Top 50 NBA free agents of 2016: A divisive class after Kevin Durant
A look at the 50 best players available this offseason
The wildest summer in NBA free agency history -- at least outside of 2010 -- is set to begin in three weeks. With an unprecedented amount of cap space created by the influx of NBA TV rights revenue, nearly every team will have room for at least one max free agent. That, combined with several teams carving out space to make a run at this offseason's top name in Kevin Durant, is creating a new frontier, and no one really knows what to expect come July 1.
So which free agents will be available, and how can they help your favorite team?
This list accounts for skill, athleticism, role, versatility, age, experience, attitude and projected value. For instance, you can get Marvin Williams for a much better price than some players ranked behind him (Dion Waiters, for instance), so his value on this list is slightly greater than it would otherwise be.
Obviously, the big name is Durant. He's not only a top-three player in the league, but he's actually available this summer, or he might be. The win over the Spurs in the conference semifinals may have sealed his return to OKC, at least on a two-year deal with an opt-out for next summer. The biggest threats to the Thunder are perceived to be the Heat, Spurs and Warriors. The Heat have a precarious cap situation and can offer less than the Thunder, the Spurs just fell to the Thunder, and the Warriors were nearly toppled by OKC in a contentious Western Conference finals.
This edition sees some minor changes from our first edition, with J.R. Smith taking a tumble in the Finals, and Dion Waiters on the rise.
While Durant's odds of leaving are longer, he remains on the market and anything can happen.
Here are the top 50 players in free agency this summer.
Analysis: Franchise-changing player. Unstoppable offensive force, premier top-three player in the league. High-level defender when healthy and engaged. Underrated as a passer and willing to make the extra pass. Impossible to find a size matchup for him defensively. Has great character and integrity, a strong leader and ready to deliver when called upon but won't hijack the offense because of his pride. Everything you want in the best player on your team. The alpha, beta and omega of this free agency class.
Good fit with: Any team on the planet Earth
Analysis: The only reasons he's behind Durant are A) mileage/age, and B) availability. He's almost certainly returning to Cleveland, likely on another one-and-one deal to secure his ability to re-sign for the max when the cap again rises in 2017. If he were available, he would be equal to Durant.
Good fit with: Any team on the planet Earth
Analysis: A dominant pick-and-roll finisher who can dominate inside with blocks, rebounds and finishes. Not a great passer, not a good post-up player yet. If you believe you can mold him into that, his value increases. Incredibly valuable for the Pistons' pick-and-roll action, which is why they're a virtual lock to re-sign him. Questionable mental focus and a liability at the free-throw line. If you're going to win a title with Andre Drummond as your best player, you had better have an incredible team around him. The Pistons are almost certain to re-sign him to a max deal using restricted free agency.
Good fit with: Detroit
Analysis: First, the bad. Al Horford just turned 30. He has dealt with shoulder problems and other maladies that figure to increase as he gets older. He can't anchor a team as its best player, at least not a title-contending team. Horford doesn't have unstoppable moves, though his efficiency is always pretty great. Not a dominant rebounder, passer, defender or scorer, which is why his value often is misconstrued by casual fans. Now the good: He's a versatile, smart defender who can switch on guards, body bigger centers, contain stretch 4s and contest without fouling. Fundamentally brilliant player who always makes the right pass, takes the right shot and works for the right move. Good finisher and shooter who has extended his range to the 3-point line in recent years. He fits into nearly any scheme. Horford should be the most sought-after, fully available free agent after Durant.
Good fit with: Miami, Boston, Atlanta, Orlando
Analysis: "Game manager" most often is construed as a negative, but Mike Conley embodies its very best definition. A smart, athletic player who knows how to make sure everyone's involved and where to get them the ball. Can set the offense and make quick passes to expose the defense. A quality shooter from the arc, able to catch and shoot with a quick release. Good finisher at the rim and has to be included in any conversation about the league's best defensive point guards. Not an alpha dog and won't take the game over. Not a dominant one-on-one scorer. Foot injuries have mounted and have impacted him the past four years. A player worth the max, but unlikely to leave Memphis, though there's been a great deal of noise in the past two months about that possibility. They are certain he's re-signing, but never say never.
