1 Free Agent Every NBA Team Can Still Sign

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistAugust 10, 2021

1 Free Agent Every NBA Team Can Still Sign

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    For the most part, the NBA's 2021 free-agency frenzy that started on August 2 is over. Most of the significant deals that were agreed upon were reported within the first few days. Generally speaking, we know what all 30 teams will look like on this season's opening night.

    Of course, a trade of Ben Simmons, Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal or some other star would shake things up, but let's operate under the assumption that such deals aren't imminent.

    Now, teams are set to work on the margins. Minimum contracts, cap exceptions and training camp deals for 14th or 15th men will make up the bulk of the signings you'll see over the coming weeks. Nailing those moves can make a world of difference, though.

    In August 2018, the Milwaukee Bucks signed Pat Connaughton to a two-year, $3.4 million deal. He played well enough to secure another contract in 2020. And by 2021, he was a crucial contributor to the Bucks' Finals run, making 2.5 threes per game and shooting 44.1 percent from three against the Phoenix Suns.

    Stories like that may be the outliers for players signed at this point of free agency, but they're possible. And now is the time for teams to take swings.

    Some teams can still sign players for more than the minimum. HoopsHype's Yossi Gozlan provides a handy chart on the remaining spending power around the league. Even still, most of the players below would be signed for relatively low numbers.

    Lastly, each player was only allowed to appear once. 

Atlanta Hawks: Isaiah Hartenstein

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    With Onyeka Okongwu out for the beginning of the 2021-22 season following shoulder surgery, the Atlanta Hawks could use another center at the back of the rotation.

    John Collins could take some minutes there, and Gorgui Dieng is an underrated pickup as the primary backup, but Hartenstein is a young, bouncy Clint Capela facsimile.

    Last season, the 23-year-old averaged 15.6 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.6 blocks and 1.3 steals per 75 possessions.

    Again, he'd probably be no higher than the third center on the depth chart prior to Okongwu's return, but that kind of production is worth a flier.

Boston Celtics: Denzel Valentine

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    The Boston Celtics have a decent amount of depth at every position.

    Marcus Smart, Payton Pritchard, Kris Dunn and Josh Richardson are the rotation guards, and two of them can play on the wing. Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Aaron Nesmith are multipositional wings. Robert Williams III, Al Horford and Enes Kanter make up a good center rotation.

    When most of your bases are covered, more help on the wings is a good default to fall back on. In today's NBA, you seemingly can't have enough switchability and versatility at spots 1 through 4.

    And hoping Denzel Valentine recaptures his form from 2017-18 is worth a minimum contract.

    That season, he put up 10.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 27.2 minutes while shooting 38.6 percent from three.

Brooklyn Nets: Avery Bradley

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    The Brooklyn Nets are loaded. On top of the three superstars they had last season, they re-signed Blake Griffin and Bruce Brown and added depth with Patty Mills, James Johnson, DeAndre' Bembry, Cam Thomas and Day'Ron Sharpe.

    When you look at their depth chart, though, there's one spot that could use reinforcement. With James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Mills, they have plenty of offense in the backcourt. Another defensive specialist to support Jevon Carter wouldn't hurt.

    At this point in his career, that's about all Avery Bradley provides. And on this roster, he wouldn't have to do it for more than 10-15 minutes a game (and he probably wouldn't see the floor at all in plenty of games).

    In certain matchups against dynamic 1s, it would be nice to spare the stars of the responsibility of staying in front of that guy for a stretch here and there.

Charlotte Hornets: Harry Giles

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    The Charlotte Hornets were a League Pass darling in 2020-21, and they figure to be the same this season.

    LaMelo Ball is one of the best passers in the league. Gordon Hayward is a decent passer for his position. And Mason Plumlee is underrated in that regard (he's tied for eighth all-time in assists per possession for players his height and taller).

    Fill in the gaps with "Scary" Terry Rozier, Miles Bridges, Kelly Oubre Jr., P.J. Washington and rookie James Bouknight, and have the action called by Eric Collins, and you have a recipe for must-watch basketball.

    If there's a spot where another project makes sense, it might be center. There's reason for optimism for rookie Kai Jones, but he's not a sure thing. Another shot at a backup wouldn't hurt, and Harry Giles is five years removed from being the No. 2 college recruit in the nation.

    He's yet to find a consistent role in the NBA, but his athleticism and passing upside remain intriguing.

Chicago Bulls: Jabari Parker

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    I'm a sucker for homecoming stories and still hold a flicker of hope for Jabari Parker's NBA career. Last season, the Chicago native stoked that flicker a bit with some solid showings for the Boston Celtics.

    He scored in double figures in two playoff games and averaged 21.7 points per 75 possessions in Boston's series against the Brooklyn Nets. Of course, that's a minuscule sample size, but Parker flashed the scoring potential most thought he had back when he was drafted in 2014.

    For his hometown Bulls, who feature Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic, Parker wouldn't be called upon to score a ton, but he could fill a heat-check-off-the-bench role on a team without a ton of depth.

    Of course, his defensive limitations might be a bigger issue on a team without many aces on that end. But again, we're talking about a relatively low potential salary. Chicago has access to the $3.7 million bi-annual exception and a $5 million trade exception (courtesy of moving Daniel Theis).

Cleveland Cavaliers: Thon Maker

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    The Cleveland Cavaliers got a brief look at Thon Maker when they signed him to a contract in November. They also waived him in January. So this particular suggestion may not have the sturdiest legs.

    But the Cavs are teeming with youth throughout the depth chart. Darius Garland and Collin Sexton are in the backcourt. Isaac Okoro figures to play a ton on the wing. Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen will likely spend some time on the floor together.

    The elder statesmen are Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love, one of whom is new, while the other has been signaling a desire to leave for years.

    If Cleveland is indeed able to unload Love, bringing back the young-ish Maker (24) for another shot might make some sense.

    He wouldn't threaten to take minutes from Mobley or Allen, but he can play either spot and theoretically has the kind of perimeter skills to pull bigs away from the paint.

Dallas Mavericks: Shaquille Harrison

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    The Josh Richardson trade the Dallas Mavericks made last offseason backfired in pretty spectacular fashion.

    He was acquired to fill a traditional three-and-D role alongside Luka Doncic, but he shot just 33.0 percent from deep, and the Mavs' net rating (net points per 100 possessions) was 4.7 points worse with Richardson on the floor. At the start of this offseason, he was jettisoned to the Celtics.

    The latter move made sense, but Dallas could now use an injection of perimeter defense, and Shaquille Harrison is one of the game's best out there.

    He has the tenacity of Patrick Beverley without all the excess. He's also bigger, which allows him to defend wings when necessary.

    Of course, he's generally been a liability on offense. For his career, he's hit just 28.3 percent of his three-point attempts, but he had an outlier 38.1 percent in 2019-20. If the Mavericks can unearth that player, Harrison could find himself in the rotation.

Denver Nuggets: Dante Exum

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    Dante Exum's NBA career has been marred by injuries and inconsistency. When he's on the floor for more than a few minutes at a time, though, two things stand out: defensive chops and a lightning-quick first step.

    During Australia's run in the Tokyo Olympics, he had a chance to show both. In a 19-point semifinal loss to Team USA, Exum was the only Boomer with a positive plus-minus. And while most of his team looked overwhelmed by the Americans' athleticism, Exum was able to hold his own.

    On the Denver Nuggets, his speed would be put to good use. No one in the league makes cutters look better than Nikola Jokic. And Exum's drives to the paint would pull defenders away from shooters like Michael Porter Jr.

    His defense would come in handy there too. Right now, PJ Dozier might be the only stopper in the backcourt.

    With Jamal Murray likely out for most (if not all) of the season, another guard makes sense.

Detroit Pistons: Jontay Porter

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    The Detroit Pistons are another team in the middle of a youth movement. There are enticing players on rookie contracts all over the roster, including No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham.

