NBA Free Agency 2012: 10 Best Under-the-Radar Free Agents

Ben Shapiro@benshapironyc1 Analyst IIIMarch 26, 2012

NBA Free Agency 2012: 10 Best Under-the-Radar Free Agents

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    Deron Williams, Steve Nash and Tim Duncan. 

    You've probably heard of these three men. Two are absolute locks to make the Basketball Hall of Fame. The other is rapidly approaching that level. 

    All three will be free agents this summer. No, they won't create the same type of buzz that LeBron James did two summers ago, but their eventual signings will most assuredly lead headlines and shake up the balance of power in the league. 

    It happens in every major sport, a crop of free agents are available, the biggest names sign with all the accompanying hype while other players with less star power latch onto teams in an innocuous manner—no headlines, no revamped power rankings and certainly no half-hour television specials. 

    Yet, a few months later as the actual games are being played, hoops fans begin to notice that "other" guy who signed last season has made a difference. 

    Less than a month after lottery pick Ricky Rubio was lost for the remainder of the season, his replacement Jose Juan Barea is able to step in and produce a triple-double. That's not bad for a player making under $5 million a year. 

    We already know that Nash, Duncan and Williams will all get their share of attention this summer.

    Which free agents won't get the hype but will still produce results in the 2012-2013 season and beyond? 

Point Guard: Goran Dragic

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    Current Team: Houston Rockets

    Free-Agent Status: Unrestricted 

    Goran Dragic was having a decent season playing backup point guard behind Kyle Lowry for the Houston Rockets. 

    Lowry was in the midst of a fantastic season. The former Villanova star was averaging almost 16 points per game and 7.2 assists per game. Then, Lowry was lost to a bacterial infection that has him sidelined for an undisclosed amount of time. 

    In Lowry's absence, Dragic hasn't just "filled-in," he's shined. 

    Dragic has now started 11 games for the Rockets and has put up numbers superior to Lowry's—16.6 points per game, 9.5 assists and only 3.1 turnovers per game as a starter. Those numbers are better than Lowry's, and Dragic is only 25 years old. 

    That combination of youth and performance will make Dragic one of the more hotly contested free-agent point guards this summer not named "Nash" or "Williams."

Shooting Guard: Gerald Green

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    Current Team: New Jersey Nets

    Free-Agent Status: Unrestricted 

    Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin isn't the only former D-League player to make his mark this season. 

    Former 2005 first-round pick Gerald Green was plucked off the roster of the Los Angeles D-Fenders on February 27th. Since then, he's averaging 10.6 points per game and 3.1 rebounds per game while shooting an encouraging 49.2 percent from the field. 

    Green has been coming off the bench, and those numbers show efficient production given his 22.0 minutes a night. 

    Factor in his ability to produce crowd-pleasing dunks, and it seems unlikely that Green will be heading back to the D-League any time soon. 

Point Guard: Raymond Felton

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    Current Team: Portland Trailblazers

    Free-Agent Status: Unrestricted 

    It's been a disastrous season for the Portland Trail Blazers. They've fired their coach, jettisoned Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby in deadline deals and are probably going to finish below .500 and out of the playoff picture.

    It's been a disastrous season for Raymond Felton as well. The former No. 5 overall pick in the 2005 NBA draft was coming off a career-best season in 2010-2011. He had started the season with the New York Knicks, and playing in Mike D'Antoni's system, Felton had flourished. He averaged career bests in points per game (17.0) and assists per game (9.0).

    A midseason trade to Denver and the subsequent loss of minutes to new teammate and fellow North Carolina alum Ty Lawson cost Felton minutes and production, but he was still seen as a solid acquisition this past summer when Portland signed him to a one-year deal.

    In retrospect, it was anything but, as Felton has averaged at or near career-lows in points, assists and field goal percentage.

    Felton seems almost certain to move on from Portland this summer. He's not as bad a player as he's shown this season, but he's probably not quite as good as he looked under Mike D'Antoni last season.

    Felton won't be a star at the point, but if he's got some talent around him and is playing in the right system, he's proven to be a solid point guard, and after this season, he could be a value as well.  

Power Forward: Earl Clark

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    Current Team: Orlando Magic

    Free-Agent Status: Unrestricted (player option)

    To the surprise of no one, there aren't too many minutes available for a big power forward who plays under the basket on the Orlando Magic.

    That's because there's this "Dwight Howard" guy who seems to eat up both space and minutes. That's also why the current starting power forward Ryan Anderson is known for his outside shooting not his low-post prowess.

    Earl Clark was the No. 14 pick overall in the 2009 draft out of Louisville. It was at Louisville where Clark was able to operate under the basket, and he averaged 14.2 points per game and 8.7 rebounds per game in his final season playing for Rick Pitino.

