This summer’s free agency period has provided as much suspense and excitement as the NBA Finals.
The San Antonio Spurs have agreed to terms with LaMarcus Aldridge and David West while retaining Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green in hopes of returning to the Finals.
West said he wanted to play for a title contender and meant it. He agreed to join the San Antonio Spurs on a one-year, $1.5 million deal. To do so, West walked away from $12 million with the Indiana Pacers.
The Cleveland Cavaliers retained Kevin Love, who was one of the biggest question marks entering free agency, added guard Mo Williams and are set to turn Brendan Haywood’s non-guaranteed contract into something — the latest rumor being Jamal Crawford.
Williams agreed to terms on a two-year, $4.3 million deal with a player option, Adrian Wojnarowski reported. You know a team is a title favorite when a guy who scored 52 points in a game last season signed at a huge discount. However, Williams will be making the ninth stop of his 13-year NBA career and it has been seven years since he shot 48 percent from the field.
Meanwhile, Greg Monroe spurning the New York Knicks for the Milwaukee Bucks was regarded as one of the biggest surprises around the league. Dating back to the end of 2014, the Knicks were the overwhelming favorites to land Monroe in free agency.
Despite not landing Monroe, the Knicks had a productive free agency by landing two starters – Robin Lopez at center and Arron Afflalo at shooting guard – and bench depth in forwards Derrick Williams and Kyle O’Quinn.
Another surprise that took the league by storm was Tyson Chandler agreeing to a four-year, $54 million deal with the Phoenix Suns, which vaulted the organization into serious contention for Aldridge before he ultimately chose the Spurs.
In similar fashion, DeMarre Carroll leaving the Atlanta Hawks for the Toronto Raptors also caught some around the league off guard. The Raptors gave Carroll a four-year, $60 million offer he couldn’t refuse. It wasn’t long ago when some executives pegged Carroll’s value around $9 million a year.
Chatter today includes the Suns reportedly looking to trade Markieff Morris, who was angered when his brother, Marcus, was offloaded to the Detroit Pistons in a cap-clearing move.
With that in mind, here are our top 15 remaining free agents:
1. Kevin Seraphin, C, Wizards (Unrestricted): Probably the third-best French center in the NBA, depending on the relative merits of Alexis Ajinca. No question he is half the player that Rudy Gobert is. He averaged 12 minutes per game in the postseason, backing up Marcin Gortat. The five-year veteran had his best season in his sophomore campaign and has flatlined since. But he is 25 years old, so his long-term upside is still untapped. He’d like the opportunity to start. JULY 4 UPDATE: His friendship with new Clipper Paul Pierce could be a factor is getting him to Los Angeles as DeAndre Jordan’s replacement, but Paul Allen’s wallet could get him to Portland as Chris Kaman’s running mate. JULY 5 UPDATE: Marc Spears of Yahoo says Lakers, Wizards, Suns and Spurs in the mix. JULY 7 UPDATE: Keep an eye on the Clippers, who were linked to Seraphin by Dan Woike at the start of free agency. They still need a center to help replace the departed Jordan. UPDATE II: The Mavericks have expressed interest in Seraphin, a league source tells our Mike Scotto.
2. JaVale McGee, C, Sixers (Unrestricted): This is a guy who was traded to Philadelphia so that Sam Hinkie could get to the salary floor. He was waived without a buyout in time to latch onto a playoff team, but no one bit. As of now, he is the highest-paid player on the Sixers’ roster for next season at $12 million, and there is no doubt he will join Josh Smith as a double-dipper (a player receiving paychecks from two teams). There is no getting away from the fact that he has underachieved throughout his career, and as a double-dipper, he may not be motivated to change. A major risk/reward guy who could go boom or bust depending on who signs him. JULY 4 UPDATE: Doc Rivers placed a phone call to McGee, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. Also, George Karl likes him, so if DeMarcus Cousins gets moved, he can become a tutor to Willie Cauley-Stein and a cohort of Rajon Rondo. JULY 5 UPDATE: With the Lakers having acquired Roy Hibbert and the Kings getting Koufos, this could be a two-horse race between the Clippers and the Blazers. Then again, there are other teams with more cap space than the Clippers who could pad McGee’s bank account. JULY 6 UPDATE: See Seraphin. In a thin free agent market for centers at a discounted price, McGee is an option for the Clippers.
