Ranking the 10 Best 2014 NBA Free Agents Still on the Market
With the 2014-15 NBA season on the horizon, it's perplexing that players such as Greg Monroe and Eric Bledsoe are still available on the free-agent market.
Fortunately for those two borderline stars, they're not the only solid players who have yet to lock up a contract during free agency.
To start the conversation about the top remaining options, consider an honorable mention: Michael Beasley. He deserves to be considered because of his size and diverse skill set, but his production simply hasn't matched the hype that comes with being a former No. 2 draft pick.
Beasley aside, there are a number of value signings that have yet to be had in free agency. Time will tell who lands where, but as of Aug. 25, 2014, there are numerous productive players available for teams looking to fill out their rosters.
10. Andrew Bynum
2013-14 Stats: 8.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 15.25 PER
From a talent perspective, Andrew Bynum deserves to be higher on this list. At one point, he was considered the second-best center in the NBA—the best in the eyes of Dwight Howard detractors—but injuries have decreased his value from a potential max-money player to someone still on the market with the 2014-15 season just around the corner.
As Marc Berman of the New York Post reports, there's a reason teams are hesitant:
The 7-foot Bynum may not be reuniting with Phil Jackson’s Knicks or any other team next season because he is seriously contemplating sitting out 2014-15 to undergo the Germany-based knee therapy called “The Regenokine Program’’ that would require an extra long rehab, according to his agent David Lee. But he could be in play for the following season.
Bynum's career hasn't been the same since the 2011-12 campaign. He played just 60 games that year, but if he can return to anything close to that production (18.7 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 1.9 BPG), he'll be a quality signing for some team needing depth at the 5 spot.
9. Elton Brand
2013-14 Stats: 5.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 14.05 PER
Elton Brand is in the twilight of his career, to say the least. He's officially 15 years into his playing days, but he's coming off of a strong season that saw him play 73 games for the Atlanta Hawks.
At this stage in his career, Brand can play either the 4 or the 5. He played most of his minutes at center this past year, according to 82games.com, but he's versatile enough at his age to play a few minutes at power forward when needed.
The nice part about Brand is that he's still a defensive presence at the rim. Despite being just 6'9" and playing just 19.4 minutes per game in 2013-14, he still manage to block 1.2 shots per game.
Brand has never averaged below one block per contest through the entirety of his career, and while he's not nearly the points-per-game player he once was, he's still someone who can affect shots at the rim at 35 years old.
8. Andray Blatche
2013-14 Stats: 11.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 18.85 PER
When it comes to Andray Blatche and his decision to enter free agency, B/R's Adam Fromal may have put it best:
The offensively talented big man had the ability to remain in the Barclays Center for the 2014-15 season, though he'd have made only $1.4 million. Rather than pigeonhole himself onto the Nets roster, Blatche decided to opt out and become an unrestricted free agent, seeking out both a bigger payday and a longer deal that would bless him with the guarantee of financial security.
That plan hasn't worked.
The worst part for Blatche is that very few rumors are even circulating involving his name. The talent is there, and last season that talent even translated to production. But maturity and behavior issues have been concerns in the past, and they're likely playing a role in the lack of interest at this point in the process.
7. Jermaine O'Neal
2013-14 Stats: 7.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 0.9 BPG, 50.4 FG%, 15.34 PER
Jermaine O'Neal's 2013-14 season was surprisingly productive, and more specifically, surprisingly healthy. He started in 13 games for the Golden State Warriors, and he proved that he can still impact shots at the rim on a championship-caliber roster.
Although projecting where O'Neal could land is certainly a topic worth having, there's a bigger question to consider: Will he even return to the NBA this season?
At 35 years old, O'Neal has talked about retirement. Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears reported back in May that the big man was "expected to take his time deciding whether to keep playing or retire. Still loves game but yearns to be with family."
Seeing as how we're just two months away from the regular season, it's safe to say that O'Neal is taking his time deciding. But don't hold that against him. He's played 18 seasons, and he's earned the right to ponder.
6. Jordan Crawford
2013-14 Stats: 11.0 PPG, 3.5 APG, 2.3 RPG, 14.40 PER
At 25 years old, the hope with Jordan Crawford is that he's yet to hit his ceiling. The problem is that, as it has been his entire career, efficiency is still a concern.
