There have been a few changes since the last time we put together this list, so it was time for an update.
John Collins, Spencer Dinwiddie, Kelly Oubre, and others got their deals put together, and with them took a lot of the available cap space. Outside of a sign-and-trade — and a few players are hoping for that — the most money available now is either the mid-level exception ($9.5 million) or something in that range.
So who is left on the market? Here are the top 10 free agents heading into Friday in NBA free agency.
The longer this drags out — with the cap space dried up from the teams that would have pursued him — the more likely it appears Kawhi Leonard will re-sign with the Clippers. Eventually. At the start of free agency, there was the report he would listen to offers from other teams, but the teams that would have made a max offer — the Knicks, Heat, Mavericks, among others — moved on with other plans.
It’s still radio silence out of Leonard’s camp, and nobody is exactly sure what he is thinking. At this point, it would take a sign-and-trade to get Leonard a max deal with another team, and the return to the Clippers in that case would be Harden-esque. Despite the offseason ACL surgery that will cost him most, if not all, of next season, Leonard is a clear max player with a salary that would start at $39.3 million (other teams could offer up to four-years $176.2 million in a sign-and-trade).
So we wait, expecting a deal with the Clippers. But nobody knows what Leonard is really thinking.
Schroder has become this year’s cautionary tale about overplaying your hand. If you’re going to reject a four-year, $84 million extension offer, as Schroder did with the Lakers, you better know exactly which team is lined up to offer the $100 million contract you think is coming. Schroder thought that money was out there for him, but it never was, and especially not after a lackluster playoff performance.
With the Hornets using their remaining cap space on Kelly Oubre, it looks more like the $9.5 million mid-level exception (or something in that range) is what’s left, and it’s not exactly clear what team is stepping up with that offer. Schroder’s best option may be a short-term deal (1+1 probably) and the chance to play his way into a bigger payday in a summer or two.
3) Josh Hart (restricted)
More than a few teams could use Hart’s skills as a backup wing — he averaged 9.2 points and eight boards a game last season, shooting 32.6% from 3 — but considering the Pelicans have his rights and will likely match any offer, the deals have not been forthcoming. The Cavaliers and Pelicans had some talk about a sign-and-trade, but nothing concrete has come from that so far. A team may jump into the mix, but the smart bet is he winds up back in the Big Easy for another season.
Jackson hit the market at the best possible time, coming off an impressive playoff run — he averaged 20.3 points a game against the Suns in the Western Conference Finals — and while that certainly generated interest around the league, that interest has yet to become a contract for the 10-year NBA veteran. The Clippers are at the top of the list and want to bring him back — he is still working out with the team — but other teams are still in the mix, including the Pelicans, who have the most buzz right now. Which one of those teams will step up with the most cash for the backup point guard? Probably the Clippers. Still, his strong postseason didn’t end up leading to the windfall Jackson might have hoped.
5) Lauri Markkanen (restricted)
There had been talks between Markkanen and the Hornets, but they spent their money on Kelly Oubre, leaving few options for the Finnish stretch four. Remember, the Bulls have the rights to match any offer for him, so teams need to negotiate a sign-and-trade, and that just has not come together as teams are not looking to give up an asset to land Markkanen. He was hoping for more money and a larger role than the one he had in Chicago — a role that shrank with the arrival of Nikola Vucevic — but market interest has been tepid, especially at the prices Markkanen thought were out there for him. The latest buzz was about him in Minnesota (Jaden McDaniels is the current starting four), but that has not generated a deal yet.
Iguodala has reportedly narrowed his choices down to three teams: The Nets, Lakers, and Warriors. While Iguodala struggled on the court last season in Miami — 4.4 points per game, 38.3% shooting overall, and 33% from 3 — he could help those contenders in a limited role. The question is money (and leaking that he was down to three teams was likely a push to get one of those teams to dip into their mid-level exception to make an offer above the league minimum). Will any of those teams step up with extra cash?
Most speculation from league sources has Iguodala ending up back in Golden State, but wherever he lands, he will be chasing a ring.
7) Paul Millsap
Paul Millsap is not returning to Denver — he’s even selling his home there — but it’s unclear where the 36-year-old will play next season. There was some buzz about a return to the Hawks, or going to the Warriors for their mid-level exception, but nothing has come to pass so far. Because of his age, Millsap likely only gets a one-year deal, but he still brings real value — he averaged 9 points and 4.7 rebounds a game last season in Denver, plays solid defense, and shot 34.3% from 3. A lot of teams could use a guy like that.
8) Hamidou Diallo (restricted)
It’s a bit of a surprise he is still available, but this is the trap of restricted free agency — teams know the Pistons will match any reasonable offer, and nobody is coming in over the top for the athletic wing who still needs refinement. Diallo is 23 and took a big step forward last season, shooting 34.1% from 3 (39% after being traded to Detroit) and averaging 11.6 points a game. He can slash to the rim and draw fouls, and while he needs to finish better and shoot better from the free throw line (64% last season). His off-the-charts athleticism makes his upside interesting. He’d be a smart pickup on a two-or-three year deal for more $4-$5 million a season, but will another team make that offer only to watch the Pistons match? So far, no team has.
9) J.J. Redick
A veteran shooter who teams can trust in clutch moments on the court and who is good in the locker room is going to land a new contract — likely a one-year deal at age 37, but a new contract nonetheless. Redick struggled last season in large part due to injuries — 7.4 points per game, 37.1% from three — but could regain his form in a limited role and really help a contender. It feels like a team with title aspirations will step up soon for Redick, but at this point the focus is more on his podcast than the offers coming in.
10) Justise Winslow
The challenge for Winslow is he is a wing who can’t shoot well from the outside — 18.5% from 3 last season, and he basically struggles with any shot outside 10 feet — and while he’s a decent defender and secondary playmaker, the lack of shooting limits his role. It’s why the Grizzlies chose not to pick up his $13 million option for this season, but his athleticism and potential make him a good roll of the dice as a backup by a team rounding out its roster with smaller contracts. A return to the Grizzlies is not out of the question.