The Perfect 2020 NBA Free Agent for Every Team

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 15, 2020

The Perfect 2020 NBA Free Agent for Every Team

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    As you've surely heard by now, the 2020 NBA free-agent class is short on superstars and teams with spending power, not to mention clouded by future financial uncertainty tied to COVID-19 and this year's stoppage in play.

    That makes this offseason a tough time to fill holes on a roster. But when the going gets tough, the tough...shrug off the bummer vibes and look really hard for that one perfect free agent anyway.

    Here, we'll canvas the league for the right fits on all 30 teams, being mindful of each organization's financial constraints. And because challenges are fun, we can only use each 2020 free agent once. No doubling up. Unrestricted and restricted free agents are fair game, as are a handful of higher-profile guys with player options. Finally, we'll even allow in-house options in rare cases in which the "best built" free agent is currently on the roster and hit-you-over-the-head obvious. Re-signings are still signings, you know?

    Last housekeeping bit: We'll operate as if the mid-level exception for non-taxpaying teams will sit at $9.8 million. The taxpayer MLE, also known as the mini MLE, is projected to be $6.0 million.

    Let's make some matches.         

Atlanta Hawks: Kris Dunn

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    The Atlanta Hawks are among the handful of teams poised to possess max-level cap space this offseason, but that doesn't mean they have to blow it all on one pseudo-star in a thin market. Better to address glaring needs, of which there are several.

    Kris Dunn wouldn't start for Atlanta; that's supposed to be Kevin Huerter's gig. But the lights-out stopper could play alongside Trae Young, bolstering a shaky perimeter defense in ways Red Velvet couldn't.

    The bar for backup point guard is lower in Atlanta than anywhere else in the league, so Dunn should be just fine running things against second units without Young. Though Dunn's assist rate nosedived in 51 games with the Chicago Bulls this season, that had more to do with a role tweak that shifted him toward a shoot-first approach.

    The Hawks offense will probably still crater without its leading scorer, but at least a Dunn-led backup group could define itself with defense. The 6'3" guard led the league in steal rate and proved himself capable of shutting down both backcourt spots and all but the rangiest small forwards in a standout 2019-20 campaign.

    Whether he plays with or behind Young, Dunn—a restricted free agent—fills a gaping hole in the Hawks' rotation.        

Boston Celtics: Harry Giles III

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    Daniel Theis has been a revelation in the Boston Celtics' defensive scheme, and Robert Williams still has enormous potential as an overpowering lob-catcher and rim protector. The Celtics are pretty well set at center for 2020-21, and that's before considering Enes Kanter (highly likely to pick up his $5 million player option) and Grant Williams, whose versatility and intelligence make him a viable spot-use small-ball 5.

    That's a positional glut, but it might also offer Boston some license to gamble.

    Harry Giles III has spent most of his career hurt, which is part of the reason the Sacramento Kings declined his fourth-year option. The most they can pay to keep him in unrestricted free agency is $4 million on a one-year deal. That makes the Celtics' mini mid-level exception competitive—to say nothing of the higher likelihood of playing winning ball in Boston.

    Giles quietly came into his own as a high-energy defender and efficient scorer during the last few weeks before the shutdown in March. At 6'11", his activity and (sometimes overly ambitious) passing eye stand out. The Kings have an obviously skilled and competitive big man hiding in plain sight, a 22-year-old who averaged 16.5 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists per 36 minutes prior to the hiatus.

    Health is a legitimate concern, but Boston can afford to risk wasting its MMLE on a still-developing prospect with this kind of upside. Giles was regarded as the best high school player in the country only four years ago—before injuries hit. Just imagine him finding his form alongside an already blossoming young Boston core of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.     

Brooklyn Nets: Maurice Harkless

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    The low-usage label, when applied to wings, isn't always a bad thing.

    Sure, sometimes, it's code for guys who just float around, don't threaten defenses and fail to make a real impact on the game. But for a team built around a pair of extremely high-usage scorers, like the Brooklyn Nets, players who can contribute without eating up offensive possessions are disproportionately valuable.

