The best remaining unsigned free agents
September 4th, 2018

The bulk of the NBA’s offseason business is done. The big signings are done, the second-tier players are almost all off the table as well, and for the most part, rotations for next season are set.

That said, there are always a couple of players who, even at this relatively late stage, are still unsigned. With the bulk of NBA places gone, so too now are the bulk of the EuroLeague and Chinese league places, the two next best-paying leagues in the world. Those who remain unsigned therefore have limited spots to fight over, and might be fighting each other.

Here, then, in absolutely no order whatsoever, are some of those remaining who could still potentially help a an NBA team.

Jamal Crawford

Crawford opted out of a $4,544,400 contract with the Timberwolves, as his one year with the team was not a happy union. He had the third-lowest points per game mark of his career (and the lowest since the first two years of his career), a joint-lowest assists per game mark, and a career-worst DBPM of -4.0. He still make a lot of tough shots off the dribble, as is his way, but he was ineffectual defensively, and measured out as an overall net negative. Nevertheless, Crawford’s ability to save plays should still get him another contract somewhere. It is however surprising that now, in the first week of September, he still hasn’t got one.

Joe Johnson

After playing well in a part-season at a new position of power forward on the minimum salary for the Miami Heat down the stretch of the 2015-16, Johnson signed for big money the following summer to do the same for the Utah Jazz. In the first year with them, he did so, being a productive half court offensive player via a barrage of floaters and turnarounds. Last year, however, Johnson looked slowed, losing his scoring efficiency (a .542% true shooting mark plummeted to .490%) while being ever more attacked defensively. With career-lows in his advanced stats across the board, the Johnson of last season is no longer an NBA player. The Johnson of the year before, though, was. And so he may get one more contract if is believed that last year was just an aberration.

Jordan Crawford

Jamal’s namesake started last year with the Pelicans and ended last year with the Pelicans, despite being out of the NBA for the majority of the year. In the short time he managed on the court, he proved as ever that he can score the ball at the NBA level, doing so via a ball-dominant style reminiscent of a slightly overzealous Jamal. In his eight professional seasons, Crawford has recorded NBA career averages of 12.2 points and 3.1 assists per game; the scoring is inefficiently, the play often wild, the rhythm never really there, the defence similarly short, but that has to count for something. In the half court, Crawford can score with almost anyone.

Brandan Wright

Wright played for both the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets last year, but after a decade of being a very productive backup, he struggled with both his health and performance. Health problems are nothing new for Wright, who has managed only 68 games over the past three seasons, and only 428 over his 11 year career; a dodgy knee is now the main cause of his repeated absences. In the past, when healthy, he would at least be an athletic paint finisher, lob catcher, shot-blocker and occasional mid-range shooter. If the Brandan Wright of old can be found, he can still be that.

Willie Reed

The NBA has gradually moved away from players of Reed’s ilk, and contracts to non-stretch fives are getting shorter and rarer. Nevertheless, with an always-excellent rebounding rate and the ability to finish around the basket, take a couple of dribbles and drop righty hooks, Reed has always been an effective one. He isn’t a new-era centre, but there is still room for productive, strong and athletic paint players.

Quincy Acy

Offensively, Acy is seemingly a shooter now; 80% of his shots last season came from beyond the three-point line, and 34.9% of them went in. If that number was 5% higher, he would probably have a job by now; it is not as though those shots were contested. Acy’s hustle, strength and effort saw him play a stretch-five role, despite standing only 6’7 and entering the league as awing player, and while he does not contend shots much above the rim, he does counter this by taking charge. He is thus a candidate for a stretch four role somewhere. The stretch five thing, though, was sub-optimal.