In four seasons, Crawford has already played for four teams. Along the way, he's never shot better than 41.7 percent for any of the four organizations.
For his career, Crawford has knocked down just 40.5 percent from the field and 30.6 percent from downtown. But despite his inefficient production, he's able to put the ball in the bucket, as evidenced by his 12.2 points-per-game average over his career.
If Crawford can land on a roster where he's behind a high-scoring, efficient shooting guard, it would behoove all parties. The Miami Heat appear to fit that bill entering 2014-15, and according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the team from South Beach is interested in Crawford's services.
5. Emeka Okafor
2013-14 Stats: N/A
If you've forgotten about Emeka Okafor, you're not alone. The last time we saw him play was during the 2012-13 season, and while he made headlines this past year, it was only because of his massive contract and trade rumors.
Having taken a year off due to a neck injury, Okafor doesn't have any stats to boast as a free agent. Fortunately, if you look at the last time he was healthy, you realize he can still be productive on both sides of the floor.
4. Ramon Sessions
2013-14 Stats: 12.3 PPG, 4.1 APG, 2.4 RPG, 16.04 PER
In today's day and age of ultra-athletic, score-first point guards, it's easy to see how Ramon Sessions has gotten lost in the free-agent shuffle. However, he's a smart floor general who doesn't stray too far from what he's good at, and that's a quality any team can use.
One of those teams might be the Charlotte Hornets. Back in March, it was reported by The Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell that Sessions would be interested in signing with them if the feeling was mutual.
As of Aug. 25, Charlotte has three point guards on board (Kemba Walker, Gary Neal and Jannero Pargo), but if there's anything true about the position, it's that you can never have too much experience. There's no guarantee this move is made, but a Sessions signing for the Hornets would further bolster a roster that has made drastic improvements the past two seasons.
3. Ray Allen
2013-14 Stats: 9.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, 37.5 3PT%, 12.83 PER
Ray Allen is taking his sweet time deciding where to sign as a free agent.
More accurately, he's taking his sweet time deciding if he wants to sign anywhere at all.
With his 19th season quickly approaching, Allen has been contemplating retirement. However, ESPN's Chris Broussard tweeted earlier this month that the shooting guard had "told those close to him that he'll play next season."
Broussard continued, stating, "Cleveland front-runner but not 100 [percent] definite."
What we do know is this: Allen is a lights-out shooter who would help virtually every roster as a backup 2. Taking that one step further: If he lands with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he'll help round out a roster that is unequivocally the most improved entering 2014-15.
2. Greg Monroe
2013-14 Stats: 15.2 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 0.6 BPG, 18.16 PER
Greg Monroe entered the 2014 offseason as, supposedly, one of the most sought-after players in free agency. And yet, here we are, three-and-a-half weeks into August, and he's still a free agent.
As B/R's D.J. Foster put it, this year's free-agency period might not be the ultimate out for players like Monroe. As Foster states:
There is another solution for both [Eric] Bledsoe and Monroe, even if it's undesirable for them and their teams. By accepting the qualifying offers available to them, both players can play one more season with their respective teams, then become unrestricted free agents in the 2015 offseason. At that point, finding a suitor would no longer be such a hassle.
As of Aug. 25 at midnight E.T., Monroe hasn't accepted any offer, qualifying or otherwise. He's a an All-Star-caliber talent with a bright future, but whether he takes a deal this summer or next, he has a solid payday coming his way sometime in the next year.
1. Eric Bledsoe
2013-14 Stats: 17.7 PPG, 5.5 APG, 4.7 RPG, 19.62 PER
For years now, we've been saying that Eric Bledsoe will be a star when he finally gets a chance to start. As it turned out, he got that opportunity in 2013-14 with the Phoenix Suns, but injuries cut his season to just 43 games.
As a result, his free-agent summer hasn't gone anywhere near as planned.
According to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst, the Suns "reached out to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday to ask once more about the possibility of acquiring [Kevin] Love in a sign-and-trade for guard Eric Bledsoe."
Despite being dangled in trade offers, Bledsoe deserves the nod as the No. 1 free agent remaining on the market. He's a versatile guard who can play both ends of the floor, and he has an incredibly high ceiling if he can just stay healthy.
There's a reason Goran Dragic calls him "Mini LeBron," and while that moniker may be a bit of a stretch, the 24-year-old is still a player worth paying at this point in the offseason.
*All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com.
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