Good fit with: Memphis, New York, San Antonio, Utah
Analysis: The second-best player on a 50-win team. He can get to the rim, draw contact and make tough, clutch shots. Can put up 40 on a given night, but rarely when teams decide to take him out. Underrated as a playmaker. Has slid defensively in recent seasons and needs to re-establish himself as a top-flight guy on that end. His 3-point shooting is his biggest liability. If you can't shoot 3s as a 2-guard, your value is limited. He has struggled in the playoffs because of his dependency on free-throw rate, lofting terrible shots over double-teams. Can't be the best player or second-best player on a championship team, but definitely a guy who helps. Toronto is likely to max him. He's probably the greatest inefficiency on the market. To get him, you have to max him, but he needs the ball more than Conley and his limitations are greater. Tough call. He's really good but in a way that complicates his value.
Good fit with: Toronto, Los Angeles Lakers, Orlando, New Orleans
Analysis: Has higher offensive upside than most realize. Still coming off his rookie deal. Special player who can finish inside, hit from anywhere and has potential as a perimeter defender. Could wind up a top-five shooting guard. Undeniable injury concerns should give any team pause. Unlikely to go anywhere as a restricted free agent with the Wizards a lock to match any offer, unless a strong sign-and-trade deal could be constructed.
Good fits with: Washington, New York, L.A. Lakers, San Antonio
Analysis: Dynamic and versatile offensive player who can score, pass, run pick-and-roll and shoot off dribble hand-offs. Plus defender with perimeter versatility. Makes everyone better. Smart player who has been a staple on his national team (France) for years. Had injury troubles the past three seasons. At age 27, just entering his prime. Career 36 percent 3-point shooter. Nicolas Batum may garner the max from the Hornets, but also could take a discount to play for a contender. Batum likely will be more worth his contract value than DeRozan.
Good fit with: Charlotte, Golden State, Oklahoma City, Toronto
Analysis: Ooooh, boy. The most polarizing figure in free agency. On the one hand, a game-changing force who piles up triple-doubles with blocks and renders an offense inept. Incredible pick-and-roll finisher who can drop hammers off lobs like he's in Mario Bros. 3. On the other hand, had long stretches of immaturity and stat-chasing which had teammates at their wits' end. His actual defensive impact was poor for much of the season as Miami's defensive numbers were significantly better with him on the bench. But in time, he started to grasp team concepts, played with more maturity and earned his teammates' trust and affection. Hassan Whiteside will be 27 when free agency hits, so if you're signing him, you're getting him on the deal that will likely includes his prime, but it also means there's not much growth left. Needs to be in a locker room with good culture and structure.
Good fit with: Miami, Los Angeles Lakers, Orlando, Houston
Analysis: Dwyane Wade showed he can still be a top-tier No. 1 option. Posted a career-low in True Shooting percentages and his lowest points and assists figures since his rookie season but still delivered big time in leading the Heat to the second round. At 34, you're not getting the best of Wade and his drop-off should be considered imminent. He's also looking for as much money as he can make after taking paycuts during his career to help the Heat make space to add players. However, if he were to take a lesser deal to join a championship contender, his value shoots through the roof. His likelihood in pursuing a multiyear, high-money deal is why he's so low.
Good fit with: Miami, Cleveland, Oklahoma City
Analysis: OK, yes, he's a clown sometimes. And yes, he's emotional. And yes, injuries have taken away much of his strength and athleticism. And yes, he's awful in any post-up situation. But Dwight Howard remains a force. He's a smart defender who can mask a team's defensive deficiencies, just not if all your players are defensive weaknesses, like the Rockets. If he can get healthy, he can still be lethal in pick-and-roll situations. Hard worker who keeps himself in incredible shape and doesn't get enough credit for it. Has taken responsibility for his shortcomings and still wants to compete. Has to be in the right situation. Has plans to try and play until he's 40 but at age 30 is slowing down. Much of his value depends on his price. If he's willing to take a cut, he could be preferable to Whiteside. If he's pursuing a max deal, he winds up somewhere in the 30s. Howard can still be a good NBA player in the right situation.
Good fit with: Orlando, Brooklyn, Dallas, Charlotte
Analysis: The greatest power forward of all time. Despite significant slippage, Tim Duncan still makes a team better by his presence and can be had for the cheap. He's here on this list out of respect. He is likely to retire, but if he doesn't, will use his option for the last season of his NBA career. If things went completely insane and he were available, though, he would start on roughly 25 NBA teams, and would likely be cheap at his age.
Good fit with: San Antonio
Analysis: Still Dirk Nowitzki, and he's not going anywhere, but he is technically a free agent. Still a top-level scorer on good nights and still able to lead a playoff team as he did this season. You could slot him on nearly any top team and he'd still cook. The greatest European player in league history.
