On December 24th, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony reported that NBA is eliminating restrictions on teams recruiting and then acquiring veteran free agents for their G League affiliates. Rather than having that player go through the waiver wire, each team is able to designate one veteran for assignment to one of the roster spots on their minor league team. This seems like a win-win for both player and team as the has control over which G League destination while the teams won’t have to worry about where their affiliate is in the waiver wire.
In response to this rule and learning the eighteen teams, including the G League Ignite, I thought it would be a good idea to pick an free agent with five or more years of experience at the NBA level that teams should use this new “NBA vet selection” rule on. If you’re reading his piece and are unsure about why certain NBA teams are in and aren’t, make sure to read this piece that features the G League clubs that won’t be going to the proposed bubble.
Canton Charge (Cleveland Cavaliers): Allen Crabbe
Since LeBron decided to head west to play with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018, the Cleveland Cavaliers have spent the last few years focusing on building up their backcourt and wing. That progression has been headlined by the team using lottery picks on Colin Sexton in 2018, Darius Garland in 2019, and Issac Okoro in 2020. Alongside that intriguing trio, sharp-shooting Dylan Windler and USC alum Kevin Porter are two other draft additions that Cleveland has made in recent years to try to help that part of their roster.
Despite some early success during the first few weeks of the regular season, as the Cavaliers currently sit 4-2, thanks in part to the play of Darius Garland and Colin Sexton, the team’s depth in that area is still not the best. That’s to no fault of the Cavaliers as Windler has been dealing with injuries since getting drafted in 2019 while Porter Jr. is currently out due to dealing with various off-the-court issues that occurred during the extended off-season.
Those concerns makes players that have experience playing both shooting guard and small forward a top priority for this spot. In my eyes, the best free agent with 5+ years of experience for this role would be Allen Crabbe. Just three years ago, Crabbe stood out as an important piece on a fledgling Brooklyn Nets squad by averaging 13.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.6 assists on 41% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc on 7.1 attempts per game. Those averages combined with maintaining a 56% True Shooting Percentage was a good start to his career with a Brooklyn Nets team that signed him to a massive four-year, $75 million dollar deal during the prior off-season.
Unfortunately, things started to go in the wrong direction right after the end of the season. In 2018-19, the veteran wing dealt with knee injuries that only allowed him to play 43 games during the 2018-19 campaign. Even when he was on the court, production faltered as his points, assists, and rebounds per game numbers decreased while his True Shooting Percentage went from 56% in the previous season to 52%. The fall would continue into the 2019-20 season, where Crabbe played a total of 37 games with Atlanta and Minnesota due to a combination of knee soreness and personal issues.
Those struggles during the last two seasons have led to his current position as not being on a team in early January. Despite those rough predicaments and his current position in basketball, Crabbe is still only 28-years-old and three seasons removed from having a really solid season. If he veteran wing is up for going this route and uses a run in the G League to show that he could possibly return to being anywhere close to his 2017-18 self, this move would help the Cavaliers.
Delaware Blue Coats (Philadelphia 76ers): DeMarre Carroll
Sticking with players that had success with the Brooklyn Nets during the 2017-18 season, we go to a 34-year-old veteran that is trying to extend his NBA career into its 12th season. Him being in this position would be surprising just three years ago, where he stood as the team’s starting small forward.
In 73 games with the team, all that he started, the 6’7 forward averaged 13.5 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2 assists on 41% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc on 3.4 attempts per game. That solid shooting, which allowed him to maintain a 55% True Shooting Percentage, combined with playing three positions allowed him to be a valuable player to that team.
Unfortunately, the veteran really started to deal with injuries after that initial season with the team. In the following year, an arthroscopic surgery on his right ankle led to him only playing 67 games, where he averaged 25.4 minutes, his lowest per game average since the 2012-13 season. Although he ended up signing a two-year, $13 million deal with San Antonio during the following off-season, he’d play a total of 15 games with the team before having his contract bought out. Although he was later signed by Houston, the team only had nine appearances with the team before becoming a free agent during the shortened off-season.
Right now, Carroll still sits in a position that is unfamiliar with a player that’s been in an NBA rotation for more than a decade. Although he currently isn’t with the club, the 34-year-old forward could still bring value to an NBA team due to his experience, shooting, defense, and ability to play multiple positions. Of course, as a player at his age with a history of knee injuries, teams are unsurprisingly hesitant to sign him to a deal.
