Free agency is nearly upon us, and the pickin’s are, well…pretty slim this year. Only a few guys have been amnestied and there are a small amount of players who can help teams fighting for playoff spots this year.
Nevertheless, let’s take a look at the best free agents available:
10. JERAMI GRANT
What kind of team targets this guy? A contender, counting on Philadelphia’s terrible roster to net him significant playing time? Or a rebuilding team, who can afford to wait on his development (and he needs a ton of it)? I’m really not sure what sort of team Grant will end up on. But the athletic upside and potential to be a bargain will have a few teams looking at him for sure.
POTENTIAL DESTINATIONS: Atlanta, Boston, Brooklyn, Detroit, Indiana, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Sacramento, Toronto, Utah
9. KRIS HUMPHRIES
Yeah, I know. This guy is the butt of so many jokes. But still, he’s the first big off the bench in Washington and he averaged a double-double for the Nets that one time. He’s not winning anyone any titles, but he’s a useful piece in a league where depth matters.
POTENTIAL DESTINATIONS: Cleveland, Dallas, LA Lakers, Memphis, Miami, Orlando, Portland, San Antonio
8. LUC RICHARD MBAH A MOUTE
This guy apparently failed a physical for the Kings, but he’ll end up on some team this year without a doubt. His value as a defender is too good, plus he’s like an emperor or something in his home country of Cameroon. Luc’s numbers last year were inflated by playing on a crap Sixers team – there’s no way he’s scoring 10 points and playing 30 minutes again this year – but if he ends up at the right spot, he could be a useful cog in some machine. He’s definitely one of the most developed and ready-to-go players on this list. The Pistons didn’t want to pay him $6 million per year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean someone else won’t.
POTENTIAL DESTINATIONS: Denver, LA Lakers, Miami, Milwaukee, New York, Orlando, Sacramento, San Antonio, Toronto
7. LANGSTON GALLOWAY
What a name. What a man! This former undrafted rookie from St. Joseph’s by way of Baton Rouge was the other guy that came out of nowhere last season and made a big impact. The guy doesn’t have all the talent in the world and has a name that sounds more like a 1930s jazz trumpeter’s than an NBA player’s, but it’s clear by watching this guy that he always gives 100%. Going undrafted and playing on a crappy team may have something to do with that. It’s unclear what sort of role Galloway will have on the Knicks this season with Calderon back and the arrivals of Arron Afflalo, Jerian Grant, Thanasis Antetkuempjhdnpejfnfgmkpo and the legendary Sasha Vujacic, but a guy who works as hard as Galloway does should be able to carve out a role in a team that bad. I don’t expect him to get minutes at shooting guard anymore, but he could flourish if Calderon gets traded like he does every year. Even if you only look at him as a long-term investment or even a complete gamble, he could be worth something.
POTENTIAL DESTINATIONS: Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, Indiana, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Portland
6. KENT BAZEMORE
For a while, it seemed that this guy was forever destined to be nothing more than that guy you see celebrating on the bench. But Bazemore really started coming into his own two seasons ago on the Lakers, and it was enough for the Hawks to give him a look. He’s improved noticeably on both sides of the ball in his four NBA seasons. And with DeMarre Carroll gone, there’s a wide open hole in the Hawks’ starting lineup. Korver holds a solid claim on one of the two wing spots, but the other starting gig seems largely up for grabs. Bazemore will be competing with Sefolosha, Hardaway Jr., Holiday and two guys named Terran Petteway and Lamar Patterson for minutes on the wings. He should be getting a nice boost in production this season, maybe with a similar output to what we saw from him at the end of last season.
POTENTIAL DESTINATIONS: Atlanta, Charlotte, Detroit, Dallas, New Orleans, New York, Orlando, Sacramento, Toronto, Utah
5. WAYNE ELLINGTON
You have to like Ellington’s situation in Brooklyn. The 27-year-old instantly becomes one of Brooklyn’s best three-point shooters and should be featured prominently off of the Nets’ bench. He set career highs in multiple scoring categories in a heightened role for the Lakers last year, and there’s no reason to think the Nets will limit his minutes. Could be a really good role player for someone and is in the midst of his prime years.
