We’re greeting August with an audible. Instead of diving into college football this week, the NBA will command our attention one last time before its regular season approaches.
Cleveland must tend to Kyrie Irving’s trade demand one way or another, so anything that transpires on that front is going to impact the league most. Beyond his situation, there remain a number quality pieces still available who could make an impact on playoff contenders once the final set of dominoes start to fall when teams make their closing moves.
Although most organizations have most of their rosters in place, there’s still a number of players worth adding. The following are my 10 best available free agents.
1. Nerlens Noel, C: The restricted free agent is stuck in a stalemate with the Mavs on a long-term deal, but hasn’t gotten the leverage he hoped for since no other team has stepped up and dangled an offer sheet in front of him. He won’t turn 24 until the end of the upcoming season, but is still more tantalizing prospect than sure thing, which is why he hasn’t received the big payday he hoped for. He’ll likely stay put in Dallas.
2. Tony Allen, G: At 35, the Grindfather is now old enough to be President, but he can still move. Although no longer the elite defender Kobe Bryant was referencing when he called him the best he ever faced, there’s no question he can still be an asset coming off a season where he averaged 9.1 points and 5.5 rebounds while playing the second-most minutes of his career. He can still lock you up, which makes him impactful.
3. Nikola Mirotic, F: Blessed with fantastic range at 6-foot-10, he’s got the potential to be one of the top stretch-4s in the game and is still just 26. But an inconsistent season punctuated by a brutal playoff run killed the restricted free agent’s bargaining power. He’s decided to skip Eurobasket due to his unsettled contract situation and will probably remain with Chicago on his qualifying offer, but there’s no denying his talent. It wouldn’t be surprising to see someone swoop in to try and land a bargain while his value is down.
4. Mason Plumlee, C: His impressive defensive metrics failed to land him a deal, so the Nuggets are likely to end up with his services for another season after envisioning him being a better fit next to versatile big man Nikola Jokic. Between his athleticism, defense and playmaking skills, the 6-foot-11 Plumlee is an ideal rotation player who won’t be a liability on pick-and-rolls since he can move his feet, making him a valuable asset for a contender.
5. JaMychal Green, F: Undrafted in 2012, he worked his way into the league and made steady progress with the Grizzlies, becoming an invaluable part of the rotation last season in averaging career-highs nearly across the board. His improving shooting range has made him valuable since his motor runs high, allowing him to defend and rebound well. He’s in the same situation as Noel, Mirotic and Plumlee as a restricted free agent that has been lost in the shuffle this offseason and is now victimized by the lack of money teams have remaining.
6. Andrew Bogut, C: He’ll be healthy to start the season and is likely ticketed for a role with a team that won’t require him to play significant minutes until games actually matter, but the 2005 Draft’s No. 1 pick is still serviceable. The Cavs envisioned him playing a valuable part in last season’s title defense but he failed to last even one full minute before fracturing his left tibia. Still a strong rim protector with a fantastic IQ that makes him an asset on the offensive end, he played in 70 games for the 73-win Warriors and should be able to contribute for whoever locks him up.
7. Alex Len, C: He appears to be a boom-or-bust type going forward, which is why teams have been hesitant to offer the 24-year-old former No. 5 pick a long-term deal. Back-to-the-basket centers are a dying breed, but he’s rebounded well for Phoenix and is a legitimate 7-footer. Perhaps a change of scenery would suit him well, which is what he’s apparently weighing as he ponders whether or not to sign his qualifying offer to remain with the Suns.
8. Monta Ellis, G: He hasn’t lasted more than two years at any of his stops since leaving Golden State, and his production has dipped every season. An inability to develop a consistent jumper has hindered him, allowing defenses to play off of him and daring him to shoot. Now entering his 14th season, he turns just 32 in October and is one of the better backcourt options available as a scoring combo guard.
9. Shabazz Muhammad, F/G: One of Las Vegas’ top prep talents is seeking the best fit after his rights were renounced by the Timberwolves. He’s not a great defender and seems best suited to fill a scoring role off the bench, but concerns over clashing with teammates and low-assist numbers have damaged his market value. Considering he turns just 25 in November and should have his best years ahead of him, the Bishop Gorman product is worth gambling on and could wind up being a bargain in a new environment.
10. Michael Beasley, F: Although returning to China remains a possibility, the 2008 No. 2 pick averaged 9.4 points in just 16.7 minutes per game for the Bucks last season and shot a career-best 42 percent from 3-point range. He never became a superstar, but is still just 28 years old and could put together a few more solid years as he tries to overcome the “bust” label. If last season’s improvement from beyond the arc was no aberration, he could be valuable in today’s NBA.
Others: Boris Diaw, Gerald Green, Derrick Williams, Tyler Zeller, Deron Williams, Anthony Morrow, David Lee, Lavoy Allen, Brandon Rush, Rodney Stuckey, Mike Dunleavy, Matt Barnes, Thomas Robinson.