Four Free Agents Who Can Help Title Contenders

Free agency has largely played itself out but there are still key reserve roles to fill. From savvy veterans to young players with potential, the list of available free agents remains long. Chad Smith looks at four players who could help several title contenders this season.

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Sports Editor
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Summer is drawing to a close and while the buzz surrounding free agency has lessened, there are still some impactful moves that teams can make. Now is the time for the front office executives to trim out their roster, take a closer look at some veterans, and possibly taking a chance on a young prospect that still has some potential. Training camp is less than a month away.

Looking at the long list of available free agents, there are four that stand out as being impactful. Three of these four are veterans that can contribute to contending teams, playing smaller roles than what they have in the past. As players near the end of their career, there is more of an emphasis on winning a ring.

It is only a matter of time before these remaining free agents all find a destination for the upcoming season. Whether or not they remain there for the duration remains to be seen. The league is oozing with parity and nobody knows how this season will take shape. The path to a title hinges on the star players, but these four could play vital roles in how it all plays out.

Lauri Markkanen

Markkanen is the only restricted free agent on this list and is widely considered to be the best of the bunch. The Chicago Bulls have the right to match any offer for the 24-year old but not many teams are clamoring for his services. Charlotte, New Orleans, and San Antonio were all linked to him in the offseason and would be ideal destinations. Those teams have since gone in a different direction, not willing to pay the higher price that Markkanen is commanding.

Staying in Chicago could be the short-term play, but his fit next to Nikola Vucevic has not been great. Though he did shoot 40.2 percent from downtown last season, he struggles defensively and is not able to create his own shot. The forward averaged 19.9 points and 5.8 rebounds in ten games before suffering a shoulder injury. The former No. 7 overall draft pick wants a change of scenery but that could take some time. Should his price come down, the Bulls could work out a sign-and-trade.

Paul Millsap

The veteran big man is coming off of a disappointing year, which shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. With his role diminishing in Denver, Millsap averaged just 9.0 points and 4.7 rebounds per game last season. The 36-year old can still be used as a small-ball center for a team needing a big man that can shoot. Two teams that have been highly interested in his services are the Brooklyn Nets and the Golden State Warriors.

It is likely that Millsap will only get a one-year deal, and money won’t be a concern no matter where he signs. His goal is to win a championship, so teams in title contention appear to be the likely destination. No matter where he ends up, he should be able to provide floor spacing and some valuable playoff experience, as he has appeared in 129 postseason games over the course of his career.

Avery Bradley

Known primarily for his on-ball defense, Bradley has become a decent outside shooter over the last few seasons. It’s hard to believe, but the veteran guard is only 30-years old and still has plenty left in the tank. He flourished in his role with the Los Angeles Lakers during their championship season, before he opted out of playing in the bubble down in Orlando.

A minimum contract is still the most likely scenario for Bradley, who will want to play for a championship contender. While it is possible for him to return to the Lakers, he should have a few options in the coming weeks. The two-time All-Defensive team member knows his role and will be able to provide defense and adequate shooting to the roster. Every team could use a player like Bradley.

JJ Redick

It is somewhat surprising that Redick is still available. Teams can never have too much shooting, especially in today’s game. The veteran sharpshooter not only provides that, but he also brings valuable playoff experience and is a player that teams can trust in clutch moments. He is also a great addition to any locker room, and will soon find his next home, though he has stated that he is going to take his time with this decision.

Redick is another guy that will likely sign a one-year deal, as he is now 37 years old. Injuries have plagued him in recent years but he is more than capable of helping a contending team. Redick still managed to shoot 37.1 percent from deep last season, as chaotic as it was. He remains one of the most prolific shooters in the sport and should have plenty of options to choose from as he embarks upon his 16th season in the league.

Honorable Mention

A few other names that could still make an impact next season include veteran big man DeMarcus Cousins, who is still just 31 years old. His perimeter shooting and his mobility have improved, as he demonstrated last year in Houston and again with the Los Angeles Clippers in the playoffs. Langston Galloway is another veteran that teams will be interested in. The 29-year old has always been a great perimeter shooter (42.4 percent last season), is a great teammate, and plays his role to perfection.

Teams that are looking for more backcourt help should target former lottery picks Dennis Smith Jr and Dante Exum. There aren’t many great values in terms of available wing players but Stanley Johnson is one guy worth looking at. Johnson started 13 games for the Toronto Raptors last season, which included an eye-popping performance against the Bulls where he scored 35 points and grabbed ten rebounds. His consistency remains a big question mark, but he has been progressing nicely.

There are more names on the market that should find new homes for next season. A mixture of veterans and young players that still have potential include Frank Ntilikina, James Ennis, Svi Mykhailiuk, Isaiah Hartenstein, Bismack Biyombo, E’Twaun Moore, Jarred Vanderbilt, DJ Wilson, Wesley Matthews, and Tim Frazier. These are names to monitor as teams finalize their rosters heading into training camp and the preseason.

Chad is a Basketball Insiders contributor based in Indianapolis.

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