Ranking the 5 Best NBA Free Agents Still Available in 2021-22
NBA free agency receives the most attention in the first few days, but what about the latter stages?
The big impact players like Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, and DeMar DeRozan are off the board. However, there are still some intriguing options available.
Those third wave NBA free agents can still make an impact in the right setting. With teams looking to finalize their rosters, here’s a look at the best NBA free agents still available ahead of the 2021-22 NBA season.
5. J.J. Redick
J.J. Redick never lived up to the hype following an amazing four-year career at Duke. However, the 6’3” shooting guard carved out a role as one of the NBA’s premier shooters.
The Orlando Magic drafted Redick 11th overall in the 2006 NBA Draft. He spent the first six and a half seasons with the Magic, averaging 9.2 points on 39.8 percent three-point shooting.
Redick played for the Milwaukee Bucks for 28 games in 2013 before signing a four-year deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. His minutes per game rose from 21.9 to 28.9. In turn, all of his stats improved.
He played for the Philadelphia 76ers from 2017-2019. His numbers with the 76ers were just as good, if not better than his numbers with the Clippers.
Here are his numbers with both teams.
|Stat||Clippers (2013-2017)||76ers (2017-2019)|
|Field Goal %||46.6||44.9|
|Free Throw %||89.7||89.9|
Over the last two seasons, Redick has spent time with the New Orleans Pelicans and Dallas Mavericks. His numbers did come down slightly, but he is still an above-average shooter.
For his career, Redick is averaging 12.8 points and shooting 41.5 percent from three-point range.
The 37-year-old is reaching the end of his career, but he can still provide value as a great shooter off the bench.
Typically, the top option for a veteran at the end of his career is one of the championship favorites.
Brooklyn likely would’ve made the NBA Finals last season if not for injuries to James Harden and Kyrie Irving. Those guys are irreplaceable, but it’s even harder when you don’t have a lot of depth.
Redick gives the Nets a reliable shooter off the bench. He would benefit from Irving and Harden’s elite passing ability.
It would make sense if he signs with a championship contender considering he has made the playoffs 14 times in his 15-year career.
4. Avery Bradley
There was a time when people considered Avery Bradley one of the best two-way players in the NBA. While he is no longer that player, he still has the potential to be an above-average defender.
Bradley spent the first seven years of his career with the Boston Celtics. His offensive numbers weren’t too impressive in his first three seasons. He did however make the All-Defensive Second Team in his third season (2013) thanks to 1.3 steals per game.
The ensuing four seasons in Boston were the best of Bradley’s career. Check out his cumulative stats.
- 15.1 points
- 4.0 rebounds
- 1.2 steals
- 44.4 field goal percentage
- 37.5 three-point percentage
He made the All-Defensive First-Team in 2016 and was a big snub in 2017.
Boston needed to clear cap space, so they traded Bradley to the Detroit Pistons in 2017. He lasted just 40 games in Detroit before they sent him to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Bradley essentially played a season for the Clippers before they traded him to the Memphis Grizzlies in February 2019. In 14 games with the Grizzlies, he averaged 16.1 points, 4.0 assists, and 3.1 rebounds.
In 2020, he won a championship with the Los Angeles Lakers. He played for the Miami Heat and Houston Rockets last season.
It’s no secret that Bradley’s numbers have slipped since leaving Boston, but he is still just 30 years old.
When I look at playoff teams that struggled on defense last season, I see the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets. We talked about the Nets with Redick, so let’s focus on the Bucks.
The Bucks lost PJ Tucker who was a serious defensive contributor. I’m not saying Bradley is the same player, but he can provide a similar impact. He’ll slot in right behind Khris Middleton at the small forward position.
Brooklyn needs depth, especially at shooting guard and small forward. I’m sure more contenders will look into signing him.
3. Josh Hart
Josh Hart is another three-and-D player that could give a lot of teams a solid backup wing. However, his situation makes things a little tough.
The Utah Jazz drafted Hart with the final pick of the first round in the 2017 NBA Draft. The Jazz immediately traded the pick to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Hart spent the first two seasons of his career in Los Angeles. He had his best shooting season in his rookie year with 46.9 field goal percentage and 39.6 three-point percentage. He also averaged 7.9 points.
Despite winning the 2018 Summer League MVP, Hart’s numbers didn’t improve much in the 2018-2019 season.
Los Angeles traded him to the New Orleans Pelicans in 2019 as part of a package to acquire Anthony Davis.
In New Orleans, Hart has averaged over three more minutes per game in two seasons. Let’s look at his stats from his two seasons in New Orleans.
|Field Goal %||42.3||43.9|
Those numbers are up considerably from his 7.9 points per game and 3.9 rebounds per game with the Lakers.
