Andrew Bynum, Jeff Teague headline list of the top remaining NBA free agents
11. Nate Robinson
Robinson is a coach’s Faustian bargain. He will take the kind of quick, long two-point jumpers that frustrate teammates and circumvent the offense. He’ll gamble and be exploited defensively, where his height already puts him at a disadvantage. He’ll over-dribble and violate most every fundamental that a basketball lifer would hold dear.
But for all that fuss, the 29-year-old Robinson brings a dose of situational scoring and an offensive explosion that few role players are capable of matching. The key to it all is his still-underrated shooting ability. While Robinson is more renowned for his dunks, he’s so amazingly nimble and has such impossible body control that he can create shots against taller defenders on a whim. Plus, unlike so many other shoot-first guards, Robinson is a wonderful cut and curl option. He ranked as one as the best spot-up shooters in the league last season, according to Synergy Sports, shooting an outstanding 44.3 percent on spot-up three-pointers for the Bulls’ overmatched offense. If given an opportunity to fill a similar role for a team in better offensive standing, he could provide an even more potent counterpunch.
It all comes at a cost, though, as to sign Robinson is to concede that he might at some point shoot his team out of a few games. But there is no better source of no-assembly-required offense in this year’s free-agent pool, and no more dynamic scorer at Robinson’s likely price.
12. Mo Williams
Williams’ success next season will largely stem from his willingness to compromise. If he looks to assert the full extent of his market value, he’ll likely wind up as a relatively well-compensated player on a lesser team, fit to fill out the starting lineup for some franchise in need of point-guard help. But if he’d consent to a smaller role and possibly a smaller paycheck, he could land with any number of contenders.
And make no mistake: The better the team, the better off Williams will be. He can create and initiate offense at a relatively consistent level, but has looked most viable when playing alongside another dominant ball handler. For example: In their two seasons together in Cleveland, Williams worked well off of James and converted 45 percent from three-point range — a nice leap from his career average of 38.6. A perfect fit would also include the potential to be hidden defensively on the perimeter through cross-matching; Williams, 30, isn’t so bad in coverage that he dooms his team’s defense by walking on the court, but in many cases he’s in dire need of matchup help to minimize the damage he often surrenders.
13. Beno Udrih
Udrih, 31, has often been disregarded as yet another blank, boring point guard, but he’s a decent NBA player with a good shooting touch. The pull-up jumper, in particular, is his darling — for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for as long as he and his jumper shall live. As a result of that commitment, 63 percent of Udrih’s shot attempts last season came either from mid-range or just inside the paint (but outside the restricted area). That’s fine as long as he continues to convert those shots at such a sound rate (he made 44.6 percent of them while splitting time with Milwaukee and Orlando), but Udrih’s pull-up style tends not to draw the defensive attention necessary to free up teammates or earn free-throw attempts. Essentially, he’s a quality scoring option off the dribble without any of the tangential benefits of driving — a reality that makes him fairly valuable but pretty clearly limited.
14. Toney Douglas
His years in New York may not have been kind to him, but Douglas had a strong bounce-back season in Houston (and later, Sacramento) in which he rediscovered his shooting touch and mounted a compelling case as a useful role player on a winning team. Optimally, Douglas would be put in a position where he wouldn’t be forced to handle the ball every trip down the floor, as his decision-making tends to get shakier with continued usage. If he could find such a fit, Douglas’ ability to play off the ball as both a shooter and cutter would only be that much more valuable.
Douglas, 27, is a pretty tenacious defender, albeit one still in need of further refinement. All of Douglas’ well-intended ball pressure can either make him an effective irritant or a victim of quick blow-bys, as a single step in the wrong direction can allow for easy penetration. If he can be reined in a bit, he could well be the small-guard equivalent of a 3-and-D wing player — a stopper at a position where such players are rare, with the ability to contribute as a complementary offensive piece and part-time ball handler. That puts in Douglas in need of a fit that only a handful of teams can provide, but he should be able to offer much to those teams that can take the ball out of his hands and rely on him for what he does best.
UPDATE: Douglas has reportedly agreed to a deal with the Warriors.
15. Corey Brewer
On the right team, Brewer stands to be significantly more valuable than his ranking here would suggest. He’s an inexhaustible leak-out option for teams seeking to push the pace and a natural cutter who could play well off of teammates with a wide field of court vision.
Denver seemed to be a perfect stylistic fit for Brewer’s off-to-the-races transition game. He was encouraged to attack in the open court with the Nuggets, thriving in that role with an unfaulting motor and a cast of teammates who looked for him on quick outlet passes. That won’t necessarily be the case if he signs with a team that takes a more deliberate approach (or even with a Nuggets team under Brian Shaw rather than the recently fired George Karl), in which case his spirited play wouldn’t achieve the same ends.
