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New contracts are now being brokered at a snail’s pace, which hasn’t left much room for change atop free agency’s big board. Here are the five best remaining names, as determined by our original big board. (Note: Text on returning players has been recycled from previous big boards.)
1. Clint Capela, C, Restricted
Clint Capela tweeted a pensive-face emoji without context on July 1. Was he simply reacting to LeBron James joining the Lakers a full 14 minutes before it became official? Thinking about what to have for dinner? Or could he and the Rockets be at an impasse in contract negotiations?
Hitting a snag in talks wouldn’t bode well for Capela. He doesn’t have any obvious leverage after the Dallas Mavericks burned their cap space on DeAndre Jordan. Only the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls and Sacramento Kings can afford to sign him outright. Now, I’m not saying Atlanta should offer him a near-max deal and see what happens. I’m not not saying it, either.
2. Marcus Smart, PG, Restricted
Marcus Smart’s market is dwindling by the day. The Pacers loomed as a potential destination, but they’re out of the picture after landing Tyreke Evans. Hardly anyone has the space to offer Smart more than his $6.1 million qualifying offer.
He could probably coax a sizable short-term offer out of the Boston Celtics, but that begs them to use him as a blockbuster-trade anchor. The longer he remains unsigned, the more likely he is to accept his qualifying offer and re-assess the landscape in 2019.
3. Isaiah Thomas, PG, Unrestricted
Isaiah Thomas is having himself one helluva year. Last July, he was talking about his desire to snag a max contract this summer. Then he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of the Kyrie Irving blockbuster. Then, after not making his 2017-18 debut until January, he was sent to the Lakers. And now, he’s without a home, verging on an afterthought.
League sources told HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy that Thomas is “negotiating a possible deal” with the Orlando Magic, which makes sense. They won’t give him anything close to max money; he’ll be lucky to get most of their mid-level exception. But they need a point guard, and he needs a team that’ll invite him to stuff the box score and recoup some of the luster he’s lost over the past 12 months.
4. Jabari Parker, PF, Restricted
Aaron Gordon received a four-year, $84 million contract from the Magic. Julius Randle is getting two years and $18 million from the New Orleans Pelicans. Where does this leave Jabari Parker, a fellow restricted free agent power forward? Good luck figuring that out.
Parker is a tantalizing offensive prospect. He has expanded his arsenal to include more three-pointers and off-ball work while retaining his appeal as a from-scratch creator. But his defense is a problem. He’s too slow to guard 3s and isn’t strong enough to pester 5s. His fit with Giannis Antetokounmpo has fluctuated between weird and downright poor. The Milwaukee Bucks will have a no-thanks breaking point if Parker gets the right offer, but he won’t solicit big-money dalliances unless Atlanta, Chicago or Sacramento gets frisky with their cap space.
5. Montrezl Harrell, PF/C, Restricted
Montrezl Harrell is a small-burst stud. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis were the only other players last season to clear 20 points, eight rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block per 36 minutes.
Arbitrary splits? Maybe. Harrell has yet to eclipse the 1,500-minute marker through three seasons, and he certainly isn’t Antetokounmpo or Davis. But he is a general worker bee. His wire-to-wire hustle makes him easy to like. He doesn’t have much of a jumper, so he’s best suited at the 5. The right team will put him in four-out roll-man situations.
After extending a qualifying offer, the Los Angeles Clippers seemed intent on keeping him. They still might be. Even if they are, their additions of Mike Scott and Luc Mbah a Moute, who will soak up time at the 4, open the door for rival admirers to poach a quality restricted free agent on the relative cheap.
Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.com or Basketball Reference. Salary and cap-hold information via Basketball Insiders and RealGM. Reported agreements to sign via NBA.com’s free-agent tracker unless otherwise noted.