That’s why a team like the Philadelphia 76ers, a squad always looking for shooters to work around Ben Simmons and that could use a veteran forward for a rotation that isn’t that deep, should use their “NBA Vet Selection” on Carroll to see how much he has left in his tank. If there is and he produces at the G League level, the veteran could be a solid rotation piece
Fort Wayne Mad Ants (Indiana Pacers): John Henson
Going away from wings that were with Brooklyn in 2017-18, we go to another player that is just a few years removed from being an extremely productive NBA player. From the time that he was selected in the 1st round by Milwaukee in 2012, the UNC alum established himself as a per-36 king due to sharing playing time with either Larry Sanders or Greg Monroe. In the 2017-18 season (yes.. that year again) where he was the starter, Henson had a very productive season by averaging 8.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.4 blocks with a career-best 58% True Shooting Percentage.
Like the last two players on this list, Henson would struggle for playing time through the next two seasons. After starting the 2018-19 season on a high note with Milwaukee, his career in the city would come to an end through suffering a left wrist injury on November 16th before getting traded to the Cavaliers on December 7th. Over the next two seasons, his minutes and on-court production would dip in separate stints with Cleveland and the Detroit Pistons.
Following those two seasons of tribulations, Henson now sits as a free agent. While this is an unfamiliar situation for him, the veteran big is still an intriguing option for a team to use this new rule on due to his track record of protecting the rim and snagging rebounds. One team that could use a man with those abilities would be the Indiana Pacers, who don’t have much depth at center as current backup Goga Bitadze, an inexperienced 2nd year big that is currently dealing with ankle issues. That current predicament would have the team assigning Henson to their G League team make a lot of sense.
Greensboro Swarm (Charlotte Hornets): Dewayne Dedmon
As someone that’s been covering the D/G League since 2012, it’s been impressive to watch how Dedmon’s career has unfolded. In 2013, he entered the D-League as an undrafted 24-year-old prospect coming off a solid two-year run with USC. Luckily for him, he didn’t have to put much gas mileage on his car to reach his next destination through starting his pro career with Santa Cruz. His time with the team didn’t last long as the rookie averaged 15.2 points, 13.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.5 steals, and 2.3 blocks on 54% from the field before receiving a call-up from the Philadelphia 76ers.
Over the subsequent seven seasons, he established himself as an NBA role player as a member of the 76ers, Magic, Spurs, Hawks, and Kings. Most recently, he was part of the Detroit Pistons roster after the Hawks traded him in late November in exchange for Khyri Thomas and Tony Snell. However, the team put him on waivers just four days later on November 24th.
Almost a month-and-a-half later, Dedmon’s position as a free agent hasn’t changed. While his status as a productive big that can snag rebounds and even show his range from deep hasn’t changed, the 31-year-old may just need an avenue to gets some runs in and remind teams how he could help them on the court. In terms of an organization where that would make sense would be Charlotte.
Currently, the team’s front-court depth is limited with Cody Zeller out with a fractured left hand. While Bismack Biyombo has been doing a great job as his replacement, a team like the Hornets with legitimate playoff hopes could be smart to kick the tires on the experienced center and see if he has what it takes to takes to give them some additional depth.
Lakeland Magic (Orlando Magic): Gerald Green
Sticking with G League alums, the former LA D-Fenders standout is looking for a new gig after recently being waived by the Houston Rockets on December 19th. That removal from a team that he spent two seasons felt even ore bitter when you add in the fact that he missed the entire 2019-20 season due to breaking his left foot in an exhibition game in Japan.
Before being out for the entire season, the 34-year-old wing established as a solid player no matter if he was Dallas, Brooklyn, Indiana, Phoenix, Miami, Boston, or Houston. That hired gun status makes sense if you’ve had a chance to follow his career as he’s always a threat to score a lot from both inside the paint and from beyond the arc whenever he steps on the court. Just recently during the 2018-19 campaign, Green put up 9.3 points and 2.5 rebounds on 40% from the field and 35% fro beyond the arc on 6 attempts per game. In terms of efficiency, he was above average through maintaining a 55% True Shooting Percentage and 53% eFG% (Effective Field Goal Percentage).
With that track record and skill set as a scorer, the veteran wing stands as someone that could add some offensive firepower to a team’s 2nd unit. However, his status as a 34-year-old player coming off a major knee injury rightfully scares some teams. That’s why being added to the G League via the “NBA Vet Selection” rule makes a lot of sense as it would give him a platform to show whether he’s at the level athletically that he was before the injury. In terms of a team that should give him a shot, Orlando seems like a solid option as their wing rotation is limited due to the amount of point guards and power forwards that are on the roster.
