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11. New York Knicks
Practical Cap Space: $72.9 million
That, folks, is a lot of cap space. It might even be enough to sign Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, for example. And although it might not matter much to more present-focused free agents, the Knicks also have this year’s No. 3 pick and first-rounders coming from the Dallas Mavericks in 2021 and 2023. That’s about as clean as rebuilding slates get.
Of course, ownership remains a constant. James Dolan’s tenure has been a tragicomic production marked by unfulfilled ambitions and unrealistic goals. There’d be something special about returning the Knicks to glory, and that should appeal to free agents possessed with irrational confidence. But it will take sustained success until we can truly believe in New York as a desired landing spot.
The cap space, market and flexibility still give the Knicks appeal, though.
10. Sacramento Kings
Practical Cap Space: $37.2 million
Who wouldn’t want to run with De’Aaron Fox?
The Kings have the makings of an exciting core with a defined uptempo identity. Free agents with an eye toward inflated stats should be swayed by that. Less superficially, though, Sacramento appears to be a team on the rise. It won 39 games last year, its highest total since 2005-06, and the drivers of that success are all ridiculously young.
Fox and Harry Giles III are 21, and Marvin Bagley III will play most of next year as a 20-year-old. Buddy Hield emerged as an ace high-volume sniper in 2018-19, and he’s the old man in the core at 26.
Throw in a sparkling arena, a fanbase that’s dying to embrace a winner and a thrilling style of play, and you’ve got a lot to like in Sacramento.
9. Atlanta Hawks
Practical Cap Space: $49 million
Atlanta is in the early phases of a rebuild around Trae Young, Kevin Huerter and John Collins. Though they were unlucky to exit the lottery with the eighth and 10th picks, the Hawks are still asset-rich and patient enough to get the most out of what they’ve got.
Head coach Lloyd Pierce’s reputation is growing, general manager Travis Schlenk has that Warriors pedigree, and Young’s star is on the rise. There might be more pure talent in Sacramento, but the Hawks have what feels like more stable infrastructure. Playing in the East, where postseason trips are easier to come by, doesn’t hurt either. The Hawks finished 2018-19 with 10 fewer wins than the Kings, but they were only three games further removed from a playoff spot. That’s a lot of extra room for error.
Free agents should see Atlanta as an excellent buy-low opportunity—the kind of place where they could integrate themselves into something built to last.
8. Indiana Pacers
Practical Cap Space: $48.8 million
We’ve finally hit our first playoff team in this section of the rankings, and the Pacers’ well-established hatred for tanking means any free agent who signs here can count on playing competitive ball.
That matters—partly because winning tends to attract attention (and potentially bigger salaries down the line)—but also because success is a lot more fun than failure in a competitive work landscape. Quality of life in Indiana is generally great for players who care about wins.
Note, too, that Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner make up a terrific one-two punch…which has not proved it can produce elite offense. A score-first free agent could thrive here, and it’s also important to note that role players have every chance to expand their games with the Pacers. Oladipo may be the best example, but what we saw from Bojan Bogdanovic and Domantas Sabonis last season proved there’s ample opportunity for support pieces to take on major roles if they have the game to do it.
There’s nothing glitzy about Indianapolis, and the Pacers have long struggled to attract top-line talent in free agency. I guess this is an argument that Indiana should be more desirable than it’s been.
7. San Antonio Spurs
Practical Cap Space: $9 million
If the last 22 years are any indication, you’ll be in the playoffs if you sign with the Spurs. Of course, on the flip side, what if you joined San Antonio in free agency and had to live down being a part of the first Spurs team to miss the postseason since 1997?
That’d be a tough footnote to expunge from your legacy.
Still, San Antonio is a model of stability under head coach Gregg Popovich. This franchise has a rich history of salvaging (Rudy Gay), prolonging (LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan) and developing (Derrick White, Bryn Forbes, Dejounte Murray) careers. Sign here, and you’re basically assured of maximizing your impact on winning—as long as you’ve gotten over yourself.
The Spurs abhor flash but they never stop winning, and their culture is second to none.
6. Utah Jazz
Practical Cap Space: $16.8 million
Unlike the Spurs, Utah feels like it’s only a piece or two away from becoming a true contender. And because the Jazz share many of San Antonio’s laudable qualities—a respected coach (Quin Snyder), an emphasis on staying competitive, and a team-first approach—that distinction earns the Jazz a higher spot.
If you’re a free agent and can choose between San Antonio and Utah, you’re going with the latter if a realistic title pursuit is among your priorities.
Donovan Mitchell needs a secondary creator to juice Utah’s offense, and it doesn’t really matter what position that help occupies. Everything’s malleable on the Jazz’s roster outside of Mitchell and Rudy Gobert in the middle. Gobert, by the way, is the perfect mistake-eraser for free agents who might not have the best reputations on D.
Ultimately, the Jazz feel more like a team that’s aiming for greatness, while the Spurs have perfected “pretty good.” Ambitious free agents might prefer the former.