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As we head into the stagnation of the 2022 NBA season, there are still some influential players who can move the needle for teams. We’re not even talking about Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Donovan Mitchell, all of whom have been trade rumors in recent weeks.
A handful of free agents could also turn up the fortunes of their teams in 2022-23.
While first-class non-premium dealers have found new homes, a number of well-established players – perhaps even a novice or two – remain in the market. The following 10 groups should catch the teams’ interest as they look to fill any open slots on the roster they still have.
Editor’s note: Restricted free agent Miles Bridges has been removed from these ratings because he faces three felony domestic violence charges after he was charged with assaulting his girlfriend in front of their two children in June, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon.
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Andre Iguodala may retire before the 2022-23 season, and his durability has become a concern (he only played 31 games in 2021-22). But the 38-year-old is probably the best bet for a veteran’s locker room presence among the remaining free agents.
Along with the four tournaments he has competed in and won the MVP award in the finals, Iguodala ranks fifth among the active players in the final minutes. By the end of the last Golden State Warriors tournament, he looked like a player-coach.
What Iguodala can provide in terms of leadership, guidance and basketball intelligence can make a real difference, but he is also a solid defender and playmaker as well.
He played just 603 minutes in 2021-22, but his career averaged 6.9 passes per 75 possessions. And the Stellar Warriors net worth rating was already comfortably better when on Earth.
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Dwight Howard will turn 37 in December. Like Andre Iguodala, he is nearing the end of his illustrious NBA career.
Although Howard is no longer the same player with three consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards and eight NBA picks, he’s still a solid defensive anchor who can raise the ceiling for most second units.
Over the past three seasons, Howard has averaged 14.2 points, 14.9 rebounds, and 1.8 pieces per 75 possessions, with a real shot percentage of 65.3. After years of pushing to become a mailman, his embrace of running on the edge and being an attacking trashman lengthened his Hall of Fame career.
Howard has some notable weaknesses at this point in his career. He flipped the ball a lot (it’s number 11 in the three-year turnover ratio listed above). His inability to shoot spacing spasms of jumping. And he doesn’t defend in space as he used to.
But whichever team they sign up for, they won’t be looking for a DPOY candidate or even a rookie. He can still bounce, block the fairway against opposing pieces and chew 15-20 minutes into each game as a spare.
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The potential swan song tour continues with LaMarcus Aldridge, who has already returned from one retirement.
After a heart condition apparently ended his career in April 2021, Aldridge announced he was given medical clearance to play in September. He then went on to average 12.9 points and 5.5 rebounds in just 22.3 minutes per game for the Brooklyn Nets, who did slightly better when on the ground.
However, Aldridge made only 47 regular season appearances. Whichever team they sign up for will likely expect a similar workload.
If possible, Aldridge can provide a boost to any second unit that needs a little spacing. Not a three-point shooter, but one of the most prolific mid-range shooters of all time. The defenders will follow him up to the three-point line.
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Injuries have wiped out Blake Griffin from the sport that made him a star early in his career, but he’s still versatile enough to be a side-maker on the team’s bench.
He averaged 4.0 assists per 75 possessions this past season with the Brooklyn Nets, which was not far from his career mark of 4.8. And although his three-point percentage fell off a cliff, he shot more than 34 percent from depth on three of his last five campaigns.
These aren’t elite break numbers, but if he manages to hit the mid-30s level again, that’s good enough to force the defenses to pay attention to him from behind the arc.
These point forward elements and a hint of a multi-position defense could make him one of at least the 8th or 9th best players in the league.
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Many numbers slipped for Jeremy Lamb in 2021-22, but he’s turning 30, which fits the growing trend of centerless basketball and has quietly been one of the toughest wingers in the game over the past half decade.
Since the start of the 2017-18 season, Lamb has been the top 100 in the plus/minus box. He averaged 18.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.9 three-pointers per 75 possessions. During the same period, he made 35.5 percent of his three-point attempts.
