What if I told you your favorite team could land a power forward that has never averaged less than 10 points per game in any of his 13 NBA seasons? He won a gold medal for Team USA. He is widely viewed as a good locker room guy. His basketball IQ is just south of MENSA territory.
Who is the mystery free agent forward? It’s Carlos Boozer.
In a statistically down season, Boozer averaged 11.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game and shot 49.9 percent from the floor in 23.8 minutes per game for the Los Angeles Lakers, who claimed him off waivers last summer.
Yet, shockingly, he’s still unsigned in late August and is considering overseas interest from China for the first half of the NBA season.
So why hasn’t Boozer signed yet?
However, similar to Amar’e Stoudemire, Boozer’s most effective role at this stage of his career would be as a scoring big man off the bench where he can thrive in pick-and-roll plays or stretch the defense out to the 18-foot mark.
Many teams lack quality bench depth, let alone efficient scoring off the pine. Therefore, there’s still a place for Boozer in the league in the form of the veteran minimum, $2.1 bi-annual exception or the $2.8 million room exception available to a number of teams.
Ideally, Boozer wants to play for a playoff team.
Thus, two notable teams in that category who could use bench scoring include the Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks.
In addition, two other players on our list that are still surprisingly on the board are Tristan Thompson and Norris Cole. Both Thompson and Cole are restricted free agents and could opt to sign their one-year qualifying offers for a chance at a massive payday next summer.
As noted by Sheridan, there is a case to be made that the Sixers should make a push for Cole to shore up their point guard position and — perish the thought — start establish a culture of winning in Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, other players such as Rasual Butler, Glen Davis and Reggie Evans can fill out a team’s bench rotation and make significant contributions for a minimal cost.
As August winds down, keep an eye out for partially guaranteed training camp offers. Multiple teams are looking to add a role player at the end of the bench or supplement their D-League affiliate with fringe NBA talent.
One example is New Zealand’s Corey Webster who has received interest from four NBA teams regarding a training camp invite, a league source told SheridanHoops.
With that in mind, here are the best remaining players in free agency and their potential destinations:
1. 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. AUGUST 4 UPDATE: With the Knicks coming to terms with Kevin Seraphin on a one-year, $2.8 million deal, Boozer is no longer an option for the Knicks who have a crowded frontcourt. UPDATE II: Boozer ranks tops among per-minute scorers on the market as HoopsRumors examined. AUGUST 7 UPDATE: Looks like we may have an updated version of Ray Allen — a player who is willing to wait as long as it takes to find the right situation, where winning a championship is priority No. 1. AUGUST 21 UPDATE: Boozer has drawn interest from the Sichuan Blue Whales and Shandong in China according reports from ESPN and Sportando.
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. UPDATE II: On a Twitter chat with his followers, LeBron James said “of course he will” when asked if Thompson would return. AUGUST 5 UPDATE: Fear the Sword examined Thompson’s free agency value to the Cavaliers in comparison to Anderson Varejao, and the piece is worth a read. AUGUST 10 UPDATE: Agent Rich Paul tells several media outlets it will be Thompson’s last year in Cleveland if he ultimately signs a one-year qualifying offer. AUGUST 13 UPDATE: LeBron James called Thompson a “huge piece” for the Cavaliers and made it clear he’s needed back as Brian Windhorst tweeted. AUGUST 18 UPDATE: A league source told our Chris Sheridan last week that the two sides are not far apart on money as many have been led to believe. I explained the three likely outcomes between Thompson and the Cavaliers here.
3. 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. AUGUST 4 UPDATE: Cole is drawing interest from the 76ers and Knicks according to Sam Amico. AUGUST 7: Signing the qualifying offer remains a viable option for Cole at this time with the ability to hit the open market again as an unrestricted free agent next summer. AUGUST 8 UPDATE: The offer to Jason Terry could have an impact on Cole’s future. Stay tuned. AUGUST 19 UPDATE: With Jason Terry returning to the Rockets, the importance of retaining Cole for the Pelicans — who made Terry an offer — is even greater than it was before. SEPT. 16 UPDATE: Cole signed his $3.3 million qualifying offer. He will be an unrestricted free agent, and he has veto rights over any trade.
