The Best (Realistic) Free Agent Signing For Every Western Conference Team
by 29 June 2018, 9:22 AM
As we all prepare for the start of NBA free agency, here is the best-case signing for every team.
Now that the NBA Draft has completed and we know where the new crop of NBA talent is headed, the true offseason fireworks can begin. Once free agency discussions begin on July 1 at 12:01 am – at least that’s what we still have to pretend – we will learn answers to the league’s most pressing questions.
Whether your team is courting LeBron James and Paul George or just trying to convince a role player to take a couple million less, every team has goals for July. And no matter what those aspirations may be, every team has an ideal free agent signing.
Dallas Mavericks – Clint Capela (Restricted Free Agent)
Dallas’ top priority is to find a starting center and they’d struggle to do better than Capela. DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan both make sense for the Mavs, but I think Dallas would rather go with a younger, safer option to go alongside Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic.
The main obstacle impeding Capela going to Dallas is his restricted status, and Houston is likely to match any deal the Mavs can offer. If the price gets too rich for Houston’s blood, however, Capela would be an outstanding get for Dallas. He averaged career-highs with 13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks for the Rockets last season en route to finishing second in the league’s Most Improved voting.
Denver Nuggets – Trevor Ariza (Unrestricted FA)
After locking up Nikola Jokic to a massive long-term deal, Denver can turn to finding complementary talents for their young stars. Jokic, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Paul Millsap are all entrenched in the starting lineup, but Ariza would fit in perfectly as that fifth guy.
His versatile defending and knock-down perimeter shooting is exactly what Denver needs from that small forward position. At 32 years old Ariza isn’t a long-term solution for a team built around guys in their mid-20s, but Ariza has the talent to help the Nuggets reach their first postseason in six years (if they can convince him to leave Houston, that is).
Golden State Warriors – Wayne Ellington (UFA)
Once Kevin Durant re-signs, the Warriors will turn to their next priority: shooting. That may sound ridiculous considering Golden State has three of the best shooters of all time, but the Warriors haven’t been able to find reliable bench shooting for a few years now. Ellington would fit that role perfectly as he shot 39.2 percent from deep last season and set a record for the most three-pointers made in a season off the bench. If the Warriors can convince Ellington to come compete for a title in Oakland and take a little less, their offense becomes even more potent next season.
Houston Rockets – LeBron James (UFA)
While the Warriors are looking for role players, their main competition has a more grandiose plan. Much like Golden State did in 2016, the Rockets are looking to add the best player on the market.
Should he join the Rockets, LeBron immediately makes Houston title favorites. The Rockets were just a win away from getting there last season and the addition of the best player in the world would make them one of the most talented teams of all time. It might take some creative sign-and-trade maneuvering by Daryl Morey, but the Rockets will do whatever they can to get LeBron.
Los Angeles Clippers – Avery Bradley
As of this moment, the Clippers sit roughly $13 million over the cap. Once DeAndre Jordan either opts-in to his option and is traded or opts-out – as the swap of Austin Rivers for Marcin Gortat hints he will – the Clippers will have about $10 million in room. But even with that space, they don’t have a ton of flexibility.
The Clippers can try to attract outside talent to stay relevant, but I think holding onto their current assets is more important. Retaining Bradley isn’t the flashy move that Steve Ballmer has leaned towards in the past, but keeping an undervalued player who is still just 27 years old is a good move long-term.
Los Angeles Lakers – LeBron James (UFA)
The moment the Lakers have been building towards for two years is almost here. We are about to find out whether 99 wins in four seasons, three-straight number two overall picks, and constant flirting with tampering penalties has been worth it. LA has eyes for Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Anthony Davis and any other future free agent you could possibly think of, but LeBron is the prize that really matters.
Ronald Martinez - Getty Images
Memphis Grizzlies – Tyreke Evans (UFA)
The Grizzlies should be better than their 22 wins last season, but making the playoffs will be a tall task. Soon the keys to the team will be turned over to Jaren Jackson Jr., but Marc Gasol and Mike Conley still run the show for now. Bringing back Evans will help Memphis try to achieve some of their frankly unachievable goals, but the Grizzlies really have to start looking towards beginning a new era.
Minnesota Timberwolves – Wayne Ellington (UFA)
Minnesota doesn’t have a ton of flexibility, but getting around Karl-Anthony Towns, Jimmy Butler, and Andrew Wiggins is a priority. Minnesota took the fewest 3PA per game in the Playoffs last year, so adding a fantastic shooter like Ellington will help open up the floor for everyone on the Timberwolves roster.
New Orleans Pelicans – DeMarcus Cousins (UFA)
The Pelicans will be over the cap with or without Cousins next season, so letting him walk would only hurt their ability to compete. That being said, New Orleans needs to be careful offering a 6‘11”, 270-pound center coming off an Achilles tear anything close to the max. If Cousins refuses to take less, letting him walk may be the only option, but the Pelicans should push to get him back for cheap-ish.
Oklahoma City Thunder – Paul George (UFA)
Much like the Pelicans and Cousins, the Thunder are over the cap even without George and can’t afford to lose him. OKC took a risk a year ago in trading for George with the knowledge he could leave for LA after 12 months, but rumors have been hinting he might stay. Even if Oklahoma City isn’t the title contender we thought they might be a year ago, losing George and still being one of the most expensive teams in the league is a worst-case scenario.
Jeremy Brevard - USA TODAY Sports
Phoenix Suns – Aaron Gordon (RFA)
The starting point guard the Suns need isn’t really on the market, so they can try to take some risks with promising talent. They could afford to stand pat with Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Josh Jackson, and DeAndre Ayton, but adding Gordon to the mix would really make them interesting. He isn’t a perfect fit, but he is extremely talented and matches up with Phoenix’s timeframe. Plus, if the University of Arizona connection is as important as it appeared in drafting Ayton, Gordon to Phoenix might be more plausible than it seems.
Portland Trail Blazers – Jusuf Nurkic (RFA)
As a good 23-year-old two-way center, Nurkic will be an interesting measuring stick for the rest of the league. It’s likely he slips through the cracks behind guys like Capela and Cousins and could return to Portland for cheap. The Blazers are stuck behind the 8-ball from their horrendous spending in the summer of 2016, but Nurkic will help them stay semi-competitive in the West.
Sacramento Kings – Will Barton (UFA)
As long as Sacramento doesn’t sign any more mid-30s big men for lots of money – cough Zach Randolph cough – they can afford some minor risks. Taking a flyer on Mario Hezonja would make sense, but I like Barton for the Kings. Sacramento needs a small forward and I think Barton will struggle to get near the 4-year/$42 million offer he turned down last season, so the Kings might be able to swoop in for cheap.
San Antonio Spurs – Avery Bradley (UFA)
When it comes down to it, doesn’t Bradley just kind of feel like a Spur? He’s a smart, gritty defender who hits open shots, makes the right play, and it just feels like he and Gregg Popovich would really get along. Of course, there is a massive Kawhi Leonard shaped cloud floating over the franchise and it’s hard to project anything for the Spurs right now, but Bradley makes a ton of hypothetical sense.
Utah Jazz – Tyreke Evans (UFA)
The Jazz will be making several key choices about their future this offseason. Both Dante Exum and Derrick Favors are impending free agents with combined cap holds surpassing $30 million, so the Jazz are going to have to decide their futures before adding any outside talent.
If they choose to move on from either Exum or Favors, Evans would fit in nicely in a Joe Johnson-esque role. As great as Donovan Mitchell will become, adding a secondary offensive creator to take the burden off his shoulders right now will be beneficial to his development long-term.
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