Ranking the best free agents in the NBA

The NBA draft is in the rearview mirror, but the fun is just beginning for basketball fans because free-agency is just days away.  This years crop of free agents is as strong as it has been in a long time thanks in large part to a few stars who used their early termination options on their contracts.  In fact, this free agent class has so much talent at the top that where they sign could change the complexion of the NBA for the next five years or longer.

Here is a look at the top available free agents, including a handful of players that would fit in well with the Jazz.

HM.  Evan Turner, small forward, unrestricted: after a breakout season in 2012-13, Turner was primed to have another big year with the 76ers in ’13-14.  The solid all-around player started off the season that way, but Philadelphia really struggled as a team and Turner was traded at the deadline.  Although he landed on a much more successful team, Indiana wasn’t a great fit for Turner.  In 27 games for the Pacers, he averaged 7.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists in more than 21 minutes a night.

HM.  Shaun Livingston, point guard, unrestricted: after years of floating around the league, Livingston finally found a home with the Nets.  He stepped in the starting lineup and helped to turn the season around for Brooklyn with his all-around play.  In 2013-14, Livingston averaged 8.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals in 26 minutes a game.

25.  Avery Bradley, shooting guard, unrestricted: Bradley is one of the best on-ball defenders in the league and a much improved scoring threat.  With the departures of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett as well as the injury to Rajon Rondo, Bradley took more of a lead role with the Celtics and had the best year of his career.  In 2013-14 he averaged 14.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.1 steals in almost 31 minutes a game.

24.  Vince Carter, small forward, unrestricted: Carter is in the twilight of his career, but can still produce at a high level.  He is long past his days as a No. 1 option or even a starter, but is a big-time contributor off of the bench.  Carter can stretch the floor with his shooting range and still is fairly effective off the bounce when his defender closes out too aggressively.  In 2013-14, Carter averaged 11.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists in about 24 minutes a game.

23.  Shawn Marion, small forward, unrestricted: Marion has been in the league for 15 years, but he still has plenty left in the tank.  At 36, his best years are behind him, but he can still provide depth and veteran leadership for a playoff bound team.  In 2013-14, Marion averaged 10.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.2 steals in nearly 32 minutes a night.

22.  Ray Allen, shooting guard, unrestricted: one of the best shooters in league history is back on the open market and will no doubt be looking to join another championship contender (if he doesn’t re-sign with the Heat).  Allen will be 39 when the season starts, but he can still really stretch the defense with ability to knock down open jumpers.  In 2013-14, Allen averaged 9.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and two assists in around 26 minutes a game.

21.  Patty Mills, point guard, unrestricted: after a remarkable playoff run with the San Antonio Spurs, Mills earned himself a pay raise.  Mills is a shoot first point guard with exceptional range and a good motor.  Mills loves to have the ball in his hands at big moments and is more than willing to take the big shot.  In 2013-14, Mills averaged 10.2 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists in around 19 minutes a game.

20.  Jodie Meeks, shooting guard, unrestricted: Meeks can do one thing really well, score the ball.  He flourished for the Kobe-less Lakers a year ago and proved that he could catch fire at a moments notice.  Meeks is a shoot-first player who is good in the mid range and can really knock down the 3.  In 2013-14, Meeks averaged 15.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.4 steals in 33 minutes a game.

19.  D.J. Augustin, point guard, unrestricted: Augustin is a shoot first point guard who loves to get to the rim and finish.  He resurrected his career with the Bulls last season after being waived by the Toronto Raptors and proved that he could be a valuable piece to a playoff team.  With the Bulls, Augustin also showed improved touch from beyond the arc and the ability to create for his teammates.  With the Bulls In 2013-14, he averaged 14.9 points, 2.1 rebounds and five assists in around 30 minutes a night.

18.  Paul Pierce, small forward, unrestricted: Pierce didn’t have to shoulder the load with the Brooklyn Nets like he had to do with the Celtics for the better part of 15 years and it may have extended his career.  Pierce has lost a step, but he can still put points on the board in bunches when needed.  In 2013-14, Pierce averaged 13.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 steals in almost 29 minutes a game.

17.  Spencer Hawes, center, unrestricted: Hawes is a stretch five who can really shoot the outside jumper (41.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc in 3.9 attempts a game).  Hawes had one of the best seasons in his young career in 2013-14 when he averaged 13.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, three assists and 1.2 blocks in nearly 31 minutes a game for the  Philadelphia 76ers and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

16.  Marcin Gortat, center, unrestricted: Gortat is a solid offensive option in the post and a great rebounder.  He had a big year in his first season in Washington and helped the Wizards make it to the playoffs.  in 2013-14, Gortat averaged 13.2 points on 54.2 percent shooting from the floor, 9.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.5 blocks in nearly 33 minutes a game.

15.  Gordan Hayward, small forward, restricted: Hayward took more of a  lead role for the Jazz in 2013-14 and was able to show that he could do a bit of everything even though he struggled mightily with his perimeter jumper.  Hayward was much more aggressive on the offensive end and showed that he could be a solid distributor.  In 2013-14, Hayward averaged 16.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.4 steals in more than 36 minutes a game.

