NBA Free Agency: The Best Of What’s Left
The major dominoes of free agency have already fallen. Deron Williams returned to the Brooklyn Nets, Steve Nash ended up with the Los Angeles Lakers and Jeremy Lin signed with the Houston Rockets.
Many of the second-tier free agents have also found homes. Players like O.J. Mayo, Courtney Lee and Nick Young have all changed teams this offseason. While there may not be any major stars left on the free agent market, there are still players that can help a team improve.
Gilbert Arenas: Last season Arenas proved that he could accept a bench role, despite spending most of his career as a starter. Arenas joined the Memphis Grizzlies midway through the season and provided a positive impact off the bench. His numbers might not have been eye popping – he only averaged 4.2 points on just over 40 percent shooting from the field – but Arenas is the one point guard left on the market that has the potential to provide great value for a minimum contract.
Arenas’ phone has most likely been quiet this offseason, so any team that offers him a guaranteed one-year deal would likely land him. Arenas has been mostly healthy the last two seasons and could be in for a significant bounce back year if give a chance to play. Only two years ago, Arenas averaged over 17 points and 5.6 assists. At some point, the potential upside of Arenas far outweighs any injury risk.
Derek Fisher: The point guard position may be the weakest position left in free agency. Fisher is a wily veteran who helped the Oklahoma City Thunder make it to last year’s Finals, but he also turns 38 years old in August. If Fisher is one of the best available players at a position, it’s clear that position is no longer very deep.
There’s no question Fisher can be a mentor to a young team like he did with the Thunder last season, but relying on him for anything more than 10-15 minutes a night could be a disaster. Fisher’s points per game has dropped for three consecutive season’s and last year with the Thunder he shot only 34.3 percent from the field, and it’s likely there will be another fall off in production this season.
Other Point Guards: Nate Robinson, Jonny Flynn, Jannero Pargo, Mike Bibby, Earl Boykins, Mike James
Jodie Meeks: Meeks is one of the few players on this list that has proven over his career he can be a starter. Last season for the Philadelphia 76ers, Meeks started 50 games averaging over nine points and shooting better than 37 percent from behind the three-point line. Meeks stands 6’4 and 208 pounds, making him big enough to guard most of the starting shooting guards in the NBA.
Meeks isn’t much of a creator, but any team looking for shooting could do worse than the 24-year-old, who has started a total of 114 games in his 200-game career. Any time a team can pluck a potential starting shooting guard off of free agency this late in the summer, they will be getting a good value and could end up with the steal of the offseason.
Brandon Rush: Rush put up excellent numbers last year coming off the bench for the Golden State Warriors. He averaged almost 10 points per game shooting over 50 percent from the field and better than 45 percent from behind the arc. Those are numbers every team in the NBA could use.
Rush is also a big defender standing 6’6 and weighing 210 pounds. Rush has proven he can start in the NBA, but last year he showed he might be more comfortable coming off the bench. Like Meeks, any team that is in need of a player to help spread the floor should look no further than Rush.
Other Shooting Guards: Leandro Barbosa, Sonny Weems, Michael Redd, Marquis Daniels, Willie Green, Martell Webster
Mickael Pietrus: Pietrus is the classic defensive stopper off the bench, who can also knock down the occasional three. He is also familiar with playoff basketball after being an important member of the last year’s Boston Celtics team that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals and in 2009 playing in the NBA Finals with the Orlando Magic.
Pietrus also has the ability to guard multiple positions, something that is becoming more important in today’s NBA. In last year’s playoffs, he took on league and Finals MVP LeBron James, as well as Mario Chalmers at times.
Tracy McGrady: McGrady is the opposite of Pietrus – he is all offense all the time off the bench. The former scoring champion no longer can put up 30-point games like he did in his prime, but he is still capable of taking over for stretches during games. At 6’6, McGrady also has the ability to play shooting guard and small forward, making him a potential matchup problem for opposing defenses.
Other Small Forwards: Carlos Delfino, C.J. Miles, Josh Childress, Al Thornton, Adam Morrison
Carl Landry: Landry is arguably the best free agent left on the market. He has proven to be a capable starter on playoff teams or, at the very least, a big-time producer off the bench. Landry never complains and is by all accounts an excellent teammate. Last season with the New Orleans Hornets, Landry averaged 12.5 points per game playing mostly off the bench, he also shot better than 50 percent from the field and grabbed five rebounds in only 24 minutes of action each night.
Landry isn’t a flashy player, but he comes to play every night. The rumored reason he hasn’t signed on with a team yet is he is looking for a multi-year deal and most teams have been hesitant to spend this late in free agency. Wherever Landry ends up, he will make a difference for that team both on the court and in the locker room.
Andray Blatche: Blatche is the prototype for a talented, young and troubled player in the NBA. Blatche has proven he can be a scoring machine either off the bench or as a starter. He can shoot from anywhere on the floor and has the ability to post up smaller players.
Unfortunately, Blatche was disruptive last season for the Washington Wizards. After being removed from the starting lineup, he complained to the media and became a problem in the locker room. If Blatche can harness his significant talent, he could have a major impact on any team that signs him, but if he continues to be a selfish, me-first type player, it’s possible he could find himself out of the NBA before he even reaches his prime.
Other Power Forwards: Kenyon Martin, D.J. White, Yi Jianlian, Troy Murphy, Ivan Johnson
Darko Milicic: Along with point guard, the center position is likely the weakest position left in free agency. Darko has proven he can be a capable backup playing 10-15 minutes a night, but he’s also proven he isn’t a starter in the NBA. His size and athleticism make him an intriguing option as a backup or even third-string center, but any team looking for a starter this late in free agency is going to be severely disappointed.
Greg Oden: Oden is only mentioned here because at some point he will get another chance with a team and with a little luck he will be able to stay relatively healthy. For the few games that Oden has been healthy during his career, he showed a knack for the ball on defense and an ability to finish around the basket. With so many teams looking for size, even if it’s not this offseason, at some point Oden will get another shot in the NBA.
Other Centers: Eddy Curry, Tony Battie, Dan Gadzuric, Ben Wallace, Jermaine O’Neal