2018/19 NBA Free Agents

Top Five NBA Restricted Free Agents For 2018

A handful of players eligible for rookie scale extensions during the 2017 offseason signed new deals, with the Timberwolves, Sixers, Nuggets, and Suns locking up Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Gary Harris, and T.J. Warren, respectively. However, that modest, four-player group made 2017 the least eventful year for rookie scale extensions since 2003, putting most of the players who had been extension-eligible on track to become restricted free agents in 2018.

Restricted free agency can be trickier to navigate than unrestricted free agency, which allows a team to sign a player outright. A team with a restricted free agent has the ability to match any offer sheet that player signs, but that doesn’t mean retaining him is a lock — the Hawks, for instance, were unwilling to match what they viewed as an excessive offer sheet for Tim Hardaway Jr. from the Knicks this past offseason.

While restricted free agency can be a boon for certain players, such as Hardaway and Otto Porter, who received larger deals than they might have as UFAs, it can diminish the market for other players. Guys like Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, JaMychal Green, and Nikola Mirotic were on the RFA market for months this offseason and eventually either signed their qualifying offers or accepted short-term deals. Prying a restricted free agent away from another club often requires an aggressive – and perhaps overpriced – offer sheet. Sometimes, there’s just no team out there willing to make that sort of offer for an RFA, which significantly reduces his leverage.

Today, we’re taking a look at a handful of players set to reach the restricted free agent market in 2018 who shouldn’t have to worry about being stuck in limbo for months and then settling for a below-market deal. We expect free agency for these five RFAs-to-be to play out more like it did for Porter or Hardaway than for Noel or Len.

Here are our current picks for the top five restricted free agents for 2018:Aaron Gordon vertical

  1. Aaron Gordon, PF (Magic): Gordon has slowed down a little since his red-hot start to the season, but he’s still on his way to a career year, blowing away his previous career highs in several key categories, including PPG (18..6, RPG (8.4), FG% (.510), 3PG (2.3), and 3PT% (.438). Gordon’s athleticism, his expanding skill set, and his age (22) make him a tantalizing target for any team in need of a power forward. The current management group in Orlando didn’t draft Gordon, so it will be interesting to see if GM John Hammond and president of basketball ops Jeff Weltman are willing to go all-out to retain the former No. 4 overall pick next July.
  2. Clint Capela, C (Rockets): Capela probably isn’t the sort of player who will become a team’s primary offensive option, but he has rapidly turned into one of the more productive and efficient complementary frontcourt players in the NBA. He’s averaging a double-double (13.7 PPG, 11.3 RPG) in just 25.9 minutes per contest this season, and his .670 FG% leads the league. Capela doesn’t shoot from the outside at all, and his free-throw shooting remains a concern, but he has improved his FT% every year since entering the NBA, and has protected the rim admirably (1.7 BPG). The 23-year-old is about to get expensive.
  3. Jabari Parker, F (Bucks): If Parker had stayed healthy for all four of his professional seasons, he might already have a maximum salary extension in hand, like fellow top-two pick Andrew Wiggins. Instead, he’s still recovering from the second ACL tear of his young NBA career, and likely won’t get back on the court until February. As he showed last season, when he averaged 20.1 PPG in 51 games, Parker is capable of being one of the most effective young scorers in the league when he’s healthy. I’m bullish on him finishing the season strong and positioning himself for a lucrative new deal, but his injury history makes him a wild card.
  4. Zach LaVine, G (Bulls): LaVine’s situation is awfully similar to Parker’s. Like Parker, LaVine is coming off a career year (18.9 PPG) which was cut short just after the halfway point by a torn ACL. LaVine’s recovery is moving a little faster than Parker’s though, so we may see him make his Bulls debut this month. Chicago has high hopes for LaVine, one of the key pieces acquired in Jimmy Butler‘s blockbuster, and while the two sides didn’t work out an extension in October, there seems to be little doubt that the Bulls will lock up LaVine to a long-term contract in 2018. The size of that deal may hinge on how the 22-year-old performs upon his return.
  5. Jusuf Nurkic, C (Trail Blazers): After averaging a double-double during his first 20 games with the Blazers near the end of last season, Nurkic has struggled this season to get back to that level. Having recovered from a broken leg, the big man has become a focal point of Portland’s offense and is recording a solid 15.5 PPG, but his FG% has slipped to .460, and his per-minute rebounding numbers are the lowest of his career. Still, at age 23, Nurkic remains a very intriguing long-term prospect, capable of providing value on both ends of the floor, which is why he beats out potential RFAs like Julius Randle, Rodney Hood, Marcus Smart, and Elfrid Payton for this No. 5 spot.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2018 NBA Free Agent Power Rankings 2.0