    Lineups with him, Killian Hayes, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart will likely get rocked by more experienced teams, but they'll be fun to watch. And developmental reps can go a long way toward a brighter future.

    Now is the right time to devote as many minutes as possible to potential, and power forward/center Jontay Porter could be worth a look in that context.

    He's still just 21 years old, and his stat line during his lone season at Missouri in 2017-18 suggests he can be the kind of multifaceted big teams are after nowadays.

    He put up 18.0 points, 12.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 3.0 blocks and 1.6 steals per 75 possessions. He was also 40-of-110 (36.4 percent) from three.

Golden State Warriors: Marquese Chriss

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    Like Maker with Cleveland, the Golden State Warriors have already gotten a look at Marquese Chriss, but there was a lot more to see here.

    The Warriors were dreadful in 2019-20, but Chriss showed off the athleticism that got him drafted in the top 10 and even flashed some passing prowess. That season, he averaged 16.4 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.2 steals per 75 possessions.

    Familiarity would favor Kevon Looney, James Wiseman will need minutes as he navigates the NBA learning curve, and Draymond Green will spend some time at the 5. But Golden State could do much worse than the 24-year-old Chriss as an end-of-the-rotation center.

Houston Rockets: Isaac Bonga

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    There isn't much use analyzing what the Houston Rockets need, since they likely need a little bit of everything. Christian Wood is probably the only player on the roster we can confidently project to be above average.

    That means Houston could justify fliers at any position. Or it could take a shot on someone who may not fit any traditional positional designation.

    As a rookie, Isaac Bonga played almost a quarter of his minutes at the 1. He's also spent time at the 2, 3 and 4. In today's NBA, a tanking (er, rebuilding) team could even experiment with him as a small-ball 5.

    In each of his three seasons, he's shown different things that fit each of those spots, but he's never put it all together. Houston would be a good place for the 21-year old to try to make that happen.

Indiana Pacers: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

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    Rick Carlisle played two bigs a decent amount over the last few years with the Mavericks, but evidence suggests the Indiana Pacers are at their best when Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner are split up.

    And the closest thing the Indiana Pacers have to a solid power forward is small forward T.J. Warren. Small-ball lineups with Warren at the 4 are intriguing, but Indiana could use another option for those configurations.

    It would be nice if Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had some three-point shooting to sell teams on, but he brings enough other skills to be intriguing at a minimum salary.

    In the past, he's shown solid post-scoring skills for a player his size (6'6"). And he's passable, at worst, as a rebounder, defender and passer for his position.

    When you put it all together, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul Millsap and Greg Monroe are the only players who match or exceed Hollis-Jefferson's per-possession averages for rebounds, assists, steals and blocks over the course of his career.

Los Angeles Clippers: JJ Redick

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    Adding JJ Redick may seem a little redundant with Luke Kennard on the roster, but the latter can do a little more off the bounce than people give him credit for. Redick is a more dedicated floor-spacer whose off-ball movement can still bend defenses.

    With Kawhi Leonard likely to miss the 2021-22 campaign, the Los Angeles Clippers will need as much firepower as possible around Paul George. And returning to L.A. would make for a fun swan song for the 37-year-old Redick.

    He's just 50 threes away from becoming the 11th player in NBA history to make at least 2,000 threes. Last season, even with a funky role on both the New Orleans Pelicans and Mavericks, he hit 66.

Los Angeles Lakers: Bismack Biyombo

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    Anthony Davis is reportedly more willing to play 5 this season, and Marc Gasol and Dwight Howard can obviously soak up some minutes there, but some insurance wouldn't hurt.

    For his entire career, AD has been more inclined to play the 4. Extended stretches against Western Conference bigs like Nikola Jokic and Deandre Ayton could remind him why. Gasol and Howard are 36 and 35, respectively, and both have dealt with prolonged injury absences.

    Another legitimate 5 to go to, particularly one who specializes in defense, makes sense.

