getting shipped to Memphis, where he averaged 12.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.6 steals while draining 50.8 percent of his two-pointers. He never quite regained his scoring touch out of the pick-and-roll, but he resurrected his finishing around the rim and kept defenses on tilt by applying constant pressure in the half court.
Just 16 players churned through more drives per game after the trade deadline. Wright still wasn't the most efficient scorer in these situations, but he uncorked the occasional floater and exhibited a nice feel for finding teammates when the defense was scrambled. His assist percentage on drives (11.2) was right in line with those of LeBron James (11.5) and Damian Lillard (11.4)—no tiny task when considering the talent around him.
Envisioning an uptick from Wright next year and beyond doesn't take much imagination. Nor do teams have to worry about housing him beside other ball-handlers. He made it work with the Raptors, and he'll make it work again.
Pairing him with a lethal shooter in the backcourt is ideal but not entirely necessary. Wright offsets half-court congestion with hard cuts to the basket, and he's only one season removed from downing 41.2 percent of his catch-and-shoot deep balls.
Navigating his offensive issues is worth it just to deploy him on defense. He is ready-made relief for teams that don't want to have primary point guards cover their own position, and his 6'5" frame stands up against most 2s and many 3s. Any squad with him as its second guard or sixth man has a roadmap to building a switchable beast.
Best Fits: Memphis, Chicago, Phoenix
26. Tomas Satoransky (Restricted)
And the winner of this year's "He's ranked too high! No, wait, he's too low! Or is he just right? Help!" award goes to: Tomas Satoransky.
Anyone calling this a reach is not out of line. Satoransky tantalizes as a point guard with the size of a wing, but he undermines his craftiness with perpetual reluctance.
Eighty-nine players averaged as many drives last season. He ranked 86th in field-goal attempts and barely cracked the top 70 in trips to the charity stripe. Offenses cannot survive for protracted stretches with him running the show on his own. He needs an All-Star outlet.
That's fine. Satoransky verges on a universal fit. He can captain the offense versus first-stringers for beats at a time, run the second unit mostly on his own and, most importantly, coexist with any number of ball-dominant scorers.
Nearly 60 percent of Satoransky's made baskets came off assists, and he canned 39.7 percent of his spot-up three-pointers. Combine that with his vision and deceleration in the lane, and he's a dream catch for every team looking to put the finishing touches on its offense.
Best Fits: Washington, Chicago, Orlando
25. Thaddeus Young
Thaddeus Young looks set to become one of this summer's biggest steals. Bigger offers are always a possibility with so much cap space whizzing around, but his market is undefined at best and shrinking at worst.
Two suitors are, for now, off the board following draft night. Indiana essentially pulled itself from the running by trading for T.J. Warren. Utah needs to waive Derrick Favors to sling more than the $4.8 million room exception after the Mike Conley blockbuster.
Other teams will come out of the woodwork. Young is among the league's most interchangeable defenders. He is strong enough to rumble with bigs and has the speed to shoot monster gaps on closeouts. He might be the NBA's most underrated help defender.
Working him into an offense is tougher. He is a below-average jump shooter, and defenses are unfazed by attacks off the dribble. Having him on the floor invites cross matches that are difficult to exploit even with four marksmen around him.
A worthwhile question: Is there a team bold enough to try running him out at the 5?
Best Fits: L.A. Clippers, Phoenix, Utah
24. Dewayne Dedmon
Dewayne Dedmon has the makings of an exception to The Big Man Rule: He is not a member of the vaunted Anthony Davis/Joel Embiid/Karl-Anthony Towns tier, but he might get paid anyway.
Rim protectors who space the floor and can attack from face-up positions are the billboard for lucratively compensated centers. Dedmon does not meet that criteria.
Relative to the non-stars at his position, he comes pretty damn close.
Dedmon's transformation into a three-point shooter is real. He canned 38.2 percent of his threebies on close to five attempts per 36 minutes. And these were not strictly unattended looks from the corner. More than two-thirds of his looks from beyond the arc came above the break, and he converted nearly 36.0 percent of them.
Few players marry Dedmon's complementary offense to his defensive presence. He uses his length to corral defensive rebounds, even against stronger opponents, and to check enemy ball-handlers in space. His rim protection is underappreciated. The Atlanta Hawks have let up fewer attempts at the basket when he's been on the floor in each of the last two seasons, and he allowed sub-59.0 percent shooting at the hoop last season—a sound mark for the volume he faced.