    Enter Maurice Harkless, a 27-year-old small forward who's never ranked above average in usage rate for his position but whose stellar defense and (usually) reliable three-point shooting made him a key piece of some high-quality Portland Trail Blazers teams from 2015-16 through 2018-19. This season was a bit of a washout, as Harkless bounced between the Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks, but his down year could be a come-up for the Brooklyn Nets.

    Cap-strapped by massive deals for Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, the Nets only have the mini mid-level exception to spend. And Harkless' forgettable year could keep his price down. He'll get looks from contenders in need of three-and-D play (so...all of them), but Brooklyn has the potential for success and an obvious role to make a solid pitch in free agency.         

Charlotte Hornets: Jakob Poeltl

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    The Charlotte Hornets could dream and spend bigger on Christian Wood, but this is another team, like the Hawks, with enough needs on the roster to make blowing near-max space on one guy a mistake.

    Jakob Poeltl is a throwback center, which is out of style these days but should work to keep his offer sheets in restricted free agency reasonable. Plus, the 7'1", 230-pounder has the heft to immediately improve a wanting Hornets interior defense that ranked 27th in attempt frequency allowed at the rim.

    Poeltl is one of only four players to log 50 games this year with a block rate above 7 percent and a defensive rebound rate north of 23 percent.

    At 24, he's still got room to grow. And for a Hornets team theoretically built around the scoring of Devonte' Graham, Terry Rozier and P.J. Washington, Poeltl's better-than-you-think passing (sixth-highest assist rate among centers) and elite screen-assist rate could boost his value as an offensive hub.    

Chicago Bulls: Derrick Jones Jr.

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    With Arturas Karnisovas taking over basketball ops, it's hard to know what'll become of current Chicago Bulls head coach Jim Boylen.

    If Boylen stays and continues deploying an aggressive defensive scheme, Derrick Jones Jr.'s length and mobility (a key to the Miami Heat's zone looks) would make him an ideal option as either a starting 4 or the first frontcourt player off the bench. Even if Boylen gets the boot, Jones brings a ton to the table.

    The 6'6" forward has dunk-contest springs and is a blur in the open floor, but his surplus of fast-twitch athleticism manifests most on D, where he sits above the 91st percentile at his position in both block and steal rate. It's easy to imagine him terrorizing opponents on D while pairing with Zach LaVine to form the league's top must-watch dunk duo.

    Jones will be an unrestricted free agent, and at 23, his prime is ahead of him. Even a smidgen of three-point shooting improvement would make him hugely desirable. The Bulls will have competition with only the MLE to offer, and it's never easy to battle with the Miami Heat, Jones' current team, in free agency.

    But if Chicago wants to inject defensive punch and create new frontcourt tandem options by splitting up Lauri Markkanen's and Wendell Carter Jr.'s minutes, Jones is a strong fit.    

Cleveland Cavaliers: Josh Jackson

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    If you didn't know Josh Jackson's off-court behavior and on-court struggles basically got him dumped from the league two years after he was selected fourth overall in 2017, it'd be easy to see real promise in his abbreviated 2019-20 efforts.

    It doesn't work that way, of course. We have to look Jackson's first two years of non-basketball missteps, including accusations he used marijuana in close proximity to his infant daughter and charges of escape and resisting arrest at a music festival, and poor on-court work in the face.  

    Still, the version of the 6'8" forward who played 18 games for the Memphis Grizzlies prior to the shutdown was markedly better than the one who looked like he'd never heard the term "shot selection" with the Phoenix Suns.

    In an admittedly tiny sample with Memphis, he holstered most of those hopeless mid-range jumpers and redoubled his defensive effort. The tools—high-end athleticism and ideal combo-forward size—finally produced results, as Jackson was above-average in points per shot attempt at his position for the first time in his career. He also produced elite steal numbers.

    The Cleveland Cavaliers need all the young talent they can find, and they're gruesomely short on wings. Jackson ticks both boxes.

