Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Central Division:
Christian Wood, Pistons, 24, PF (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $3.16MM deal in 2018
There aren’t many waiver claims in the NBA but Detroit got itself a bargain when it snared Wood after the Pelicans made him available. Wood won a training camp battle with veteran forward Joe Johnson for Detroit’s final roster spot and has turned into a valuable rotation member. He’s averaging 10.2 PPG and 5.3 RPG in 17.4 MPG, including a 20-point, eight-rebound outing against the Nets on Wednesday. A lack of maturity and focus were the reasons Wood bounced around the league for a few years but he’ll get a much bigger contract as an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Shaquille Harrison, Bulls, 26, PG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $1.62MM deal in 2019
Harrison won a battle for Chicago’s final roster spot and eventually had his salary guaranteed. Harrison, who worked his way through the G League ranks before making his NBA debut two seasons ago with Phoenix, has only seen spot duty this season. In his last 16 appearances, Harrison has not played more than 11 minutes. He was a much bigger factor last season when the Bulls were banged up, appearing in 73 games, including 11 starts. The Bulls can make Harrison a restricted free agent by extending a qualifying offer of $2MM but he doesn’t appear to be in their long-range plans.
Brandon Knight, Cavaliers, 28, PG (Down) – Signed to a five-year, $70MM deal in 2015
Knight’s career has been sidetracked by injuries and once again he’s out of action due to left knee soreness. Knight’s $15.6MM expiring contract could still be used in a major deal but even when he’s able to suit up, he rarely receives playing time. The addition of Dante Exum pushed him further down the bench. In his last two appearances in mid-January, Knight totaled one point in 38 minutes. The former lottery pick, who averaged 19.6 PPG for Phoenix during the 2015/16 season, will likely have to settle for a veteran’s minimum deal this summer.
JaKarr Sampson, Pacers, 26, PF (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $1.7MM deal in 2019
Sampson got a chance to start on Wednesday with Myles Turner sidelined by the flu. Otherwise, playing time has been scarce for the journeyman forward, who has also played for Philadelphia, Denver, Sacramento and Chicago during his NBA journey. He spent a good chunk of time last season in China and the G League. Sampson has appeared in 17 games this season, including 10 starts. Signed to a veteran’s minimum contract in August, Sampson will be an unrestricted free agent once again this summer. He’ll probably be looking at similar offers this July.
Dragan Bender, Bucks, 22, PF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $3.5MM deal in 2019
The former top five pick made a minimal impact in his three seasons with the Suns. He’s been even less of a factor with the Eastern Conference’s top team, appearing in seven games. He’s played four games this month as an injury fill-in but contributed just 11 points with four turnovers in 62 minutes. Bender has spent quite a bit of time in the G League and perhaps his biggest accomplishment this season was staying on the roster and getting his salary guaranteed. His $1.82MM salary for next season is not guaranteed and it’s likely Bender will return to the free agent market for the second straight offseason.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.