Good fit with: Dallas
Analysis: If you had asked me about Dion Waiters' ranking a year ago, and informed me that I would be placing him 14th, you'd have gotten somewhere between a guffaw and a heart attack. For years Waiters has played like he believes he is something he is not -- a star-level player who needed the ball in his hands at all times. This led to infuriating decisions and, on top of that, he would routinely miss layups and make unwise plays. But somehow, in the last three months, right as he's set to hit free agency, Waiters has turned a corner. With the Thunder in this year's playoff run, he knocked down the 3-ball, stayed aggressive in attacking the rim, deferred to star players and just played to his role. If you don't trust him, there's a big worry of him regressing to his worst habits if given big money. But at 24 years old with no injury concerns, and given the growth and skillset he's shown plus the likelihood of him coming under the budget of someone like Harrison Barnes (No.24), Waiters all of a sudden is one of the best value deals on the market. The risk is high with Waiters, but the value and reward are just as great.
Good fit with: OKC, Charlotte, Brooklyn, Sacramento
Analysis: All-Star caliber player with a very narrow list for availability. Pau Gasol is only going to want to join a championship team (heavy rumor in NBA circles is San Antonio). He's still a tremendous low-post and mid-range scorer, and his height and length make him a bother defensively, even as his value on that end has never been lower because of today's playing style. At 35, a drop-off is imminent and managing minutes will be a priority. A player on the cusp of "too old to make a difference" and "veteran who can bring the help a team needs." Revered teammate, beloved by media, but clashes with coaches who do not play him in comfort zones. Cannot adapt easily.
Good fit with: San Antonio, Golden State, Oklahoma City
Analysis: Two major knee injuries should be considered first and foremost. Chandler Parsons will be 28 next season, so you're not signing a spring chicken. And yet he shot a career-high from the field and 3-point range, and his per 100 possession numbers were right in line or better than his career figures. Athletic and versatile, able to run an offense on his own as well as operate as tip of the spear. Will act as a free-agent recruiter. Great cutter, great spot-up shooter, able to pump-fake and drive and manages to be aggressive without hijacking the offense. Solid defensively. There are no clear weaknesses. If you're ready to win now and in need of a small forward, he's likely the market's best value.
Good fit with: Dallas, Orlando, Golden State, New York
Analysis: Lights-out shooter who has learned to stay within his role, J.R. Smith has gone from a decent-but-inconsistent defender to a major deterrent. Not going to lock up Steph Curry or Russell Westbrook, but attacks dribble, contains and closes out hard. His effort issues have vanished on good teams. Able to completely turn a game with offensive outbursts. Has not had a playoff off-court incident since 2013. Will recklessly pursue heat checks. Beloved by teammates. Smith signed with Klutch Sports this year and is likely to re-sign with the Cavs because of it, likely on a big-money deal. Currently fulfilling every negative assumption about his proclivity to suffer letdowns in key situations in the Finals.
Good fit with: Cleveland, Memphis, New Orleans
Analysis: Ryan Anderson's value has taken a pretty big hit the past two years because of his defense. He went from one of the league's most-coveted players to a huge question mark. Has a history of injury problems. Terrible lateral movement and lacks post-defense strength. Must be paired with dominant shot blocker. Will likely come with a high price tag. Why? He's a terrific shooter. An absolutely, flat-out, lights-out shooter not only as a spot-up guy, but in the post, off the cut, off the dribble ... everywhere. Anderson instantly boosts your perimeter offense in huge ways. Was a dominant rebounder in other stops but struggled in that regard in New Orleans. He could recover, which would help a lot. Smart player. No red flags outside of defense and injury. Won't dog it and a good defensive scheme could mitigate his problems.
Good fit with: Memphis, Houston, Philadelphia, New York
Analysis: Maybe the market's best value. Kent Bazemore is 27 and a 44 percent shooter who shoots 34 percent from beyond the arc. Can guard multiple positions and is crafty, athletic and fast. Bazemore isn't going to create on his own, but you can slot him into any team with a star and he'll make the defense pay for a double team. Adds something new to his game each season. His toolkit may be smaller than some other wings on this list, but that also means he stays within his role.