    The Cavs would be wise to use a portion of their MLE on a 23-year-old lottery ticket who may be ready to show he has what it takes to be a pro.              

Dallas Mavericks: Joe Harris

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    If Tim Hardaway Jr. opts out of the final year of his deal, the Dallas Mavericks can clear over $20 million in space by renouncing his rights, paving the way for a significant acquisition.

    Dallas could chase a star, and its preference has been, for years, to aim high in free agency. But assuming the Mavs can't corral a big name, Joe Harris is the perfect fit.

    The 28-year-old wing led the league with a 47.4 percent hit rate from deep in 2018-19 and is still at a scorching 41.2 percent this season. Dallas already has a spacing cheat code in Kristaps Porzingis; adding Harris would constitute a full-blown, top-down offensive hack. It would make the Mavs impossible to guard.

    You might be asking why a team already on pace to post the highest offensive rating in history needs more scoring punch, to which I'd respond: Because nobody has ever said "this team's offense is too good."    

Denver Nuggets: Glenn Robinson III

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    With Paul Millsap, Jerami Grant (player option) and Mason Plumlee all headed for free agency, you might think the Denver Nuggets will need help up front. But Grant and Millsap seem to be decent bets to return on new deals, and both can play some 5 when necessary. Plus, Michael Porter Jr. will profile as a 4 once he adds strength.

    The Nuggets should be fine up front.

    That shifts attention to the wing, where Torrey Craig will also hit the restricted market. Even if he stays in Denver, the team will still have (checks notes, does math) one wing defender with half-decent size. That's not enough for a team that wants to contend.

    Glenn Robinson III could be had for much less than the full MLE and might only command the mini MLE, which is all Denver would have if it has to go into the tax to keep its own free agents. A 38.7 percent shooter from distance with the Warriors and Sixers this year, Robinson is an adequate defender with good size at 6'6" and plenty of athleticism.

    If his shot keeps falling, he could easily supplant Craig as the Nuggets' first wing off the bench.           

Detroit Pistons: Christian Wood

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    We won't do this often, but Christian Wood is such a no-brainer fit with the Detroit Pistons that we're tagging him as the free agent best built for the roster.

    So what if he's, technically, on it right now?

    Wood, once a castoff, broke out this year. He averaged 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds on 56.7 percent shooting for the season but blew those numbers away when given the chance to start. He's a bit undersized (6'10") as a center, but who cares in this era of shrinking bigs? His athleticism, handle and shooting range make him an All-Star-level offensive weapon, and it's not ridiculous to imagine him playing break-even defense with more reps.

    Detroit is the place where Wood finally found his game, and that should count for a lot when deciding which free agents belong where. Things didn't work out in any of his past stops (Philly, Charlotte, Milwaukee and New Orleans, not to mention several summer-league and training-camp stints with other franchises).

    The Pistons are clearly the right place for the unrestricted free agent who could cost upward of $15 million per year to keep.    

Golden State Warriors: Marc Gasol

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    Price could be the sticking point here, as the Golden State Warriors will only have the mini MLE to spend.

    There'll be plenty of competitive offers for Marc Gasol, who could command a salary above the Dubs' limit and whose title odds might be just as good sticking with the Raptors. Even if landing him is a long shot, the Warriors have a clear need for Gasol's defensive quarterbacking, offensive stretch and deft passing.

    So much of the Golden State offense is based on movement, intuition, quick reads and unselfish decision-making. Highly intelligent and preprogrammed to pass, Gasol would easily be the best setup big Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have ever played with—Draymond Green excluded. Notably, unlike Green, Gasol could scare defenses from the perimeter, opening up opportunities all over the floor.

    The Warriors also lack a post defender with size, and though he's lost mobility, Gasol (6'11") might still be the top one-on-one down-low stopper in the league. If Golden State intends to resuscitate its dynastic run, it'll need everything Gasol offers.       

Houston Rockets: Paul Millsap

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    Jerami Grant would be the perfect choice here if the basketball fit were the only question. It's hard to find a better spot than Houston for a five-position defender who can hit threes. But he seems like a strong bet to a) get more than the MLE and b) stay with the Nuggets, who gave up a first-round pick to get him from the Oklahoma City Thunder last summer.

