The 1 Player Each NBA Team Should Target in Free Agency

The start of the NBA free agency period is nearly upon us. For some teams, this stretch will include the pursuit of the big fish currently on the market. For others, the lack of cap space will necessitate minor tweaks to the roster.

With the likes of LeBron James, DeMarcus Cousins, Clint Capela, Chris Paul, and Paul George all available, this period figures to be absolutely crazy.

Atlanta Hawks: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

2017-2018 team: Los Angeles Lakers
Last year’s stats: 13.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.4 SPG

Atlanta has approximately $29 million of cap space to utilize. However, the team is likely to preserve it in the interim. The Hawks can continue to tank (which would expedite the rebuild process). Nabbing Caldwell-Pope on a short one-year deal would enable Atlanta to bring in a legitimate wing defender without any long-term obligation.

Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart

2017-2018 team: Boston Celtics
Last year’s stats: 10.2 PPG, 4.8 APG, 1.3 SPG

Smart has been an integral member of the franchise for the past few seasons. We all know his warts as a player — primarily his inability to make a shot beyond five feet from the hoop (despite having the confidence of Stephen Curry from the perimeter). However, his impact on the defensive end cannot be quantified. He helps give Boston a hard-nosed identity. As such, the Celtics would be wise to re-sign him.

Brooklyn Nets: Julius Randle

2017-2018 team: Los Angeles Lakers
Last year’s stats: 16.1 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 0.5 BPG

Brooklyn may be able to capitalize on a soft offseason market. There aren’t a ton of teams with cap space. Players could opt to sign one-year deals with the intention of coming back into the market a year from now. Randle had a breakout year with the Lakers in 2017-18. Brooklyn likes to run — and could easily utilize Randle as a small ball five or at the four spot. He would fit in well with the preexisting young core.

Charlotte Hornets: Trevor Booker

2017-2018 team: Indiana Pacers
Last year’s stats: 6.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 0.3 BPG

The Hornets don’t have much in the way of cap space. The current roster is pretty much what you’re going to get (barring an unforeseen trade). With that said, the frontcourt certainly does need to get bigger and tougher. With Dwight Howard now out of the picture, the team could look to Booker as a rugged, cheap option. He’s not a franchise-altering talent — but at least he’s physical, strong, energetic, and inexpensive.

Chicago Bulls: Zach LaVine

2017-2018 team: Chicago Bulls
Last year’s stats: 16.7 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.0 SPG

Chicago has a ton of cap space available. Much like Atlanta, it’ll likely wait until the summer of 2019 before shelling out any cash. With that said, it’ll still look to lock up LaVine to a long-term deal. The former UCLA Bruin has a ton of talent. He was coming into his own before suffering a knee injury. If the Bulls can get him on a somewhat discounted deal, they’ll have their shooting guard of the future locked up for the next half decade.

Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron James

2017-2018 team: Cleveland Cavaliers
Last year’s stats: 27.5 PPG, 9.1 APG, 8.6 RPG

This one is rather self-explanatory. Should James decide to opt out of a $35.6 million player option, it could signal the end of his second tenure in Cleveland. The Cavs must do everything in their power to keep him home. Not only is he the unquestioned face of the franchise, but LeBron is the sole reason as to why Cleveland has NBA relevance. Without him, the Cavs are headed for a long rebuild.

Dallas Mavericks: DeMarcus Cousins

2017-2018 team: New Orleans Pelicans
Last year’s stats: 25.2 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 1.6 SPG

Dallas has long been waiting to sign a big fish in free agency. Strapped with fan support, a great owner, and tons of cash, the Mavericks figure to be very active. Along with this thought process, Dallas has been searching far and wide for a legitimate big man to place alongside the gracefully aging Dirk Nowitzki. Cousins makes a ton of sense. Dallas will not be worried about residual damage from last season’s Achilles injury. Duly, Cousins may be able to fully realize his vast potential — if nothing else for the fact that Dallas would be the most stable franchise he’s played for.

Denver Nuggets: Nikola Jokić

2017-2018 team: Denver Nuggets
Last year’s stats: 18.5 PPG, 6.1 APG, 10.7 RPG

Jokić is a true franchise player. At only 23 years old, the Serbian big man seems primed to make All-Star appearances annually for at least the next decade. A true magician with the ball in his hands, Jokić is an able passer, an adept perimeter shooter, and a beast in the paint both scoring the basketball and rebounding it. It appears as if the two sides are close to an agreement. From here, Denver will look to address the prospect of re-signing Will ‘The Thrill’ Barton — or letting him walk for another option.

