NBA Free Agents 2012: Aaron Brooks and Top Sleepers Still Available
No NBA free agent can officially sign his new deal until July 11th, but, for all intents and purposes, the summer's most important players (i.e. Deron Williams, Steve Nash, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, among others) are all off the table. The remaining few movers and shakers—Eric Gordon, Roy Hibbert, Jeremy Lin and Nicolas Batum, to name a few—are simply waiting to see how their restricted free agency proceeds.
That's not to say, though, that there isn't still plenty of value left to be plucked from the open market. Sure, teams with too much cap space on their hands will throw bags of money at the likes of O.J. Mayo, Lou Williams and even Ersan Ilyasova, hoping that opportunity and capital investment are sufficient for turning role players into stars.
Big names (and even bigger paydays) aside, the real winners and losers of free agency will be sorted out according to who does best with the so-called "sleepers" of 2012. If superstars form the foundations of playoff perennials and title contenders, then key role players like these guys constitute the crucial finishing touches.
It's easy to sleep on Aaron Brooks, if only because he hasn't played in the NBA since 2011. Brooks spent last season in China and didn't return in time to sign a new contract and play with the Phoenix Suns, who owned his Bird rights.
The Suns have since renounced Brooks' rights, thereby making him an unrestricted free agent. Brooks, the 2009-10 Most Improved Player, is more of an undersized scoring guard than a pure point guard, though he's proven himself a capable distributor and lightning-quick ball-handler when given the opportunity.
According to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle, the Houston Rockets (Brooks' original team) are interested in bringing him back, whether or not Jeremy Lin winds up in town. Brooks is no franchise cornerstone, but he's a solid starter with the speed and athleticism to hold the fort, at the very least.
Speaking of Houston and rights renounced, Courtney Lee is all but destined to play for his fourth team in five seasons. Such vagabondage may seem troublesome on the surface—why can't the guy stick with one team?—though the fact that Lee's been bandied about so frequently during his NBA career speaks more to his value and inherent talent than anything else.
The Rockets may not see that after releasing Lee into unrestricted free agency by rescinding their qualifying offer. But that hasn't deterred other teams from calling, most notably the Chicago Bulls.
According to Mike McGraw of The Arlington Heights Daily Herald, the Bulls have reached out to Lee since the Rockets cut him loose. Chicago is currently in search of a guard who can man either backcourt spot before and after Derrick Rose returns from injury, and Lee happens to fit the bill.
How the Bulls bring Lee aboard is another story.
Aside from low-balling Lee with the league's minimum salary, Chicago could offer him their $3 million exception or entertain the Rockets in sign-and-trade talks, seeing as how Houston has already sent an offer sheet of nearly $25 million to Bulls restricted free agent Omer Asik.
With Lee on board, the Bulls would presumably have the depth to weather the storm to come during Rose's recovery, though they may have to outmaneuver Lee's hometown Indiana Pacers to get him.
Chris Kaman is hardly the most exciting seven-footer you ever did see, though that shouldn't detract from the fact that he's much more than just a big lug who can walk and chew gum. The ambidextrous center has averaged 11.9 points and 8.3 rebounds over the course of his career, with an All-Star appearance along the way.
Because of all that, Kaman has found no shortage of suitors on the open market. According to ESPN's Ric Bucher, the Dallas Mavericks, the San Antonio Spurs, the Sacramento Kings, the Utah Jazz and the Pacers are all in the mix for his services.
Defense isn't Kaman's specialty, nor is sharing the ball. But for a team in need of some size and scoring up front, Kaman could be a valuable addition.
At the meeting point between size, productivity, value and ex-Kardashian is Kris Humphries.
Say what you want about his ill-fated marital fling with Kim K., but Humphries has quietly grown into one of the more reliable role-playing power forwards in the NBA in recent years. Humphries has averaged a double-double in each of his last two seasons, including career-highs in points (13.8) and rebounds (11.0) for the Nets last season.
Humphries' name has been bandied about in Dwight Howard rumors, with the Nets hoping to sign-and-trade him in a multi-team deal that brings Superman to Brooklyn, per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.
The stain of the Kardashian name may be a deterrent to some teams, though any club looking for a big-bodied, hard-nosed rebounder would be wise to give Humphries' camp a call.
Don't discount Carl Landry's value on the market, either. Landry's a stout, body-banging forward in the mold of Corliss Williamson and has been a double-figure scorer during each of the last three seasons.
Gery Woelfel of The Racine Journal Times reports that the Milwaukee Bucks have spoken with Landry, who was a prep star at nearby Vincent High School. At the age of 28, Landry still has plenty of quality basketball ahead of him, be it as a steady contributor in the starting lineup or a powerful post presence off the bench.
Even better if it's for a title contender.
Once upon a time, Antawn Jamison was one of the best scoring forwards in The Association, a two-time All-Star with a herky-jerky, unconventional game.
Even at the age of 36, Jamison puts the ball in the basket better than most at his position. His 17.2 points per game in 2011-12 were his fewest on average since 2003-04, when he was a full-time reserve with the Dallas Mavericks.
Jamison has enough juice left to be a solid starter for a below-average team, though he might be better served coming off the bench for a title contender.
Unfortunately, Jamison's talents might ultimately be wasted on the worst team in basketball, the Charlotte Bobcats. According to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, Jamison had a productive dinner with Bobcats brass on Friday and has spoken glowingly of the opportunity to play pro ball in his hometown.
To be sure, Jamison deserves plenty of credit for putting family and personal comfort ahead of chasing championships, though he's been too steady a player for too long (on too many bad teams, mind you) to not entertain an offer from a top-tier team, at the very least.
When it comes to gifted stars who've been around the block without the benefit of a ring, nobody can quite compare to Grant Hill. A seven-time All-Star and five-time All-NBA performer, Hill was once touted as the league's next big thing, another superstar talent on the wing to carry the torch that Michael Jordan lit himself.
That is, until Hill's seemingly surefire Hall-of-Fame career was practically derailed by ankle problems during his time with the Orlando Magic. He's since enjoyed something of a renaissance over the last five years with the Phoenix Suns, whose training staff is well-known for working miracles on the wounded.
Ironically enough, all those months spent on training tables rather than basketball courts might've actually helped to prolong Hill's career by cutting down on the overall wear-and-tear on his body.
According to Frank Isola of The New York Daily News, Hill will likely decide between retirement or following Steve Nash, his close friend and former teammate, to L.A. Should Hill opt to play into his 40s, he'd give the Lakers an extra dose of outside shooting, perimeter defending and veteran leadership in the locker room.
Not to mention what it'd mean to Duke, as he could become just the third former Blue Devils player—after Danny Ferry and Shane Battier—to win a title.
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