1 Realistic NBA Free-Agent Signing for Every Team

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterOctober 28, 2020

1 Realistic NBA Free-Agent Signing for Every Team

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    NBA free agency is almost upon us, nearly five months after its regularly scheduled date.

    Like the 2020 draft, the strength of this year's free-agency class stems from the vast number of available starters and role players despite a lack of star power at the top.

    Through cap space, mid-level exceptions and creative sign-and-trades (i.e. Jimmy Butler to the Miami Heat last year) these are the realistic free-agent signings every team should explore.

Atlanta Hawks: Goran Dragic, PG

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Sixth Man

    Age: 34

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    Dragic was absolutely brilliant when healthy in the playoffs for the Miami Heat and could be looking for one last big payday at age 34.

    The Hawks project to have the most cap space of any team and could use a veteran point guard behind Trae Young, especially with Jeff Teague hitting free agency, as well.

    Dragic would resume the sixth-man role he filled for Miami during the regular season, serving as the leader of a Hawks team loaded with young talent and looking to make a playoff push as early as next season.

    The Hawks' reserves averaged just 7.3 assists per game (22nd overall), and Dragic would help bump up Atlanta's NBA-worst 33.3 percent mark from three, as well.

Boston Celtics: Paul Millsap, PF

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    Mike Ehrmann/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Starting Power Forward/Sixth Man

    Age: 35

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    Assuming Gordon Hayward returns to the Celtics on his $34.2 million player option, Boston could already be making $140 million in roster payments even before free agency begins.

    That means hunting for bargains, especially veterans in the frontcourt who can space the floor and defend.

    Millsap is still good enough to start at power forward for Boston if the team chooses to use Hayward as a do-it-all sixth man, and the four-time All-Star would bring 120 games of playoff experience over 11 years to the Celtics frontcourt.

Brooklyn Nets: Markieff Morris, PF

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Starting Power Forward

    Age: 31

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    Like the Boston Celtics, the Nets already have a roster that could top $140 million in payments this season. Finding players who will sign for veteran minimum contracts is a must.

    Morris, 31, may not quite be in the minimum range just yet, but having the chance to win a starting job on a title contender may be too tempting to pass up now that he's experienced what a championship feels like.

    Likely having to battle Taurean Prince for the starting power forward job, Morris would bring a nice blend of toughness, defense and outside shooting between Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan/Jarrett Allen for Brooklyn.

Charlotte Hornets: Christian Wood, C

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Starting Center

    Age: 25

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    With Cody Zeller entering the final year of his deal, the Hornets should be looking to find their center of the future in either free agency or the draft this offseason.

    Montrezl Harrell is a more proven option, but Wood is a year younger and offers more upside.

    The 25-year-old averaged 21.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists with shooting splits of 56.0/40.8/73.6 in 12 starts for the Detroit Pistons last season. He's an athletic floor-spacer who would complement P.J. Washington and Miles Bridges in the Hornets frontcourt.

Chicago Bulls: Nerlens Noel, C

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Backup Center

    Age: 26

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    The Bulls have their franchise center in Wendell Carter Jr., but the 21-year-old has played just 87 total games in his first two years due to injury. Having a defensive-minded backup behind him would be a smart insurance plan.

    Noel has quietly been one of the best reserve bigs in the NBA the past few years, averaging 13.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 3.1 blocks per 36 minutes with the Oklahoma City Thunder since 2018-19.

    His 6'10", 220-pound frame enables him to defend traditional centers and switch onto smaller players on the wing, which is an ideal skill in the modern NBA.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Harry Giles III, C

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    Mike Ehrmann/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Backup Center

    Age: 22

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    The Sacramento Kings declined Giles' $3.97 million option for next season, making the 22-year-old center a potential steal for teams in free agency.

    The Cavs will likely need a center with Tristan Thompson hitting free agency, and Andre Drummond is no guarantee to stick around in Cleveland even if he picks up a $28.8 million player option.

    Giles' early career has been hampered by injuries, but he'd be a low-risk, high-upside signing for a Cavaliers team looking for a young big man to build around. His averages per 36 minutes this past season (17.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.0 blocks, 55.4 percent shooting) prove he's worth bringing in for a run.

Dallas Mavericks: Avery Bradley, SG

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Starting Shooting Guard

    Age: 29

    FA Type: Player Option

    Bradley was the Lakers' starting shooting guard for much of the regular season and is still only 29 despite logging 10 years in the NBA to this point.

    Luka Doncic could benefit from having a three-and-D guard next to him in the backcourt as Bradley could take on the toughest defensive assignment every night while letting him save his energy for the offensive end.

