Building a championship contender is a never-ending process. Front offices spend every day trying to construct the perfect team through signings, trades, buyouts, two-way deals, selling their souls to the devil, and much more in an effort to bring home the Larry O'Brien Trophy at seasons end. Training camp is five weeks away, so with that being said, I'm going to look at a few names left on the free agent market that could make an impact for teams still searching to be the best.
The following list is not ranked.
Dwight Howard, Center
2018-19: 9 G, 25.6 MPG, 12.8 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 62.3% FG, 17.4 PER
Dwight Howard isn't technically a free agent as he's currently a member of the Memphis Grizzlies, but they didn't acquire him to give him a roster spot. He's been granted permission by Memphis to meet with other teams and it's been reported that Howard has scheduled a workout with the Los Angeles Lakers, a team he had a highly publicized one-year stint with during the 2012-13 season.
Despite being a surefire Hall of Famer, Howard has found himself looking for his fourth team in as many seasons. It seems as if no matter where Howard goes, drama and dysfunction follow. His track record isn't great in the locker room but on the court is a different story. Howard has consistently been a dominant presence and has averaged a double-double in every season in his career with the exception of last year when he was limited to nine games.
Dwight honestly might be able to be named an Eastern Conference All-Star on a tanking team that brings him in for the hell of it, but Howard would be much better suited as the sixth man of a contending team; he could even be a starter. He shouldn't command more than the mid-level exception, but he could even take less money in an attempt to make his first Finals appearance since 2009. Dwight may not be as athletic as he was in his prime, but he can provide solid defense, elite rebounding, and Hall of Fame wisdom (with the right attitude) on a championship team. If he were to sign with a team like Philly, Dwight could easily slide into a starting role if Joel Embiid or Al Horford were to go down with an injury. Expect him to be on a roster before training camp starts.
Potential Fits: Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia 76ers
Kenneth Faried, Power Forward/Center
2018-19 (with Houston): 25 G, 24.4 MPG, 12.9 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 58.7% FG, 21.6 PER
I'm actually really surprised the Rockets haven't brought Faried back on at least a one-year deal. After being waived by the Brooklyn Nets, Faried joined an injured Houston squad and made an immediate impact. "The Manimal" rediscovered the formula that once netted him a $50 million contract and helped the Rockets make a push that had many considering them Finals favorites. And by "many" I mean me.
I'm not sure why, but Faried fell out of Mike D'Antoni's rotation during the playoffs, only making six appearances for about nine minutes per game. He shot 69.2% from the field in the playoffs, but yet again, fell out of the rotation for undisclosed reasons. The Rockets would be eliminated by the Golden State Warriors in the second-round and made a drastic change in the offseason by trading Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Russell Westbrook. Kenneth Faried's high-flying style would fit in perfectly alongside Westbrook, so hopefully GM Daryl Morey will make the move to sign him.
Potential Fits: Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics
Joakim Noah, Center
2018-19: 42 G, 16.5 MPG, 7.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 51.6% FG, 18.6 PER
Another center scheduled to work out for the Lakers, Joakim Noah can provide intensity and veteran leadership to a team looking to contend. Growing up as a Bulls fan, I got to witness Joakim just about every night for years as the anchor of the defense and spiritual leader of the team. After a horrible two-year stint with the New York Knicks, Joakim found himself back on a roster proving that he can still provide value with his somewhat unconventional playing style.
Joakim's stat-line is never going to jump off the page if you're strictly looking at the numbers, but his value doesn't always translate numerally. He's gone viral this week for telling Devin Booker that double teams are allowed in pick-up games; that's the kind of player he is.
Joakim can give you any combination of points, rebounds, and assists, and on the right team, that can easily translate to wins. I'd love to see him team up with LeBron on the Lakers because that still doesn't seem like a real sentence, but I'd be ok with him going wherever he can get decent playing time. I just want to see Joakim on the court.
Potential Fits: Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz
Carmelo Anthony, Small Forward
2018-19: 10 G, 29.4 MPG, 13.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 40.5% FG, 10.9 PER
There's not much to say that already hasn't been said. Melo is still better than a majority of NBA players in terms of pure basketball IQ and ability; I'll stand by that. Much like Dwight Howard, Melo has long been considered a lock for the Hall of Fame; why not take a chance on him? It shouldn't end like this for him, blackballed from the league, and for what?
It appears as if Melo is willing to take a smaller role, one of the factors that led to his sudden, and untimely, exit from the league. Everyone and their dad's third wife knows exactly what Melo can do; why not sign him to play a minor bench role? You already know he can turn the clock back and give you a 30-piece every once in a while.
LeBron, if you can, sign your friend. Please. Anyone.
Potential Fits: Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets
Walt Lemon Jr., Point Guard
2018-19: 6 G, 27.8 MPG, 14.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 5.0 APG, 43.75% FG, 16.3 PER
Lemon spent a majority of last season with the Windy City Bulls, the Chicago Bulls G League affiliate, but impressed during his stint in the NBA. A late season call-up, Lemon showed glimpses of a left-handed Derrick Rose with his ability to get to the rim and score with creative finishes, all while collecting stats in multiple categories. Due to the logjam of point guards on the Bulls roster, Lemon was waived during Summer League but finished out the tournament with the Bulls.
His NBA game film is limited, but the Chicago kid has potential to be a solid backup for a team in any stage of contention. Sometimes it's all about a chance, and I think another is just what Lemon needs. I don't know, I was really impressed by what I saw last season. I wish the Bulls would've brought him back; maybe another two-way deal can be reached if he doesn't get any training camp offers.
Potential Fits: Chicago Bulls, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns