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Landing Spots for NBA’s Top Free Agents Still Available

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    By early July, most NBA franchises have made their big moves for the coming season. A few outstanding issues remain (see: Damian Lillard and James Harden), but most teams already have their rosters fleshed out for 2023-24.

    While the end-of-roster decisions (camp invites, two-ways, etc.) will be sorted out before opening night on October 24, several quality free agents remain unsigned. Will they find NBA homes? Which teams still have money to spend—or roster space?

    Some franchises are limited by hard caps, prior commitments or a general aversion to paying luxury taxes.

    The list of potentially high-impact veterans is short. Some may need to wait until the season begins to find a home on a team lacking talent or depth (either by miscalculation or injury).

    Given the lean pickings, fans who don’t think their team did enough this summer may be better served making up fake trades than expecting significant help via free agency.

Christian Wood to The Lakers?

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    MIAMI, FLORIDA - APRIL 01: Christian Wood #35 of the Dallas Mavericks looks on during the third quarter of the game against the Miami Heat at Miami-Dade Arena on April 01, 2023 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

    Megan Briggs/Getty Images

    On paper, Christian Wood is coming off a strong season with the Dallas Mavericks. Across 67 games, he averaged 16.6 points on an efficient 51.5 percent from the field and 37.6 percent (on 4.2 attempts) from three-point range.

    Yet Dallas decided to move on, and Wood, who just finished his seventh season, is now looking to join his eighth team. Something hasn’t clicked, but Wood is still young (28 in September) and talented.

    Enter the Los Angeles Lakers, who want to add scoring talent and size to a squad fresh off a Western Conference Finals appearance. The Lakers can only offer Wood the minimum at $2.7 million (probably with a player option added on for $3 million for 2024-25). And they have communicated interest, per multiple sources.

    But Wood shouldn’t be in a rush to sign a minimum deal. The Mavericks can sign-and-trade him to a different destination, but that kind of deal needs to be for at least three years. If Wood must take below what he perceives as his market value, he isn’t going to lock it in for multiple seasons.

    Instead, he might prefer the best opportunity to showcase his talent ahead of free agency next season. The Lakers, with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, draw a lot of eyeballs.

    Outside of L.A., other possibilities might include the Miami Heat or Philadelphia 76ers. The teams with money to spend above the minimum don’t seem likely to use it on Wood, though.

P.J. Washington Back to Charlotte?

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    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 05: P.J. Washington #25 of the Charlotte Hornets looks on during the second half against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on March 05, 2023 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Nets won 102-86. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

    Sarah Stier/Getty Images

    The restricted-free-agency game can be tough, and P.J. Washington will probably end up back with the Charlotte Hornets on a one-year $8.5 million qualifying offer.

    By the time teams can get a restricted free agent to sign an offer sheet (July 6 at the earliest), most of the action is nearly over. Few are willing to tie up their money, although the Utah Jazz gave it a try with Paul Reed and the Dallas Mavericks did so with Matisse Thybulle. However, the Philadelphia 76ers and Portland Trail Blazers matched, respectively.

    By now, money has dried up around the league. Washington needs the Hornets to either give him a viable long-term offer or participate in a sign-and-trade to get him to a new home. So far, that’s been a dead end.

    Washington is coming off his best year, starting 73 games while averaging 15.7 points per game. At 6’7″, he’s more of a forward than a center, but he may be a bit of a tweener. Almost 25, he can be a long-term productive player in the right situation.

    The Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and Indiana Pacers are among the teams that could theoretically pursue Washington. But the buzz has been light in NBA circles so far, as most sources expect Washington to take his qualifying offer.

Would Memphis Be the Fit for Oubre?

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    CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - MARCH 20: Kelly Oubre Jr. #12 of the Charlotte Hornets reacts after defeating the Indiana Pacers during their game at Spectrum Center on March 20, 2023 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

    Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

    Kelly Oubre Jr. is the only player who scored at least 20.3 points per game last season and remains unsigned. That’s because his former team, the Charlotte Hornets, are in transition.

    Former Hornets majority governor Michael Jordan’s sale to new investors (led by Gabe Plotkin and Rick Schnall) officially went through in late July. Outside of LaMelo Ball, the Hornets’ long-term direction is unclear. That leaves players like Oubre and P.J. Washington without teams midway through August.

