Ranking the top remaining NBA free agents

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Ryan Murphy

August 9th, 2021

NBA teams spent over $2 billion during the first week of free agency, so it may surprise you to discover there’s anyone in America who can dribble a ball or nail a corner three that didn’t cash in. However, a quick glance at the league’s database reveals there are still over 50 players who appeared in at least one game last season who remain unsigned.

We’ve examined that group closely, and have ranked the top five remaining NBA free agents.

5. Bismack Biyombo

Biyombo became the poster child for excessive spending in 2016 when he signed a bloated four-year, $72 million deal with the Orlando Magic. No one will make the mistake of throwing that much money at him this time around, but he’s still a useful player who could plug a hole on a contending team.

The 28-year-old grinder averaged 5.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.2 assists for the Hornets in 36 starts last season, and could be a good fit with the re-tooling Blazers, who could use some frontcourt depth after losing Carmelo Anthony, Enes Kanter, and Zach Collins.

4. Paul Millsap

We’ll be the first to admit that Paul Millsap is no longer an All-Star talent. "The Anchorman" hasn’t played in the league’s midseason classic since 2017 and has clearly lost a step. However, he’s still a phenomenal help defender and remarkably intuitive player who makes those around him better. Millsap crashes the boards, finds open cutters, and improves spacing with his dependable 3-point shot.

The 36 year-old vet is reportedly interested in returning to the Hawks, but is also open to signing with the Warriors. He certainly wouldn’t start in Golden State, but he would be an outstanding backup to Draymond Green and would slide into the vacant power forward slot that opened up after Golden State dealt Eric Paschall to the Utah Jazz for a second round pick.

3. Elfrid Payton

It’s easy to dismiss Elfrid Payton. After all, he’s the only player in NBA history to have his shot blocked by his own hair. However, that unusual distinction obscures the fact that he’s a damn good point guard. The former first round draft pick averaged 10.1 points, 4.9 assists, and 1.1 steals per game over the last two seasons for the New York Knicks while starting all 63 games he appeared in during the 2020-21 campaign.

At 6’3”, Payton has above average size for his position and is a relentless defender who excels at pressuring opposing ballhandlers. The Phoenix Suns have shown strong interest in bringing him back to the desert, and should finalize a one-year deal soon.

2. Lauri Markkanen 

Sometimes good players can end up in bad situations. That appears to be the case with Lauri Markkanen, whose career has stalled in Chicago after being chosen seventh overall in the 2017 NBA Draft. "The Finnisher" averaged 18.7 points and 9.0 rebounds per game during his second season in the league, but has seen his totals plummet ever since due to injuries and dwindling playing time.

Markkanen has made it abundantly clear he no longer wants to be in the Windy City, and has received significant interest from a number of suitors including the New Orleans Pelicans and Charlotte Hornets. Both teams would benefit from his ability to stretch defenses and play in an up-tempo offense.

Chicago can match any offer Markkanen receives, but expect the Bulls to pass after committing $85 million to DeMar DeRozan.

1. Dennis Schroder 

When free agency began the point guard carousel included Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, Mike Conley, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Dennis Schroder. Now, one week later, only Schroder is left, and it’s unclear where he’ll end up.

Schroder certainly won’t remain in L.A., where the Lakers have found his replacement in former MVP Russell Westbrook. He also won’t end up in our nation’s capital, where the Wizards quickly moved on from Westbrook by agreeing to terms with Dinwiddie.

One possible landing spot is Boston, where the Celtics are looking for a dependable starting point guard after shipping off Kemba Walker, and can offer the taxpayer mid-level exception worth $5.9 million. That’s a small fraction of the four-year, $84 million extension Schroder turned down in late February, but it may be the best deal he can find this late in the game.