2019 NBA Free Agency Big Board: Top 25 Players Still Available Entering Day 4
Day 3 of NBA free agency came and went without a bang or boom. Role players signed contracts. The Brooklyn Nets' strong offseason raged on. Jared Dudley finished the Los Angeles Lakers' Big Three, apparently.
Small stuff. Nothing huge. Can Kawhi Leonard make a decision already?
That was Day 3 in a nutshell.
Day 4 might be bigger. Leonard will turn the league on its head whenever he commits to a team. In the meantime, the market has other free agents—many of them cheap and ripe for the picking. We've ranked the top 25, because why not?
Exclusions remain straightforward. Contracts won't be made official until the moratorium lifts at 12 p.m. ET on July 6, but we'll be counting free agents as unavailable if the rumor mill has already revealed their destination.
Best fits are provided for each selection, with incumbent squads earning automatic nods so long as it makes sense. These estimates are based on the landscape entering Wednesday, and they take into account team needs, cap situations and open roster spots or the likelihood shoppers create them.
Suggested destinations are subject to change if another signing overturns the fit. Available players can likewise move up or down compared to their Day 3 big-board rankings if their appeal has increased from shifts in the market.
Note: Analysis for certain players is taken from Day 3's big board, but we've updated the text wherever necessary to reflect the most recent and relevant news. Also: This will begin as a top-25 pecking order and be winnowed down as players reach new agreements.
Knocking on the Door...
These players all have strong cases to make a top-25 bid, but they miss the cut for now:
25. Vince Carter
Vince Carter, 42, plans to retire after next season. Somebody needs to give him a home for his farewell tour. But it doesn't need to be a charity gig. Carter can still play.
Treating him as a third or fourth wing is not ideal. He shouldn't be creeping above the 15-minute marker too often. In a compact role, though, he is actually helpful.
Carter has adapted to reduction for the better part of a decade. He's now more of a spot-up shooter than someone who needs to while away from-scratch possessions. More than 55 percent of his looks last season came as catch-and-fire threes, on which he shot 39.5 percent.
Reliable three-point touch will always have a place. Carter takes it one step further with usable effort at the defensive end. He isn't quick enough to tackle traditional wings, but the Atlanta Hawks experimented with him guarding 4s.
Equally important: Carter doesn't need to be on a contender. He just made 76 appearances for the 29-win Hawks, and the young kids loved him.
"Hell yes," John Collins said when asked if he wants Carter to return next season, per The Athletic's Chris Kirschner.
Utility comes in all forms. Carter has cemented his as a shooter and mentor.
Best Fits: Atlanta, Oklahoma City, Toronto (for the nostalgia)
24. Ivica Zubac (Restricted)
Ivica Zubac was overrated by the end of 2018-19. People seemed to be overcompensating for the brutal critiques of the Lakers' other youngsters, as well as their inexplicable decision to not only trade him for Mike Muscala, but also initiate talks with the Clippers.
Plodding bigs without established pick-and-pop range need to be impactful rim-runners or high-usage transition threats. Zubac is neither. He can make plays around the rim but is not an expert at finishing through traffic and doesn't have the speed to torch defenses on the break in volume.
Zubac has shown craftiness with his back to the basket, and he converted 48.8 percent of his hook shots last season. This isn't 2005. He generated sub-0.90 points per post-up possession. That's almost decent work on the block. It is not enough for today's offenses.
More effective pick-and-roll play should come. Zubac is only 22. And he's one helluva rim protector. It'd be nice if he had more switch to his defense, but he can drop back without inviting blowbys. The odds of his turning into a 25-plus-minutes-per-game player still aren't great. And that's fine.
Best Fits: L.A. Clippers, Atlanta, Dallas
23. T.J. McConnell (SIGNED)
UPDATE: T.J. McConnell is signing a two-year, $7 million deal with the Pacers, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Remember when ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said the Philadelphia 76ers could get a first-round pick for T.J. McConnell? Good times.
McConnell's value has declined since then. The Sixers' midseason remodeling capped his role, and he wasn't a rotation staple in the playoffs.
Philly and McConnell are equally responsible for this slide. Non-shooters are inherently difficult to work around at the point guard position, but the Sixers were—and are—especially ill-equipped to navigate his limited range. He and Ben Simmons can't play together, and the rotation has long needed more guys who stay in motion off the ball.
