NBA's Top 50 free agents
NBA's Top 50 free agents - by Kurt Helin
Free agency in the NBA comes up fast — the Finals end, it’s less than two weeks until the draft and then in less than a week free agency opens. It’s head spinning.
And it’s hard to keep track of who is out there as a free agent — so we at PBT are here to help.
Here is my list of the top 50 free agents on the market. Some of them — the guy at the top of the list or that guy in Dallas just a few spots below him — are not really going to test the open market, but they are free agents and on the list. Comb through it and see who your team should sign… then go look at the salary cap numbers and see if you can make it work.
1. LeBron James
Simply the single best player on the planet and whatever team is on is an instant contender. It has never been likely that he would leave Miami unless Wade and Bosh made a power grab, they didn’t (opting out as well) and now those three are just figuring out the numbers so Pat Riley has room to maneuver. LeBron is not taking meetings with other teams. That said, there is nobody like him in the game today and he is a free agent, so he has to top the list.
Update: After much speculation, James announced July 11 that he would be taking his talents back home to Cleveland, signing a two-year, $42 million deal with the Cavs.
2. Carmelo Anthony
This is the one guy in our top four who is actually available. He can be had. Anthony can flat-out get buckets and with that he improves your team instantly. No, he doesn’t defend well. Yes, when he’s on offense the ball sticks sometimes. But the man is a versatile scorer — shoots the three, puts the ball on the floor and drives, draws fouls, hits contested looks, and rebounds. If you put him on a team with a good defensive center and a point guard who can keep him from dominating the ball, he can take you to the top.
Update: Citing his dedication and love for the city of New York, Anthony announced July 13 on his website that he would remain with the Knicks.
3. Chris Bosh
His skill set is often undersold by people who don’t get the game or what Miami asked him to do. He is a shooter who can score inside and out (but prefers the jumper, and he hits the three). He plays a very high IQ game, understands spacing and system. He is one of the two or three best big men in the NBA defending the pick-and-roll. He willingly took a lesser role in Miami and is comfortable with it, which is why he’s not bolting. He will take less to stay, he is personally and professionally happy in Miami.
Update: Though the Rockets came calling, Bosh chose to remain in Miami and will sign a $118 million, five-year deal to stay with the Heat.
4. Dirk Nowitzki
Just a pure scoring machine — smart and efficient. He hits threes, can score on the block and if he gets the ball at the elbow the defender is helpless. He’s getting older and his defense is slipping, but he’s still a top player in the league. He’s not leaving Dallas, the only question is how much he makes — last season he made $22.7 million and owner Mark Cuban said he will pay Nowitzki whatever he wants, but expect Dirk to take something closer to half last year’s salary, to help the team have room to chase a free agent.
Update: Dallas's franchise star graciously took a pay cut to keep the Mavericks competitive and allow the team to bring in more free agents. The deal was signed at $25 million for three years.
5. Eric Bledsoe
He came back from knee surgery last year and reminded everyone that he is incredibly athletic and can lift a team. He can score in transition, attacks the rim, looks like a top offensive weapon and is a dogged defender. Teams might be right to be concerned about his health. Suns GM Ryan McDonough has said they will match any offer — and remember he traded for Bledsoe, he’s not letting him go. If Bledsoe doesn’t get the max he will not be far off it.
6. Kyle Lowry
An aggressive, attacking, driving player (and forceful defender), and after his agent laid it on the line for him Lowry’s off-the-court demeanor and issues improved last season. He is the best pure point guard in the class and a team can actually get him. That means a guy long underpaid in this league is about to get his due. The Raptors want to keep him but it’s going to come down to price, Lowry will have many suitors (and there are plenty of Heat rumors, depending on how much money they have).
Update: Lowry re-signed with the Raptors in a four-year, $48 million deal.
7. Greg Monroe
Potential future All-Star big man who has a versatile offensive game — he can score and make good decisions from the elbow, he finishes well from the post and runs the floor well. Stan Van Gundy would love to see how Monroe and Andre Drummond would grow together but Joe Dumars also left Josh Smith and his massive contract in the way. Monroe has been good not great so far in his career but he has some real fans around front offices that think the problems were how the Pistons used him, not Monroe himself. Don’t be shocked if he gets a max offer that the Pistons cannot match.
