The first 5 days of this free agency window have been pretty damn action-packed. Day 1 saw the likes of LeBron James, Paul George and Chris Paul committing to max deals - LeBron's much-anticipated move to Los Angeles panned out exactly as expected, and didn't require any kind of bad fallout as came after his ill-conceptualized 'Decision' television declaration.
Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors for a one-plus-one deal that paid him $5 million less than he could've gotten on the open market. Bob Myers then hit a home run that has virtually cemented the Warriors' threepeat already, signing DeMarcus Cousins to the taxpayers' mid-level exception of $5.3 million.
While any subsequent moves might seem inconsequential as to what the rest of the league can muster in terms of challenges to the two-time defending champions, a number of sneakily good moves have been made by teams ever since.
But some players are already late to the free agency signing declaration party, and should probably already have had their short- and long-term futures confirmed by now. Nevertheless, the following 5 players represent the best value any team could get out of free agency from this point onward:
#5 Marcus Smart
There's a two-word phrase that defines Marcus Smart about as well as anything: 'Winning Plays'. If there's one thing that Marcus Smart definitely is, it's a winner. He is by far the best guard defender in the league, and probably the only one regularly tasked with guarding forwards in the league.
Other than hustle plays and the fact that he is by default the one to emerge as a winner for any loose ball, Smart is also a capable ball-handler and distributor who thrives in pick-and-roll scenarios. His only downside is that he gets too many shots off for one of the worst shooters in the league, and would do well to keep the bricks down to a minimum.
The Celtics have extended a qualifying offer to their 2014 draft pick to tie him down until next season. A young team with playoff aspirations and in need of defensive studs could very well force them to match any offer they make in the region of $10-15 million annually.
#4 Zach LaVine
Zach LaVine entered the league as an unreal athlete, and he proceeded to show just that by winning the Dunk Contest in his rookie and sophomore seasons. But what a lot of people have ignored is how good his jumper has become now.
If LaVine's final season with the Timberwolves was anything to go by, he is undoubtedly the best long-term prospect at the shooting guard position this summer. The two-time Slam Dunk contest champion was the victim of a nasty ACL injury which put him out for much of the 2016-17 season and the better part of last season.
But before that, the high-flying guard averaged 18.9 points per game while shooting 6.6 3-pointers per game in the 2016-17 season - his 3-pointer volume shot up by nearly 70%, but he was still able to maintain his efficiency at 38.7% in contrast to the 38.9% he shot in 2015-16.
It would be a risk for the likes of the Bulls or any other young, developing franchise to make him their marquee player. But a one-year test deal in the region of $15 million is a risk definitely worth taking for any team with the cap space. LaVine could be the best shooting guard in the league within 5 years in the right situation.
#3 Jabari Parker
The no. 2 overall pick from the 2014 NBA Draft is another player whose stock has severely been hit because of injury concerns. Except that he's had it twice as bad as Zach LaVine - two ACL injuries on his left knee have limited him to only 183 appearances over 4 seasons in the league. The one he suffered in early 2017 kept him out for practically an entire year of basketball.
Parker was still easing his way back to full form and fitness by the time the Milwaukee Bucks faced off against the Celtics. His stock varied from game to game, as he had a couple of microwave games with quick buckets and a couple of duds.
Parker is one of the best scorers in the league even today. He's got a well-developed mid-range jumper, though his range doesn't stretch out to the 3-point line. Although he's a defensive liability, every team needs automatic scorers like him to win games. It will be interesting to see where he lands if he thinks he's worth more than the qualifying offer he's gotten from the Bucks.
#2 Isaiah Thomas
A year ago, Isaiah Thomas was the darling of the league. A 5'10" point guard who finished 5th in MVP voting? Celtics fans would've gone to hell and back for him. I'm a Celtics fan, I can attest to that.
The 2017-18 season has not been kind to a lot of players dealing with injuries. But, perhaps even more so than Boogie Cousins, who missed out on a bumper contract and will now finish his Achilles rehab with the Warriors, it was the worst for Isaiah Thomas.
After opting not to undergo hip surgery due to an injury he suffered in the second round against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Thomas failed to find any sort of form with the same franchise during the month or so that he got to play there after getting traded for Kyrie Irving.
The Cavs ran out of patience, and ran him out of town to the Lakers. Thomas got some of his mojo back, but he was still bricking shots left, right and center. Cue, then, to this offseason, when a top-5 finisher in the MVP voting is still waiting for some progress in his free agency.
If Isaiah Thomas comes back fully fit for whichever franchise he plays for next season and puts on a show, a majority of the NBA front offices will be cursing themselves for not taking a chance on him.
#1 Clint Capela
Capela is the most successful free agent from the 2017-18 season to still not agree terms for a new contract. He averaged career-best marks in points (13.9 per game), rebounds (10.8 per game), field goal percentage (65.2%), blocks (1.9 per game) and PER (24.9).
He finished second in the voting for Most Improved Player honours. It was his dominant two-way play that powered the Rockets to a 65-17 record, as he meshed perfectly in the role of a roll man alongside Chris Paul and James Harden.
If you thought his regular season campaign was impressive, he took it up a notch in the playoffs. In rounds 1 and 2, the 6'11" center outplayed Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert over the course of 10 games. There was a period in Game 4 of the Conference Semifinals when Capela swatted out 5 shots in the last couple of minutes.
Against the Warriors as well, Capela defended Curry on switches about as well as one could expect any big man in the league to. The Rockets should do their utmost to keep him around.