Connect with us

NBA

The Top 10 Remaining NBA Free Agents

Jordan Hicks takes a look at some of the best available free agents left and what skills they have that may be needed by certain teams.

Jordan Hicks

Published

on

To say this offseason has been stellar would actually be an understatement at this point.

Considering all of the major trades, free agency decisions and player acquisitions, this past summer could go down as one of the best in the history of the league. With Paul George and Kawhi Leonard going to the Clippers, Russell Westbrook being dealt to the Houston Rockets and the Miami Heat receiving Jimmy Butler in exchange for Josh Richardson, it’s easy to see how action-packed things have been.

With all of the movement in the league, there are still quite a few players available that have the ability to play a significant role for any team with title hopes – and this year features more parity between clubs in at least the last 10 years; unless you’ve been caught up researching College Football Futures, there are still some solid free agent names out there.

In this piece, Basketball Insiders will take a look at the top 10 players still available and the specific skill set they can bring to whatever team gives them a shot.

10) Trey Burke

A former collegiate National Player of the Year, Burke found success early on in his NBA career, fell out for a time, then fought his way back in.

Coming off one of his best seasons to date, Burke averaged 10.9 points and 2.7 assists for both the New York Knicks and Dallas Mavericks after moving to Texas by way of the Porzingis deal. His 2017-18 season with the Knicks was definitely a career year where he notched 12.8 points and 4.7 assists on 50.3 percent from the field.

Burke has often struggled with his lack of size and doesn’t necessarily make up for it with his less-than-impressive athleticism. Still, he remains one of the better backup point guard options available and would bring instant offensive ability off the bench. His defensive struggles have persisted throughout his career, but he does have the ability to create offense – whether it’s for himself or his teammates.

9) Thabo Sefolosha

Sefolosha is coming off two strong years in Utah. His play didn’t seem to lack with his rising age, but actually being available to play on a nightly basis was more-or-less an issue. He played a total of 88 games in two seasons and missed the entirety of Utah’s multi-round playoff run in 2017-18.

He will turn 35 this upcoming season, but his defense is still more than palatable. He also shot 43.6 percent from three on over six attempts per night – his best mark since the 2011-12 season and just shy of a career-high. He can’t play major minutes every night, but can still provide that three-and-D skill set that many teams need.

8) Jeremy Lin

Yes, Jeremy Lin is an NBA champion. Yes, he also didn’t play very much in the playoffs. Still, no one can pull that championship ring off his finger.

Despite the fact that Lin wasn’t too active for the Raptors in the playoffs, he can still play. Unfortunately, Lin still hasn’t found the same fire as the Lin-sanity of almost 10 years ago. This doesn’t mean he’s washed. With career averages of 11.6 points and 4.3 assists, Jeremy still has the tools to bolster the offensive unit of many NBA benches.

7) Lance Stephenson

An NBA viewers favorite (or least favorite) player since he blew into LeBron’s ear has seen his run alongside James come to an abrupt finish. Now that the Lakers have a more solidified roster, they no longer saw the need for Lance’s unique abilities on the court.

Stephenson doesn’t score particularly well, he’s not an all-world passer and he’s not even an elite defender. Lance is the hustle guy. He brings an insane amount of energy to the court when needed and has the ability – almost singlehandedly – to get a crowd totally enveloped at any given moment.

Please don’t misunderstand, Lance can still contribute in important ways. He’s coming off a year where he shot over 37 percent from three. He didn’t cause any issues in the locker room of a team that many assumed would implode. Still, the Lakers missed the playoffs. Stephenson definitely has the ability to do provide something positive for a number of teams, he just needs one that could use his special set of tools.

6) Jamal Crawford

Crawford is easily the oldest player on this list, and it appears father time has finally started to catch up to him. He played in 64 of the Sun’s regular-season games and logged his fewest points per game and least minutes per game since his rookie year back in 2000-01.

Despite these low marks, Crawford is still a more than capable bucket-getter. He’s made his career off strictly that. His increased age has, in essence, lowered his overall athleticism. So while he still has the handles to get himself open, his defense has continually slipped the past couple of seasons. Regardless, Crawford has still been spotted serving buckets this offseason in his Crawsover Pro-Am league. Any team that’s in need of someone who can score could us Jamal’s help.