8. Chandler Parsons
Incredibly athletic wing player who can hit the three and finish strong at the rim. He gets offensive spacing, his defense is a work in process but improving. The Rockets do not want to let him go, which is why they didn’t pick up his option (he could have played for them for less than $1 million but then been an unrestricted free agent next summer). He’s restricted and the Rockets will not turn their attention to him until after they go big game hunting, another team may step in with a big offer but the Rockets are very likely to match.
Update: Parsons isn't leaving Texas, but he won't be in Houston. He was acquired by the Dallas Mavericks with a three-year, $46 million offer.
9. Lance Stephenson
He is in alternating moments both brilliant and a nightmare. He can create shots for himself and others, he attacks on offense and can finish through contact. Very versatile defender. Then there’s the guy either blowing in LeBron’s ear or taking plays (and games) off, his aggressive style can become wild and reckless. How much are teams willing to bet on his maturity — how much are Larry Bird and the Pacers wiling to bet? Will another team that strikes out on their first big free agent targets go big with Stephenson as the fallback? One of the most interesting free agent scenarios to watch.
Update: After meeting with owner Michael Jordan and head coach Steve Clifford, Stephenson signed a three-year, $27 million deal with Charlotte.
10. Dwyane Wade
For a stretch, he can still be Dwyane Wade — he will destroy you in space, can attack the rim and handle contact, he plays a smart game and he understands what the Heat will do on offense. Of the “big three” he is the least likely to leave Miami and Pat Riley made it clear one way or another they would take care of the face of the franchise.
Update: Wade signed a new contract to return to the Heat on July 15, inscribing his devotion to Miami on social media: "Home Is Where The Heart Is… My Home,My City,My House..#HeatLifer"
11. Gordon Hayward
A guy with a number of fans in front offices around the league for his well rounded game — the Suns reportedly may offer the max, but the Jazz would match. He is a good scorer (16 points a game) inside and out, creates shots, good defender, and is fairly efficient. He’s good at a lot of things, great at none of them. How much will another team offer him to be a guy who can fit in as a second/third option, how much will the Jazz match?
Update: The Jazz matched the Hornets' four-year, $63 million offer for Hayward, who tweeted, "Officially back with the @utahjazz!!!! Wanna thank them and all of #jazznation for believing in me! Lots of work ahead..." on July 12.
12. Luol Deng
Really strong defender who is an underrated offensive weapon (as a third scoring option he will get you points as the roll man or cutting off the ball). I think being on a Bulls team without Derrick Rose then being buried with the Cavaliers may help a team get him at a good price. Could be a good grab for an established team (Miami, Houston, Dallas) or a team on the rise.
Update: As of July 13, Deng was committed to sign a two-year, $20 million contract with the Heat.
13. Marcin Gortat
Very complete, well-rounded game, capable of playing power ball inside, he has a steady midrange jumper. Good defender but not always timely with the help. Just solid. Washington sent a crew from the front office to Poland to pitch him before free agency starts, but he’s the kind of guy a team with a little cap space and a need up front could use. (Miami?)
Update: In early July, Gortat agreed to a five-year, $60 million deal with the Wizards to keep him in Washington.
14. Paul Gasol
He’s getting a little older but it looked worse than it really was thanks to Mike D’Antoni’s system. He’s still a very polished scorer, either from the low post or the elbow, has a midrange shot, has good court vision and is a very good passing big man, plus he defends better than he gets credit for. Look for a good team to pick him up (he wants to contend) and look for him when used right to have a bounce-back season. Then Lakers fans ask, “Why didn’t he play like that for us?” D’Antoni.
Update: While Gasol said the decision "wasn't easy" via Twitter, he signed a three-year, $22 million-plus contract with the Bulls, turning down a contract to stay with the Lakers.
15. Channing Frye
He is a classic stretch four — 55.5 percent of his shots were three pointers last season and he hit 37 percent of them, which is actually below his career average). Teams tend to do better when he is on the court. He opted out looking for a longer-term deal in Phoenix but teams looking at bigger name fours who strike out could come calling.
Update: Frye reached a four-year, $32 million deal with the Magic on July 7.
