Top 5 free agents still available after Kawhi joins Clippers

After bringing the Raptors franchise their first ever NBA Championship, Kawhi has chosen to go back home and play for the Clippers. Donnovan Bennett explains why you should not be mad at his decision.

After all the parade festivities and champagne showers washed away, Kawhi Leonard elected to return to his hometown Los Angeles and play basketball with the Clippers for the foreseeable future. It’s an unsurprising move, and one that no matter what way you slice it is still bound to leave some disappointment in the mouths of Toronto Raptors fans across Canada.

Even with Leonard out of the picture, we should all find solace in the fact basketball will continue being played in Toronto next season. Sure, the Raptors will deploy a different, non-championship-calibre roster in 2019-20, but that doesn’t mean next season can’t still fulfill basketball fans’ fix for an exciting product north of the border.

One aspect of a team’s improvement comes from what transpires during free agency, so with that in mind let’s take a look at the top names still available to the highest bidder on the open market.

Note: DeMarcus Cousins previously headlined this list, but has been removed after reportedly agreeing to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers.

1. Marcus Morris

Morris is one of the numerous Boston Celtics’ rotation pieces that hit the open market this off-season, along with Kyrie Irving (now with the Nets), Al Horford (76ers) and Terry Rozier (Hornets).

He proved himself as a versatile scorer last season with Boston, averaging 13.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 27.9 minutes per game. He impressed from beyond the arc in particular, hitting 37.5 per cent of his attempts from three-point range for his highest shooting percentage from that area since the 2013-14 campaign. It should come as no surprise, then, that Morris posted the highest offensive rating of his career with the Celtics in 2018-19 at 110.3.

With an ability to play at the four and as a small-ball centre, Morris possesses the positional flexibility necessary to be productive wherever he signs this coming summer. Rumoured suitors, which previously included the Clippers and Dallas Mavericks, are bound to pick up now that the biggest free-agent domino left on the board in Leonard has finally dropped.

2. Kelly Oubre Jr. (RFA)

Oubre Jr., is a restricted free agent with the Phoenix Suns, which means any offer he’s presented with by another team in free agency can be matched by Phoenix if they so choose. And with all the big names in free agency now off the market, the Suns may have to match a significant offer sheet from another suitor with plenty of cap space in order to keep Oubre in The Copper State going forward. It’ll be intriguing to see what cost Phoenix ultimately has to pay to retain Oubre after other teams get involved in the bidding.

At only 23, Oubre still has loads of untapped potential waiting to be realized in the coming years approaching his prime, which makes locking him down long-term an enticing plan of attack for some organizations. The talented forward was also playing the best basketball of his career before undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a left-thumb sprain suffered in March, averaging 21 points per game on 48.6-per-cent shooting in nine contests that month. If Oubre is able to pick up where he left off from a scoring standpoint once he returns, the team who secures his services can only stand to reap the rewards.

On a more macro level, Oubre averaged 15.2 points and 4.7 rebounds in 69 games split between the Wizards and Suns last season.

3. Delon Wright (RFA)

Former Raptor alert!

The former Raptors third-string point guard — and now one-time NBA champion — showed out with the Grizzlies after being dealt to the organization hours before the NBA’s February trade deadline. In 26 games with Memphis following the deal, 11 of which were starts, Wright averaged 12.2 points, 5.3 assists and 5.4 rebounds in 30.8 minutes. As part of his post-trade run of success, Wright recorded the first three triple-doubles of his young career (in three of the last four games of the regular season, no less).

A report indicated the Dallas Mavericks’ plan to sign Wright to an offer sheet, which shows suitors interested in the floor general’s services have already started emerging.

If the former 20th-overall pick lucks into signing on with a team that can offer him close to starting minutes, Wright may have a breakout season on the horizon.

4. JaMychal Green

After the names above, the free-agent market starts to dry up even more. Among the less-heralded names still available, though, Green emerges as one of the best options.

The six-foot-nine power forward is slightly undersized for his position, but has the athleticism and strength necessary to fill minutes as a capable NBA rotation player. He’s also displayed an ability to stretch the floor, as his 40.3-three-point percentage from last season indicates.

Green isn’t any teams’ top option at the four and would likely be limited to spotty reserve minutes if he signed on with a contender. But that doesn’t mean he can’t help fill a void for a playoff-hopeful that is seeking players who can help guard an opponent’s primary or secondary scoring option.

5. Trey Lyles (RFA)

Lyles has been a key piece of Denver’s bench rotation for two seasons now. This makes the Nuggets’ attempt to retain his services unsurprising, especially when you consider the team’s lack of salary-cap flexibility after exercising Paul Millsap’s 2019-20 player option.

The power forward is coming off a rather disappointing campaign that saw him hit just 41.8 per cent of his field goals, including a disappointing 25.5 per cent from three-point range, so he’ll have his work cut out for him if he hopes to re-establish himself as a player with enough potential to warrant a roster spot. He’s 23 years old, so there’s still time.

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