Oh, and just for kicks: Giannis Antetokounmpo is the only player who rivaled Dedmon's defensive rebound, steal and block percentages while making at least 25 three-pointers. Bids for soon-to-be 30-year-old bigs are almost impossible to forecast, but this is one non-star center who won't come cheap.
Best Fits: Atlanta, Milwaukee, New Orleans
23. DeMarcus Cousins
DeMarcus Cousins' placement is littered with land mines. He is, somehow, equal parts too low, too high and in the ideal spot. Committing to one stance and feeling exceptionally good about it is impossible. This is a mental tug of war with no clear winner.
Does it make sense to bet on where his star cachet was before he joined the Warriors? Will he fare better on a team with fewer mouths to feed? Wasn't he unplayable at times in the Finals? Wasn't he also mission critical to both of Golden State's victories over Toronto?
Should it matter that he's less than a year removed from his post-Achilles-injury debut? Or that he suffered a torn left quad in the first round of the playoffs? Should it also count for something, anything, that he came back? And that he's still a great passer? And bully in the post? And willing, if less efficient, three-point shooter?
How about those few moments during the Finals in which he actually cooked off the dribble? Are they offset by his oft-complete lack of mobility on the defensive end and in transition?
A deep and stormy center market doesn't help Cousins' case. Many bigs have been bilked of leverage over the past few summers, and this year's pool is diluted by heft. Taking a flier on Cousins holds intrigue thanks to his star power from seasons past, but the ideal fit has yet to present itself.
Terms of his contract will remain a debatable matter if and when it does. Pinning down a sensible price point is tough. It gets a little easier if he's inking a one-year deal; single-season investments can be bad but are seldom catastrophic. Beyond that make-good placeholder scenario, though, Cousins' pay grade will be miles from zero risk.
Best Fits: Golden State, Boston, L.A. Clippers
22. Terrence Ross
Terrence Ross didn't make himself money in the playoffs. He didn't lose any either. His buggy shooting had more to do with the Orlando Magic's own offensive deficit. A team without a consistent face-up scorer on the wing cannot optimize the performance of its should-be third or fourth wheel in the postseason.
Expecting Ross to mime the impact of a No. 2 option like he did last season would be a recipe for disaster. It might stand the test of the regular season but is much less sustainable in half-court pressure-cookers. His impact will hold if he's more ancillary than featured.
Deeper teams won't have a trouble getting the most out of him. He'll even maintain his utility to suitors with shallower wing wells, including Orlando, because of what he can mean to offenses as a co-alpha in the shorter term.
Sift through the Magic's best Nikola Vucevic-less lineups, and Ross is the most common denominator—more so than D.J. Augustin or Evan Fournier. (Aaron Gordon is right there with him.) Orlando topped out only after he took off.
From Jan. 1 through season's end, Ross averaged 21.9 points and 2.4 assists per 36 minutes while connecting on 38.3 percent of his threes. He will never be a foul-drawing machine or reputable setup man, but he was the Magic's most dangerous scorer out of the pick-and-roll—a weapon off the bounce in addition to his usual value as a standstill shooter.
Seven other players averaged more than two pull-up three-point attempts and knocked them down at a 37.0 percent clip or better: Eric Bledsoe, Stephen Curry, Wayne Ellington, Paul George, Tim Hardaway Jr., Buddy Hield and Khris Middleton.
Best Fits: Orlando, Indiana, L.A. Lakers
21. Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes' foray into free agency was never a given. He held a $25.1 million player option and won't net that kind of average annual value in this market.
Plenty of cap space is up for grabs, but this isn't 2016. It doesn't matter whether most teams have since learned their lesson. The league has more free agents. A lot more. Like, around 40 percent of the entire player pool.
Bonkers contracts are a staple of every summer, but they shouldn't be as readily accessible. The jury is out on Barnes anyway. He is not an offensive lifeline. He has some one-on-one chops but not the playmaking or contract-drawing expertise to spearhead an entire charge.
This isn't meant to imply Barnes made a mistake. Opting out allows him to play the longer game. He just turned 27, can defend either forward position and is significantly more dangerous on offense when he's supplementing another primary shot creator or two.
