Less than 48 hours into the official start of free agency, the big business has been done. There are blockbuster trades coming, but, as far as free agents go, most of our questions were answered relatively quickly.
Kyrie Irving, Draymond Green, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Austin Reaves, Cameron Johnson, Kyle Kuzma, Russell Westbrook and Jerami Grant are all staying put. Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks are headed to Houston. Bruce Brown is about to be the highest-paid Pacer (until Tyrese Haliburton’s max extension kicks in). Donte DiVincenzo is joining his college buddies in New York.
Welcome back to the NBA, Dante Exum. Thanks for finally showing up, Vasilije Micic. We’ve heard so much about you.
With so many deals getting done and so few teams entering the season with money to spend, cap space is scarce. As of Sunday afternoon, the San Antonio Spurs have about $25 million, but nobody else has anything close to that number. The Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Hornets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers and Washington Wizards all have access to the $12.4 million non-taxpayer midlevel exception, but it’s unclear how many of those teams will actually use it.
There are players who remain on the market, though, and they’re not all minimum-contract guys. Here’s a look at some still-unsigned free agents:
Williams’ minutes fluctuated during the 2022-23 regular season and playoffs, and in March his star teammates told coach Joe Mazzulla they wanted him on the court, per The Athletic. When he was out there, he made 39.5% of his 3s (45% in the playoffs) despite injuring his right elbow in February, and provided his typical brand of tough defense against players of all sizes. He turned down a deal that could have paid him more than $50 million over four seasons, according to The Athletic, and, heading into free agency, the Celtics decided to wait and see what kind of offer sheet the restricted free agent could command, per the Boston Globe. HoopsHype reported Saturday that the Hornets, Williams’ hometown team, were considering an offer sheet, and that the Mavericks had interest, too. Both teams could use the non-taxpayer midlevel, but, given the threat of Boston matching, that kind of offer sheet might not be worth the hassle. For Charlotte to go higher than that, it would have to renounce its cap holds for the players who are next on this list.
Washington’s usage and scoring went up on a Hornets team that was severely shorthanded for most of the 2022-23 season. The versatile, 6-foot-7 forward can fit virtually anywhere, but he said in April that Charlotte is “exactly where I want to be” and general manager Mitch Kupchak said that the team is focused on making the playoffs next season. If the Hornets are indeed trying to win, then it would be pretty weird to let him go, but his situation is precisely why some players hate restricted free agency. If Washington can’t get an offer sheet from the Spurs, then he has little leverage to get the kind of payday he wants, beyond threatening to sign the $8.5 million qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent next summer … which is exactly what Miles Bridges has done.
Oubre quietly averaged 20.3 points in his second season in Charlotte, finishing with a career-high 25.7% usage rate and a corresponding dip in efficiency. A 33% career 3-point shooter, he has never been a knockdown guy, but he takes 3s at high volume and has a 7-foot-2 wingspan, so he’d be a nice get for any team that lacks wing depth. A return to the Hornets is within the realm of possibility, but his role would be reduced with Bridges back in the picture and No. 2 pick Brandon Miller in the fold.
Despite being an effective pick-and-roll partner for Luka Doncic, Wood’s season in Dallas did not go nearly as well as he or the team hoped. He averaged 25.9 minutes, mostly off the bench, and his presence was one of many reasons that the Mavs’ defense fell off a cliff. The 27-year-old is extremely talented, but he’s widely expected to move on. Is there a team out there that can integrate him into a decent defense? Would an organization like Miami give him a shot? While there has been little buzz about potential Wood destinations, Yahoo Sports reported that he’s on the Heat’s radar.
The 33-year-old reserve is coming off a season in which he showed he can be a serviceable starter or one of the league’s best backup bigs. The Clippers would be smart to re-sign him, and though they didn’t use him as a high-post hub as often as Charlotte did, his ability to facilitate from that spot diversified the offense. The front office has been in touch with Plumlee, according to The Athletic, and sees the newly acquired K.J. Martin as a forward, not a big.