We’re still nearly eight months away from the start of the NBA’s 2018 free agent period, but next year’s free agent class has taken a significant hit within the last month or so.

Since we published our initial 2018 free agent power rankings in mid-September, several top free-agents-to-be have signed contract extensions, with Russell Westbrook, Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, and Gary Harris among the players coming off the board. All four of those guys were in our top 10 last time around.

As such, the newest installment of our free agent power rankings for 2018 will look a little different, and not just because the players who inked extensions are no longer on our list. Early-season performances and injuries will play a role in our rankings, and we’re making a couple extra players eligible for the list this time around.

One is Nikola Jokic, who has a $1.6MM team option for 2018/19. We typically don’t include players with team options or non-guaranteed salaries in our free agent rankings, since their teams are expected to just pick up those options, keeping them off the free agent market. But in the Nuggets’ case, it actually might make sense to turn down Jokic’s option — if they do that, he’ll be a restricted free agent. If they exercise the option, Jokic would be eligible for unrestricted free agency the following year.

The other newly-eligible player on our list is Robert Covington, who technically doesn’t show up yet on our 2018 free agents list. We avoid moving players with non-guaranteed 2017/18 salaries to subsequent free agent lists until their salaries become guaranteed. In Covington’s case though, that’s a mere formality. He’ll become a free agent in ’18 unless the Sixers extend him before then.

As usual, our list reflects each player’s current expected value on the 2018 free agent market, rather than how we think they’ll perform on the court for the 2017/18 season. For instance, an older player like J.J. Redick has solid short-term value, but didn’t make our top 20 because he’s unlikely to sign a huge multiyear deal next summer. In other words, age and long-term value is important.

Without further ado, here’s the second edition of our 2018 free agent power rankings:DeMarcus Cousins vertical

  1. LeBron James, F, Cavaliers, (player option)
  2. Kevin Durant, F, Warriors (player option)
  3. Paul George, F, Thunder (player option)
  4. Nikola Jokic, C, Nuggets (team option; RFA)
  5. DeMarcus Cousins, C, Pelicans

Although his team is struggling to start the season, James remains a dominant force. Yet he has looked mortal in recent weeks, slowed in the preseason by an ankle injury and unable to will the Cavaliers to wins against opponents they should beat. The door is open for Durant to take over the No. 1 spot at some point during the season, though the distinction between the top two shouldn’t matter much.

Meanwhile, Cousins is off to a monster start in New Orleans, and while I still think George’s two-way ability and Jokic’s age make them slightly more valuable assets, Cousins may force my hand and make me bump him into the top three if he keeps playing like this (30.1 PPG, 13.0 RPG).

  1. Chris Paul, G, Rockets
  2. Aaron Gordon, F, Magic (RFA)
  3. DeAndre Jordan, C, Clippers (player option)
  4. Jabari Parker, F, Bucks (RFA)
  5. Avery Bradley, G, Pistons

Paul slips out of the top five this time around, and is in danger of falling further as the season progresses. If CP3 continues to battle injuries and doesn’t adjust to the Rockets’ pace and style of play as well as the team hopes, it’s hard to imagine him getting a long-term, maximum salary contract next summer at age 33.

I may be overreacting to Gordon’s hot start, but he’s finally locked in at the power forward spot and has looked tremendous so far for Orlando, averaging 20.7 PPG and 8.7 RPG with a .561/.577/.739 shooting line. The former fourth overall pick is only 22 years old, and if he becomes a reliable three-point threat this season, he’s going to be in line for a massive payday in 2018.