Look no further than his split time in Dallas and Sacramento last season. He rated in the 81st percentile of points per spot-up possession with the Mavericks, and his standing climbed into the 92nd percentile with the Kings.
Deferring to more suited ball-handlers like Luka Doncic, De'Aaron Fox and even Buddy Hield simplified the rest of Barnes' game. He is a more operable post and face-up scorer in smaller doses. Playing in Sacramento specifically insulated him against unnecessary one-on-one volume. They became specialty services rather than his whole business, and it looked good on him.
Potentially expensive, too. Sacramento is reportedly prepping a four-year, $88 million offer for Barnes, according to KHTK Sports 1140's Carmichael Dave.
Best Fits: Sacramento, Chicago, Indiana
20. Patrick Beverley
Here's the list of teams on which Patrick Beverley fits:
- All of them.
Beverley is very much plug-and-play. Things get dicey if he's saddled with too much of a ball-handling burden, but that's part of what makes him universally usable: He doesn't need control over offensive possessions, and his spark-plug defense is not the slightest bit tied to his shot or scoring totals.
Over 44 percent of his field-goal attempts last season came as off-the-catch threes, on which he shot 41.0 percent. Asking him to do more isn't out of the question. He shouldn't be strained with too much pick-and-roll initiation, and he's a spotty finisher around the rim. But he has blow-by bandwidth against unset defenses, and his floater is workable when he doesn't get caught decelerating around screens.
Make no mistake: Whatever Beverley does on offense is secondary to his defense. Every night is another Game 7. He rarely comes up for air. His pressure is ceaseless, and he never has to be hidden.
Having him break from point guards to defend wings seems gimmicky. It really isn't.
All 6'1" of him is sometimes the best option against the evilest evils. He is not immune to being overmatched. Kevin Durant stoppers don't exist. But he has the pit-bull aggression to try—sort of like Tony Allen, only in an even smaller package.
Best Fits: L.A. Clippers, Dallas, L.A. Lakers
19. Marcus Morris
Marcus Morris is another could-go-higher, could-be-lower case study. The former feels more appropriate when looking at 2018-19 in totality.
He was among the Celtics' most consistent players for much of the year. He hit treys and dabbled off the dribble. His presence on the defensive glass is more prominent than ever, and he's a better passer than his assist totals indicate.
No team should have him orchestrate sets from square one, and his tunnel vision on drives is real. But he is a decent decision-maker before he gets too deep on his attacks and pretty good at making quick swings to the corners.
Crummy shooting splits hurt Morris after the trade deadline. His cold stretch was something of a reality check—just not an overwhelmingly strong one.
Luka Doncic and Paul George were the only other players last season to average as many points, defensive rebounds and made three-pointers per 36 minutes, and Morris shot 45 percent on triples in the playoffs. He's going to get paid.
Best Fits: Boston, Sacramento, San Antonio
18. Brook Lopez
Most heavy-footed bigs have been diminished by—or completely lost to—the post-modern center era. Not Brook Lopez. He has changed his game to fit the mold of a floor-spacing rim protector.
The NBA has three individual seasons on record in which a player averaged at least two blocks and two made threes per 36 minutes. They all belong to Lopez. He pushed the bill even further in his first season with the Bucks, tallying nearly three blocks and three made triples per 36 minutes.
This is not the extent of his wheelhouse. He will never have Draymond Green switchability, but he showed time and again during the playoffs that his combination of length and crouched backpedaling can help him stay in front of players on cross matches. And his box-outs on the defensive glass were crucial to opening up grab-and-go opportunities for Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Milwaukee has run the salary-shedding gamut to have the cap space necessary to pay Lopez more than the $9.2 million non-taxpayer's mid-level exception. Having that $12 to $14 million in flexibility, while still carrying holds for Malcolm Brogdon and Khris Middleton, might not even be enough to fend off the field.
Really, that says it all.
Best Fits: Milwaukee, New Orleans, Sacramento
17. Danny Green
Three-and-D wings are the most sought after non-stars. The most effective ones hold elevated positions in these exercises even if they want for flash and other dimensions to their game.
And so ends the explanation to those who are big mad about Danny Green landing this high.
Players entering their mid-30s are almost always risky multiyear investments. Green may be in line to lose a step or two over the next three to four seasons. Toronto or his next team will deal.
