2019 NBA free agency: 50 under-the-radar players on the free-agent market, from Patrick Beverley to Derrick Rose
Let's talk about Dewayne Dedmon and Delon Wright instead of Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant
You won't find Kawhi Leonard on this list. Neither will you see Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving. With apologies to Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, Klay Thompson and Kemba Walker, Nikola Vucevic and Bojan Bogdanovic, Malcolm Brogdon and Harrison Barnes, I am here to discuss the less heralded free agents who will be on the market starting Sunday.
What follows is an accounting of 50 of under-the-radar players (in no particular order), all of whom deserve attention if you are an NBA nerd.
The Clippers love his spirit and defensive intensity, and he'll be coveted by contenders because you can count on him making about 40 percent of his 3s and playing hard as hell regardless of his role on offense. If he gets a lucrative, long-term offer at the beginning of free agency and Los Angeles is working on signing stars, Beverley might have to go. I particularly like Dallas, the Lakers and Philadelphia as potential destinations.
Going back to Boston would be the best story, but Thomas would surely settle for something less sentimental if it gave him a realistic pathway to major minutes. Like last summer, you can expect him to sign a one-year deal in hopes of reestablishing himself as something close to the All-Star player he was before his hip injury. Teams will naturally be skeptical of that happening, but, man, imagine if it did.
3. Delon Wright (restricted)
I'd love to see Wright and Ja Morant share playmaking duties in Memphis, and I'm a fan of his versatility and herky-jerky moves. I'm not sure, however, what his market is going to look like. Do teams see him as a starter? Do they trust his outside shooting? Wright has only been in the league for four seasons, but he's 27, so there are some doubts about how much potential he has to unlock.
Everybody needs shooting, and Bullock brings that in a 6-foot-7 frame. It would have been more convenient to him to hit free agency a year ago, coming off a season in which he shot 44.5 percent from deep, but his 37.7 percent mark in 2018-19 is still solid when you factor in his significant increased in volume. The Lakers have his Bird rights, and he has a cheap cap hold. They should obviously try to keep him, but no one knows how they're going to approach filling out the roster.
I will be surprised if Dedmon doesn't get a contract that shocks casual fans. There just aren't many 7-footers on the planet who can shoot 3s and block shots the way he does. His game is a perfect fit on the Hawks, but, since he's turning 30 in August, he makes more sense on a playoff team.
6. George Hill (non-guaranteed)
Since only $1 million of his $18 million salary is guaranteed, it is hard to see a scenario where he isn't waived. At 33, Hill is no longer seen as a starting-caliber guard, but he played like one in the playoffs, where his versatility -- he can guard multiple positions and play on or off the ball -- was crucial for the Bucks. Any team that anticipates playing in May with a hole in its backcourt rotation would be smart to go after him.
Remember when Payton had five straight triple-doubles in March? There are still questions about what kind of role he could play on a contending team due to his shaky 3-point shooting, but his all-around skill set remains intriguing five years into his career. Alas, he doesn't make sense in New Orleans anymore, and only a few teams are in need of a starting point guard. Two of them -- Phoenix and Orlando -- have already given him a shot.
8. Seth Curry
Curry would make so much more money if he were a few inches taller. Even at 6-foot-2, though, he is the kind of shooting threat that can energize an offense. Opponents have to account for him coming off screens, running pick-and-rolls and spotting up. He shot 45 percent from deep in his first year in Terry Stotts' system, and he is a pesky, clever defender, even if he isn't the quickest or biggest one.
Aminu has been a stabilizing force in Portland for the last four years, serving as a glue guy and the team's best and most versatile defender. He loves the Blazers and they love him, but his value on the open market is difficult to determine. The whole league saw how opponents ignored him behind the 3-point line in the playoffs.
10. Ed Davis
Want a big man who will make you a better rebounding team, get his teammates open with his screens and finish around the basket? Need a role player who is totally unconcerned with his numbers or how much credit he gets for your team's success? Davis is that guy, and he will influence your younger players to be more like him, too.