Good fit with: Atlanta, Memphis, Houston, Dallas, Washington, Denver
Analysis: Festus Ezeli is strong and athletic with a soft touch. Opportunistic on lobs and makes the most of his minutes. Plays with energy and passion and worked hard to go from bench fringe player to major rotation contributor. Can provide excellent rim protection and rebounding. Will make mental mistakes defensively but makes up for it with his size. Good enough to start at center for a good defensive team, like, say, the 73-win Warriors in a pinch.
Good fit with: Los Angeles Lakers, Houston, New York, Phoenix, New Orleans
Analysis: As a restricted free agent, the Lakers are unlikely to let Jordan Clarkson go, but if they get enamored with a big fish, a team might be able to apply pressure with a big money deal. The League's "Arenas Provision" limits them to the mid-level exception in the first year, so the money's just not that big. Clarkson is a versatile scorer and combo guard. He can run the offense or create his own shot at just 24 years old. The only problem is trying to peel away how much of the Lakers' struggles he contributed to and how they might have impacted him.
Good fit with: Los Angeles, Denver, Milwaukee, Memphis
Analysis: The Villain! Evan Turner became a Sixth Man of the Year candidate last season and has developed a real home in Boston, which might re-sign him at a discount. Turner can play three positions, is a pesky defender and knows how to create and slip to the rim. His overall inefficiency is mitigated by how he can fill out a stat sheet, and his versatility is crucial in today's game. You can do worse than Turner, but the idea of a team that isn't the Celtics giving him big money could be far-fetched. It's the only place where he has been successful.
Good fits with: New York, Orlando, Memphis, Denver, Cleveland, Boston
Analysis: He's the model value stretch-four. He turns 30 this summer, but posted career numbers in 3-point shooting (40 percent) and rebounding (6.4 per game). He's become a smart, physical defender. A player who seemed so out of place in Atlanta ironically is now the kind of player that fits nearly anywhere in the modern NBA. He's likely to ink a deal that is more value-oriented than some of the bigger names behind him, and he comes with none of the drawbacks. Marvin Williams just shows up, does his job and goes home. He's a pro.
Good fit with: Memphis, Denver, New Orleans, Charlotte, San Antonio
Analysis: The Black Falcon. The Governor. The Senator. Harry B. Harrison Barnes goes by many names, but the most relevant here is "The Big Free Agent Dilemma of the Summer." Arguably even more divisive than Hassan Whiteside. Here's the tough part: you can point to a dozen or more things that Barnes does 'capably' and almost none that he does 'exceptionally well.' He can score in the post, (47.5 percent, 70th percentile in points per possession via Synergy Sports), shoot the 3-ball (38 percent this season), cut to the rim, and function as a cog in an offense. He does all of these things well. But given what he's going to demand (the maximum of the maxi-most), do you want to pay top dollar for good-not-great? Or do you believe his handle can improve? That being on a team that doesn't redefine offensive basketball he could carry a bigger load? That his versatility is a virtue? Barnes is a good investment for a small market team needing an upgrade. He is a bad investment for a team looking to build around him. The team he's honestly of most value to are the Warriors, for what he unlocks and makes possible, but they're simultaneously the team that needs him least, given the strength and performance from the rest of their roster. There are only so many max contract guys you can have on a team, even with the exploding cap, and if the Warriors are going to shell out that money, they're giving it to Kevin Durant (if he's willing). Barnes is one of the most intriguing storylines of free agency.
Good fit with: Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis, Houston, New York, Orlando
Analysis: Courtney Lee turns 31 in October, but his contract value vs. game impact differential is resoundingly positive. A plus-defender who can disrupt handles and passing lanes, Lee is capable of guarding point guards, shooting guards and the occasional spot-up small forward. He's 6-foot-5 with great length to contest shots. Offensively, Lee is versatile as all get out, and efficient to boot. He has shot 37 percent or better from 3-point range for the past six years. He's a wonderful and smart cutter. A good teammate who plays heads up at all times, always willing to fit into whatever role he is prescribed and doesn't complain about coming off the bench. Lee is going to be tremendous value for whoever picks him up ... for the first two years. If Lee is searching for a four-year deal, there's good chance by the end of his contract, at age 35, he will be a drain. But given his relative health, toughness, attitude and skillset, he's well worth the investment near the projected league average of roughly $14 to $15 million. Going as high as $18 million per season over a three-year deal is not a ludicrous number.
