2015 NBA free agency: Breaking down the best players still on the market
By the time most of the country settled in to catch some fireworks on July 4, the best of the NBA's free agency period was already in the books. Truth be told, this wasn't the craziest or most shocking free-agency period, as a vast majority of the big pieces fell into place as expected. But 2015 will be remembered for both its efficiency and its volume: it took less than four days for most of the difference-makers to find new homes, and those new marriages cost the NBA owners a pretty penny.
Here are a few key numbers and trends to know from the past week...
- In the first week of free agency, more than $2 billion worth of agreements were made between teams and players.
- That number doesn't include rookie-contract extensions for the class of 2012. No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis and No. 6 pick Damian Lillard raked in another $265 million combined.
- Twenty of SI.com's "Top 25 Free Agents of 2015" have already reached agreements with specific terms for next season and beyond.
- The four outstanding members from that list all appear headed to known destinations: LeBron James and Tristan Thompson are assumed to be returning to the Cavaliers, Tim Duncan will re-sign with the Spurs and Wesley Matthews is headed from the Blazers to the Mavericks.
- Only two members of SI.com's Top 10 changed teams: LaMarcus Aldridge (from the Blazers to the Spurs) and DeAndre Jordan (from the Clippers to the Mavericks).
- A list of the richest free-agent contracts includes: Kevin Love (Cavaliers, $110 million over five years), Jimmy Butler (Bulls, $90 million over five years), Goran Dragic (Heat, $90 million over five years), Draymond Green (Warriors, $82 million over five years), Aldridge (Spurs, $80 million over four years), Jordan (Mavericks, $80 million over four years), Reggie Jackson (Pistons, $80 million over five years).
- As it turned out, free-agents generally favored long-term security over shorter-term flexibility that would allow them to become free agents again in a larger cap market in 2016 or 2017. The only big names to sign one-year deals were Dwyane Wade (Heat, $20 million) and Rajon Rondo (Kings, $10 million). Although James is expected to sign a two-year contract with an opt-out next summer, no other big names have gone that route yet.
So that's what happened. Here's what's coming: not much. Aside from the five assumed names listed above, the rest of the free-agency market is bone dry. Sunday saw GMs efficiently pick through what remained of the third/four-tier players like Lou Williams (Lakers), Brandon Bass (Lakers) and Cory Joseph (Raptors). If your favorite team is in need of a difference-maker, that's bad news for two reasons: 1) Very few teams still possess meaningful cap space to make signings, and 2) Calling any of the available free agents a true "difference-maker" would probably be a stretch.
Here's a quick rundown, in alphabetical order, of 25 players who are still available along with their free agency status, most recent team, and their 2014-15 stats.
Alan Anderson | Unrestricted | G/F
7.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 44.3 FG%, 34.8 3P%
The 32-year-old shooting guard has played everywhere from Croatia to Charlotte, and he's been a solid rotation player in Brooklyn for each of the last two seasons. Although Anderson is not really cut out to be a lead scoring threat, he is a quality spot-up shooter who also posted the best defensive rating of any Nets player with at least 1,000 minutes played. Anderson is a back-up hole-plugger, a quality off-ball, second-unit guy who can start in a pinch.
Darrell Arthur | Unrestricted | F
6.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 40.4 FG%
Playing Arthur, 27, means sacrificing offense for defense, and that kept him from garnering huge minutes in Denver. The 6'9" power forward is a willing—if not totally able—jump-shooter and his shift towards stretching out to the three-point arc has yet to pan out. Arthur makes up for it defensively, where he led Denver in defensive rating and posted an elite +3.91 Defensive Real Plus-Minus, better than everyone at his position except Tim Duncan and Anthony Davis. Back in 2013, Arthur was traded for Kosta Koufos, who agreed to a four-year, $33 million contract with the Kings this week.
Leandro Barbosa | Unrestricted | G
UPDATE: Leandro Barbosa is returning to the Warriors on a one-year deal.
