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NBA PM: 5 Free Agents Who Can Contribute
Posted By Alex Kennedy On September 6, 2013 @ 5:26 pm In NBA | No Comments
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Five Free Agents Who Can Contribute
Around this time last year, Matt Barnes was training at a gym in Los Angeles and waiting for an NBA team to sign him. It was the first week of September and he was still an unrestricted free agent. At 32 years old and coming off of an injury-plagued two seasons with the Lakers, executives around the league were unsure if he was still capable of contributing to an NBA team.
While training in Los Angeles, Barnes ran into Chris Paul. The two faced off in a pick-up game and afterward, Paul and Barnes were exchanging some friendly trash talk. Paul, thinking Barnes was still under contract with the Lakers, joked about the Clippers finishing as the better team in L.A. When Barnes informed Paul that he was a free agent, the stunned point guard went back to the Clippers’ front office and encouraged them to sign Barnes. The team’s decision-makers listened, inking Barnes to a one-year deal at the veteran minimum (approximately $1.2 million) on September 14.
Barnes was worth every penny of that contract last season. He had one of the best seasons of his career with the Clippers, averaging 10.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and one steal per game off of Los Angeles’ bench. This offseason, the Clippers rewarded Barnes with a new contract, a three-year deal worth nearly $12 million.
This just goes to show that free agents who are still available in early September can go on to become key contributors for a team. Every year, there are a number of players who are signed very late in free agency who end up making an impact. Last season, Barnes wasn’t the only example of this. Andray Blatche, Chris Andersen and Kenyon Martin were among the players who were signed late into the process and then produced at a high level when given the opportunity.
Here are several free agents who could emerge as rotation players next season despite having to wait longer than expected to sign a new contract:
Richard Hamilton – The Chicago Bulls waived the 35-year-old guard in July, but it was a move that had to made for financial reasons. At this point in Hamilton’s career, he’s not worth the $5 million that he was set to be paid for the 2013-14 season if Chicago had held onto him. However, on a minimum contract, Hamilton makes a lot of sense for a team. He’s no longer a starting-caliber player, but he did just average 9.8 points and 2.4 assists in 50 games with the Bulls last season. Things never went as planned in Chicago due to injuries, but if Hamilton can stay healthy then he could still be a productive reserve. He also brings leadership and championship experience to an organization, which makes him an even more attractive option for potential suitors. Don’t be surprised if Hamilton follows in Matt Barnes’ footsteps and becomes a bench contributor who outperforms his relatively small contract.
Tyrus Thomas – To say that Thomas’ stint with the Charlotte Bobcats didn’t go very well is a massive understatement. The Bobcats lost a ton of games, Thomas wasn’t very effective and the marriage ended this offseason when the team amnestied the forward. Now, the 27-year-old Thomas is trying to salvage his career. He finds himself in the same situation that Andray Blatche was in last offseason, trying to prove himself and get his act together after being amnestied. Thomas and Blatche are even the same age, born just four days apart. It’s possible that Thomas signs a veteran’s minimum deal and emerges as a contributor next season, just as Blatche did with the Brooklyn Nets last year. In the right situation, Thomas could still thrive. Keep in mind, he’s only two years removed from averaging 10.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 21 minutes off of the bench for the Bobcats. Thomas was overpaid in Charlotte, making $40 million over five years. However, Thomas is more talented than most minimum players and could be a low-risk, high-reward signing for a team.
Rodrigue Beaubois – When healthy, Beaubois has played well and seemed like an above-average back-up point guard. He’s just one year removed from averaging a career-high 8.9 points, 2.9 assists and 1.1 steals with the Dallas Mavericks. However, staying healthy has been his biggest problem. Injuries have really limited him in recent years. He has had two surgeries on his left foot, one surgery on his left hand and a number of minor injuries as well. However, Beaubois is only 25 years old so he should still have plenty of basketball left in him. If he can stay healthy going forward, he could still have a very successful career. Because of his age and upside, he’s probably the most surprising free agent remaining on the market. He could be a surprise contributor next season if his health issues are behind him. On a veteran’s minimum contract or a non-guaranteed deal, he could be a steal.
Jamaal Tinsley – Last season, Tinsley proved that he’s still capable of running an NBA offense and setting up his teammates to score. The 35-year-old averaged 4.4 assists in 18.5 minutes with the Utah Jazz, making him one of the best reserve facilitators in the league. His assist ratio was 45.2 percent (second in the NBA) and his assist-to-turnover ratio was 2.74 (18th in the NBA). When Mo Williams got hurt and he was thrust into the starting lineup for 32 games, Tinsley averaged 5.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game. If he had played on a team with more offensive weapons at his disposal, his numbers likely would’ve been even better. This offseason, Tinsley hasn’t been signed because teams are opting for younger point guards, but he could still be an effective role player if given the opportunity.
Sebastian Telfair – Telfair hasn’t lived up to the ridiculous hype that was surrounding him when he entered the NBA out of high school, but he has solidified himself as a solid back-up point guard in the league. He is a rotation player who has contributed off of the bench in his last several stints with teams. In his two years with the Phoenix Suns, he was good for six points and three assists per game. He was dealt to the Toronto Raptors prior to last year’s trade deadline and filled a similar reserve role for the team. Now, Telfair remains unsigned, although he has received interest from a number of teams. He’s only 28 years old and can still serve as a solid back-up point guard for a franchise. He wants to join a playoff team since he has never experienced the postseason during his nine-year NBA career.
Honorable Mention: Stephen Jackson, Delonte West, A.J. Price, DeShawn Stevenson, Terrence Williams, Corey Maggette, Mickael Pietrus, Linas Kleiza, Drew Gooden, Lou Amundson, Jason Collins
Durant Doesn’t Have Any Plans to Move, Right Now
When Kevin Durant hired new representation (Jay-Z) during last season, there was some speculation that he made the switch because he was planning to bolt to a bigger market when he could become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2016.
While Durant has experienced success – on and off the court – in Oklahoma City, it’s always tempting for a superstar player to relocate to a large market.
In a recent Q&A with fans during Nike’s Tour de Durant in France, Durant was asked point blank if he’s going to leave the Thunder. While Durant could’ve ended all speculation and rumblings by saying that he wanted to remain with OKC for the rest of his career, he did give an answer that suggests he’s happy with the Thunder (for now, anyway).
“I like where I’m at right now. I enjoy playing for OKC,” Durant said, according to DailyThunder.com. “As of today, I love it there, man. I want to be there. I love the fans, I love my team, I love everything about the city. I don’t have any plans to move.”
Hearing him say that he doesn’t have any plans to move is reassuring to Thunder fans, but “as of today” and “right now” are scary words. Similar statements were thrown around by LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard before they left the Cleveland Cavaliers, Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Pelicans and Orlando Magic, respectively.
If Durant is unhappy with some of the moves made by the Thunder (which he has every right to be, as HOOPSWORLD’s Yannis Koutroupis recently pointed out) and the team can’t return to the Finals, then this could become a situation to watch.
However, Durant is still under contract for three more seasons so there’s no reason for Thunder fans to panic. Yet.
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