    Bradley can choose to return to the Lakers on a $5 million player option, but the Mavericks could offer nearly double that amount by using their mid-level exception.

Denver Nuggets: Marcus Morris Sr., PF

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    Kim Klement/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Starting Power Forward

    Age: 31

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    With Paul Millsap entering free agency and Jerami Grant able to turn down his player option, the Nuggets could be in the market for a new power forward.

    Stealing Morris away from the Los Angeles Clippers would be a two-for-one win, and his defense, toughness and playoff experience would be perfect on a young Nuggets team.

    Morris is also coming off the best outside-shooting year of his career, nailing 40.8 percent of his threes during the regular season and jumping all the way to 47.5 percent during the playoffs.

Detroit Pistons: Montrezl Harrell, C

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    Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Starting Center

    Age: 26

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    While Detroit should still want to bring Christian Wood back, Harrell would also fit the blue-collar city with his hustle, defense and overall energy.

    The reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Harrell averaged 18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks and shot 58.0 percent overall, playing a key role as the Los Angeles Clippers finished with the No. 2 seed in the West.

    The Pistons project to have the second-most cap space of any team and could throw enough cash at Harrell to convince him to leave L.A.

Golden State Warriors: Aron Baynes, C

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Starting Center

    Age: 33

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    Already with $148.9 million committed to the roster next season (the highest in the NBA), the Warriors will have limited funds for adding talent in free agency.

    Baynes would be a perfect starting center as a bruising 6'10", 260-pound big man coming off the best season of his career with the Phoenix Suns. Already with playoff experience from stops in San Antonio, Detroit and Boston, he would be ready to step in and do whatever the Warriors need from him to get back to the Finals for the sixth time in seven years.

    An improved outside shooter (35.1 percent on 4.0 attempts per game), Baynes could keep the floor spread and serve as an excellent screener for the Warriors' now-healthy backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Houston Rockets: Jerami Grant, F

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Starting Forward

    Age: 26

    FA Type: Player Option

    Regardless of whether Houston wants to stay with its small-ball style or go back to a more traditional lineup, Grant would fit whatever the team needs.

    A 6'8", 210-pound combo forward who can play some small-ball 5, Grant would be the perfect switching forward for Houston's defensive system.

    He'd also be a strong fit next to James Harden and Russell Westbrook, able to space the floor with his 38.9 percent shooting from three this season.

Indiana Pacers: Isaiah Thomas, PG

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    Todd Kirkland/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Backup Point Guard

    Age: 31

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    Thomas won't be at the top of most teams' free-agent lists after shooting 38.6 percent from the field over the past three seasons, but the two-time All-Star insists he's healthy for the first time in years.

    "It's like night and day for me," Thomas told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. "There's no more pain. I've got my full range of motion. For three years, I was trying to play the best players in the world on one leg. I needed help from my kids to put my socks on in the morning."

    For a team like the Pacers that has lost in the first round for the past five years, taking a chance on a player like Thomas is worth the risk. Indiana can put larger, defense-minded guards like Malcolm Brogdon and Victor Oladipo around him, letting him try to recapture the offensive magic he showed off just a few seasons ago.

    If the Pacers can get Thomas for the vet minimum, they should.

Los Angeles Clippers: Tristan Thompson, C

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Starting Center

    Age: 29

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    If the Clippers lose Montrezl Harrell in free agency, Thompson would be a nice consolation prize.

    He would give the Clippers a big who can protect the paint and switch onto wings, something the incumbent starter, Ivica Zubac, isn't quick enough to do. Coming off a season in which he averaged 12.0 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting 51.2 percent from the field, he would bring starting experience on a championship team to L.A.

    As someone who already makes his offseason home in Los Angeles, Thompson would be an ideal fit for the Clippers.

Los Angeles Lakers: Carmelo Anthony, PF

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    Kim Klement/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Sixth Man

    Age: 36

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    Now that Anthony has proved he still belongs in the league, playing alongside LeBron James before both their careers are over should be a goal for the future Hall of Famer.

    The Lakers should value Anthony for his experience and scoring ability, and getting him to sign could lead to fewer minutes for James during the regular season.

    While the 36-year-old would most likely serve as the team's sixth man, the Lakers could run plenty of lineups with Melo, James and Anthony Davis together, giving L.A. a nice mix of scoring, playmaking and defense.

Memphis Grizzlies: Rajon Rondo, PG

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Backup Point Guard

    Age: 34

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    Rondo would be a perfect fit in Memphis, which has playoff aspirations and presumably wants a veteran point guard for Ja Morant to study.

