Ray Allen announced Wednesday that he wouldn’t be returning to the NBA this season and planned to sit out the rest of this year. The shooting guard has been a free agent since he left the Heat last summer, and teams were waiting patiently for the league’s all-time leader in three-pointers to make his decision.
In the end, he left them all hanging, however, forcing the likes of the Warriors, Spurs, Cavaliers, Bulls, Hawks and Heat to look elsewhere if they still feel the need to add more shooting in time for the postseason. In all, 14 teams were interested in Allen’s services, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears.
Now that he’s off the market, some of his pursuers will probably be content to move on with what they already have. As a 19-year veteran, Allen has a professionalism, skill-set and understanding of the game that would’ve made him a seamless addition wherever he went.
The remaining free agents don’t really fit that bill. The best options are the guys returning from the Chinese Basketball Association, whose season just ended. They’ll be fit and ready to play, but let’s be real, most of them were playing in China this year for a good reason. The rest of the remaining candidates are guys who have either been recently bought out or have been sitting on the market for months, all of which is to say, there probably aren’t many meaningful moves out there to be made.
Still, teams interested in tweaking their roster or addressing niche needs can look to do so. Power forward Thomas Robinson was quickly snapped up by the 76ers after the Nets were sure they would sign him, and center JaVale McGee has moved very quickly since his release from the Sixers, nearly signing with the Celtics before their deal fell through, much to the delight of McGee’s many suitors.
In light of those happenings, as well as Allen and fellow old-man free-agent Jermaine O’Neal’s decisions to sit out the year, here’s a look at the best remaining options for teams poking around the bottom of the free-agent barrel.
C JaVale McGee – After it was widely reported that the mercurial big man had reached a deal with the Boston Celtics, the two sides couldn’t agree on an option for next season, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. Woj also tweeted that the only playoff-contending teams not interested in McGee were the Cavaliers, Thunder and Clippers, which means the competition to sign McGee, again, will be crowded.
At one time, McGee was a promising enough shot-blocking youngster that Denver gave him a four-year contract worth more than $40 million. Obviously, that deal hasn’t worked out, as the eccentric McGee succumbed to some of his worst tendencies, constantly taking himself out of position chasing blocks and failing to develop any type of meaningful offensive game. Injuries have also limited his time on the floor over the past few years.
With all that athleticism, though, teams are hoping McGee can turn things around in the right environment, a la Hassan Whiteside in Miami. Woj is also saying Toronto has big-time interest since GM Masai Ujiri was the guy who gave McGee the big contract in Denver.
SF/PF Metta World Peace – Let’s get this one out of the way: it doesn’t look like Metta will be returning to the NBA this season, or seemingly ever again, as even Googling “Metta World Peace rumors” only brings up year-old speculation from Clippers blogs and the possibility of him joining various international basketball associations.
He can’t shoot anymore nor can he really guard anyone on the perimeter, and his penchant for publicity still makes him a bit of a lightning rod no matter where he goes. Teams surely can find less baggage and more production elsewhere.
SF/PF Andray Blatche – Blatche headlines the list of players returning from China, and his name has been linked with the Heat, Blazers and Mavericks. While the forward has been a headache for NBA teams in the past, Blatche enjoyed two productive seasons in Brooklyn before heading to China this year, and at 28 years old, he has much more left in the tank than other free agents.
Couple that relative youth with his good hands, solid athleticism, big frame and scoring touch, and it’s easy to understand why Blatche has drawn real interest since his return. It’s possible he could even have a real impact down the stretch as well, given that he’s already in game-shape after China.
G Jordan Crawford – Last season, Crawford enjoyed a hot shooting start to the season with Boston, who tried to sell high on the young guard, shipping him to Golden State for a second-round pick. Sell high, indeed!
Backing up Stephen Curry, Crawford was a total flop, and the Warriors replaced him with Shaun Livingston in the offseason. Crawford was forced to play overseas, and although he didn’t play in many games, he did put up numbers, putting up nearly 30 points per game.
Crawford’s inefficiency against better competition and total lack of defense will probably put him at the bottom of most team’s lists, sadly, but if anyone is looking for a totally unafraid chucker, he’s your guy.
PG Bobby Brown – Brown has been playing overseas for several seasons now, and he has been one of the most successful US-born players in doing so. He scored 74 points in a game during the 2013 season of the Chinese Basketball Association, and he was honored earlier that same year with the Alfonso Ford Trophy, given to the top scorer in the Euro Basketball Association.
Clearly, Brown can put the ball in the basket, but he hasn’t played in the NBA since the 2009-10 season with the New Orleans Hornets and Los Angeles Clippers. He could be an immediate scoring boost off the bench for any in need of one, although the Wizards opted to trade for Ramon Sessions rather than signing Brown at the trade deadline. It’ll be intriguing to see if the 30-year-old scoring machine will get another chance in the league not just this season, but beyond.
G Will Bynum – This season, Bynum was the replacement for draft darling Emmanuel Mudiay after the youngster suffered an ankle injury in China, and he enjoyed a very successful season in doing so.
The question now is whether it bought him another shot in the league. Bynum is already 32, having played international ball both before and during his NBA stint, and he put up middling numbers on brutal Detroit teams during the last couple seasons.
Bynum is a strong guard capable of playing either position on offense, although his lack of size hurts him no matter what on the defensive end. Still, he’s in game shape with a decent track record in this league, so perhaps a team with backcourt issues could throw him a 10-day contract or two.
SG/SF Ronnie Brewer – Brewer, unfortunately, is a wing player who can’t shoot, not even corner threes, which is pretty much a death sentence for wing players in this league.
Brewer is a good athlete who plays good defense, and offensively, he’s actually a canny cutter, although that ability is diminished when opponents play a mile off him. Still, he has bounced around on offensive-heavy teams during the last couple seasons, so perhaps a high-scoring team in need of a wing defender (Clippers? Heat?) will kick the tires.
PF Earl Clark – Houston claimed Clark off waives in October, only to get cut days later. He has since been playing overseas as well, and the former Louisville player is just a couple years removed from a semi-successful stint with the Lakers.
Clark isn’t an efficient scorer inside, nor is his jump-shot good enough to turn him into a reliable stretch 4. He’s a career 33 percent three-point shooter, but that’s on a tiny, 286-attempt sample size, so given his relative youth at 25 years old, there’s a chance he could continue to improve that stroke. A team looking for length insurance on defense could take a look at Clark if they believe he won’t sink them at the other end.
C Samuel Dalembert – After being cut by the Knicks earlier this season, Dalembert’s name was popping up in all the rumors, especially among teams looking for rim protection.
There hasn’t been much movement on Dalembert since his release in early January, though, so perhaps teams have cooled on him. The Mavericks, one of the teams most in-the-market for big men after trading Brandan Wright, recently opted to sign Bernard James for the rest of the season rather than try out Dalembert.
With O’Neal now seemingly intent on sitting out the season and the always-scarce market for rim protection, it’s still possible a team could give Dalembert a look as an emergency big man.
PG Jordan Farmar – Farmar was cut by the Clippers earlier this season, and after it was rumored that the Cavaliers were planning to pick him up, Cleveland opted to roll with Matthew Dellavedova instead. That alone is not a ringing endorsement for Farmar, who has since joined a Turkish basketball team, probably because he also realized that if Dellavedova and Austin Rivers (who replaced him with LAC) are taking your roster spots, it’s probably time to move on.