NBA Free Agents 2011: 8 Potential Bargain Signings on the Market
The presents are open, the Christmas tree stripped bare and the NBA season is at long last in full swing—and yet these eight free agents with rotation potential remain team-less.
With the schedule already five games deep, the following veterans have lost what little negotiating leverage they had. It’s desperation time for them and their agents, and bargain-hunting time for enterprising NBA general managers looking to fill out their rosters and add bench depth.
At 36, Erick Dampier doesn’t offer much beyond the hulking mass of his space-eating frame. But in an NBA short on bigs, any object standing 6’11” and 265 pounds has a place.
Just ask the Boston Celtics, who have stumbled to a 2-3 start in part because they’ve leaned on 16-year veteran Jermaine O’Neal for starter minutes.
Absent Shaquille O’Neal, the Celtics could use another warm body in the low post. Though at this point Dampier hardly qualifies, his 7.8 rebounds per 36 minutes last season should find a home somewhere in 2012.
Though it feels like a lifetime ago, it was just two seasons prior that All-Star Gilbert Arenas averaged 22.6 points per game in 32 contests for the Washington Wizards.
Since then Arenas has been traded, relegated to the bench, seen his shooting percentage plummet and endured the professional emasculation of an amnesty clause.
Adding further insult, the score-first guard remains unsigned. That’s surely related to his failing knees and falling production, but it’s also in part due to his volatile personality.
If a GM chooses to overlook his checkered past, Arenas still has the scoring savvy to help a contender. Consider a team like the Lakers that could use Arenas to spell Kobe Bryant or boost an aging point guard rotation.
Just as the New York Knicks took a flier on Baron Davis, it seems only a matter of time until someone holds their breath and signs Agent Zero in hopes that he rediscovers his shooting stroke.
Though he was unquestionably their weakest link, Keith Bogans still started for the Eastern Conference regular-season champions last year.
As in last June. As in six months ago.
Bogans lacked the offensive versatility the Chicago Bulls needed alongside Derrick Rose in the backcourt, but he’s still a plus defender with enough range to knock down the open three.
Expect the Kentucky product to latch on somewhere soon. Top perimeter defenders don’t spend long on the couch.
Following his release from the Miami Heat, former Celtic guard Eddie House has yet to entice another contender.
It’s possible the bench spark plug could return to Boston, where a lingering injury to Mickael Pietrus leaves the C’s without much scoring depth.
Though House lost minutes to Mike Bibby in Miami toward the end of last year, he was right around career levels in per 36 scoring average, three-point shooting percentage and free-throw percentage.
Add all that to his considerable playoff experience, and the 33-year-old House still has plenty to offer a top-tier team.
Though Jamario Moon never developed the all-around game to match his athletic potential, it’s still a mild surprise that the 31-year-old high-flier hasn’t found a new home.
Moon’s a decent defender with passable rebounding skills and the sort of in-between frame that allows him to guard inside and out.
It’s nothing to go gaga over, but Moon ought to land somewhere before season’s end. The Charlotte Bobcats already showed interest, and others in need of bench scoring should sniff around the five-year veteran.
The bullets on James Posey’s resume are the two championships he won as a member of the 2005-06 Miami Heat and 2007-08 Boston Celtics.
That alone won’t earn the 35-year-old a contract, but it should help.
On the court Posey was a capable scorer and rebounder for the Indiana Pacers last season, averaging almost five points and three rebounds a game in limited minutes.
But it’s Posey’s defense that, while less imposing than it was during his Miami days, remains his greatest asset.
The defense-hungry Knicks expressed interest in him earlier this offseason, and wherever Posey lands expect his main contributions to come on the defensive end.
He won’t be of much use to a developing team or a fringe contender, but the NBA’s elite will take a strong interest in a player with championship pedigree and experience as a role player in big moments.
Another former Celtic on the skids, Nate Robinson believe it’s his reputation as a prankster repelling NBA general managers this offseason.
Robinson has even gone on record to address his reputation—particularly the allegations of impishness levied by former teammate Shaquille O’Neal in the latter’s new tell-all book—in order to convince front office brass that he’s more dedicated to the game than his antics suggest.
Personality concerns aside, the three-time Slam Dunk Contest champion is just 26 years old and carried a solid 14.3-per-36 scoring average during a 2011 campaign split between Boston and Oklahoma City.
That’s down from his career standards, but still rare production for a bench player. Few non-starters have Robinson’s galvanizing offensive ability, and among those who do, none are as imminently available.
The warm-body theory expressed in the Erick Dampier slide applies just as well to former Washington Wizard and Atlanta Hawk Etan Thomas.
At 6’9” the Syracuse grad is an experienced low-post banger with five- to 15-minute-per-game potential.
Thomas has always been a plus defensive rebounder and efficient bench scorer. Even as his minutes declined in Atlanta, his per-36-minute averages stayed in the double-double range.
Much of the same could be said for other bigs lingering on the free-agent market, including Joel Pryzbilla, Alexis Anjica, Kyrylo Fesenko, Franisco Elson, Melvin Ely and Joe Smith.
The bodies are out there, and they won’t cost much.