NBA free agency: 15 players who could help a playoff team inside the Orlando bubble

Yahoo Sports

At long last, the NBA’s rumor mill will be fully operational come noon on Tuesday, when teams will have a weeklong transactional window to waive and sign free agents for the stretch run of the 2019-20 season.

The window will end at midnight ET on July 1. During that timeframe, teams can also convert two-way players to full-time contracts, making them playoff eligible, and in the final four days of that week teams can fill any remaining two-way contract slots with players who have three or fewer years of NBA service.

Teams can bring as many as 15 players in addition to a pair of two-way players to Orlando for the remainder of the season, which is scheduled to open on July 30 at Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. Only eight teams currently have open roster spots: the Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings, Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns, Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers. (The Thunder are expected to convert starting wing Luguentz Dort’s two-way contract to a full-season deal when transactions commence on Tuesday.)

Scroll to continue with content
Ad

Any free agent who has either played in the NBA before or in the G League this season is eligible to fill an open roster spot, save for those who have played internationally since the end of September. That rule eliminates former NBA players Nikola Mirotic and Andrew Bogut from consideration, among others.

NBA players will have until the end of Wednesday to opt out of participating in the resumption of the season. Teams can reportedly replace those players on the roster between July 1 and Aug. 14. Davis Bertans of the Washington Wizards became the first player to opt out of playing in Orlando on Monday.

Any player who tests positive for coronavirus in Orlando can also be replaced by a player with less than four years experience, although the replaced player would become ineligible for the rest of the season.

The following are 15 players who could potentially help the 22 teams competing for 16 playoff seeds over the final eight games of the regular season, separated into five positional categories. Keep in mind more free agents could become available, as all 30 teams can waive rostered players beginning on Tuesday.

Ball-handlers

The Suns waived veteran guard Tyler Johnson in February. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
The Suns waived veteran guard Tyler Johnson in February. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Tyler Johnson

Once an undrafted gem, Johnson came to be defined by the four-year, $50 million contract he signed in 2016, an overpay that led him to regurgitate upon first glance at the numbers. He spent the final season of that deal battling soreness in the same right knee that previously required season-ending surgery, falling out of the rotation as the team embraced a youth movement. He was waived with two months left on his contract.

When healthy, Johnson was consistently productive, averaging 15.4 points (on 43/36/78 shooting splits), 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per 36 minutes over the first three seasons of his eight-figure deal. He was a respected figure in the Phoenix locker room for his work ethic and tenacity. The Houston Rockets have expressed interest in signing the rested guard for the remainder of the season, per the Houston Chronicle.

Trey Burke

The former top-10 pick resurrected his career with the New York Knicks, averaging 12.3 points (on 46/36/75 splits) and 3.8 assists in 21.4 minutes over 69 games for a terrible team the previous two seasons. After being thrown into a January 2019 trade involving Kristaps Porzingis, Burke played out the remainder of last season with the Dallas Mavericks before signing with the Philadelphia 76ers as a free agent last summer.

Afforded the opportunity to crack the rotation on a playoff team in need of a serviceable backup point guard, Burke never seized his role. The Sixers waived him at the trade deadline to make room for the newly acquired Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson. Burke has played in three playoff games in a seven-year career.

Tim Frazier

Since turning heads in the G League in 2014, Frazier has played for six teams over the past five years, often as a replacement option for injury-plagued lottery teams or the last man on a playoff bench. He has never replicated the lightning he found in a New Orleans Pelicans bottle at the end of the 2015-16 campaign, when he averaged 13.1 points (on 45/42/76 splits) and 7.5 assists over a 16-game stretch to earn his first multi-year contract. He did, however, earn a playoff roster spot on the Milwaukee Bucks last season.

Instant offense

Two-time All-Star Isaiah Thomas showed some flashes of his old self on the Wizards. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Two-time All-Star Isaiah Thomas showed some flashes of his old self on the Wizards. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Isaiah Thomas

The two-time All-Star has played for four teams in the three years since he was traded by the Boston Celtics to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a deal involving Kyrie Irving. The hip injury that prematurely ended his 2016-17 campaign and required season-ending surgery in March 2018 has plagued him ever since.

