The reality is few teams will be in the running to sign Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Paul George when they become free agents on July 1. Their decisions have the potential to shift the landscape of the league — LeBron and George joining forces in Los Angeles, for example, would give the Lakers the makings of a contender overnight — but of greater interest is the players who will be available to most of the teams looking to improve their rosters this offseason.
That list ranges from restricted free agents coming off of their rookie contracts to unrestricted free agents looking to cash in following career years. Starting with Clint Capela, let’s take a closer look at six of the more interesting non-superstar free agents that will be on the market this summer.
Clint Capela (Restricted Free Agent)
Capela’s job might sound easy on paper, and yet there aren’t many centers who can do what he does. The threat alone of him being on the receiving end of an alley-oop has a way of making elite shot blockers in the league think twice whenever someone steps foot in the paint, even if it means giving up a layup to Chris Paul or James Harden. Take Capela off the floor, and it’s no wonder why Houston’s historic offense doesn’t pack quite the same punch.
Capela makes just as much of an impact on defense, too. He’s developed into a legitimate rim protector and one of few players his size who can comfortably switch onto guards on the perimeter. It makes him the ideal low usage center in today’s NBA.
What the Rockets now have to figure out is just how valuable everything Capela brings to the table is. They’ll have an opportunity to match any contract he is offered in the offseason, but there are already rumors of at least one team planning to offer him a max contract when free agency begins. Assuming the Rockets keep Paul around on a near-max contract, will they be willing to sign Capela to a similar contract to keep him in Houston? Or will they try to use that money to go after a more established player?
Wayne Ellington (Unrestricted Free Agent)
Ellington was one of the best outside shooters in the NBA this season. He made a total of 227 three-pointers on the year, putting him behind only James Harden, Paul George, Kyle Lowry, Kemba Walker and Klay Thompson. He also converted those opportunities at a 39.2 percent clip, making him one of the better spot-up shooters in the entire league.
Ellington does more than just spot-up, though. He led the league in scoring off of handoffs, doing so at a rate of 1.06 points per possession to rank in the 80.5 percentile. He was even more efficient scoring off of screens, averaging 1.20 points per possessions to rank in the 86.3 percentile. The combination means defenses have to account for Ellington at all times, as he’s constantly moving around the perimeter looking for the smallest of cracks to get his shot off.