Any NBA free agent still on the market at the end of July is at risk of ending up on the scrap heap and with few exceptions, their options for signing anything but a bargain NBA minimum contract for next season are getting thin.
So far NBA teams have handed out over $2 billion in new deals averaging over $12 million per season per Spotrac and only the Bulls, Suns, Mavericks and 76ers can still create over $10 million in salary cap space by renouncing their exceptions to make a significant offer to a free agent.
This off season has been marked by big trades like Paul George and Chris Paul plus big salary dumps like DeMarre Carroll and Allen Crabbe. Aside from Gordon Hayward going to the Celtics, most of the big name free agents have re-upped with their old teams and in the process, the most desirable free agent destinations are out of both salary cap space and room under the luxury tax threshold.
Some NBA free agent bargains to watch are:
Unrestricted Free Agents
Shabazz Muhammad, Minnesota Timberwolves, UFA
Muhammad’s agent should have pressed the panic button when the T-wolves rescinded their qualifying offer making him unrestricted.
The 14th overall pick in 2013 is still just 24-years-old. His experience on a bad Minnesota team makes him look like a black hole on offense and a questionable defender, but four different coaches in four years isn’t the way to develop any player.
This 6’6 wing with a 6’11 wingspan and a 37″ max vertical jump has averaged 10.8 points on 47.7 percent shooting in just 20.5 minutes over the past three years as a reserve and has shown potential to shoot the three.
Teams are looking at mature undrafted players to fill in the back end of their rosters. Muhammad is a way better option that doing that.
Dante Cunningham, New Orleans Pelicans, UFA
The 30-year-old veteran forward is considered a decent defender with a good three-point shot developed over the past two seasons. At 39.2 percent from three on 2.7 attempts last season, it shouldn’t be a surprise he thought there’d be more demand for his services when he opted out of his $3.1 million player option.
Undoubtedly a victim of unreasonable expectations, this is a player that can help a team right away.
Luke Babbitt, Miami Heat, UFA
The 6’9 combo forward does one thing well, it just happens to be the one thing every NBA team seems to need these days. He chucked up a three-ball every five minutes he was on the court for the Heat and he sunk 41.4 percent of them.
The 28-year-old isn’t a terrible rebounder and no one is looking to him for defense, but he legitimately stretches the floor and he’ll be cheap.
Derrick Williams, Cleveland Cavaliers, UFA
Almost completely off the free agent radar, Derrick Williams earned himself a
second sixth chance with the Cavaliers last season when he survived two 10 day contracts and was picked up for the balance of the season.
The 2011 2nd overall draft pick bombed, but the 6’8 240 lb forward has talent and sometimes it takes longer for the school of hard knocks to make an impact than should normally be expected.
Williams shot 50.5 percent from the field and 40.4 percent from three in 25 games for the Cavs. At 26-years-old, he is still relatively young, an uber-athlete and he’ll be cheap. Odds are he’d take a non-guaranteed deal in a heartbeat. No risk/high return, why hasn’t he gotten a camp invite yet?
Restricted Free Agents
This summer wasn’t as good for free agents as last summer (and it’s going to be worse next summer). Players are being screwed over in restricted free agency as teams refuse to bid against themselves,
Nerlens Noel, Dallas Mavericks, RFA
A big traditional center in a market that’s not rewarding big traditional centers, the Mavs can afford to wait out Noel as no team is going to try to steal him with a ludicrous offer sheet.
Noel should be more worried than he appears as well. The Mavs are sitting on salary cap space they could use to acquire one of the seemingly numerous available veteran traditional centers and get paid to do it with future draft picks.
Mason Plumlee, Denver Nuggets, RFA
Another big traditional center with no leverage in negotiations. He’ll be a backup next season if he stays in Denver and in his position, the qualifying offer should be starting to look good.
JaMychal Green, Memphis Grizzlies, RFA
JaMychal Green started 75 games for the Grizzlies last season and the 6’9 power forward became the ‘3-and-D’ player the previous season suggested he would. It’s actually surprising no other team took a serious run at him despite Memphis’ promise to match any offer sheet.
Green is type of young big man just about every NBA team wants and needs in today’s NBA and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Grizzlies have quietly been offered several sign-and-trade opportunities, but they seem content to wait things out in an attempt to get Green on the contract they want.
A few of the other recognizable free agents in need of a place to play include: Monta Ellis, Gerald Henderson, Tyler Zeller, Festus Ezeli and Nikola Mirotic.
There are still a lot of players waiting on the sidelines in free agency, but the money and the roster spots are quickly drying up. It won’t be long before restricted free agents will start thinking their best option may be that qualifying offer and unrestricted free agents are completely stuck between a veteran’s minimum deal or no deal at all.