Another delay in the NBA's offseason schedule got you down? Cheer up. We have free-agency suggestions for your team to consider.
Selections for every squad are based on a combination of roster needs and financial situations. Since we don't yet know where next year's cap will fall, this year's $109.1 million marker will be our default.
More ambitious targets will be given for teams that have the means and motivation to chisel out additional spending power or chase sign-and-trade scenarios. These instances will be the exception, not the standard.
Assumptions will be made for each roster. Will the Phoenix Suns renounce Aron Baynes or Dario Saric? Will the Portland Trail Blazers guarantee Trevor Ariza's salary? Will Evan Fournier pick up his player option with the Orlando Magic? Etc, etc, etc. These decisions will shape each team's cap outlook and be explained in turn.
Please do not consider this a glance at every squad's should-be No. 1 priority. This is more about identifying players who fit with what franchises can spend; their current rosters and directions; who, in some cases, will best allow them to go about other offseason business unimpeded; and who will realistically be available to them.
That last part is most important. Around two-thirds of the league could technically be shopping with the non-taxpayer's mid-level exception. Names will be recycled ad nauseam if the presumption is everyone has an equitable shot at wooing players who fall into that price range. Adding more context is paramount for the sake of variety—and plausibility.
Atlanta Hawks: Joe Harris
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Targeting Joe Harris won't do much for the Atlanta Hawks if they're looking to alleviate Trae Young's ball-handling responsibilities. That's fine. They need shooting, too.
Harris brings plenty of functional sniping. His 43.9 percent clip from deep over the past three seasons comes amid a mixture of standstill looks, in-motion firings and the occasional off-the-dribble jumper. He has even added a smidgen of creation to his game, beyond just attacking closeouts. He can probe off the bounce while navigating some traffic and tosses a few nifty passes.
That's not enough to get Young moving off the ball in the half-court, but it's optionality the Hawks aren't guaranteed from any of their other wings. If nothing else, Atlanta desperately needs his consistency from the beyond the arc after placing dead-last in three-point efficiency this past season.
Signing Harris won't come cheap. It might not even be possible. Fortunately, the Hawks don't face a ton of competition.
Teams with the mid-level exception will come calling, but it'll take more than that to poach Harris. Atlanta is one of the scant few squads slinging real space, and with a war chest that will clear $40 million even against a lateral cap, it has the financial juice to tender him an offer that makes the incumbent, luxury-tax-bound Brooklyn Nets more than a little uncomfortable.
Boston Celtics: Alec Burks
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Choosing a free agent for the Boston Celtics to lust after is an exercise in second-guesses. You can talk yourself into their needing a big. Or a backup point guard. Or some wing depth. You can also convince yourself they don't need to address any of those spots. They are all at once, somehow, the most pressing priorities and not of real concern.
Big men will be the most popular suggestions. Meh. The Celtics are keeping Daniel Theis (non-guaranteed) and have dabbled in more Robert Williams III minutes. Enes Kanter is probably picking up his player option, and more Grant Williams-at-the-5 stints feel inevitable. Vincent Poirier is also on a guaranteed deal for next season. Do not forget about Tacko Fall.
Prioritizing additional wing depth is hardly blasphemous. The top of Boston's rotation is packed with star power, but it thins out after Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum. At the same time, Marcus Smart is essentially positionless, and this year's wing market sort of blows. Armed with the taxpayer mid-level exception as their best spending tool, the Celtics won't have sway to add the best available perimeter talent.
Settling on another guard who can create his own shot while playing off everyone else feels right. Brad Wanamaker isn't an afterthought, but he's a restricted free agent (Early Bird) and more of a power driver who can knock down looks off the catch.
Alec Burks can do more with the rock. He drained 39.4 percent of his pull-up threes during the regular season, a top-seven mark among 64 players to get off at least 100 such attempts. His efficiency fits neatly into an offensive ecosystem that depended on these looks more than any team outside Houston, and he shouldn't gum up the pecking order. He fares well enough on spot-up treys (37.7 percent) to work in tandem with other ball-handlers but should be a boon for the stretches in which Tatum and Kemba Walker are both on the bench.
