NBA Free Agency Primer: The Combo Forwards

The combo forward may be the most coveted player in the modern NBA. Spacing and shooting have become more valuable than ever and teams want players with the kind of versatility necessary to create successful small-ball lineups. 

The Combo Forwards

  1. Marvin Williams
  2. Chandler Parsons
  3. Ryan Anderson
  4. Luol Deng
  5. Jared Dudley

This is a fascinating list. None of these players are particularly young, but all can really shoot it and bring the potential dynamism that can really help a team.

Marvin Williams is probably the best player on this list and has had by far the most interesting career. The Hawks passed on both Chris Paul and Deron Williams to draft him after his lone season at North Carolina and he famously never fit into a role. He dramatically changed the narrative last season, exploding as a dynamic small-ball four who shot 40 percent from deep. After years of floundering in the league, Williams has become the ideal player for the modern NBA.

If he chooses, Williams will get PAID this offseason. Don’t be surprised if a would-be contender offers him $20 million a season, hoping Williams can push them to 55 wins. He may take a bit less for that coveted three-year deal, but either way Williams will be the highest-paid non-star in this year’s free agent class.

Parsons may try to beat Williams, he’s reportedly seeking a max contract, but paying him $20 million may be a tougher pill to swallow. Granted, he’s younger than Williams, but he’s had multiple knee problems and has an unfavorable injury history. He’s also never shown the same defensive abilities as Williams.

Dallas undoubtedly wants him back, but may balk at paying him a max. Will another team step up to the plate with the money Parsons wants?

Anderson is another interesting case. He might be the best shooter of this group, but he is by far the worst defender. He is a more traditional stretch four and lacks the athleticism to be a true combo forward. He also doesn’t protect the rim well enough to slide up a position and play center. He needs to play the lion’s share of his minutes next to a big man who can cover for mistakes, or the defense will collapse.

Still, the spacing he provides is wildly valuable. He hit threes and be very dangerous from midrange in a pick-and-pop game. Washington, now that they’ve missed out on Durant, is an intriguing team for him, as is Houston. The biggest question will be how long he is willing to sign for. Teams will be very shy to offer him a longer deal, fearing he will decline as the salary cap flattens out.

Deng and Dudley are the grizzled veterans of this quintet. Deng is probably more valuable thanks to length and toughness on defense, but Dudley can provide somewhat similar production and will likely be cheaper. The usual suspects- Dallas, Washington, Houston, Miami- will probably all be involved, but watch out for Minnesota and Utah. Both could use more shooting and Deng reuniting with Tom Thibodeau feels right. Utah could use another veteran presence for a much-desired playoff run and Dudley would look great spotting up around Gordon Hayward-Rudy Gobert pick-and-rolls.

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