For any team looking to adopt a defensive system as heavy as the one that carried the Boston Celtics to the Finals, Lamb (6’5″ with a 6’11” wingspan is worth watching.
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Age, injuries and a game that strayed from traditional mail players took a heavy toll on DeMarcus Cousins, but it was a game-changer for Denver Nuggets last season.
Prior to Cousins’ debut with the team, Denver was over 9.7 points per 100 ownership with Nikola Jokic on the floor and -12.5 when he was off. The 22.2 pip swing is too big.
From that point through the end of the season, the Nuggets were plus 6.9 with the Jokic and -22 without him. Shrinking that number from 22.2 to 9.1 was largely due to Cousins’ bruising and well-rounded indoor game. They were 22-9 in their matches.
If Cousins is willing to accept a similar role elsewhere (and successful bench spells for both Milwaukee and Denver suggest he is), he could push a team closer to the fray.
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Like his cousins, Hassan Whiteside appears to have embraced a backup role in 2021-22. Doing so should extend his career.
As Rudy Gobert’s reserve for the Utah Jazz, Whiteside averaged 17.0 points, 15.8 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per 75 possession. He was top 60 in the plus/minus box and scored 66.2 real hits.
It had a stabilizing effect similar to that which Cousins brought to Denver.
For years, Utah’s net rating plummeted when Joubert was off the ground. From 2015-16 to 2020-21, jazz was +8.4 when Joubert played and minus 1.4 when he didn’t. Last season, thanks in large part to Whiteside, they were able to stay above zero without Gobert on the ground.
Teams needing rim protection, rebounding, running or changing gear from the bench should consider the 33-year-old white.
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Dennis Schroeder’s numbers have been steadily trending downward since he finished second in this year’s sixth man vote in 2019-20. This could lead to the belief that his shooting marks from that season were abnormal (especially the 38.5 three-point ratio).
But he still has a quick first step and an above average ability to get into the paint. In front of the second units, he should be able to do a lot of scoring.
For his career, Schroeder averaged 19.6 points for 16.8 shots per 75 ownership. He can get those combinations of all three levels. He’s 33 in the NBA in doubles of 10 feet and has been out during his nine seasons.
And while Schroeder certainly isn’t a first pass keeper, the pressure he puts on the paint gives him plenty of pass or assist opportunities. His career mark of 6.5 passes per 75 ownership is the top 70 in the league during that time.
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Over the years, the Montrezl Harrell debate has spiraled out of control. The massive 6’7″ man has his defensive limits, but that shouldn’t erase the fact that he’s one of the most effective backup goalscorers in the game.
The 2019-20 sixth man averaged 21.6 points per 75 possessions during his career. That score ranks 86th of all time, and if you sort those 86 players by field goal percentage, Harrell’s 62.0 is easily the top spot (almost four points behind second-placed Shaquille O’Neal’s 58.2).
Despite the height disadvantage in most matches, Harrell plays with an insistence on attack that allows him to reach the edge in rolls and cuts as effectively as everyone else. And he has a great touch about the bucket when he gets there.
Harrell won’t provide a lot of sheer protection, but in the right role, he can definitely improve the team. As for his career, his teams are over 3.2 points per 100 holdings when he’s on the ground plus 1.8 when he’s away.
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Colin Sexton was the oddball on this year’s Free Agents group. Given the three-year, nearly $40 million offer he reportedly received from the Cleveland Cavaliers (h/r Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com), it might make sense for him to play this season on the qualifying bid he signed before. Free agency before entering the market again in 2023.
If he can recreate or improve on what he did in 2020-21 (a knee injury that led to 11 games in 2021-22), he will likely get a better deal next summer. That season, Sexton averaged 24.3 points and fired 37.1 percent of three.
At the very least, he looked like an unusual potential scorer who could swing matches with a hot stretch here or there.
If he shows greater ability and willingness to defend and ingenuity to others, his ceiling is higher.
Statistics provided by NBA.com, the basketball and glass-cleaning reference. Minutes until the 2021-22 season. Salary information via Spotrac.