7.1 PPG, 1.5 APG, 47.4 FG%
With Draymond Green re-signed and Marreese Speights back on a team option, Leandro Barbosa is the biggest free agency question left for the defending champion Warriors. A favorite of coach Steve Kerr, Barbosa provided solid minutes behind MVP Stephen Curry on a minimum contract. The season amounted to a bit of a renaissance for the 32-year-old Brazilian speedster, who played just 20 games the previous season. Retaining Barbosa isn't absolutely essential to Golden State's back-to-back chances, as he's far from a stopper, but he did keep the Warriors's second-unit playing fast, a top organizational goal.
Andrea Bargnani | Unrestricted | F/C
14.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 45.4 FG%, 36.6 3P%
Advanced stats nerds are waiting to pounce with glee on whomever talks themselves into Bargnani. The 29-year-old former No. 1 pick resuscitated his scoring average and shooting percentages during a bleak, pointless season in New York. Despite playing on a tanking Knicks squad filled with D-leaguers and anonymous retreads, Bargnani managed to post a team-worst -17.5 net rating. His Real Plus-Minus of -5.29 ranked in the bottom five league-wide among power forwards and centers, a testament to both his decrepit defense and empty offensive contributions.
Carlos Boozer | Unrestricted | F
11.8 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 49.9 FG%
After six years of steady decline, the 33-year-old Boozer has reached the point of no return. The Lakers placed an amnesty claim on Boozer last year for no good reason, and his turnstile defense helped him post a horrific -9.2 net rating. The only bright side of Julius Randle's sad season-ending injury was the comforting thought that Boozer wasn't robbing the rookie of a single minute.
Norris Cole | Restricted (Pelicans) | G
7.6 PPG, 3.4 APG, 41.2 FG%
Cole, 26, played well after a midseason trade from Miami to New Orleans. Overmatched when asked to start, the 2011 first-round pick slots in cleanly behind Jrue Holiday on the depth chart, and the Pelicans are reportedly interested in re-signing him. With the biggest names at his position—Goran Dragic, Brandon Knight and Reggie Jackson—now signed, a resolution should be coming in fairly short order for the two-time champion.
Matthew Dellavedova | Restricted (Cavs) | G
4.8 PPG, 3 APG, 36.2 FG%
The 24-year-old Dellavedova received some well-timed publicity during the postseason after he stepped into Cleveland's starting lineup for the injured Kyrie Irving. While his hard-nosed style of play won him both fans and critics, Dellavedova did fairly well spotting up as LeBron James operated and exerting maximum effort on defense. With Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert shelling out to keep James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and Iman Shumpert, there's no reason for him to stop at everyone's favorite (or least favorite) Aussie.
Wayne Ellington | Unrestricted | G
10 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 41.2 FG%, 37 3P%
Another member of the "He played for the Lakers so his career-high stats are meaningless" club, Ellington is nevertheless a career 38.2% three-point shooter who posted better defensive numbers than most of his L.A. colleagues. The well-traveled 2009 draft pick has played for five teams since 2012.
Manu Ginobili | Unrestricted | G
10.5 PPG, 4.2 APG, 3 RPG
Ginobili, 37, really started to show his age last season, particularly in the playoffs, where he averaged just 8 points on 34.9 FG%. Although the four-time champ and future Hall of Famer has yet to officially announce whether he's returning to the Spurs for another go-around, the splashy addition of LaMarcus Aldridge might help convince him to play another 82. San Antonio retained starting two guard Danny Green, who was an unrestricted free agent, so Ginobili's reserve role would remain the same.
11.9 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 41.6 FG%, 35.4 3P%
Buried by coach Jeff Hornacek down the stretch, Green is a very willing shooter who operates with a perpetual green light. The 29-year-old former Slam Dunk Contest champion has added a fairly dependable three-point stroke to complement his insane leaping ability, and he would work best as an instant offense guy for a bench lacking in punch. He generally plays defense like he's resigned to the fact he can't guard anyone. The timing of Green's free agency was a bit off, as he enjoyed a career year in 2013-14, and some smart shoppers will be eyeing him with bounceback potential.
Jordan Hill | Unrestricted | F/C
12 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 45.9 FG%
For their confounding $9 million investment in Hill, the Lakers received a big man who made both their offense and defense meaningfully worse when he was on the court. Hill's Real Plus-Minus approaches Andrea Bargnani levels of atrociousness, and he lacks much of anything -- besides productive rebounding numbers -- to hang his hat on.
Enes Kanter | Restricted (Thunder) | F/C
15.5 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 51.9 FG%
Friends don't let friends think that Enes Kanter is a valuable player. Thankfully, a midseason trade from Utah to Oklahoma City helped get the word out about Kanter's atrocious defense: he ranked dead last among centers in Defensive Real Plus-Minus and he sure looks unsalvageable. The 23-year-old former lottery pick has the strength, size and enough skill to pose lots of problems for defenders when he gets the ball in the basket area, and his per-game numbers should help him land a sizeable contract. Let's preemptively cover our eyes.
Jeremy Lin | Unrestricted | G
11.2 PPG, 4.6 APG, 42.4 FG%, 36.9 3P%
Sunday's rumors linked Lin, 26, in a possible sign-and-trade with the Mavericks. On paper, the Lakers looked like a questionable fit for him alongside Kobe Bryant, but the bigger issue proved to be the emergence of rookie Jordan Clarkson and, now, the drafting of lottery pick D'Angelo Russell. Lin looks headed for his third team since 2012 saw the "Linsanity," and it seems clear that he is better suited to a reserve role rather than a starting one. His pick-and-roll skills and improved three-point shooting help make up for his defensive limitations and turnover issues.
K.J. McDaniels | Restricted (Rockets) | G/F
7.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 39.6 FG%
Perhaps the greatest unknown in this year's free agency class, the 22-year-old McDaniels rotted on the bench after Houston acquired him from Philadelphia in a midseason trade. The 2014 second-round pick briefly drew some buzz with the Sixers thanks to his insane leaping ability and volleyball-style blocks, but there's not much else to go on. Houston is reportedly committed to retaining him.
Jameer Nelson | Unrestricted | G
8.3 PPG, 4 APG, 40.7 FG%, 34.5 3P%
The longtime Magic icon played for three teams last season and now searches for his next home. Nelson, 33, started for the Mavericks prior to their trade for Rajon Rondo, and Dallas owned the league's No. 1 offense with Monta Ellis carrying much of the load and Nelson acting as suppor. Going forward, a narrow role makes the most sense for the 11-year veteran.
JaVale McGee | Unrestricted | C
4.6 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 53.2 FG%
Days after McGee pledged to play a mentoring role in Philadelphia, Sixers GM Sam Hinkie paid him to go away and no one claimed him down the stretch. The 7-footer has played just 28 games combined over the last two seasons, in part due to a leg injury, and he's in danger of becoming less famous than his mother, a former Olympic gold medalist and aspiring reality television personality. Rumors suggest the Clippers just might be desperate enough to plug in the zany McGee as a DeAndre Jordan replacement.
Kendrick Perkins | Unrestricted | C
3.6 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 44.9 FG%
Perkins' useful days are long, long gone, which makes him another likely candidate for the Clippers, who are coached by his former boss in Boston, Doc Rivers. One of the very slowest players in the NBA, Perkins excels at turning over the ball before he can figure out what to do with it. In all seriousness, he's still a physical presence who can claim rebounds, set screens and provide an intimidating/inspiring bench presence. Cleveland coach David Blatt wisely used Perkisn for just three minutes of garbage time during the Finals.
Austin Rivers | Unrestricted | G
7 PPG, 2 APG, 40.9 FG%, 29.8 3P%
The rumor chatter has been light around Rivers, most likely because he spent last season playing for his father and because there are no other members of his immediate family in GM positions. The 2012 lottery pick has had a rough go during his first three seasons, but he enjoyed a few bright spots during the Clippers' ill-fated postseason run. L.A.'s bench remains so weak, despite the addition of Lance Stephenson, that there are definitely minutes available for Rivers if he returns.