Detroit Pistons: Seth Curry

2017-2018 team: Dallas Mavericks
Last year’s stats: Did not play

Detroit doesn’t have a lot of money to play with. It’ll have to be creative in order to combat the bloated payroll currently on the books. Surprisingly enough, the Pistons ranked as a top-five NBA team in three-point percentage this past year. Adding Curry to the preexisting group seems like a smart move. The frontcourt duo of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond will likely garner a ton of attention. As such, Curry should be able to get some open looks from beyond the arc.

Golden State Warriors: Nerlens Noel

2017-2018 team: Dallas Mavericks
Last year’s stats: 4.4 PPG, 0.7 BPG, 5.6 RPG

If there’s one player in need of a fresh start, it’s Noel. The big man out of Kentucky had a very difficult time playing under Rick Carlisle in Dallas. With injury and attitude concerns, there are those questioning his long-term future in the league. A healthy Noel could be a very good complementary piece for a contender. With Kevon Looney expected to get a nice pay day, a Golden State-Noel pairing makes a ton of sense. Noel could rehabilitate his image under the direction of a great team. At the same time, the Warriors could get a younger player with above-average rim-protecting skills.

Houston Rockets: Chris Paul

2017-2018 team: Houston Rockets
Last year’s stats: 18.6 PPG, 7.9 APG, 5.4 RPG, 1.7 SPG

Clint Capela likely isn’t going anywhere. A restricted free agent, Houston will do everything it can to re-sign the talented center from Switzerland. Paul’s future is less certain. Though he was fantastic this past year for the Rockets, there are questions about Paul’s penchant for picking up injuries. As he approaches his 34th birthday, does Houston really want to give Paul an expensive multi-year deal? This will be a significant storyline heading into the summer.

Indiana Pacers: Kyle Anderson

2017-2018 team: San Antonio Spurs
Last year’s stats: 7.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.6 SPG

Though a restricted free agent, Anderson makes a ton of sense for Indiana. The former UCLA Bruin plays the game with tremendous poise. Methodical and intelligent, Anderson distributes the ball extremely well. He’s very steady — and often makes teammates better. The wing would be perfect as a facilitator within the second unit. At only 24 years old, Anderson could be a nice upgrade from Lance Stephenson — a player both older and more volatile.

Los Angeles Clippers: DeAndre Jordan

2017-2018 team: Los Angeles Clippers
Last year’s stats: 12.0 PPG, 15.2 RPG, 0.9 BPG

Jordan has a $24.1 million player option staring him square in the face. Should Jordan exercise the option, he’ll be under contract for one more year. If not, he’ll be heading into a market with plenty of uncertainty. It makes sense for him to stick around for one more year before pushing for a final long-term deal in 2019. At that point, the Clippers will have more time to determine whether he fits into the post-Griffin plans. The appearance of other centers currently on the market (Capela, Cousins) could also force Jordan to hold off on free agency.

Los Angeles Lakers: LeBron James

2017-2018 team: Cleveland Cavaliers
Last year’s stats: 27.5 PPG, 9.1 APG, 8.6 RPG

This one is a no-brainer. The Lakers have been eyeing James for the better part of a year. We’ve heard consistent rumors about who’ll play with him in LA, where his kids will go to high school, and the multiple houses he owns in the greater Los Angeles area. However… James has to sign with the Lakers first before getting the franchise back in championship contention. If James passes on signing with the Lakers, it’ll be another massively disappointing offseason for Magic Johnson and company.

Memphis Grizzlies: Gerald Green

2017-2018 team: Houston Rockets
Last year’s stats: 12.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 0.6 SPG

With Tyreke Evans out the door, Memphis will be in need of some scoring punch off the bench. There’s not a whole lot in the way of financial flexibility. The Grizzlies will need to essentially take someone off the scrap heap for minimal amounts of money. Green seems to be a perfect candidate in this capacity. At 32 years of age, Green won’t be commanding a hefty salary. He’d be perfect to roam around the Memphis second unit as a shoot-first player. The Grizzlies need his type of shot-making and aggressiveness on the offensive end.

