The number of household names on our list of 2012/13 free agents continues to dwindle, but there are still a handful of intriguing veterans out there, including Josh Howard, Kenyon Martin, and Anthony Tolliver, among others. One notable free agent still seeking a new contract is combo guard Leandro Barbosa. We've heard plenty of rumors involving the 29-year-old, but with September approaching, he remains unsigned.
Barbosa is coming off a five-year, $33MM contract and is still productive, so he's unlikely to accept a minimum-salary deal. And while he has the ability to play both guard positions, he's definitely a scorer first rather than a facilitator, which wouldn't be a fit for some teams. So what clubs could offer a moderate salary to Barbosa and could use a scorer off the bench? Let's run through a few possibilities….
Denver Nuggets ($3.33MM of mid-level exception available)
Denver hasn't been linked to Barbosa at all this summer, but I like the fit on paper — while the Nuggets have 15 contracts on their books, Julyan Stone's minimum-salary deal isn't guaranteed, so the team could clear a spot if it wanted to. Andre Iguodala figures to start at the two, with Corey Brewer backing him up, but neither player is a particularly strong outside shooter. Only Evan Fournier fills that role, and it might be a mistake to expect too much out of a rookie that was initially expected to continue playing overseas for a year or two before joining the Nuggets. Barbosa could provide outside scoring and act as an emergency backup at the point behind Ty Lawson and Andre Miller.
Phoenix Suns ($8MM+ in cap space, $2.575MM room exception available)
Barbosa has spent most of his career in Phoenix and the Suns certainly have the necessary money and roster space. They've also been rumored to have a little interest. With Wesley Johnson and Shannon Brown penciled in at shooting guard, the Suns could use one more reliable veteran at the position, but the team may value its cap flexibility more than the scoring Barbosa could provide.
Indiana Pacers ($2.575MM room exception available)
The Pacers had to renounce Barbosa to make their other roster moves this offseason, so they don't retain any form of his Bird rights. But Indiana does have its room exception, so if there's any interest in a reunion, the team could probably make a competitive offer. Still, the Pacers' need isn't glaring, and Barbosa didn't exactly thrive after Indiana acquired him at the trade deadline — his .399 FG% would have been a career-worst over a full season, and his mark in the playoffs (37%) was even lower.
Milwaukee Bucks ($4.35MM of mid-level exception remaining)
The Bucks' two marquee players, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, are guards, but the team's backcourt depth doesn't extend a whole lot further. Doron Lamb and Beno Udrih are the only other guards on the roster. The Bucks would probably prefer to add at least one more player to the backcourt by trading one of their many big men, but if they can't find a deal, a free agent signing may be necessary. The Bucks actually strikes me as a solid fit for Barbosa, given the money they could offer, paired with the team's on-court need. But Milwaukee isn't the most desirable destination for free agents, so even if the club is interested, we'll have to see if Barbosa would seriously consider signing there.
Detroit Pistons ($2.5MM of mid-level exception available)
As we heard yesterday, Joe Dumars is still looking to bolster the Pistons' backcourt, but it seems he's focusing on trades for now, rather than free agents. Considering Detroit already has 15 players on guaranteed contracts, it seems unlikely the team would ditch one of its current guys for a non-essential piece like Barbosa. However, if no trades are out there, it remains an outside possibility.
Cleveland Cavaliers ($11MM+ of cap space, $2.575MM room exception available)
Barbosa hinted earlier this summer that he wouldn't mind hearing from the Cavs, and it's not hard to see why — Cleveland is one of the only clubs with the space to offer him the $7.6MM salary he made last year. Of course, the Cavs aren't about to make such an offer, and with Alonzo Gee seemingly on his way back to Cleveland, the team may be close to finishing its free agent spending.
If Barbosa is open to accepting a minimum-salary contract, or perhaps the bi-annual exception, which would pay him a little less than $2MM annually, we could add plenty more potential suitors to this list. But based on reports to date, it doesn't seem like he's ready to settle just yet. It wouldn't surprise me if we heard rumors linking him to a couple more of the clubs in this post before he eventually signs a new deal.