    Clark was originally drafted by the Phoenix Suns but was dealt to Orlando as part of the trade that also sent Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson to Orlando. Clark could pick up his option year in Orlando. That seems unlikely now that Dwight Howard will be in town through the end of this season and potentially for much longer.

    Clark is only 24 years old, and he's averaged a paltry 9.2 minutes per game over his four year career. At 6'10", 225 pounds, he's a big athletic player who hasn't been given enough of a look to be declared a "bust." If he steps into a situation where he can get about 20 minutes a game, he could make an impact.   

Point Guard: Lou Williams

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    Current Team: Philadelphia 76ers

    Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent (early termination option)

    If Lou Williams does decide to opt-out of his current deal and enter the free-agent market, he won't be considered "under the radar" in Philadelphia. 

    That's because Williams has been one of the key components of what has been a better than expected season for the Sixers. 

    Williams is one of the better off-the-bench players in the league. He routinely provides instant offense for the Sixers. Williams is a bit of a tweener. He's got the game of a shooting guard but the size and ball handling of a point guard. 

    His performance this season will make him a very attractive option for teams seeking to bolster their bench. At only 25, the potential exists that Williams could be handed a starting point guard position on a team willing to take that type of risk. 

    Williams won't come cheap, but as a bench player, he won't dominate headlines either. 

Point Guard: Mo Williams

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    Current Team: Los Angeles Clippers 

    Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent (player option)

    As it turns out, Lou Williams isn't the only point guard who comes off the bench to provide instant offense on a playoff contending team. In fact, he's not even the only guy named "Williams" who does it. 

    That's because, roughly 3,000 miles away, Mo Williams, who at one time was starting point guard for both the Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers, is now a backup point guard/sixth man for the Los Angeles Clippers. 

    He's taken to the role quite well and has been an indispensable part of the Clippers resurgence this season. Williams is averaging over 13 points and three assists per game and plays less than 30 minutes a night as well. 

    Unlike Lou, Mo has plenty of starting point guard experience and may land a starting position on a different team with relative ease. 

    There is some question as to whether or not Williams will opt for free agency though. He stands to make $8.5 million if he picks up the final year on his existing contract with the Clippers. On an open market that stands to be crowded with point guards, Williams might not get the same sort of annual payout by heading to free agency. 

    Should Williams hit the market, he's not going to cause too much of a stir. That might change once his new team and their fans see him in action though. 

Point Guard: Jerryd Bayless

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    Current Team: Toronto Raptors

    Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

    If it seems as if there is a glut of talented backup point guards all headed toward free agency this summer, that's because there are. 

    Add Jerryd Bayless to the list. 

    Bayless who has never been a regular starting point guard before would love the chance. In Toronto as Jose Calderon's backup, he's gotten some chances to showcase his abilities, and he's responded. He's averaged over 17 points and five assists per game in the 11 games he's started this season. 

    Bayless is still young and still has enough potential if placed in the right circumstance. 

    Regardless, the fact that he's really been a backup for most of his career coupled with him playing in the basketball wasteland that is Toronto for most of the last two seasons means his siding will not be considered "major."

Small Forward: C.J. Miles

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    Current Team: Utah Jazz

    Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

    Had C.J. Miles spent the past seven seasons playing on a perennial playoff team from a major market, his impending free agency might well elicit some notice. 

    Instead, Miles who is a solid backup will barely cause more than a ripple among most media and fans when he eventually does sign with a new team. 

    Miles doesn't score or shoot the ball well enough to be considered a major acquisition, but his solid defense and adequate all-around game could end up making some team and their fans quite happy.  

Small Forward: Steve Novak

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    Current Team: New York Knicks

    Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

    Steve Novak would have existed far more "under the radar" a few months ago. 

    That was before he played a key role in the Knicks' resurgence along with Jeremy Lin. People know who Novak is now. 

    Novak is a small forward who is actually not that small. He's 6'10". Ironically, he plays as if he's about 6'3". He spends most of his time patrolling the perimeter searching for an open spot and a clear look at the basket. 

    That's when he can utilize his three-point shooting ability. It's his range from long distance that will make Novak a valuable commodity this summer. 

Small Forward: Carlos Delfino

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    Current Team: Milwaukee Bucks

    Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent 

    Carlos Delfino is another versatile small forward whose major weakness is a lack of scoring ability. He can provide a team with solid defense and rebounding though. Delfino has spent a fair amount of time starting in Milwaukee the past few seasons with mixed results.

    He can't seem to shoot well enough to create a buzz around the league. When he eventually chooses his team, that lack of scoring might be overshadowed by his other abilities.

    On a team with other prominent scorers, Delfino could be a nice part to add to the mix. He won't demand the ball or complain about the amount of shots he's taking.

    The signing also won't elicit too much attention, but that could change when the defense and rebounding are eventually noticed by those in his new market.