5) Carmelo Anthony

Come on, don’t act surprised that Melo made this list. He is still an incredible talent that deserves a spot back in the league. His time with OKC taught him that he needed to change his game, and his short stint with Houston never made sense from the beginning.

Carmelo is still just 34 years old. He’s never averaged less than 13 points per game. He’s definitely lost some bounce but he’s still as strong as ever.

For Melo to find his way back into the league, he needs to take a page from Vince Carter’s book. He no longer has the ability to be the star of a team. He doesn’t even have the ability to be the second, third, fourth or maybe even fifth-best player. He needs to tighten up his defense and do all the little things that prominent role players do night in and night out like set screens, swing the ball and fill gaps on defense. You have to think some team out there will bring him on, and if at that point he proves he can change his game, he easily has two-plus years left in the NBA.

4) Kenneth Faried

The fact Faried hasn’t found a home yet despite his stellar play last season is absolutely baffling. When Clint Capela went down mid-season, the Rockets picked up Faried in hopes of not dropping off too far. Faried filled in incredibly well. He averaged 12.9 points and 8.2 rebounds and even had a career-high percentage from behind the arc at 35 percent.

The fact that Houston went away from Faried in their playoff run essentially showed that he wasn’t a part of their future. Kenneth is a high-energy guy that has the ability to bring a lot to any secondary frontcourt. He’s an elite rebounder, has incredibly bounce and strength and knows his spots on the floor. He’s aware of his strengths, doesn’t play to his weaknesses and stays rather mistake-free during his time on the court. Look for teams that need a backup big to come knocking on his door.

3) Iman Shumpert

Shumpert is a high-level defensive player. His offensive woes are partially masked due to his athleticism. He gets into passing lanes, is an above-average iso defender and has the ability to play above the rim if need be.

He’s bounced around the league since his departure from Cleveland, but he has championship pedigree, plenty of playoff experience and he’s still just 28 years old. He’s not the best shooter, but a career 34.8 percent from three isn’t what you’d call horrible. Any young team looking for solid veteran leadership should turn to Shumpert.

2) Shaun Livingston

If you want to talk about championship pedigree, no one has as many titles on this countdown as Mr. Livingston. And he wasn’t just riding the pine for Golden State these last few years. He was a major contributor to their bench unit and can be pointed to on many occasions for helping the Warriors stay competitive in close games.

He has incredible length for a point guard and stands 6-foot-7. His statistics don’t necessarily pop out, but he’s an admirable floor general and controls the offensive unit – especially against opposing benches – incredibly well. For as many years as he’s been in the league, it’s crazy to think he’s only 33 years old. Sure, his body is definitely giving in to wear-and-tear, but he is still a top-10 backup point guard in today’s league.

1) JR Smith

Just like many others on this list, Smith’s game is definitely declining with age. Unlike all other players on this list, JR virtually sat out the entirety of last season as Cleveland opted for growth and gave minutes to younger players.

JR is as fresh as he’s ever been and still possesses the most sought after role-player traits available: Defense and three-point shooting. It’s almost certain teams have been ringing his line, but he’s likely looking for the right fit. He already has a championship ring, so it’s unclear just what kind of opportunity JR wants. Regardless, it is highly likely we see Smith in an NBA uniform before the season starts. If not, he’ll be one of the first players picked up mid-season when a team has a gap they need to fill.

Jordan Hicks is an NBA writer based out of Salt Lake City. He is a former college athlete and varsity sports official. Find him on Twitter @JordanHicksNBA.

Advertisement




Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

NBA

NBA Daily: They Guessed Wrong

Matt John reflects on some of the key decisions that were made last summer, and how their disappointing results hurt both team outlooks and players’ legacies.

