NBA Free Agency 2017: Ranking 60 best available players, potential fits, analysis
A look at who your favorite team can possibly acquire this summer in free agency
The 2017 NBA free agency class has plenty of great players who are unlikely to change teams, some diamonds in the rough and a whole lot of calculated-risk options. The best players are almost certainly going to re-sign with their teams, but then again, we thought the same thing about Kevin Durant last year. The lesson here is that there are always surprises.
If the draft is about improving your future, then free agency is about teams getting better immediately. Here's a look at the top 60 free agents available this summer, based on talent, production and value, factoring age, injury and expected price. Because of that last variable -- expected price -- you'll see some established players like Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose below value deals. Both of those players are expected to demand huge deals with big question marks at advanced ages. That stuff matters.
Potential fits are all based on on-court fit, and assume that the team would create the requisite cap room to acquire them, which simply may not be possible in some cases. Fits are based on conceptual ideas and not on reports or sourced information of interest.
The second-best player in the NBA, and reigning Finals MVP. A dominant combo forward who is one of the best shooters and scorers the game has ever seen. A fierce competitor with a tight handle, exceptional athleticism and unbelievable touch for a 7-footer. He has become a top-flight defender and rebounder and a gifted playmaker to boot. You are not getting him, he's re-signing with the Warriors. But if for any reason his people call you and say he's even slightly interested, you do whatever necessary to clear cap space and acquire him. He'll probably be the best player in the league within the next three seasons.
The best shooter in history. Transcendent shooting talent that has reshaped the game in a way no one since Wilt Chamberlain has. Universally beloved athlete. By all accounts a stand-up guy and hard worker. Injury is a concern. His ankles were reinforced by the finest medical science money can buy and he still suffered an injury in the 2015 playoffs, which contributed to his troubles, before he suffered the MCL sprain. Does not respond well to physicality. Prone to unnecessary flash; not a sound passer, but a creative one who can energize his team in the right moment. He has become one of the best finishers in the league, often by merely shooting scoop shots from further out. Showed this season he's willing to sacrifice to make those around him better. An utterly transcendent talent.
Hayward has slid under the radar but after getting a max extension two years ago, he has been one of the NBA's most efficient and productive forwards when adjusted for pace. His overall numbers look meager, but when you factor in the glacial pace that Hayward has played in under Quin Snyder, the effectiveness and impact of his play carries through. He can hit tough shots, spot-up shots, drive to the rim, pass out of the pick-and-roll, post up, cut to the rim and defend at a high level. He's never going to be a No. 1 player on a championship team, but he can be the best player on a playoff team or a phenomenal do-it-all second weapon. He's also 27, just hitting his prime. Hayward is expected to garner offers from Miami and Boston. Utah cannot afford to lose him.
Multifaceted thunderbolt who has added something new to his game every year. His mid-range jumper was absent, so he hammered it into being a legitimate threat. He faced early double-teams and multiple help defenders so he focused on establishing himself as a passer. Griffin isn't a great defender, he hasn't established a 3-point shot and comes with questions about his attitude and professionalism after last season's shenanigans. But Griffin has also improved in every area of weakness since he first started dunking on fools his rookie season. He has had his season ended by injury the last two years and his explosiveness appears to be on the decline way too early. Installing him as your franchise player comes with serious concerns about his durability.
All-Star caliber point guard who has blossomed and improved in each of the past five seasons. Lowry was a late bloomer but he is a well-rounded, efficient point guard who can run an offense, makes great passes, hits from the outside and when engaged, is a plus defender. Lowry is reliant on free throws but he's also a dynamic player and a fierce competitor with no major health concerns unlike Chris Paul. At 31, this is his last major contract and whoever signs him needs to be aware that at the end of it, he won't be nearly the player he is now. Toronto is widely expected to retain him in free agency, but he'll likely be making more than $35 million when he's 36, and that's a frightening prospect.
At 32, there have to be concerns about diminishing returns. However, Millsap has no major injury history headed into his contract year and is a do-it-all forward you need in modern times. He can hit from the perimeter, is an at-once savvy and brutal post scorer, a magnificent defender who can switch constantly on to any assignment, a quality rebounder (in good rebounding systems which the Hawks have not emphasized with him) and a smart player who never lets ego get in the way of his contributions. Millsap is a winner who makes your team better. Let me put it this way: The Cavaliers would be considerably better with Millsap at power forward in place of Kevin Love, and Love helped them win a title.
