The reality is not every team will get a chance to bring in a true superstar, and even more simply can’t afford their asking price. That means teams will be scrambling to implement their backup plans. If that’s the case, here’s who they should target.
Missed out on Kevin Durant? Go get Luol Deng.
When Chris Bosh was sidelined with active blood clots, Deng stepped up for the Miami Heat. The former No. 7 overall pick out of Duke played 32.4 minutes per night and averaged 12.3 points, six rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Plus, his player efficiency rating, a measure of a player’s per-minute productivity, improved from 12.2 to 17.8 when he switched from small to power forward, giving a team versatility with this signing.
Offensively, Deng was at his best in transition, producing 1.3 points per possession on 62.8 percent shooting, plus grabbing and converting offensive rebounds (1.35 points per possession). Among forwards with at least 50 of those possessions, only the Spurs’ LaMarcus Aldridge was more efficient on the offensive glass (1.4 points per possessions).
On defense, Deng has shown an ability to guard players on the perimeter or in the pick and roll. Spot-up shooters scored just 36.9 percent of the time with him as the primary defender. On the pick and roll, ball handlers were held to 0.92 points per possession, good enough to rank in Deng in the top 20 percent of the league.
Missed out on Mike Conley and don’t want to spend big bucks on Rajon Rondo? Go get Toney Douglas.
Douglas is not going to grab headlines in free agency, but he showed he could be a serviceable point guard.
Although he only played 20 minutes per night, the Pelicans had a better turnover-to-assist ratio with Douglas on the court (1.75 vs. 1.61) and their efficiency in transition jumped from 1.21 to 1.54 points per possession after accounting for Douglas’s ability to pass the ball. The team’s overall half-court offense saw a similar bump, rising from 0.9 to 1.19 because of his ball movement.
Defensively, Douglas held opposing ball handlers on the pick and roll to just 39.3 percent shooting, resulting in 0.8 points per possession. When he was asked to defend all jump shots off the dribble opponents shot just 35.8 percent from the field.
Missed out on Al Horford and Hassan Whiteside? Go get Zaza Pachulia.
Pachulia was one of the best rebounders in the game last season. He led the Dallas Mavericks in both offensive (3.3) and defensive (6.2) rebounds per game while giving them better than 26 minutes per night. More than four of those total rebounds per game were contested, ranking him 10th at the position in that regard.
He won’t convert many points off the glass, but his defense was solid in the post, holding opponents to 42.9 percent shooting near the rim.
Missed out on DeMar DeRozan and Dwyane Wade? Go get Courtney Lee.
Acquired by Charlotte in a midseason trade with Memphis, Lee averaged 8.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game for the Hornets while shooting 44.5 percent from the field and 39.2 percent from the three-point line.
One of the few “three-and-D” guards available on the market, Lee held opponents to 0.86 points per possession and a stellar 0.63 points per possession when defending the ball handler on the pick and roll. Among guards being asked to defend at least 50 of those possessions last season, only the Mavericks’ Devin Harris was better at containing the opposition (0.62 points allowed per possession).
Lee was also solid around the basket, where teams shot just 32.5 percent when he was tabbed as the primary defender.
Missed out on Harrison Barnes or Nicolas Batum? Go get Evan Fournier.
As a restricted free agent, the Magic has the right to match any offer Fournier receives this offseason, but a quick look at the numbers shows he was every bit as good as Barnes or Batum.
For example, Fournier scored 22.4 points per 100 possessions, higher than either Barnes (17.7) or Batum (19.5). He was also better from long range, scoring on 38.9 percent of this three-point attempts.
Fournier was also used more on offense than either Barnes or Batum, accounting for 19.9 percent of Orlando’s possessions. Barnes was used in 16.3 percent during Golden State’s record-setting season and Batum’s name was called on 17.6 percent of the plays for the Hornets. That’s significant for any team looking to know which players available in free agency can handle a higher workload without sacrificing efficiency.
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