    Grant's teammate in Denver, Paul Millsap, could also easily stay put. Then again, the Nuggets have to set some kind of upper limit on their spending, and Millsap, being nine years older than Grant, would be the more logical forward to let walk.

    He should have his pick of offers at the MLE (it should be noted Houston may have to trim some salary to get into this mix), but there aren't many teams where he'd make a bigger impact than the Rockets.

    Millsap, at 6'7", is not center-sized in a conventional sense, which works out because the Rockets scrapped convention this season. If P.J. Tucker is a 5, so is Millsap. Tucker is equal in smarts and professionalism if not raw strength. At 35, Millsap may not be reliable for more than the 24.4 minutes per night he's averaging this season. But that's fine; Houston could use him as a backup 5 or play him with Tucker when it wants to go "big."

    Millsap isn't a true switch-everything option. But he's a proven low-volume, high-efficiency three-point shooter who can rebound and survive against quicker matchups. That's what Houston wants from its frontcourt players these days.       

Indiana Pacers: Tony Snell

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    A couple of key assumptions underlie this team-player pairing.

    First, Tony Snell has to decline his $12.2 million player option for 2020-21. That's a lot of money for a reserve to leave on the table, but it's not so hard to imagine him punting on that much guaranteed cash if the Pacers made it clear they'd give him the full MLE on a multiyear deal.

    Second, Indy would have to drag its offense out of the dark ages and consider shooting threes once in a while. That's Snell's specialty, as he took a career-high 66.5 percent of his shots from beyond the arc this year, hitting 40.2 percent of them. The Pacers rank 29th in three-point attempt rate

    Maximizing Snel's relatively one-dimensional game would depend on the Pacers' commitment to a stylistic update. If they're ready to lean into the future, Snell would fill a key need (potentially made even greater by Justin Holiday's exit) at a reasonable cost.     

Los Angeles Clippers: Jae Crowder

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    The Los Angeles Clippers will have Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Marcus Morris Sr. (assuming he returns on a new deal) in 2020-21, making them the envy of teams around the league that wish they could find one big two-way wing.

    Why, then, would the Clips need another one? Because it's impossible to have too many of the NBA's most coveted player type.

    Plus, we know Leonard is going to miss games. George is also reaching a point in his career where the odd night off would do him well, and the Clippers could/should lean more toward big-less lineups in which Morris moves up to the 5.

    Jae Crowder likely could be had for the MMLE, is a willing (if inconsistent) three-point shooter and would add toughness and defensive versatility to a squad that already has plenty of both.

    Get greedy, Clips.

Los Angeles Lakers: Anthony Davis

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    We have another in-house cop-out here, with Anthony Davis slotting in as the free agent best built for the Los Angeles Lakers. Sorry, not sorry.

    AD is the linchpin to L.A.'s stylistic versatility, enabling two-big looks that own the glass and shut off access to the rim while also keying smaller lineups that kill in transition. He's a walking mismatch who impacts the game on both ends and meshes perfectly with LeBron James.

    LBJ has assisted on 169 Davis buckets so far this year, by far the most frequent link-up among any two players on the Lakers' roster. James' next-most common beneficiary is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (another Klutch client...coincidence?!), whom he's dimed up only 73 times.

    In addition to being the ideal James teammate, Davis is also the bridge to the Lakers' post-LeBron future. Whenever James slows down/retires/determines he has nothing left to prove, the Lakers must fervently hope AD will lead them into the next era, probably paired with a younger superstar.

    When he invariably opts out, L.A. must hit Davis with the max for as many years as he's willing to commit.

Memphis Grizzlies: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

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    It'll be tough to pry KCP away from the Lakers, but there's no denying how good he'd look with the Memphis Grizzlies.

    If Memphis fires off its full MLE at Caldwell-Pope, who should decline a player option for 2020-21 valued at nearly $8.5 million, it can marginally increase his annual pay for up to four years, taking him through his age-30 season.

    Memphis already has Dillon Brooks under contract in a similar role, but KCP is the more consistent perimeter threat (39.4 percent on treys this year), can do more with the ball and doesn't embrace a philosophy that says fouling the bejeezus out of everyone within arm's reach qualifies as defense. Brooks leads all wings who have played at least 1,500 minutes in foul rate.

    With Ja Morant set to lead the Grizzlies for the foreseeable future, it can't hurt to have as many quality shooters and backcourt defenders as possible. KCP excels in both areas and would offer the added bonus of not putting every opponent into the bonus.

Miami Heat: Danilo Gallinari

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    If Danilo Gallinari wants to win and get paid, the Miami Heat are his only realistic option. And even they aren't a perfect fit.

    Gallo would likely have to take a one-year deal with the Heat, who can't tie up long-term cash that they hope to spend on a certain Greek MVP in 2021 free agency. Gallinari might prefer a few more years on his deal as he heads into his age-32 season, teams will have more money to throw around in 2021. It wouldn't be the worst move to lock in a one-year pact and re-enter free agency next offseason with more options.

    It's tough to sell a version of the Heat with Gallinari as entertaining. Between him and Jimmy Butler, Miami games would basically be an uninterrupted string of free throws. Those two are ace foul-baiters, which would surely juice the Heat's scoring efficiency. (The same can't be said about their aesthetic appeal.)

    Miami could use Gallo's get-your-own offensive skill set, and he'd offer all of the spot-up value currently provided by stretch bigs Meyers Leonard and Kelly Olynyk, plus tons more shot-creating verve.

Milwaukee Bucks: Serge Ibaka

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    Who's up for forcing the Milwaukee Bucks into the final stage of their evolution? You know, the one in which they have a floor-stretching 5 who can protect the bucket on the court at all times.

    Serge Ibaka may not have the ultra-deep range of Brook Lopez (few players at any position do), but he's a similarly capable shooter from distance and still has enough of the shot-blocking prowess that helped him swat away more attempts than anyone else in the 2010s.

    Milwaukee only has the MLE to offer, and Ibaka hasn't made less than that projected $9.8 million figure since he was in the final season of his rookie deal in 2012-13. But suppose the Bucks smash Toronto in a playoff series and the Raps pivot hard toward a rebuild, letting their over-30 vets walk and committing resources to Fred VanVleet while keeping some powder dry for OG Anunoby's extension. In that scenario, Ibaka could view Milwaukee as his best option.

    Having grown accustomed to hybrid starter-bench duties over the last two seasons with the Raptors, Ibaka might not balk at a similar role with the Bucks, who'll be top-flight title threats as long as Giannis Antetokounmpo is around. And if Ibaka has reservations about committing long-term, it would still make sense for him to sign on for a season and reevaluate in 2021 if Antetokounmpo bounces.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Jerami Grant

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    The team that can't guard anyone should focus all of its energy on adding a player who can guard everyone.

    Jerami Grant would have to do some heavy lifting with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and even a five-position defender like him can't be expected to clean up the messes Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell will make. But the Wolves desperately need someone other than Josh Okogie to get stops, and Grant comes with the added bonus of a reliable three-point shot.

    Maximally switchable players who can also hit from deep are tough to find, so the hangup here will be salary. The Denver Nuggets can beat outside MLE offers to keep Grant, and there'll be a queue of other teams hoping their MLEs look better than everyone else's.

    This isn't a prediction of which offer Grant should take, though. It's a look at which team his game would fit best. The Wolves could hardly do better than slotting him in alongside Towns up front, where he'd supercharge a five-out look while shoring up holes on D.

New Orleans Pelicans: Brandon Ingram

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    Take Brandon Ingram away from the New Orleans Pelicans, and everything gets harder for Zion Williamson, which isn't ideal.

    Sure, the Pels need to find some stretch up front, preferably with rim-protection abilities to ease the spacing crunch and cover for Williamson's youthfully clueless defensive rotations. But Ingram's ability to fire from deep off the bounce (new this year!) and work his way into mid-range scoring position against smaller wings forces defenses to focus on him.

    The Duke product is now in "can't be guarded with one guy" territory, and every help defender's turned head and half-step toward Ingram is a boon for Williamson, who can capitalize on diminished attention by cutting with force, diving into offensive-rebound position and generally moving around unencumbered.

    With Ingram on the floor this season, Williamson is getting 79.7 percent of his points in the paint. Take Ingram off, and Williamson's percentage of points in the paint dips to 66.0. Considering Williamson is already among the most unstoppable interior scoring options around, the Pels should emphasize getting him close-range looks.

    Williamson's incomparable combination of strength and speed also requires the attention of an entire scheme, but Ingram makes it impossible for opponents to fixate on Zion off the ball. They can't simultaneously devote resources to the ball-handler and the guy rumbling around away from the play.

    There are plenty of reasons to max out a 22-year-old restricted free agent who just made his first All-Star team, but Ingram's impact on Williamson's game might be the biggest.

New York Knicks: Fred VanVleet

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    The New York Knicks went wild with team options and non-guarantees last summer, so they have the flexibility to free up even more money than it might take to grab Fred VanVleet on a four-year, $80 million deal.

    The point guard will be worth it. He can initiate offense, stripe it from a standstill (43.9 percent on catch-and-shoot threes) and, as the league leader in deflections per game, consistently disrupt the opposing offense's operation. 

    FVV is established enough to sate the Knicks' perpetual hunger for current relevance, yet he's young enough (26) to count as an addition to a rebuilding team. The Knicks haven't evinced much in the way of coherent plans in recent years, but VanVleet would give them the chance to see how the team performs and then retroactively claim they knew what they were doing.

    We're terrible? That's fine. All part of the plan. FVV is a big-picture addition.

    We're decent? Just as we expected. VanVleet was the battle-tested champ we needed to compete now.

    It's a win-win for a franchise that has done little but lose for a long time.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Kent Bazemore

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    The Oklahoma City Thunder have spent years trying to draft athletic wings with limited skill, hoping to develop them into players that look and perform a lot like Kent Bazemore.

    To be clear, it hasn't been OKC's explicit goal to clone the 31-year-old wing. But the Thunder have been trying (and failing) to build prospects into viable two-way threats who can be trusted to defend intelligently, do some tertiary creating off the dribble and knock down open shots on the catch.

    Bazemore might be hoping for more than the MLE in what will likely be his last opportunity to secure a big contract. And if the Thunder start the teardown most thought was coming last season, it wouldn't make a lot of sense to add a veteran better suited to contributing on a winner.

    But if OKC decides to go as far as it can while Chris Paul is still an All-Star-level player (and still mostly untradeable), then Bazemore is a great fit. He came to life following a trade to the Sacramento Kings this season, hitting 38.6 percent of his threes and finding renewed zip on defense.

    The Thunder should decommission their consistently ill-fated build-a-wing project and grab one that's already a finished product.

Orlando Magic: Jordan Clarkson

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    Teams built on defense always need players like Jordan Clarkson—scoring sparks off the bench who initiate tonal shifts in the game. He's occupied that role perfectly for the Utah Jazz this season, injecting life into a moribund second unit and, on occasion, providing the only scoring source when playing with starters.

    The Magic head into the bubble with a top-10 defensive rating but the worst offense of the 22 teams present, so their need for a Clarkson type is undeniable.

    He's averaged at least 21.0 points per 36 minutes in each of the last three seasons, plays the high-usage style you want from a guy charged with commanding a reserve attack and has scored at above-average efficiency for his position every year but 2015-16.

    Considering Clarkson is making $13.4 million in the final year of his deal, it may be difficult to secure him for the $9.8 million MLE. The Magic shouldn't hesitate to float a full four-year offer and hope he sees the opportunity to thrive on a team that badly needs what he brings.

Philadelphia 76ers: D.J. Augustin

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    It may seem underwhelming that a 32-year-old backup point guard is "built" for the Philadelphia 76ers, but consider the specific constraints of the team's situation.

