There's an actual skill to signing low-priced veterans and scrapheap projects towards the end of free agency and turning them into viable rotation players. Some NBA teams thrive at it, constantly finding one or two guys they know will fit their system and revitalizing their careers.
While a few big-name free agents are left on the board, they're going quick, especially with LaMarcus Aldridge picking the San Antonio Spurs. NBA teams are beginning to reach the point where all that's left to do is finalize their rosters. It's more about who fits with the players already in place, not who has the most raw talent.
Here are the best 13 free agents still on the board plus 10 more, with Tom Ziller's free agency rankings in parenthesis.
1. LeBron James (1)
There's no concern about James signing anywhere but Cleveland, but as he waits for the Cavaliers to dole out contracts to his teammates on the market, he's happy to sit back and take some vacation hours. Tristan Thompson is the major member still left unsigned from the team that made the NBA Finals a month ago.
2. Marc Gasol (3)
Again, semantics -- at this point, we know Gasol will sign sooner or later with the Memphis Grizzlies, it's just a matter of when. He hasn't even met with other teams in free agency so we know he's not seriously considering a move. Last we heard, the two sides were reportedly nearing a five-year, $100 million deal.
3. Tristan Thompson (18)
As mentioned above, as soon as Thompson signs, James will likely sign, too.
4. Reggie Jackson (28)
... aaaand there's the dropoff. The mid-tier free agents have been completely cleaned out on July 4. Jackson is a solid point guard but he's received little interest around the league, perhaps because he's a restricted free agent that most teams expect Detroit to keep or perhaps because there's just no interest in signing him. Either way, expect him back with the Pistons.
5. Lou Williams (31)
Williams needs to be on the right team to play as effectively as he can. While there's been little interest so far for the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, you can expect him to start getting phone calls now that the big names are gone.
6. Rodney Stuckey (33)
After a strong season averaging 12 points with the Indiana Pacers, Stuckey appears to be headed elsewhere. The Chicago Bulls might be an interesting fit for the eight-year NBA veteran, which would potentially fulfill his wish of playing for a contender.
7. Kosta Koufos (38)
The Grizzlies added Brandan Wright, an excellent pickup that likely heralds the end of Koufos' time in Memphis. Koufos would be a great addition for a number of teams as a third big who plays defense and is sneakily skilled around the basket.
8. David West (41)
West could be headed to San Antonio if it misses on Aldridge. Cleveland and Washington are also options. He'll be a good fit in D.C. and his "veteran-ness" can replace what was lost by Paul "I called game" Pierce, even if they play slightly different styles and positions.
9. Josh Smith (48)
There are a lot of options for Smith right now, almost all of them good, considering wherever he signs he's still getting paid by the Pistons until 2020.
10. Enes Kanter (50)
Kanter and the Oklahoma City Thunder are reportedly having trouble coming to an agreement. While Kanter's one of the better offensive post threats in the NBA, he's one of the absolute worst defenders. Still, the Thunder have to be the favorites to re-sign him at this juncture.
11. J.R. Smith (51)
Without any choice thanks to the injuries, the Cavaliers asked too much of J.R. Smith in the NBA Finals and he could never keep up, only heating up for a couple quarters in the six-game series. Still, he's a known quantity and still has his jump shot.
12. Jordan Hill (52)
Hill is one of the NBA's better rebounders and can play solid defense, too. Whoever brings him in this summer will likely be well rewarded.
13. Manu Ginobili (54)
It's the Spurs or retirement. Probably the Spurs. Those guys won't ever retire.
The next 10 best available free agents
14. Dorell Wright (56)
15. Matthew Dellavedova (57)
16. Bismack Biyombo (58)
17. Leandro Barbosa (62)
18. Wayne Ellington (63)
19. Andre Miller (64)
20. Darrell Arthur (65)
21. Jason Terry (66)
22. Mirza Teletovic (67)
23. Gerald Green (69)
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