Kevin Seraphin | Unrestricted | F/C
6.6 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 51.3 FG%
Teams mining the bargain bin for a young-ish big might look at Seraphin, 25, who played behind veterans Marcin Gortat and Nene in Washington. The 2010 first-round pick is built like a brick wall and he's a fairly productive rebounder. The Wizards' offense fell off a cliff when he was in the game, however, and he scores poorly by Real Plus-Minus and net rating. Expectations should be kept in check.
Luis Scola | Unrestricted | F
UPDATE: Scola signs with the Raptors on a one-year, $3 million deal.
9.4 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 46.7 FG%
At 35, Scola is rounding for third and headed home. His transition to a bench role in Indiana played out fairly well, as the crafty 6-foot-9 power forward managed to keep his per-minute production up even in a reserve role. Although one would think he's in ring-chasing mode, Scola doesn't stretch the court and he isn't an impact defender, so his utility for true contenders might be somewhat limited.
12.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.3 APG, 41.9 FG%, 31.6 3P%
Smith's 2014-15 season was the stuff of legend: Bought out mid-contract by the Pistons, the polarizing Smith quickly rebounded and caught on with the Rockets. As Detroit improved markedly without Smith, Houston made it all the way to the Western Conference finals while playing him heavy minutes. There's no clear explanation for all of that, so don't even try. Smith was a very smart buy-low play by Rockets GM Daryl Morey thanks in part to his defensive versatility, even if his notorious shooting struggles are an ever-present problem. Will Houston's run with Smith prove to be a one-time fling?
J.R. Smith | Unrestricted | G
12.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.8 APG, 41.7 FG%, 38.3 3P%
J.R. Smith's mother summed up her son's journey from the Knicks to the Cavaliers with the perfect Drake line: "Started from the bottom, now we're here." The all-over-the-map Smith needs something, and Cleveland's lack of distractions and ability to win the East seemed to be a mostly productive environment. Yes, there was the postseason suspension, the cold spell in the Finals, the Phunkee Duck entrance and all the rest, but Smith did deliver against the Hawks in the conference finals and LeBron James can always use another shot-maker. The big question here is whether Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert decides Smith's antics are worth the price (and luxury tax cost) of keeping him. On Cleveland's long list of free agents, Smith is arguably the most expendable.
Amar'e Stoudemire | Unrestricted | F/C
11.5 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 55.7 FG%
As bad as you might think Stoudemire's defense is, it's worse. On paper, Stoudemire's impressive per-36 numbers make him an intriguing addition for a team with playoff aspirations, In practice, that pretty thought gives way to an uglier reality. Stoudemire's tenure in Dallas saw him produce a -6.2 net rating, the worst of any Mavericks player who played at least 50 minutes. Any meaningful investment in the former max player would be too much.
David West | Unrestricted | F
11.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 471. FG%
Probably the most desirable name left on the market, West is only a free agent because he opted out of a $12 million player option due to philosophical differences with Pacers management over their treatment of teammate Roy Hibbert. At 34, West is in decline, but he's a pro's pro who brings physicality, a nice mid-range game and plenty of postseason experience. The two-time All-Star has expressed a desire to play with true contenders as he pursues what would be the first title of his career.
Mo Williams | Unrestricted | G
14.2 PPG, 6.2 APG, 39.7 FG%, 34.2 3P%
Williams is up to eight teams and counting during his 12-year career, and he keeps drawing checks because he's always willing to try to generate some offense. Now, it doesn't always work: Williams can be a streaky shooter, he's not a pure passer, and his three-point shot is hit or miss. Nevertheless, he plays with pace, constantly applies pressure, and is used to playing on or off the ball. Defense, on the other hand, is another question entirely. As a second-unit guy, he still has life under the right conditions.