Age shouldn't too seriously dent Green's value. Maybe it means he covers fewer point guards or plays less than all-time-great transition defense. His stopping power is not rooted in explosion. He is an average athlete (relative to NBA talent, not you).
Nor is his offense predicated on off-the-bounce work. Close to 60 percent of his shot attempts last season were standstill three-pointers, of which he banged in 47.4 percent. Nearly 80 percent of his total looks came without more than a single dribble.
Green's lows can be infuriating. He was so cold by the end of the Eastern Conference Finals that Raptors head coach Nick Nurse barely played him. Green has missed a ton of big shots. He's also drilled a bunch of huge ones.
Of the 35 players who have attempted at least 50 three-pointers in the Finals since 1984, Shane Battier is the only one who's posted a better long-range clip.
Best Fits: Toronto, L.A. Lakers, Philadelphia
16. JJ Redick
Feel free to rage against JJ Redick cracking the top 20. He's gearing up for his age-35 season. The end of his next deal may not look all that great depending on its length. But he's too much of an offensive machine to slot down any further.
Shooting tends to age well, and Redick's stroke remains intact. Stephen Curry, Buddy Hield and Klay Thompson are the only other players who have matched his three-point volume and accuracy over the past two seasons, and he is an almost unparalleled assassin coming off screens.
But Redick's outside touch is only one variable in this calculus.
He has finished inside the 96th and 95th percentiles of pick-and-roll efficiency in his two seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers. He's baked a step-back jumper into his arsenal, and his pull-up volume has increased since he left the Clippers. He has turned more ball screens into higher assist totals.
Redick's game hasn't just withstood the test of time. It has amplified. And if he stays in the Eastern Conference, he should remain what he's been the past two years: a fringe All-Star.
Best Fits: Philadelphia, Indiana, L.A. Lakers
15. Jeremy Lamb
Nicolas Batum's tailspin left the Charlotte Hornets with a glaring void behind Kemba Walker. Jeremy Lamb has filled it the best he could for the past two years.
As an unchallenged No. 2, Lamb is miscast. The Charlotte offense rarely ever remained afloat when he took the reins without Walker, and he isn't a natural table-setter coming out of pick-and-rolls or when attacking downhill.
The Hornets had no choice other than to overtax him. They were—and are—absent other options and assets or cap space necessary to go get them. That Lamb has fared so well in the interim is a boon for his availability.
Swishing threes isn't his game. He's shooting an OK-not-great 35.8 percent from deep over the past two seasons on five attempts per 36 minutes and isn't about to knock them down off the dribble.
His comfort inside the arc is on a different level. He has a CJ McCollum fluidity about him from mid-range, with more length to finish around the rim. Last season, Lamb shot 49.0 percent between 10 feet and the three-point line and put down 48.5 percent of his floaters.
Strong clips on long twos open the door for better showings from long range. He's shooting 40.9 percent between 16 feet and the arc for his career, and last year, when he converted 44.3 percent of those looks, was the first in which he cut down on that volume.
Walking buckets often command the moon. Lamb isn't in that tier—though he could stumble beyond mid-level-exception territory this summer. He's halfway decent at getting to the line, his defense away from the ball improved last season, and he doesn't commit a ton of turnovers. The consistency with which he implements his skill set matters, too.
Lamb is one of four players to average at least 18.0 points per 36 minutes with a free-throw-attempt rate of 25 and turnover rate below 10.0 in each of the past three seasons. His company: LaMarcus Aldridge, Jimmy Butler and Anthony Davis.
Best Fits: Charlotte, Indiana, Orlando
14. Bojan Bogdanovic
Bojan Bogdanovic should be on the wish list of every team looking for microwave scoring and sweet shooting without jeopardizing their perimeter defense. This goes quadruple for squads that swing and miss on the star-player market.
Flashier scorers are available. Bogdanovic isn't going to dance with the ball, explode into blow-bys or convert acrobatic finishes. But he will run the floor, fan out into the corners, make power drives, rain threes and hit the more-than-occasional dribble jumper.
Indiana needed Bogdanovic to approximate No. 1 value after Victor Oladipo ruptured a tendon in his right quad. He delivered.