The upshot? Boston may end up with more first-round picks—Nos. 14, 26 and 30—than open roster spots. Romeo Langford could also compete for minutes in this role next year. But the Celtics are championship hopefuls now. The bet is they do something to consolidate their crowded docket and will want to add a more proven presence to the backup rotation. Burks can be that guy.
Brooklyn Nets: Moe Harkless
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Pinning down viable free-agent options for the Nets comes back to one question: Who can they nab for the mini mid-level exception to deepen their forward rotation and fit cleanly beside Spencer Dinwiddie, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert?
Pickings are slim. Brooklyn will be priced out of the top bigger wings: Jae Crowder, Jerami Grant (player option), Marcus Morris Sr., etc. Moe Harkless might even be a stretch. The Nets could be better off pursuing a veteran on the back of his career who will prioritize a (possible) starting spot and championship proximity over money.
Paul Millsap springs to mind when weighing the latter category. He has put together a less-than-sterling performance following the NBA's restart, and at 35, coming off a three-year, $90 million contract, he won't necessarily be on the prowl for a huge payday.
Harkless is the better option anyway. He offers more positional flexibility on defense, across the 2, 3 and 4 spots. Millsap will be more attractive if Brooklyn finds itself in the market for a combo big after striking a trade that includes Jarrett Allen.
Loading up on bigger-wing defenders probably remains the smarter play even then. The Nets cannot be sure what Durant looks like following his recovery from a ruptured right Achilles. They certainly won't want to overburden him on defense yet don't have a ton of alternatives. LeVert, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (non-guaranteed), Joe Harris and Garrett Temple (player option) are undersized versus certain 3s, let alone 4s.
Operable options start to trail off after Taurean Prince. Harkless adds another body to that conversation. His three-point shooting is touch-and-go, but he drilled 37 percent of his triples before getting traded from the Los Angeles Clippers. Playing next to Brooklyn's smorgasbord of crafty ball-handlers will afford him higher-quality looks than he enjoyed with the New York Knicks.
Charlotte Hornets: Christian Wood
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Declining cap projections impact the Charlotte Hornets' spending power but don't torpedo it. They'll have close to $20 million in room should they renounce all their own free agents, and their wiggle room will increase if the rookie scale gets adjusted and the No. 3 pick winds up costing less.
Figuring out where to funnel this cash isn't a mindless matter. Giving the Hornets money to burn is typically terrifying. It might still be. But the market isn't flush with big-name pitfalls. Charlotte isn't about to unload near-max money on Bogdan Bogdanovic (restricted), Danilo Gallinari or Fred VanVleet...right?
Christian Wood represents a nice middle ground. It'll cost more than the mid-level exception to pry him away from the Detroit Pistons, but it shouldn't stake stupid-ridiculous money. Perhaps this changes if Motor City is feeling frisky. The Pistons will likely need cap space to re-sign Wood, an Early Bird free agent, but they have plenty of it. Carving out $30 million is still on the table.
Charlotte should be eyeing Wood until Detroit actually goes nuclear. (And again: It might not.) Taking James Wiseman with the No. 3 pick may curtail interest in adding another big, but this isn't a cut-and-dry case. Wood has three-point range and the mobility to guard 4s. With Cody Zeller coming off the books in 2021 and no other combo bigs under contract for next season—I'm not counting Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington in this discussion—the Hornets can stand to both select Wiseman and sign someone like Wood.
Shelling out substantial money for anyone might not sit right when Charlotte seems so far away from playoff contention, even by Eastern Conference standards. But Wood is timeline-proof. He'll be 25 when next season starts, and his offensive game is scalable. His 22.0 points per 36 minutes this year came amid a nice blend of standstill triples, slips to the basket, transition opportunities, closeout attacks and even some in-traffic creation.