NBA free agency is now a week old, and almost all the big names are off the board. So are some lesser names — even those with stunningly large contracts.
But plenty of talented players are still around. This list doesn’t focus on the Kentavious Caldwell-Popes, the Tony Allens or even the Jonathon Simmonses, though. Instead, we’re talking about the guys who might come cheap. That means restricted free agents such as Simmons, JaMychal Green and Alan Williams were left off because their teams likely would match their contracts, while unrestricted players expecting somewhat big pay days like Rondo and Derrick Rose also didn’t make the cut.
We’re talking about potential steals, the guys who might join a team for $5 million or less and end up becoming big-time contributors down the stretch. Here’s a look at nine such players:
1. C Tarik Black
Last team: Los Angeles Lakers // Status: unrestricted // Stats: 16.3 mpg, 5.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg
The Lakers’ addition of Brook Lopez and desire to get more minutes from Ivica Zubac made Black superfluous, so they waived him before his $6.6 million contract was guaranteed. But Black was a very good defender last year and has been a head-down hustle player for his entire career. Most teams could use a guy like this as their fourth big man.
2. SG Reggie Bullock
Last team: Detroit Pistons // Status: unrestricted // Stats: 15.1 mpg, 4.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 0.9 apg, 38.4% 3PT
Injuries have prevented Bullock from really showing what he can do over his four-year NBA career. But the 26-year-old was pretty darn good when he got the chance for the Pistons the past two years. The sample-size was limited, but he rated out as an above-average defender and shooter. None of the injuries have been crippling, and he could be a rotation wing player for a team in need of shooting.
3. G Ian Clark
Last team: Golden State Warriors // Status: restricted // Stats: 14.8 mpg, 6.8 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.2 apg, 37.4% 3PT
Stephen Curry is way, way off the market, but his backup is sitting there, waiting. The Warriors have added Omri Casspi, Nick Young and Jordan Bell, and it seems difficult to imagine they could afford to match a reasonable offer on Clark. He’d be a great fit off the bench as a sharpshooting point guard for a team with a forward who likes to run the offense.
4. C Dewayne Dedmon
Last team: San Antonio Spurs // Status: unrestricted // Stats: 17.5 mpg, 5.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 0.8 bpg, 3.9 DRPM
Dedmon grades out as one of the best defensive big men in the NBA by many measures, yet he doesn’t seem to be viewed as such when it comes time for free agency. The Spurs would love to bring him back, but pricing them out of that might not be difficult, especially if their higher-priority free agent, Simmons, gets a big offer sheet.
5. PG Tyler Ennis
Last team: Los Angeles Lakers // Status: unrestricted // Stats: 11.1 mpg, 4.3 ppg, 1.6 apg, 38.6% 3PT
Ennis has been through four teams in three NBA season. But he’s 22 and a recent top-20 draft pick, and point guards notoriously develop slowly. Plus he already can hit 3-pointers and take care of the ball, as he showed during a solid-enough run to close the season for the Lakers. Give him some stability and let him grow into being a good backup point.
6. F Jonas Jerebko
Last team: Boston Celtics // Status: unrestricted // Stats: 15.8 mpg, 3.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg
Jerebko enters free agency after the worst season of his career, which undoubtedly will drop his value significantly. But he also enters it at a time when most of the league is looking for players like him — forwards who can slide between the three and four, defend decently enough and hit 3-pointers. He’s made 38.3% of his 3s over the past four seasons and, at 30, would be a solid veteran who still is able to contribute. Side note: Jerebko suffered one of the worst injuries in basketball, an Achilles tendon tear, as a 23-year-old, which never let him show off the level of talent he had on healthy feet.
7. C Alex Len
Last team: Phoenix Suns // Status: restricted // Stats: 20.3 mpg, 8.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.3 bpg
The Suns appear to covet Williams over Len, whom they drafted No. 5 overall in 2013. That makes sense, both for them and overall, as Williams is a better fit for the small-ball NBA. But Len has shown signs of being a decent defender and made strides on offense last year. He could be the ideal traditional backup center for a team that goes small to start.
8. C Willie Reed
Last team: Miami Heat // Status: unrestricted // Stats: 14.5 mpg, 5.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 0.7 bpg, .168 WS/48
There are four centers on this list for a reason: The NBA is overflowing with good big men as supply exceeds demand. But Reed is a bit different because he fits small-ball better than the other three. After years of jumping all over D-League competition, he’s proven his value as a backup big at the NBA level and would be a good addition to any frontcourt.
9. SG Thabo Sefolosha
Last team: Atlanta Hawks // Status: unrestricted // Stats: 25.7 mpg, 7.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.5 spg, 3.1 DBPM
In an era where so many NBA players have signed such outlandish contracts, Sefolosha has spent 11 NBA seasons playing great defense, hitting open shots and somehow only making $34 million for his career. Unfortunately for him, interest doesn’t seem to be any higher now, and he may again find himself as one of the best value-contracts in the NBA. Here’s to hoping someone gives him his due finally, though.