3. Enes Kanter, F-C, Thunder (Restricted): Probably the best pickup of the trade deadline, even though his awful defense in the pick-and-roll and at the rim – coupled with Serge Ibaka’s absence – made the Thunder look like an ABA team down the stretch. But Kanter’s offense is a welcome addition for a team that normally uses its centers as screeners and goons, and his effectiveness – if not his production – should be even better when lining up alongside Ibaka and Kevin Durant, whose free agency clock is ticking loudly. Now all GM Sam Presti has to do is convince skinflint owner Clay Bennett to look beneath the sofa cushions for the eight figures annually that it will take to keep Kanter, either with an offer right out of the gate or by matching another team’s pitch. That means luxury tax territory for one season until the cap jumps next summer. How OKC deals with Kanter is a direct referendum on Bennett. JULY 1 UPDATE: Portland may want a meeting, USAToday reported. JULY 2 UPDATE: Knicks made contact. JULY 3 UPDATE: The Thunder reached agreement with Kyle Singler on a five-year, $25 million deal. If they are low-balling Kanter, this thing could drag into August much like the Eric Bledsoe situation did a year ago. Or, a team such as the Lakers could make a max offer, which the Thunder would be sure to match — saving themselves some money in the process because an offer sheet would contain 4.5 percent annual raises rather than the 7.5 percent raises the bug Turk would get from re-signing directly with OKC. July 6 UPDATE: Thunder offered him a deal starting at $15.5 million per season, Vincent Goodwill reports. This one seems as though it may drag out a while.
4. LeBron James, F, Cavaliers (Unrestricted): He isn’t going anywhere, which is why he is randomly slotted here. The only way James doesn’t finish his career in his home state is if there is some sort of irreparable disconnect between him and owner Dan Gilbert that drives James away. If James went elsewhere, he would need a security force that would make President Obama blush. Depending on how you look at it, he could be first on this list or not even on it because his free agency is a formality to earn him an extra half-million dollars next season – and keep pressure on management to improve the roster. JULY 4 UPDATE: Has not tweeted since April 18. And we still do not know what his secret motivation was in the Finals. Meantime, life is good aboard a $29 million yacht, TMZ reported.
5. Tristan Thompson, F, Cavaliers (Restricted): He turned down a four-year, $52 million contract extension in October, which may or may not have been a mistake. Counting all options and qualifying offers, the Cavs already are on the hook for over $100 million in salaries next season. It’s hard to imagine GM David Griffin maxing out Love and giving $13 million annually to Thompson, who threatens a double-double every night and more than adequately replaced Love in the rotation during the latter stages of the playoffs. Griffin could allow another team to set the market or simply play a little hardball, which would make Thompson unrestricted in 2016. That might be a mistake, too, given that Thompson and LeBron James share the same agent, Rich Paul. JULY 1 UPDATE: Safe to say he made the right move turning down that $52 million extension offer in October. The Cavaliers and Thompson reportedy agreed to a five-year, $80 million deal. JULY 2 UPDATE: Thompson and the Cavs “are still apart” on contract talks, Brian Windhorst tweeted. But it’s almost certain he’ll return to Cleveland. JULY 5 UPDATE: Agent Rich Paul, who also represents LeBron James, wants the Thompson deal done before any talks on James can begin. JULY 6 UPDATE: Dialogue is ongoing, but getting nowhere, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reports.
6. Josh Smith, F, Rockets (Unrestricted): After being made the scapegoat – unfairly or not – in both Atlanta and Detroit, you get the sense that he has found some peace in Houston alongside former AAU teammate Dwight Howard, even if their series against Golden State did not exactly go as planned. Don’t forget that the Pistons are paying him over $5 million in each of the next five seasons, which makes taking less money for a smaller role with a contender much more palatable. If he stays with the Rockets, his salary should be directly commensurate with Houston’s playoff success this postseason. If logic flies out the window the way it did when he signed with Detroit, anything is possible. JULY 3 UPDATE: The Kings reportedly began discussions with Smith, according to Jake Fischer. That report was later said to be false. JULY 6 UPDATE: Crickets.
7. J.R. Smith, G, Cavaliers (Unrestricted): When we first published this summer’s rankings, we wrote this: “He would be crazy to opt out, given his $6.4 million number for next season, the Cavs’ preoccupation with retaining Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, and the fact that the light bulb is never really going to come on.” So much for expecting Smith to do the sane thing. While a half-season alongside LeBron James seemed to calm him down a bit, his two-game playoff suspension proved that he is a cheetah who isn’t changing his spots. He’s had his moments in the playoffs, especially in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against Atlanta, but he is the epitome of a faulty faucet — nobody runs more hot and cold. He would have been much better off minding his P’s and Q’s for another season and hitting a fertile market next summer. JULY 2 UPDATE: With Iman Shumpert getting $40 million for four years, how high will Dan Gilbert allow his luxury tax bill to climb? That will be a factor in whether Smith stays or goes. JULY 7 UPDATE: Despite adding Mo Williams, the Cavaliers are intent on keeping Smith and Matthew Dellavedova, ESPN reports.
