Top 5 Underrated Free Agents
The lockout is ongoing. We know that much, but we also are starting to get the feeling things could wrap up closer to sooner than later, and if that’s the case we’re not too far off from finally getting to enjoy a little player movement via free agency.
In preparation for that, HOOPSWORLD recently put together a poll in which the top 30 free agents were ranked by our own staff, as well as editors from HoopsHype, NBA trainers, and development coaches.
These are, of course, completely subjective rankings, but they do show a good representation of how smart basketball people feel about this free agency class. That said, there are a few guys on the list who are, in the eyes of some, a little underrated.
So that’s our top five this week—which players on the HOOPSWORLD free agency rankings are ranked most unfairly? Let’s have a look, starting with…
#5 – Shane Battier (15) – From a talent standpoint, Battier obviously isn’t the player he once was. He averaged only 7.6 ppg last season (the second-lowest points-per-game total of his career), and an even less impressive 5 ppg in his 23 games with the Grizzlies after the trade deadline. However, Battier does deserve a healthy portion of credit for Memphis’s postseason run last year, if only for the leadership and intangibles he brings to a club. He’s not going to sign for a ton of money, and he may not be someone who blows away his new team with ridiculous stats, but he’s a winner and an excellent locker room presence. That makes him more valuable than certain players above him, particularly the younger, less proven ones.
#4 – Arron Afflalo (19) – Afflalo has raised his scoring average in each of his four seasons in the league, culminating in 12.6 ppg last season as a starter in Denver. He also shot a career-high 49.8% from the field and over 42% from 3PT. With so many Denver free agents gone for the year to China (including Wilson Chandler, rated 11 spots higher on this list than Afflalo), it’s not likely that the Nuggets just let their burgeoning shooting guard walk away for nothing like the rest of them. That said, this restricted free agent should be a hot commodity, and he’ll almost certainly be worth more money than he ends up getting.
#3 – Tayshaun Prince (13) – Just because the Pistons have been bad and Prince himself missed almost half of the 2009-2010 season, doesn’t mean the man is all washed up. Despite everything, Prince is still putting up the same kind of numbers he always has. He played 78 games last year, scoring 14.1 ppg and hauling in 4.2 rpg. He’s still a strong presence defensively, and a change of scenery could be exactly what the doctor ordered to rejuvenate his career. Both Aaron Brooks and Jeff Green are rated above Prince, despite the fact that neither has every really lived up to their potential. Prince is the sure thing, and he’s still got plenty of gas in the tank, as we’ll all find out as soon as he’s given his next opportunity.
#2 – Kris Humphries (20) – Humphries finished fifth in the league last year in rebounds per game, and he’s 20th on this list? I can see how his eight-hour reality TV wedding could siphon away some of his credibility as a tough, professional athlete, but this guy had a career year last season. He averaged double digits in boards (10.4) and points (10.0) for the first time in professional life, meaning he’s on the way up while some of the guys rated ahead of him (Sam Dalembert, Andrei Kirilenko, Shane Battier, Caron Butler) appear to be on the way down.
#1 – Marcus Thornton (23) – After getting traded to Sacramento at the deadline, Thornton exploded into the offensive firebomb some scouts knew he’d be when they projected him to get drafted in the first round back in 2009. He wasn’t drafted in the first round, however, and now that he’s coming off 23 games with the Kings in which he averaged 21.3 ppg, the fact that he was a second-round pick opens him up to payday he probably wouldn’t have been privy to as a first-rounder. The kid can straight up shoot the rock, and when he’s hot he’s as hard to shut down as anybody in the league. He’s young, and only just trying to find himself in the league. He’s the 23rd-best free agent in this class? He certainly has to be considered money better spent than, say, Andrei Kirilenko or Sam Dalembert, right?
Carl Landry (10) – While plenty of players would love to be rated the tenth-best free agent in a given class, this seems just a little low for Landry, who stepped into the starting power forward spot for New Orleans when David West (#3 on this list) went down with his knee injury. He’s a highly underrated banger capable of scoring the bell quite well. He’s about 70-80% the player West is and will probably end up making about 40-50% as much money as him. I’d bump him up above Young and Chandler on this list. He seems like a better bang for the buck than either of those two.
The poll used as the basis for this Top 5 is obviously a collection of opinions, which is why it’s so interesting that fifteen collective opinions could have areas that are so glaringly incorrect. This, hopefully, corrects some of those problems, while also giving props to the underrated free agents that could end up proving their doubters wrong.