Matt John

Published

on

It doesn’t sound possible, but did you know that the crazy NBA summer of 2019 was, in fact, over a year ago? Wildly, in any normal, non-pandemic season, it all would have been over three months ago and, usually, media days would be right around the corner, but not this time. The 2019-20 NBA season is slated to end sometime in early to mid-October, so the fact that the last NBA off-season was over a year ago hasn’t really dawned on anyone yet. Craziest of all, even though there will still be an offseason, there technically won’t be any summer.

Coronavirus has really messed up the NBA’s order. Of course, there are much worse horrors that COVID-19 has inflicted upon the world – but because of what it’s done to the NBA, let’s focus on that and go back to the summer of 2019. It felt like an eternity, but the Golden State Warriors’ three-year reign had finally reached its end. The Toronto Raptors’ victory over the tyranny that was the Hamptons Five – as battered as they were – made it feel like order had been restored to the NBA. There was more to it than that though.

Klay Thompson’s and Kevin Durant’s season-ending injuries, along with the latter skipping town to join Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn meant two things.

1. Golden State was down for the count
2. Brooklyn’s time wasn’t coming until next year.

A one-year window was open. Even if neither Golden State nor Brooklyn posed the same threat that the former did when it had Kevin Durant, those were two contenders out of commission. If there was a time to go all in, it was in 2019.

Milwaukee certainly seemed to go all in. For the most part.  Malcolm Brogdon’s departure seemed a little odd since he was arguably their best non-Giannis playmaker when they were in crunch time. Not to mention there was nothing really stopping the Bucks from keeping him except for money. Detractors will call out Milwaukee for electing to cheap out by not keeping Brogdon and hence, avoiding the luxury tax. However, there’s more to it than that.

Milwaukee thought it had enough with the core it had on its roster. Coming off the best season they had put up since the eighties, they believed the franchise built the right team to contend. There was an argument that keeping Brogdon may have been overkill with their guard depth – let’s not forget that Donte DiVincenzo did a solid job in Brogdon’s role as the backup facilitator. This would have been more defensible had it not been for Milwaukee picking the wrong guy to let go. That was the indefensible part- electing to keep Eric Bledsoe over Brogdon.

Bledsoe wasn’t necessarily a bad investment. No one’s complaining about an almost 15 point average on 47/34/79 splits or playing individual defense tight enough to get named on the All-Defensive second team. By all accounts, Bledsoe earns his keep. That is until the playoffs. Bledsoe’s postseason woes have been a weight ever since he first entered Milwaukee, and this postseason was more of the same.

Bledsoe’s numbers dwindled to just 11.7 points on 39/25/81 splits, and Milwaukee getting ousted in five games at the hands of Miami made his struggles stand out even more than it had ever been. Bledsoe may be the better athlete and the better defender, but Brogdon’s all-around offensive savvy and his only slight dropoff defensively from Brogdon would have made him a bit more reliable.

Milwaukee guessed wrong when they opted to extend Bledsoe before the postseason last year when they could have waited until that very time to evaluate who to keep around. Now they face a hell of a lot more questions than they did at the end of last season – questions that may have been avoided had they made the right choice.

Now they could have kept both of them, yes, but it’s not totally unreasonable to think that maybe their approach with the luxury tax would have worked and maybe they would still be in the postseason right now had they gone with the homegrown talent. And just maybe, there wouldn’t be nearly as much of this Greek Freak uncertainty.

The Houston Rockets can relate. They got bruised up by a team that everyone thought Houston had the edge on going into the series and then crushed by the Lakers. Now, Mike D’Antoni is gone. The full-time small ball experiment likely did not work out. Since the Rockets emptied most of their assets to bring in Russell Westbrook and Robert Covington, there may not be a route in which they can become better than they presently are.

The mistake wasn’t trading for Russell Westbrook. The mistake was trading Chris Paul.

To be fair, most everybody severely overestimated Chris Paul’s decline. He’s not among the best of the best anymore, but he’s still pretty darn close. He deserved his All-NBA second team selection as well as finishing No. 7 overall in MVP voting. OKC had no business being as good as they were this season, and Paul was the driving force as to why.

For all we know, the previously-assumed tension between Chris Paul and James Harden would have made its way onto the court no matter what. Even so, Houston’s biggest obstacle in the Bay Area had crumbled. If they had just stayed the course, maybe they’re still in the postseason too.