11. Tomas Satoransky (restricted)
This should be simple, but it's the Wizards. Satoransky is a 6-foot-7 point guard who thrived in a starting role after John Wall's injury, and he's at the end of his rookie contract. Washington's cap sheet is a mess, though, which means it might be scared off by an expensive offer sheet. As difficult as it would be to watch him walk, the front office would probably try to justify it by pointing to his age -- he turns 28 at the beginning of next season -- and the fact that he has difficulty creating his own shot.
12. Khem Birch (restricted)
An athletic center who can protect the paint and run the floor, Birch established himself as an NBA player as Orlando made its late-season playoff push. Teams in need of a backup big -- hi, Sixers! -- will target him, but it's unclear how much they will need to offer him to make the Magic think twice about matching.
13. Nerlens Noel
The Thunder didn't really trust him in the playoffs, but Noel was efficient around the basket and his vertical spacing is a threat. As capable as he is as a shot-blocker and disruptor on defense, he still needs to be more disciplined on that end. It is unclear whether or not he will be able to find an opportunity to reestablish himself as a starter this summer.
14. Taj Gibson
Gibson's flirtation with the 3-point line ended halfway through last season, and it's fair to wonder if the 34-year-old will ever revisit that experiment. Being a capable floor spacer would give his game another dimension, but his work in the paint still brings plenty of value. His leadership does, too.
15. Kevon Looney
Looney has the intelligence and low-maintenance vibe of a vet, but at 23 he also has untapped potential. The Warriors don't want to lose him, but they probably can't be considered a lock to keep him after his breakout in the postseason.
16. Rodney Hood
There remains a gap between his production and his talent level, but the 26-year-old still has time to become a more consistent contributor, especially if he winds up in a place that will put him in a featured role offensively. I still can't believe how drastically things changed for Hood in Portland after the Thunder series.
17. Wayne Ellington
Ellington's 37.1 percent mark from 3-point range undersells his excellence in that area -- few players take difficult, off-balance 3s with the ease that he does, and he has no qualms with taking more than 10 in a game. Shooters like him keep the defense honest and make the game easier for everybody else, so his suitors will be willing to overlook his deficiencies on the other end.
18. DeAndre Jordan
He is usually talked about in the context of his friend Durant, but I'm interested in whether or not Jordan will defend the way he did a couple of years ago on his next team. If so, he could be a bargain regardless of what Durant does. If not, then -- and it brings me no joy to say this -- his double-doubles will not be all that meaningful.
He thrived in a smaller role in Toronto and in a much larger one in Memphis this past season, but it will be interesting to see if there is a front office out there willing to bet that he can be a 30-minutes-per-night guy on a winning team. If the price is reasonable, though, there's nothing wrong with the Grizzlies bringing him back to share the frontcourt with Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke.
20. Rudy Gay
Gay doesn't get to the rim or the line all that much anymore, but has made up for it with improved shooting. The question for his suitors: Is his 2018-19 efficiency sustainable outside of San Antonio's system?
21. Rajon Rondo
There are obvious weaknesses (shooting, defensive commitment) and equally obvious strengths (clever passing, all-around basketball IQ) on display every time Rondo is on the court. Unfortunately for him, I cannot point to a team that needs a point guard and has enough shooters and defenders on the roster to amplify those strengths and cover up those weaknesses.
22. Thomas Bryant (restricted)
Lost in Washington's season from hell was Bryant's emergence as an energy guy, roller and occasional 3-point shooter. At only 21 years old, he is exactly the kind of player that the Wizards shouldn't let get away, but things could get complicated because he's a restricted free agent and they only have his early Bird rights.
23. Danuel House (restricted)
There were times during the regular season where House looked like an ideal 3-and-D-and-a-little-more guy for the Rockets' system. He wasn't particularly effective in the playoffs, though, and was dropped from the rotation after two games against Golden State. If Houston still believes in him, perhaps his disappointing postseason was a blessing in disguise, as it should make him cheaper to retain.
24. Joakim Noah
Noah had something of a renaissance in Memphis as a backup, and I'd love to see him as a part of Golden State's center platoon next season. The smarts, passing and energy are still there, even if he doesn't move like he used to.
