Looking at interesting middle tier FA targets
Here we are. Hot on the heels of July, waiting eagerly, refreshing pages, revisiting familiar links and tweets, checking in on Woj’s account religiously, it’s NBA Free Agency season. Everyone has their eyes and ears aimed at the big names because ultimately, these are typically the first and most relevant dominoes to fall. Paul George, Demarcus Cousins, LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Clint Capella fill out the top of this year’s free agency class. It’s no secret that these guys are getting around the clock mentions and attention across all platforms of sports coverage. Rather than beat that dead horse and craft up NBA Eutopia scenarios where they all end up on the same club, let us take a broader view on free agency and do some speculating into the possible futures of the lower-tier players seeking new contracts.
1) Isaiah Thomas, PG, Los Angeles Lakers, UFA
Isaiah Thomas struggled last season. After being traded by Boston, he was in search of the right role in Cleveland and it never really seemed to gel efficiently. He only played in 15 games for the Cavs before again being shipped, this time to the Lakers who he only logged 17 games for. His offense never seemed to pick up where it left off with Boston, averaging 15 pts and 5 asts per game for the season compared to 29 pts and 6 asts the season before. Look for Thomas to cash in, he has referred to the Brinks truck before when asked about free agency and this may be his last chance at a huge NBA contract. A team like the Bulls or the Kings could really use a player like Thomas to spark some offense and give the fans a very likable player to root for while the team rebuilds. Both teams could afford a short-term contract with a significant number for Thomas this offseason considering no major free agents are currently linked to either team.
2) Rajon Rondo, PG, New Orleans Pelicans, UFA
2017-2018 was an upward trending season for The Pelicans. The backcourt pair of Rondo and Jrue Holiday fit exceptionally well with the freak talent of Anthony Davis. Rondo put together a vintage statline; 8 pts, 8 asts, a steal and 2 turnovers per game. He was a defensive staple for the Pelicans while also dictating the pace of the game like he’s always done quite well. Rondo has said openly he’d like to keep playing with The Pelicans but this is the NBA after all, and with Demarcus Cousins coming off the books, The Pelicans may be strapped financially if they retain their Star Center. Keep an eye on Minnesota, the Wolves backcourt struggled to find any rhythm offensively last season and Rondo could help that precisely. Also, consider the relationship he may have with Tom Thibodeau who was an assistant coach for Boston when Rondo played there.
*Rondo signed a 1Y/9M deal with the Lakers
3) Julius Randle, PF, Los Angeles Lakers, RFA
The Lakers elected not to extend the rookie-scale contract of Julius Randle prior to this season making him a restricted free agent this off-season. L.A. will dictate if he stays with them since he is restricted but all signs point to L.A. aiming for the stars this off-season. Randle has detailed that he values culture in his search for his next NBA City. Randle was great last season for the Lakers. He totaled a career high of 16 PPG and pulled down 9 RPG en route to a career year where he set the defensive tone and energy for the Lakers in all 81 games that he played. Teams like Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, and Indiana could all provide a great fit for Randle and would have the space to pursue him if L.A. lets him walk.
*Randle signed a 2Y/18M deal with the Pelicans after being renounced by LA
4) Rudy Gay, SF, San Antonio Spurs, UFA
Rudy Gay decided to turn down his $8.8m player-option for the 2018-2019 Season making him an unrestricted free agent as of July 1. Last season was a bit underwhelming for the veteran swingman, inputting just 11.5 points per game and 1 assist to the world famous Spurs offense. Many expected Gay to be a great fit with the Spurs but clocked in a career-low 21 minutes per game while only playing in 57 games. San Antonio struggled as a whole last year offensively but I don’t think Gay deserves the brunt of blame for that. The Spurs are not what they once were and Gay should seek an opportunity to contribute on a contending team. The Warriors, Celtics, Rockets, and 76ers could all use some veteran help on the wings and would provide a good fit for Gay if he isn’t only looking for a big payday.