Derrick Williams

Eight years ago, Williams was a #2 overall pick. He has been in the NBA for at least part of every season since, yet his lustre has diminished to the point that his only NBA work last year was a single 10-day contract with the L.A. Lakers. For a long time, the knock against Williams was his lack of position; he was either a power forward without interior size or game, or a perimeter playing small forward who neither handled nor shot as well as his peers. It should surely figure that the evolution of the NBA game towards more stretch play from all frontcourt positions would benefit a player like Williams. Yet he cannot make it stick, and remains unsigned for now.

Errick McCollum

C.J.’s older brother is the rare example of the undrafted 30-year-old with no NBA experience who might nevertheless have a chance at this level. McCollum has yet to get beyond the summer league level in the NBA, yet he has twice led the Chinese league in scoring, and last year averaged 14.6 points per game for Anadolu Efes in the EuroLeague. It is true that Efes finished last in the EuroLeague, and that they had the worst offence in the competition, one often guilty of overdribbling and not being able to regularly create high-efficiency offence. But this was more a case of the team not knowing (or refusing to accept) the profile of who they signed and then wondering why he wasn’t a half-court point guard. Like C.J., Errick is a scorer by trade, who just happens to be a short one. Having improved to an average three-point shooter over the years to flank his dynamic driving, step-back driven scoring game, he may have a small NBA window.

Phil Pressey

Three-year NBA veteran Pressey has been out of the league for a couple of years, spending one in the G-League and one in the EuroLeague with Barcelona. Falling out of the league is not the same as falling off the radar, and, as a pesky defender with excellent ball control, he embodies a lot of the indelible qualities coaches like to have from reserve point guards. His lack of size, athleticism and shot though made him an overall net negative in the NBA, and remain true even after his time out of the league. So to make it back in, someone will have to really like him.

Festus Ezeli

Ezeli played four years for the Golden State Warriors, and although he struggled with his health in that time (missing the entirety of his second season and managing only 92 regular season games over the final two), he nevertheless developed in that time to become a very solid backup post centre. However, while he signed a two year, $15,133,000 contract with the Portland Trail Blazers in the summer of 2016, he never played for the team at all due to injury, and has been out of the league for a year. Ezeli has now has multiple surgeries on both knees, and his health is the primary if not only concern; when he was healthy, he was certainly good enough.

Dwight Buycks

Buycks started last year on a two-way contract with the Pistons, yet worked his way up to a full contract midseason, and ended up averaging 14.7 minutes per game between January and March. He was however only a stop-gap solution as the Pistons ran out of ball handlers, and was waived to open this summer in favour of Jose Calderon. Buycks’s aggressive driving game nevertheless saw him provide a useful scoring option alongside and around Andre Drummond’s dribble hand-offs, and while his age (turning 30 in March) does not convey the upside that a fringe NBA guard would ideally have, he does have least have some citeable experience now.

Rodney Hood

Hood is the best player on this list, a scoring wing who averaged 16.8 points per game over the first two thirds of last season, and who scored double figures in two NBA Finals games as recently as three months ago. His unsigned status is not down to whether or not he can get a contract, but merely a question of how big it should be; Cleveland have leveraged his free agency to temper suitors in a marker that is largely positioning itself for the summer of 2019, while Hood is reconciling potentially positioning himself in the same market with the understandable desire to get as much as he can now. In tandem, then, the two have seen Hood remain unsigned, while the bulk of the available money out there has been spent. Cleveland have been down this road before with both Anderson Varejao and Sasha Pavlovic some years ago, and would rather the situation not extend into training camp like those two did; nevertheless, it seems likely Hood will be back with the team, in some form.

Lucas Nogueira

The irrepressible Nogueira lost his rotation spot as the Toronto Raptors’ main reserve centre to Jakob Poeltl over the course of last season, and although Poeltl has now been dealt to the San Antonio Spurs, the Raptors have made no obvious signs of re-signing Nogueira, instead signing Greg Monroe for depth and intending to play Serge Ibaka more regularly at five. Nogueira is therefore out of work, despite his length and athleticism making him an active defensive presence who wins possessions. There has never been much polished or consistent about Bebe, but there does not really need to be for him to be effective.

