Understandably, offseason movement came to a screeching halt.
You don't want to make a mid-tier trade or signing that would lower
your chances to acquire someone like Durant. The Atlanta Hawks, for
example, blew their pick load in their acquisition of Dejounte
Murray, only for the Durant trade request to come out a short time
It's also understandable for free agents to be a bit annoyed
with offseason movement coming to a screeching halt. Utah Jazz
guard (for now, anyway) Patrick Beverly took to Twitter to speak on
the uncomfortable dynamic.
It should come as no surprise that Durant had a response of his own,
quote-tweeting Beverly's message with "#BLAMEKD."
Free agent guard Isaiah Thomas spoke the minds of many in his
That begs the question: Who are some of the free
agents left that should get a look now? Here are a few players that
come to mind.
Key stats: 13.3 points per game on 52.1% from two
(career-low 4.7 attempts) and 37.5% from three (5.8
Quick: Did you know the Los Angeles Lakers were 7-4 in games
where Melo scored 20 or more points?
Related: Are you more surprised by the record, or the fact that
Melo accomplished the feat 11 times, all of which came from off the
Melo was an occasional bright spot for a team that didn't have
many of them last season. He's still a valuable off-ball
In addition to knocking down 37.5% of his spot-up triples, Melo
was able to beat closeouts with one- or two-dribble pull-ups. Per
Synergy, Melo ranked in the 81st percentile (very good!) when
taking dribble jumpers after spotting up. It's a far cry from the
Melo that could boom on you during his Denver days, but his jumper
remains an effective one.
The defense will likely be a problem in high leverage moments,
though Melo had some fun flashes as a backup 5 last season. A
strong defensive infrastructure will be important if you want to
get the most and best out of him. There's still enough juice in the
tank for him to be a bench hub.
Ideal fits: Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland
Key stats: 8.2 points on a career-high 65.2% from two
(career-low-as-rotation-player 5.1 attempts), 7.6 rebounds (2.6
offensive) and 1.6 blocks per game.
Whiteside's career arc has been one of the weirdest ones in
recent memory. He was a first-round talent that fell to the second
round because of reliability concerns. He found himself out of the
league pretty early on, only to make a 2K-esque splash with the
Heat. He earned max dollars in 2016 and eventually lost his
starting spot to a young Bam Adebayo in 2019, and has ridden the
backup circuit since then.
Quietly, though, Whiteside has still been productive. He remains
a monster on the offensive glass, and his length and timing as a
shot-blocker still make him a solid drop coverage option. Per
Second Spectrum, the Jazz allowed roughly 0.92 points per
possession on trips featuring Whiteside in a drop last season — a
top-10 mark among players to defend at least 500 picks.
Of course, the issue has been that his box score numbers miss
some of his weaknesses. He's a poor lateral mover at this stage of
his career, a flaw on its own before getting into
his unwillingness to move and make second efforts at
times. Whiteside works in a drop, but it's a bit concerning that
he's boxed into that scheme to a degree. A team acquiring him will
need to have slithery screen navigators in front of him, or strong
help defenders that can dig on drives and help restrict space.
Offensively, the screening has been hit or miss. The passing is
too. He's improved enough to knock down a relief jumper or two, but
it's important to let him indulge that part of his game too
Ideal fits: Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns
Key stats: 6.7 points per game on 38.9% from three (4.9
attempts); career-high 89% of shots came from deep.
It's easy to cite the becoming-old adage, but you can never have
too much shooting. It's worth noting that Ellington isn't just a
shooter — he's a moving target. Because of his understanding of
spacing and angles, and his ability to balance himself in the air,
he's able to free himself for looks whether a play is called for
him or not. He isn't the best movement shooter in the
NBA, but he might be my favorite one to watch.
Ellington is dutiful in his movement patterns. Purposeful. He's
someone that defenses have to pay attention to, and I love the way
he weaponizes that. There really isn't a system he can't fit in.
His shooting and off-ball randomness could add some juice to a
contender's attack off the bench, or he could provide much-needed
relief for young ball-handlers on rebuilding rosters.
Ideal fits: Cleveland Cavaliers, Philadelphia 76ers, San
Antonio Spurs, Orlando Magic