Good fit with: Oklahoma City, Cleveland, Boston, Atlanta, Miami, Detroit
Analysis: Bismack Biyombo made himself some serious money the past month. His franchise-record performances with Toronto in its playoff run showed the promise that has teased us since since he was drafted. Absurdly long with freakish athleticism. Started to adopt better defensive instincts. Plays with passion and fire. Willing to give a hard foul when it is called for. Biyombo averaged 18.7 rebounds per 100 possessions, sixth-best last season for players playing over 20 minutes per game. He still has poor hands and is a bad finisher, but given that he'll be just 24 next season, and with what he's shown over the past two years, you have to think he's in line for a huge payday. He said openly he is interested in taking a discount to stay with Toronto, however.
Good fit with: Toronto, Los Angeles, Portland, Boston, New Orleans, Chicago
Analysis: People are going to throw up a little at this ranking. I get that. Go ahead, get it out of your system, I'll wait. We good? OK. Matthew Dellavedova's per-36 numbers: 11 points and 6.4 assists while shooting a terrific 41 percent from 3-point range. He's just 25 years old so you're getting him in his prime over the course of this next contract. Dellavedova suffers most from the slings and arrows of the modern media narrative machine. He disrupted Steph Curry for two games in the 2015 Finals and was heaped with praise. He showed a willingness to participate in physicality that flirts with the line of fair play. That precipitated a backlash. Suddenly, Dellavedova was "not a good defender" because Curry, the best player on the planet, torched him, and then "not a good player" because he doesn't fit with the model most people have of one. Here's the thing. He improved. He shot better, made better passes, learned to run an offense and has earned the trust and admiration of LeBron James. The problem is that Delly's value is significantly greater for the Cavs than it is for, say, the Mavericks. He's just not as likely to succeed without the kind of firepower surrounding him on the Cavaliers. And that's OK! Delly fits as a key player on this particular team. But with the money they've given Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, and Iman Shumpert, with J.R. Smith up for a deal plus the fact that James himself is going to want at least a one-year max, there might not be any room. Dellavedova deserves a good deal, and his value is likely to exceed the dollar amount.
Good fit with: Cleveland, Dallas, Chicago, Memphis
Analysis:"Never Google" had himself a year. Exploding out of the gate as the starting shooting guard for Scott Skiles, Evan Fournier made good on all his potential in a contract year. He averaged 17 points and three assists per 36 minutes while shooting 46-40-84 at age 23. For reference, Fournier's numbers pretty much destroy Harrison Barnes in every regard. He's a flat-out better option, at the same age, as Barnes on the wing. (That's not to say Fournier is "better" than Barnes, who is a superior defender and played on stacked team while Fournier has license to ill in Orlando.) Fournier has evolved as a ball-handler and playmaker, and there's every reason to think he can take steps forward. He might be best suited for a sixth-man role, but he's also one of those players in restricted free agency where you're paying for what he will be, not what he is now. Another good comparison mark is DeMar DeRozan. Here's how Fournier performed compared to DeRozan at age 23, in his fourth season.
Good fit with: Orlando, Memphis, Denver, New Orleans, Philadelphia
Analysis: Mo Buckets is set to make a killing, capitalizing off the Warriors' run. Of all the Warriors' available free agents, he's the most likely to depart, given the team's need for him relative to his value on the market. Marreese Speights has a lot of holes in his game and isn't a player you're going to build around. But you can trust him to get you points and rebounds. Plug him into a bench unit and let him cook from mid-range.
Good fit with: New York, Brooklyn, Dallas, Houston, Milwaukee, Detroit
Analysis: Jeremy Lin's career is as complicated as it is debatable. After Linsanity he was "fine" in Houston, then "bad" in L.A. with the Lakers. Then he wound up in Charlotte last season and was straight-up great. Lin has excellent vision and play-making ability, can finish at the rim and hit 3s at a decent-but-not-great rate (34 percent). He's excellent as a change-of-pace backup point guard who can not only make plays but has learned how to run an offense. He developed patience in the half court and has excellent instincts for the game. You can trust him with the ball. Defensively, he has physical limitations, but he also will dig down and disrupt handles and passing lanes. He plays well in a team concept and by all accounts is coachable. Lin is terrific value in this market and the second-best backup point guard available. If you wind up with Lin starting, your offense is going to survive.
Good fit with: Charlotte, New York, Dallas, Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia
Analysis: An athletic shooter. His upside is considerable and he's exactly the kind of wing you want in the NBA. Has height to shoot over closing defenders and got a taste of playoff experience the past two years. Allen Crabbe isn't going to sell many tickets, but he's the kind of player you should get in on the ground floor if you can wrestle him away from Portland. If the Blazers find an upgrade for him on the wing, he might be had. If they don't, expect them to match any reasonable offer.
Good fit with: Portland, Denver, New York, Memphis, Sacramento
Analysis: Hendo is getting up there in years but remains a competent veteran on the wing. A great defender with underrated athleticism, Gerald Henderson can finish on cutbacks or inbound lobs. His shot has always been and will likely be too inconsistent to trust (I'm not sure I've ever seen him get "hot" from the field), but his experience, savvy, work ethic and length make him a starter-level wing or a terrific seventh man. A smaller, middle-management Luol Deng is a good comp.
Good fit with: Cleveland, Portland, Orlando, Atlanta, Minnesota
Analysis: High-level defender able to not only contest on stretch fours but hang in the post vs. bigger bodies. Darrell Arthur's defensive plus/minus matches the eye test as every big man combo has improved with him included for the past three years in Denver. Smart veteran who puts a lot of time into knowing his scouting report and plays within himself. Has stretched to 3-point range in spurts, but is best, and can be near-lethal for stretches, from mid-range. Not a post-scorer but works well in pick-and-pop situations. Not a dominant screener due to his frame, but the technique is there. Not interested in stats or individual accolades and doesn't have an issue being brought off the bench. Injuries robbed him of his athleticism and he's had trouble staying on the floor. When he is, though, he makes the collective unit better, especially on the defensive end. Every contender needs to consider Arthur as an option.
Good fit with: Denver, Los Angeles Clippers, Detroit, Houston, Memphis
Analysis: Ian Mahinmi stepped up in a big way when called upon for the Pacers after they let Roy Hibbert go. He stepped into starter's minutes and not only produced 13 points per game on 59 percent shooting, but showed the kind of defensive improvement that teams have been hoping for since he was a youngster with the Austin then-Toros of the D-League. Mahinmi may not be able to center a small ball, hyper-versatile Warriors style death machine, but he's more than going to get the job done for you while setting good screens and getting up and down the floor. The improvement in his motor this season was notable.
Good fit with: Indiana, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix, San Antonio, Miami, Chicago
Analysis: Once a high-level defender and a crack perimeter shooter, Aaron Afflalo has lost both in recent years. His defensive effort fell of a cliff once he started prioritizing scoring in Orlando, and he hasn't been the same hyper-efficient player in recent years. Long arms and a sturdy frame make him an ideal post-up guard, and he comes off screens with quickness and precision. Will have week-long stretches where he looks like a top-10 starter at shooting guard in the league, then vanish like Batman into the shadows for months at a time. Can seem like he's going through the motions at times. Afflalo might wind up finding a shorter market than he wants this summer with better options at shooting guard all over. Still, if you value proven commodity over upside, Afflalo might be the best bang for your buck.
Good fit with: Sacramento, Oklahoma City, Milwaukee, New York
Analysis: A big human being. Boban Marjanovic has everyone interested in what's going to happen with his free agency this summer. You can neither teach nor build in a lab with mad science that kind of size, and though Spurs fans and the Internet came to treat him as a novelty or like some sort of mascot, he can actually play. He's got good touch around the rim and can make passes when called upon. He's already 27, though, and there's no telling how he would perform if tasked with longer minutes. Boban is a restricted free agent, so the Spurs can match, but given their long-term plans they likely won't if the offer is big enough. Have I mentioned he's large?
Good fit with: San Antonio, Houston, Chicago, Cleveland, Portland
Analysis: Tireless worker. Good screener. Athletic and can finish inside. Trevor Booker has flirted with perimeter scoring aptitude at times, but for the most part, a junkyard dog with good understanding of defensive mechanics. Can get outrun by faster stretch fours or bodied by larger ones, but considering the way the league has gone with small ball, his value has increased. He lands higher than more talented players based on his work ethic and the likelihood of getting him on a value deal.
Good fit with: Utah, Charlotte, Chicago, Denver
Analysis: "The Legend" is another candidate for best value for a restricted free agent. Portland's almost definitely going to match any offer, but he gives you a knockdown shooter who can rebound and set good screens. High motor and agility. Can get caught out of position on defense, but much of that is experience and knowledge base. Meyers Leonard isn't a rim protector or dominant rebounder, but he makes up for that with his scoring ability.
Good fit with: Portland, L.A. Lakers, New York Knicks, Houston, New Orleans, Dallas
Analysis: Dude was an MVP candidate two years ago. That's how fast this stuff happens. Now Joakim Noah is 31, coming off major injury, and it seems like his best years are behind him, that Tom Thibodeau drove him into the ground. But here's something to keep in mind: Luol Deng looked very much the same two years ago and now is playing great ball in Miami. These progressions and regressions are not linear, and with Noah's work ethic, there's every reason to think he can bounce back. Caution is necessary, but a big-money, short-term deal from a team aiming for the playoffs makes a world of sense. A relentless, physical player with great passing instincts who attacks the offensive glass like a Bengal tiger jumping on its prey. Plays with an emotion and passion that inspires his teammates, sets great screens, and keeps teammates tethered. The kind of guy you want on your team, no matter what role he plays.
Good fit with: Minnesota, Orlando, Houston, Philadelphia, Miami, Los Angeles Lakers
Analysis: Quite a few red flags for a guy who has been a really great pro throughout his career. Al Jefferson turns 32 next January, played in less than 50 games, saw numbers drop to just 12 points and 6.4 rebounds per game and his lowest PER since 2006. He started just 18 games this season as the Hornets move to a more small ball, athletic lineup. Jefferson's never been a good defender, but age and injury have left him a significant liability in any pick and roll coverage. He also can't cover stretch fours so you can't move him to that spot. But he is still strong and big, takes up space on the interior, and is a pro's pro. He has tremendous touch around the basket and a solid jumper. There's not a lot he can't do within 15 feet offensively, and he's improved by leaps and bounds as a passer over the past five years after being a black hole for a long time. Jefferson can be a productive and effective 3rd or 4th big who can start in a pinch. A big-money, large-contract deal would be ill-advised, but in the current market, even a four-year, $48 million deal might be good value.
Good fit with: Charlotte, Minnesota, Detroit, Houston, Utah, Portland
Analysis: Despite coming off his rookie deal into restricted free agency, Donatas Motiejunas will be 26 next season after the time he spent pro in Europe. If he were unrestricted, he'd be way higher on this list. But Houston's likely to match any offer for him, just to retain him as an asset even after trying unsuccessfully to trade him to Detroit. Motiejunas averaged 20 minutes per game in the playoffs, so he is able to play, but a big man with back issues at 26 who failed a physical is a tough guy to invest big money in. However, Motiejunas is a seven-footer with good range, great footwork, excellent passing and he sets good screens. If Houston decides to let him into the wild, and his physical checks out, teams need to be aggressive in their pursuit.
Good fit with: Houston, Denver, Memphis, Detroit, Dallas, Boston
Analysis: Another Euro who hasn't been in the NBA long, but is actually older, Mirza Teletovic will turn 31 before next season starts. He's a lights-out shooter at 39 percent, played 79 games last year and was a rare bright spot on the Suns. He's a minus-defender and may not have that much left in the tank, but in a league that values shooting, he'd be a quality addition for teams in need of stretching the floor. If you strike out on Ryan Anderson, Teletovic is a cheaper alternative.
Good fit with: Phoenix, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Cleveland, Denver, New York, Philadelphia, Orlando
Analysis: So... Matt Barnes. He's 34 years old, but you wouldn't know it from his impact last season. He's still a tough and physical defender with great instincts and fundamentals. He has improved as a shooter, though he regressed back to 32 percent last season. Barnes is liked and respected by teammates despite his off-court drama. Can handle well enough to drive if the defender over-corrects on a closeout and can function as a small ball four in a pinch. As long as you're willing to live with the horrendous amount of questionable off-court behavior that accompanies him, Barnes might be worth a one- or two-year deal. However, the prospect of a serious drop-off is present with his age.
Good fit with: Memphis, Orlando, Minnesota, Chicago, Miami
Analysis: Welcome back, Luol Deng. After it seemed like his best years were behind him, Deng snapped back the past two years, shooting over 34 percent from 3-point range. When Chris Bosh went down, the Heat switched Deng to a stretch four, and both he and the team thrived. Deng's always been a great defender, his ability to improve his 3-point shooting only increases his value. The Heat will face a tough decision with letting Deng walk. They have Justise Winslow, who gives them a future long-term option on the wing, but might want to keep Deng all the same. If he's available, he's a player that nearly every team would benefit from having around. Deng has likely worked himself north of $15 million per year with how he finished the season, and could be looking for one last long-term deal.