Bogdanovic shot 51.7 percent on drives, dropped in 30 of his 85 pull-up three-point attempts (35.3 percent) and, over the second half of the season, upped his pick-and-roll initiation. The Pacers offense hovered close to the 50th percentile in efficiency in the time he spent on the court without Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis—the equivalent of a giant hug under the circumstances.
Everything fell apart in the playoffs. The Indy offense needed more than Bogdanovic. Go figure. That is not an indictment of him. He isn't supposed to carry an offense. That he was a reasonable facsimile of a leading man works in his favor.
Imagine what he can do as part of a deeper pecking order. Suitors outside Indiana sure as hell are. As the New York Times' Marc Stein noted on The Bill Simmons Podcast, the Spurs have people wondering whether they, of all teams, are going to clear cap space just to make a run at Bogdanovic.
Best Fits: Indiana, San Antonio, Utah
13. Nikola Vucevic
Nikola Vucevic's first-round letdown tempered some the momentum he built up during the regular season. Orlando wasn't supposed to beat Toronto, but Marc Gasol also wasn't supposed to crush him. Vucevic shot 40.0 percent on two-pointers and 23.1 percent from three and struggled to maintain possession in the post. The Raptors served up a five-game reminder that a team with him as the best player has a cap on its ceiling, and the Magic had reached theirs.
Big whoop. This wasn't, and still isn't, groundbreaking. The number of centers able to headline a contender can be counted on the same hand. Vucevic isn't one of them, and he doesn't need to be.
His game holds up well as the No. 1. The Orlando offense bombed whenever he took a breather, including when D.J. Augustin or Terrence Ross were still on the court. Vucevic has tried-and-true three-point range, can make slick passes on the move and is a better defender around the rim and when dropping back than advertised.
"Bringing Vooch back is a priority," Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said, per the Orlando Sentinel's Roy Parry. "That being said, Vooch is going to have a lot of teams who will make him a priority for them, too. ... Hopefully, we can get something done. It's the NBA, and I always say there's a lot of real estate between the intentions and what gets done.
No kidding. The center market isn't going to be robust, but Vooch's appeal has picked up by default in recent weeks. Sacramento always needed a floor-spacing big. Boston and New Orleans have since entered the same boat—now with cap space to spare. Dallas theories have always felt like hypothetical gibberish, but perhaps the Clippers enter the fold if they need a second big name or just don't want to exit the free-agency fray empty-handed.
Orlando, meanwhile, is prepping a four-year, $100 million offer for Vucevic in anticipation of locking him down early, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania.
Best Fits: Orlando, Boston, Sacramento
12. Malcolm Brogdon (Restricted)
Brogdon fits everywhere. He is a good third option to run the offense but doesn't actually need to work with the ball. Catch-and-shoot threes accounted for 24.2 percent of his looks last season, and he downed them at a 47.5 percent clip.
At 6'5", with a wingspan approaching 6'11", Brogdon blurs the line between guard and wing. The Bucks have mostly put him on backcourt assignments, but he's routinely pestered bigger forwards. They used him liberally on Kawhi Leonard in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Development cannot be factored into Brogdon's contract. Next year is his age-27 season. He most likely isn't getting much better. That won't hurt his market. Quality restricted free agents invite overpays, and Brogdon's translatable style extends the field by considerable margins.
Milwaukee appears ready. Waiving George Hill ($1 million guarantee) and swapping Tony Snell for Jon Leuer chiseled out extra flexibility this summer and leaned out the 2020-21 cap sheet. The Bucks now have a path to re-signing Brogdon, Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton while ducking the tax in one, if not both, of the next two seasons.
Bids for Brogdon might make them uncomfortable anyway. Offers in the $20 million-per-year range feel unavoidable, and a max payday, starting at $27.3 million, doesn't seem outside the realm of possibility. All it takes is one team.
Best Fits: Milwaukee, Indiana, Sacramento
11. Tobias Harris
Tobias Harris' free agency will be fascinating. His market is a little wonky for someone considered a max-contract lock.
Two of his most popular could-be suitors are ostensibly off the table. The Jazz need to go nuclear to open up max money after the Mike Conley trade, and the Pacers no longer have an urgent need for him following the acquisition of T.J. Warren.
Sussing out other potential homes for Harris isn't a problem. Identifying max-payday spots is more complicated.
Do the Brooklyn Nets join the fray if they don't bag Kyrie Irving and another A-lister? Will the Kings sense an opportunity to pounce if they're over Harrison Barnes? How desperate are the Mavericks to get one of this summer's top prizes?