Maximizing McConnell will be even harder for the Sixers after they lost JJ Redick to the New Orleans Pelicans. They may default to coping with the imperfect fit. They don't have the remaining cap space to find a quality replacement. Signing him to a bloated short-term deal and hoping he plays well enough to be used as a salary anchor at the trade deadline is probably their best bet.
To McConnell's credit, he's not a lost cause. He is a good finisher around the rim for someone his size and is not entirely bereft of a jumper. He put in 49 percent of his pull-up twos last season and is shooting 48 percent between 16 feet and the three-point line over the past two years on semi-significant volume.
Run him out in lineups featuring three above-average shooters, and he becomes a viable offensive steward with a pain-in-the-butt approach to half-court defense.
22. JaVale McGee
JaVale McGee's remarkable start to 2018-19 predictably didn't hold. The Lakers were playing him a touch too much, and he needs ample space and playmaking around him to have a continuous offensive impact.
Los Angeles' clumpy setup didn't much jibe with McGee as the season wore on, and he was a borderline nonentity without LeBron James. His stock dipped considerably after Christmas, which unsurprisingly coincided with James' groin injury and late-season maintenance program.
This isn't to say McGee cannot help a team. He can.
Offensive dependence is not atypical for bigs who don't chuck threes. McGee averaged 1.32 points per possession as the pick-and-roll diver—an elite mark. And he will work to create second-chance opportunities. Among every player who has totaled 3,000 minutes since 2015-16, he is 10th in offensive rebounding rate.
McGee is an inconsistent defender. This is not to be confused with a bad one. He fouls and goaltends in excess and can be played off the floor. But his length is disruptive in space when he's not leaving his feet, and he's a stout rim protector when he doesn't have to recover from outside the paint.
Fifty-six players challenged at least 250 shots at the basket last season. Derrick Favors, Hassan Whiteside and Ivica Zubac were the only ones who held opponents to a lower field-goal percentage.
Best Fits: L.A. Lakers, Houston, Miami
21. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has yet to figure it out on offense. His three-point touch is nonexistent, and he's a clumsy finisher around the rim. He showed competency on mid-range jumpers in 2017-18, but his efficiency imploded last season.
The Brooklyn Nets tried coaxing pick-and-roll playmaking out of his game to no avail. Other teams won't necessarily have better luck. But he does have the strength to get more reps as a screener if he's slotted as a small-ball 5.
The Nets never fully delved into the Jefferson-at-center experiment. They had their reasons. The defensive returns during his stints in the middle didn't demand a larger sample, and his discombobulated jaunts to the basket prevented him from being enough of an offensive mismatch even though he has some agility and hop-step pep when putting the ball on the floor.
At the very least, Hollis-Jefferson packs a defensive punch. He has not looked overmatched at power forward, and expanding his usage at center is worth a shot. If he regains any of his mid-range mojo, his next team will have a bottom-of-the-barrel steal on its hands.
Best Fits: Cleveland, Houston, Washington
20. David Nwaba
David Nwaba would be off the board already if he stood taller than 6'4". Last season's recurring injuries don't help him, either. Knee and ankle issues limited him to just 51 appearances for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But he was genuinely good during that time. Cleveland didn't have a better defender. That says a lot about the state of last year's roster, but it also speaks to Nwaba's portability. He is a half-court chess piece. He can guard 1 through 3 and is even strong enough to tussle with the occasional 4. Seriously.
It would be easier to overlook his size deficit if he were more of a sure thing on offense. His shooting is a question mark, and he's not equipped to fire up pick-and-rolls.
Cleveland granted Nwaba some license off the bounce. It could have gone worse. He shot 56.8 percent on floaters (21-of-37) and 46.2 percent on drives in general. His 32.0 percent clip from distance isn't inspiring, but he drilled 35.7 percent of his wide-open long balls.
If he can effectively finish attacks in space and sustain or slightly improve his accuracy on uncontested threes, Nwaba would become appreciably more than a situational defender. A smart team will roll the dice on his perimeter presence and offensive development.
Best Fits: Cleveland, Charlotte, Milwaukee
19. Jeremy Lin
That's NBA champion Jeremy Lin, thank you very much.
