The summer of 2016 was a pretty great place to be if you were an NBA free agent. With the NBA’s new national TV rights deal kicking in, teams found themselves flush with cash and only too happy to splash it around. As a result, dozens of players got paid last summer, from superstars (Mike Conley, $153 million; Al Horford, $113 million) all the way to players still refining their games (Allen Crabbe, $75 million; Tyler Johnson, $50 million).
That was then, this is now. This summer, following the announcement of a smaller salary cap figure than teams were projecting, NBA teams have been downright frugal. There were still big contracts to be had -- Gordon Hayward got $128 million from the Boston Celtics -- but many other players had to take shorter (or cheaper) contracts than many around the league had anticipated.
As we head into August, most of the big names in the 2017 free-agent class are off the market. But there are still some quality players out there on the free agent market who should contribute this season, given the right team and, of course, the proper financial fit.
After finding a home in Denver a few seasons ago, the last few years haven’t been easy for Lawson, who has battled off-court issues while searching for a long-term NBA landing spot. When in the right system, it’s not about talent: From 2012-15 in Denver, Lawson averaged 16.4 points per game and 8.4 assists per game.
Since then, playing for Indiana, Houston and Sacramento, Lawson has produced, although in limited minutes. Still just 29 years old, Lawson recently denied a report that he’d agreed to play this season in China.
Point guard is probably the most stacked position in the NBA, with most teams being at least two or three deep at the position. So for some free agents, it’s as much about finding the right system and fit as it is about getting the opportunity. Stuckey has the talent to play in the NBA – have spent seven seasons with the Detroit Pistons and the last three with the Pacers. As a score-first guard (last season Stuckey averaged 7.2 ppg and 2.2 apg in 17.9 minutes per game), Stuckey would seem to still be a valuable contributor off the bench for a team needing reserve depth.
ALSO AVAILABLE: Deron Williams (Cavs), Norris Cole (Thunder)
After being named first team All-Defense in three of the last six seasons, all while embodying the Memphis Grizzlies’ “Grit and Grind” identity, Allen is currently looking for a new place to ply his trade. At 35, Allen remains durable, playing in 71 games last season. And while he shot just 27.8 percent on 3-pointers last season, his innate defensive aptitude (he was top 15 last season in the NBA in deflections) and institutional knowledge would seem to have value to any team with postseason aspirations.
The 10-year veteran (who also played two seasons overseas) is still only 31 years old. After starting playoff games for the Celtics just a few months ago, Green can clearly still contribute in the right situation, both on the court and in the locker room. His astonishing athleticism may have faded a bit, but Green remains more able than most.
ALSO AVAILABLE: Anthony Morrow (Bulls)
Just a few years ago, Muhammad was one of the top prospects coming out of high school, and showed enough promise in one year at UCLA to be drafted 14th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft.
But Muhammad never really found his break-out role in Minnesota. However, that may be a reflection of the constant organizational changes as much as anything (Muhammad played for four different coaches in his four seasons with Wolves). The durable swingman shot just 33.8 percent on 3-pointers and tallied just 35 assits in 1,516 minutes last season. Still, at just 24 years old, Muhammad would seem to still have room to grow.
ALSO AVAILABLE: Matt Barnes (Warriors), Michael Beasley (Bucks)
These days, power forwards are expected to have range extending beyond the 3-point line. Mirotic was billed as a “stretch four”, but last season shot just 34.2 percent from deep. This is roughly in line with his career averages mark from there (35 percent). At 6-foot-10 and 26 years old, Mirotic, a restricted free agent, would seem to still have value around the NBA. Mirotic and the Bulls have been at something of a stalemate this offseason, with both sides expressing interest at a reunion. But for now, it’s a waiting game for both sides.
Also still available: Adreian Payne (Timberwolves), Kris Humphries (Hawks)
As the NBA has become more of an outside-in league the last few seasons, every team is searching for mobile centers who can set perimeter screens and also as scramble back to protect the rim. That makes Noel’s situation in Dallas even more interesting.
After a few seasons with the 76ers, the Mavericks acquired Noel at the trade deadline in 2017. In 22 games with the Mavs, Noel looked like a long-term building block for a rebuilding franchise. But as a restricted free agent, Noel has thus far been unable to come to an agreement with Dallas. Like fellow restricted free agent center Mason Plumlee, Noel is discovering that this summer, at least for centers, it’s a buyers market.
Just a few years ago, Hibbert showed everyone how to establish verticality at the rim as he anchored the Indiana Pacers’ run at the Eastern Conference title. Hibbert was an old school, physical, back-to-the-basket center who could defend the rim and paint. And almost as quickly as Hibbert became an All-Star, the NBA changed, which mostly left Hibbert on the inside looking out. Players like Hibbert are increasingly dinosaurs in this modern, pace-and-space NBA, and after stops in Los Angeles, Charlotte and Denver, the 30-year-old Hibbert still hasn’t found a home for the upcoming season.
Also still available: Mason Plumlee (Nuggets), Tiago Splitter (76ers), Andrew Bogut (Cavaliers)
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