The Top NBA Free Agents Still Available: Kawhi, Collins and the Field

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistAugust 3, 2021

The Top NBA Free Agents Still Available: Kawhi, Collins and the Field

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    The NBA's 2021 free-agency window is open, and signings came pouring through Monday.

    Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus has you covered for the biggest action that took place around the league, but the focus here will be the players who haven't been snatched up.

    This class may not have a ton of star power, but there are plenty of free agents who can move the needle for teams in need of role players.

    As we trek through the offseason, here are the top 25 players still available.

       

    Editor's note: Text for some players in this article was originally featured in an earlier positional series.

The 'Take a Flier' Tier

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    Hassan Whiteside

    One year after a stellar campaign as the starting 5 for the Portland Trail Blazers in 2019-20, Hassan Whiteside barely saw the floor for the Sacramento Kings.

    In 36 games, he averaged 15.2 minutes, 8.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. Those are all the lowest marks he's posted since 2011-12.

          

    Jabari Parker

    Jabari Parker's career is on life support. He appeared in just 13 games and averaged 5.5 points in 2020-21.

    There were signs of hope with the Boston Celtics, though. He had 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting in the last game of the regular season. Then, he went for double figures in limited minutes in each of Boston's last two playoff games.

             

    Kendrick Nunn

    At 6'2", Kendrick Nunn is undersized to play the wing, and he doesn't create enough for others to be a traditional point guard. In today's game, though, that may not matter much.

    In lineups with playmaking wings and forwards, Nunn's three-point shooting (38.1 percent on 5.7 attempts per game last season) can open things up for the other four players.

       

    George Hill

    The Philadelphia 76ers may not have had room for George Hill, but the veteran combo guard could still help plenty of contenders.

    He's struggled to stay healthy for several years now, but he's shot 40.2 percent from three since 2015-16. And he has the wingspan to reasonably be expected to defend 2s.

The Vet Rotation Player Tier

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    Justise Winslow

    Justise Winslow's run with the Memphis Grizzlies was a full-blown disaster, but there may still be a playmaking forward in there somewhere.

    He's just 25 years old. And in 2017-18 and 2018-19, he averaged 10.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 37.7 percent from three.

           

    Enes Kanter

    Over the course of his career, much has been made of Enes Kanter's defense, especially on perimeter switches.

    His dominant offense has more than made up for it over the last two seasons, though. His teams were plus-6.0 points per 100 possessions with Kanter on the floor and plus-1.8 with him off it.

           

    Paul Millsap

    Paul Millsap is entering his age-36 season, and his playing time has dipped for four straight seasons. He shouldn't be counted on for much more than 15-20 minutes, but he can spread the floor as a 4 and hold up while defending either big position.

    His passing can add an intriguing dynamic to most reserve units too.

              

    JJ Redick

    JJ Redick never found a consistent role in 2020-21, but he still shot an above-average 37.1 percent form three.

    His off-ball movement and catch-and-shoot prowess can still bend the defenses of opposing second units.

The Borderline Starter Tier

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    Lou Williams

    Lou Williams has been in the NBA for 16 years. And though he's no longer the perennial Sixth Man of the Year contender he once was, he can still provide scoring pop off the bench.

    Last season, he averaged 11.3 points in 21.6 minutes per game and shot a career-high 39.9 percent from three. If that last figure is an indicator of a trend, Williams might be effective a bit longer than anticipated.

            

    Victor Oladipo

    Victor Oladipo's injury history is beyond concerning. He's appeared in just 88 games over the last three seasons. And another injury ended his 2020-21 campaign in April.

    "I repaired the quad tendon and did it a little differently than [he had] it done before," Oladipo's surgeon, Dr. Jonathan Glashow, told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. "The quad wasn't really hooked up. It was torn, and I reattached it. I was amazed he was playing with what he had."

    It's good that Oladipo is now presumably healthy, but the track record for players with injuries that start to pile up isn't great.