Good fit with: Miami, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis, Minnesota, Brooklyn, Houston
Analysis: Eric Gordon was once the most promising 2-guard under 25 in the league. But injuries robbed him of essentially his entire career. Now 27, Gordon hasn't played more than 64 games since his rookie season. You just can't have any faith he's going to make it through a full year. That said, he's still a great shooter -- 38 percent for his career from beyond the arc -- and can operate as a combo guard. He's worth a gamble on a short-term, big-money deal, because he's capable of turning in huge scoring performances if he ever gets his body right. New Orleans was just never a fit for him. He would be way higher on this list if it weren't for injuries.
Good fit with: Memphis, Philadelphia, Indiana, New York, Phoenix, Atlanta
Analysis: E'Twaun Moore was nearly out of the league before finding himself as useful for the Bulls last season, and wound up averaging 21 minutes per game. Most notably, he shot 45 percent from 3-point range. That's right, 45 percent, if only on 1.8 shots per game. His per-36 line of 13-4-3 isn't awe-inspiring, but he's a capable defender who can hit shots, create a little with his dribble and fill in minutes off the wing. He's not restricted and can be had for cheap. Moore is sneaky good value, if you think last season was a stronger indication of what he can do than the rest of his career.
Good fit with: Memphis, Denver, Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee, Orlando, Miami
Analysis: Brandon Jennings' talent is higher than a lot of guys on this list but is mitigated by two factors. One, his Achilles injury which is always difficult for a player, especially a guard, to bounce back from, and two, the fact that he's likely to wind up as high-priced due to his age (27 next year) and name value. Jennings has come a long way over the last few years, learning how to run a team and be more of a distributor. His defense isn't notably bad, and he has nights of pure burst, especially if he can get back to where he was two years ago, or close to it. However, he's never shot better than 41 percent from the field, never averaged more than eight assists per game and his 3-point shooting has always been decent-to-good but never phenomenal. That said, Jennings could be a steal. Buy low on him after the injury, watch as he matures and recovers from injury and get at the worst a very capable scoring backup.
Good fit with: Philadelphia, New York, Brooklyn, Houston, Los Angeles Clippers, Portland
Analysis: ISO Joe just keeps chugging along. He averaged his fewest points per game in 13 years (man, Joe Johnson's been around a long time) but still managed to shoot 44 percent from the field and 38 percent from 3-point range at age 34. He's as durable as they get, a good locker room guy, a total pro and can play three positions at this point. He's still tough in the post, still a sneaky good playmaker and a guy who has absolutely zero fear of the late-game shot. Johnson is likely only available for super-contenders. He nearly signed with Cleveland, which could use him, but if the Warriors are looking to re-stock their bench, Johnson would be a prime candidate for a ring-chase rotation guy. If Johnson is looking for one more big deal, it gets hairy. A sizable two-year deal for a mid-level playoff team might be OK.
Good fit with: Miami, Cleveland, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee, Golden State
Analysis: Sigh. So much potential, squandered. Ty Lawson turns 29 next season. This should be his prime. But he's thrown away so much. He couldn't stay out of trouble for DUIs in Denver and helped contribute to its immaturity issues. He arrived in Houston as the piece that was supposed to put them over the top and instead wound up out of the rotation within a month. He eventually landed in Indiana, where he was just an end-of-the-bench guy. There's still a player in there who can shoot, pass, get to the rim, weave in and out of transition, make plays and dazzle crowds, but Lawson hasn't committed himself in work ethic or mental approach. He has to earn those minutes back. That said, Lawson is downright insane value. If you think you can reach him, or if he really shows that he is past his issues, he's very much worth signing on a flyer.
Good fit with: Oklahoma City, Los Angeles Lakers, Brooklyn, Atlanta, Portland
Analysis: Where did the Heat find this kid? Tyler Johnson is tough as nails and will scrap you to pieces defensively while shooting 38 percent from 3-point range and showing off a really wide range of skills. He's able to attack the rim and knock down shots from the outside, improving dramatically over the course of these two seasons. Unfortunately for other teams, he's subject to the Arenas Provision, which means he can only sign a two-year deal starting at $5.6 million, which the Heat can match, or he can sign a qualifying offer and hit the market as a real restricted free agent next summer. Don't expect him to be available, but should the Heat find themselves in a bind trying to sign a big name, and Johnson doesn't have a better option, he would be a terrific get, given his age and skillset.
Good fit with: Miami, Memphis, Indiana, New York
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