    Bismack Biyombo has never even sniffed an above-average offensive 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), but the Los Angeles Lakers wouldn't need him to do much on offense anyway.

    For 10-15 minutes every few games, Biyombo is worth a minimum.

Memphis Grizzlies: Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot

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    With Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams, Brandon Clarke and Xavier Tillman, the Memphis Grizzlies have plenty of bigs. Ja Morant, De'Anthony Melton, Eric Bledsoe, Tyus Jones and Dillon Brooks make up a pretty deep backcourt.

    What the team lacks is those in-between wings who can shapeshift to fit certain lineups and guard multiple positions. Brooks maybe qualifies as a 2-3. Kyle Anderson is a 3-4 (who really makes more sense as a point 4). Another wing could shore up the rotation.

    Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, 26, is at a similar age and developmental phase of many of the Grizzlies' core players and has shown three-and-D potential.

    He's 6'7" and shot 38.8 percent from three in 2019-20. His speed and knack for getting out in transition could make him a nice outlet weapon for Morant too.

Miami Heat: Paul Millsap

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    The Miami Heat signed P.J. Tucker to provide some defensive versatility and hit the occasional corner three, but there's a better version of that player still available.

    Over the last two seasons, Paul Millsap has been worlds better than Tucker in every conceivable statistical category. They're about the same age, and Millsap is a little taller. Plus, his threes sometimes come from above the break, which adds another element of spacing.

    Of course, one reason Millsap might be available is that he or his representatives thought he might be worth more than the two-year, $15 million deal that Tucker signed, but spending power around the league has plummeted over the last several days.

    If Miami can nab Millsap for the bi-annual exception ($3.7 million), it would instantly raise its ceiling.

Milwaukee Bucks: Stanley Johnson

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    The reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks don't have many glaring holes on their roster. They won the title without a key member of the starting lineup, Donte DiVincenzo. Getting him back next season obviously helps.

    So they can afford to take a chance on someone with lottery pedigree who hasn't figured things out in the NBA to this point. Stanley Johnson, the No. 8 pick in 2015, certainly fits that description.

    He's still just 25 years old and has the kind of athleticism and frame (6'6", 242 pounds) to slot in as a switchable forward. He's shown flashes of playmaking ability in years past, as well.

    After six years of well-below-average three-point shooting, it may be a lot to ask for significant improvement there, but that's the key for Johnson. And we've seen late-career surges from the outside before.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Jarred Vanderbilt

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    At minus-6.1 points per 100 possessions, the Minnesota Timberwolves were 26th in the league in net rating last season. But that number skyrocketed to plus-4.2 (76th percentile) when Karl-Anthony Towns shared the floor with restricted free agent Jarred Vanderbilt.

    The reason may be Vanderbilt's willingness to be one of those gap-fillers who doesn't need a ton of shots to be happy. He's content to rebound, defend multiple positions and cut on offense while bigger names get the buckets.

    With the lack of spending power around the league at this point, Minnesota should almost certainly match whatever offer sheet the 22-year-old forward signs (assuming the Wolves don't re-sign him outright).

New Orleans Pelicans: Jordan Bell

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    The New Orleans Pelicans have a handful of combo guards with Devonte' Graham, Tomas Satoransky and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. If they bring back restricted free agent Josh Hart, they'll have a decent number of wings too, including Brandon Ingram and Garrett Temple. There are also three dedicated centers with Jonas Valanciunas, Jaxson Hayes and Willy Hernangomez.

    What the roster could use is a little depth behind power forward Zion Williamson.

    Ingram can spend some time there, and Hart has the toughness and rebounding chops to survive as a small-ball 4 too. A more traditional power forward might reduce the need for survival minutes, though.

    Jordan Bell has never been able to recapture the promise he showed as a rookie with the Warriors, but he's still just 26. In theory, he's the kind of 4 who can guard multiple positions and even distribute a little.

    He's currently on the Hawks' summer league roster, and if he performs well in Las Vegas, he might get another shot in the league.