And while energy alone can help Brewer, 27, wreak havoc and create space, much of what he does on both ends is exploitable. He’s a long, active defender, but one so slight and so fidgety in coverage that he can be targeted with hard screens. Plus, as useful as Brewer is as a dive cutter, he’s so far below average as a shooter (29.6 percent from three-point range) that he makes for something of a dead-zone floor spacer. He made 91 three-pointers with Denver last season, but many of those came on wide-open looks against defenses that were playing the odds. Opponents don’t even feign interest in guarding Brewer beyond the arc, making the improvement he’s shown as a shooter in recent seasons a bit of an empty advancement.
16. DeJuan Blair
Blair, 24, will likely aim to find a bigger role on another team next season after falling out of San Antonio’s rotation. His per-minute productivity over the last four years (14.9 points and 11.1 rebounds per 36 minutes) suggests that he’s more than capable of succeeding in such a capacity. Defensive lapses, short stature and concern over ACL-absent knees will likely push Blair into a modest contract, but he should do well as a rotation regular despite those concerns. He didn’t quite make sense for the Spurs because of his inability to mesh on the court with Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter, but he is plenty talented and instinctive enough to succeed elsewhere.
17. Gary Neal (restricted)
Gary Neal is a shooter, and there is no force on this planet — not Gregg Popovich, not the Spurs’ on-court leaders, not Neal’s own better judgment — that can stop him from firing away. Neal’s shot selection can be so unruly (and his defense so spotty) at times that he can be unplayable, though he can also be so accurate from deep as to bury opponents with a one-man barrage.
Neal, 28, is coming off a down year in terms of perimeter shooting, but he still registered an above-average percentage (35.5) while hoisting 6.1 long-range attempts per 36 minutes. That’s a particularly notable attribute in light of the dwindling ranks of available shooters, and it doesn’t hurt matters that Neal can handle the ball as needed and is getting better about swinging it to open teammates on the perimeter. He’s still vulnerable to lapses in judgment, but teams willing to accept that possession-to-possession risk should well benefit from Neal’s shooting and occasional contributions off the bounce.
18. Chauncey Billups
It’s tricky to project how Billups might fare in a return to ball-handling duties because he’s two seasons removed from his last stint as a functional point guard. Not only did Chris Paul tend to dominate the ball whenever the two shared the floor, but Billups also rarely assumed control of the offense when playing among reserves during his time in Los Angeles — instead opting for spot work off the dribble.
His game, though, remains relatively true to form if also diminished in payoff. Billups’ pump fakes are as convincing as ever and serve as the primary force behind his still-solid 4.1 free-throw attempts per 36 minutes. His shot selection is still very much the same as well — consistently irritating, particularly in that Mr. Big Shot takes every fast break as an invitation to jack up ill-advised three-pointers. Gone, however, is Billups’ ability to keep track of more agile ball handlers, though his height and strength allow him to defend bigger guards decently enough. Billups, who turns 37 in September, is well past his peak, but enough of his old self remains to offer some appeal for any team that cherished the original model.
19. John Lucas III
There will always be a place in the league for slippery, off-the-dribble scorers, but the Raptors apparently felt they could go without Lucas’ solo shot creation, declining his $1.6 million team option for the coming season. The 5-foot-11 Lucas isn’t so good as to be above releasing, but one would think $1.6 million to be a fair price for a player of such coveted specialization.
Lucas, 30, is far too small and has far too limited a game to really contend to be a big-minute contributor, but his ability to manufacture points off the bounce (he averaged 14.5 points per 36 minutes last season) gives him particular value for those franchises with otherwise limited offenses. Lucas may not do much to set up his teammates (he averaged a mere 4.6 assists per 36 minutes last season), but a knack for squeezing into open areas and firing up jumpers before the defense can recover is valuable.
20. Tyler Hansbrough
The former Pacers reserve is a pure-hustle big man with a habit for fouling (four fouls per 36 minutes last season) and being fouled (6.8 fouls drawn per 36 minutes). Hansbrough’s energy is a tangible asset, but it also makes him appear to be a better defender than he actually is; activity should not be confused for acuity, and often Hansbrough can be caught out of position as a result of his frenetic scrambling.
Still, Hansbrough was often a fairly useful piece on a Pacers team lacking for viable reserves, though not at all so valuable as to be above replacement. Indiana rescinded its qualifying offer to Hansbrough, who is now an unrestricted free agent, and replaced him with former Knick Chris Copeland. Hansbrough’s decent rebounding and ability to get to the line are enough to earn the 27-year-old a spot in most NBA rotations, though we have yet to hear of any interest in his services.
UPDATE: Hansbrough has reportedly agreed to a deal with the Raptors.