    One of the NBA's most cerebral players, Rondo would bring 14 years of experience, nine trips to the playoffs and a pair of championships to the Grizzlies backcourt. He has likely already been through all the things Morant could experience in his career and could offer him the guidance he may need.

    For Memphis to make a serious playoff push next season, it'll likely need a few veterans like Rondo who have been through the postseason grind.

Miami Heat: DeMar DeRozan, SF

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    Kim Klement/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Starting Guard/Forward

    Age: 31

    FA Type: Player Option

    Miami only has about $82 million in salary on the books for next season and could open up even more cap space if Kelly Olynyk turns down a $12.2 million player option, as unlikely as that may be.

    As a team looking to keep cap space open in 2021, why not throw a big one-year deal at DeRozan?

    The four-time All-Star has a $27.7 million player option with the San Antonio Spurs but would be smart to turn it down if the Heat can offer a similarly priced deal.

    A starting five of Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, DeRozan, Duncan Robinson and Bam Adebayo may be the best in the East, especially if Miami can save some money to bring back Goran Dragic, as well.

Milwaukee Bucks: Joe Harris, SG

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    Kim Klement/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Starting Shooting Guard

    Age: 29

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    For a team that finished with the best record in the NBA this season, the Bucks were still ranked just 18th overall in three-point percentage (35.5 percent).

    Finding shooters to put around Giannis Antetokounmpo should always be a priority, and Kyle Korver may be nearing the end of his career at age 39.

    Harris is good enough to win the starting shooting guard job as a 6'6" sniper who's hit 43.9 percent of his threes over the past three years, including an NBA-best 47.4 percent in 2018-19.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Jae Crowder, PF

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Starting Power Forward

    Age: 30

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    If the Wolves want to make the playoffs next year with a core of Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell, they'll need some defensive-minded veterans to do the dirty work.

    Crowder, a 6'6" 235-pound muscular defender who can guard multiple positions, could slide into the starting power forward spot next to Towns.

    A streaky shooter, Crowder is good enough to keep the floor spread and doesn't need touches on offense to make an impact on games.

New Orleans Pelicans: Serge Ibaka, C

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    Kim Klement/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Starting Center

    Age: 31

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    A shaky Pelicans defense was held together by Jrue Holiday and Derrick Favors this season, and the latter isn't a guarantee to return in free agency.

    If Favors finds a deal elsewhere, Ibaka would be a good replacement in the middle.

    While not the league-best shot-blocker he used to be, Ibaka is still a good defender who's expanded his offensive game (38.5 percent from three this season) and would keep the floor spread more than Favors could.

    A reunion between new Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy and Dwight Howard would be fun, but Ibaka is the safer choice here.

New York Knicks: Derrick Jones Jr., SF

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Starting Small Forward

    Age: 23

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    Instead of throwing big money at Fred VanVleet, Montrezl Harrell or DeMar DeRozan, what if the Knicks went the opposite direction and focused on bringing in young talent to develop instead?

    Jones has improved in each of his four pro seasons and could be a high-flying addition to the Knicks' starting lineup next to RJ Barrett.

    Getting Jones on a reasonable deal would also keep future cap space open in 2021 and help provide an even stronger core of young players who might appeal to free agents.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Malik Beasley, SG

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Starting Shooting Guard

    Age: 23

    FA Type: Restricted

    With the Thunder headed toward a rebuild, they will need a new backcourt partner for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander if they find a trade partner for Chris Paul.

    Beasley is coming off an impressive 14-game stretch with the Minnesota Timberwolves following a trade from the Denver Nuggets, averaging 20.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and shooting 42.6 percent from three.

    He'd easily win the Thunder's starting shooting guard job if they made an offer that the Wolves decided not to match. With the Thunder sitting on a stash of first-round picks, perhaps Minnesota and Oklahoma City could agree to a sign-and-trade of Beasley as well.

Orlando Magic: Jordan Clarkson, SG

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Sixth Man

    Age: 28

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    Orlando finished 23rd in offense this season (107.9 rating) and should be looking for a scoring punch either in the starting lineup or off the bench.

    Clarkson has been one of the league's leading reserve scorers over the past few seasons, and he finished with 15.2 points on 45.4 percent shooting between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Utah Jazz this year.

    To break their string of first-round playoff losses, the Magic need more firepower, and Clarkson is capable of heating up at a moment's notice.

