The NBA world was treated to a quiet Fourth of July for what felt like the first time in a while as there was almost no movement in free agency – a welcomed change after Kevin Durant and Gordon Hayward held the holiday hostage with their decisions the past two years.
Though there aren’t any big names left to send shockwaves around the league, the free agency class still has a bunch of unsigned impact players who remain up for grabs.
Here’s a look at some of the top players that are still available.
There has surprisingly been no buzz around the Houston Rockets centre, who is an unrestricted free agent in a summer when that distinction isn’t favourable.
With so few teams actually possessing cap space, giving an offer sheet to an unrestricted free agent and tying up your cap space while the player’s team decides what to do has pretty much been avoided.
Capela would seem like the type of player worth the risk, however, after turning into one of the best centres in the league at just 24 and being a vital part of the Houston Rockets’ immense success last season.
His ability to protect the rim and guard on the perimeter makes him a defensive weapon, while his ability to finish at the rim makes him an ideal lob target and roll man.
Fortunately for Houston, it seems as if they’ll be able to retain him as money has dried up elsewhere. They’ll still have to give him a significant pay raise, but it’s looking more and more like they can do it on their own terms instead of having to match a large offer sheet by another team.
Like Capela, Smart is a restricted free agent, which bodes well for Boston’s chances of retaining their bulldog guard.
Smart is an interesting case because his value lies more in his intangibles and ability to make winning plays than in cold, hard numbers. His 3-point shooting might not ever come around – he’s hit 29.3 per cent for his career – and he’s never going to be a go-to scorer, but his defensive tenaciousness and ability as a playmaker out of the pick-and-roll make him an impactful player.
This market may not reveal his true worth though, so Smart may be better off signing his qualifying offer of $6.05 million and becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer, when the cap will rise and more teams will have money to play with.
As recently as a year ago, it seemed like Thomas was eventually going to get his wish for a team to “bring the Brinks truck out”. Instead, he’ll now have to prove himself all over again on his next contract if he ever wants to become a max player.
The Orlando Magic appear to be serious suitors and that would be a destination where Thomas could show he still has plenty left. With Orlando not dealing with any realistic playoff expectations and having a young squad, Thomas may find a similar situation to the one he was in back in Boston.
It will all depend on whether or not he’s still the same player who finished fifth in MVP voting last year, or the one who struggled this past season while continuing to deal with a hip injury.
Another unrestricted free agent on the list, the Milwaukee Bucks forward may not get the kind of lucrative deal he’s hoping for.
The 23-year-old flourished in his third year, averaging 20.1 points on 49.9 per cent shooting, but missed all but three games this past season. When he did play, especially in the playoffs, he showed promising flashes as a secondary scorer, but there’s also a perception he doesn’t impact winning as much as his numbers might suggest.
Parker could be another case of someone better off taking the qualifying offer – in his case $4.3 million – but he and Milwaukee may meet in the middle and agree to a reasonable deal for both sides.
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