He was waived in February after being thrown into a three-team deadline deal that sent Marcus Morris to the Los Angeles Clippers. Prior to the trade, he had been playing some of his best ball since the injury, averaging 12.2 points (on 41/41/82 splits) and 3.7 assists for the Washington Wizards. Thomas’ defense has become a greater concern, but he has shown flashes of the dynamic scoring ability he was known for.

Jamal Crawford

The 40-year-old has not appeared in an NBA game since scoring 51 points on 30 shots for the lottery-bound Suns in their 2018-19 season finale. A highly respected veteran, Crawford is a three-time Sixth Man of the Year winner known for his shot creation as a ball-handler. He has not made a significant contribution to a playoff contender since coming off the bench for the Lob City Clippers in the middle of last decade.

J.R. Smith

Likewise, Smith has not played since orchestrating his exit from the Cavaliers 11 games into the 2018-19 season. The mercurial shooting guard called out the organization for tanking in the wake of LeBron James’ exit to the Los Angeles Lakers. He was among those rumored to fill the Lakers’ final roster spot before the team signed Dion Waiters in early March. Smith has been seen working out with James in recent weeks.

On the one hand, Smith ranks 13th all-time in 3-pointers made, converting them at a career 37.3 percent clip. On the other, when last we saw Smith in the playoffs, his absent-mindedness at the end of regulation cost the Cavaliers Game 1 of the 2018 Finals and any chance they had at competing for a title.

Floor spacers

Allen Crabbe had his contract bought out by the Timberwolves in February. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Allen Crabbe had his contract bought out by the Timberwolves in February. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Allen Crabbe

Crabbe is another victim of a cumbersome contract. He too signed an oversized deal during the 2016 free-agency spending spree. In the final year of that contract, his expiring $18.5 million figure earned him a pair of cap-clearing trades over the past year — first to the Atlanta Hawks in July and then to the Minnesota Timberwolves in January. He agreed to a buyout with the lottery-bound Wolves at the end of February.

Crabbe entered this season a career 39.3 percent shooter from distance. Battling knee problems at both stops this season, he shot a career-worst 30.3 percent from 3-point range over 37 games split between Atlanta and Minnesota. Crabbe has not played in the playoffs since 2017 with the Portland Trail Blazers.

C.J. Miles

The well-traveled Miles emerged as a 3-point threat eight years into his career, peaking with a 41.3 percent clip on 5.4 attempts per game for the Indiana Pacers during the 2016-17 season. He submitted an encore performance with the Toronto Raptors a year later, coming off the bench for a deep 59-win team. The Raptors traded him in the February 2019 deal that brought Marc Gasol and a championship to Toronto.

Miles has played in just 23 games since, split between Memphis and Washington. A foot injury ended his 2018-19 season early, and a broken shooting wrist has left him sidelined since November. The Wizards waived him in January to convert 24-year-old Latvian center Anzejs Pasecniks from a two-way contract.

Ryan Broekhoff

The Dallas Mavericks signed the Australian sharpshooter as a 28-year-old prior to the 2018-19 season. He played in 59 games over two years, shooting 40.3 percent on 2.4 3-point attempts per night. Dallas waived him in mid-February to make room for the recently bought-out Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Broekhoff played just 17 games for the playoff-bound Mavs, missing nearly two months with a fractured left fibula.

3-and-D wings

Iman Shumpert has battled injuries in stints with a handful of NBA teams in recent seasons. (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Iman Shumpert has battled injuries in stints with a handful of NBA teams in recent seasons. (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Iman Shumpert

The soon-to-be 30-year-old has bounced around since contributing to Cleveland’s four straight Final appearances from 2015-18. He was among those credited for Sacramento’s surprise 2018-19 season, so much so that Houston spent a first-round pick on him to bolster their playoff rotation. He averaged just 3.6 points in 13.6 minutes in eight playoff games and did not have the same defensive impact he once enjoyed in New York and Cleveland. Injuries have for years plagued Shumpert, whose only contribution this season was spelling the injured Caris LeVert on a non-guaranteed contract with the Brooklyn Nets in November.

DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell

Undrafted in 2016, Akoon-Purcell has bounced around overseas and in the G League ever since, save for a cup of coffee with the Denver Nuggets in 2018. The 6-foot-6 wing has shown shown improvement on defense since finishing his college career at Illinois State, and his offense — 17.7 points on 49/39/78 shooting splits in 27 minutes per game for the Oklahoma City Thunder’s G League affiliate — should have him on the radar of every team with an open roster spot, since wing help with potential is a rare commodity.

Gerald Green

The onetime high school project and now 34-year-old veteran has made valuable contributions to playoff teams the previous four seasons, averaging 8.9 points on 40/35/82 shooting splits for Miami, Boston and Houston from 2015-19. In addition to the length and athleticism that has allowed him to defend multiple positions when engaged, Green has enjoyed a number of above-average long-distance shooting seasons.

But he broke his left foot in the 2019 preseason and never suited up for the Rockets during this 2019-20 campaign. Houston dealt his contract in a four-team trade that returned Robert Covington at the deadline, and Green was subsequently waived by the Denver Nuggets. He has not played since the 2019 playoffs.

Stretch bigs

Seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson took home BIG3 MVP honors in 2019. (Sean Gardner/BIG3 via Getty Images)
Seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson took home BIG3 MVP honors in 2019. (Sean Gardner/BIG3 via Getty Images)

Joe Johnson

The soon-to-be 39-year-old seven-time All-Star has not played in the NBA since finishing out the 2017-18 season with the Rockets. He previously enjoyed a resurgence for the Utah Jazz in 2016-17, shooting 41.1 percent from distance and playing big minutes as a small-ball four on a team that made the second round.

Johnson played in the BIG3 basketball league in 2019, capturing MVP honors and leading his team of former NBA players to a three-on-three title. That performance earned him a training camp invite to the Detroit Pistons, who waived him prior to the start of the regular season. Johnson averaged just 6.8 points on 40.6 percent shooting from the field (27.6 percent from three) over 55 games in his last NBA season.

Anthony Tolliver

The veteran big man started the season in Portland before being traded to Sacramento in the deal that sent Trevor Ariza to the Trail Blazers. Tolliver negotiated a buyout from the Kings and signed a 10-day contract with the Grizzlies shortly before the season was suspended. He is free to re-sign with anybody, including the Grizzlies, who have an open roster spot. Tolliver has shot 37.3 percent from deep in his 12-year career.

Ryan Anderson

The Rockets have seemingly tried all these guys. Houston waived Anderson just two games into his second stint. The 32-year-old failed to crack the rotation on a team he helped to 65 wins in 2017-18. Once his defensive liabilities outweighed his offensive contributions, the former 20-points-per-game scorer became expendable. He was a 38.2 percent 3-point shooter until that number dipped significantly in limited minutes for the Suns and Heat last season. Anderson has played only 27 games since the 2017-18 season.

Traditional bigs

Four-time All-Star DeMarcus Cousins tore his ACL in August. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Four-time All-Star DeMarcus Cousins tore his ACL in August. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

DeMarcus Cousins

The hiatus may afford Cousins another opportunity to chase a ring. He signed with the Lakers prior to this season, but suffered an ACL tear before ever wearing the purple and gold. This came after serious Achilles and quadriceps injuries halted promising playoff runs with the New Orleans Pelicans and Golden State Warriors in previous seasons. The four-time All-Star did demonstrate he still has the skills to swing playoff games when last we saw him on the Warriors, and that alone may be well worth the injury risk.

Joakim Noah

Yet another victim of an outsized 2016 contract, Noah’s production dipped to the point the New York Knicks figured it better to pay him to play elsewhere. The former Defensive Player of the Year showed some value on a minimum contract for half a year with the Grizzlies last season, but went unsigned for much of this season before signing a 10-day deal with the Clippers just before the hiatus. The Clips are expected to convert Noah’s contract to a rest-of-season deal when free agency opens on Tuesday.

Pau Gasol

The six-time All-Star will turn 40 before the NBA returns, but he still wants to play. The suspension of the season has allowed him to continue rehabbing the foot injury that kept him from contributing to the Bucks’ playoff rotation last season and from playing at all for the Blazers this season. It is unclear if he is healthy enough to compete, but there are few veterans with the sort of big-game experience Gasol could bring to the table. It is at least worth the phone call to see if he is interested and able to play in Orlando.

– – – – – – –

Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

More from Yahoo Sports:

What to read next