Parker’s placement in this list is tricky — the fact that Andrew Wiggins signed a max extension buoyed my confidence in Parker getting a huge contract of his own in July, but that will hinge on him coming back strong from his ACL injury. For now, I’m betting on that happening.

  1. Robert Covington, F, SixersRobert Covington vertical
  2. Clint Capela, C, Rockets (RFA)
  3. Jusuf Nurkic, C, Trail Blazers (RFA)
  4. Zach LaVine, G, Bulls (RFA)
  5. Isaiah Thomas, G, Cavaliers

Covington and Capela are somewhat overlooked on their respective clubs, perhaps dismissed as merely “role players.” But they’re terrific role players. Already a reliable defender, Covington has improved his three-point efficiency in the early going this season, making an impressive 3.4 threes per game at a 48.2% rate. He likely won’t keep up that pace, but three-and-D specialists do very well in free agency and he’s set to get a big raise.

As for Capela, his game isn’t as well-rounded as you might like, and it remains to be seen if he’ll ever be the sort of player who can average 30+ minutes per game. So far in 2017/18 though, the 23-year-old is averaging a double-double (13.3 PPG and 11.4 RPG), providing rim protection (1.6 BPG), and practically never missing a shot (.707 FG%).

Nurkic, LaVine, and Thomas all have the potential to jump into the top 10 by season’s end, but LaVine and Thomas will have to get back on the court and show that they’re fully healthy first. As for Nurkic, he has been plagued by injury issues throughout his career, but his main problem at the moment is that the Blazers have been a much more effective scoring and rebounding team with him off the court this season. Nurkic’s stock will improve as those numbers do.

  1. Danny Green, G/F, Spurs (player option)
  2. Elfrid Payton, G, Magic (RFA)
  3. Rodney Hood, G, Jazz (RFA)
  4. Carmelo Anthony, F, Thunder (player option)
  5. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, G, Lakers

Like Covington, Green is playing the three-and-D role to perfection this year. After being named to the All-NBA Defensive Second Team last season, Green is knocking down a career-best 43.8% of his three-point attempts in 2017/18. He’ll be 31 next July though, limiting his long-term earning potential.

Payton and Hood beat out the 33-year-old Anthony here due to their youth and their upside, but Carmelo may provide the better return on investment for the next year or two.

As for Caldwell-Pope, he remains a confounding player to evaluate. After an impressive sophomore season in 2014/15, he showed few signs of improving his production during his ages 22 and 23 seasons in Detroit, and his age-24 season in L.A. has been no different to date. KCP is young enough that a breakout could still be coming, but for the time being, it may be hard to justify a substantial long-term investment in him.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2018 NBA Free Agent Power Rankings

The list of 2017 free agents continues to dry up, which means it’s time to shift our focus to the group of players on track to reach the free agent market in 2018. We’ve got a full list of those 2018 free-agents-to-be, divided by position and FA type, and a separate list that sorts them by team.

Since we’re still more than nine months away from the 2018 free agent period opening, those lists look a little more star-studded now than they’ll end up being. A handful of top-tier restricted free agents figure to sign extensions with their current teams before opening night in October, and it’s possible that a couple veterans will do so as well — Russell Westbrook, for instance, could ink a Designated Veteran Extension with the Thunder within the next month.

Still, even though not all of the top potential 2018 free agents will reach the open market – and not all of them will change teams if they do – the list includes enough big names that it should still look pretty impressive when next July rolls around.

Below, we’ve taken our first crack at ranking some of the top potential free agents for 2018. While this is our first extended look at 2018’s top free agents, it certainly won’t be our last. Extensions, injuries, breakout years, trades, and poor performances figure to affect these rankings over the course of the 2017/18 season, so we’ll be revisiting the list every month or two to make updates and changes.

Our list reflects each player’s current expected value on the 2018 free agent market, rather than how we think they’ll perform on the court for the 2017/18 season. For instance, older players like J.J. Redick and Dwyane Wade have solid short-term value, but didn’t make our top 20 because they’re unlikely to sign huge, long-term deals next summer. In other words, age and long-term value is important.

