Free Agency

Under-the-radar free agents every NBA team could use

This summer more than any in recent NBA history, teams have to know what they're doing in free agency.

A lot of teams are still paying for the orgy of their spending in the summer of 2016 on players who … well, they weren't worth what they got. As a result, only a handful of teams will have significant cap room this summer, leaving a glut of available talent with not enough cap room to go around. LeBron James, Paul George, Chris Paul and other superstars that are or can be free this summer will go where they want. The other 96 percent or so of free agents won't have that kind of freedom.

The other 96 percent or so, though, are the lifeblood of the NBA, players who make up the quality depth that allows a team to go seven or eight deep in its best efforts to keep up with the Golden States of the world.

Proven value throughout a team's rotation is the only chance most teams will have going forward to compete; everyone - almost no one - is going to amass and then pay to maintain three true superstars. The Houston Rockets showed the way last summer by signing P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute, creating a defensive vise with Clint Capela that allowed the Rockets to become a top-three defense with multiple switching options. It was on display in the Western Conference finals, jamming up the Warriors' weakside cuts and actions that destroy most defenses. (Of course, Houston is going to try to get James this summer, which may cost it much of that depth.)

The names here probably won't be on the various TV tickers in the first days of July if that's when they reach deals. But someone smart will grab one or two of them as soon as possible - they're smart and tough, experienced and capable. And they could be a difference for your squad next spring between winning a playoff series and going fishing.

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Sure Not Now

F Michael Beasley, New York Knicks

Status: Unrestricted free agent

2018 Opening Night age: 29

2017-18 stats: 13.2 ppg | 5.6 rpg | .507 FG pct | 105.3 Offensive Rtg | 110.8 Defensive Rtg | .528 EFG pct | .556 TS pct

We all know the deal with Beasley - he puts the ball in the basket. You want lockdown defense, you've got the wrong guy. But Beasley can score with the best of them, and he'll stick his nose in there and grab a rebound every now and again. He shot almost 40 percent behind the arc last season for the Knicks, appearing in 74 games - the most for him in a season since 2012-13.

In the small-ball NBA, there should be a whole bunch of teams in the bottom 10 of scoring last season that should be interested in Beasley as a sixth or seventh man type and/or stretch five who you can count on every night for double-figure scoring.

F Trevor Booker, Indiana Pacers

Status: Unrestricted free agent

2018 Opening Night age: 30

2017-18 stats: 6.3 ppg | 4.7 rpg | .516 FG pct | 106.2 Offensive Rtg | 106.6 Defensive Rtg | .528 EFG pct | .557 TS pct

Booker inexplicably bounced around last season (Brooklyn, Philly, Indiana). He's proven himself as a durable, rugged rebounder and post defender over the years. As he was for the Jazz for two years, Booker should be a more permanent member of someone's rotation. The Pacers have to make decisions on how much to pay Thaddeus Young and whether to bring back Al Jefferson at $10 million next season. But after getting clarity on those two, re-signing Booker on a reasonable deal should be a priority.

G Avery Bradley, Los Angeles Clippers

Status: Unrestricted free agent

2018 Opening Night age: 27

2017-18 stats: 14.3 ppg | 2.5 rpg | .369 3pt pct | 103.2 Offensive Rtg | 107 Defensive Rtg | .474 EFG pct | .496 TS pct

His numbers took a precipitous turn downward across the board in Detroit and L.A. last season. No doubt the Pistons and Clippers weren't as good as the Celtics, where Bradley had started the previous five seasons. But that begs the question of whether Bradley's best days there were tied to his teammates and Celtics coach Brad Stevens' dynamics, or whether they can be replicated elsewhere. The Clippers got Jerome Robinson and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the 2018 NBA Draft, but Bradley is much better than either of them - even coming off a season-ending injury - at the defensive end.

Still, with L.A. determined to be a player in 2019's free-agent class, it's hard to see the Clips putting big dollars on the table for Bradley and gumming up their cap space, and it's hard to see there being a robust market for him elsewhere.

G Seth Curry, Dallas Mavericks

Status: Unrestricted free agent

2018 Opening Night age: 28

2017-18 stats: DNP (stress fracture)

The market this summer may not be lucrative for Curry, who likely will have to sign a short deal after missing all of last season. But he did average almost 13 a game for Dallas in 2016-17, playing almost 30 minutes a night. He's been back on the court for six weeks and has been cleared for all basketball related activities. He can obviously shoot it and he fared well in his one season as a starter ('16-17 with the Mavs). That job is obviously no longer available and Curry does not likely have a future anywhere as a starting one. But he can play.

