When the NBA Free Agency period opened five days ago it was sure 2013 to be the summer of Dwight and CP3. Rightfully so, they are the two biggest names in this years free agent class. But this class has several unrestricted free agents who can fill a role on a team looking to make a leap from a mid playoff seed to a contender or a playoff bottom feeder to a team on the rise. I have composed a list of players no one is talking about that can do just that. My list is based on the best fit (team needs), not how it works with the cap. I’m not a capologist like ESPN’s Tom Penn, so I won’t pretend to be. I’m placing players in situations to help their careers as well as the team get over their hump. Also, some of these moves would change depending on what Dwight does.
ANDRE IGUODALA (Chicago Bulls)
UPDATE (7/5/13): ESPN and Media reports Iguodala will sign 4 year $48 million deal with the Golden State Warriors.
A.I. chose to opt out of his contact after only one great year with the Denver Nuggets. Now that there’s been a coaching change – George Karl was fired after winning a franchise record 57 games and coach of the year – who knows what style of play the Nuggets will run or how new 1st time head coach Brian Shaw will use Iggy. Even though he’s an all star and gold medal Olympian, Iguodala isn’t great at anything, but he excels at many things. He doesn’t need the ball in his hands to make a huge impact and he doesn’t seem to want the spotlight. So I would suggest him taking control of his future and moving to Chicago or San Antonio.
Chicago is near home for IGUODALA. He stared at Lanphier High in Springfield before moving on play for Lute Olson at the University of Arizona. Many will read this and say “but they have Loul Deng.” True, but rumor has it they’re trying to trade him and lately he hasn’t been very durable. Iguodala will bring you the same defensive intensity Deng provides, with more athleticism to get up and down with a fresh Derrick Rose and even some time with Nate Robinson when he comes in off the bench (more on him later).
Had Manu Ginobli not resigned with the San Antonio Spurs I would have listed them as a potential fit for Iguodala. He could’ve been the necessary addition to pry that championship window open for a few more years. Like I previously mentioned, he doesn’t want to be the focal point. A perfect fit in the scheme of the Spurs way. Tony Parker is the guy there and Kawai Leonard is the long-term future along with Danny Green. With Igoudala you add versatility and youth. He can could’ve off the bench for Danny Green or Kawai Leonard, or you could start a small quick lineup with him at the power forward position and start Tim Duncan at center. This gives you speed and quickness to run with the Oklahoma City Thunder’s, Miami Heat’s and anyone else who wants to play small ball.
Iguodala is a rare mix of long-term vet with still a significant amount of youth. He could be just the answer for a team whose main goal is to play and win in June.
JOSH SMITH (Houston Rockets)
UPDATE (7/9/13): Various media reports Smith agrees to 4 year $56 million deal with the Detroit Pistons.
Could you imagine the Houston Rockets rolling out a roster with James Harden and Jeremy Lin at the guards, Chandler Parsons and Josh Smith at the forwards and Dwight Howard at center? I would immediately put that starting five in the top four of the Western Conference. Someone in Atlanta would also lose sleep for letting Smith go team up with his childhood friend Dwight Howard in a city other than their hometown. The Rockets would have to trade more pieces to make room for Smith, likely Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin. But as I mentioned in my piece on Howard, [https://kavispeak.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/dwights-dilemma/] they would probably shop those two to make room for a run at another key free agent in 2014 anyway, so why not do it now and create a big four. Yes, Chandler Parson would help create nightmares for opposing teams making this a devastating fantastic four. As with many of these moves I’ve mentioned it all comes down to money. Can they get Smith to take less than he believes he’s worth to make it work? Basketball wise, this makes perfect sense.
ANDREW BYNUM (Miami Heat)
UPDATE (7/9/13): ESPN and various media reports Bynum offered 2 year deals from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The rich could get richer. This makes sense only for one year. Bynum didn’t play a single game last year because of knee injuries. The Heat’s weakness is a key inside presences. They were exposed during the playoffs and especially the Finals even though they won. THEY WILL NOT GET AWAY WITH IT AGAIN! Word is Bynum doesn’t want to even workout for possible suitors, so getting the big max deal he hoped for will be difficult. However, if he can go to South Beach for a season to prove he’s healthy on another title contending team, who knows what kind of money he will get in 2014-2015. With degenerate knees, it’s hard to imagine him getting the money he wants. At least in this scenario he could help win another championship to go with the two he got in Los Angeles. As far as the Heat, there is rumor they could sign Greg Oden – another big with knee issues – for the veterans’ minimum that would cost far less than Bynum.