8. Jordan Hill, F-C, Lakers (Unrestricted): Someone had to score and rebound for the Lakers. Hill did his share with career highs of 12.0 points and 7.9 boards in 26.8 minutes, primarily as a starter. While that is not his long-term role, he could play into his mid-30s as a team’s fourth big. The Lakers declined the $9 million option on Hill for the 2015-16 season to create more cap room. Turning Hill loose would allow GM Mitch Kupchak to possibly make a run at two top-tier free agents, although not both at max salaries. JULY 3 UPDATE: A fallback guy for Lakers and Mavs if they lose out on Aldridge/Jordan. JULY 6 UPDATE: May need to be renounced, or included in a sign-and-trade, in order to open the cap room to bring in Lou Williams and Roy Hibbert.
9. Amar’e Stoudemire, F-C, Mavericks (Unrestricted): His days as a starter or even a 30-minute player in this league are over. But you could see the bounce in his step return after arriving in Dallas. Maybe Stoudemire was just happy to get out of New York, where he did more good than title-hungry Knicks fans gave him credit for. Or maybe it was because the Mavericks reduced his minutes by 33 percent and brought him off the bench, where his scoring savvy obliterated opposing reserves and his limited lateral movement wasn’t as much of a liability. With a similar role moving forward, there’s no reason to believe he cannot be an effective backup big for three or four more years at the mid-level exception. JULY 2 UPDATE: Stoudemire has received interest from the Rockets, Mavericks, Clippers and Suns, ESPN reports. JULY 4 UPDATE: Interest coming from Lakers, who missed out on Jordan and Aldridge. JULY 5 UPDATE: Stoudemire will meet with the Clippers today, Yahoo reports.
10. Jeremy Lin, G, Lakers (Unrestricted): Lin has never returned to the “Linsanity” hype that made him a cultural icon towards the end of his tenure with the Knicks. Lin spent the season as a part-time starter for the Lakers and spent quality time in coach Byron Scott’s doghouse. Lin is considered a borderline starting point guard by many around the league. JULY 6 UPDATE: Lin remains “likely” to wind up in Dallas, per ESPN. A sign-and-trade could be done for the Mavericks to acquire Lin. JULY 7 UPDATE: With Barea in the fold, the Mavs seem like less of an option.
11. Carlos Boozer, F, Lakers (Unrestricted): At this point in his career, his starting days are behind him. Boozer’s most effective role would be a scoring big man off the bench used in pick-and-roll sets with the ability to stretch the defense from 18-feet out. The biggest knock on Boozer is his inability to provide much rim protection. JULY 6 UPDATE: Boozer has received interest from the Clippers, Spurs, Mavericks and Raptors. JULY 7 UPDATE: With the Spurs adding David West, Boozer’s chances of landing with San Antonio decreased.
12. Aaron Brooks, G, Bulls (Unrestricted): Most casual NBA fans don’t know Brooks averaged 19.6 points per game and 5.3 assists in his only season as a full-time starter with the Rockets in his third season. Since then, Brooks has become one of the league’s top scoring point guards off the bench with the ability to start in the event of an injury. Brooks served well as Derrick Rose’s insurance policy last season. JULY 6 UPDATE: Interest in Brooks has been quiet to this point, but with the dearth of talent available on the free agent market, expect that to change. JULY 7 UPDATE: Brooks and the Bulls have agreed to a one-year deal, ESPN reports.
13. Matthew Dellavedova, G, Cavaliers (Restricted): LeBron James described him as basically the most feisty player on the team, which is quite an endorsement. He showed his value — and David Griffin’s skill in assembling a roster full of quality, capable backups — by filling in for Kyrie Irving at the end of the second round vs. Chicago, during the conference finals against Atlanta, and in Games 2-6 of the Finals. He is smart, and defends like a puppy nipping at your ankles and is fearless. JULY 3 UPDATE: Dellavedova and the Cavaliers are progressing on a multi-year contract in the $3-5 million range, RealGM reports.
14. Mirza Teletovic, F, Nets (Restricted): Teletovic has made it clear his desire is to return to Brooklyn. He is a sniper from beyond the arc as a stretch forward. His season was cut short by blood clots in his lungs while averaging 8.5 points and 4.9 rebounds in 22.3 minutes per game. JULY 1 UPDATE: Teletovic has drawn a lot of interest from European teams, the New York Post reports. JULY 7 UPDATE: Stretch fours are trending in the league. Expect interest in Teletovic to pick up.
15. Andre Miller, G, Kings (Unrestricted): Miller is like that old man in the park, he’s not flashy, but you want him on your team because he gets the job done. He was reunited with his former coach George Karl in Sacramento, one of his biggest supporters over the years. Miller is a proven playoff veteran who averaged 14 points per game during the 2013 playoffs with the Nuggets under Karl. JULY 7 UPDATE: At 39, Miller would like to continue his NBA career, Bleacher Report says.
The Next Five: Norris Cole, Pelicans (Restricted); Alan Anderson, Nets (Unrestricted); K.J. McDaniels, Rockets (Restricted); Luis Scola, Pacers (Unrestricted); Gerald Green, Suns (Unrestricted).