Injuries have hampered the point guard in each of the last three seasons. He appeared in just 37 games through two years with the Nets, and back issues prevented him from being a factor during the Toronto Raptors' title push.
Still, Lin will provide great value for what figures to be a minimum deal. His availability is an issue, but he was legitimately good with the Hawks before brokering a buyout. He finished well around the rim by his standards, hit 46.8 percent of his pull-up jumpers inside the arc and reached the foul line at a near-elite clip.
Probing defenses and getting to the charity stripe is what Lin has always done. More than 29 percent of his looks have come at the rim since 2015-16, over which time he's notched a free-throw-attempt rate of 38.7—a top-10 mark among 163 non-bigs who have appeared in at least 150 games during that span.
Trusting Lin's outside touch is a slippery slope. He connected on just 29.4 percent of his treys for the season, including an unspectacular 33.3 percent in Atlanta. But he has drained more of his triples in the past and should hover close to the league average when launching off the catch.
Best Fits: Toronto, L.A. Lakers, Indiana
18. Thabo Sefolosha
Thabo Sefolosha is a miniature reach this high. He is 35, has missed 76 games over the past two seasons and averaged just 12.2 minutes in 2018-19. That doesn't mean he isn't an impact acquisition. He can diversify just about any frontcourt rotation.
Downsized lineups with him at the 4 have two-way terror potential. He replicates a lot of what PJ Tucker does on defense, albeit on a smaller scale. The Utah Jazz posted a plus-19.8 net rating last season in the almost 1,000 possessions he logged at power forward, per Cleaning the Glass.
Sefolosha's outside touch, while historically not a given, is more than operable. He canned 43.6 percent of his threebies in 2018-19 and shot a combined 40.7 percent from deep during his time with the Jazz.
Utah generates gimme looks in volume. Prospective suitors must take that into consideration, but it is hardly a deal-busting caveat.
Ditto for Sefolosha's playing time. A hamstring injury limited him in the playoffs, but he shouldered a heavier workload down the stretch of the regular season. He's worth burning a roster spot on even if his sub-20-minute stints are his peak.
Best Fits: Golden State, Houston, Portland
17. Jake Layman (Restricted)
Jake Layman is among free agency's best potential sleepers.
Slightly more reliable three-point shooting is all that separates him from role-player fame, and he might be on the verge of bridging that gap. Last season's 32.6 percent success rate from beyond the arc doesn't wow, but it marked substantial improvement over Layman's 23.9 percent clip through his first two seasons.
He will scrap for minutes even if that's where his efficiency tops out. His constant motion without the ball keeps opponents on tilt, and he's committed to running the break and able to attack half-court defenses after hand-offs.
The Portland Trail Blazers have predominantly played Layman at the 3. Other teams would want to consider earmarking him as a 4, even if he's liable to get overpowered. He's more of a vertical athlete, and staying with wings who don't just orbit the three-point line requires more side-to-side juice.
Best Fits: Portland, Minnesota, New Orleans
16. Justin Holiday
Justin Holiday began falling off before the Memphis Grizzlies gave up too much to land him from the Chicago Bulls. His shooting took a turn for the worse after November, and he didn't respond well to getting weaned off on-ball work in Chicago.
That scorching-hot start still happened. He shot well from distance and did a nice job finding spotters off the dribble to open the season. His defensive assignments also went above his pay grade for extended stretches: Luka Doncic, Kevin Durant, James Harden and even his brother, Jrue Holiday.
Memphis' closing kick was kinder to Holiday. He averaged 15.4 points while slashing 45.8/41.6/89.5 over his final 11 games.
March and April samples cannot be taken at face value. Holiday isn't nearly talented enough as a playmaker and doesn't generate enough fouls to warrant consistent on ball-usage. But he's a wing with moderate outside touch who can dribble and will try on defense.
It doesn't get too much better relative to who's left.
Best Fits: Memphis, Charlotte, Golden State
15. Quinn Cook
Microwave scorers are not created equally. Many are genuinely talented. Others get by on irrational confidence alone. A few are effective in deliberate doses but are yet-to-be-determined assets when weighed against larger roles.
Quinn Cook is a mix of everything—not quite known but also not unexplored. He is definitely a notch above the cookie-cutter critiques.