The Pelicans are the most likely option for Hart because they have the right to match any offer. The 6’ 5” Hart would make a good option off the bench as either a shooting guard or small forward.
There is a rumor floating around that Hart could join the Sacramento Kings in a sign-and-trade.
The deal would bring Buddy Hield to New Orleans. The Cleveland Cavaliers were also a potential option.
However, neither move has gained any traction. As of this moment, I’m going with him returning to New Orleans.
2. Paul Millsap
Am I surprised to see Paul Millsap available? Yes and no.
I had Millsap ranked as one of the top NBA free agent power forwards for 2021. However, he is also 36 years old and has regressed over the last few seasons.
Millsap’s career began when the Utah Jazz selected him in the second round of the 2006 NBA Draft.
He spent the first seven seasons of his career in Utah. He averaged 12.4 points and 7.0 rebounds. Millsap also shot 51.6 percent from the field.
In the 2013 offseason, he signed with the Atlanta Hawks. That set him up for the best four years of his career. He made the All-Star game and went to the playoffs in all four seasons with the team.
Check out his cumulative numbers from his time in Atlanta.
- 17.4 points
- 8.3 rebounds
- 3.3 assists
- 1.7 steals
- 1.2 blocks
- 46.3 field goal percentage
- 33.5 three-point percentage
Millsap left the Hawks in 2017 to sign with the Denver Nuggets. His numbers have gone down since he sees less and less minutes each season.
However, he did shoot 37.1 percent from three-point range in his four seasons with Denver. He also shot a career-high 43.5 percent in the 2019-2020 season.
Right now, the Boston Celtics seem to be the team everyone is looking at when it comes to Millsap.
Boston lost Tristan Thompson and traded Moses Brown after acquiring him in the Kemba Walker trade. Their best option at power forward off the bench is Grant Williams. Celtics fans will tell you that he shouldn’t be on the floor.
Another team I could see pursuing Millsap is the Chicago Bulls. Chicago has already had a big offseason, but they have a hole at power forward. Patrick Williams is their top guy, but the second-year player could use a veteran to learn from.
Millsap can give both playoff hopefuls a veteran off the bench.
1. Lauri Markkanen
Lauri Markkanen entered free agency thinking he would receive a contract in the $14 million a year range. He also expected to return to the Chicago Bulls in an expanded role.
Considering how things have gone so far, I’d say neither of those things will happen.
The Minnesota Timberwolves drafted Markkanen seventh overall in the 2017 NBA Draft. They subsequently traded him to the Chicago Bulls in a package deal for Jimmy Butler.
Markkanen looked like an emerging star in the first two seasons of his career. Here are his stats.
|Field Goal %||43.4||43.0|
He kicked off his third season in the NBA with 35 points and 17 rebounds. Just when it looked like Markkanen was going to turn into a young star, his numbers took a big hit.
That season, his points per game dropped to 14.3. More notably, his rebounds per game dropped to 6.3. That’s not ideal for a seven-footer.
His points and rebounds average came down even more last season. He did improve his shooting though by setting career highs in field goal percentage (48.0) and three-point percentage (40.2).
However, the Bulls are making life difficult on other teams.
Because most teams are tight on money, the only way to acquire Markkanen is through a sign-and-trade. Chicago has been asking teams for a first-round pick, but teams aren’t willing to give that up.
When the Bulls acquired DeMar DeRozan in a sign-and-trade with the San Antonio Spurs, they targeted Markkanen, but he asked for so much money that they weren’t willing to meet his demands.
Chicago became one of the most improved NBA teams in 2021 free agency, and they now don’t need Markkanen quite as much as they once did.
We’ve heard the Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, and Dallas Mavericks all have expressed interest. However, Markkanen is going to have to lower his asking price.
Markkanen is ready to leave Chicago, so we’ll see how things play out.
Other Top NBA Free Agents Still Available
- James Ennis
- Hamidou Diallo
While we highlighted the top free agents available, there are two more that I wanted to briefly discuss.
James Ennis is a seven-year veteran that has played for seven different teams in his career. He has averaged 6.7 points in his career, but that number is up to 8.5 in his last two seasons. Last season, he shot a career-high 43.3 percent from three-point range. The Los Angeles Lakers have expressed interest in signing him.
Hamidou Diallo’s first two seasons were nothing special, but he improved considerably last season. He averaged 11.6 points and 5.2 rebounds while shooting 39.0 percent from three-point range. The Chicago Bulls could sign the 22-year-old to back up DeMar DeRozan.
There is more to consider ahead of the 2021-22 NBA season. Check out these NBA articles to prepare.