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.
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