NBA free agency is well beyond the madness of the opening hours and the drama of Gordon Hayward’s decision, but there are still some good players left on the market that are worth some interest.
Jonathon Simmons (restricted)
Simmons is one of the most entertaining, promising players left in free agency. He has given the Spurs a much-needed boost of explosion and versatile, athletic perimeter defense outside of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, and put everything on display in the playoffs when he delivered plenty of impressive stretches of defense on James Harden. His 3-point shooting is still a big question mark, but Simmons’ defense speaks for itself (particularly on the ball) and he has shown improvements with the ball in his hands as a strong driver and developing playmaker.
The market is dry this summer and there isn’t a ton of money flying around, so it looks like it may be easier for the Spurs to re-sign Simmons now than it did before free agency started. That shouldn’t stop other teams in need of wing help from making offers, though.
Nerlens Noel (restricted)
It would be surprising to see Noel sign anywhere other than Dallas. He’s a restricted free agent, which allows the Dallas Mavericks to match any offer for him — which they should want to do. Even though Noel has a bit of an injury history, he has more room to grow at just 23 years old. He gives the Mavs exactly what they could use as they reload with a younger core: an athletic, super agile, defensive, floor running center.
And as Eddie Seiko of SportsDay has reported, the Mavs intend to match any offer for Noel:
“Ones that also are in need of a center and are trying to build a young core: New York, Brooklyn, Phoenix and Sacramento. But again, the word is out there that the Mavericks have every intention of matching whatever offer Noel might get on the open market. For that reason, it’s not real likely that there’s any competition at all.”
Noel may not be going anywhere, but teams will make offers. He’s at least worth mentioning here due to how much he can do as a center that could complement so many teams around the league, possessing such rare foot speed and mobility for a 6-foot-11 big man.
Mason Plumlee (restricted)
Further down the chain of highly agile, defensive centers, we have Plumlee. He’ll likely be another victim of the poor market this season, especially for centers. There just isn’t much money for them after teams overpaid with so many ugly contracts last year and there generally seems to be an influx of players at the position, with no teams entering this summer desperately in need of a center to the point that they’ll fork out a big contract.
Aron Baynes went to Boston on a one-year, $4.3 million deal, and it seems fairly likely that Denver can keep Plumlee at a similar cost. Even though Plumlee is a talented passer and a decent player overall, the lack of reported interest in him and the center market makes it look like the Nuggets won’t have to match too many big offers. He’s a restricted free agent as well, which only helps prevent Denver losing him for nothing after trading Jusuf Nurkic and a first-round pick to Portland for him in February.
After not playing as well with the Nuggets to end the season, Plumlee should see improvement in 2017-18 when he’s better acclimatized to the team and his new role. He can be utilized more effectively as a supporting playmaker behind Nikola Jokic.
Nikola Mirotic (restricted)
Nikola Mirotic hasn’t had the best run in Chicago. It’s a tough situation for anyone, and consistency has been the issue for him in an offense where he hasn’t really been working to his strengths. With three dominant ballhandlers around him in Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler, Mirotic couldn’t do as much, reducing his opportunities to drive and show some of his ability as a playmaker. In a largely spot-up role with less opportunity to attack (again, that was more difficult with such poor spacing), Mirotic had plenty of ups and downs and only shot 34.2 percent from 3, a fair decline from the 39 percent he recorded the season before.
Regardless of his struggles in a rough situation, though, Mirotic has voiced his intent to re-sign with the Bulls before, and he still has room to improve.
After the Bulls drafted Lauri Markkanen (another tall white guy who shoots 3s), it was easy enough to assume they’d be letting Mirotic get more money elsewhere in free agency. But with the market being so tight, it looks like they could keep Mirotic’s additional shooting and driving/playmaking off the dribble for a fairer price. On the other hand, if a team does suddenly pop up with a sizable offer, the Bulls have more incentive to let Mirotic walk now that they’ve entered a full-on rebuild and have Markkanen to look to. Out of this list, Mirotic is an interesting one to watch.
Pau Gasol (unrestricted)
Gasol declined his $16.2 million player option for 2017-18, which was a vital part of the San Antonio Spurs creating enough cap space to make a move for Chris Paul. Once the Paul-to-Houston trade went down, though, Gasol’s selfless financial decision wasn’t so necessary after the Spurs’ top free-agent target was off the table. And while there’s obviously a chance for Gasol to stay put in a great situation and still take less money to help the team put together enough for a run at the Golden State Warriors (Rudy Gay coming off an Achilles injury alone hasn’t exactly tipped the tide in their favor), he could move for more money elsewhere.
Even at 37 years old with such poor mobility and defense away from the basket, Gasol still has something to offer, either to a young team looking for a veteran or for a contender looking for inexpensive depth. Gasol rebounds at a solid rate (11.3 per 36 minutes), his stellar passing ability isn’t going anywhere, he’s a reliable mid-range shooter (an impressive 48.2 percent from between 16 feet and the arc) and he even hit 56 of his 104 3-point attempts last season.
On a short, cheap deal, Gasol can still make a positive impact.
JaMychal Green (restricted)
JaMychal Green could help a bunch of NBA teams. He had a strong season for Memphis, averaging 8.9 points and 7.1 rebounds in 27.3 minutes per game with 75 starts. Limited offensive production aside, he still hit 37.9 percent of his 3s (55 makes for the year, a major improvement over 15 in 2015-16) and can stretch the floor well enough. Thanks to his athleticism, energy and switchy defense, he’s a solid power forward that offers Memphis more modern two-way play than Zach Randolph, who has now departed for Sacramento.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on July 4 that the Grizzlies made an offer to Green on July 1 and they’re awaiting an offer sheet. It’s even more important for the Grizzlies to keep Green now that Randolph has left, and they don’t have much cap space to find a better option (there aren’t many players left, either). Unless someone swoops in with a big offer, the Grizzlies should be doing what they can to keep him.
Luc Mbah a Moute (unrestricted)
His offense leaves a lot to be desired. Defenders are going to sag off him when he’s at the 3-point line and he can’t do much with the ball in his hands outside of the odd drive past a closeout. That said, he did hit 43 3s at a 39.1 percent rate last season and played terrific defense, comfortably guarding several positions and the Clippers’ top wing opponent every night, not to mention some point guards if need be. With great length and size at 6-8, quick feet, good effort and instincts, Mbah a Moute helped the Clippers allow 6.2 fewer points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor and ranked 33rd among all players in Defensive Real Plus/Minus.
After the Clippers agreed to a three-year, $65 million deal with Danilo Gallinari, their need for Mbah a Moute isn’t as high, despite his defensive value and Gallinari’s need to play lots of power forward. Nevertheless, Mbah a Moute could be on the move. And while he isn’t the biggest name available, his specialist skill set will come at a low price. He could be a bargain addition for any team in need of defense. The lack of reported interest in him only supports the likelihood of him signing a small contract, and that’s why I’ve included him here.
Other Notable Names Still Remaining
Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Monta Ellis, Ian Clark, Willie Reed, Ty Lawson, David Lee, Marreese Speights, Alex Len, Tony Allen, JaVale McGee, Deron Williams, Donatas Motiejunas, Terrence Jones, Andrew Bogut, Manu Ginobili (still hasn’t decided on retirement)
All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.