    If he's healthy, Oladipo still profiles as a solid second or third option who can defend the perimeter, but that "if" is becoming a more prominent part of his story every season.

                                  

    Kelly Oubre Jr.

    Lop off Kelly Oubre Jr.'s extremely cold start, and his numbers look closer to what Golden State Warriors fans expected of him. From his 11th appearance on, he put up 16.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.8 threes per game while shooting 35.5 percent from three.

    That's still below-average efficiency from deep, but it's close enough to make defenders honor him outside. And when you combine that with solid size (6'7"), athleticism and versatility, the 25-year-old Oubre is worth a shot.

The Impact Player + Future Promise Tier

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    Josh Hart

    Josh Hart is coming off a campaign in which he averaged 11.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.7 threes and 1.0 steal per 75 possessions. Yes, you read that right. When adjusted for pace and playing time, a 6'5" wing averaged a double-double.

    Russell Westbrook was the only player in the league at Hart's height or shorter with a higher rebounding rate.

    If he can manage an average three-point percentage (something he hasn't done since his rookie year in 2017-18), those well-rounded contributions would make Hart a solid contributor on any roster.

              

    Dennis Schroder

    Fresh off a strong 2019-20 campaign in which he finished second in Sixth Man of the Year voting, Dennis Schroder experienced something of a regression to career norms alongside LeBron James with the Los Angeles Lakers.

    So, the question is whether he's the slashing, mid-range assassin he was with the Oklahoma City Thunder or the up-and-down, borderline ball-stopper he's been just about everywhere else.

    If any organization ponies up for the $100-$120 million Schroder is reportedly after, it'll certainly be hoping for a return of the former.

               

    Lauri Markkanen

    Like just about everyone else on this list, Lauri Markkanen has glaring flaws in his game. For a 7-footer, his rebounding and block rates are just bad. And he's not a great perimeter defender, either. But in 2020-21, he showed the potential to be a top-tier floor spacer.

    The 24-year old averaged 13.6 points and 2.3 threes in 25.8 minutes per game while shooting 40.2 percent from three. He's approaching Davis Bertans or Duncan Robinson territory in terms of stretching defenses. And he has plenty of time to develop into a more reliable defender.

             

    Talen Horton-Tucker

    Let's preempt a likely concern. THT hasn't produced a ton in the first two years of his career, with well-rounded (though maybe not inspiring) averages of 8.7 points, 2.6 assists, 2.5 rebounds, 1.0 steal and 0.6 threes per game.

    When you factor in age and playing time, though, Horton-Tucker's free agency becomes far more interesting.

    The only players who match or exceed his marks for true shooting percentage (53.6) and points (16.3), assists (4.9) and rebounds (4.6) per 75 possessions through an age-20 season are LaMelo Ball, Luka Doncic, Magic Johnson and Chris Paul.

    With multipositional versatility and athleticism to go with some playmaking chops, Horton-Tucker has about as high a ceiling as anyone on this slideshow (with the exception of the player at No. 1). If he figures out how to consistently hit threes (his career mark is 28.5 percent), he'll almost surely be a plus player wherever he goes.

The Reliable 3-Point Assassin: Danny Green

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    I can't tell you where to find this stat, but it sure feels like Danny Green is an annual leader in TARPTOT (times a role player trended on Twitter). And unfortunately, he's often trending for an off shooting night.

    What many of the tweets on those occasions fail to acknowledge is that Green is typically impacting games in positive ways that don't show up in a traditional box score.

    He can guard multiple positions, is a fiend in transition defense and commands attention at the three-point line, even if his shot isn't falling.

    Green is 44th in career three-point percentage, and no one matches or exceeds both his marks for three-point percentage (40.1) and defensive box plus/minus (BPM is "a basketball box score-based metric that estimates a basketball player's contribution to the team when that player is on the court," according to Basketball Reference).

