NBA Free Agents 2020: Predictions and Landing Spots for J.J. Barea, More

Blake SchusterSenior Analyst IDecember 26, 2020

NBA Free Agents 2020: Predictions and Landing Spots for J.J. Barea, More

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    Kim Klement/Associated Press

    The NBA season is less than a week old, but with multiple games completed and a number of preseason contests giving coaches an idea of what they are working with, some clubs may already be looking at making upgrades.

    Fortunately, the free-agent pool is still teeming with talent who can fill roster gaps and contribute immediately.

    J.J. Barea, Ersan Ilyasova, Kyle O'Quinn and Ian Mahinmi are all still available. The market may be turning in their favor. As teams work through early-season injuries, coronavirus-related protocols and slow starts, this year's midseason free-agent pool may prove more vital than ever.

    Here's a look at the best landing spots for some of the players still available.  

J.J. Barea Should Stay in Texas

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    J.J. Barea has spent 14 years in the NBA, averaging 8.9 points and 3.9 assists while taking care of the ball reliably in the backcourt.

    But he still finds himself without a job with the season underway.

    The Dallas Mavericks cut Barea during the preseason, ending the Puerto Rican's second stint with the franchise after six years. He shouldn't even have to leave the state to find his next gig.

    As the James Harden saga continues to play out, the Houston Rockets find themselves in need of some sturdy depth—especially with a number of players sidelined. This is where bringing in Barea makes too much sense.

    First-year Rockets head coach Stephen Silas spent the past two years as an assistant on Rick Carlisle's staff in Dallas and is quite familiar with what Barea brings to the lineup. Last season, that meant 7.7 points and 3.9 assists in 15.5 minutes per game with just 1.3 turnovers on average.

    Barea could help relieve point guard John Wall of some ball-handling duties while helping Harden move more freely without the ball, ensuring the offense doesn't get stagnant.

    Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News reported "nothing is imminent" for Barea when it comes to finding a new home but said that the veteran is staying in game shape and wants to play. The Rockets could solve many of their problems by bringing him to Houston.  

Kyle Korver Should Join the Splash Bros.

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Golden State Warriors are tied with the Toronto Raptors for the fewest points scored on average to begin the season at 99 per night after two contests. Even more concerning is the Warriors' three-point shooting percentage at 25.6 percent, good for 24th in the league.

    Golden State aren't even distributing the ball too well, averaging 20 assists as a team—the 26th-worst mark in the league. Here's how head coach Stever Kerr described those troubles after the loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Christmas day:

    "It's always difficult to go to a new team. It's just the way it is in this league. New terminology, new style of play, new teammates. It's only been two games. We've played two of the best teams in the league. We didn't find any rhythm at all to the game. It will shake out over time. Kelly [Oubre is] going to be fine. Andrew [Wiggins] will be fine. Those guys are proven players in this league. I've got to do a better job of putting them in positions to get comfortable, too."

    One way to make up for those growing pains, address the offensive issues and become more lethal from deep would be to add veteran sharpshooter Kyle Korver.

    The 39-year-old hasn't decided his next step, and the last NBA media heard from him, he was still talking over his future with his family. The Warriors should convince him to come to the Bay Area before he decides to hang it up for good.

    In 58 games for the Bucks last year, Korver averaged 6.7 points and 1.2 assists in 16.6 minutes per game while still shooting 41.8 percent from behind the arc. That's only a shade off his career average of 42.9 percent and shows he can still find the bottom of the net with ease.

    His presence could help settle a Golden State offense that hasn't been able to find any rhythm to begin the year. If Kerr believes the Warriors' issues will work themselves out over time, Korver provides the type of immediate aid and season-long depth that could help correct things sooner rather than later. 

JR Smith Should Shine in Charlotte

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    Kim Klement/Associated Press

    The start to the season in Charlotte hasn't been as exciting as advertised.

    Gordon Hayward is playing through a fractured finger, No. 3 overall pick LaMelo Ball looks very much like an undeveloped rookie and Cody Zeller is expected to miss at least a month after fracturing his left hand.

    After coming into the year with playoff hopes, the Hornets need a little retooling already. Really, what the team needs is someone to help give the young core confidence even when things aren't going right.

    There's one free agent who fits that mold perfectly: JR Smith.

    Not only can Smith help both in the backcourt and on the wing, but the eccentric small forward could also help keep the Hornets looking forward through their growing pains.

    Smith averaged 2.8 points in 13.2 minutes per game over six contests with the Los Angeles Lakers last season, but it's hard to gauge his impact after he only joined the team during the NBA restart in Orlando, Florida.

    With a more defined role and more time to integrate himself, Smith could find a nice spot in Charlotte.