New York Knicks: Justin Jackson

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    Fresh off a pleasantly surprising 2020-21 campaign, the New York Knicks re-signed Julius Randle, Alec Burks and Derrick Rose, and then reinforced their backcourt with Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier.

    They didn't vault themselves into title contention, but the Knicks should be solid again. And with Tom Thibodeau at the helm, they should remain a team that doesn't lack for effort night to night.

    With the rotation pretty much set, it may make sense to take a flier on a theoretical shooter.

    Justin Jackson has only hit 32.1 percent of his three-point attempts in the NBA, but he was drafted in large part due to the outside shooting he flashed during his junior season at North Carolina.

    If the Knicks and Jackson devoted some time and energy to his consistency from the outside, he still has a chance to be an NBA rotation player.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Lauri Markkanen

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    Perhaps as much as anyone not named Dennis Schroder, Chicago Bulls stretch big Lauri Markkanen is feeling the squeeze caused by this offseason's lack of available cap space.

    At this point, barring a sign-and-trade somewhere else, the Oklahoma City Thunder might be the only team that can offer Markkanen anywhere near what he thought he might get a few months ago.

    OKC has a $9.5 million non-taxpayer mid-level exception. It could also work a sign-and-trade that absorbs Markkanen into some portion of the $27.5 million trade exception created by the Steven Adams trade.

    And though the Thunder probably still consider themselves to be in asset-accumulation mode, the 24-year-old big man would fit the timeline and versatility of a group that includes Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey and Aleksej Pokusevski.

Orlando Magic: Hamidou Diallo

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    The Orlando Magic have an intriguing young core coming together. There seems to be untapped potential available from Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs, R.J. Hampton, Chuma Okeke, Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr. and Mo Bamba.

    All of the above figure to get decent roles and playing time in 2021-22, which probably means they'll take their lumps and plenty of losses against more experienced teams.

    And since it'll be a developmental year, there's really no harm in adding another youngster. Hamidou Diallo is 23 and appeared to turn a corner in 2020-21.

    He averaged double figures for the first time in his career and crept closer to league-average three-point shooting. If he keeps trending in the right direction from the outside, his athleticism could make him a legitimate weapon on both sides of the ball.

Philadelphia 76ers: Dennis Schroder

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    It's been a popular practice around the internet over the last few days to make fun of Dennis Schroder for turning down a four-year, $84 million deal from the Lakers during the 2020-21 campaign.

    Yes, there's almost no way he can get that from anyone now, but you can see the logic used at the time of his decision. He was the starting point guard for the defending champions. Injuries derailed their title chances. Had LeBron James and Anthony Davis been healthy down the stretch, there's little chance they would've suffered the first-round loss that spurred drastic moves this offseason.

    Schroder can't turn back time and somehow keep the stars healthy, though. So he'll have to settle on a much smaller contract from someone. And whether Ben Simmons is traded or not, the Philadelphia 76ers could use a more traditional point guard.

    In case Simmons stays, playing Schroder at the 1 and experimenting with Simmons as a point forward or point center should be in order. If Simmons is traded for someone other than a point guard, Schroder could slide in as the starter.

    Either way, the season that was arguably Schroder's best was 2019-20, when he was a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. He may have to accept that as his ideal role going forward.

Phoenix Suns: Rodions Kurucs

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    With Dario Saric likely to miss much (if not all) of 2021-22 recovering from a torn ACL, the Phoenix Suns need another multipositional big who can stretch the floor a bit.

    Rodions Kurucs is far less likely to be able to hold up as a small-ball 5, but he still checks some of the boxes Saric did. And with JaVale McGee on the team this season, Phoenix may be less inclined to play those small reserve units.

    In 2019-20, Kurucs shot 36.7 percent from three and averaged 2.6 assists per 75 possessions. His playing time and production plummeted last season, but he might be worth a minimum in hopes that he rediscovers his previous form.

