Free agency began on Friday evening, and as of Sunday afternoon almost all of the top 20 players are off the market, unless you’d like to be pedantic about the status of Anthony Davis or Brandon Ingram. It was a bit chaotic at first, but the signing spree, which started just two days after the draft and a week and a half before training camps open, is starting to slow down.
Remember last summer? The hype, the surprises, the news helicopter following Kawhi Leonard in an SUV in Toronto? This has been nothing like that. This free-agent class is far less splashy than 2019’s and 2021’s, but there has been some drama: Dwight Howard tweeted that he was re-signing with the Los Angeles Lakers before deleting it and joining the Philadelphia 76ers; Bogdan Bogdanovic’s reported sign-and-trade to the Milwaukee Bucks fell apart and now he has signed an offer sheet with the Atlanta Hawks; and the reigning champions used their midlevel exception to poach the Sixth Man of the Year from their crosstown rivals, who replaced him with a totally different kind of player at the same ring-chasing discount.
For analysis of the comings and goings, here are takeaways from Day 1 and Day 2.
The following list of 100 free agency was last updated just before the player movement got started. It was meant to be a primer heading into this period, so the blurbs do not reflect the agreements and signings that have taken place. The free agents are loosely grouped into categories that make sense, or at least make sense to me. (This was originally published during the hiatus, but has been expanded and updated numerous times since then.)
The cream of the crop
These are not superstars, but they are difference-makers. Getting any of these guys would be a win for teams trying to compete immediately, and some of them should interest rebuilding teams, too.
Can I interest you in a 26-year-old guard who can make plays, stretch the floor and force turnovers? VanVleet is quietly one of the best defensive guards in the league, making up for his lack of height with a rare combination of intelligence, strength and anticipation. He’s also a valued leader in the locker room, and he has shown he’s completely fearless taking big shots on the biggest stage. His suitors have to wonder how close they’d have to get to the max to price the Raptors out.
The 30-year-old Hayward turned down his $34.2 million player option on Thursday, so he must have reason to believe he’ll sign a lucrative, long-term deal in the near future. This might require a sign-and-trade. The New York Times reported that the Knicks and Pacers are possible destinations, and Yahoo Sports reported that Atlanta is also a suitor. In theory, Hayward could still re-sign in Boston, but perhaps he’s looking for a larger offensive role than a team with Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can offer him. Even when he looked his healthiest as a Celtic, he was more of a connector than the star he was with the Jazz.
In one of the strangest stories in free agency history, Bogdanovic appeared to be on his way to the Bucks but is now in limbo. On Monday evening, Milwaukee and Sacramento reportedly reached an agreement on a deal centered around the 28-year-old Bogdanovic and 23-year-old guard Donte DiVincenzo. The only problem was that it was four days before free agents were allowed to negotiate with teams. It’s unclear whether the NBA will allow the Kings and Bucks to execute something similar or if Bogdanovic will wind up somewhere else. Milwaukee could really use his shooting and playmaking.
Harris is exactly the type of player Brooklyn should want next to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving (and, potentially, another star). He is not just a lights-out shooter; he is a lights-out shooter who is comfortable shooting on the move, with a ridiculously quick release. He can attack close-outs, too, and is a solid enough defender. The question here is how much luxury-tax pain the Nets are willing to endure to retain him.
Gallinari has slipped a bit as a defender and is now much more suited to play the 4 than the 3, but set himself up for another payday with a strong pre-bubble season in Oklahoma City. On the offensive end, Gallinari remains one of the more versatile and efficient forwards in the league and a prime candidate for a sign-and-trade. He turned 32 in August, though, and his production had wild swings against Houston in the playoffs. One interesting question: After almost getting him at the trade deadline, would Miami sacrifice its 2021 cap space with a multi-year offer? Another one: Is Atlanta so thirsty to make the playoffs that it will offer Gallinari a long-term deal?
By not trading Bertans at the deadline, the Wizards telegraphed that they intend to re-sign him. Since then, they’ve made it clear that bringing him back is their top priority. The 27-year-old was a revelation this season, taking advantage of the greenest light any stretch 4 has ever had. He took 10.7 3-pointers per 36 minutes, an unprecedented number for a frontcourt player, and made 42.4 percent of them.
The Sixth Man of the Year somehow upped his usage after the Clippers signed two superstars, showing off a more refined face-up game than just about anyone thought he could develop. Once an energy guy, Harrell is now a refined offensive weapon who still does all the hustle things that got him on the court in the first place. There are questions about his viability in the playoffs, but it’s unclear how much his poor performance in the bubble will cost him — he left Orlando after the death of his grandmother, and he couldn’t play at his normal standard when he returned. Los Angeles doesn’t have many avenues for improvement, so it will presumably try to re-sign him or figure out a sign-and-trade.
In his last 15 games, the undrafted journeyman averaged 22.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, and about a steal and a block while shooting 56.2 percent and making 41 percent of his 3s. The Pistons were essentially tanking, but that doesn’t make those numbers any less real — after the Andre Drummond trade, Wood was singlehandedly keeping them in games. Detroit should obviously try to keep him, but he’s an unrestricted free agent and the few teams with money to spend will likely try to throw it at him. He’s still just 25, an age when players with his skills and physical tools are essentially never available. Unlike the other seven players in this group, however, he is a bit of a mystery man due to the sample-size issue.
There is not a long list of free agents who meaningfully helped their stock in the restart, but these four certainly did. If it were easy to raise your game in the playoffs, everybody would do it.
Dragic was smart to accept a sixth-man role in the regular season, since it let him feast on opposing bench units and run the show when Jimmy Butler was off the court. He was always capable of starting, though, and was phenomenal when given the opportunity in the playoffs. Before Game 1 of the Finals, in which he suffered a plantar fascia injury, Dragic averaged 20.9 points, 4.7 assists and 4.2 rebounds in 34.6 minutes in 15 playoff games, wreaking havoc with his pick-and-rolls. He and the Heat reportedly want to work something out, and I wonder if he’d sign a one-year deal with a high salary (and help them preserve their 2021 space).
Rondo was instrumental in the Lakers’ championship run. Opponents kept daring him to shoot, and he made 40 percent of his 3s on 4.6 attempts per 36 minutes. More importantly, with Rondo on the court and LeBron James on the bench, Los Angeles scored 117.7 points per 100 possessions in the postseason, a 10-point increase from the regular season and a reflection of the fact that he knows exactly how to exploit opponents’ weaknesses. Playoff Rondo might have earned a raise.
The versatility is what’s appealing: Grant makes open 3s, guards every position and can attack a closeout and dunk on you. His on/off numbers were ugly in the regular season, but he was impressive as a starting small forward in the playoffs, especially when tasked with guarding Kawhi, LeBron and Anthony Davis. He’s opting out of the $9.3 million he was owed next season, but there is mutual interest in a new contract with the Nuggets.
After a strong showing in the playoffs, the 3-and-D-and-a-little-bit-more guy is declining his $8.5 million option, as expected. It remains hard to imagine him leaving the Lakers, though, unless another team swoops in and wildly overpays him. There should be a healthy market for the 27-year-old Caldwell-Pope, given that he can fit anywhere and everybody wants wings, but Los Angeles has his Bird rights and he’s even more important now without Danny Green in the picture.
10 trusty vets
A selection of veterans who were either never stars or aren’t anymore, but can help your stars be their best selves. Far more valuable to contenders, but capable of providing structure on a young team, too.
Millsap remained important to Denver’s defense this season, but had a rough go of it on offense in Orlando. The Nuggets could conceivably bring him back, but Grant will be a bigger priority and losing Millsap would make it easier to find minutes for Michael Porter Jr. At 35, and with a history of knee trouble, he will likely be looking at short-term deals to play between 20 and 30 minutes a night for a contender.
The rebuilding Cavaliers were reportedly interested in extending Thompson’s contract earlier this season, but then they traded for Drummond. He doesn’t make much sense in Cleveland anymore, but the partnership could continue if it can’t find a suitable sign-and-trade. At a certain point, though, Thompson needs to do the dirty work for a contender again.
Given that the Pelicans were 10 points per 100 possessions better with Favors on the court this season, they should think about re-signing him — and having his Bird rights gives them an advantage. He doesn’t seem like the cleanest offensive fit with Zion Williamson, but, pre-bubble, New Orleans was dominant on both ends in the minutes they played together.
Baynes was a dependable backup (and sometimes a starter) in Boston, but in Phoenix, he had something of a breakout. It is reasonable to think he will find another home, partially because the Suns played so well without him in Orlando and partially because there isn’t a contender that can’t use a stretch 5 who can facilitate a bit and sets crushing screens. If Phoenix lets Dario Saric go, however, it should try to retain Baynes.
After an inefficient first month with the Clippers, Morris shot much better in the bubble. They can re-sign him at a starting salary of $18 million at most, and it’s hard to see any of the teams with cap space going higher. His skill set makes him a theoretical fit just about anywhere, but Los Angeles probably didn’t give up a first-round pick for him just to watch him walk.
Gasol was not himself in the playoffs, particularly on offense, but he made everybody around him better on both ends before that. The question here is whether or not he still wants to play in the NBA — he was reported to be signing with FC Barcelona, though the team has denied it. If he stays in the league and is open to leaving Toronto, he’d look great in Golden State’s system, wouldn’t he?
Ibaka picked a good time to have the best 3-point-shooting season of his career, and he deserves credit for the strides he has made in Nick Nurse’s offensive system. He’s not the intimidating shot-blocker he was in Oklahoma City, but in most other ways he’s better.
No player did more to refurbish his reputation than Howard did in 2019-20. As long as he continues to be satisfied with focusing on the select few things that he does at a high level, he can age gracefully after an awkward few years. (Howard will turn 35 in December.) The title doesn’t hurt, either, even if teams targeted him in pick-and-rolls and Los Angeles had to remove him from the rotation multiple times in the playoffs.
Crowder’s shooting is unpredictable, but he clearly fits in Miami as a low-usage role player. He has always been a multipositional defender, and his ability to stand his ground against bigger players was essential throughout the playoffs. If he can’t work out a (likely short-term) deal with the Heat, other win-now teams will call.
Bradley declined his $5 million player option with the defending champions, and that could be risky, even with the Warriors and Bucks reportedly interested in him. While he wasn’t a part of the title run, he was a starter during the pre-pandemic portion of the season. Bradley’s best skill is hounding ball handlers one-on-one, but he also helped the Lakers with his cutting and his ability to make open 3s.
Two big names all but officially staying put
What do this newly crowned champion this Most Improved Player have in common? First, they were two of the principals in a blockbuster trade in the summer of 2019. Second, they don’t feel like *real* free agents, but they’re on the list becuase they technically are on the market.
No one expects Davis to leave the Lakers, but he’s opting out of the final year of his contract to sign a new one. My prediction: He signs a three-year deal with an option after the second season, which would allow him to hit free agency again in 2022, with 10 years of service. At that point, he will be eligible to sign a long-term contract that starts at 35 percent of the salary cap.
There were valid reasons for the Pelicans to take a wait-and-see approach with Ingram rather than signing him to an extension last October. Now he’s an All-Star and a Most Improved Player candidate and he’ll soon be a max player. His single-season transformation as a shooter is genuinely historic — not even Pascal Siakam improved his free-throw percentage, 3-point percentage and 3-point volume that drastically at the same time. You can try to get him to sign an offer sheet, but surely New Orleans will match it.
15 restricted free agents of some intrigue
These young players didn’t get their contracts extended, and they’re not secure in their status the way Ingram is.
A heady player who has developed into an excellent defender and always had a good feel on offense. The breakout hasn’t happened yet, though, and Poeltl’s game doesn’t scream star potential. I’d be surprised if the Spurs didn’t match a reasonable offer sheet.
Beasley was an awesome buy-low acquisition back in February, but now the Wolves might have a difficult decision to make. The teams with cap space could use a young wing (Beasley turns 24 in November) who can fill it up. Based on how efficient he was after the deadline, the price could be higher than Minnesota initially anticipated. (It’s unclear how the charges against him will affect all this.)
I’m a sucker for playmaking bigs, and Saric’s feel for the game and moxie have always stood out. The less rigid the offensive system, the better he will look, and he might have made himself some money as the Suns’ small-ball 5 in Orlando. There’s no reason he can’t keep playing that role with Chris Paul running the show.
If you’re shocked to learn that Boucher turned 27 in January, know that he is a late bloomer who wasn’t even discovered until after his 19th birthday. His emergence off the Raptors’ bench has been impressive, but how much more will he grow?
Brown’s shooting numbers have dropped everywhere aside from the free-throw line this season, but teams might still be interested in seeing what happens if he’s not splitting time with a bunch of similar wings. He defends and rebounds well for his size, and retaining him might be more of a priority for Milwaukee now that it has sacrificed depth to add Jrue Holiday.
Memphis stole Melton from Phoenix last summer, and giving him consistent minutes changed its season. As long as the price isn’t crazy, the Grizzlies should look past his poor shooting and sign him long-term — he fits well next to Ja Morant and is one of the best young defenders in the league. Don’t be shocked, however, if an analytics-minded organization gives him a bigger offer sheet than you might have expected.
Another Grizzlies find and darling of draft nerds everywhere, Konchar went undrafted and spent most of this season with the Memphis Hustle. His pre-bubble production, though, was absurd: Per 36 minutes, he averaged 11.9 points, 11.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.8 blocks with a 72.3 percent true shooting percentage in the nine games he spent him in the Grizzlies’ rotation. Teams will definitely study those games, but it’s unclear if anybody will take a chance on him with an offer sheet.
McLaughlin is unknown to most NBA fans, but he could be a sneaky acquisition by a smart team, provided that the offer sheet is rich enough that Minnesota doesn’t automatically match it. In the last 15 games of the season, he averaged 16.5 points, 8.5 assists and 2.3 steals per 36 minutes, while shooting 55.2 percent and making 41.5 percent of his 3s. The 3-point shooting might not be sustainable, but he can definitely run a pick-and-roll and get to the rim at this level.
It’s not easy to be a 6-foot-1 guard if you’re not a high-level playmaker, but Carter has a place in the NBA because he’s a relentless defender and, based on his season with the Suns, can knock down 3s. Phoenix had a good thing going with him and Cameron Payne playing together on the second unit in the bubble.
Valentine spent most of the season in Jim Boylen’s doghouse, but there’s reason to believe he should’ve played more and can be a helpful reserve under Billy Donovan or with a different team. He’s a solid secondary playmaker and a decent shooter, and while he can’t be called a stopper, he provides versatility on defense.
Eubanks went undrafted in 2018 and didn’t get real NBA minutes until late February. The sample size is relatively small, but he surely earned another contract in the bubble, based on his defense and finishing ability.
If Williams had hit free agency after his first season, he’d be much more coveted. He was one of the Pelicans’ better defenders in 2019-20, but the shooting drop-off (in both volume and accuracy) is concerning.
Mathews might be a one-trick pony, but what a trick! If this sharpshooter winds up getting a better contract than his 227-minute NBA career would suggest, he should write Duncan Robinson a thank-you note.
The strengths and weaknesses have been the same all along: Fantastic, versatile defender, but he won’t do much with the ball and playoff opponents will ignore him on the perimeter. Denver needed his defense in the playoffs, but the offensive limitations make his future there murky — and will limit his value around the league.