POTENTIAL DESTINATIONS: Atlanta, Brooklyn, Charlotte, Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Orlando, Portland, Sacramento, Toronto
4. ROBERT COVINGTON
Out of all the mediocre players that benefitted from being on the worst roster ever, perhaps none benefitted more than Sir Robert of Covington. This guy is going to play a big role in Philly’s offense this year simply by virtue of the fact that he is the only player on that team aside from Okafor and Stauskas who can even remotely score. I see no reason why Covington wouldn’t be able to produce as well as or even better than last year. Definitely worth a flyer for a contender looking for depth.
POTENTIAL DESTINATIONS: Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Milwaukee, New York, Phoenix, Sacramento, Toronto
3. JORDAN CLARKSON
Last year’s rookie sensations were Andrew Wiggins (no surprise), Nikola Mirotic (not really a surprise), Elfrid Payton (not much of a surprise) and Jordan Clarkson, who was taken with the 46th overall pick last year. Clarkson definitely fell way too far in the draft – didn’t most experts project him to be a mid- or late-first rounder? – but he also definitely exceeded expectations. While things turned to crap yet again for the Lakers, Clarkson was pretty much given free rein at the point, and he handled things very effectively. Other than Nate Robinson (yeah, I didn’t know this either), Clarkson is the first Filipino to represent his country in the NBA since the early ’80s (even though he’s really only 1/8th Filipino…that’s like me touting myself as Real Deal’s first Cherokee writer). Although the arrival of Russell and the return of Kobe limits Clarkson’s value, it’s a guarantee someone is going to spend big on him given how much talent he showcased last season and his young age. He would be useful for contenders and rebuilders alike. The question is not so much where will he go – it’s what price will have to be paid for his services?
POTENTIAL DESTINATIONS: Boston, Brooklyn, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Indiana, LA Lakers, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Orlando, Philadelphia, Sacramento, Toronto, Utah
2. EVAN TURNER
Evan Turner’s career trajectory has always been a bit of an enigma. He’s been horrible some years and has excelled in others. Right now, his career trajectory seems to be that he will just be a bang average player for the foreseeable future. This, of course, is certainly useful in this league, especially if he can be had at a good price. With so many teams having so much cap space, though, it’s probably not going to happen. It’s unclear exactly what role Turner will have in the Celtics’ 900-man rotation, if any, but he will still probably produce useful counting stats in multiple categories as one of the team’s only experienced players. For a team lacking wing depth (he can play both positions), Turner won’t be a world-beater, but he could be a nice pickup for someone.
POTENTIAL DESTINATIONS: Atlanta, Charlotte, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Milwaukee, New York, Phoenix, Sacramento, Toronto
1. HASSAN WHITESIDE
Whiteside became one of the notable NBA stories last year and was by far the biggest free agent signing of last season in this league. Scoring and rebounding the to tune of nearly 41 points per game, Whiteside made OKC a contender and pushed Minnesota for the division title all year long. This guy has had an incredible career trajectory. He’s already played for four D-League teams, two Chinese teams and even two teams in the Lebanese Basketball League, which exists, apparently. From the Reno Bighorns to the Sichuan Blue Whales to Al Mouttahed Tripoli, this guy has seen it all. And while it might be unrealistic for him to post numbers as gaudy as last year’s, he still figured to be a significant part of Miami’s frontcourt this year. Even with Bosh and McBob back, Whiteside will still rebound with tenacity and protect the paint, which is really all any team pursuing him is asking for anyway.
POTENTIAL DESTINATIONS: Dallas, Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, Toronto, Utah
Kevin Seraphin, Dante Cunningham, Omri Casspi, Caron Butler, Tim Frazier (this guy could actually end up being the steal of free agency if he makes the roster), Tarik Black, Steve Blake