His off-the-dribble work can be an unflattering adventure, but he is a legitimate shot-creator. He converted 44 percent of his attempts last season when using at least two dribbles and drilled 49.6 percent of his pull-up jumpers inside the arc to boot.
Playing for the dynastic Golden State Warriors comes with certain luxuries. Better shot quality is among them. It also means Cook is used to working away from the ball. He averaged 1.31 points per spot-up possession in 2018-19—sixth-best among the 265 players who put up at least 75 catch-and-shoot attempts.
Interested parties will have to get over Cook's limitations. He won't fold on defense, but he doesn't have the length to hang with every matchup. So-so size can undermine what are otherwise fair-weather playmaking instincts on the move.
Cook is worth poking around anyway. Versatile scorers always will be.
Best Fits: Golden State, Minnesota, Orlando
14. Markieff Morris (SIGNED)
UPDATE: Markieff Morris is headed to the Pistons, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania.
It's time to step out on a limb. The almost-barren combo-big market demands it.
Markieff Morris' stock took a nosedive last season. A neck injury limited him to a career-low 58 games, and he wasn't playing well before the Wizards traded him away. And yet: He's not that far removed from his days as one of Washington's most important rotation staples.
Through 2016-17 and 2017-18, just nine other players cleared 15 points, seven rebounds and one made three-pointer per 36 minutes on a true shooting percentage north of 55 in comparable court time: DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Al Horford, Serge Ibaka, LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, Otto Porter Jr. and Karl-Anthony Towns. That's pretty darn good company.
It is possible Morris will remain a one-position player, but he has the size (6'10") to play the 5. The Wizards couldn't finagle that arrangement. They vomited up a 116.6 defensive rating in the nearly 1,200 possessions he spent at center last season. That can happen when Jeff Green is manning the 4 spot for those lineups.
The Oklahoma City Thunder enjoyed a little more success with Morris in the middle, but the sample size wasn't large enough to draw meaningful conclusions. The experiment still retains its appeal. A team with quality shooting at the wing spots can, at the very least, matchup-proof its offense with Morris-at-center combinations.
13. Khem Birch (Restricted)
Khem Birch had a strong case to crack the initial top-50 list. No regrets, though.
Centers who don't play like wings are ideally taller than 6'9". Birch at least doesn't feel that tiny. He is like a lanky freight train, finishing lobs and dives to the rim with the presence of a flying Mack Truck. For real.
Bigs who work this hard are always good to roster. Birch gets up and down the floor, doesn't abandon ship when he falls behind plays and has flashed some nifty footwork in space and the open floor.
Maintaining this energy will be harder in a larger role. He remains an unknown in the sense that he's never even logged true backup minutes for an entire year. Betting on him carries a tinge of risk.
That shouldn't stop fashionably late stragglers. Birch isn't costing the moon. His salary is limited to next year's non-taxpayer's mid-level exception as an Early Bird restricted free agent, and the Orlando Magic, despite extending him a qualifying offer, have too many bigs and non-shooters to re-up him without decongesting the frontcourt rotation via trades.
To be clear: Birch is a fit in Orlando. That's where he established himself as a legitimate NBA player. Other teams just have more use for him.
Best Fits: Orlando, Atlanta, L.A. Clippers
12. Darius Miller (SIGNED)
UPDATE: Darius Miller is signing a two-year, $14.3 million deal with the Pelicans, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The second season is non-guaranteed.
Too many shooters are being pillaged from free agency's ranks for Darius Miller not to skyrocket up the ladder. Here's every player who has made at least as many threes (280) while matching his success rate (38.8 percent) over the past two seasons:
- Bojan Bogdanovic
- Stephen Curry
- Paul George
- Danny Green
- Joe Harris
- Tobias Harris
- Buddy Hield
- Joe Ingles
- Kyrie Irving
- Kyle Korver
- JJ Redick
- Klay Thompson.
Miller would be off the board already if he had more depth to his resume. He has the size to play some small-ball 4 but is exploitable on defense. He's at his best as a chance-taking secondary helper, not a primary stopper.
There might be more to Miller on offense. His release isn't super quick, but he can come around screens, and he's shown flashes of being able to finish plays in the lane off pump-fakes.
