NBA Free Agent Rankings - Part II
If the Knicks part ways with Mitchell Robinson, they would be wise to target free-agent center Isaiah Hartenstein...
After rolling out the first installment of the top-50 free-agent rankings yesterday, here's Part 2:
36. Jalen Smith - Indiana Pacers - Unrestricted
Last offseason, after a disappointing rookie campaign, the Suns declined Smith's team option of $4.7 million for 2022-23. As a result, Smith, the 10th overall pick in the 2020 draft, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Yet, after injuries and a Covid outbreak left the Suns short-handed in late December, Smith stepped in and stepped up, averaging 15.8 points (on 55.4% shooting) and 10.2 rebounds over a six-game stretch. In February, he was dealt to Indiana (along with a second-round pick) in exchange for Torrey Craig. Over 24 appearances for the Pacers, Smith averaged 13.4 points (on 53% shooting), 7.6 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in less than 25 minutes a night. It's quite rare for a former lottery to hit the open market just two years into his career, so it will be interesting to see what kind of offers Smith receives.
35. Dennis Schroder - Houston Rockets - Unrestricted
The curious case of Dennis Schroder is a cautionary tale for players and agents about the risks of turning down guaranteed money to chase a payday in free agency. During the 2020-21 season, Schroder rejected a four-year, $84 million contract extension from the Lakers, as he was confident he'd be able to secure a deal worth close to $100 million as a free agent the following summer. However, after a bout with Covid-19 and a poor showing in the playoffs, Schroder didn't have nearly as many suitors as he'd hoped. Ultimately, he ended up settling for a one-year deal worth $5.9 million to join the Celtics. After a disappointing season, which included a trade from Boston to Houston, Schroder may have to settle for another unsatisfying one-year deal.
34. Jae'Sean Tate — Houston Rockets — Team Option
Despite not being drafted in 2020, Tate earned his way onto the NBA's All-Rookie team in 2020-21 by averaging 11.3 points, 5.3 boards, 2.5 dimes and 1.2 steals. Despite logging fewer minutes this season, Tate increased his scoring (11.8 PPG), rebounding (5.4 RPG) and assist (2.8 APG) averages. The Rockets can retain Tate for the 2022-23 campaign by picking up a team option worth just $1.8 million.
33. Isaiah Hartenstein - Los Angeles Clippers - Unrestricted
I'm higher on Hartenstein than most and feel he presents an excellent buy-low opportunity for a team looking to scoop up a valuable, versatile big. Just 24, he's a solid defender capable of guarding multiple positions and can also stretch the floor (he's a career 38% three-point shooter who knocked down 14 of the 30 treys he attempted this past season). And because Hartenstein is a non-bird free agent, the Clippers are limited in terms of what they can offer. For instance, L.A. can't exceed the $6.3 taxpayer mid-level to re-sign him. (Yes, Hartenstein is who I think the Knicks should target if they part ways with Mitchell Robinson.)
32. Kevon Looney - Golden State Warriors - Unrestricted
Looney was an integral part of the Warriors' postseason run which concluded in them capturing their fourth championship in the past eight years. He played in a total of 104 games in 2021-22 over the regular season and the playoffs combined (just two games shy of the NBA's all-time record). The Dubs obviously want to bring him back, but the Charlotte Hornets and Sacramento Kings are among teams reportedly interested in attempting to lure him away from the Bay.