LeBron James is gone. Ditto Paul George, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, and the top names available in free agency entering the NBA’s 2018 off-season.
But there are still notable talents yet unsigned and available on the free agent market — particularly when it comes to restricted free agency where, save for the four-year, $80-million offer sheet from the Sacramento Kings that the Chicago Bulls matched for guard Zach LaVine over the weekend, the waters appear remarkably calm.
Here are the top remaining free agents in the NBA:
1. CLINT CAPELA (RFA)
Teams with big-name restricted free-agents, like Houston, appear in no rush to offer major contracts to their players, instead happy to wait and see if they’ll need to break the bank in order to retain players like Capela, the Rockets’ breakout frontcourt star.
Capela is the top big man on the market — and it’s not even close — but he was reportedly soured by Houston’s initial contract offer, said to be in the similar four-year, $42 million range that Portland centre Jusuf Nurkic recently received.
The 23 year-old is already one of the NBA’s best finishers and rim protectors, with good speed and mobility for a player of his size (six-foot-10, 240 pounds). He led the league in field-goal percentage last season (65.2 per cent) and averaged 14 points, 11 rebounds, and two blocks per game. It’s why he was considered a candidate to receive a max-level deal (that he would likely fetch as an unrestricted free agent next summer if he doesn’t reach a deal on an extension with Houston before then) despite his relative inexperience.
2. MARCUS SMART (RFA)
An elite perimeter defender and All-NBA ‘glue-guy,’ Smart showed in the playoffs why he’d be a major asset to any team he plays for. His liabilities as a shooter in the backcourt could have teams balking at the notion of handing over a long-term, mega-money contract, although he’s one of the few non-shooting guards who would warrant that kind of deal given all the ways he impacts a game and your team’s chances of winning.
Free agency hasn’t gotten off to a great start for Smart, however. It’s believed he wants to remain in Boston, but it was recently reported that he felt hurt that Celtics GM Danny Ainge has yet to reach out to him to discuss the possibility of returning next season and beyond.
3. JABARI PARKER (RFA)
There’s a fairly steep fall on this list already from Capela/Smart to the names that follow, but it’s too early to count out Parker yet.
The second-overall pick in the 2014 draft, Parker has suffered a series of debilitating knee injuries that have limited him to just 45 games per season thus far in his career.
When he’s on the court, he’s shown plenty of flashes of being a capable scorer, averaging over 15 points for his career — including over 20 points per game in the 2016-17 season before he went down with an injury that kept him out for nearly a calendar year.
Once billed as a co-star to Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee, it’s unclear if he’ll ever be able to live up to those expectations and could benefit from a fresh start and change of scenery.
High school level drama alert: Speculation that he won’t return to the Bucks has only increased after Parker recently unfollowed Antetokounmpo and other Bucks-related accounts on social media.
4. WAYNE ELLINGTON
Ellington has bounced around during his career but made a big leap forward in his ninth year last season as a member of the Miami Heat. The 30 year-old posted one of the NBA’s top shooting campaigns from beyond the arc, hitting three three-pointers per game — good for second-best in the East — at a 39 per cent clip.
Every team could use a shooter, and the longer free agency wears on, the better chance a team in need of a three-point boost picks up Ellington at a bargain price.
5. ISAIAH THOMAS
It’s hard to say whether we should read a ton into Thomas’s 2017-18 campaign, or write it off as a year spent battling the after-effects of major hip surgery and a brief, drama-filled tenure on the Cleveland Cavaliers after being traded from Boston for Kyrie Irving last summer.
Even after he was dealt from the Cavs to the Los Angeles Lakers, Thomas struggled mightily last season, particularly when it came to shooting, and it was a worrying sign despite being just one season removed from finishing second in the NBA in scoring.
Thomas reportedly met with the point-guard-starved Orlando Magic but couldn’t reach an agreement on a deal. What a difference a year makes.
6. LUC MBAH A MOUTE
A prototypical forward for today’s NBA, Mbah a Moute is an excellent and versatile wing defender who can also stretch the floor thanks to an ever-improved three-point game.
The 31 year-old says he wants to return to Houston — who could use him after losing Trevor Ariza to the Phoenix Suns — and is the exact type of player a winning team signs on the cheap and confidently puts on the floor in crucial playoff moments.
7. RODNEY HOOD (RFA)
Which Rodney Hood do you believe? The one who didn’t want to check into a playoff blowout win against the Raptors and was literally unplayable during huge stretches of the post-season? Or the one that was a fairly reliable scorer who averaged nearly 15 points per game over his last three seasons in Utah, and more recently erupted for 15 points in Game 3 of the NBA Finals?
At just 25 years old, there’ll surely be a team or two willing to pay to find out who the real Hood is.