At his very best, he's a top-level rim protector and a versatile defender who can switch on to any opponent while knocking down spot-up shot after spot-up shot all the way to the 3-point corner. Unfortunately, he hasn't been at his best consistently in a few years (most notably since a 2014 calf injury against the Spurs in the Western Conference finals). At times, Ibaka can get too focused on offense and it affects his defense. He can't create his own offense reliably and has lost a lot of spring in his step through the years. If the Raptors do not go for a rebuild, they will have to overpay to keep him just based on limited options.
Porter made the leap this season, and it played a significant part in Washington's jump to a top-four seed and a second-round appearance. For most of the season, Porter led the league in 3-point percentage among shooters averaging at least four attempts. He has exceptional length and can score a little off the dribble. Porter's value as a two-way player sets him apart in this class. Washington will almost certainly match any offer for him, or offer him the five-year max, but any hesitation should be met by the rest of the league with a deluge of offers.
A top-level shooter who, thanks to conditioning and discipline, probably has two-to-three more years of starter-level production in him. An underrated defender and smart passer. One of the best at navigating screens to find shooting opportunities. Definitely a player that makes your team better, but good only for a contender on a long-term deal at this point. Total pro who's not going to disrupt your locker room, sets a great example for work ethic.
Holiday is an above-average starting point guard. He shoots well, is a huge problem for the other team on defense with great instincts, hands and speed and can make plays. He's reliable in the pick-and-roll and knows how to manage an offense. He's not a superstar in a league full of star point guards, but he's a good point guard in a league where you need one. You can win with Holiday.
At 31, there won't be many more productive years for Hill as starter quality, but for a team looking to have a veteran short-term starter who has no discernible weaknesses, Hill is a great option. He's a quality shooter, understands how to run an offense, isn't reckless or disruptive and blends right into any system. Hill also has no major injury history and should continue to be productive-to-rotation-quality into his mid-30s. A three-year deal for Hill will get what's left of his late prime and fills several needs. If your team isn't in need of a major point guard upgrade, Hill is a good option for a veteran at what will likely be fair market value.
Look, take away the idea of Dion Waiters, and focus on the actual player. Sixteen points per game on 42 percent shooting isn't great, but at 39 percent from 3-point range, the efficiency goes up. He's a good defender, can finish inside and make plays. He's good, even if he believes himself to be elite. The other key is that Waiters learned how to win in OKC. He gets it more than ever. Put him next to good players, and he'll help you win. He could have wound up being Nick Young. Now he's more like a gunner version of Shawn Marion.
The good: Long, athletic and can run point forward. A great slasher and incredible at drawing contact. He has shot over 35 percent from 3-point range in each of his past three seasons. Can post up, spot up, slash and get to the line. The bad: A botched knee diagnosis and procedure cost him the entire 2014 season, and he hasn't been the same athletically since. Tends to lag on off-ball defense, particularly in fighting through screens. He has shot over 42 percent from the field once in his career, his rookie season. A ball-dominant player who had one of the highest isolation rates in the league last season … and one of the worst efficiencies in isolation to boot (via Synergy Sport). Might be a terrific player as a fourth weapon on a contender, and can function as the second-best player on a playoff team, but the injury concerns are real.
The guy you love to hate -- unless he's playing for your team. Excellent at short-range jumpers and finishing inside. Sets great screens. He'll play through anything, and play well. He hustles his face off, and does so without complaint or needing recognition. Humble and smart. Not the biggest dude in the gym, but if you beat him, it won't be because you outworked him. You want this guy on your team. At age 32, the drop-off is a concern, but given he has taken a discount at every turn in his career and stayed humble, value seems likely.
Amazing defender, with some selectively good weapons he's developing on offense. He struggled to play next to Jahlil Okafor at power forward and regressed in some key areas in 2016, but blossomed a bit in Dallas. Lost his rookie season to an ACL tear and that's a concern going forward. Questions about his maturity after an incident with a rental home. He has unlimited defensive upside. He'll no doubt be retained by Dallas. Noel's upside is high, but at 23, it's not other-worldly.
He finally turned into a knock-down shooter after a few years where that was in serious doubt. A top flight perimeter defender who will only improve, with good wingspan and mobility, his value is only going to go up. The Pistons are a near-lock to re-sign him, though it might take a max offer from the Brooklyn Nets to force their hands in a restricted free agency match.
He wobbles a delicate line between being one of the most valuable players on one of the most dominant teams in NBA history and being a liability you can exploit by daring him to shoot. He has games where he's still one of the best defenders in the league, and others where he's a guy who has played a lot of miles and can't guard the absolute best player on the other team effectively. His shot is inconsistent; just as likely to knock down four straight as he is to miss six straight. A smart player who always settles the Warriors, he's very likely to commit to re-signing. He knows how good he has it with the Warriors.
A guy who has built himself from nothing to being one of the best values in this market. He can shoot from the perimeter, finish inside, rebound and defend five positions. He's not an elite defender but he's very good and can make a huge impact. A middle-management Paul Millsap. In the modern NBA, he's what you're looking for at power forward. The Nets would be wise to break the bank on a three-year deal for him.
Snell came into his own in Milwaukee. He's a crack shooter, 88th percentile on spot-up shots per Synergy Sports, and has good defensive ability in certain systems. He has good length and no major injury issues to speak of. For a league that needs shooters with size, Snell is an excellent option.
Olynyk is pretty fascinating. He had an excellent 2015-16 season and showed great defensive ability in containing the pick-and-roll. Then that all went away this season, but he made up for it because he essentially put the Celtics in the conference finals with his Game 7 performance against the Wizards. He's a great shooter and will destroy mismatches if given one. He's also not a go-to weapon. You want him as a complementary component only and a bench role is pretty ideal. He's also 26. While he's entering his best seasons he's not going to make many huge leaps. Boston is going to be in a tough spot. If it can't find an upgrade, it needs to keep him, but the Celtics also need to keep costs down because of next summer when they're going to have to shell out a billion dollars.
Roberson gets a bad ranking here and it's not really his fault. Two things: 1. He's a restricted free agent and due to the Thunder's cap situation, they have little recourse but to re-sign him. (Think of it as the defensive version of why they signed Enes Kanter.) And 2. The offense is just too miserable. If you're down 10 and trying desperately to get back into it, you almost can't have him on the floor because of what he allows the defense to do by not guarding him. And this feels really unfair because Roberson is a first-team All-Defense level defender, a hard worker, athletic, has some counter moves and works his tail off. Because of those things, he's probably going to get big offers. So if you want him, to scare OKC off him, you have to go huge, and that's a lot of money for a guy who shot 8 of 40 from the right corner and 25 percent above the break. If you get him, you get a good player who will help you, but his value in this class is lower.
He's low on this list because he's not going anywhere. The Mavs exercised their team option on him, but that's only to offer him a new deal. He's not going anywhere. But if he's available, he's still Dirk. But let's say he and Mark Cuban get into a fight about Cuban's acting in his appearance on "Billions" and the two break up and they let him go. Yeah, he's a million years old, but he's Dirk Nowitzki and for about 10 nights out of the year, he's still going to cook. Legends are top 30, no matter what. You're not getting him, though.
Rudy Gay comes with a whole host of conflicting concepts. His overall production (especially when factoring for pace) dipped last season while his efficiency remained more or less stable. But it should be noted the past two seasons in Sacramento have seen him play with better overall efficiency. He's less of a mid-range jump shooter and more of a do-it-all combo forward. He has found success as a small-ball power forward. Gay has never embraced the idea of being versatile and it has cost his value. But in a market short on unrestricted free agents and high on suitors, Gay can act as a decent second or third weapon especially if he decides to emphasize rebounding, play-making and defense with his strength and athleticism. Unfortunately, his Achilles injury comes as he enters a contract summer at age 30. He might not opt out, to give himself a year to recoup value. If he does become a free agent, teams will have to decide whether a diminished Rudy Gay is going to help in a significant manner.
Patterson never quite hit the level of player he looked capable of being out of college. He's athletic with good stretch-forward size but he has become more stretch and less forward. And even then, he has too many droughts to be relied on. He has good defensive ability and can get up and down the floor. He'll never be a super-assertive asset and can't cover for others' defensive lapses, but he's also never going to be the reason you lose. Helps his team.
Livingston has been pivotal for what the Warriors do -- a steady hand at backup point guard -- but his role has been reduced with the addition of Kevin Durant as another big ball-handler and the emergence of Ian Clark. Livingston can help run your second unit, never causes problems, never gets techs, he has a reliable go-to turnaround jumper over smaller guards and is still a smart cutter. As a second or third guard, he's still great value. At 31, any major slide could be the end of his career, but he's going to make any team he's on better just by being around.
A firebug point guard who has learned how to adapt to tough environments as part of the most disciplined team in the league. Mills is a veteran who can hit 3s, run the offense and defends at a high level for how small he is. But that's an issue, and it probably means he needs to come off the bench. He's worth a big offer as a backup, but a starter role might limit a team's upside.
Simmons once paid money to get entrance to a D-League tryout. Now he's one of the key players on a Western Conference finalist. He drifted in and out of the rotation this season but he has had a terrific postseason. He's hitting 3s, twisting layups, fadeaways, everything, prompting me to dub him "LeBronathon Simmons." It's probably not sustainable, and he's 27. He's not a young pup waiting to be unleashed. He's athletic, physical and had enough discipline to earn time with the Spurs. He's worth investment for a backup forward spot, to see if he can be even more. Not afraid to take on any challenge.
Mirotic is best described as a shooter who doesn't shoot. He gets off to terrible shooting starts, then rebounds towards the late middle of the year, before falling off. His defense is much the same way, it can look nightmarish for a stretch and then look awful for long minutes. Still, the Bulls were more than seven points better per 100 possessions (net) with Mirotic on the floor this season, so he has contributed.
Teague is 29, and just isn't seen as a difference-maker anymore. He posted career highs in assists per 100 possessions, none of his shooting numbers were concerning, but his defense slipped badly. He's this low on account of what is expected to be a fairly massive deal. If you get him for under $20 million as a starter, or under $18 for a backup, it's good value. Anything over that is an overpay you'll be hurting from at the end of his contract.
Tucker is tough as nails and a great defensive leader. He attacks with aggression, and can make layups and knock down a few shots. He's not some sort of omega-stopper but he's definitely a top level guy on that end. Tucker is 32 so there's going to be a slow down, but he helps good teams win more, now.
Miles turned 30 in March, but he's also steady as can be. He's shot 35 percent from deep in every season since 2012. He was 78th percentile defensively via Synergy sports.
He's one-dimensional, but he's also incredibly reliable. Miles is terrific value for any team that picks him up, and his market should be a full one. He's a steal, despite being 33rd on this list.
Bogdanovic is a great shooter. He's not good defensively, but he's not bad, either. He disappointed in the playoffs for Washington, but he's only 28, he's got several more years of top performance. He can operate as a lesser-Peja-Stojakovic and operates in almost any system.
Galloway vanished under Dave Joerger in Sacramento, and couldn't do anything in the pick-and-roll with the Kings. But he's a great slasher and spot-up weapon, and ranked in the 97th percentile defensively last year. If you land him for under $16 million per year, that's a bargain in the current market.
Half-old-man, Half-Insanity is still rolling along, and was still a serious contributor to the Grizzlies last season. He's lost a step, but is still effective, and is a good defender. His decline hasn't featured big cliffs, but more of gradual slippage, which has let him remain effective. He makes a lot of sense for a contender given his range and ability to defend multiple positions, if only for limited stretches. He's also universally beloved by teammates.
It's fitting that in a season where the league was supposed to have made him extinct, Randolph continued to eat up the smaller creatures like a true King of the Dinosaurs. ZBo still rebounds, still gives guys a tough cover with physicality even if his athleticism makes him vulnerable, and still gets buckets. Randolph remains a player worth having on a team that wants to win, even if he can't survive as a starter in a stretch four world.
