We are three-plus weeks into free agency, and the cupboard is not quite bare.
There are still some good players out there, whose choices are narrowed to two primary options: (a) go for the money and play for a loser, or (b) pass on the money and play for a winner.
More than two-thirds of NBA teams have no cap room remaining. The ones that do mostly are those in rebuilding mode – Sacramento, Charlotte, Cleveland, Houston, Toronto and Minnesota. There are some pleasant landing spots such as Phoenix and Dallas, but their available space is limited and won’t last forever.
While a power forward tops our list, be forewarned that there are very slim pickings at the two big spots. There is much better value at point guard and the wings.
Also keep in mind that this is all in the eye of the beholder. If you disagree, well, that’s what the comments section is for.
Below is a list of the top 20 free agents, along with which teams have shown interest in them lately.
1. CARL LANDRY: You can pick nits, but we believe he is as clear-cut a top choice as Deron Williams was when this whole mess started less than a month ago. One of just four players remaining from our original top 25 and one of the few who could end up with a starting role, depending on where he lands. Hornets haven’t renounced the power forward because they are holding out hope for a sign-and-trade. INTERESTED: Golden State, Charlotte.
2. DELONTE WEST: There were serious questions about this combo guard at this time a year ago, but he answered those and filled a lot of gaps in his lone season in Dallas, where his per-minute numbers were very strong and was arguably the team’s second-best backcourt player when healthy. Based on that, probably holding out for a multi-year deal. INTERESTED: Dallas says it is and has cap room and an exception but also has seven guards under contract. Chicago also has kicked the tires buy just signed Marco Belinelli.
3. ANDREI KIRILENKO: The highest-ranked remaining player from our original list was believed to be committed to CSKA Moscow for another year but apparently can still opt out of that deal. Unfortunately, it pays him $4 million per year, much more than he will get in a return to the NBA. But his length and defense would be useful to any team looking for a wing defender. INTERESTED: Golden State and Brooklyn, which wants someone to defend LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
4. RANDY FOYE: Underappreciated or overrated? Has averaged nearly 12 points per game and 37 percent arc shooting in six seasons but until last season never had done it for a good team. May still be on the market because he won’t budge off multiple years or the mid-level exception. With the money drying up. might have to take a lot less. INTERESTED: Phoenix, Milwaukee, Chicago.
5. MICKAEL PIETRUS: His defense and 3-point shooting are a good fit for almost any team looking for wing depth. One of those teams should be the Celtics, who keep saying they want him back – and also keep signing other players. Has an overseas offer in his back pocket, so he can be a bit picky if he wants. INTERESTED: Boston, which only has the $1.9 million bi-annual exception, and Dallas, which has some cap room.
6. BRANDON RUSH: Restricted free agent has shown steady improvement as a solid shooter and near top-flight defender over his four seasons. Hard to believe he could be joining his third team because in the right spot, he could be a starter in the way Thabo Sefolosha, Avery Bradley and Tony Allen start for their teams. But his qualifying offer is over $4 million, which may be scaring away potential suitors. INTERESTED: Golden State, Minnesota.
7. KENYON MARTIN: Now a 12-year veteran with two microfracture surgeries in his history, his days of multi-year contracts are probably over. But his rebounding, shot-blocking and toughness certainly can help some team for 10-15 minutes a night. INTERESTED: Golden State.
8. ANDRAY BLATCHE: Amnesty victim in Washington is probably the most talented player on this list and has spent a portion of the summer working out with career rehabilitator John Lucas. He has cleared waivers to become an unrestricted free agent but given his age (25), skills and upside probably is looking for a multi-year deal. But beggars can’t be choosers, and he needs to repair his awful image one season at a time. INTERESTED: No one right now. That will change, though.
9. LEANDRO BARBOSA: Under 30 and can still motor a little bit, as Team USA recently discovered. Former Sixth Man Award winner and highly likeable teammate has been a sub his whole career, so role acceptance is not an issue. Has been a bit injury-prone, doesn’t defend very well and can’t really play the point effectively in a structured system. INTERESTED: Virtually no one, which is a real head-scratcher. Maybe teams are waiting for the Olympics to end.
10. CARLOS DELFINO: Still not yet 30, he is a proven NBA player who can play both wing positions. However, he is a bit undersized for small forward and a bit slow for shooting guard. Probably is best as a reserve, backing up both spots for 15-20 minutes per game. Also might have to wait for the Olympics to be over. INTERESTED: Chicago, Atlanta, Indiana.
