Top 10 Free Agents Still On The Market
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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Through the first four days of free agency, we have seen plenty of activity around the league. The Boston Celtics started things off early by agreeing to an extension with power forward Kevin Garnett. The next big shoe to drop was the Portland Trail Blazers offering a max deal to restricted free agent center Roy Hibbert. Since then, the Phoenix Suns have also offered a max deal to restricted free agent shooting guard Eric Gordon, agreed to sign-and-trade Steve Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers and brought back Goran Dragic. Despite all the movement around the league, there is still a lot of talent left on the free agent market and with that in mind, we take a look at the top 10 players in need of a new deal:
O.J. Mayo – Shooting Guard, Unrestricted
After averaging a very respectable 18.5 and 17.5 points per game his first two years in the league, Mayo had his minutes reduced and was almost traded twice over the last two years. The Memphis Grizzlies passed on making a qualifying offer, which insured what already appeared to be an inevitable breakup.
Now, Mayo is looking for a new team and is reportedly wanting more than the non-taxpayer mid-level exception. That’s put him out of the price range of teams like the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers, who had preliminary interest but have since gone after more affordable targets.
It’s looking like the market is going to have to play itself out a bit more before Mayo get his deal. Once fellow shooting guards Jamal Crawford, Ray Allen, Eric Gordon and J.R. Smith are off the market, there are going to be some teams who lost out on them that could move onto Mayo. The San Antonio Spurs have long been admirers of Mayo’s game, but it’s unknown at this point if they plan on reaching out to him or not.
Ray Allen – Shooting Guard, Unrestricted
Before Allen joined the Boston Celtics, everyone thought he would be retiring at this point, but it’s clear that playing with such a talented team has added some years to his career. There are several teams in hot pursuit of Allen right now, most notably the Miami HEAT, who he is meeting with today, and the Los Angeles Clippers.
It’s important to not rule out the Celtics either, though. That’s obviously where Allen is most comfortable. The same people who convinced him to stay last time he was a free agent are recruiting him. Boston did agree to give their MLE to combo guard Jason Terry, but that was more about security if Allen leaves rather than being a true replacement.
Chris Kaman – Center, Unrestricted
The New Orleans Hornets hardly showcased Kaman this past season as he got set to enter unrestricted free agency. In fact, they pretty much did the opposite. At one point they told him to stay away from the team as they worked to trade him or buy him out. Still, Kaman is a true seven footer who can score with his back to the basket, and those players will always have value in the league.
The Indiana Pacers have already met with Kaman and are internally discussing whether or not they should match the max offer sheet given to Hibbert by the Blazers. If they pass, Kaman could be headed to Indy. If they decide to match, look for the Blazers to reach out to Kaman.
While Kaman seems like an ideal fit at center in New Orleans alongside power forward Anthony Davis, the number one overall pick in the 2012 draft, their rocky relationship from last year doesn’t indicate that there’s much of a future there.
Jeremy Lin – Point Guard, Restricted
Lin spent his Fourth of July being wooed by the Houston Rockets, who are reportedly willing to offer him a four-year deal worth $31 million. It’s backloaded to try and keep the luxury-tax strapped New York Knicks from matching. However, by all accounts the Knicks still plan to match. The Knicks were hoping to bring in Nash before he went to the Lakers, so now they really can’t afford to let Lin land elsewhere.
Lin has yet to agree to the offer sheet, though. He’s going to gauge the rest of the market for a little bit longer, but the Rockets’ offer could be his best one.
Nicolas Batum – Small Forward, Restricted
The Minnesota Timberwolves have been trying to get Batum for over a year and as soon as the league allowed they were in contact with him. They have reportedly offered a max deal worth $58 million over four years, but Batum has yet to agree to the offer sheet. He is intrigued by the Timberwolves’ offer, though, and is expected to accept.
That puts the pressure on the Portland Trail Blazers, who have said they would match any offer for Batum. They currently have a max offer on the table for Hibbert as noted above. If the Pacers match, it’s highly unlikely the Blazers let Batum walk. There have been reports that Batum is trying to discourage the Blazers from matching, but those look to be inaccurate.
Lou Williams – Point Guard, Unrestricted
Coming off the best year of his career scoring wise, the Philadelphia 76ers are not interested in letting Williams get away. Williams has yet to meet with any other teams, which creates the belief that a deal could eventually be worked out. With Jrue Holiday wanting a max deal that the Sixers may not be able to give to him, keeping Williams becomes even more important.
The Sixers have to continue to work diligently towards a deal with Williams because if he goes looking elsewhere he will find some teams willing to give him a nice offer to leave the only team he’s ever played for in his career.
Ramon Sessions – Point Guard, Unrestricted
Sessions exercised his option to become a free agent, passing on staying with the Lakers for $4 million next season. He did so with the intent of returning to the Lakers with a long-term deal, but in typical-Lakers fashion they went out and got a bigger name in Nash. That kills any possibility of Sessions, who is looking for a starting job, returning to LA.
Sessions showed some really nice flashes as a starter for the Lakers, especially when you consider he only had one full practice his entire time with the team. He’ll likely get his chance to start somewhere, he just has to bide his time and let the market play itself out like many others are. The Houston Rockets could come calling if they’re unable to land Lin.
Aaron Brooks – Point Guard, Restricted
It seems like the rest of the league has forgotten that the last time Brooks got starter’s minutes, he was one of the top point guards in the league. Up to this point, there hasn’t been a ton of interest in him, but that’s bound to change as other point guards starting finding homes. The chances of Brooks staying in Phoenix are slim to none at this point now that they have Dragic and rookie point guard Kendall Marshall.
Brooks was spectacular in China this past season as he led his team to the CBA Finals. For a team in need of a starting point guard, there may not be a better bargain left than Brooks.
Brook Lopez – Center, Restricted
It’s known by now that Lopez is either going to be a Brooklyn Net or Orlando Magic going into next season, with the Nets looking far more likely. They’re getting ready to make him a sizeable offer, probably somewhere near the max. However, if the Magic open up to the idea of swapping a package revolving around him for disgruntled center Dwight Howard, then he’s Orlando bound.
Chauncey Billups – Point Guard, Unrestricted
When Billups was amnestied by the New York Knicks last summer he tried to encourage teams to not claim him off the waivers so he could join the Miami HEAT. The Los Angeles Clippers ignored his wishes, but they put together a good enough team in the process to make him happy. Now, they’re working hard to bring him back and Billups seems open to the idea.
Any contender would benefit from adding Billups, who is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. The HEAT at this point, though, don’t seem to be an option since their point guard rotation of Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole helped lead them to a championship.
What About The Vets?
As far as talent is concerned, free agents Jason Kidd, Grant Hill and Tim Duncan are all deserving of being on this list. They were left off due to their destinations being virtually locked in. Kidd is on the verge of returning to the Mavericks, Hill is only considering retirement other than the Lakers and Duncan would never consider going anywhere else but San Antonio at this point of his career.