Long Island Nets (Brooklyn Nets): Brandon Knight
Shortly after the start of what was anticipated to be the best season in the history of the Nets franchise since they moved to Brooklyn, they suffered a real setback as Spencer Dinwiddie suffered a partial tear in his ACL during a game against the Charlotte Hornets. With that injury likely keeping him out for the rest of the season, Brooklyn’s backcourt is currently hampered as the injured player was a special asset due to his ability to play both guard positions.
While it will be impossible to replace the value that Dinwiddie brought to the team, there is an experienced player that could kick the tires on. That’s 29-year-old veteran guard Brandon Knight, who is looking to return to an NBA roster to begin his 10th year as a pro. In terms of the ability to play both guard positions, as he’s played 76% of his 13,137 career minutes at point guard and 24% at shooting guard.
At the start of his career, that dual nature coincided with solid on-court play to make him one of the most intriguing young guards in the league. From 2011-12 through 2015-16, he impressed by putting up 15.9 points, 4.6 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 1 steal on 42% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc. Although he wasn’t exactly efficient, as he maintained a 52% True Shooting Percentage (TS%) during that run, his scoring volume and ability to hit shots from both inside the paint and beyond the arc allowed him to be a valuable player.
However, that quickly changed on July 2017 where he tore the ACL in his left knee. In the three-and-a-half years since then, Knight hasn’t even gotten close to the level that he was before the injury. In the 64 games that he’s placed since returning to the court in the 2018-19 campaign, the veteran guard put up 7 points, and 2.2 assists on 37% from the field and 33% from 3 on 4.1 attempts per game, which has lowered his TS% to just 49%.
While that’s obviously not a good sign for the veteran, his past production at the NBA level combined with Brooklyn’s need for backcourt depth means that the team should use the “NBA Vet Selection” rule on Knight to see what he still has left in the tank.
Raptors 905 (Toronto Raptors): Kyle O’Quinn
Since entering Tampa, Florida to start their 2020-21 season, the Raptors have pulled an unforunate 180 degree turn from the dependable and solid team that NBA fans have been able to trust for the last half-decade. Following a 126-114 loss to the Boston Celtics on Monday night, the team has now started the year with a 1-5 record. Those struggles have largely coming on the offensive end, as they’re 30th in the league in offensive rating while maintaining a 50% eFG%, a percentage that is only exceeded by four other teams.
With a team that’s struggling at that level, it was tough to think of a player that they can use the “NBA vet selection” rule on that could potentially give them some sort of help down the road. However, after looking at their depth chart, they do have a lack of depth in the front-court through only having four players (Siakam, Len, Boucher, and Baynes). That weakness in addition to their below-average work on the offensive and defensive glass pushed me to pick one man: Kyle O’Quinn.
Since turning pro in 2012, he has established himself as a solid 6’9, 250 pound big that you can rely on to work his tail off on the offensive and defensive glass, setting screens, scoring around the rim, and can dish it off to players whether he’s working around the perimeter or in the low-post. Although none of those are particularly exciting skills to the average fan, it could help a team that’s really struggling. That thought is why it would be a good idea for the team to pick O’Quinn to go to their G League affiliate to learn the system before potentially playing with Toronto.
Westchester Knicks (New York Knicks): Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Despite entering the season projected to be high up in the lottery, it was tough to pick a position that the Knicks don’t have depth at. While their core isn’t as deep with great talent like the LA Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, or LA Lakers, the way that they constructed their roster makes sense and have a starter, backup, and even third man that can play each position. Despite the difficulty of that predicament, it didn’t take long to land on a young veteran that team could kick the tires on: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
For a team like the Knicks that are still trying to find their identity and players that they can keep in the rotation over the course of this rebuilding process, it’s always good to take a chance on younger players entering their prime that have showed themselves to be solid in one facet of the game. Hollis-Jefferson is a player which fits that criteria due to the fact that he just turned 26 on January 3rd.
While his struggles from beyond the arc has limited his development on the offensive end, the veteran forward has established himself as an elite defender that brings constant effort whenever he was on the court. Even if he’s limited to playing 15-20 minutes per game, him being able to hassle an opposing team’s top or 2nd scoring option could help the young team, especially considering Obi Toppin’s struggles on that end of the floor.
Although like the rest of the teams here, the Knicks do have a complete roster, it would still be a good idea for the team to use the “NBA veteran selection” spot on Hollis-Jefferson to have him learn the Tom Thibodeau’s system in the G League bubble and then be prepared when the Knicks are ready to make a roster move.