Out of nowhere, Gabriel started the first two games of the Blazers’ series against the Lakers. It’s hard not to like his energy, but at 23 he’s still a project. Any team trying to add him would be hoping it can help him cut down on the fouls and refine his shot.
The famous four
Three of these guys have signed max deals and the other was on his way to doing that before an injury. Now, they’re just looking for the right opportunity.
Anthony said he wants to end his career in Portland, and his season there undeniably went better than his stops in Oklahoma City and Houston (despite his volume of long 2s going up and his accuracy going down). He’s 36, but as long he can keep hitting corner 3s, he can keep relieving pressure on the Blazers’ guards. Also: We’ll probably continue to hear Knicks rumors because of the CAA connection.
Whiteside’s counting stats look great, and he’s not the only one responsible for Portland’s awful defense. He doesn’t fit there if Jusuf Nurkic is healthy, though, and it’s unclear how far his numbers will get him on a market overflowing with centers.
Maybe the Lakers give him another shot on a minimum contract and hope he can get healthy. His ability to facilitate from the high post would add some diversity to their offense and take some pressure off of LeBron James. I just can’t fathom Cousins being their first or second priority, considering how well things went with JaVale McGee and Howard (and, when it truly mattered, Davis) manning the middle.
The 31-year-old Thomas made 41.3 percent of his 3s with the Wizards, and that didn’t stop them from dumping him. Sigh. The good news, though, is that he says he finally has his full range of motion back and is pain-free. Now he needs to prove he can be effective at the rim again — without doing that, his defensive limitations will scare teams away.
Five under 25
Only one of these players has any kind of track record when it comes to contributing to a winning team, but they all have upside.
Not many people were paying attention to the Nets after Kyrie Irving was ruled out for the season, but those who did were in for a treat whenever Chiozza was in the game. The 5-foot-11 guard has already drawn VanVleet comparisons — he’s a sturdy defender, a creative passer and, if his hot shooting is sustainable, he’ll never play another minute in the G League.
The Heat love his defensive versatility, and you know how fast he is and how high he jumps. In the playoffs, however, he went from being a key part of the rotation to only playing sporadic minutes. Any team investing in him is either making a bet that it can help him develop as a shooter or making a bet that it can make up for his glaring weakness in other ways.
Jackson had to start over with the Hustle, and the No. 4 pick in the 2017 draft didn’t make his Grizzlies debut until late January. He’s still a bit wild, he’s just 23 and he produced well just before the hiatus.
The Suns declined Diallo’s option to open up cap space. I like his finishing out of the pick-and-roll, but he didn’t have much of a role in the bubble and wouldn’t have had one in Phoenix going forward if it is planning to re-sign Saric. There are more polished bigs that will come just as cheap, but if you’re a rebuilding team, Diallo is more than worth a flier.
One of my favorite upside plays in free agency, Giles has been all over the place since his redshirt rookie season and I’m still confused about the Kings declining his fourth-year option. I’m also confused by the way he bounced in and out of Luke Walton’s rotation, sometimes getting DNPs and sometimes starting. It is definitely time for a consistent role somewhere else.
19 reserve guards
Need perimeter defense or someone to run a pick-and-roll?
Dunn is unique for a guard in 2020: An all-world defender who can be completely ignored behind the 3-point line. There will be teams interested in trying to account for his glaring flaw or help him eliminate it, but how much will they be willing to pay to do so?
Burke has been an efficient playmaker for a while now, and his shooting in the bubble was encouraging. If he can continue to make catch-and-shoot 3s, he has a chance to stick somewhere. Maybe the Mavericks hold on to him this time.
Napier keeps bouncing around. Wherever he goes, though, he is quietly competent, even when pressed into starting duty. One fun stat: he shot 67.3 percent in the restricted area last season.
Not sure if Harrison is viable in the playoffs, but for teams that want to force turnovers and push the pace, it’s worth finding out. Chicago declined to tender him a qualifying offer, so he’s actually gettable. The defense is legit.
What a time for a breakout season, and what a nice move by the Jazz to pick him up. Trading long 2s for 3s should pay off pretty well for Clarkson, whose scoring off the bench was desperately needed in Utah. The front office reportedly wants him back.
Credit Teague for recognizing when moving to the bench would suit him. He won’t be an exciting signing, but I expect he’ll be playing the same role for a playoff team next season.
Augustin would have been much better off if he had been on the market last summer, following the two most efficient seasons of his career. He’s still out there looking like Jameer Nelson for the Magic, though, and the 32-year-old’s shooting percentages would likely be higher if he had some semblance of spacing around him.
Burks’ Philadelphia stint was a mixed bag, but he could still be attractive to a team in need of a bucket-getter. One of those teams could be those same Sixers, even though he’d be a better fit if he could still get to the line the way he used to.
I thought the Pistons would capitalize on his career season by trading him before the deadline. They apparently couldn’t get much in return, but if you’re in the market for a combo guard, you could do much worse.
The floater king’s efficiency dipped last season, but perhaps that can be chalked up to his unstable role in the rotation. If it was a blip, then he could be a steal for somebody — Moore had been a reliable scorer and a solid enough defender before that.
Knee issues derailed Jackson in Detroit, but his efficient stint with the Clippers signaled that he’s not done. The shooting stood out, but he also competed pretty well on defense, which might be the more important factor for a contending team thinking about signing him. He fell out of the rotation in the second round, however.
Rivers could have stayed in Houston, where his 3s-and-layups approach to offense fit perfectly, but nobody knows what the Rockets are going to look like next season. After declining his $2.4 million player option, he’ll try his luck at getting more than the minimum elsewhere.
Wanamaker was a steadying presence for the Celtics throughout the regular season, and he had his moments in the playoffs, too. Boston will surely try to improve its bench, but he could still be a part of it, even after the front office declined to tender him a qualifying offer. His toughness and ability to play on and off the ball should be appealing to other contenders.
The Nets didn’t pick up their $5 million option on Temple, even though that is a perfectly reasonable number. Maybe they saw him as superfluous after acquiring Landry Shamet on draft night, maybe they’re just trying to avoid a gargantuan luxury-tax bill, maybe it’s a bit of both. Regardless, teams in need of a big guard who chips in everywhere — on and off the court — will try to snap him up quickly.
Neto is a smart passer and a pesky defender. He shot 38.6 percent from deep for the Sixers, but they would’ve liked to see him let it fly more quickly and more often.
Forbes takes a lot of 3s and makes them at a high rate, and he might be squeezed out of San Antonio because of its glut of guards. The 27-year-old microwave scorer would be a good get for any team that needs some punch on the second unit, as long as said team can make up for his defensive limitations.
After playing the worst basketball of his pro career in Phoenix in 2019-20, Johnson perked up with Brooklyn in the bubble. His lights-out midrange shooting and 39-percent mark from deep in Orlando probably aren’t sustainable, but will likely be enough to get him another chance.
Ferrell is coming off his least efficient season, but if you give him consistent minutes, the jitterbug point guard will give you some scoring punch off the bench.
Payton was genuinely productive for the Knicks last season, to the point that it was somewhat surprising that they let him walk. He would have looked even better on a team with real spacing, and as a late addition to the free-agent market he could be a bargain.
13 reserve wings
Everybody wants more wings. Everybody.
Bazemore’s forays into playmaking have diminished since leaving Atlanta, making him more of a 3-and-D guy. You wish the 3s were more consistent, but you’ll still like having him around.
Hood was widely expected to pick up his $6 million player option with the Blazers because he’s coming off a torn Achilles. He suffered the injury last December, but, according to ESPN, he’s ready to play. He’s one of the few playmakers with size on the market.
