Seven NBA free agents to watch as transaction window opens

NBA free agents
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The wheeling and dealing of the NBA is back.

Not exactly on the franchise-changing level we’ve come to expect from a league that loves its deals, but starting at noon Eastern on Tuesday NBA teams can sign free agents, waive players, sign their two-way players, or in other ways round out their rosters for the restart.

Here are seven players to watch, NBA free agents who could get signed in the next week.

Don’t overthink this — if a player was a free agent come the middle of March, it was for a reason. These are role players for a team, but that role can impact winning.

Note: For this story we have not included players set to sign with teams — making them unavailable in reality — such as Joakim Noah (Clippers), or Corey Brewer with the Kings.

1. Tyler Johnson

A solid rotation player up until the last year, Johnson’s shot deserted him in Phoenix (48.1 true shooting percentage, 28.9% from three). That led to him being buried on the bench behind Ricky Rubio and Jevon Carter, and once the Suns couldn’t use him in a trade at the deadline they bought him out.

If Johnson is fully healthy and can find his shot again he could help a team looking for guard depth — he shot 37% from three when the Heat matched a four-year, $50 million contract offer four years ago. He’s just 28 and in his prime, his shot and production should still be there.

The Rockets reportedly have interest, but expect a few suitors to call.

2. Gerald Green

If healthy, he may be the most sought after player on this list. Green is a veteran wing who shot 35.4% from three last season. Green was thought to be lost for the season with a foot injury, but he has had time to heal and is joking around like a player expecting to be in Orlando.

The Rockets had his rights but cannot re-sign him because they traded him at the deadline (as part of the four-team Clint Capela deal). Denver then quickly waived him. For teams looking for depth on the wing — a spot of need for a lot of teams — Green could be a quality pick up.

3. Jamal Crawford

He’s 40 years old — which is one reason no team has signed him this season — but, in the right situation, he could help a team get buckets off the bench. The three-time Sixth Man of the Year is showing his age and has lost a step in recent years — and his horrific defense is a bigger concern to front offices — but he can still score. Crawford averaged 7.9 points per game last season off the bench and lit it up for the depleted Suns at the end of last season. Some team should give him a chance, but I’m not sure any well.

4. Trey Burke

Burke is available because he has limitations: He needs the ball in his hand to run a lot of pick-an-rolls, he’s not terribly efficient and doesn’t make the best decisions, plus he’s undersized and that hurts him on the defensive end. That said, he played solidly off the bench in Philly this season until let go, as he had in New York and Dallas before. For a team looking for a third point guard in Orlando they can turn to because of injury/sickness, Burke is a solid pick up.

5. DeMarcus Cousins

The biggest name on the NBA free agents board, but he is coming off back-to-back career-threatening injuries between his torn Achilles then a torn ACL. He wasn’t moving very well for the Warriors in the Finals last June, and that was before the ACL. The question for teams looking at Cousins is “does he fit with us?” He is not a big who can just set a pick then pop/rim run; he’s more effective getting the ball at the elbow or on the block and making plays. That’s not the direction the game is trending, but it might help a team in Orlando in the short term if Cousins is healthy enough to play.

UPDATE: Cousins has told suitors he is not playing in Orlando to focus on next season.

6. Iman Shumpert

Shumpert played well for the Nets earlier this season. He averaged 18.5 minutes a game, and while he wasn’t racking up counting stats (4.2 points and 2.6 rebounds a game on average) he played solid defense and the Nets were winning with him in the rotation. For teams looking for veteran wing depth heading into Orlando, Shumpert could be a solid pickup.

7. Dragan Bender

We know what you’re saying, “why would anyone sign that bust?” Because he’s just 22 and is a 7-footer who can hit threes. He’s not exactly a unicorn, but players that size who can shoot get extra chances. He played respectably for the Warriors on a couple of 10-day contracts this season and it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear a team signed him, not looking so much at the restart in Orlando but down the line, rolling the dice on him for next season with a team-friendly contract.