Alan Williams

In the first year of a three year, $17.04 million contract with the Suns, last season was a nothing year for Williams. He missed almost all of it due to a torn Meniscus, and although he returned for the final five games, that was not enough time to show that he could still be the player he had been in 2016/17 when he earned that contract. A healthy, in-rhythm Williams is slow and undersized but also a rebounding magnet, with a rebounding rate of 22.4% that season to pair with a refined level of offensive skill. He is a pure paint player and a slow one who will be limited to a reserve role even at his best, but at his best, Williams is a solid NBA player.

Spencer Hawes

At a time of stretch fives, it is of note that an early subscriber to the model, Hawes, was out of the NBA all of last season. He never made it to the end of the four year, $22,652,350 contract he signed with the Clippers back in 2014, waived by the Bucks last summer under the stretch provision, a team that latterly proved suitably short of shooting that they keep bringing Jason Terry back, and proved suitably short of help of the five spot that they actually traded for Tyler Zeller. This is not a great endorsement of Hawes, a non-factor defensively at an important defensive position. Nevertheless, with a high level of offensive talent highlighted by a jump shot the modern game allows him to embrace, Hawes could surely still score at the NBA level.

Jared Cunningham

Cunningham played for a couple of teams in 2015/16, including 40 games in the first half of the season with the Cavaliers, then spent the following year in China. He went to summer league with the Wizards in 2017 in a bid to get back into the league was unsuccessful, and instead went to Bayern Munich in Germany, for whom he averaged 12.2 points, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals in 21.5 minutes per game. The athletic Cunningham is a limited shooter and ball handler; that said, he runs the court well, slashes and is a great athlete. His NBA stints thus far have been built on the idea that he can convert that athleticism into above average perimeter defence to pair with incremental shooting and plenty of run-outs. He has yet to do the defensive part of that consistently, but there is still projectability there.

Josh Huestis

Three years after being drafted, Huestis got his first significant NBA minutes last season, recording 982 regular season minutes versus a mere 86 prior to that point. He appeared in 69 games and started 10 of them; he was however also removed from the rotation come playoff time, as Corey Brewer (below) took the role Huestis had once assumed as Andre Roberson’s replacement on the wing. Brewer took this role because Huestis didn’t fill it – while his length and determination saw him win possessions on the defensive end, he contributed incredibly little offensively and was overall a distinct net negative. The defensive profile intrigues enough for Huestis to be on NBA team’s radars, but to get another contract right away, he will need to find a team that can both mask his deficiencies and commit to fixing them.

Luol Deng

We suggested last week that Deng could be a buyout-and-stretch candidate for the Lakers as early as this Saturday, and it came to pass that that is exactly what happened. We further proffered that, if he were to be a free agent, Deng might be of interest to the Houston Rockets. Maybe he will be. Yet it seems also that the Minnesota Timberwolves are interested (inevitable, considering Tom Thibodeau’s love of what he already knows), and GiveMeSport has also learned that the Toronto Raptors have expressed an interest as well. It appears, then, as though Deng will not remain a free agent for long.

DeAndre Liggins

Liggins tends to sneak into the NBA at the back end of seasons as a defensive specialist role player picked up by teams for single-possession turns on the court. This happened again with the Pelicans last season, and so although they waived him this week, Liggins’s chances of another NBA contract must be considered fairly high. After all, he stuck to the brief.

Patrick McCaw

2017/18 was a significant sophomore slump for McCaw, who failed to capitalise on his late-season momentum as a rookie and instead fell out of the Warriors’ rotation for much of the season, including the post-season. Nevertheless, McCaw received a qualifying offer from the Warriors, a standing offer of a guaranteed $1,699,698 that is still extant today. A report at one time said that McCaw as likely to sign it, but he has not yet done so – the Warriors will be hoping that if he does return to the team, they can get him back to the heady, wiry, part-time handling versatile perimeter threat he once looked to be. There is still plenty of time on his side.

Tyler Ulis

Waived by the Phoenix Suns to open the offseason, Ulis was the most used of all the patch-up point guard options the team deployed last year. Playing in 71 games and starting 43 of them, Ulis appeared in 2,781 minutes over his first two seasons in the league with Phoenix, so it was a surprise to see him waived when he was set to cost only the minimum this season. Nevertheless, they did so presumably on account of not seeing much potential to improve within Ulis, a player who struggles to score the ball, defend his position or move opponents around on either end with his severe lack of size. The raw numbers of 7.8 points, 4.4 assists and 1.0 assists per game last year with a 2.5:1 assist to turnover ratio somewhat draw the eye, yet Ulis should be considered a deep reserve, That said, every team needs a third string point guard.

Jarrett Jack

After falling out of the league through aging and injury, Jack made it back with the Knicks as the veteran on-ball help that a struggling Frank Ntilikina needed, and that Ramon Sessions proved not to be. He was thoroughly unspectacular in his role, robbed of the speed of his youth (not that he was ever especially quick) and undynamic in every sense, yet in recording 7.5 inefficient points and 5.6 solid yet unspectacular assists per game, Jack helped aid the developments of Ntilikina and Kristaps Porzingis, inasmuch as he helped get the ball to them in the positions it was deemed correct for them to be in, even if such determinations seemed incorrect. Teams looking for a Raymond Felton type of veteran reserve point guard could look to Jack, then, as a player who knows what to do on the offensive end of the court, even if he can no longer do much of it himself.

Sean Kilpatrick

Kilpatrick played for four teams last season, his fourth in the NBA. He did little for the Nets, having lost the rotation spot with them that he held the previous year, then underwhelmed in a part-season stay with the Bucks and a 10-day contract with the Clippers, before rebounding to average 15.4 points per game over the final nine games of the season for the tanking Chicago Bulls. Kilpatrick now sports a 10.3 points per game career average over four seasons, and while he has been inefficient in doing so (never being as good of a three-point shooter as he is a turnaround two-point shooter), and the consequence-less nature of many of those points on poor Nets teams, he can also score the ball at the NBA level for the minimum. It should be worth something.

Jarell Eddie

Eddie keeps sniffing the NBA on account of his sweet shooting. He has spent four years bouncing between the NBA and the D-League/G-League, but is yet to get a long term contract or full-season stay out of it. Lacking elite athleticism, Eddie is not the ideal candidate for a three-and-D role, and while his shooting stroke is very appealing, players like Ryan Broekhoff get the shot away slightly quicker. Nevertheless, in a league looking for shooters, Eddie’s perennially above 40% three-point stroke keeps him on the cusp.

Dwyane Wade

If Wade wants to play, someone will surely have him. As of the time of writing, Wade is undecided on whether he will play another season. But should he decide that he will, the Miami Heat will surely be the first if not only port of call.

Jameel Warney

Warney has been on the cusp of the NBA ever since turning professional in 2016, and made it in briefly with a 10-day contract and the Dallas Mavericks partway through last season. There is not an awful lot else he can prove; an excellent rebounder, post player and interior finisher, and has even started to add jump shooting range as a professional. However, he cannot become an athlete, and as a slow-footed 6’8 post player, it is hard to project him defensively. Nevertheless, as per the above, Alan Williams made it in the NBA with a similar remit of skills, so there xists a chance for Warney in the right situation.

Tony Allen

In his first season outside of the security of Memphis for a long time, Allen struggled. His 4.7 points and 2.1 rebounds per game were career lows, and the trademark intense defence was much less effective in a team defence that was neither good nor accustomed enough to operate as a cohesive unit. At that point, Allen was a decent one-on-one defender with negligible offensive skill. If he can get back to a situation that will maximise his off-ball cuts, not need him to do much offensively from the perimeter and provide good interior defence behind him, he might have some years left in him. Ironically, the late-season Pelicans could have been that, but only after trading him away.