In his seventh season, Carter-Williams carved out a niche as a completely different player than the one who stuffed stat sheets en route to Rookie of the Year. Instead of initiating the offense on every possession, he functioned exclusively as a role-playing, defense-first wing. The lack of range is still an issue, but hey, maybe his improved free throw shooting is something to build on.
If he were younger, I’d argue that his 40.5 percent shooting from deep should get Holiday a real payday. He’s 31, though, and there will be skepticism about that holding up based on his track record. Nonetheless, he is an appealing 3-and-D option.
Matthews turned down an option worth $2.7 million, and while he wasn’t any different with the Bucks than he was with the Mavericks and Pacers, being a starter on a team that dominated in the regular season could potentially get him a raise in this market. He has already been linked to the Lakers.
It doesn’t sound like he wants to go anywhere, but Milwaukee has to choose which of its wings it wants back. Connaughton is easily the best athlete of the bunch, and he has a superpower.
The man turned 39 this past season, but his 3-point percentage remains higher than that. He fit as wonderfully as expected offensively next to Giannis Antetokounmpo and might have his pick of contenders again if he doesn’t retire. At this point in his career, though, there are defensive limitations here.
Ennis is a rotation-caliber wing thanks to his defensive versatility and athleticism. If he were more of a threat from the perimeter, then he’d easily make more than the $2.1 million option he turned down. Ennis might be able to find a raise out there, but it’s unlikely he’ll find a team out that can offer him a bigger role than the one he had with the Magic.
McRae got buckets in Washington before the trade deadline, and it was easily the best stretch of his NBA career. The question going forward is how his game translates on a team that prioritizes defense and doesn’t need him to shoot so much.
Green missed the whole 2019-20 season with a broken foot, and he reportedly wants to rejoin the Rockets. If their priorities remain spacing and switchability, he’s still a fit.
Miles only appeared in 10 games with the Wizards before a wrist injury cost him the rest of his 2019-20 season. It’s been a few years since he was an elite role player, but if he’s healthy and there should be a place for him on a roster as a floor-spacer.
Based on last season, Dotson is a 3-and-D guy who isn’t all that great at making 3s or playing defense. He was in a terrible environment, though, and was coming off of shoulder surgery. You can talk yourself into the 26-year-old based on his 2018-19 production.
Bacon wants a fresh start, and he’ll get his wish, as Charlotte declined to tender him a qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent. He looks like a prototypical 3-and-D wing, but clearly wants to do more on offense despite wildly inefficient results. I’m not sure what his scoring binges in the G League mean to prospective NBA suitors.
Eight reserve forwards
A few years ago, all of these guys played small forward. Now five of the eight spend some of their time at center.
It’s such a waste that Harkless finished the season as a Knick. He fit much better in Los Angeles, but it’s not a mystery why the Clippers wanted an upgrade — we’ve seen opponents ignore him on the perimeter in the playoffs.
Non-shooting forwards are almost extinct, so it’s fitting that Hollis-Jefferson wound up on a team named after a dinosaur. He guards every position, and, in the regular season, the Raptors made up for his lack of range about as well as they could have hoped.
Hernangomez needed the trade to Minnesota just as much as Beasley did, and I suspect he will re-sign and space the floor for D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns. If the Wolves go forward with all these guys, though, their defense is going to be a nightmare.
Playoff Rondo got most of the attention, but Morris also had something of a revival in the playoffs. I still can’t believe how well he played in the Houston series.
Robinson thrived with the gap-year Warriors, but never found his place with the Sixers before a hip injury ended his season. He can sop up minutes as a reserve, although he’d be a bit more attractive to contenders if he weren’t so midrange-happy.
You can’t call him a 3-and-D guy because he doesn’t take 3s unless he’s wide open. His 3-point percentage hasn’t been terrible the last couple of seasons, though, and it’s a bit surprising that the Magic chose to let him become an unrestricted free agent. Iwundu is a helpful defensive player who can put it on the floor a little bit.