This becomes moot if the Sixers decide to run it back. They were perhaps four bounces away from making the Eastern Conference Finals and profile as one of next year's elite contenders if Harris, Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick stay put.
Maxing out a fourth wheel is acceptable if it gets you over the championship hump. It remains to be seen whether the Sixers view Harris in that vein. He converted under 35.0 percent of his treys in the playoffs, compared to 39.7 percent during the regular season, and went freezing cold in Philly's seven-game set with Toronto, draining only 27.9 percent of his three-balls, including a sub-31.0 percent clip off the catch.
For his part, Harris has to weigh the prospect of a more prominent role elsewhere. He doesn't turn 27 until July 15. Signing a shorter-term max that gets him back on the open market in two or three years might speak to him if he joins a team that considers him a No. 2 or even No. 3.
Best Fits: Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Dallas
10. Kristaps Porzingis (Restricted)
Kristaps Porzingis is more like an air-quotes restricted free agent. It doesn't sound like he'll even take meetings. He is expected to sign a five-year, $158.1 million max deal with Dallas soon after the opening bell, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania.
Please don't bother feigning surprise. The Mavericks have no choice.
Maybe they weave in some playing-time incentives to protect themselves, but they're already heavily vested in Porzingis' future. They gave up Dennis Smith Jr. and two first-round picks while taking on Tim Hardaway Jr. (two years, $39 million) and Courtney Lee (one year, $12.8 million) to get him. They were never leaving Porzingis' free agency to chance.
This contract will be worth re-litigating in a year or two. Porzingis has top-25 potential, but he hasn't played since suffering a torn left ACL in February 2018. And he was not a billboard for durability before his latest injury.
Extremists might wonder if Porzingis is worth the max on his best day, or if his value cannot be almost entirely exacted from Brook Lopez. Pump the brakes on that curiosity. Porzingis is a more mobile defender and, most importantly, more comfortable at creating his own offense from face-up positions. He can carry a really good team at his peak—no everyday feat in a league that keeps moving away from conventional size.
Best Fits: Dallas, Atlanta, New Orleans
9. D'Angelo Russell (Restricted)
It turns out D'Angelo Russell won't be a restricted free agent for long. The Nets will renounce his rights after bringing in Kyrie Irving, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Russell's ascent into stardom has taken a backseat amid this rumor-mill dalliance. He deserves better.
Deeming him the future No. 1 on a championship contender takes it too far. He will probably never be that player, and it is fair to question whether he's worth near-max money. But the degree of difficulty attached to his climb up the All-Star ladder should not be understated.
Only five players posted higher usage rates last season. Russell jump-started more pick-and-rolls than anyone except Kemba Walker, and just six players attempted more pull-up threes. He joined Stephen Curry and James Harden among the only players in league history to clear 25 points, eight assists and three made triples per 36 minutes for an entire year.
Indeed, Russell's game wants for completion. His shot selection will be cringe-worthy if he's not putting down 46.9 percent of his looks between 10 and 22 feet. He doesn't get to the foul line nearly enough for someone with his usage and was disrupted by Philadelphia's length in the playoffs. Pairing him in the backcourt with a defensive liability is a non-option.
Not all of those warts will go away. Russell can plead 23 years old to the rest. He is young, helped carry the Nets to the playoffs and has grown on an emotional level. Remember: He began the year ceding status to Caris LeVert and sitting out crunch-time stretches without ever visibly disengaging.
That all counts for something. It is why Russell will generate his fair share of interest outside Brooklyn despite a relatively finite market for point guards in near-max territory. He might even be a player for whom teams create cap space just to pitch.
Best Fits: Indiana, Minnesota, Phoenix
8. Al Horford
Word on the street is Al Horford already has a four-year, $112 million offer in place from a mystery team, according to the New York Times' Marc Stein. That explains his foregone departure from the Celtics.
Shelling out $28 million per year for Horford would be an overpay. He is 33. The rumored deal would take him through his age-36 season. Chances are great he won't live up to his price point by the end of it.
On the flip side, if you're going to overpay anyone, it might as well be a try-hard big with a skill set not tightly bound to the tenets of age.