11. RONNIE BREWER: Solid, versatile defender at both wing spots who can’t shoot a lick, which means your other wing has to have a stroke. A victim of the rollback in Chicago, which declined his $4.37 million option. He will be employed, but not at that price. INTERESTED: Minnesota, especially if the rumored Wayne Ellington trade happens.
12. C.J. MILES: For all his athleticism and promise, cracked double figures just once in seven seasons at Utah, where he made just enough 3-pointers to incorrectly believe he was a distance shooter. Somewhat unorthodox lefthander could be a better rebounder, given his length. However, he is still just 25, has very little mileage on him and might show growth in the right setting. INTERESTED: Dallas was but probably isn’t anymore. Chicago and Cleveland are possible.
13. ROBIN LOPEZ: In terms of age (24) and upside, the best center still on the market, simply because he is not old, broken down or set in his ways. But he is a restricted free agent with a $4 million qualifying offer, so an offer from elsewhere would have to be considerable, either in money or multiple years. And Phoenix could still put him in a sign-and-trade. INTERESTED: Phoenix, primarily because it holds all the cards.
14. DEREK FISHER: When he joined the Thunder last season, it initially looked like he was brought in to provide some veteran leadership. But he showed there was something left in the skills tank as well. Hard to believe Oklahoma City has no interest, although he does turn 38 in August. Knows his role but also knows his worth. INTERESTED: Cleveland, although that is a strange place for someone who has lived in the postseason to end his career.
15. JOSH HOWARD: Given his age (32) and injury history is no longer a starter but showed last season in Utah that he can still be a contributor. Still a pretty solid all-around small forward who would be ideal as a reserve. Was looking for a multi-year deal but that seems unrealistic now. INTERESTED: Dallas.
16. MATT BARNES: Was the best of a bad bunch of small forwards last season for the Lakers, who have added Antawn Jamison and re-signed Devin Ebanks to back up Metta World Peace. That might make Barnes the odd man out despite his toughness, willingness to defend and erratic 3-ball. Has bounced around a lot and has played on some good teams. INTERESTED: No one, really.
17. IVAN JOHNSON: Given the energy he displayed as an absolute unknown rookie last season, it’s hard to believe the restricted free agent has received no offers. At this point, he probably won’t get one. But you gotta love anyone who plays as hard as he does and gives the finger to Celtics fans. INTERESTED: Atlanta, which is taking its sweet time and still could use him in a sign-and-trade.
18. JOEL PRZYBILLA: Offense isn’t more than dunks and putbacks but still a solid rebounder and adequate shot-blocker. Age (32), injury history and propensity for fouling make him an ideal backup. Will probably be a year-to-year guy for as long as he continues to play. INTERESTED: Milwaukee, which is where he started over a decade ago.
19. JERMAINE O’NEAL: He says he is healthier than he has been in the last five years, a span that has seen him miss 165 games. Long playoff runs and international ball early in his career have taken their toll and made O’Neal a very old 33. But he was still averaging 13 points per game two years ago with Miami. He knows his role is a backup 4-5, which certainly helps. INTERESTED: The LA Lakers were – then re-signed Jordan Hill.
20. DARKO MILICIC: Another amnesty victim who cleared waivers and could be had very cheaply, seeing as he already is drawing a salary. His 7-foot size, passable low-post game and relative youth (27) make him a nice option as a backup pivot. But his defense and lack of quickness prevent him from being much more. INTERESTED: Somebody will bite. See Kwame Brown.
TEN OTHERS TO TRACK: Chris Andersen, F-C; Anthony Tolliver, F; Louis Amundson, F; Martell Webster, F; Ronny Turiaf, F-C; Michael Redd, G; Keyon Dooling, G; Willie Green, G; Jannero Pargo, G.
TEN FIRE BETS: D.J. White, F; Alonzo Gee, F (R); Terrence Williams, F (R); Yi Jianlian, F; Al Thornton, F; Hamed Haddadi, C; Nate Robinson, G; Lester Hudson; G; Tracy McGrady, G-F; Gilbert Arenas, G.
Chris Bernucca is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com. During the season, his columns appear Wednesday and Sunday. You can follow him on Twitter.