If you’re looking for a defensive specialist, he’s your guy. It’s still the same story for Kidd-Gilchrist, though — opposing teams just don’t guard him.
Dudley mostly warmed the bench for the Lakers, but in the right situation his value can go beyond what he brings to the locker room. Two years ago in Brooklyn, his passing and smarts were invaluable and he played inspired defense against Ben Simmons in the playoffs.
12 reserve bigs
One of these players signed a four-year, $72 million contract in 2016. Another one turned down a four-year, $70 million contract in 2017. Do not expect anything like that this time.
Apparently, Green has been a small-ball 5 all along. At least that was the impression he gave off after a fantastic first-round series against the Thunder. Green didn’t fare as well against the eventual champs in the second round, but, after a rough few months with the Jazz, his Rockets stint painted him in a better light.
The 30-year-old makes sense in Denver’s system because he can facilitate from the high post. He has always been good at staying vertical in the paint, too. It seems extremely unlikely, however, that Millsap, Grant and Plumlee will all be back.
Noel shot 68.4 percent in OKC this season, up from 58.7 percent the previous year, thanks to its more organized, Chris Paul-led offensive system. He is still just 26 and a fine lob target, and on defense he’s disruptive, even if he’s not always in the right place.
Hmm, $2.3 million catching lobs from Luka or testing the market? Cauley-Stein chose the latter, so he’s betting that he’ll stick out among this crop of centers because of his ability to switch onto smaller players.
The story before the bubble: Good player, rough 2019-20 season. He was much better in Orlando, though, and by the end of the playoffs just about everybody thought he should’ve been getting more minutes at center. Walking away from $5 million guaranteed still seems a bit dangerous, however.
Leonard lost his spot in the rotation in the bubble but played his role well when he had it (and, yes, remained a good teammate when he didn’t). I just wish he’d shoot more 3s, given how accurate he is.
Len isn’t trying to be a stretch 5 anymore, and he looked more comfortable in Sacramento. It’s the wrong era for him to truly shine, but he’s a fine backup.
Despite having played for six teams in six seasons, Vonleh is still just 25 years old. He showed enough in his 2018-19 season in New York that he remains intriguing, but he fell out of the rotation in Minnesota before being dumped to Denver at the deadline. While there will be many more proven bigs competing for scarce roster spots, Vonleh comes with a hard-to-find combination of length, strength and defensive mobility.
Tolliver was not the stretch big that Portland hoped he’d be, but the 35-year-old was much better in Memphis. If he doesn’t stick around to help the Grizzlies’ young guys, he could find himself on another team in need of spacing and veteran savvy.
If we’re assuming the Bucks are going to exclusively use drop coverage against pick-and-rolls next season — and maybe they won’t, given how they went out — then re-signing is the perfect option for Lopez. He surprisingly declined his $5 million player option, though, so maybe he knows something we don’t.
The Knicks took a shot on Portis, and the safest bet in free agency was that they would decline to pay him $15.8 million to give it another go. He’s 25, so there’s still time for him to become more than a shoot-first, shoot-second scorer, but he isn’t efficient enough to justify all the bad defense.
Now that he’ll be playing for the minimum instead of $17 million per season, Biyombo will be a much more appealing option as a backup center. His offensive limitations are obvious, but he can still do damage defensively and on the boards.
20 more free agents of note: Gary Payton II, Taj Gibson, Ersan Ilyasova, Thon Maker, Frank Jackson (restricted), Emmanuel Mudiay, J.J. Barea, Ryan Broekhoff, Quinn Cook, Wayne Ellington, Gary Clark (restricted), Dion Waiters, Evan Turner, Bruno Caboclo, John Henson, Joakim Noah, Jahlil Okafor, Isaiah Hartenstein, Frank Kaminsky, Kyle O’Quinn.
More free agency reading: 13 questions on this free-agent class and the teams with money to spend
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