JARRETT JACK (Indiana Pacers or stay with Golden State)
UPDATE (7/9/13): Various media reports Jack agrees to 4 year $25 million deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Jack made himself a lot of money during the 2013 NBA playoffs with his play in helping the underdog Warriors get out of the first round – no one expected them to beat the Denver Nuggets, especially after David Lee went down with a torn hip flexor – and then take the Spurs to a grueling 6 game series in the conference semi-finals. He made and took several big shots in key moments in both series and set up “The Splash Brothers” Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. The problem with Jack isn’t on the court, but off. No he’s not a troublemaker, but rumor has it he’s looking for $7 million a year. I know I said that I wasn’t going to deal with the money issues, but I have to say that is a lot for a back up point guard. He played for the pacers on 2008-09 when Current coach Frank Vogel was an assistant under Jim O’Brien. I’m not sure if they had a good or bad relationship, but talent trumps all.
How does he help the Pacers? He’s steady. He proved that in this past year’s playoffs. The pacers struggled with turnovers and point guard play throughout the playoffs. With D.J. Agustin an unrestricted free agent and not having the best of series in the Eastern Conference Finals, Jack would be a definite upgrade but he may be too expensive for them while trying to keep several other key free agents. But he could even dethrone George Hill as the starter. Hill didn’t do much to help his case in the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami making him expendable if your goal is to beat the defending champs and get to the Finals.
O.J. MAYO (Oklahoma City Thunder, Chicago Bulls)
UPDATE (7/9/13): Various media reports Mayo agrees to 3 year $24 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks.
If Kevin Martin leaves Oklahoma City, Mayo could be the guy to fill the void that Martin played after coming over in the James Harden trade. Unlike Martin, Mayo can create his own shot. Not like Harden, but better than Martin. That’s a dimension the Thunder needed desperately all season and especially during the playoffs after the Rockets Patrick Beverly accidentally injured Russell Westbrook in game two of their first round series. If a deal between these two gets done, it could be the steal of free agency.
The following unrestricted free agent players should stay put with their current teams for the benefit of their career and team success.
NATE ROBINSON (CHI): With the Chicago Bulls Nate became what many thought he’d always be when he came out of the University of Washington. Until this past season Nate was known as a spectacular athlete who could often times be a malcontent. Some way some now Coach Tibideau found a way to maximize Nate’s abilities on a team that could’ve easily folded. With Nate as a back up to Derrick Rose, he could be the perfect compliment in the second unit D-Rose has never had. Also, the city of broad shoulders got behind Nate and he became the unofficial symbol of what the 2012-2013 team was about. Heart, hustle and hope.
J.R. SMITH (NYK): No other coach or franchise will allow him to be who he was this year – on and off the court – and not change him. He became the sixth man of the year due to Mike Woodson’s coaching, had he not hit that slump in the playoffs, maybe they would’ve faced off in the Eastern Conference against Miami.
KEVIN MARTIN (OKC): He’s not James Harden and that’s okay. He did just what was needed off him and it showed against his old team the Rockets in the playoffs. It wasn’t his fault they lost to Memphis in the second round, blame Patrick Beverly – he caused the injury to Russell Westbrook – and Serge Ibaka for not showing up. Martin is 30 years old and may be looking for the type of contract the Thunder can’t afford. USA Today and various media outlets are reporting the Minnesota Timberwolves will off Martin a 4 year $28 million deal.
MATT BARNES (LAC), TONY ALLEN (MEM), AND CHRIS ANDERSEN (MIA): I put these three together because they bring the same thing to their respective teams; toughness, energy, defensive tenacity and professionalism. You never heard any of these guys complain about their role, they do what they do every night to the best of their ability better than anyone. They are often times the difference between a win or a loss and receive less the credit. In Andersen’s case just watch the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers series, the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder series for Allen and his whole damn career for Matt Barnes (I never understood why this guy bounces around. He’s a glue guy). UPDATE: CBS Sports and other media outlets are reporting that Allen has verbally agreed to stay with the Memphis Grizzlies and sign a 4 year $20 million extension.
DAVID WEST (IND): Has agreed to sign a 3 year $36 million deal with the Indiana Pacers. The contact won’t become official until July 10th. Smart move for both he and the franchise. He is the difference between them getting over the hump to a NBA Finals or being in the bottom half of the playoffs. However this deal may keep them from being able to keep Tyler Hansbrough, a key energy guy off the bench.