Miami Heat: Ersan Ilyasova

2017-2018 team: Philadelphia 76ers
Last year’s stats: 10.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 0.9 BPG

Ilyasova would be a nice fit as a reserve for the Heat. Miami is chock-full of guard/wing types. However, it certainly needs shooting — particularly from its frontcourt. Ilyasova is an experienced player with a strong pedigree. He knows what it takes to contribute during playoff basketball. Duly, his deficiencies on the defensive end can be mitigated by the collective efforts of those around him. Miami will certainly take Ilyasova and his career 36.6-percent shooting from three-point range on a cheap deal.

Milwaukee Bucks: J.J. Redick

2017-2018 team: Philadelphia 76ers
Last year’s stats: 17.1 PPG, 3.0 APG, 42.0-percent on three-point attempts

The Bucks finished 20th last season in three-point percentage. Even with Khris Middleton, Tony Snell, and Donte DiVincenzo in tow, Milwaukee could always use more shooting within its ‘position-less basketball’ mindset. Redick connected on 42-percent of his threes last year. His presence on the court alone is a major threat to the opposition. Having Redick on the squad should enable Giannis Antetokounmpo to operate with more space — both in terms of posting up and driving the ball to the cup.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Marco Belinelli

2017-2018 team: Philadelphia 76ers
Last year’s stats: 12.1 PPG, 0.8 SPG, 1.9 RPG

Minnesota finished in the bottom-half of the league in three-point percentage. Jimmy Butler isn’t what anyone would consider to be an elite perimeter shooter. Andrew Wiggins has seemingly regressed in the area. As such, there’s a glaring need for someone to come in and spread the floor. With little in the way of cash, Belinelli could be the best fit for Minnesota. The Italian shot 37.7-percent from three a season ago. Plus, Belinelli played under head coach Tom Thibodeau earlier in his career. This automatically qualifies him as a player Thibs would love to sign.

New Orleans Pelicans: DeMarcus Cousins

2017-2018 team: New Orleans Pelicans
Last year’s stats: 25.2 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 1.6 SPG

The Pelicans will try to re-sign Cousins at all costs. Though the team did play exceptionally well without him in the lineup, the Kentucky product is still one of the best big men in the game. A pairing with Anthony Davis gives New Orleans a very unique look in today’s small ball era. It could be a situation in which the Pelicans offer Cousins a two-year deal (with the second year a team/player option). In the wake of the serious Achilles injury, this gives either the player or team the chance to opt out of the agreement should the partnership go south.

New York Knicks: James Ennis

2017-2018 team: Detroit Pistons
Last year’s stats: 7.1 PPG, 0.6 SPG, 57.0-percent on two-point attempts

The Knicks have a ton of young guys without much in the way of experience. With little to no money available, the options out on the free agent market are quite slim. Ennis — a total journeyman — makes the most sense for New York. The springy athlete can guard multiple positions on the floor. The 27-year-old Ennis is also an active wing defender with some skill shooting the ball from deep. A discounted 3-and-D guy south of 30 years old seems like a smart move for a team lacking cap space.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Paul George

2017-2018 team: Oklahoma City Thunder
Last year’s stats: 21.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.0 SPG

The Thunder have no choice but to offer George the max. There’s a real sense of urgency to get this deal done. For one, we now know OKC gave up a ton (Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis) for one year of George. Secondly, George’s hometown team (Los Angeles Lakers) have been snooping around for over a year. It would be a crushing blow for OKC to lose George in free agency. Should this scenario occur, the Thunder would effectively be taking a gigantic step backwards in a rebuild focused around two players currently in their prime (Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams). It’d be a tricky spot to be in, for sure.

Orlando Magic: Aaron Gordon

2017-2018 team: Orlando Magic
Last year’s stats: 17.6 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.0 SPG

Gordon is the most promising player currently on the roster. A hybrid forward, the California native can both bring the ball up in transition as well as bully his way to the bucket. Over his career, Gordon’s numbers have steadily continued to grow. He’s a legitimate threat to average a double-double for the next decade. A restricted free agent, Orlando should without question match any offer sheet thrown Gordon’s way from another team.