Father Time will come for Horford. He comes for everyone. But he's not getting by on fireworks athleticism. Maybe his capacity to defend cross matches in space suffers. And he'll definitely have a harder time getting back in transition when he's not finishing offensive possessions above the break. That type of regression is navigable.
Horford's shooting and passing shouldn't waver in the coming years. His long strides should even make sure those pump-and-drives age well. Defensive slippage is a concern, but he has the IQ and length to make it work. Worse comes to worst, he can spend more time hanging around the rim in a couple of seasons.
Best Fits: L.A. Clippers, New Orleans, Sacramento
7. Khris Middleton
Khris Middleton is not "Second-best player on a championship team" material, but he's about to be paid like it—in no small part because the Bucks treat him like one.
They have nowhere else to turn. Neither Malcolm Brogdon nor Eric Bledsoe can mirror the responsibility of a title contender's second in command. Middleton finished more isolation possessions last season than the two of them combined, and he fired up 214 more pull-up jumpers than the next closest Buck, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Disappearing acts and gameslong ruts are part of Middleton's DNA. They cost him valuable ground in debates about his value. But he regains favor in much the same way Brodgon's stock does: Every team can use him.
Close to one-quarter of Middleton's shot attempts last season came off the catch, and over 40 percent of his made buckets were assisted on—a not-insignificant share for someone who anchored more lineups as the primary ball-handler than anyone except Antetokounmpo.
In many respects, then, Middleton is just as much plug-and-play as All-Star. He doesn't need absolute control on offense, and he fits the cross-position bill on defense. The Bucks can quibble over the cost of Brogdon and Brook Lopez, but they cannot afford Middleton's to be up for negotiation.
If it takes the full five-year, $189.7 million boat to keep him from window shopping, then so be it.
Best Fits: Milwaukee, Dallas, Indiana
6. Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker not only seems poised to leave the Hornets but also may already have his next destination teed up. He will join the Celtics when free agency officially kicks off, per the Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell.
Save talk about the merits of Charlotte's position for another time. Walker is not worth a five-year, $221.3 million supermax. Nor is a five-year full-Bird max at $189.7 million a no-brainer. But the Hornets are not being surprised by his free agency. If they weren't prepared to offer even the full-Bird max, they should've moved him at one of the past two trade deadlines.
Anyway, signing Walker is a more enticing proposition for outside teams. He's more of an asset, less of a cap-sheet liability at four years and $140.6 million.
The shot-creation workload Walker shouldered in Charlotte for the better part of a decade is worth that much, and he has the standstill touch and off-ball speed to play beside other ball-handlers. He has rated below the 87th percentile in spot-up efficiency just once since 2015-16 and is more of a threat to can jumpers when coming around screens than he was a few years ago.
Best Fits: Boston, Dallas, L.A. Lakers
5. Klay Thompson
Klay Thompson is taking maybe a one-spot hit after tearing his ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. It doesn't make sense to put him too much lower.
Torn ACLs are not the harbingers of doom they used to be, and Thompson's offensive livelihood has never been tied to quick-twitch shot creation. He detonates predominantly from set positions and coming off screens. He will always have his lightning-fast release and outside touch.
Perhaps he'll lose a step or two on defense and won't be as quick with his cuts to the basket. That player is still a star. Golden State is prepared to recognize as much.
The Warriors will offer Thompson a five-year, $189.7 million max contract at the onset of free agency, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. They aren't playing games.
Expect Thompson to forgo meetings elsewhere unless the games start.
Best Fits: Golden State, Golden State, Golden State
4. Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler will have to leave a ton of money on the table if he decides to flee the Sixers. They cannot get away with offering him a sub-max deal after how much he meant to their postseason push.
Foggy pecking orders are an inherent risk of multistar cores. Butler, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and, to a lesser extent, Tobias Harris will all have to grapple with a lack of surety so long as they're together.
But that ambiguity went out the window when it mattered most. Butler became the Sixers' most important closer during the regular season and was running point on offense by the end of the playoffs.
Lowballing him on a five-year offer might be an option if Simmons had a jump shot. He doesn't, and the Sixers cannot count on him developing one by next season. Embiid is their most important player, but face-up, off-the-bounce perimeter threats are crunch-time and postseason currency. Butler is all the Sixers have there, even with Harris in the fold.