25. Noah Vonleh
His outside shooting slipped after a hot couple of months to start the season, but Vonleh showed enough in New York for me to believe he can be a part of a playoff rotation somewhere. While it feels like he has been around forever, he is still just 23, and his defense has come a long way.
26. Jeremy Lamb
Encouragingly, Lamb traded some of his beloved long 2s for 3s last season. This did not, however, result in an overall increase in efficiency because he struggled to finish at the rim. He is an intriguing wing option nonetheless, as he has the skills to be a secondary playmaker, he almost never turns the ball over and he is a decent defender across multiple positions.
27. Mike Scott
A cult hero in Philadelphia despite only arriving at February's trade deadline, Scott is a hard-nosed dude who is never afraid to take a big shot. The Sixers need floor-spacing forwards for obvious reasons, so re-signing seems like the most likely outcome.
28. Garrett Temple
Temple is a locker-room leader and a guard with the size to defend some forwards. He fits virtually anywhere, but his low-usage style on offense probably makes him more appealing to teams that already have an abundance of creators.
29. JaMychal Green
A Patrick Patterson-esque power forward with better rebounding, Green made a career-high 40.3 percent of his 3-pointers last season. He doesn't take a ton of 3s, but that number means he commands respect on the perimeter. At his size, anyone who can do that and switch a bit on defense will draw interest.
30. Ryan Arcidiacono (restricted)
He went undrafted in 2016, but showed last season that his pick-and-roll aptitude translated to the NBA. While there aren't a lot of caretaker point guards like Arcidiacono in today's NBA, he provided Chicago with some much-needed stability.
31. Jabari Parker (team option)
The man can get buckets, and he went on a tear with Washington in March with pretty good efficiency. Everybody remembers his misguided "they don't pay players to play defense" quote, though, and his indifference on that end remains troubling.
32. Willie Cauley-Stein (restricted)
Cauley-Stein wants to leave the Kings and show that he can be more than a defender and a rim runner. I am not sure, however, that he will find many teams willing to give him room to expand his game, despite the flashes he has shown as a passer and all of the work he has put in on his ballhandling and shooting.
33. Bobby Portis (restricted)
Portis has real talent, and yet giving him a rich, long-term deal feels risky. At 24, he is the type of player who can score 28 points one game and two points the next. (This happened at the end of March.) The question is whether he will be a significantly more discerning, consistent and mature player at 26 or 27.
He's not quite as good a shooter as you'd like him to be, but he's not a bad one, either. He's not a lockdown defender, but he is capable of checking point guards. He can create a little bit, too. All of this means Caldwell-Pope would make for a perfectly acceptable, if uninspiring signing for a team in need of wings.
35. Maxi Kleber (restricted)
I love Kleber as a value play, given that he can protect the rim and shoot 3s. There should be only modest expectations of improvement, though -- Kleber is (relatively) new to the NBA, but he will turn 28 next season.
36. Luke Kornet (restricted)
I don't know if Kornet is a viable rotation player on a good team, but he is massive and completely comfortable launching 3s. Those two qualities make him an intriguing low-risk signing.
37. Dragan Bender
It is hard to separate Bender from his draft position. Phoenix drafted him fourth in 2016 and declined to pick up his $5.8 million option, a sad story that makes you wonder what life might have been like for him if he had started his NBA career somewhere else. He is a reclamation project now, and there are several rebuilding teams who might as well give the 21-year-old a chance to change the narrative with a clean slate.
38. Avery Bradley (non-guaranteed)
Only $2 million of Bradley's $13 million salary is guaranteed, so he will likely be waived and hit the open market. Everybody knows what Bradley does defensively; what makes him fascinating is the extreme uptick in his offensive production once he arrived in Memphis.
39. Kyle Korver (non-guaranteed)
The 38-year-old sharpshooter is more than capable of helping the young Grizzlies with his wisdom, but it would surprise no one if he were waived. He is guaranteed $3.4 million of his $7.5 million salary if waived on or before July 7. He has been linked to the Lakers because he played with LeBron James in Cleveland, but I am skeptical that he'd choose them over a team that runs a movement-oriented system.
