Every year there are players who remain unsigned by summer’s end or the season’s beginning, and they end up getting signed midway through the season. Drew Gooden is a perfect example of this when he signed with Washington a few seasons ago. Michael Beasley did an excellent job in his mid-season return to the NBA with Houston in 2015-16 as well.
This year, however, there is an exceptionally higher amount of unsigned talent at this stage in the off-season. JaMychal Green, Mason Plumlee, Nikola Mirotic, David Lee, Ty Lawson, Tony Allen, Alex Len, Dante Cunningham, Shabazz Muhammad, Deron Williams, Terrence Jones, Gerald Henderson, Monta Ellis, Gerald Green, and Andrew Bogut are all free agents, one can argue, who are better than at least one starter in their position on one of the 30 NBA teams.
The talent these players possess is not only present, but it fits the modern NBA. The three most emphasized skills in basketball since the Golden State Warriors emerged as the team to beat in the NBA in 2014 are perimeter shooting, defensive switching, and rim protection.
Green, Plumlee, Mirotic, and Cunningham all fit the bill as versitile bigs who can switch on defense. Plumlee, Len, and Bogut are all decent rim protectors as well, and JaMychal Green, Mirotic, Lawson, Williams, Jones, and Gerald Green are all decent perimeter shooters for their position.
Another thing that is valued in the modern NBA is the upside offered by younger players. There are still some younger guys on the market too. Former 2014 first round pick James Young is on the market, so are 24 year olds Len, James Michael McAdoo, and Trey Burke. Jared Sullinger and Jones are 25. Then there are also the guys with limited tread on their tires; Mirotic is 26 and JaMychal Green is 27, but have only been in the league since 2014.
I get that the NBA is currently very talented, but why is a team like Boston, trying to compete for championships turning to some random international prospect Daniel Theis before someone who can fix their league third worst rebounding like Andrew Bogut, Alex Len, or Mason Plumlee. All of those centers are better options than Timofey Mozgov on Brooklyn, or Cole Aldrich, Epke Udoh, or Jarrett Allen as primary backups.
Even raw win share numbers would agree that there is a ridiculous amount of talent left in the free agent pool. There are 78.6 win shares among all 71 players on rosters last season but not this year, and among the top 15 (amount on an NBA roster,) there are 49.4 win shares.
That means if a team was formed from the top free agents and assumed the same level of health, coaching, and other factors not counted by the win share statistic, the free agent team would have finished as the 4th best team in the Eastern Conference last season.
This is surprising, but upon further examination, Plumlee started for a playoff contender Portland and Denver teams, JaMychal Green and Tony Allen started for the Memphis Grizzlies who were 7th in the West, Mirotic for the 8th seed Bulls, and David Lee was the first big off the bench for the 2nd seeded Spurs.
Time will tell whether or not these talented players get signed after all, but for any team that is short talent or depth at any position, know that a trade is not necessary with this large pool of unsigned talent.