Portland Trail Blazers: Mike James

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    For a team that was seemingly on the verge of a trade demand by the longtime face of the franchise, the Portland Trail Blazers showed almost no urgency in free agency.

    With the exception of replacing Enes Kanter with Cody Zeller, the Blazers appear to pretty much be running it back in 2021-22. Which means a need they've had over the last couple of seasons remains.

    CJ McCollum and Anfernee Simons play the bulk of the backup point guard minutes, and that makes for a better situation than those of some teams, but a little depth at the 1 wouldn't hurt.

    Fresh off a strong couple of years with CSKA Moscow and the Brooklyn Nets, Mike James could be that guy. Over his last two seasons overseas, James averaged 19.1 points, 4.8 assists and 2.4 threes in 27.9 minutes while shooting 39.1 percent from three.

Sacramento Kings: Josh Hart

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    Because Josh Hart is a restricted free agent, and so few teams have significant spending power, the likeliest outcome for his free agency seems to be a small offer sheet matched by the Pelicans.

    The Sacramento Kings are an interesting sign-and-trade possibility, though. Buddy Hield has been a rumored trade candidate for months, and they were apparently close to sending him to the Lakers before the Russell Westbrook trade materialized.

    A sign-and-trade involving Hart might make sense for both sides.

    The Pelicans should be desperate to surround Zion Williamson with as much shooting as possible, and Hield is one of the most prolific floor-spacers of all time.

    For Sacramento, supplementing the three-guard rotation of De'Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell with the toughness and defensive ability of Hart is sensible.

San Antonio Spurs: Terrance Ferguson

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    The San Antonio Spurs' young backcourt may be a bit older than you think. Dejounte Murray is 24, while Derrick White is 27.

    They could turn the clock back a tad with the addition of 23-year-old Terrance Ferguson. The four-year vet has never been close to an above-average BPM and failed to crack the Sixers rotation in 2020-21, but 6.9 points and a 36.6 three-point percentage as a full-time starter in 2018-19 were good reminders of why he was a major recruit five years ago.

    For the first time in decades, the Spurs are firmly in the middle of a rebuild, and adding another young player to the likes of Murray, Lonnie Walker IV and Keldon Johnson makes sense.

Toronto Raptors: Frank Ntilikina

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    Following the departure of Kyle Lowry, the Toronto Raptors are another team leaning into a youth movement for the first time in years. At 27 each, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam are both in (or on the verge of) their primes, though.

    Adding a younger guard with plenty of room to grow makes sense. And Frank Ntilikina is closer in age to OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr. and Scottie Barnes.

    To this point of his NBA career, Ntilikina has shown little to nothing on offense, but he's a legitimate plus on the other end of the floor. If he can improve as an outside shooter with Toronto's developmental staff, he has a chance to be a rotation player.

Utah Jazz: Garrison Mathews

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    Few front offices have emphasized shooting as much as that of the Utah Jazz over the past few seasons, and the philosophy paid off in 2020-21.

    The West's No. 1 seed led the league in threes per 100 possessions and was fourth in three-point percentage.

    The team's rotation is also pretty much set, so any additions at this point will be players battling for a spot at the end of the bench.

    One shooter who recently became available and might make sense as a participant in that battle is Garrison Mathews.

    The 6'5" former Washington Wizard is 95-of-244 (38.9 percent) from three during his short career. And he has the kind of elevation on his jumper that allows him to shoot over closeouts.

Washington Wizards: James Ennis III

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    The Washington Wizards moved Westbrook to the Lakers and got a whole lot of depth in return. Now, they have two or three rotation players at every position.

    Several of their 3-4 types, including Rui Hachimura, Kyle Kuzma, Deni Avdija and Davis Bertans, seem more like natural 4s, though. A wing who's more of a 2-3 like James Ennis III would be a good option to solidify the bench.

    The 31-year-old Ennis averaged a career-high 8.4 points last season while shooting 43.3 percent from deep.

    Having him on the roster would make it easier to field lineups with four shooters around Bradley Beal.