40. DeMarre Carroll
When Brooklyn acquired Taurean Prince, it was a sign that Carroll would move on. He made 36 percent of his 3s in his two seasons with the Nets, and played in 85 percent of their regular-season games, an encouraging number considering his history of knee and ankle issues. Turning 33 in July, Carroll is a sensible target for teams that need a backup forward, even if he isn't the defender he used to be and is mostly a ball-mover and spot-up shooter on offense.
41. Austin Rivers
Rivers had a terrible time in Washington but filled an important role for the Rockets, taking advantage of their spacing when opportunities to attack presented themselves. He is a confident 3-point shooter, but not the most consistent one: his percentage dipped from 37.8 percent in 2017-18 to 31.8 percent this past season, which could affect his next contract. He made 45.7 percent of his 3s in the playoffs, though, and has earned a reputation for stepping his game up that time of year.
42. Quinn Cook
Cook was cold for most of the postseason, but made 40.5 percent of his 3s in the regular season and Draymond Green called him "our Patty Mills" after he helped swing Game 2 of the Finals in Toronto. An offensive sparkplug off the bench, Cook could return to the Warriors because they need all the shooting they can get.
43. T.J. McConnell
I fear that the McConnell era might be over in Philadelphia, as the backup guard played a total of 23 minutes in the Sixers' seven-game series against the Raptors, collecting three DNP-CDs. As beloved as he is in Philly for his hustle, his affinity for pressing opposing point guards and his ability to run a team, he needs to develop a reliable 3-point shot.
44. Robin Lopez
It's still hard to believe Lopez had to spend all of last season in Chicago, although the team's refusal to buy him out did result in the veteran having a bunch of unexpected scoring explosions, including a 29-point night against the Knicks on his 31st birthday. I would personally love to see him try to expand his range like his brother did, but it's more likely that he will continue being a traditional 5 and the best role player he can possibly be (on a much better team) next season.
45. Nando De Colo (restricted)
De Colo, 32, has been one of the best players in Europe for the last five years, and wants to leave CSKA Moscow to give the NBA another go. The Raptors, his last North American employer, have the right to match any offer sheet he receives, but he's probably looking to join a team that can offer him more minutes. At 6-foot-5, though, the clever guard has the size to play next to Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet.
46. Shane Larkin (restricted)
Larkin led Anadolu Efes to the EuroLeague Final Four, and, although they lost to De Colo's CSKA Moscow, he set a championship-game record with 29 points. He then led Efes to its first Turkish league title in a decade, winning Finals MVP after he dropped 38 points in Game 7. Boston can extend the qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent, but it probably needs its cap space to chase a star and/or address its frontcourt situation.
47. Jared Dudley
Dudley did exactly what he hoped to do in Brooklyn, establishing that he is not just a veteran leader. He takes pride in his ability to coach up the young guys, but he wanted to show the league that he could still play, too. Everything is up in the air for the Nets, but if there are massive changes to the roster, bringing back Dudley could make it a smoother transition because he understands how Kenny Atkinson's staff wants them to play.
The story hasn't changed that much for Kidd-Gilchrist, a relentless and switchable defender who has wing size but played 95 percent of his minutes at power forward last season (and most of the remainder at center), per Cleaning The Glass. I hope a change of scenery helps him, but he will need to find a team that can easily field lineups in which he is the sole non-shooter.
He and Kidd-Gilchrist share more than a hyphen. Everything would be different if Hollis-Jefferson could shoot. He played 13 percent of his minutes at center last season, per Cleaning The Glass, and he shot 9-for-49 (18.4 percent) from 3-point range in 62 games. He can guard every position, though, so some team will try to make it work.
50. Derrick Rose
I have no idea what to make of Rose's bounceback season, since so much of it was a direct result of an out-of-nowhere improvement in his 3-point shooting. In his first 48 games of the season, Rose attempted 3.4 3s a game and made 45.7 percent of them. In his final 17, he attempted a total of 30 3s and made one of them. One!
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