16. Isaiah Thomas
Fans in Sacramento love the guy and with good reason — he is small but lightning quick, gets to the rim, and last season he averaged 20 points a game with a very efficient .574 true shooting percentage. He’s a score first point guard. His big issue is defense, not for lack of effort but his size has teams just shooting over the top of him. Sacramento’s front office seems torn on him, will be interesting to see if another team will try to poach him with a big offer.
Update: The Kings traded Thomas to the Suns in exchange for Alex Oriakhi. Thomas signed a four-year, $28 million deal with his new team.
17. Trevor Ariza
He is a good defender who last year shot the ball well all over the court on his way to 14.4 points a game and a .590 true shooting percentage. But this is not the first time he had a really good year in a contract year, and last time he fell off a few steps the next season. Teams should be leery. Washington has made re-signing him a priority.
Update: The Wizards engaged in a three-team trade with Houston and New Orleans, signing Ariza to a four-year, $32 million contract and sending him to the Rockets for a $8.5 million trade exemption.
18. Avery Bradley
He is a fantastic defender, someone you can throw at quick point guards and slow them down. You might look at him as a “3-and-D” guy as he hit 39.5 percent from three last season, but he needs to be on a team where someone else is creating the shots and he’s just knocking them down.
Update: Bradley will be returning to the Celtics after signing a four-year, $32 million contract.
19. Paul Pierce
He’s not your primary scoring option anymore but he’s still got this crafty ability to get off his shot and knock it down with a hand in his face, whether from three or the elbow. He’ll be 37, no long term deals are coming, but he can help a contender. Likely to re-sign in Brooklyn but the Clippers among others reportedly will make a pitch.
Update: With Trevor Ariza headed to Houston, the Wizards signed a two-year, $10.8 million deal with Pierce, who took to Twitter to express his excitement about heading to Washington: “Obama, [John] Wall here I come."
20. Boris Diaw
As the Miami Heat can tell you, he’s a very versatile player that they found hard to defend because he’s both smart and unpredictable. He can shoot the three, drive the lane, and is a gifted passer. When focused as he has been in San Antonio he’s good, but put him in another situation such as Charlotte and he almost ate his way out of the league. It’d be a surprise if he signs with anyone other than the Spurs.
Update: Diaw announced July 6 that he would be staying in San Antonio with a three-year, $22 million deal.
21. Andray Blatche
He had a bounce back year in Brooklyn and that will get some teams to come calling. He scored 11 points a game with a pedestrian true shooting percentage of .532. Not a great defender. Look at his history and there are questions, but he deserves a raise from the $1.4 million he made last year and some team will give it to him, likely the Nets to keep him.
22. Nick Young
Swaggy P is an unrepentant gunner who never met a shot he didn’t like, but will make more of them than he should. If a team is looking for a sixth-man to just come in and put up points he’s a fit, ask him to do more than that and they’ll regret it.
Update: Opting to stay in L.A., Young signed a four-year, $21.5 million agreement with the Lakers.
23. Shaun Livingston
One of the best comeback stories in the NBA, he has developed into a rock-solid point guard. In Brooklyn last year Deron Williams could still make the high-end plays that Livingston can’t anymore, but Livingston was steadier and smoother with the offense. May not be able to go heavy minutes with him, but a solid addition to any roster.
Update: Livingston is headed to the west coast: he signed a three-year, $16 million deal with the Warriors.
24. Vince Carter
The athleticism that made him legendary only shows in flashes now (and at age 37 those flashes become more infrequent) but he is a reliable, steady scorer and a smart, veteran player. Great fit in Dallas, which wants to retain him.
Update: Carter is leaving Dallas to play for Memphis, and finalized a three-year, $12.2 million contract on July 11.
25. Rodney Stuckey
He attacks the rim aggressively, has a decent midrange game, and is basically a volume scorer (he put up 13.9 points a game last season but with a below averaged true shooting percentage of .516). If you’re looking for a sixth man to bring points, toughness and energy off the bench he’s a good call.
Update: The former Piston will become a Pacer after signing a contract with Indiana on July 21. Details had not yet been disclosed.