G Wayne Ellington, Miami Heat

Status: Unrestricted free agent

2018 Opening Night age: 30

2017-18 stats: 11.2 ppg | 2.8 rpg| .392 3pt pct | 106.4 Offensive Rtg | 103.9 Defensive Rtg | .569 EFG pct | .588 TS pct

Ellington has been an elite perimeter shooter for Miami the last two seasons and there should be a pretty substantial payday out there for him. Not for nothing, a team like, for example, the Minnesota Timberwolves - who drafted him in the first round in 2009 - that is currently much in need for quality 3-point shooting/floor spacing off the bench with Jamal Crawford reportedly opting out of his deal would seem to be right in line for a guy like Ellington.

F Jeff Green, Cleveland Cavaliers

Status: Unrestricted free agent

2018 Opening Night age: 32

2017-18 stats: 10.8 ppg | 3.2 rpg | .477 FG pct | 109.5 Offensive Rtg | 105.4 Defensive Rtg | .520 EFG pct | .587 TS pct

Jeff Green is Jeff Green is Jeff Green is Jeff Green. He's a human metronome; you can set your watch by him. He will have 10-15 games a year when he plays out of his mind and looks like an All-Star and the Lottery pick he was more than a decade ago. And, he'll have 10 duds per year when he looks lost ... and 50-60 solid if unspectacular nights. He played the four almost exclusively for Cleveland in small-ball lineups and was a plus player most of the season. He and everyone else will be on hold until LeBron decides what he wants to do, but Green will play somewhere next season. He always does.

F Luc Mbah a Moute, Houston Rockets

Status: Unrestricted free agent

2018 Opening Night age: 32

2017-18 stats: 7.5 ppg | 3 rpg | .364 3pt pct | 111.8 Offensive Rtg | 101.2 Defensive Rtg | .572 EFG pct | .595 TS pct

Mbah a Moute's absence for most of the Western Conference finals against Golden State as he tried to play with a separated shoulder was significant. Mbah a Moute was central to the Rockets' switching defense all season, affording Houston the luxury of having three wing defenders (Trevor Ariza and P.J. Tucker the others) who could all hand off scorers to one another with little dropoff. And Mbah a Moute's proficiency on corner 3-pointers kept the floor stretched and created room for Harden and/or Paul.

The Rockets are all-in for a title now, so they may be willing to go well into the tax to re-sign Mbah a Moute when/if they get that additional dynamic player to go with Harden, Paul and Capela. Smart teams should make them do so by coming after Mbah a Moute hard.

G Andre Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers

Status: Restricted free agent

2018 Opening Night age: 32

2017-18 stats: 12 ppg | 3.5 apg | .556 3pt pct | 109.2 Offensive Rtg | 93.8 Defensive Rtg | .618 EFG pct | .655 TS pct

Y'all know how I feel about Ingram, among the classiest acts ever to step on an NBA floor, and whose story - 10 years toiling, mainly in the G League, before finally getting his call-up by the Lakers for the final two games of the regular season in April - became a national one, especially after he rocked it in his first game (19 points, three rebounds, three assists) against the Rockets. But it's not likely the Lakers will bring him back. Any team that brings him in, though, knows what an inspiration and solid player they'll be getting. And they'll be getting a much better person as well. This is a guy you just want in your building, no matter his role.

F Kevon Looney, Golden State Warriors

Status: Unrestricted free agent

2018 Opening Night age: 22

2017-18 stats: 4 ppg | 3.3 rpg | .580 FG pct | 112.4 Offensive Rtg | 103.8 Defensive Rtg | .583 EFG pct | .588 TS pct

Looney will almost certainly be too rich for Golden State's blood, the cost of having a top six so good (and, thus, so expensive).

The Dubs didn't pick up their team option for him for 2018-19, so their former first-rounder is unrestricted. He should get a lot of interest; 22-year-olds with two rings don't usually come on the market that often. And Looney could well be a solid starter for years to come for someone else; that would never be the case in the Bay. He got in great shape last year and showed he could defend multiple positions while making himself available offensively on rim runs and lobs. He doesn't shoot 3s (just five total in more than 900 minutes last season), but it's not outside the realm of possibility that he could regain the perimeter form that made him a 41 percent 3-point shooter in his one year of college at UCLA.

Assuming his next stop is elsewhere, he'll have to extend his range somewhat, unless he goes to another spot with four All-Stars on the floor with him.

C Brook Lopez, Los Angeles Lakers

Status: Unrestricted free agent

2018 Opening Night age: 30

2017-18 stats: 13 ppg | 4 rpg | .465 3pt pct | 105 Offensive Rtg | 107.8 Defensive Rtg | .536 EFG pct | .557 TS pct

Dude is still massive and can still get it done on the block if you give him the ball enough. Of course, who does that these days? Lopez worked his butt off to become credible as a stretch five, but, really, at what point do we stop insisting everyone who plays basketball in the NBA has to shoot 3s to stay on the floor? There are no longer $20 million-plus paydays in Lopez's future, nor are there guaranteed starters minutes. But he can still do damage inside. That should still matter.

C Nerlens Noel, Dallas Mavericks

Status: Unrestricted free agent

2018 Opening Night age: 24

2017-18 stats: 4.4 ppg | 5.6 rpg, | 524 FG pct | 95.1 Offensive Rtg | 106.6 Defensive Rtg | .524 EFG pct | .558 TS pct

With Dallas linked to one of either DeAndre Jordan or DeMarcus Cousins through a sign-and-trade (Cousins) and/or opt-in/trade (Jordan), Noel's days in Big D are over. He's never going to be a star big in this league or live up to his Lottery pick status, but there's no reason he still can't be a serviceable five who can block shots, rebound and run the floor. He'll almost certainly have to take a short deal for short money to prove he can be a legit rotation guy again for a good team.

The Wizards, who just traded Marcin Gortat to the Clippers, are in need of such a big man - who just happens to fit the bill of what John Wall said the team needs in the middle.

G Isaiah Thomas, Los Angeles Lakers

Status: Unrestricted free agent

2018 Opening Night age: 29

2017-18 stats: 15.2 ppg | 4.8 rpg | .293 3pt pct | 106.9 Offensive Rtg | 113.9 Defensive Rtg | .438 EFG pct | .508 TS pct

There are people who had a worse 2017 than Thomas. But there aren't many of them. It was not his fault, of course, that he suffered a torn labrum during his last season in Boston, an injury that kept him on the shelf until January - by which time he was in Cleveland. Thomas' time there was as bad as you could imagine and he was shipped to the Lakers at the trade deadline. After that nightmare of a season, Thomas has to re-establish himself as an All-Star/MVP level, but there aren't that many teams without a starting point guard and minutes/shots available. (One exception: the Orlando Magic.)

Thomas may have to do a one-year prove it deal and show he's again not only healthy but able to close out fourth quarters. The emerging market for him will be fascinating.

F Mike Scott, Washington Wizards

Status: Unrestricted free agent

2018 Opening Night age: 30

2017-18 stats: 8.8 ppg | 3.3 rpg | .405 3pt pct | 106.4 Offensive Rtg | 107.2 Defensive Rtg | .590 EFG pct | .599 TS pct

Scott had a major bounceback season for Washington on a one-year deal after flaming out in Atlanta in 2016-17, setting career-highs in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage. He got in great shape and was pretty consistent all season. It will lead to a pretty good deal, but if it's for more than the mid-level, it almost certainly won't be in Washington, which is already above the tax threshold for next season with just 10 players under contract.

A playoff team like Utah that is still under the cap and that could create more room by waiving any of its multiple vets on non-guaranteed deals (Thabo Sefolosha, Jonas Jerebko, Ekpe Udoh) could certainly bring in a talented reserve like Scott with next to no impact on the current rotation.

F Anthony Tolliver, Detroit Pistons

Status: Unrestricted free agent

2018 Opening Night age: 33

2017-18 stats: 8.9 ppg | 3.1 rpg | .436 3pt pct | 105.7 Offensive Rtg | 104.8 Defensive Rtg | .632 EFG pct | .663 TS pct

You know what you're getting from Tolliver: a great teammate and a 3-point specialist who hasn't shot less than 36 percent from deep in five years. Maybe Dwane Casey can convince Tolliver it's not a rebuild in Detroit, but the more likely outcome is that a contending team uses a chunk of its mid-level to add a low-maintenance, solid as they come guy to its locker room.

* * *

Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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