    Since Oubre spent two seasons with Charlotte, the Hornets can’t offer him a starting salary above $16.4 million on a new contract. Maybe that’s still in play.

    If not, the teams that might want to sign the 6’7″ athletic wing won’t have the money outright (like the Boston Celtics, Sixers and Heat). Oubre’s minimum is $2.9 million, so he may need the Hornets to facilitate a sign-and-trade.

    The Memphis Grizzlies could make some sense for Oubre after they sign-and-traded Dillon Brooks to the Houston Rockets in July. Memphis added a few ball-handling guards in Marcus Smart and Derrick Rose this offseason, but not a bigger wing. The Grizzlies have too many players (17 guaranteed) and might have some younger prospects that might appeal to Charlotte such as Ziaire Williams, Josh Christopher, etc.

    Memphis would have to offer enough to Oubre to make it worthwhile given the three-year requirement for a sign-and-trade. That’s assuming the Hornets don’t come to the table with a genuine offer to keep Oubre in Charlotte, which also remains a distinct possibility.

Plenty of Wings Available

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    SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 30: Terence Davis II #3 of the Sacramento Kings looks on during the game against the Golden State Warriors during Round 1 Game 7 of the 2023 NBA Playoffs on April 30, 2023 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

    From scoring guards to small (or medium) forwards, the free-agent market still has some notable talent.

    Terence Davis, who might not return to the Sacramento Kings, may be at the top of the list after Oubre. At 26, Davis (in demand) will provide a scoring punch to a team’s bench unit, possibly to a contender like the Boston Celtics or Milwaukee Bucks.

    Other scorers include Terrence Ross, Hamidou Diallo, T.J. Warren and Will Barton. The Hornets (surprise) haven’t re-signed Svi Mykhailiuk after he played 19 solid games for them (10.6 points per game while shooting 40.4 percent from three).

    Role players include Austin Rivers, Wenyen Gabriel, Justise Winslow, Javonte Green and Juan Toscano-Anderson. Others like Romeo Langford and Kevin Knox II are also unspoken for.

    Complicating matters, most teams are near capacity already with 14 or 15 players. The Trail Blazers only have 12, but they may need that roster flexibility for a potential Lillard deal. Some teams, including the Oklahoma City Thunder, Grizzlies, Spurs and Wizards, will have to cut or trade guaranteed players before opening night.

Some Size on the Market

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    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - MAY 07: Blake Griffin #91 of the Boston Celtics warms up prior to game four of the Eastern Conference Second Round Playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center on May 07, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

    Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

    Beyond Christian Wood and P.J. Washington, the big-man market has a few decent players left. That includes six-time All-Star Blake Griffin, who can still contribute in a low-minute role.

    JaMychal Green, even at 33, tops the list as a viable rotation player looking for a team. Green averaged 14 minutes per game for the Golden State Warriors last season across 57 games and shot 37.8 percent from three-point range.

    Bismack Biyombo gave the Suns a similar 14.3 minutes per game, including 14 starts. He’s never been much of a scorer, but he plays hard.

    The NBA is just better with Boban Marjanović in it. A team needs to make sure Bobi is on a roster somewhere.

    Others who bring different levels of size, experience and toughness include Markieff Morris, Frank Kaminsky, Willie Cauley-Stein, James Johnson, Tristan Thompson, Meyers Leonard, Gorgui Dieng, Vernon Carey Jr., Taj Gibson, Serge Ibaka and Noah Vonleh. There are also two former All-Stars—Dwight Howard and DeMarcus Cousins—who would love to make their way back into the league.

Very Few Guards Left

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    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 09: Mac McClung #9 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on during the first half against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on April 09, 2023 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

    Sarah Stier/Getty Images

    The point guard market is relatively dry. Outside of several viable prospects, including dunk-contest-champion Mac McClung, the list of veterans is sparse.

    Kendrick Nunn may be the best of the bunch, though he’s more of a scorer than a creator. Nunn missed all of the 2021-22 season with a knee injury, but after an in-season trade to the Washington Wizards (from the Lakers), he showed flashes of his old self, shooting 39.2 percent from three-point range.

    The rest may be best as experienced mentors, more than active rotation players like Goran Dragić, Ish Smith, D.J. Augustin and Michael Carter-Williams. Younger guards include Scotty Pippen Jr., McKinley Wright IV, Xavier Moon, Edmond Sumner and Théo Maledon.



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