Under-the-radar 2019 free agents with something to prove in their contract year
2019 will be one of the biggest free agent summers in recent memory. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, and Klay Thompson will all have the option to sign with a new team. However, there are plenty of other sneaky good free agents that could make a difference on a new roster in 2019–20. These guys are playing for a new contract this year, and could be very effective in 2018–19 as a result.
Middleton’s stats have been steadily improving over his career, including his first 20 point season in 2017–18. An above-average defender and great role player next to Giannis, K-Midd is a career 39% three point shooter who should see an increase in attempts and percentage under Mike Budenholzer. Coach Bud’s offense should do wonders to Milwaukee’s entire offense, including Middleton. Could he sneak into the all-star game in a weak East?
Terry Rozier (Restricted)
“Scary Terry” was the starting guard on a Eastern Conference Finals team last year. Many have already been convinced, including the Phoenix Suns, who tried to trade for Rozier. There will definitely be a market for him next summer, but will Rozier choose to leave the Boston Celtics, especially after a trip to the Finals? Will Boston match any offer for Rozier if a Phoenix or Orlando offers him 4 years, $30 million?
Kemba has established himself as a quality player in the Eastern Conference. Last season was good for his 3rd straight 20-point season, and 2nd straight all-star appearance. It seems the 28-year old is content in Charlotte, but if he wants to make a splash, he could be a real under-the-radar free agent signing for someone in 2019.
DeAndre only signed a one-year deal in Dallas. He’ll be an intriguing pick-and-roll partner with Luka Doncic and Dennis Smith, Jr., but obviously won’t be a long-term piece for the Mavs. There are lots of teams that could use Jordan in a 25 minute role where he comes in and catches lobs and rebounds. DeAndre probably can’t play in crunchtime in the playoffs anymore, with his lack of perimeter mobility, but he’s definetely got an intriguing skillset as a rimrunner.
After the disappointing return season split between Cleveland and Los Angeles, IT bet on himself with a one-year veteran minimum deal in Denver. If Thomas can be a spark plug off the bench, he can really raise his value. He may even fit into a closer role, coming in in the 4th quarter (at the expense of… Will Barton probably) and show off that “King of the 4th” gene we saw in Boston. If he struggles, Thomas may be a vet min guy for the remainder of his career. It’s a make or break season for IT.
Hassan Whiteside (Player Option)
$27 million is an insane amount of money, and it’s far more than Hassan would get on the open market. But a guy who was once considered one of the best up and coming big men in the NBA has now suffered chemistry issues and benchings that have totally tanked his value and morale. Chances are Whiteside takes the money this year, but either way, we’ll see what his value is one of these summers.
I snuck Boogie in here, because he might actually have the most to prove of any of the players on this list. A 2018 all-star, Cousins’ value in free agency was so low he had to sign for the Mid-Level Exception, $4.2 million. This is what gave the Warriors the chance to sign him, of course. Either way, before his torn Achilles, Boogie was primed for a max contract. After the injury, the demand went was down, and Cousins opted for a one-year deal, betting on himself. With a good season, he can get back to a max deal next summer. There’s a lot on the line.
After the infamous “I don’t wanna be here” tweet, Bledsoe was shipped to Milwaukee, hoping to be the piece that would bring the Bucks up to the next level. However, his defensive struggles… his lack of defensive effort, rather, really hurt the Bucks in the playoffs. In Mike Budenholzer’s system, we’ll see how Bledsoe will be used in 2018–19, and what the market will look like the in 2019 offseason.
After Ariza shockingly left the Rockets this summer for Phoenix, he opted for a one-year contract with the Suns. This year, he’ll help along the young up-and-coming team, and next year, who know whether he’ll re-sign. Either way, Ariza is an excellent three-and-D player that could help any contender (Lakers?)