2019 NBA free agency: Sorting through free-agent scrap heap; Carmelo Anthony among top remaining options
There are still several solid free-agent options available for teams looking to fill needs
Free agency is over, in the sense that all the stars are off the board and no teams have significant cap space left. In recent days, the biggest signings have been Delon Wright, JaMychal Green, Jabari Parker, Avery Bradley and Khem Birch. The remaining players are essentially fighting over salary-cap exceptions and minimum contracts, aside from the first guy on this list. Here's what the scrap heap looks like:
Trey Lyles (unrestricted)
The Denver Nuggets rescinded their qualifying offer to Lyles, making him an unrestricted free agent. He's my favorite redraft candidate from the 2015 class, a 6-foot-10 forward who, in his third season, averaged a stellar 18.7 points and 9.0 rebounds per 36 minutes with a 59.1 true shooting percentage. He regressed in 2018-19, though, largely because his 3-point shooting dropped from 38.1 percent to 25.5 percent (and because a healthy Paul Millsap took his minutes away). Still just 23, he deserves a chance to prove that last season, not the one before it, was an anomaly.
Justin Holiday (unrestricted)
Every team is trying to stockpile competent wings, so it's a little weird that Holiday is still available. He is an above-average perimeter defender, and he has made an acceptable 36.1 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3s over the past four seasons, per NBA.com. The Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson reported that the Bulls talked about sending Kris Dunn to Memphis for Holiday in a sign-and-trade, which makes less sense now that the Grizzlies' have Tyus Jones. I prefer the idea of Holiday becoming a role player on a contender, though, or even teaming up with his brother Aaron in Indiana.
Ryan Anderson (unrestricted)
The Miami Heat used the stretch provision on Anderson, putting the 31-year-old stretch forward on the market. It is remarkable how drastically things have turned for him -- in 2016-17, he shot seven 3s a game (many of them from 27 or 28 feet) and made 40.3 percent of them, playing a major role in the Houston Rockets winning 55 games and Mike D'Antoni winning Coach of the Year. He lost his starting role when Houston went to a switch-everything defensive scheme the next season, and reduced the guarantee on his 2019-20 salary to facilitate a trade to the Phoenix Suns last summer. In Phoenix, he lost his spot again and the team sent him to Miami. Through all of this, the league has changed much more than Anderson has. He can still space the floor, but teams increasingly demand that their bigs either guard multiple positions or protect the rim.
Carmelo Anthony (unrestricted)
Another offensive-minded forward cut loose by Houston and harmed by the league-wide emphasis on defensive versatility, Anthony played just 10 games for the Rockets last season and is still in limbo. It is odd to see such an accomplished player in this awkward position, but any front office considering signing him needs to ask itself if it will give Anthony a better environment than he had in Oklahoma City and Houston. While there has been noise about the Lakers for obvious reasons, count me as skeptical about that fit.
David Nwaba (unrestricted)
A 6-foot-4 guard with a 7-0 wingspan, Nwaba is essentially a 3-and-D guy without the 3s. (He has averaged 1.6 3-point attempts per 36 minutes in his career and made 32.6 percent of them.) If he were a little younger, he would be an obvious project for a rebuilding team's player development program, but he will turn 27 next season so it's unclear how much upside he has. As it stands, he is a strong defender who competes like crazy, so he can help a team if that team can withstand his lack of gravity.
Tyler Dorsey (unrestricted)
Dorsey played much less point guard in his second season (split between the Hawks and Grizzlies) than he did in his first in Atlanta, and he might only be a combo guard in theory at the NBA level. In 21 games with Memphis, though, he made 40 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3s, a particularly encouraging number because of how much he had struggled with his shot in limited minutes with the Hawks. His high-scoring performances in meaningless games down the stretch don't necessarily indicate that he can be a consistent, efficient scorer in a regular role, but they at least suggest that he should get a chance somewhere.
Lance Thomas (unrestricted)
I have always had a soft spot for Thomas, a role player who does nothing flashy but can hit standstill 3s, move the ball and play heady team defense. Unfortunately, last season a knee injury limited him and his shot abandoned him. Teams that have an abundance of playmakers can trust him to quietly sop up minutes with a low usage rate and help in the margins (as long as he is healthy).
Vince Carter (unrestricted)
Will he finally chase a ring? The future Hall of Famer will turn 43 next season, and he has already announced that Year 22 will be his last -- and thus his last chance to latch onto a championship contender. He has been reluctant, however, to accept a role as strictly a mentor, and it's unclear if any of the league's best teams would have minutes for him. I suppose we should mention here that the Toronto Raptors still have one roster spot available and could use another spot-up shooter.
Thabo Sefolosha (unrestricted)
At 35, which doesn't sound that old compared to Carter, Sefolosha's defensive IQ still has value on a win-now team. He will not shoot every time he's open on the perimeter, but it's worth noting that he made a career-high 43.6 percent of his 3s last season and 38.1 percent the season before.
Marquese Chriss (unrestricted)
The outlines of a productive player are still there. Chriss is a top-tier athlete who looks like he should be able to be an effective rim runner and almost-every-position defender. Watching him, though, you get the feeling he wants to be a star, not a role player. At just 22, he would represent a low-risk, high-reward signing for a rebuilding team that is confident that it can get more out of him than Phoenix, Houston and Cleveland did.
Dragan Bender (unrestricted)
I still don't really know what Bender does. He is 7-foot-1 and can move his feet pretty well, but through three seasons, the 21-year-old is still very much a project, and he has had a usage that has hovered between 12 and 15 percent. Before the 2016 draft, in which Phoenix infamously came away with Bender and Chriss, the Croatian forward earned rave reviews for his feel for the game and playmaking. In the NBA, he has been more of a bystander than a facilitator, and the team that picks him up will have to work with him on asserting himself. The Suns surely didn't help his confidence by taking him out of the rotation in a 19-win season.
Cheick Diallo (unrestricted)
New Orleans didn't issue Diallo a qualifying offer, so the 22-year-old energy guy is an unrestricted free agent. With Zion Williamson, Derrick Favors, Jaxson Hayes, Nicolo Melli and Jahlil Okafor in the frontcourt, the Pelicans had no room for him, but his production last season (once he got consistent minutes, anyway) suggested that he can contribute elsewhere. Diallo has always been an active player, and he is working on becoming a more polished one. His touch on floaters, hook shots and midrange jumpers is much better than it was a couple of years ago.
Jamal Crawford (unrestricted)
The 39-year-old scored 51 points on the final night of the regular season. You know what Jamal Crawford does.
Tyson Chandler (unrestricted)
The Rockets are reportedly interested in reuniting Chandler with Chris Paul, per ESPN's Tim MacMahon. At 37, Chandler is no longer a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber player, but he remains an intelligent backline defender. To wit: The Lakers surrendered 102.8 points per 100 possessions with Chandler on the court last season and 109.2 per 100 with him on the bench.
Joakim Noah (unrestricted)
Noah, 34, revived his career as a backup for the Grizzlies last season, providing his usual combination of energy, passing and smarts. He doesn't have the same lift he used to, but was much better in Memphis than he was the last time he got on the floor in New York.
Luc Mbah a Moute (unrestricted)
Is he healthy? Mbah a Moute was one of the league's most versatile defenders just two seasons ago, but missed all of last season with a knee injury that required surgery in late March. I wonder if the Clippers might re-sign him -- you can never have too many great defenders.
Joe Johnson (unrestricted)
I was surprised nobody signed Johnson last year, and it would be an awesome story if he went from dominating in the BIG3 to hitting clutch shots in the NBA again.
- Other point guards/combo guards: Shelvin Mack, Frank Mason, Jerryd Bayless, Devin Harris, Jose Calderon, Raymond Felton, Ian Clark
- Other wings: Wayne Selden, Jodie Meeks, Rawle Alkins, Mitch Creek, Corey Brewer, Nik Stauskas, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Iman Shumpert, Sindarius Thornwell, Jonathon Simmons, Lance Stephenson, Troy Williams, Justin Anderson
- Other forwards: Jonas Jerebko, Luol Deng, Quincy Pondexter, Alex Poythress
- Other bigs: Nene, Kenneth Faried, Jason Smith, Amir Johnson, Udonis Haslem, Greg Monroe, Salah Mejri, Tyler Zeller, Eric Moreland, Kosta Koufos, Henry Ellenson, Zaza Pachulia, Jarell Martin
- Notes: Darren Collison retired. Nikola Mirotic signed with FC Barcelona. Andre Iguodala has not been bought out by the Grizzlies, and J.R. Smith has not been bought out by the Cavaliers. Yet.
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