NBA

NBA free agency 2021: 10 players still in limbo, including Dennis Schroder, Lauri Markkanen and Josh Hart

Some people will tell you that  NBA free agency is over. I will tell you that free agency is over if you’re a casual

If you really care about the NBA, you might be too busy binge-watching summer league to keep track of the players who are still unsigned a full week in. Here are 10 names that are still on the board, starting with the guy who appears to have lost the big game of point guard musical chairs. 

Now that he’s in limbo, it appears that Schroder pulled a Nerlens when he turned down an $84 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Lakers. If he’s willing to take a short-term deal and try his luck again next summer, it makes sense that he has reportedly talked to the Boston Celtics. The Celtics need some more playmaking now that Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier are in New York, and Schroder needs a playoff-caliber team that has minutes for him.

Before his up-and-down year with the Lakers, Schroder was the runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year in 2019-20 as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. That season, he averaged 18.9 points on a career-high 57.5 percent true shooting, regularly closing games next to Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Wherever he lands up, the burden is on him to prove that he can be that efficient again. 

Markkanen doesn’t want to be a Chicago Bull anymore. The trouble is that he’s a restricted free agent, so the Bulls can match any offer he receives (or negotiate a sign-and-trade). There has been reported interest from the New Orleans Pelicans and Charlotte Hornets, two teams that do not currently employ a 7-footer who can stretch the floor.

Normally, for a player who fits that description and is 24 years old, free agency would not be complicated. Markkanen, however, had not actually made 3s at an above-average rate until he shot 40 percent last season, and he has never been a plus defender. Any team signing him is betting on the flashes that he has shown over his four years in Chicago and hoping that a fresh start will bring the best out of him. 

The Pelicans have had an extremely weird offseason, but it’s not complete until the Hart situation is sorted out. Like Markkanen, he’s a restricted free agent, but, unlike Markkanen, there is not much uncertainty about what Hart brings to the table. He doesn’t shoot quite well enough to fit the 3-and-D mold, but he’s an awesome rebounder for a 6-foot-5 guy and holds his own guarding bigger players. 

Teams love versatile wings, and yet Hart is still out there. Restricted free agency can be tricky; teams interested in him either need cap space to sign him to an offer sheet or need to meet New Orleans’ asking price in a sign-and-trade. 

MIllsap turns 37 next February, and that doesn’t mean we should just pencil him in as a Laker. Any contending team looking for versatility in the frontcourt could use him. 

I bet Denver would have been happy to have Millsap back if it hadn’t been able to sign Jeff Green. The days of him playing 30-plus minutes a night are over, but he’s a smart vet who can still defend better than most of the backup bigs available.  

Bradley, 31, became a free agent when the Rockets declined his $5.9 million player option. He’s often mentioned as a candidate for one of the Lakers’ last roster spots because A) he was on the team in 2019-20, pre-bubble, and B) their roster is perilously thin when it comes to point-of-attack defense. Everybody knows that is Bradley’s specialty, and he’s also a smart cutter who shoots a decent percentage. 

Bringing back Matthews, 34, is another possibility for Los Angeles, if he doesn’t mind the logjam. He didn’t shoot particularly well last season (34.7 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s), but remains a solid and switchable defender: I wonder if he’d be interested in reuniting with the Jazz, who signed him as an undrafted rookie 12 years ago. 

Redick’s 2020-21 season was derailed by a heel injury, but if healthy he could surely help a contending team offensively. There still aren’t many guys in the league who can consistently hit contested 3s on the move. 

One would assume that he’d still like to be close to his Brooklyn home.

There typically isn’t a huge market for players who are out of the rotation in the playoffs. Galloway was a victim of circumstance, though, a combo guard stuck behind Chris Paul, Devin Booker and the emerging Cameron Payne. (The same was true for floater extraordinaire E’Twaun Moore, who also remains unsigned.)

When Galloway did play last season, he mostly played off the ball, and he shot 43.8 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s. He’d be a nice, under-the-radar signing for a team in need of backcourt help.. 

I can’t help but wonder what kind of contract Mykhailiuk would have signed if he were a free agent last offseason, coming off a year in which he made 42 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3s. I don’t need to explain the appeal of a 6-foot-7 wing who can shoot the lights out, but that number fell to 33.2 percent last season.

The Thunder rescinded his qualifying offer, so Mykhailiuk is now an unrestricted free agent. 

A teammate of Mykhailiuk’s on the extremely cursed 2018-19 Lakers, Bonga is also unrestricted, as the suddenly deep Washington Wizards declined to issue him a qualifying offer. Bonga’s offensive game remains raw heading into his fourth season, but he doesn’t even turn 22 until November and he makes ridiculous defensive plays right now. A rebuilding team should take a flier on him.


Five more questions: If LaMarcus Aldridge decides to unretire, is he definitely going back to Brooklyn? … Is anyone going to give Isaiah Thomas a shot? … Did you know that Frank Ntilikina (drafted No. 8 in 2017 by New York, now an unrestricted free agent) is younger than Obi Toppin (drafted No. 8 in 2020 by New York)? Is the D.J. Wilson hive still out there? Does Detroit have minutes for Hamidou Diallo



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