Thybulle felt more comfortable in Portland than he did in Philadelphia, and he made 38.8% of his 3s on 3.9 attempts per game after the trade deadline. Teams still dare him to shoot, but, barring a crazy offer sheet, the Blazers have likely seen enough to keep trying to develop him into a two-way player. This is another awkward RFA situation — Thybulle is an all-world defender and only 26 years old, but, with Portland projecting that it is willing to match any reasonable offer sheet, prospective suitors could be scared off.
Dosunmu started for Chicago until Patrick Beverley arrived, and while his numbers were mostly the same as the previous season, his 3-point shooting declined from 37.6% as a rookie to 31.2% — and just 27.3% after the All-Star break. It doesn’t look like he’s going to get the big offer sheet that seemed possible when he made All-Rookie, but, given that Lonzo Ball is going to miss a second straight full season and Beverley is off to Philly, there should still be room for Dosunmu with the Bulls. He might be in RFA limbo for now, but he’s widely expected to re-sign.
UPDATE: Walker has signed a one-year deal with the Brooklyn Nets, his agents told ESPN.
Last season was a career year for Walker, even though the Lakers‘ trade-deadline moves led to his minutes becoming erratic until he swung a playoff game against the Warriors. The Lakers could conceivably bring him back — they can offer him a contract starting at $7.8 million using non-Bird rights — but it’s not like their early moves in free agency have cleared a path for him to have an increased role.
Beasley fell out of the rotation during the Lakers’ run to the conference finals, and they chose to decline their $16.5 million team option. His 35.7% mark from 3-point range doesn’t tell the whole story, though — Beasley is a high-volume, high-degree-of-difficulty shooter who has more gravity off the ball than that number suggests. HoopsHype reported that Philadelphia, Phoenix, Toronto, Dallas, Milwaukee and Golden State are all interested in him, but most of those teams would only be able to offer him the minimum.
The Lakers barely used Bamba after acquiring him at the deadline, and they chose not to guarantee the 25-year-old center’s $10.3 million 2023-24 salary. His combination of rim protection and a decent 3-point shot is not easy to find, so he is an intriguing second-draft candidate. The Athletic reported on Saturday that Bamba is still an option for the Lakers, even after signing big man Jaxson Hayes. Hmm.
Reed is not a mistake-free player, but he earned the Sixers’ backup 5 spot over the course of the season and delivered when thrust into a starting role in the playoffs — James Harden was the star of the show when they beat Boston in Game 1, but they wouldn’t have got it done without Reed’s 10 points (including two clutch free throws) and 13 rebounds (four offensive) in 37 minutes. Whether or not there’s still a place for him might depend on what happens with Harden’s trade request.
The Warriors’ interest in Saric, reported by NBC Sports Bay Area and Yahoo Sports just before free agency began, should surprise absolutely nobody. While he can’t space the floor as well as Nemanja Bjelica did in 2021-22, he could give Golden State the type of backup big man it did not have last season. Saric’s funky offensive game was made for Steve Kerr’s system, so here’s hoping this rumored partnership comes to fruition.
The Suns have come to terms on contracts with seven free agents — Yuta Watanabe, Drew Eubanks, Damion Lee, Josh Okogie, Keita Bates-Diop, Chimezie Metu and, on Sunday afternoon, Eric Gordon — but Craig, who started 60 regular-season games and five playoff games for them last season, appears to be on the way out. The 32-year-old forward is an excellent wing defender, but, despite making 40% of his catch-and-shoot 3s last season, opponents typically treat him like a non-shooter. HoopsHype reported that the Pistons and Kings are among the teams that would like to get in the Craig business; signing with Detroit would reunite him with ex-Phoenix coach Monty Williams.
More unsigned guards: Dalano Banton, Terence Davis, Hamidou Diallo, Goran Dragic, R.J. Hampton, George Hill, Aaron Holiday, Mike James, Cory Joseph, Svi Mykhailiuk, Raul Neto, Daishen Nix, Frank Ntilikina, Kendrick Nunn, Austin Rivers, Ish Smith, Edmond Sumner