Gasol is a pretty average big at this point. He's tall, he can defend a little bit (and had a great series doing so against Houston, which was more than I expected) and still has a silky jumper. But when he's exposed defensively, he's really exposed. There are becoming fewer and fewer chances for him to be on the floor due to how the league has changed and his age. His adoption of the 3-point shot does prolong this a bit, though that's ironic considering how much he revolted against Mike D'Antoni in Los Angeles. Despite being loved as a teammate, he tends to get particular about his role with coaches.
Korver can still shoot, as well as anyone outside of the top 10 in NBA history. He's an underrated defender, though that side has slipped as he's gotten older. He has little value to a team that's not contending, but will also cause no issues in the locker room. He's a pro who does his job and knocks down shots. Easy to find a spot for him.
Justin Holiday was one of the few bright spots for the Knicks. He had the second-best net rating of any Knick and the best defensive rating of any rotation player. He's a crack shooter, good cutter and on a team of miserable defenders, stood out as being pesky. He's 28, but very capable, and worth an investment as a bench guard.
Uncomfortably, he was considerably better than the next player on this list last season and comes at a fraction of the price.
OK, he's 29 at the start of next season. He's consistently talked about wanting a major contract this summer, but backed off slightly on that in the last few months,. The story on Rose is complicated, on court as well as off. After being found not liable in a civil rape trial, Rose disappeared entirely without informing the team at mid-season.
Meanwhile, Rose had moments last season where he was good. The Knicks were worse with him on the bench, and he shot 47 percent from the field. There were good things to Rose's game. But he remains a score-first guard whose body fails him too often; he's not the same player, even if he looks like it from time to time. His game is so predicated on finishing that there has to be concern about how it will look when he's 32.
Rose represents a considerable risk for any team investing a lot in him. When he looks good, he looks great. When he looks bad, it's a disaster.
The Grindfather may wind up being squeezed out by financial restraints in Memphis, which would be tough for the fans and Allen himself, who found a home there. But if he's available, even at age 35, he's worth having. Allen has a reputation: great defender, junkyard dog, scrappy by the very definition, but he can't shoot. Except, here's the thing. He shot 46 percent last season and the Grizzlies offense was nearly two points better offensively with him on the floor.
Allen can't rain down 3-pointers, but he pretty much only takes shots that he can take. He doesn't waste possessions, he just can't stretch the floor. Allen isn't quite the defender he was three or five years ago, but he's still able to make key perimeter weapons miserable. He helps you win games. Also, his Periscope game is incredible.
Muhammad is 25 when the season starts, and is a one-dimensional non-defender. So basically, if a team feels they can make the most out of his athleticism and shooting, to convert him into something overall useful, he's worth a gamble. But the Wolves can match any offer, so the price might have to be significant, even with the Jimmy Butler acquisition.
He's got tunnel vision, and his defense can be pretty rotten at times (but there may be more there to work with). He's a buy-low candidate, but if it looks expensive, might not be worth it.
He was never able to find a feel for the game to take his considerable skills and incredible athleticism to a higher level. Evans tries to score through contact too often instead of finding open teammates. Looks to score on his own and has never been more than a decent defender. There are plenty of skills to like there if he were able to put his whole game together, but at 27 years old, that ship seems to have sailed. He's played over 70 games just three times in seven years. He's shot below 45 percent for the past three seasons and is a career 29.5 percent 3-point shooter, but shot 44 percent the last two months with Sacramento. Jack of all trades, master of none, but available on the market and has a lot of games where he really does help you win with his skills. Just needs a higher mental gear. Great for a reclamation project.
Johnson slowly slipped in Boston, though he started for most of the playoffs. He has to be paired with a bigger center at this point in order to control the glass and he struggled to find defensive matchups he could control in the playoffs. He still shot 41 percent from 3-point range last season, but his rebounding declined considerably. At 30, this is the last deal for him as a starter-level guy, but his basketball IQ and work ethic should net him a good deal. He can help a variety of teams.
Plumlee is not young. He's 27. And since he still has't shown an ability to protect the rim with any real effectiveness, it's hard to see him developing the ability to do so. He's a good passer, but struggles to finish and can't shoot. Due to the assets they sunk in acquiring him, Denver almost has to bring him back, which could get expensive if someone gambles with an offer sheet on his athleticism and passing.