To their credit, none of this may have happened had it not been for the Kawhi Leonard decision. Had he chosen differently, the Thunder never blow it up, and Houston might have very well been the favorite in the Western Conference. Instead, the Rockets took a step back from being in the title discussion to dark horse. But at least they can take pride knowing that they weren’t expected to win it all – the Clippers can’t.

Seeing the Clippers fall well short expectations begs the question if they too got it wrong. The answer is, naturally: of course not. They may have paid a hefty price for Paul George, but the only way they were getting Kawhi Leonard – one of the best players of his generation – was if PG-13 came in the package. As lofty as it was, anyone would have done the same thing if they were in their shoes. They didn’t get it wrong. Kawhi did.

On paper, the Clippers had the most talented roster in the entire league. It seemed like they had every hole filled imaginable. Surrounding Leonard and George was three-point shooting, versatility, a productive second unit, an experienced coach – you name it. There was nothing stopping them from breaking the franchise’s long-lasting curse. Except themselves.

Something felt off about them. They alienated opponents. They alienated each other. At times, they played rather lackadaisically, like the title had already been signed, sealed, and delivered to them. The media all assumed they’d cut the malarkey and get their act together – but that moment never really came. They had their chances to put Denver away, but even if they had, after seeing their struggles to beat them – and to be fair Dallas too – would their day of destiny with the Lakers have really lived up to the hype?

Even if it was never in the cards, one can’t help but wonder what could have happened had Kawhi chosen to stay with the team he won his second title with.

Toronto was the most impressive team in this league this season. They still managed to stay at the top of the east in spite of losing an all-timer like Leonard. That team had every component of a winner except a superstar. They had the right culture for a championship team. Just not the right talent. The Clippers were the exact opposite. They had the right talent for a championship team but not the right culture. That’s why the Raptors walked away from the postseason feeling proud of themselves for playing to their full potential while the Clippers writhed in disappointment and angst over their future.

In the end, everyone mentioned here may ultimately blame what happened to their season on the extenuating circumstances from the pandemic. The Bucks’ chemistry never fully returned when the Bubble started. Contracting COVID and dealing with quad problems prevented Westbrook from reviving the MVP-type player he was before the hiatus. As troubling as the Clippers had played, the extra time they would have had to work things out in a normal season was taken away from them.

For all we know, next year will be a completely different story. The Rockets, Bucks, and Kawhi may ultimately have their faith rewarded for what they did in the summer of 2019 – but that will only be mere speculation until the trio can change the story.

Continue Reading

NBA

Looking Toward The Draft: Power Forwards

Basketball Insiders continues their NBA Draft watch, this time with the power forwards.

David Yapkowitz

Published

on

We got some updated NBA draft news this week when the league announced that several key dates have been pushed back including the draft, the start of free agency and the beginning of the 2020-21 season.

The 2020 draft was originally scheduled for Oct. 16, but it will now likely occur sometime in November. Obviously, with the COVID-19 pandemic still wildly out of control in the United States, all of these potential deadlines are fluid and subject to change.

With that said, we’re continuing our position by position breakdown here at Basketball Insiders of some of the top 2020 draft prospects. We looked at the point guards and shooting guards last week, and this week we’re covering the small forwards and power forwards.

The power forward crop, like the draft overall, doesn’t appear to be as strong as recent years, that doesn’t mean there aren’t potential contributors and high-level NBA players available, as well as one who might just turn out to be a star-caliber player.

Onyeka Okongwu, USC – 19 years old

Okongwu is the player who just might develop into a star on some level. He was actually underrated in high school and was snubbed for a McDonald’s All-American selection his senior year. He established himself early on at USC as the team’s best player as a freshman and now appears to have turned some heads.

He’s been mentioned as a lottery pick and in some mock drafts, he’s top 4-5. He possesses a great all-around skill-set; he can score in the post, he can put the ball on the floor and attack and he can shoot. But perhaps his biggest attribute is his versatility on the defensive end. He’s got quick feet and mobility and can guard multiple positions.