Best Fits: New Orleans, L.A. Lakers, Oklahoma City
11. Rajon Rondo
Rajon Rondo's game has aged into even more of an enigma. His flashy style infers a net-positive impact, but that pomp and circumstance is so often without substance. The Lakers were statistically better at both ends with him on the bench last season.
Hope is not lost. Rondo's engagement peaks juuust frequently enough to preserve it. Finding the right situation for him is imperative, as SI.com's Rob Mahoney wrote:
"Rondo still can’t really shoot and still doesn’t want to. He doesn’t want to play defense so much as make big defensive plays. If a team can survive those quirks in the year 2019, then Rondo could be an impact player. If not, he’ll continue to reward cutters with ingenious passes, read what set an opponent is running before busting it open, and then quietly cede points along the way."
Stability is key. Rondo has gone from All-Star to journeyman. He doesn't need a multiyear commitment so much as a set-in-stone role, be it as a starter or backup.
Bargain-bin shoppers with shooting in place and an unflappable hierarchy forecast as the most seamless landing spots. Less ambitious teams with major reps at point guard to spare also work.
Best Fits: L.A. Lakers, Boston, Minnesota
10. Jabari Parker
Jabari Parker is a nightmare on defense. His effort waxes and wanes, and the end result isn't inspiring even when he tries. He's constantly two steps behind the play.
Bucket-getters have value, and Parker is averaging more than 20 points per 36 minutes since 2016-17. He didn't shoot well from three last season (31.3 percent), but neither Chicago nor Washington were shining examples of great floor balance.
Besides, Parker flashed league-average or better touch from deep in each of the two previous years, albeit through injury-shortened samples. At his best, he is a legit shot-creator who provides a spot-up outlet when he doesn't have the ball.
Some team will roll the dice. It might even be the Wizards. They lost Bobby Portis to the Knicks and desperately need a floor-spacer on the frontline.
Best Fits: Washington, Charlotte, Cleveland
9. Tyus Jones (Restricted)
Put your money on Tyus Jones staying with the Minnesota Timberwolves. They made sure to touch base with him even before their failed D'Angelo Russell pursuit, according to The Athletic's Jon Krawczynski.
Jones needs a bigger role if he sticks. Playing in Minnesota 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, Philadelphia
8. 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
7. 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 Grizzlies nor 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 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, Boston, Golden State
6. 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.
Or, you know, maybe not.
Cap space is in scant supply after two days of action, and most of the squads with meaningful wiggle room are waiting for the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes to play out in some form. For what Oubre means to the Suns, it's unlikely an offer sheet comes through that they don't match.
In the 40 appearances he made leading up to the left thumb injury that ended his season, he 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 do a better job of holding his dribble and making more anticipatory passes.
Best Fits: Phoenix, Dallas, L.A. Clippers
5. 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, Atlanta, Dallas
4. DeMarcus Cousins
All is quiet on the DeMarcus Cousins front, and it doesn't sound like that'll change. As ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said (h/t CBS Sports' Michael Kaskey-Blomain): "There's not a market for [Cousins]. I think he hoped that some big-market teams would strike out, they'd have cap space and he could get a one-year, $12, $15, $18, $20 million deal. That's not happening. The mid-level exception he got in Golden State last year? I don't think that's there."
Determining Cousins' value and best fits is a mental tug of war with no clear answer. 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, Atlanta, L.A. Clippers
3. 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 Boston 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: Dallas, Denver, L.A. Clippers
2. Danny Green
Danny Green will make his decision after Kawhi Leonard delivers, per the New York Times' Marc Stein—and not a moment sooner, it seems. His destination is directly related to where Leonard winds up. His payday is not. He's narrowed his decision to the Lakers, Mavericks and Raptors, according to his Inside The Green Room podcast's Twitter account, and he's getting a windfall no matter where he goes.
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.
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
1. Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard continues to keep three teams on the hook—the Raptors, Clippers and Lakers—and the wait may continue. He has no plans to rush his decision, according to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes.
Business is harder for the squads so tightly tethered to his leanings. Pivoting to alternatives will be even harder for those Leonard spurns. But he's worth that risk.
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.
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 one 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.
Best Fits: Toronto, L.A. Clippers, L.A. Lakers