Other teams will circle Butler regardless. The Houston Rockets are "extremely confident" they can figure out a way to land him, per The Athletic's Kelly Iko. Butler may also have interest in joining Anthony Davis and LeBron James on the Lakers, according to Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher. And don't forget: Butler and Kyrie Irving wanted to play together as of last summer.
Philly must feel good about dangling a five-year, $189.7 million max, if only because it should remove guesswork from the equation.
Best Fits: Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Houston
3. Kyrie Irving
Red flags aren't usually so prevalent in an All-NBA point guard and arguably top-10 player still in his 20s. Major props to Kyrie Irving for turning his free agency into a matter of debate.
Will the Celtics be better without him? Does it really make sense for the Nets to choose him over D'Angelo Russell? Can a team be happy with him as its lone star?
These question are ridiculous on their face. This should be a non-issue. Signing Irving is a win. For any team. But his time in Boston cannot be overlooked. As ESPN's Jackie MacMullan wrote:
"The talent is unmistakable, the work ethic indisputable and the courage to take a shot in the biggest moment is what drew the Celtics to him in the first place. Yet Kyrie's awkward attempts at providing forceful leadership proved to be flawed, and ultimately destructive. His journey began as an earnest attempt to fulfill his dream of leading his own team to the pinnacle, but he failed spectacularly, with help from a disjointed collection of talented individuals who simply could not figure out how to collaborate in unison."
Not everything that happened with the Celtics is on Irving. Loads of it is. He went from definitely coming back to waiting on July 1 (now June 30) to flat-out gone in under a year. And during that time, he has been ticketed for the Celtics, Knicks, Lakers and, now, Nets.
Leaving Boston is Irving's right. He's earned entry into unrestricted free agency. What he'll do after leaving is far less certain. His is a delicate superstar who needs the perfect situation. And for his sake, here's hoping the Nets are it. The two sides will hash out a deal once tampering SZN becomes free agency, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Best Fits: Brooklyn, L.A. Lakers, New York
2. Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant's ruptured right Achilles tendon will not prevent him from getting the bag this summer. Neither the Warriors nor the field will mess around with below-max overtures. Golden State, in fact, will reportedly offer him a five-year, $221.3 million deal right out of the gate, according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst (h/t Forbes' Tommy Beer).
Finding the right fit is all Durant has to worry about. He will meet with the Nets, Clippers, Knicks and Warriors, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowksi. Choosing won't be easy. Durant is essentially holding his free agency one year into the future, after he returns from his injury. His priorities might shift.
Bolting from the Warriors to do his own thing made some semblance of sense for his legacy. Taking a team from obscurity or fringe playoff contention to championship status would beef up his resume in a way winning titles with a superteam cannot. But Durant has to reconcile what he'll look like when he takes the floor again.
Can he be responsible for a franchise's livelihood on his own? Does he need another co-star? Two? More?
The Warriors are his safe haven. They can promise him more long-term security and star power than any other suitor, and the question of whether they need him is ancient history. They struggled without him in the Finals and, after Klay Thompson went down as well, broke. He is essential.
Both the Nets (Kyrie Irving) and Clippers (Kawhi Leonard) might offer him the chance to play with a worthy co-star, minus the bandwagon stigma. The Knicks are a good bet if Durant is looking to immortalize himself by ferrying a team out of the dark ages and believes his play will still carry superstar cachet post-Achilles injury.
Best Fits: Golden State, Brooklyn, New York
1. Kawhi Leonard
Best-player referendums are passed almost weekly during the postseason. The jockeying has always felt hollow, even forced. This year was different. It was still excessive but carried meaning.
Kawhi Leonard's claim to the throne is genuine.
This isn't to be confused with open and shut. Giannis Antetokounmpo earned the title during the regular season. Stephen Curry and James Harden still exist. LeBron James will turn 35 next season, but he just missed the playoffs for the first time since 2005. He will be terrifying.
Leonard is right there—a megastar at both ends of the floor who led the new-to-each-other Raptors to a friggin' championship in Year 1 while at times dragging his left leg.
Perhaps he forfeits the top spot if Kevin Durant is fully healthy. He deserves it now. The team that signs him transforms into a contender, if it wasn't already. And from the looks of things, his decision will come down to three suitors: the Raptors, Clippers and, yes, Lakers.
Best Fits: Toronto, L.A. Clippers, L.A. Lakers