Okongwu might actually play center in the NBA, especially in small-ball lineups, but he’s mostly played power forward and so he’ll probably see time there in the league. His skill-set fits perfectly with today’s game.

Obi Toppin, Dayton – 22 years old

Toppin is one of the older players in the draft, and in recent history, players that age tend to slip on draft boards. In Toppin’s case, it looks like the reverse might actually be true. He’s been projected as a lottery pick, and even going in the top 3.

He’s an incredibly athletic player who thrives in the open court. He looks like he’ll do well in an up-tempo offensive system that has capable playmakers who can find him in transition. He’s extremely active around the rim and he can finish strong. A decent shooter too, something he’ll need at the next level.

Toppin has the physical tools to be an effective defensive player, but that’s where the questions marks on him have been. In the NBA, he’s likely going to have to play and guard multiple positions. Whether or not he can adapt to that likely will answer the question as to what his ceiling can be.

Precious Achiuwa, Memphis – 20 years old

Achiuwa is another intriguing prospect. this writer actually got to watch him play in person while he was in high school and he was very impressive. He looked like a man among boys. He’s projected to be a late lottery pick.

He has an NBA-ready body and he’s got some toughness around the rim and in the paint. He was a double-double threat during his one season at Memphis and his knack for rebounding is something that should translate to the NBA. He’s a very good defender too, in particular, as a rim protector. He’s very quick and has the ability to guard multiple positions.

One of the main knocks on Achiuwa is his shooting ability. He didn’t shoot that well in college and power forwards being able to space the floor is almost a requirement in today’s NBA game. It’s something he can certainly work on and improve on though.

Honorable Mentions:
Paul Reed, DePaul – 21 years old
Xavier Tillman, Michigan State – 21 years old
Killian Tillie, Gonzaga – 22 years old

Continue Reading

NBA

Looking Toward the Draft: Small Forwards

Basketball Insiders’ examination of the 2020 draft class continues with a look at the small forwards.

Drew Maresca

Published

on

It was announced on Wednesday that the NBA Draft would be delayed from Oct. 16 to Nov. 18. The rationale is that the extra month gives the league and its players association more time to negotiate changes to the CBA. It also grants teams additional time to procure information on prospects and allows the NBA to establish regional virtual combines. But nothing is set in stone.

Still, draft prep must continue. This year’s draft class has more question marks than usual – which was complicated by the cancellation of the NCAA tournament (along with the NIT and a number of conference tournaments). There are incredibly skilled offensive players with limited offensive upside and jaw-droppingly talented defenders with incomplete offensive packages. But if (recent) history serves as a guide, there will be a few guys who make an immediate impact – and some of them very well could be small forwards.

The small forward position is key for the modern NBA. Want proof? Survey the league and you’ll find that most – if not all – contenders have an elite small forward – Milwaukee, Los Angeles (both), Boston, Miami, Toronto.

But the list of can’t miss small forward prospects feels smaller than usual. Scanning the numerous legitimate mock drafts (including our own by Steve Kyler), it becomes apparent that we lack a consensus on which small forwards will be selected (and in what order) after the top 3 or 4. Can any of them grow into a star? Maybe. Maybe not. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s identify what the top few bring to the table.

Deni Avdija, Israel – 19 years old

Avdija is a relatively well-rounded prospect who’s played professionally since he was 16. He boasts good height (6-foot-9) and uses it effectively to shoot over and pass around opposing defenses. Further, Avdija is an exceptional playmaker and he’s incredibly confident, enabling him to take chances many players would be apprehensive trying. Avdija is a high-IQ player. And what’s more, he’s a surprisingly strong defender. His height and above-average athleticism allow him to block shots, and he’s more physical than you’d expect him to be.

But there are drawbacks to Avdija, too. His main issue is around shooting. Avdija shot only 28% in the EuroLeague last season, and he shot only 60% from the free-throw line. Further, while he’s a decent athlete, he’ll struggle to secure a role in the NBA. He’s going to need to add speed to stay with modern wings, and he’ll also have to bulk up to bang with power forwards.