26. Darren Collison
A solid backup point guard who played well for the Clippers last season when Chris Paul was down for a stretch. He’s still quick, but picks his spots to use it. One of the better backup point guards on the market this summer and the Clippers have made keeping him a top priority.
Update: Collison will move up the coast to Sacramento, where the Kings offered him a three-year, $16 million contract.
27. Greivis Vasquez
He’s a quality backup point guard — he’s got good size, is quicker than you think and a very adept passer. He has lateral quickness issues which really show on the defensive end. So long as you are using him as a backup he can be a quality addition to a team.
Update: Vasquez signed a two-year, $13 million contract to stay with the Raptors. He's feeling pretty confident about his team, too, and said at a media availability in May he thinks the Raptors can be "the OKC in the East."
28. Josh McRoberts
Works hard on every possession and if you don’t think he’s athletic you will end up in one of his poster dunks. He’s good at a lot of things — passing, being tough inside and can hit some threes. He’s not great at any one thing. He was key in Charlotte last season and they want him back but other teams will have interest.
Update: McRoberts is headed further south and penned a four-year deal with Miami that will pay him $5.3 million next season.
29. Ray Allen
Still in great shape, still the consummate professional and still can knock down the corner three. But the fading athleticism has made doing things other than shooting (such as defending) difficult and he seems frustrated by that (speaking to him at the Finals I got that impression). Likely re-signs with Heat, maybe another contender, or retires.
30. Shawn Marion
The days of “the Matrix” are gone but he still is solid with the ability to hit the three, drive inside and score (or post up smaller players) and he’s a decent defender. At age 36 it should be a short deal but he can help a team looking for forward depth. Dallas wants to retain him.
31. Anthony Morrow
He shot 45.1 percent from three last season — he does that one thing very well (and not much else), but that one thing is important so he will get some nice checks coming his way.
Update: Morrow agreed to a three-year, $10 million deal with the Thunder, with a team option in year three.
32. Spencer Hawes
A floor spacing big man who averaged 15.3 points a game and shot 41.6 percent from three last season. He is a good passer, can block a few shots and get you a few rebounds. Teams looking for a big to stretch out defenses could do a lot worse.
Update: Though both Portland and Phoenix tried to court him, Hawes agreed to a four-year, $23-million deal with the Clippers.
33. Chris Andersen
He can rebound, block shots and is very mobile for a big man, but at age 36 the athleticism for his size that made him stand out (well, besides all the ink) is fading. How fast he fades determines his value. He wants more than the $1.4 million he was on the hook for last season.
Update: Andersen and the Heat have agreed to a multi-year contract, with financial specifics yet to be disclosed.
34. Thabo Sefolosha
A “3-and-D” guy who shot just 31.6 percent from three last season for OKC. He’s just 30, if you think the three point shot will return he’s a solid pickup, but if it has taken back off to Switzerland his usefulness is limited.
Update: The Swiss native signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Hawks.
35. Glen Davis
Big Baby salvaged himself somewhat after a disastrous end in Orlando by being the best Clipper big man off the bench come the playoffs (which meant he just had to be better than Ryan Hollins, Davis is still that). He’s an okay scorer, rebounder and defender, but can go through long unfocused stretches. After series of injuries not going to get a long term deal.
Update: "Big Baby" re-signed with the Clippers for one year at $1.2 million, the minimum for a veteran player. It's a small decrease from the $1.4 million he would have made with the Clippers next season had he not opted to be a free agent.
36. Danny Granger
Like Big Baby had a bit of a resurgence with the Clippers last season but Doc Rivers leaned on him less come the playoffs. Not near the All-Star pre-knee surgeries guy, he can still be a solid part of the rotation on the wing.
Update: Reportedly hoping for a chance to play alongside LeBron James, Granger took a pay cut and signed a two-year, $4.2 million agreement with Miami before James announced his decision to play for Cleveland.
37. Marvin Williams
A guy with all the physical tools and a very laid-back, unaggressive, uninspired game. He can be part of a team’s rotation but they can’t lean on him for much.
Update: Looking to replace forward Josh McRoberts, the Hornets signed Williams to a two-year, $14 million contract.