14.  Boris Diaw, power forward, unrestricted: Diaw is one of the most creative big men in the game today.  He can stretch the floor with his outside touch or put the ball on the floor and get to the rim.  Diaw is also an impressive passer and a solid defender.  In 2013-14, Diaw averaged 9.1 points on 52.1 percent shooting, 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 25 minutes a night.

13.  Trevor Ariza, small forward, unrestricted:  after coming off the bench for the Wizards in 2012-13, Ariza was inserted into the starting lineup in ’13-14 and had the best season of his career thanks to his improved outside game (40.7 percent shooting from beyond the arc in 5.7 attempts a game according to Basketball-reference.com). That year, he averaged 14.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 steals in more than 35 minutes a night.

12.  Luol Deng, small forward, unrestricted: Deng was having one of his most Best seasons with the Bulls before he got moved to Cleveland mid-season.  He wasn’t a great fit with the Cavaliers and it showed in his production.  Even with that dip, Deng still averaged 16 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.9 steals and one steal in more than 35 minutes a night.

11.  Pau Gasol, power forward-center, unrestricted: Gasol had a bounce back season in 2013-14 after struggling much of ’12-13 thanks to injury.  His improved output didn’t translate to a successful season for the Lakers without Kobe Bryant.  Even though he his best days are behind him, Gasol can still be a very effective scorer and rebounder.  In ’13-14, he averaged 17.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.5 blocks in more than 31 minutes a game.

10.  Lance Stephenson, shooting guard, unrestricted: Stephenson struggled to find his footing with the Pacers early in his career and barely saw the floor.  Following an injury to Danny Granger, he got his chance to make his mark and took advantage of his opportunity.  Stephenson proved to be a lockdown defender a solid offensive player.  In 2013-14, he averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists in more than 35 minutes a night.

9.  Isaiah Thomas, point, guard, restricted: Thomas is a shoot first point guard who took a huge step forward with added time.  Thomas isn’t much of a defensive player, but is a difference maker with the ball in his hands.  In 2013-14, Thomas averaged 20.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.3 steals in almost 35 minutes a game.

8.  Eric Bledsoe, combo guard, restricted: Bledsoe took advantage of his trade to the Phoenix Suns and earned himself a big pay-day in free agency.  Bledsoe is an explosive athlete who loves to finish at the rim and get to the free-throw line.  He also does great work on the other end of the floor where Bledsoe has the ability to stay in front of even the quickest point guards.  In 2013-14, Bledsoe averaged 17.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.6 steals in almost 33 minutes a game.

7.  Kyle Lowry, point guard, unrestricted: Lowry is the prototypical point guard that every team wants.  He can run the offense and create open shots for his teammates or get to put the ball in the basket himself. Lowry is also an impressive on ball defender and a solid rebounder for his position. In 2013-14, Lowry averaged 17.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 1.5 steals in more than 36 minutes a night.

6.  Greg Monroe, power forward-center, restricted: Monroe is a young a talented big man who is best suited to play the center position.  He has been a very consistent rebounder and scorer in each of his the last three seasons.  In 2013-14, Monroe had a bit of a reduced role with the rebuilt Pistons but still managed to average 15.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals in just under 33 minutes a game.

5.  Dwyane Wade, shooting guard, unrestricted: Injuries have limited Wade significantly over the last three seasons, but has still been able to produce at an all-star level when he is on the floor.  In 2013-14, Wade averaged 19 points on 54.5 percent shooting from the field to go along with 4.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.5 steals in nearly 33 minutes a game.

4.  Chris Bosh, power forward-center, unrestricted: Although his numbers have dropped each of the four seasons he has been in Miami, Bosh has expanded his offensive game.  Last season, Bosh added a consistent 3-point shot to his arsenal as the third option for the Miami Heat.  In 2013-14, he averaged 16.2 points on 51.6 percent shooting from the floor, 6.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists, one steal and a block in 32 minutes a game.

3.  Dirk Nowitzki, power forward, unrestricted: Nowitzki has lost a step in the last few years, but is still one of the best scorers in the NBA.  After injuries limited Nowitzki to just 53 games and 17.3 points in 2012-13, he had a bounce back season last year.  In ’13-14, Nowitzki averaged 21.7 points on 49.7 percent shooting from the field, 6.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists in just under 33 minutes a game.

2.  Carmelo Anthony, forward, unrestricted: Anthony is a gifted scorer who can fill it up from inside and out.  He has range that goes well beyond the arc, a great back to the basket game, and can get to the free-throw line at will.  In 2013-14, Anthony averaged 27.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.2 steals in nearly 39 minutes a night.

1.  LeBron James, small forward, unrestricted: the Heat fell short on their quest for a third straight title, but James is still one of the best two players in the world.  James can do just about anything on the floor at an elite level.  In 2013-14, James averaged 27.1 points on 56.7 shooting from the floor, 6.9 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.6 steals in nearly 38 minutes a game.







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