Top free agents still available before start of training camp
NBA training camp begins in about three weeks and most teams have almost finished filling their 20-man training camp roster. There are some surprising names, however, that have yet to sign NBA deals, names that have long been fixtures in the league.
Dennis Schroder - G - Houston Rockets
Things just haven’t been the same for Dennis Schroder ever since he turned down a four-year, $84M contract extension with the Los Angeles Lakers, only to have the worst possible sequence of injury, illness and poor playoff performance rock his world. After turning down the bag, Schroder only commanded the mid-level exception worth $5.9M from the Boston Celtics last season. But he’s far from a mid-level player — in fact there were stretches during that season in Los Angeles where Schroder was the toughest, grittiest player on the floor. He might not be securing anything close to the max any time soon, but every team can use a back-up of his caliber.
Carmelo Anthony - F - Los Angeles Lakers
Melo showed he still has something left in the tank, averaging 13.3 points on 44% shooting from the field and 37.5% shooting from downtown last season. But has father time passed him by? Teams are foregoing the senescent generation of score-first, ask-questions-later players — like Melo, Jamal Crawford, Isaiah Thomas and others — for more well-rounded players who can fit multiple roles off the ball. Will Carmelo Anthony be on an NBA roster come training camp? Despite both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving both pushing for the Nets to sign him, the front office opted in the direction of a more versatile Markieff Morris.
Eric Bledsoe - G - Los Angeles Clippers
It’s coming up on the five-year anniversary of one of the most infamous, public trade requests in NBA history: Bledsoe’s tweet — “I don’t wanna be here” — coupled with a canned excuse that he was talking about being at the nail salon. The Suns didn’t believe that to be true and traded him to the Bucks almost immediately. Bledsoe’s numbers have been on a steady decline since Year 1 in Milwaukee. His Achilles heel has always been suspect shooting from downtown, but Bledsoe is still a serviceable point guard who can shoulder a heavier load if the starter gets injured.
Hassan Whiteside - C - Utah Jazz
There were moments on the Jazz last season when Rudy Gobert stepped off the court that Hassan Whiteside didn’t miss a beat. And there were moments when Whiteside got extended playing time that Gobert couldn’t check in quick enough. Whiteside’s days as a prominent center might be behind him, but he remains one of the league’s premier rim protectors and should at minimum make a team’s training camp roster.
DeMarcus Cousins - C - Denver Nuggets
Like Whiteside, Boogie Cousins is long removed from his days as a perennial All-Star. An Achilles injury, followed by an ACL injury, is tough to bounce back from, even for the best of stars. Cousins, however, has reinvented himself as a star in his role as a backup center. Boogie scored 19 points in 15 minutes against the Golden State Warriors in his final playoff game last season and also logged 17 games in double figures during the regular season. He gives you toughness, rebounding, buckets and some underrated defense at the five. Cousins should be on a roster come training camp.
Jarrett Culver - G/F - Memphis Grizzlies
The Timberwolves selected Culver sixth-overall in the 2019 NBA Draft, but if you were to re-draft that year’s class, he might not even be a first-round pick. That’s the unfortunate case with Culver — likely selected too high and also hit with a rash of ankle injuries that required season-ending surgery. Still, he’s only 23-years-old with significant defensive upside. Is that upside worth it, though, for a 25% three-point shooter?
Ben McLemore - G - Portland Trail Blazers
Once solely known for flashy dunks, McLemore has been on a yearslong crusade to transform himself into a serviceable 3-and-D wing. The three is there — both in volume and efficiency — and the defense has come a long way. On a minimum deal, McLemore provides a fair amount of bang for the buck.
Jordan Nwora - G/F - Milwaukee Bucks
Minutes are scarce on a championship contender, but Jordan Nwora always seems to make the most of his opportunities. Which begs the question: Why hasn’t another team made him an offer yet? Nwora could accept Milwaukee’s qualifying offer — a one-year deal that allows him to hit unrestricted free agency next summer — because it’s looking like that’s the only deal on the table right now.
Not every notable unsigned player is in play, of course. There are names like Jamal Crawford, who could have something left to offer if the right team comes along to drag them out of retirement, but are otherwise out of the league. And there are more extreme cases, like that of Miles Bridges, who is facing a felony domestic violence charge and two felony child abuse charges stemming from an incident in late June, and seems unlikely to play in the league again. Rajon Rondo finds himself in a similar situation. The mother of his two children, however, filed an emergency protective order against Rondo and said she was “extremely fearful” for both her safety and her two children, who she accused him of physically abusing. It’s unclear whether or not a team will sign Rondo to a deal this season, even if his skill set fits a team’s needs.