Here’s the first installment of our 2018 free agent power rankings:

  1. Kevin Durant LeBron James verticalLeBron James, F, Cavaliers (player option): James will be 33 years old when he reaches free agency next summer, which normally would be enough to drop him a couple spots on this list. However, virtually any team in the league would still jump at the chance to give him as many years and dollars as possible next summer, since he has yet to show any real signs of slowing down.
  2. Kevin Durant, F, Warriors (player option): Of all the players on this list, Durant is probably the least likely to change teams in 2018. He’s simply going year by year with the Warriors because it makes more sense than locking himself into a long-term deal — that decision allowed him to get a raise this offseason while forgoing his maximum salary to help Golden State re-sign other key players. Nonetheless, he remains on track to technically become a free agent in 2018, so he deserves this spot, if not the one LeBron is currently holding.
  3. Russell Westbrook, G, Thunder (player option): Four players this offseason were eligible for the NBA’s new Designated Veteran super-max contracts — Stephen Curry, James Harden, and John Wall all signed theirs, but Westbrook has yet to put pen to paper. If he does so before opening night, he’ll come off this list and the Thunder will breathe a little easier. If not, let the rumor-mill fun begin.
  4. Paul George, F, Thunder (player option): While the Thunder remain optimistic about locking up Westbrook, they have no misconceptions about extending George before next July. The former Pacers forward has been long rumored to be eyeing a move to the Lakers, but what happens this season in Oklahoma City – not to mention in Los Angeles – could go a long way toward determining if that’s really his best move nine months from now.
  5. Chris Paul, G, Rockets: Paul was a fixture in the top five of our 2017 free agent power rankings, but when an opportunity to be traded to the Rockets arose in June, he unexpectedly opted into the final year of his contract and put off free agency for another year. It sounds like both the Rockets and Paul expect to continue their relationship beyond the 2017/18 season, but we’ve yet to see the veteran point guard play a single game with his new club, so shouldn’t necessarily pencil CP3 into Houston’s lineup for years to come quite yet.
  6. DeMarcus Cousins, C, Pelicans: While the Kings never came out and said it, it appeared the team wasn’t fully comfortable committing to a max (and possibly a super-max) salary for Cousins’ next contract, opting to trade him before having to make that decision. Cousins’ performance this season in New Orleans may have a significant effect on how many other teams will be ready to make such a commitment. Few NBA big men can score like Cousins, who is even developing a reliable outside shot, but he has yet to play for a winner, and if he can’t break through with another superstar teammate (Anthony Davis), that may dampen some potential suitors’ enthusiasm.
  7. Andrew Wiggins, G/F, Timberwolves (RFA): It’s been a somewhat unusual summer for Wiggins, who was involved in several Kyrie Irving-related trade rumors and then fired his agent after receiving a five-year, maximum salary extension offer from the Wolves. Even if he’s at all put off by owner Glen Taylor requesting a face-to-face meeting before making that commitment, Wiggins seems pretty unlikely to turn down an offer of that magnitude, so I expect him to accept it and come off this list at some point soon.Joel Embiid vertical
  8. Joel Embiid, C, Sixers (RFA): No potential 2018 free agent is trickier to evaluate than Embiid, who has famously only appeared in 31 NBA games during his first three years in the league. Of course, Embiid’s health will be a huge factor in determining whether he slips out of the top 10 during the 2017/18 season, or whether he climbs even higher. When he’s on the court, Embiid looks like the type of player who should have his pick of long-term, maximum salary offers at 12:01am on July 1. If he battles injuries once more though, those offers may be for a shorter term or packed with games-played incentives — and if his health issues get even worse, those offers may not be on the table at all.
  9. Avery Bradley, G, Pistons: Bradley isn’t at the same level as guys like Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward, so it makes sense that the Celtics were willing to part with him in order to secure more All-Star caliber talent. But Bradley is a dynamic two-way threat who shot 39.0% from three-point range and plays strong defense. That type of player is extremely valuable in today’s NBA, making him highly coveted on the open market in 2018.
  10. Gary Harris, G, Nuggets (RFA): Harris’ numbers don’t pop off the stat sheet, but neither did Otto Porter‘s, and Harris had a more effective third NBA season than the Wizards forward, who signed a maximum salary offer sheet earlier this year. Having just turned 23, Harris has plenty of room to improve on last year’s 14.9 PPG and .420 3PT%, and could be one of the hottest commodities on the RFA market next summer if the Nuggets don’t extend him this year.