Nick Young

Last year, Nick Young won an NBA title and earned $5,192.000 for his troubles. He never played all that huge of a role for the Warriors, appearing in 100 games overall but playing in only 10 minutes per game in the playoffs, and although he hit his open threes well (the main if not only thing he was brought in for), he did typically little else but that. This is a shooter’s league and Young is a shooter, but as a shooter with a sideshow and little to no interest in doing anything else, Young limits himself and his desirability.

Eric Moreland

Moreland was a surprise waive by the Pistons to open the offseason, with Zaza Pachulia apparently preferred to him as the backup centre option, despite Moreland making a pretty good first of his first extended NBA run. Last year for Detroit, Moreland averaged 2.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 0.8 blocks in only 12.0 minutes per game, the rebounding rate being one of the best in the league, and the latter two pretty good for a centre as well. It is true that the points total is very low, and that as a wiry athletic with little offensive skill, Moreland is very little scoring threat. But his physical profile allows him to defend all areas of the court and still get back to clear the glass. He contributed, consistently, and it is a surprise to see him still unsigned.

Gerald Henderson

Henderson did not play professionally last year as he sought to recover from the hip injury that had derailed his career, on which last summer he had a third surgery in six years. The surgery, which involved replacing worn-down bone with metal caps, had previously been performed on Tiago Splitter, so it was not without NBA precedent. Unfortunately, Splitter recover to play only a handful of minutes before retiring early, so the precedent is not strong. When he was healthy, Henderson, never a high-volume or high-efficiency outside shooter, scored well at the NBA level through probing, cutting, curling and open-court athleticism, which he flanked with some effective perimeter defensive decision-making. All of those things rely upon a good level of athleticism, though, and Henderson will need to prove he has that back in order to get back in.

Corey Brewer

As mentioned above, Brewer made for an excellent patch-up job on the Thunder’s wing rotation after joining them from the Lakers after a midseason buyout. He posted a+16 net rating and blended in well as a streak-shooting, hard-running opportunity scorer alongside Russell Westbrook, scoring consistently while almost never dribbling, while also providing energy defensively.  He was no Roberson on that end, gambling rather than thwarting, yet it was a useful combination, and it is a surprise that he remains as yet unsigned for 2018/19. He can do a lot by himself to pick up a team’s pace.

Cole Aldrich

Aldrich signed a three-year, $21.9 million contract with the Timberwolves in the summer of 2016 as a part of the large 2016 overspend, mostly on big men. Up until that point in his career, Aldrich had been a very productive reserve post player in limited minutes, sporting a strong rebounding rate, a natural affinity for shot blocking and a good-enough interior finishing ability, and was coming off the back of the two best seasons of his career for the New York Knicks and L.A. Clippers respectively. With the Timberwolves, though, he barely played, managing only 580 total minutes, only 49 of which came last year, before being waived to start this summer. As with others above, the league has somewhat moved away from Aldrich-style players in those two short years, yet having been healthy in that time, it is hard to imagine that Aldrich somehow stopped being effective in that time, especially as he has yet to hit 30.

O.J. Mayo

It has been two years since Mayo’s suspension, which means he is eligible now to apply for reinstatement. Given the agreement between the NBA and FIBA to respect each other’s suspensions, Mayo has barely played in that time, save for a 21 game stint with Bayamon in Puerto Rico, for whom he averaged 13.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.1 steals on 39% shooting in 21 games. Mayo’s career was spluttering even before the suspension, having put up his best seasons all before 2013; now having turned 30, he does not exactly have momentum behind him. But what Mayo does have is a reputation for talent that, even though he never truly capitalised on it in his first eight years, might still prove tempting to someone who imagines they can tap into his as-yet largely untapped talent resource.

Posted by at 9:23 PM