    At 34, Green is likely due for a decline soon, but he's coming off a 2020-21 in which he shot 40.5 percent from three and had a comfortably positive defensive BPM. He also had a positive impact on his team's point differential for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons.

    It might be easy to jump on the internet and fire off a quip when he misses a few shots, but Green has proved for a decade that he just helps teams win.When Holmes played, the Kings were plus-0.7 points per 100 possessions. When he didn't, they were minus-6.3.

    His athleticism and timing as a rim runner make him a devastating receiver out of pick-and-rolls. And he's even developed a lights-out runner from just outside the restricted area in case a big is in position to challenge him at the rim.

    Defensively, he's not the kind of anchor Rudy Gobert is (of course, few are), but he doesn't take plays off and will get plenty of highlight, send-it-into-the-stands blocks over the course of a season.

The 2021 Playoffs' Breakout Star: Reggie Jackson

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    Before you call the recency bias police, consider a few of the factors that drove Reggie Jackson so far up this list.

    First, the blistering three-point shooting we saw in the playoffs (40.8 percent on 7.5 attempts per game) wasn't a fluke.

    Over the first four years of his career, Jackson shot 29.4 percent from deep. He rose to 35.4 percent for the next four years. And over the last two, he's at 41.9 (peaking at 43.3 in 2020-21). The steady climb suggests this is just who Jackson is now.

    Another plus is Jackson's willingness and ability to essentially function as a wing. He's listed at 6'2", but a 7-foot wingspan allows him to work in positionless, switch-happy lineups, which have become increasingly important in today's perimeter-oriented game.

    On the other end, Jackson has proved content to work off the ball while possession-dominating wings such as Paul George and Kawhi Leonard operate the offense.

    And in the playoffs, especially after Leonard went down with a torn right ACL, Jackson proved he can bring all of the above in the highest-leverage moments.

    Across 19 postseason appearances (17 of which were starts), he averaged 17.8 points, 3.4 assists and 3.1 threes per game. In those contests, the Los Angeles Clippers were plus-8.8 points per 100 possessions with Jackson on the floor and minus-4.4 with him off it.

The Elite Stretch 4: John Collins

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    No big men here checks quite as many boxes as John Collins.

    In fact, of all the attributes analyzed for player Nos. 15 through 2, playmaking may be the only one Collins hasn't already proved himself to have. And since he turns 24 in September, it's safe to say there's still time to improve in that area.

    Other than that, Collins can shape-shift from one big-man archetype to another.

    He's an explosive leaper who can catch lobs out of pick-and-rolls or score on putbacks. He's hit 40.0 percent on 3.4 three-point attempts per game over the last two seasons. And he's averaged at least one block in three of his four NBA campaigns.

    When you put it all together, he has a statistical profile that puts him in elite company. Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns are the only other players in league history to average at least 20 points, 10 rebounds, one block and one three per 75 possessions through their age-23 seasons (Nikola Jokic barely missed out with 0.9 blocks).

    Of course, adding the threes qualifier pretty much eliminates any big man who played prior to this era, but maybe that actually helps to better illustrate the point.

    In today's game, bigs are generally asked to bring a wider array of skills to the floor, and Collins does just that.

The Only Superstar Taking Pitches: Kawhi Leonard

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    Kawhi Leonard's right ACL reconstruction not only affects his potential free agency, but it could also completely alter the landscape of the Western Conference. Even if he opts in to the final year of his deal with the Los Angeles Clippers, it's hard to imagine they will contend for the title without Leonard.

    If he opts out, even at 30 and coming off the major injury, Leonard would instantly be one of the biggest prizes on the free-agency market.

    His explosiveness is obviously a big part of his game, but he's not overly reliant on it. And ACL surgeries and recoveries have a better track record than they did in the past.

    If he's 95 percent of what he was athletically, his size, shooting and cerebral game should be able to cover the rest. Once he's healthy again, he figures to be one of the game's most impactful players.

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