38. Patty Mills
He’s very quick and can get to the rim and get you points. He’s aggressive by nature, loves every shot he sees, but also is an adept passer. He’s played really well in the Spurs system this season, buyer beware if you try to put him in another one. Spurs want to keep him.
Update: The Australian guard opted to return to San Antonio for a three-year contract, with financial specifics undisclosed.
39. Jodie Meeks
He’s a shooter but he does it efficiently — 74.2 percent of his shots were three pointers (hitting 40.1 percent) or at the rim. Had a .601 true shooting percentage last season. He was asked to score in Mike D’Antoni’s wide open system, how he fits in others is the question.
Update: Meeks decided Motor City was his new destination and signed a three-year $19.5 million deal with the Pistons.
40. P.J. Tucker
He was a tough, gritty, enforcer of a defensive player who shot 38.7 percent from three last season to provide a little value at the other end. Whether he can do that for a team other than the Suns remains to be seen.
Update: Not quite ready to part with Phoenix, Tucker re-signed with the Suns for a three-year, $16.5 million deal.
41. Evan Turner
His stock plummeted after how he played in Indiana — he put up raw numbers in Philly where he was asked to shoot but when forced to blend into the Pacers team concept he could not. What team is going to look to bring him in now?
Update: The Celtics inked Turner to a deal that will make him fight for minutes with the likes of Avery Bradley, Marcus Thornton, and Jeff Green.
42. Mario Chalmers
He can hit the three, play a little defense and turn the ball over more than he should. Is used to teammates yelling at him. He’s not a bad point guard but Miami would love to upgrade the spot.
Update: Chalmers will be back with the Heat for at least two years. "Proud to say I'm back wit the heat. Heat nation we still here," he tweeted on July 13.
43. Xavier Henry
He found a rhythm and a way to use his athleticism in Mike D’Antoni’s offense but there are questions about what he brings to something more structured. Needs to land on an up-tempo team.
Update: Henry will stay with the Lakers for a veterans' minimum of $1,063,384 for one year. "Prove em wrong again #LA," he announced on Twitter following the deal.
44. Jerryd Bayless
Another solid backup point guard out there on the market — he’s quick, can get inside and is a threat from three, knows how to run a team. Will have the occasional big numbers night. Makes a nice sixth man.
Update: Veteran NBA coach Jason Kidd played a large role in wooing Bayless to the Milwaukee Bucks. Bayless, who believes Kidd can help him in a variety of ways, signed for two years at $3 million each season.
45. Ramon Sessions
Add him to the list of quality reserve point guards out there. He can get to the rim and score, does know how to set up teammates and is solid at running the team. Seems like he’s been around forever but he’s just 28.
46. Steve Blake
He worked hard to become decent at running Mike D’Antoni’s offense, got traded to Golden State and was a mess. He can shoot the three, can play off or with the ball, but needs a defined (and somewhat limited) role.
Update: Blake is returning to the Blazers with a two-year, reported $4.2 million deal. Blake isn't new to town, either. He had two previous stints in Portland before playing for the Lakers, Clippers and Warriors.
47. C.J. Miles
He’s a good shooter (39.3 percent from three last season) and that’s a good reason to keep him in the rotation, coming off the bench to knock down shots. Not going to get much beyond that.
Update: After talking it over with team president Larry Bird, Miles inked a four-year, $18 million deal with the Pacers.
48. Mike Miller
He was actually healthy last season and helped the Memphis Grizzlies space the floor, plus he plays a smart game and can make some good reads on defense. That said there is a long injury history so it’s a buyer beware signing.
Update: Though the Nuggets offered him $12 million over three years, Miller decided to take less and sign with the Cavaliers to reunite with LeBron James.
49. Jordan Hill
A pure hustle guy, his numbers indicated he should have played more for the Lakers but they had frustrations with him off the court that bled over. Can be a solid rotation big that the fans will love because he works hard every play.
Update: Hill will remain in Los Angeles after signing a two-year, $18 million deal with the Lakers.
50. Caron Butler
He knocked down 44.1 percent of his threes in Oklahoma City, which got him minutes in front of the fading Sefolosha. He’s liked in the locker room, good in the community and brings a decent all-around offensive game but no defense to the table.
Update: Butler signed a two-year deal with the Pistons for around $10 million.