Still, Avdija’s upside is alluring. He’s only 19, and his smarts, confidence and grittiness should provide him cover for much of his rookie season. Avdija should be the first small forward off of the board.

Isaac Okoro, Auburn – 19 years old

Avdija might be the flashier name currently, but Okoro will give him a run for his money in terms of which small forward is first off the board. Okoro is built like a traditional NBA wing; he’s 6-foot-6 with good strength packed in his muscular frame (215 lbs). Okoro finishes well around the rim and he converts well through contact. He’s an exceptional athlete who excels catching the ball on the move. Like Avdija, Okoro has the poise and composure of a more experienced player. Also, like Avdija, Okoro looked the part of a high IQ player in his lone season at Auburn.

And while all that is great, the main allure of Okoro is his defense. He’s a fairly advanced defender given his age, and his athleticism and timing make him an effective weak side help defender.

While Okoro’s raw abilities are exquisite, his refined offensive skills leave something to be desired. Okoro shot 28 percent on three-point field goals and he struggled from the free-throw line (67.2 percent). His mid-range jump shot also needs work, and he struggles in isolation situations.

If Okoro can hone his offensive game, he could grow into an All-Star. He has the ability to guard multiple positions, and his strength and athleticism give him a leg up on most prospects. But even if he doesn’t become an All-Star, he possesses a fairly high floor given his defensive abilities — and the guy definitely fills the state sheet (12.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, .9 steals and .9 blocks). He has lockdown defender potential and he’ll put his stamp on the game beginning on night one.

Devin Vassell, Florida State – 20 years old

Vassell played two seasons at Florida State, but he came into his own in his Sophomore season. He averaged 12.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. He shot a more than respectable 41.5% on three-point attempts, and he demonstrated a strong stroke from the free-throw line (73.8 percent) and on two-point field goal attempts (53.2).

Vassell is an extremely athletic leaper, who can rise up for a highlight dunk and sprint down the floor with ease. He has good body control and demonstrated a strong mid-range game, especially his step-back jump shot. But Vassell must generate more free throws through decisive moves to the hoop, which would be bolstered by a more muscular frame. Additionally, he must improve his ball-handling to get more from isolations.

Vassell will have an adjustment period in terms of scoring the ball at the next level. Fortunately, his defense and shooting should get him by. If he can bulk up and improve his handling, Vassell could grow into a serious player.

Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt – 20 years old

Nesmith probably has a lower floor than any of the other top small forward prospects given that he’ll be 21 by the draft. Still, he looked quite good in his Junior year, averaging 23 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game on a scorching 52.2 percent shooting from deep. Nesmith is an incredibly gifted shooter who has impressive range. His ability to catch-and-shoot and create space with fakes makes him a promising prospect – for the right team.

Nesmith is a high IQ player who uses his smarts on the defensive end. He’s also quite strong, can get buckets in the open floor and demonstrates above average ball-handling skills, as long as he’s not taking the ball to the hoop.

But there are inherent limitations in Nesmith’s game. He’s doesn’t create for his teammates too effectively and he turns the ball over more frequently than one would like with. Further, Nesmith is plagued by robotic movements that limit his athleticism. His ball-handling breaks down when taking the ball to the rack – something he’ll certainly have to work on in the NBA if he wants to be a versatile scoring threat against the bigger and stronger competition.

Still, Nesmith’s positives give him an excellent chance at being selected in the first round. His range alone will intrigue teams in need of a shooter.

Honorable Mentions:

Saddiq Bey, Villanova – 21 years old

Jaden McDaniels, Washington – 19 years old

Robert Woodard II, Mississippi State – 20 years old

With the uncertainty around small forward prospects, expect to see a revolving door of names enter the discussion after the first four wing prospects are off the board prior to Nov. 16 – assuming the draft is held then. But regardless of how you have them ranked, all of the aforementioned prospects have question marks. But all have had far more time to improve than they would have in years’ past. Let’s hope that shows come next season.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Online Betting Site Betway
Advertisement
American Casino Guide
NJ Casino
NJ Casino

NBA Team Salaries

Advertisement

CloseUp360

Insiders On Twitter

NBA On Twitter

Trending Now