Underrated Free Agents Fly Under the Radar
After a flurry of signings to kick off free agency, NBA news has slowed over the last two weeks. Guards James Harden and Damian Lillard are still waiting to be traded. The Philadelphia 76ers and Portland Trail Blazers’ asking prices could be too high, which could prolong this process. Several trade rumors have stayed hot, like the Minnesota Timberwolves dealing center Karl-Anthony Towns.
Overall, there has not been a whole lot going on around the NBA, especially in the last week. Major free agents inked contracts weeks ago, and the Summer League wrapped up on Monday with the Cleveland Cavaliers winning the tournament.
However, three free agents who could make major impacts are still available. Christian Wood, P.J. Washington and Kelly Oubre Jr. all come off quality seasons, averaging at least 15 points. Yet, each player is still unsigned. Despite this slow spell of news, few outlets have discussed Wood, Washington and Oubre’s availability. Their decisions could impact NBA betting. What’s the latest on each player?
Contract Talks Causing Headaches for Talented Trio
Wood, Washington and Oubre are underrated players. They do not steal headlines with ridiculous 40-point games. However, each is capable of providing consistent scoring off of the bench. Washington was even a quality starter on both ends of the floor last season.
Each player can absolutely impact NBA lines. A potential playoff team could land one of them, which would be a significant addition to their bench. Why would this not sway NBA predictions? Oubre averaged over 20 points last season. The Phoenix Suns are a potential contender with depth worries. Adding a player like Oubre would calm concerns, making the Suns a more enticing bet.
Why are these players still available in the first place? Washington is a by-product of the dreaded restricted free agency. He has been unable to agree to a contract with the Charlotte Hornets. At this stage in the offseason, no one has much cap space available. In fact, the Detroit Pistons lead the association with about $315,000. This is chump change when it comes to NBA contracts.
This means competing teams for Washington can only offer the mid-level exception, which allows teams to sign players without exceeding their salary cap. The mid-level exception would likely be a four-year deal in the $50 million range.
After averaging a career-best 15.7 points as a full-time starter, Washington probably wants more money, and rightfully so. If Washington does not get the extension he is looking for, he will have to rely on a sign-and-trade or could take Charlotte’s $8.5 million qualifying offer. Taking this one-year deal would be risky, but it would also ensure Washington will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason.
PJ Washington as a switch defender in the pick-and-roll — grinding out stops, staying down on shot fakes + forcing turnovers vs. various All-Stars (Trae, Dejounte Murray, Middleton, DeRozan, VanVleet), Cade Cunningham and Anfernee Simons pic.twitter.com/VN3VmebiWr
— Brian Geisinger (@bgeis_bird) May 15, 2022
Wood and Oubre are dealing with different headaches as unrestricted free agents. Wood could be asking for too much money, or teams could be unwilling to offer long-term contracts. He’s been an excellent scorer at 18.1 points per game over his previous three seasons.
Oubre could be fighting the same problems as Wood. Oubre also played in only 48 games last season and had an inefficient jumper. Despite his career-high 20.3-point average, Oubre is still searching for a new home. If Wood and Oubre’s waits stretch into next month, they could be looking at pay cuts.
Where Each Player Could Land
We touched on some of this already. Washington continues to battle his restricted dilemma. He could be waiting on a team to get aggressive for a sign-and-trade scenario. Who could be capable of pursuing Washington?
The Cleveland Cavaliers are one team that has been rumored. The Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks are two more teams that could use Washington’s services. Ultimately, this could come down to a sign-and-trade. If no team pursues a deal, Sean Deveney of Heavy reported Washington would be willing to sign the qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent next season.
The Los Angeles Lakers have been a hot name for Wood. Jovan Buha of The Athletic initially reported the Lakers are interested in him.
The Lakers are “actively” seeking another center to shore up their frontcourt.
Centers Christian Wood and Bismack Biyombo are in consideration for LA’s 14th roster spot, sources told @TheAthleticNBA.
On the center search, LeBron and AD’s health and more: https://t.co/p5QPeZCyAU
— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) July 10, 2023
This makes plenty of sense, as Los Angeles lacks another quality scorer behind center Anthony Davis. In this scenario, Wood would likely take a significant pay cut.
The Mavs and Cavs have also been listed as potential suitors for Oubre. The 76ers could be another good fit. The San Antonio Spurs are an upcoming team that would be elevated with Oubre’s scoring. Overall, we haven’t heard much about Oubre’s pending decision. This seems like the biggest unknown among the trio of free agents.
The waiting game could bite Wood, Washington and Oubre. Pay cuts are beginning to look likely, with most teams having little money to spend. Whoever lands these players could be getting tremendous value, which could cause a shift in NBA odds. Where do you think each player will land?