    The Sixers are surefire taxpayers, which limits them to the mini-MLE and removes the possibility of adding a serious difference-maker from a thin free-agent point guard class. Critically, though, Augustin's limited skill set fits neatly into the gaps in Philly's makeup.

    Bereft of a pick-and-roll ball-handler who can also shoot, the 76ers could hardly do better than the 12-year veteran.

    Augustin has been the ball-handler on pick-and-rolls in a league-leading 55.3 percent of his offensive possessions this season, and the 0.93 points per possession he generated in such sets ranked in the 72nd percentile. Alec Burks, who played only 11 games for Philadelphia prior to the shutdown, is the only player on the roster to top Augustin's efficiency rate as a pick-and-roll ball-handler.

    As a bonus, Augustin is a trustworthy three-point shooter. Despite a slide to 34.5 percent this year, it seems safe to trust a guy who cracked the 40 percent mark from deep in 2015-16, 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Phoenix Suns: Evan Fournier

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    Bogdan Bogdanovic's name first comes to mind when scouring the market for playmaking combo guards who could play significant minutes alongside Devin Booker. But if the Phoenix Suns are going to clear cap space by cutting ties with Aron Baynes, Dario Saric and Frank Kaminsky, Evan Fournier should be their target.

    The Magic guard is in the midst of a career season, which makes declining his player option for 2020-21 realistic. He may not get a better chance to lock up something like $80 million over four years than right now, with career-best figures of 18.8 points and 59.9 percent true shooting.

    Though he isn't quite the playmaker that Bogdanovic is, Fournier is a demonstrably better shooter, foul-drawer and scorer. And though he's played five more seasons than the Kings' soon-to-be restricted free agent, Fournier is the same age as Bogdanovic (27).

    The only risk here is buying high on Fournier following a career season, but opting for him over Bogdanovic removes the hassle of tying up money with an offer sheet in restricted free agency.

Portland Trail Blazers: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

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    Everything worked better when the Portland Trail Blazers paired Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum with low-usage, defense-first combo forwards. Al-Farouq Aminu and Moe Harkless were solid options against high-scoring wings, and neither ate up offensive possessions better fed to a dangerous backcourt tandem.

    Rondae Hollis-Jefferson's shooting limitations are even more pronounced than Harkless or Aminu's, but the 6'6" forward can do more with the ball than either of those former Blazers, as evidenced by a career 12.9 assist percentage (Harkless is at 5.9 percent; Aminu 7.2). RHJ has even shown the ability to slide up a spot and defend centers, which adds to his potential value.

    The Blazers should have the full MLE to spend, but they shouldn't need even half of it to snag Hollis-Jefferson, who's earning only $2.5 million with the Raptors this season.

    Portland tried to change its identity this year, essentially swapping out Harkless and Aminu for Rodney Hood and Kent Bazemore. Hollis-Jefferson would represent a return to the formula that produced more success. 

Sacramento Kings: Meyers Leonard

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    Floater king Richaun Holmes is strictly an in-the-paint scorer, and Marvin Bagley III, ideally also a center, has yet to show any consistency from beyond the arc. Those two figure to occupy most of the Sacramento Kings' minutes at the 5 going forward, and neither provides the spacing necessary to maximize point guard De'Aaron Fox's hyperdrive quickness.

    The Kings need a specialist.

    Meyers Leonard has mostly been a glaring minus on D during his career, and his block and steal rates give the impression that he sort of just stands around watching the opposing offense despite being 7'0" and unusually athletic. But man, can he shoot it.

    A career 39.2 percent sniper on treys, Leonard hasn't shot worse than 42.3 percent in any of the last three seasons. Though a backup role means his volume is lower than most guys on the leaguewide leaderboard, Leonard's accuracy is beyond question.

    If the Kings want to give opponents different looks, and if they have any interest in freeing up Fox with five-out lineups, Leonard can deliver.