Philadelphia 76ers: Paul George

2017-2018 team: Oklahoma City Thunder
Last year’s stats: 21.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.0 SPG

Philadelphia could certainly explore trading for Kawhi Leonard. Trying to re-sign Redick — or making a play for James — also seems reasonable. However, George may be the best fit when put alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. George doesn’t dominate the ball (something James definitely does). He also isn’t currently signed to a team — meaning the Sixers won’t have to unload any other assets as they would have to do with Leonard. The 6’9″ athlete is a fantastic defender, and has the postseason experience this group needs. George would be a fantastic fit next to the aforementioned duo.

Phoenix Suns: Marcus Smart

2017-2018 team: Boston Celtics
Last year’s stats: 10.2 PPG, 4.8 APG, 1.3 SPG

The Suns have both cap space and a desperate need for a point guard. Elfrid Payton played well in his short stint with the club — but likely doesn’t fit into the long-term plans. Smart is looking for a big pay day. He may have priced himself out of Boston, especially since the Celtics have to think about paying their young talents down the line. Smart instantly will provide Phoenix with a defensive stopper in its backcourt. The front office can only hope some of Smart’s defensive magic will rub off on projected backcourt mate Devin Booker.

Portland Trail Blazers: Jusuf Nurkić

2017-2018 team: Portland Trail Blazers
Last year’s stats: 14.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 1.4 BPG

The Trail Blazers likely will bring Nurkić back out of necessity. There aren’t a whole lot of bigs within Portland’s available cap space limits. With the Trail Blazers, Nurkić averaged 14.3 PPG and 9.0 RPG on 50.5-percent from the field. He certainly has his limitations as a defender. However, he remains as Portland’s best option up front next to youngster Zach Collins.

Sacramento Kings: Trevor Ariza

2017-2018 team: Houston Rockets
Last year’s stats: 11.7 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.5 SPG

With Justin Jackson being utterly abysmal last year, the baby Kings certainly are in need of an upgrade at the wing position. The Rockets could opt to let Ariza walk in order to preserve money for the likes of Paul and Capela. The consummate glue guy, Ariza would be perfect slotted at the three next to De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanović. Not only can Ariza spread the floor, but he’d also offer the locker room some much-needed professionalism. This could be the last multi-year deal of his career.

San Antonio Spurs: Trevor Ariza

2017-2018 team: Houston Rockets
Last year’s stats: 11.7 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.5 SPG

Ariza would fit seamlessly within San Antonio’s culture — particularly if Leonard is dealt elsewhere. A high basketball I.Q. player, Ariza knows what it takes to play winning basketball. The Spurs’ ball-movement scheme plays into Ariza’s proclivity as a spot-up shooter. Duly, he’d add defensive cover against a plethora of highly gifted wings within the Western Conference.

Toronto Raptors: Fred VanVleet

2017-2018 team: Toronto Raptors
Last year’s stats: 8.6 PPG, 3.2 APG, 0.9 SPG

The diminutive guard out of Wichita State quietly became one of the best non-starter guards in the league. VanVleet was a bulldog out on the court. Stoutly built, VanVleet routinely bodied up bigger defenders on the block. He also blew by them with the ball in his hands — and often ignited the vaunted Toronto second unit. The Raptors absolutely must re-sign him — if for nothing more than the fact he could become the future version of Kyle Lowry.

Utah Jazz: Jabari Parker

2017-2018 team: Milwaukee Bucks
Last year’s stats: 12.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 38.3-percent on three-point attempts

We’re going out on a bit of a limb with this one. Derrick Favors, Alec Burks, and Dante Exum all could be walking this offseason. With a brilliantly constructed culture already put in place, Utah could very well take a gamble with Parker. Though brilliantly skilled on the offensive end, Parker’s progress has been beset by injury. He’d be a perfect fit next to Rudy Gobert in the Jazz frontcourt. His below-average defensive skills would be mitigated by Gobert in the paint. Duly, he’d add some much-needed scoring punch in the starting lineup — whilst also giving Utah a more dynamic look.

Washington Wizards: Bryn Forbes

2017-2018 team: San Antonio Spurs
Last year’s stats: 6.9 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 39.0-percent on three-point attempts

With Tim Frazier a free agent, it makes sense for the Wizards to target a combo guard of sorts. Back-up point guard Tomas Satoransky can play the role of facilitator, while Forbes can be designated as the spark plug scorer. Forbes averaged nearly seven points per contest in 19.0 minutes on the floor for San Antonio this past year. With a lack of guard depth, Forbes could see more time on the floor with Washington.

Image Source: Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports