NBA Free Agents Who Would Be Foolish to Stay Put

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterSeptember 6, 2020

NBA Free Agents Who Would Be Foolish to Stay Put

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    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    For every NBA free agent that would be better off re-signing with their own teams, there's another that needs a change of scenery.

    We previously covered the players who would be best-served to stay put, those already in good situations on winning teams that have enough of an offensive role to keep them satisfied.

    These are the other guys.

    Whether it be playing for a franchise that's on the verge of a rebuild, having already lost a starting job or simply needing a bigger role in order to spread their wings, the following seven free agents should be looking to switch teams this offseason.

Nerlens Noel, C, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    The former No. 6 overall pick will never become a superstar in the NBA or get a $70 million contract offer again, but Noel certainly deserves more than minimum deals and playing 15 minutes per game off OKC's bench.

    Playing for the Thunder the past two years has resulted in just nine starts in his 138 games, an average of 15.8 minutes behind Steven Adams and $3.8 million total in salary.

    Noel has quietly become a very effective rebounder and defender off the bench, and his athleticism has transferred to the modern game. He's able to blitz ball-handlers and get back to his assignment all while running the floor and finishing at the rim on offense.

    Stretching his stats over 36 minutes results in averages of 13.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 3.1 blocks. Per Stathead, Noel is the only player in the NBA to post those kinds of steal and block numbers over the past two seasons.

    At 26, he still fits both rebuilding and contending rosters as well.

    One perfect fit? The Golden State Warriors, where Noel could compete for a starting job on a team with championship aspirations, playing high-level defense and finishing off missed shots at the rim. The Charlotte Hornets and Detroit Pistons would make sense as well.

Tristan Thompson, C, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Thompson was already facing an uncertain return to Cleveland in free agency, and that was before the Cavaliers traded for Andre Drummond.

    Now 29 years old, Thompson no longer fits on a rebuilding Cavs team, even if he's been praised as one of the team's best locker room leaders.

    Kevin Love tweeted that re-signing Thompson should be the team's "#1 priority," and Thompson has spent the offseason checking in on rookies Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr.

    When asked by Bleacher Report back in May how he was planning to approach free agency, Thompson offered the following:

    "So in terms of the free agency stuff I just let Rich Paul handle that, you know he's the best in the game, so for me, just keep the main focus the main focus and staying ready to play some basketball whenever that may be. So, in terms of free agency and guys taking one year deals because of the cap situation, guys can do what's best for themselves and their family."

    While the Cavs can go over the salary cap to re-sign Thompson, he'd once again be relegated to a bench role assuming Drummond picks up his $28.8 million player option. Cleveland doesn't look like a playoff contender, so playing backup on a lottery-bound team after previously starting for a Finals winner would be a disappointing way to spend the prime of his career.

    Even if it means signing for the mid-level exception somewhere, Thompson should pursue a starting job for a team with serious postseason aspirations.

    Thompson and his 12.0-point, 10.1-rebound per-game averages would be an upgrade over Daniel Theis with the Boston Celtics, and his hometown Toronto Raptors could be in the market for a new center with both Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka hitting free agency this offseason.

Davis Bertans, PF, Washington Wizards

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The Wizards probably could have gotten a first-round pick for Bertans at the trade deadline, but they chose to hold on to the sharpshooting power forward in hopes of re-signing him this offseason.

    "He’s been a priority. I told him that. And really, nothing has changed there," Washington GM Tommy Sheppard said in August, per Fred Katz of The Athletic.

    While a huge payday could convince Bertans to stay in D.C., the 27-year-old should be looking for a better situation.

    With last year's lottery pick Rui Hachimura manning the starting power forward spot, Bertans is likely headed back to the bench if he stays in Washington. With averages of 15.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and a 42.4 percent mark from three (sixth-highest in the NBA), Bertans deserves a starting spot, preferably on a contender.

    Even with a presumably healthy John Wall coming back next season, Washington doesn't project to be a lock to make the postseason, especially with young teams like the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks on the rise.

    The Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Phoenix Suns could all be in the market for a starting power forward this offseason. While they may not be able to offer as large a contract, all would represent better rosters than Washington with real chances to make the playoffs next season.

Hassan Whiteside, C, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    The relationship between Whiteside and the Blazers was never meant to last past this year, as Jusuf Nurkic's return from injury means the former is now expendable in Portland.

    While Terry Stotts experimented with a starting lineup that featured both centers, putting them together presents a spacing nightmare. Nurkic is under contract for two more seasons, meaning Whiteside would have to accept a reserve role if he wanted to return to the Blazers.

    Even if Whiteside's inflated numbers don't accurately reflect his value to a team, it's tough to ignore his NBA-best 2.9 blocks, 13.5 rebounds (third-highest in the league) and plus-8.0 on/off rating for Portland this season. Another four-year, $98 million deal isn't happening, but Whiteside should still be able to secure $10 million annually or a full mid-level exception from a contender in need of size and rebounding.

    The Los Angeles Clippers could use another center if Montrezl Harrell leaves in free agency, the Washington Wizards were dead last in rebounding percentage this season, and the New Orleans Pelicans will have a need for some size if Derrick Favors signs elsewhere.

    Whiteside's overall skill set is about a decade or two too late, but he's still good enough to start somewhere outside of Portland.

DeMar DeRozan, SF, San Antonio Spurs

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    Kim Klement/Associated Press

    While DeRozan thrived individually in San Antonio this season (22.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 53.1 percent shooting overall), the Spurs finished with just 32 wins, their lowest total since the 1996-97 season.

    There's uncertainly among the coaching staff as well. Gregg Popovich is 71 years old and, as ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski previously reported, is on a "year-to-year basis" despite being under contract.

    With DeRozan still clinging to the tail end of his prime at age 31, the rest of the Spurs' roster is either past their own (LaMarcus Aldridge) or still years away (Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson).

    It isn't clear if San Antonio will begin what looks like an inevitable rebuild, and the answer may depend on DeRozan himself.

    Carrying a $27.7 million player option for next season, DeRozan has his choice of becoming a free agent or not.

    With few teams projected to even have nearly $28 million in cap space, perhaps the best thing for all parties is to seek a sign-and-trade. Such an option would allow DeRozan to get the contract he wants from San Antonio, yet find a franchise that better aligns with his own timeline. If the Spurs don't want to commit to DeRozan long-term and are worried about losing him for nothing in free agency, the option should appeal to them as well.

    DeRozan would be a nice third star with the Brooklyn Nets, and the Portland Trail Blazers could use a playmaking small forward, too.

Serge Ibaka, C, Toronto Raptors

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    Kim Klement/Associated Press

    Ibaka shouldn't be planning his exit from Toronto just yet, as he'll have to see what Marc Gasol decides to do first.

    Starting 27 games for the Raptors this season with Gasol injured, Ibaka proved why he should be in some NBA team's opening five. He averaged 18.3 points and 9.2 rebounds and shot 55.0 percent overall in 31.5 minutes, including a sparkling 43.7 percent mark from three.

    With Gasol back and forced to come off the bench once again, Ibaka's averages dropped to 12.6 points and 7.3 rebounds in 22.6 minutes, with shooting splits of just 46.5 percent overall and 31.6 percent from deep.

    If the 35-year-old Gasol decides to retire or sign elsewhere, Ibaka should absolutely consider returning to Toronto. If he's asked to come off the bench again, well, there's a number of teams that should be happy to offer a 7'0" former block champ and now floor-spacing center a starting gig.

    Ibaka already brings 10 years of postseason experience at age 30, and he should be above Hassan Whiteside, Tristan Thompson and Derrick Favors on teams' wish lists due to his outside shooting abilities.

    If Toronto sticks with Gasol, every NBA team with a need at center should be calling Ibaka.

Carmelo Anthony, PF, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Anthony coming back to the NBA and joining the Blazers was one of the feel-good stories of the season. He started all 58 of his regular-season games at power forward and showed enough scoring and rebounding chops to earn a spot back on the team even now at age 36.

    "Honestly think that I've found in a home in Portland," Anthony said, per Casey Holdahl of "I got comfortable with the organization, I got comfortable with the guys on the team, they got comfortable with me. At this point in my career, I do think that that's the best fit for me, the best situation."

    While Portland isn't the worst situation for Anthony, he should certainly keep his mind open for any title contender that may come calling. A healthy Zach Collins next season may not even guarantee Anthony a starting job with the Blazers, after all.

    Anthony has to decide what matters more: one more starting gig, or a better chance at winning his first NBA title. Portland should once again be a playoff team next season, but it will need to make some serious roster improvements to come close to making it to the Finals.

    Teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat or Milwaukee Bucks may not have a starting job to offer Anthony, but they should be among the few championship favorites again next year. As long as they can guarantee a spot in the rotation, Anthony should be all-in to try to win a title with every season from here on out potentially being his last.


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