Free agency shopping at the end of July is similar to waiting all month for the giant coupon booklet from your neighborhood grocery store. With that in mind, which players will be this year’s bargains on the clearance shelf?
Can you find a scoring guard and a big man off the bench with a $2.8 million mid-level exception? Yes, that is somewhat akin to a two-for-one deal on soon-to-expire potato chips at your favorite grocery store.
Some of the unrestricted free agents in our top 10 rankings will fit that bargain bill.
Meanwhile, two restricted free agents in the rankings could set themselves up for massive paydays next summer by accepting their one-year qualifying offers. In this case, think of the salary cap going up next summer as inflation.
Even the Philadelphia 76ers — the penny pinchers of the NBA — are in the mix to sign a noteworthy championship point guard listed below. If Philadelphia doesn’t loosen the purse strings in free agency, they can make a splashy trade with one of their four first-round picks in 2016.
Will the New York Knicks add a big man and a scoring guard from the list with their $2.8 million mid-level exception?
Here are the best remaining players in free agency and their potential destinations:
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 play consistently and is willing to take less money to do so. 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 SheridanHoops. JULY 9 UPDATE: Wizards are conducting business as though they expect Seraphin to move on, the Washington Post reports. JULY 12 UPDATE: Wizards, Lakers and Mavericks have shown interest in Seraphin, Yahoo reports. JULY 28 UPDATE: Knicks, Lakers and Wizards remain in the hunt for Seraphin, league sources tell SheridanHoops.
2. Tristan Thompson, F, Cavaliers (Restricted): He turned down a four-year, $52 million contract extension in October. 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 Kevin 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. JULY 9 UPDATE: Thompson and the Cavaliers are not close to a deal despite the LeBron agreement. The two are “not a package,” a source told ESPN. JULY 12 UPDATE: Cavaliers general manager David Griffin recently said, “We really like him. I think we’ll end up getting something done.” JULY 18 UPDATE: Thompson posted a photo on Instagram saying, “Always good seeing my brother @kevinlove. It’s never a dull moment with this guy!!” Certainly doesn’t seem like a post from a guy who will be leaving Cleveland anytime soon. JULY 28 UPDATE: The Cavaliers got a steal in Matthew Dellavedova on a one-year, $1.2 million qualifying offer in restricted free agency. The same fate could await Thompson by the end of his restricted free agency with the hope of a large payday in the summer of 2016 when the salary cap dramatically rises and the majority of teams will be loaded with cap space.
3. 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. JULY 12: Cavaliers general manager David Griffin made it clear he would like to retain Smith. JULY 18 UPDATE: Cleveland wasn’t thrilled Smith turned down his player option for this summer according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Former Nets assistant general manager Bobby Marks also weighed in on Smith’s decision. JULY 28 UPDATE: Smith appears to be at the mercy of the Cavaliers. Rumors surfaced about interest from the Lakers, but they are loaded at the guard spots, and the rumors were shot down. It would be stunning if he recouped the $6.4 million he passed up to become an unrestricted free agent at this point.
4. 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 the 18-foot mark. The biggest knock on Boozer is his inability to provide 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. UPDATE II: Boozer and the Clippers have mutual interest, L.A. Times reports. JULY 13 UPDATE: Boozer has received interest from the Clippers, Spurs, Mavericks, Raptors, Knicks and Nuggets, a league source tells SheridanHoops. JULY 28 UPDATE: Knicks, Rockets and Mavericks remain in the hunt for Boozer, league sources tell Sheridan Hoops. JULY 28 UPDATE: Knicks, Rockets and Mavericks remain interested in Boozer, league sources tell SheridanHoops.
5. Norris Cole, G Pelicans (Restricted): Cole played the best basketball of his career in New Orleans after being acquired in a trade. Cole averaged 9.9 points and shot 44 percent from the field overall and 38 percent from downtown in 28 games. With Jrue Holiday an injury risk, Cole is a quality backup point guard who can provide defensive energy and scoring when called upon. JULY 10 UPDATE: The Pelicans are holding out hope they can retain Cole, Nola.com reports. JULY 14 UPDATE: The Philadelphia 76ers have expressed interest in Cole, a league source tells SheridanHoops. JULY 28 UPDATE: Cole continues to receive interest from the 76ers, but it’s unclear whether they will spend enough to pry the restricted free agent from New Orleans. At this point, signing his one-year qualifying offer and playing in Alvin Gentry’s system with the Pelicans remains a viable option, a league source tells SheridanHoops. In addition, Anthony Davis wants Cole back in New Orleans.
6. 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. 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: In a thin free agent market for centers at a discounted price, McGee is an option for the Clippers. JULY 13 UPDATE: Dallas had emerged as a potential suitor for McGee, but there are concerns over his health. He has played only 28 games over the past two seasons. JULY 28 UPDATE: Dallas remains interested, provided McGee is healthy enough to play. Signing Samuel Dalembert shows how desperate the Mavericks are for a big man right now.
7. 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. July 9 UPDATE: Miller and the Kings have spoken, according to The Sacramento Bee. JULY 21 UPDATE: The Seth Curry signing could spell the end of Miller in Sacramento, according to a report.
8. Jason Terry, G, Rockets (Unrestricted): How much more fuel does “Jet” have left? At 37, Terry is in the twilight of his career but still showed signs of being a productive bench player. Terry averaged 7.0 points per game and shot 39 percent from beyond the arc in 77 games (18 starts) for the Rockets last season. JULY 6 UPDATE: Dallas reached out to Terry about a possible reunion, The Dallas Morning News reports. JULY 13 UPDATE: Terry and the Rockets are progressing on a deal to retain the veteran guard, RealGM reports. JULY 19 UPDATE: Terry’s chances of returning to the Rockets have increased with the Ty Lawson trade, ESPN reports. JULY 22 UPDATE: The Rockets renounced their free agent exception rights to Terry, according to RealGM’s transaction log.
9. Michael Beasley, F, Heat (Unrestricted): The former 2008 No. 2 overall pick peaked at 22 when he averaged 19.2 points per game as a full-time starter for the Timberwolves. Since then? Beasley has played for three teams (Timberwolves, Suns and Heat) in four seasons — along with a stint overseas in China. Now, 26, Beasley finds himself fighting for the opportunity to play in the league again. If Samuel Dalembert can get a deal, why can’t a former No. 2 overall pick who is entering the prime years of his career? His struggles off the court are well documented, but his talent as a scorer is undeniable. JULY 28 UPDATE: Beasley could potentially return to Miami if he accepts a non-guaranteed deal, the Sun Sentinel speculates.
10. Reggie Evans, F, Kings (Unrestricted): The burly 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward is an elite rebounding machine. During the 2012-13 season, Evans led the league in total rebound percentage (26.7), defensive rebound percentage (38) and offensive rebound percentage (15.5) for the Brooklyn Nets. While limited offensively, his rebounding ability and presence as a locker room leader have drawn praise from teammates around the league over the years. JULY 28 UPDATE: DeMarcus Cousins is a big fan of Evans and has respect for the veteran forward. With a tenuous relationship between coach George Karl and Cousins, retaining Evans will help keep Cousins happy.
The Next Five: Glen Davis, Clippers (Unrestricted); Andray Blatche, China (Unrestricted); Rasual Butler, Wizards (Unrestricted); Tayshaun Prince, Pistons (Unrestricted); Ben Gordon, Magic (Unrestricted).