Free Agents that carry the most intrigue
SF Harrison Barnes — Golden State Warriors, Restricted – Golden State’s effective number 4 option has top 2 potential. Barnes may be capable of scoring around 17-19 PPG, and may end up slightly overpaid based on the fact that he could, and a team could certainly be overpaying for potential here. A very smart, controlled player, Barnes qualifies as one of the most careful ballhandlers in the league with only a 7.5% turnover rate (T-7th in NBA). He’s been wonderfully consistent in what could be considered a limiting role for Barnes. His ability to guard multiple positions and play stretch four makes the ‘Black Dragon’ a sexy 3-and-D option for a team looking to take on an upgrade on the wing.
SG Evan Fournier — Orlando Magic, Restricted – Fournier had a wonderful start this season that helped make Orlando look like a playoff team. The Francophone guard is going to see a high demand for his services due to the 3 ball revolution. Averaging 14.8 PPG from a 45.3% clip (39.9% from 3) bodes well for a team looking to space out the floor or transition into a small ball phase. Fournier showed some, albeit a bare minimum ability to run the point. Fournier posted back-to-back signature performances earlier early December against New Orleans (30 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 12-20 from the field) and Houston (29 points, 6 boards, 4 assists on 11-21 shooting). His defensive ability is usually brought into question, as his defensive rating of 109 and 3.4 fouls per game leaves plenty to be desired.
C Bismack Biyombo — Toronto Raptors, Unrestricted – The Congolese center has developed into one of the NBA’s best rim protectors this season. Biyombo has the 2nd highest block percentage in the NBA (6.1%), averages 13.1 rebounds per 36 minutes, and has a scored a career high 5.2 PPG. Biyombo’s progression is a major reason for Toronto’s evolution into the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Despite being obviously limited on offense; Toronto has actually been a better offensive team with Biyombo on the floor. The Raptors brought him in on an absolute bargain of a deal ($6 Million for 2 years) and he will surely opt out for a massive pay raise and possibly an increased role, which may hinder his incredible defensive efficiency (101 defensive rating). If any team wants to take a chance on Biyombo this off-season, he would be best off being used in his current capacity.
PF Dwight Powell — Dallas Mavericks, Restricted – After tearing it up in the D-League last year, the Canadian big man was a double-double threat earlier in the season and looked great taking on a key role off the Mavericks’ bench. Sadly, once David Lee was signed after being bought out from the Celtics, Powell disappeared from the rotation as Lee took on a majority of the minutes at the first PF off the bench. Powell is an exceptional athlete who’s posted solid lines in limited minutes, including three double-doubles in less than 30 minutes played. His per 36 minute totals are impressive:
|14.8 PPG||10.0 RPG||1.6 APG||1.3 STL||0.9 BLK||49.8 FG%||75.0 FT%||17.1 PER|
Powell has done a great job showing out in a limited role. Powell, still however needs to improve on his shooting, preferably from various spots on the court. Powell could use a viable 3-point shot to prove his versatility. According to Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News, a team approached Dallas with a first round pick to try to snatch up Powell. The lack of youth and depth in Dallas seems to me like the Mavs will have to match a high offer in restricted free agency in order to keep their prized forward.
SG Kent Bazemore — Atlanta Hawks, Unrestricted – Bazemore is a great athlete whose lockdown defense on the perimeter helped keep the Hawks atop the South division this season. A more consistent jumper is going to get Bazemore PAID this summer (a career high 11.2 PPG on 43.8% shooting) and Bazemore has continued his stellar defense under Mike Budenholzer’s Hawks, who are currently holding onto the #3 seed in the East. An estimated 77% of his minutes have been played at SF, and a 100.8 defensive rating ranks 3rd for players who have played a majority of their minutes at the 3 spot. There’s a great chance he is vastly overpaid as 54.9% of his 2-point shots have been assisted, as well as 91.9% of his threes. The floor spreading system in Atlanta has faired Bazemore very well, and if he were to leave Atlanta this summer, he would be best suited beside a stout shooter.
SG Bradley Beal — Washington Wizards, Restricted– Bradley Beal is a phenomenal outside shooter, capable of stretching defenses nightly. He’s vastly improved from shooting 42.8% from 2-point range over the first three years of his career, posting a 48.2% clip inside the arc throughout 2015-16. Beal has had issues staying healthy over the course of his time with the Wizards. If the guard plays every game for the rest of the season, he’ll still have only made 57 appearances, which would be a career low. Little depth and a high demand for shooters might mean the Wizards will have to match a team’s near-max offer to Beal during his restricted free agency this summer. Is a Beal that plays 60 games a season really worth a near-max contract?
PG Ish Smith — Philadelphia 76ers, Unrestricted – This summer, the 76ers might have to start actually paying players. Smith has made the Sixers look somewhat like an NBA team. They started 1-30, and since acquiring Ish, they’ve gone 8-36. In such an ugly situation with so much cap space, Smith could make a point that he was the injection of life into what looked like the worst NBA team of all-time. The knock on him however is he can’t shoot.
SG/SF Nicolas Batum — Charlotte Hornets, Unrestricted – Batum and Kemba Walker have spearheaded a Hornets team that might win a playoff series this spring. Well roundedness on both sides of the ball have made Batum one of the league’s best two-way forwards, possibly grading out as a poor man’s Kawhi Leonard.