San Antonio Spurs: Justin Holiday

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    It'll likely take a three- or four-year MLE deal to secure Justin Holiday's services, as his three-and-D game fits on any roster and will command multiple offers. That length of commitment for a player Holiday's age should give the San Antonio Spurs pause, but it shouldn't prevent them from making him a primary target.

    The Spurs are headed for a fresh start once DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge are off the books, which will happen by 2021 at the latest. If DeRozan declines his 2020-21 player option, that timetable moves up.

    Once freed of their costly vets (don't forget Rudy Gay and Patty Mills, both of whom will be free agents in 2021), San Antonio can shape its rebuild around Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Lonnie Walker IV. Those three should have the backcourt minutes sewn up, leaving plenty of combo forward minutes for Holiday, a steadying presence with championship experience and a firm understanding of his role.

    Every rebuild needs a few experienced players around to keep things in order—even one taking place with a franchise whose culture has basically been bulletproof for 20 years.

Toronto Raptors: Goran Dragic

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    This is a bet on the Raptors losing Fred VanVleet to a ridiculous outside offer but deciding to run it back through the final year of Kyle Lowry's contract by re-signing Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol to one-year deals. In this scenario, Toronto would need a trustworthy backup point guard who could handle duties on or off the ball.

    Goran Dragic is Toronto's man.

    Dragic can't expect anything close to the $19.2 million he's collecting with the Heat this season, and the Raptors' desire to keep the books clean for 2021 means he might also have to settle for a one-year deal and/or accept a partial guarantee on the second season. Toronto has to keep all of its powder dry for a run at Giannis Antetokounmpo.

    At 34, the lefty guard probably can't play starter's minutes anymore. But he's putting up 16.1 points per game and hitting 37.7 percent of his threes with the Heat, still flashing dastardly foul-drawing craft and finishing brilliantly inside, despite a strictly below-the-rim repertoire.

    Dragic has plenty of game left, and the Raptors are likely to need it.

Utah Jazz: Langston Galloway

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    The Utah Jazz can get away with an unconventional approach to the backup point guard spot. Joe Ingles is an accomplished pick-and-roll option, and Donovan Mitchell's ball-dominant game decreases the need for a facilitating 1. The better play here is to find some shooting from a player who's point-guard sized, but not necessarily in possession of a point guard's game.

    Hi there, Langston Galloway!

    The 6'1" guard has taken at least 60 percent of his shots from beyond the three-point line in each of the last three seasons, and his hit rate is trending in the right direction. After Galloway hit 34.4 percent from deep in 2017-18, he upped it to 35.5 percent in 2018-19, followed by 39.9 percent this season.

    Galloway's defense is hardly blemish-free, but Rudy Gobert is a thorough mistake-eraser. If any team can get by with substandard backcourt defense, it's the Jazz.

    Utah could completely flip strategies and target De'Anthony Melton with its MLE, one of the best defensive guards in the game. But it feels like added spacing and scoring punch would be a bigger benefit to the Jazz.

Washington Wizards: Davis Bertans

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    The Washington Wizards will frequently field 2020-21 lineups including John Wall, Rui Hachimura and a center short on stretch.

    Even Bradley Beal can't alleviate a spacing crunch that oppressive. That's why Davis Bertans is so critical to Washington's hopes of returning to relevance.

    Bertans is a 6'10" human trebuchet—an ultra-deep shooting threat who demands tight coverage but isn't bothered by defenders being close enough to tell what kind of deodorant he's wearing. The 27-year-old forward shot 40.4 percent on threes against tight coverage, although that didn't make leaving him alone the better play.

    Bertans drilled 47.4 percent of three-point attempts when defenders were at least six feet away. And one way to keep opponents at such a distance is to fire from ranges most defenders aren't conditioned to worry about. Nobody was more accurate on shots from at least 28 feet than Bertans, who buried 45 of his 91 extra-long attempts this season.

    Yes, he's an in-house option. But Washington can't afford to lose Bertans in free agency this year.


    Stats courtesy of, Basketball Reference and Cleaning the Glass. Accurate through games played March 11, 2020. Salary info via Basketball Insiders.