Collison was suspended eight games last season after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge in a domestic violence incident. He's a reliable shooter and a decent playmaker. A standard backup point guard.
Dedmon had one of the best defensive ratings on the best defensive team in the league, but fell out of favor with coach Gregg Popovich late in the season. He is what every team needs these days, however, a defender mobile enough to maintain pace with and against fast teams, and smart enough to cover for perimeter weakness. He's fiery and that comes with complications, but he's also talented in ways that are needed.
Mbah a Moute had a career season with the Clippers. He shot 39 percent from 3-point range, just hitting corner 3 after corner 3, and playing his usual great defense. He's 31, but still very useful for what he provides. He needs to be on a veteran team, but he can contribute in meaningful ways for what is likely a bargain.
Jerebko has followed the same pattern in Boston. He's useful in the playoffs, vanishes in the regular season except for a few key moments, then reappears in the playoffs like some sort of superhero cameo. He's past the point of being able to be a heavy-minutes type of player, but he's useful with his ability to shoot from the outside and defend multiple positions.
Beasley was good last season. That's weird to say after his myriad foibles but he genuinely contributed to Milwaukee. His playoff stats were bad in fewer minutes, but Beasley gets buckets and has learned to get them efficiently. Even his defense is acceptable now. He'll never be the savviest player but he's a genuine weapon now.
Casspi is underrated, and has been the last few seasons. He's a good defender and a decent rebounder. He's 29, with several more years of effectiveness. A team can find him for good value and should just provide him with a steady role.
Allen struggled last season, but he's a serviceable big who can handle backup minutes, and rebounds at a decent rate.
Reed's 27, and only played 15 minutes per game last season for Miami, but he also sported one of the best defensive ratings on the team. He's worth a moderate contract to see if he could be a consistent backup big. Did feature a 17.1 PER last season.
"Moose" is 26 with no injury history, and a 42 percent 3-point shooter as a power forward, with some passing ability. He can work in a motion offense, but struggles to rebound and if he gains any weight or slows down at all, could become a real liability defensively. As it stands, he's definitely worth an investment.
Bogut should have been a difference-maker on the Cavs, but instead, suffered a broken leg in his first-game after being bought out by Dallas. His career is littered with these kinds of freak injuries, which gives him a label of being "injury prone" which probably isn't fair. He was a starting center on a championship team, and helped Golden State win 73 games two seasons ago. He's still a smart defender, a good rim protector, can still rebound and doesn't have great hands at this point. But as a reserve center, he's one of the best veteran-minimum options you can find, if you're a contender.
McGee came back from NBA Hades last season when Golden State rescued him and made him a valuable role player. McGee isn't a heavy-minutes weapon, but he doesn't need to be with the Warriors. He comes in for a few minutes, dunks on everyone, blocks a bunch of shots, still struggles with certain rotations and assignments, racks up a healthy plus-minus and goes back to the bench while the Warriors' small-ball units carry the load. But he is "NBA Champion JaVale McGee," so it's possible another team will believe that they too can unlock all that talent that seemed wasted for so many years.
Hardaway was quietly really good offensively for the Hawks last year. He's best suited for a bench role as a shooter, but his length means in the right system he could handle defensive responsibilities.
Mack lost minutes in a crowded backcourt last season, and his 3-point shot dipped dramatically to 31 percent. But he can run your offense, make some shots, and if his 3-point shot returns, he's a decent-to-good backup guard option.
Yes, Lee is still the same defensive liability that caused his departure from Golden State (and the rise of Draymond Green). But he's also a really good offensive player who can finish inside and is a great and willing passer. He couldn't stay on the floor in the playoffs due to matchups, but I'd say his season, overall, was better than Pau Gasol's last season. And he's likely available for considerably less than some of the other veteran bigs on this list.
Sefolosha is a solid perimeter defender that, while still on the older side, can contribute. He's not the best shooter in the world, but he can do a lot of the tiny things that make teams play better when he's on the floor.
Baynes is a bruising big man who doesn't do anything flashy, but brings toughness and rebounding. His ability to hit free throws is a bonus. This past season the Pistons were significantly better with him on the floor.
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