Philadelphia 76ers: Jeff Teague, PG

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Starting Point Guard

    Age: 32

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    The Sixers have a lot of needs to fill this offseason, but getting another ball-handler should be at the top of the list.

    Teague could be an affordable option for a team that already has $147 million in salary commitments next year. The 6'3" point guard already has nine playoff trips under his belt.

    In 17 starts this season, Teague averaged 12.5 points and 7.5 assists while shooting 37.8 from three. If Philly wants to keep Ben Simmons at power forward, Teague is still good enough to start at point guard and shouldn't command a huge salary to do so.

Phoenix Suns: Davis Bertans, PF

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Starting Power Forward

    Age: 27

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    While the Washington Wizards will likely throw the bag at Bertans, he'd find a far better situation with the Suns.

    One of the NBA's best-shooting big men, Bertans would keep the floor spread for Devin Booker's drives and Deandre Ayton's post work. A 42.4 percent shooter from three this season, Bertans also put up a career-high 15.4 points and 4.5 rebounds while primarily coming off the bench for Washington.

    The Suns could carve out some cap space by rescinding their rights to Dario Saric and Aron Baynes, and offering Bertans a starting job on a team that went 8-0 in the bubble may be too tempting for him to pass up.

Portland Trail Blazers: Danilo Gallinari, PF

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    Kim Klement/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Starting Power Forward

    Age: 32

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    You can never have too much of a good thing, right?

    The Blazers were a top-10 team in three-point makes (12.9, 10th) and success rate (37.7 percent, third) this season. Adding Gallinari would likely make Portland the best outside shooting squad in the NBA.

    Gallinari put up 18.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.9 three-pointers per game on 40.5 percent shooting from deep with the Oklahoma City Thunder this season. He would be the ideal starting power forward for a team that is only a player or two away from being a true championship contender.

Sacramento Kings: Derrick Favors, C

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Starting Center

    Age: 29

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    If the Kings elect to keep Buddy Hield and can re-sign Bogdan Bogdanovic this offseason, they may only be a quality big man away from chasing a playoff spot in the West.

    Favors would anchor the Kings' defense and give them a veteran with 31 games of playoff experience.

    Sacramento was 27th in rebounding per game this season (42.6). Bringing in Favors could help jump the Kings up the standings.

San Antonio Spurs: Bogdan Bogdanovic, G/F

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Starting Small Forward

    Age: 28

    FA Type: Restricted

    At 6'6", Bogdanovic can play either wing position, allowing him either to start next to DeMar DeRozan or take the four-time All-Star's place should he choose to turn down his player option and enter free agency.

    Bogdanovic averaged 15.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.0 steals and shot 37.2 percent from three with the Kings this season, which should make him one of the most sought-after free agents on the market.

    If the Spurs want to start a new playoff streak, Bogdanovic would be a key piece to getting them there. The Kings can match any offer sheet he signs, however, so the Spurs would have to clear some cap space first.

Toronto Raptors: Fred VanVleet, G

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    Kim Klement/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Starting Shooting Guard

    Age: 26

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    The only player featured here to return to his current team, VanVleet is too valuable for Toronto to let go.

    With Kyle Lowry now 34 and entering the final year of his contract, the Raptors need to lock VanVleet up for the foreseeable future. The combo guard averaged 17.6 points, 6.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.9 steals in his first season as a full-time starter, helping Toronto to 53 wins and the No. 2 seed in the East.

    Regardless of whether it costs them $15 million, $20 million or $25 million per year, the Raptors need to keep VanVleet in town.

Utah Jazz: Dwight Howard, C

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Backup Center

    Age: 34

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    If the Lakers choose to let Howard walk, the Jazz could offer him another backup job on a West team competing for a title.

    Ed Davis was awful in his reserve role behind Rudy Gobert this past season. Howard would represent a significant upgrade while bringing a lot of Gobert's traits to the table.

    After averaging 7.5 points on 72.9 percent shooting, 7.3 rebounds, 1.1 blocks in 18.9 minutes per game, Howard proved he's still a quality rotation big even though he's now in his mid-30s.

Washington Wizards: Hassan Whiteside, C

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Ideal Role: Starting Center

    Age: 31

    FA Type: Unrestricted

    Assuming the Wizards decide to keep Bradley Beal, they'll need some frontcourt help to make the playoffs.

    Washington finished last in rebound percentage this season (47.8 percent), which is one of Whiteside's biggest strengths.

    The 7'0" center finished third in rebounds per game (13.5) and second in total rebound percentage (23.6 percent) this season. The Portland Trail Blazers were 8.0 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor versus on the bench.