Here’s the rest of our top 20:

  1. Jusuf Nurkic, C, Trail Blazers (RFA)
  2. Jabari Parker, F, Bucks (RFA)
  3. Clint Capela, C, Rockets (RFA)
  4. Isaiah Thomas, G, Cavaliers
  5. DeAndre Jordan, C, Clippers (player option)
  6. Zach LaVine, G, Bulls
  7. LaMarcus Aldridge, F/C, Spurs (player option)
  8. Brook Lopez, C, Lakers
  9. Carmelo Anthony, F, Knicks (player option)
  10. Rodney Hood, G, Jazz (RFA)

Disagree strongly with any of our rankings? Feel like we omitted any players that should be in the top 20 (or the top 10)? Weigh in below in the comments section to let us know!

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2018 NBA Free Agents By Team

Hoops Rumors’ up-to-date list of 2018 free agents by team is below. These are players who are eligible for restricted or unrestricted free agency after the 2017/18 season. Players who are on our 2017 free agent list are not seen here.

Players with team or player options for the 2018/19 season are listed, unless they’re still on their rookie scale contracts. Players whose 2018/19 contracts aren’t fully guaranteed are also listed, unless their 2017/18 salary is also non-guaranteed. Potential restricted free agents are marked with (RFA).

This list will continue to be updated throughout the 2017/18 season, so be sure to use it and our list of 2018 free agents by position/type as points of reference throughout the year. Both lists can be found anytime under “Hoops Rumors Features” on the right-hand sidebar of our desktop site. If you have any corrections or omissions, please contact us.

Updated 1-16-18 (7:59am CT)

Atlanta Hawks

  1. Luke Babbitt
  2. Marco Belinelli
  3. Ersan Ilyasova
  4. Malcolm Delaney (RFA)
  5. Dewayne Dedmon ($6,300,000 player option)
  6. Mike Muscala ($5,000,000 player option)
  7. Isaiah Taylor ($1,544,951 non-guaranteed salary)
  8. Tyler Cavanaugh ($1,378,242 non-guaranteed salary)

Boston Celtics

  1. Aron Baynes
  2. Shane Larkin
  3. Marcus Smart (RFA)
  4. Abdel Nader ($1,378,242 partially guaranteed salary)
  5. Semi Ojeleye ($1,378,242 partially guaranteed salary)
  6. Daniel Theis ($1,378,242 non-guaranteed salary)

Brooklyn Nets

  1. Quincy Acy
  2. Joe Harris
  3. Jahlil Okafor
  4. Nik Stauskas (RFA)
  5. Jeremy Lin ($12,516,746 player option)
  6. Tyler Zeller ($1,933,941 non-guaranteed salary)
  7. Spencer Dinwiddie ($1,656,092 non-guaranteed salary)
  8. Isaiah Whitehead ($1,544,951 non-guaranteed salary)

Read more

2018 NBA Free Agents

Hoops Rumors’ up-to-date list of 2018 free agents is below. These are players who are eligible for restricted or unrestricted free agency after the 2017/18 season. The player’s 2018 age is in parentheses. Players who are on our 2017 free agent list are not seen here.

Players with team or player options for the 2018/19 season are listed, unless they’re still on their rookie-scale contracts. Players whose ’18/19 salaries aren’t fully guaranteed are also listed, unless their 2017/18 salaries are also non-guaranteed. Players with earlier non-guaranteed salaries will be moved to this list when all seasons before ’18/19 become guaranteed.

You’ll be able to access this list anytime under the “Hoops Rumors Features” menu on the right sidebar. If you have any corrections or omissions, please contact us.

Updated 1-16-18 (7:59am CT)


Unrestricted Free Agents

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Restricted Free Agents

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Team Options

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  • None

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Non-Guaranteed Contracts

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Contract information from Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.

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