*Gay signed a 1Y/10M deal with the Spurs
5) Brook Lopez, C, Los Angeles Lakers, UFA
It was a pretty quiet year for Brook Lopez who was traded to the Lakers last summer. Lopez didn’t light the league up with his numbers in a season where for the first time in his career, he was not the focal point of a teams offense and defense. Lopez played in 74 games and logged a career-low 23 minutes per game. Lopez has options, he’s a 7 footer with serious spot-up range and a smooth offensive game. He not afraid to pass or score out of the post either which makes him a basketball fit with most every team in the league. Lopez hasn’t hinted at leaning one way or the other in terms of staying in L.A. Hinging on some other players’ free agency decisions, Lopez could fit in very well with teams like Atlanta, Sacramento, Portland, Charlotte, Golden State, Houston, or Philadelphia if L.A. doesn’t bring him back.
6) Marcus Smart, PG, Boston Celtics, RFA
Marcus Smart played good basketball last season. He had his fingerprints all over his fair share of games last year for the Celtics and he continued to do the things that have allowed him to play with such ferocity and fearlessness since entering the league. The big hindrance was his focus once again though. In a season where shot selection still appeared to be a problem for him, Smart found himself playing in a career-low 54 games. Smart missed a chunk of the regular season due to an obscure hand injury that had to do with punching a hotel picture frame. Smart is a passionate pick & roll point with a unique knack for making huge defensive hustle plays on guards as well as bigs and just about every team could use one of those players. Smart has openly said that he expects to be in Green again next season but Dallas is rumored to be interested already. Look for teams such as Orlando, Atlanta, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Houston to speak with Smart if Boston can’t retain his services.
7) Avery Bradley, G, Los Angeles Clippers, UFA
The 2017-2018 season was one to forget for Avery Bradley. He saw a dip in literally every single major stat aside from FT%. Not only did he struggle while on the court, but he had another injury-ridden season and only tallied 46 games played between the 2 teams he played for. Bradley played just 6 games after Detroit traded him to the Clippers and that was all we saw from him. Considering his injury history, don’t expect Bradley to rake in a blockbuster contract this summer. Money aside, there are certainly teams who could use what Bradley offers when healthy. Bradley is an absolute dog when defending point guards on-ball and a pretty excellent spot up shooter in the right system. Bradley would fit in seamlessly with a contending team like the Thunder, Warriors, or Raptors who aren’t able to shell out cash this offseason.
*Bradley signed a 2Y/25M deal with the Clippers
8) Jarrett Jack, PG, New York Knicks, UFA
Journeyman point guard Jarrett Jack will be entering his 15th season in the league this fall. Jack played a consistent season for the Knicks last year averaging 8 pts and 6 asts. There wasn’t much hope for New York last season. Jarrett Jack did Jarrett Jack things, playing a conservative point guard role and gave the Knicks a solid 25 minutes per game. Jack has made his money in the league as a second-unit specialist and that fits well with any team typically. Boston, San Antonio, Cleveland, Indiana, and Toronto could all use some help with guard depth. Look for Jack to find a vet-friendly contract this summer.
9) Ed Davis, PF, Portland Trail Blazers, UFA
Ed Davis is one of the most overlooked bigs in the NBA. This guy brings it for every minute that he’s on the court. Just watching Davis play shows how effectively he has identified his role and capabilities. Davis plays for defense and rebounds and couldn’t care less about anything in between. In 2017-2018, Davis averaged 5 points and 7 rebounds per game over just 18 minutes. Per 36, this puts Davis at 14 boards per game and is one of the best rates in the league. Davis has declared openly that he prefers to stay in Portland. Any team that needs intense defense and strong rebounding should be hot on this guy’s trail.
*Davis signed a 1Y/4.4M deal with the Nets
10) Jerami Grant, F, Oklahoma City Thunder, UFA
After a season where Jerami Grant tallied 8 pts and 1 block per game over a 20-minute split, he’ll hit unrestricted free agency. Grant is all energy and while his numbers don’t jump off of the page, he is a great fit in today’s NBA due to his positional versatility. Grant comes from a family of point guards and surely runs the floor like one with flashes of transition shot-blocking and the ability to attack the lane like a strong forward. Grant won’t be hitting the lottery with his next contract but look for him to improve again next year no matter where he plays. Young teams such as the Magic, Hawks, Bulls, Suns, and Spurs could all use his energy and attack mentality well next season.
*Grant signed a 3Y/27M deal with the Thunder