4. Rasual Butler, F, Wizards (Unrestricted): In a league where shooters are coveted, it’s rather perplexing to see Butler still on the market after converting 39 percent of his 3-pointers in Washington last season. Butler showed there’s still plenty of gas in his tank after playing 1,505 minutes, which nearly equaled his total over the previous four seasons (1,601). AUGUST 7 UPDATE: At 36, the 12-year veteran could help a playoff team with his shooting off the bench and leadership. It would be surprising if Butler isn’t invited to compete for a spot in training camp. AUGUST 21 UPDATE: The San Antonio Spurs have expressed interest in adding Butler, a league source told SheridanHoops. San Antonio has one roster spot up for grabs with Jimmer Fredette and Reggie Williams on non-guaranteed deals. SEPT. 10 UPDATE: Butler worked out for the Pelicans, a team he spent four seasons with earlier in his career.
5. Glen Davis, F, Clippers (Unrestricted): At 29, Davis is coming off the worst statistical season of his career in limited action for the Los Angeles Clippers. That said, coach Doc Rivers has always been fond of “Big Baby” since winning a championship together with the Boston Celtics in 2008. With 14 guaranteed contracts for the Clippers, a return to Los Angeles is still in play. JULY 22 UPDATE: The Milwaukee Bucks reportedly expressed interest in Davis, but ultimately signed Chris Copeland instead. JULY 31 UPDATE: Los Angeles Clippers and Davis discussed the possibility of a return, the Los Angeles Times reports. AUGUST 1 UPDATE: Davis is weighing his options overseas according to Sportando. AUGUST 4 UPDATE: Davis remains a possibility to round out the 15-man roster for the Clippers according to ESPN. AUGUST 17 UPDATE: Davis told Sports Illustrated, “I want to go on a team that’s competing for a championship.” Davis also believes he will pick his next team by the end of August.
6. 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. AUGUST 25 UPDATE: One of the league’s best rebounders remains on the market for cheap. At 35, Evans won’t command much more than the veteran minimum.
7. 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. AUGUST 8 UPDATE: Beasley is unlikely to return to the Heat, Ira Winderman opines in the Sun Sentinel.
8. Ricky Ledo, G, Knicks (Unrestricted): On the cusp of 23, Ledo has a lot of raw untapped potential as a 6’7″ guard who can handle the ball. Ledo showed his all-around potential on April 3rd against the Wizards when he tallied 21 points, nine rebounds and three assists. However, inconsistency and a lack of playing time have hindered his progression. If he remains with Toronto’s D-League team, he will be a call-up candidate during the season. AUGUST 12 UPDATE: The Lakers brought in Ledo for a workout, the New York Post reported. AUGUST 20 UPDATE: Toronto’s D-League affiliate, Raptors 905, selected Ledo in the 2015 NBA D-League Expansion Draft.
9. Ben Gordon, G, Magic (Unrestricted): At 32, Gordon is two seasons removed from averaging double-digits off the bench for Charlotte. With training camp around the corner and several teams in search of bench scoring, will Gordon get a call? If there’s one thing Gordon has shown over his 11-year career, it’s the ability to be a spark plug off the bench. JULY 30 UPDATE: Gordon has become a vegan with the hope of continuing his NBA career and improving his speed and core strength. AUGUST 25 UPDATE: Gordon got $4.5 million from Orlando last summer after an unimpressive season with Charlotte the prior season. After shooting nearly 10 percent better from the field overall and beyond the arc with Orlando this past season, Gordon has yet to receive an offer anywhere close to that, ironically.
10. John Salmons, G/F, Pelicans (Unrestricted): Salmons can play the two or three spot off the bench. At 35, Salmons is in the twilight of his career. Teams short on cap space and in need of depth at multiple positions may bring Salmons into training camp for one last look to see if he has anything left in the tank.. AUGUST 25 UPDATE: At 35, Salmons would command no more than the veteran minimum as a possible bench player.