NBA Free Agency 2012: Most Dynamic Playmakers Still on the Market
The NBA free-agency pool is running thin.
All of the superstars have been scooped up with the likes of Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Ray Allen all finding teams. With that being so, the organizations who haven't made any significant moves will have to be on the lookout for players who can create any sort of impact or simply role players to build support around a core.
The latter would be the better idea. Dwight Howard doesn't appear ready to get traded anywhere at the moment, so that means GMs will have to go back to looking for free agents to sign. Unfortunately for them, they're left with some above-average role players as their top choices.
However, they could also find a few playmakers still left on the market. There are quite a few players who can make their impact felt as scorers, passers or possibly even both if you look hard enough. The demand for these players has been surprisingly thin, which means they should come cheap.
We take a look at who's available and find five playmakers who could make a lasting impact on whichever team they sign with.
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I had a little trouble with my decision to place Shannon Brown on this list of playmakers.
For one, Brown doesn't create plays for anyone but himself. In his first-ever significant role, playing 24 minutes per night with the Phoenix Suns, Brown averaged a mere 1.8 assists compared to 15.4 shot attempts per 36 minutes. For a shooting guard who started in 19 games, that's as atrocious as it gets. It essentially means he's doing nothing but shooting.
However, Brown could still be considered a playmaker because he does create plays for himself and teammates on occasion.
In case you haven't heard, Brown is one of the league's most athletic players. He can jump with the best of them at 6'4", which explains why it was quite the delight seeing him play with Steve Nash for one season. Brown works well at going up and getting it, as well as shooting from the perimeter.
Shannon vastly improved his perimeter shooting last year. Attempting a career-high 3.2 three-point attempts per game, he converted on 1.2, good enough for 36 percent. Those are solid numbers from someone who has been increasing his three-point shooting percentage over the past three seasons.
Brown may not be as aggressive as teams want him to be, but he is developing a consistent outside shot, which should bode well for teams on the lookout for players who can help stretch the floor and handle the ball.
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Despite frenetically attempting to trade him over the past two seasons, the Memphis Grizzlies have had no luck moving O.J. Mayo.
Two seasons ago, a deal with the Indiana Pacers fell through in the final moments. Last year, the Grizzlies nearly had a deal lined up with the Boston Celtics to receive Ray Allen. That deal obviously fell through, and Mayo finally finds himself a free agent after four seasons with Memphis.
Mayo, a former No. 3 pick, started out his career as one of the league's top rookies, averaging 18.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per in a full 82 games as the Grizzlies' starting shooting guard. His production the next year didn't exceed many expectations, as his scoring dropped to 17.5 PPG and he showed little overall improvement.
As a result, Mayo was sent to the bench in his third season in favor of defensive specialist Tony Allen. O.J. would struggle to average 11.3 points on 41 percent shooting in his first season as a sixth man but would recover to post 12.6 points on 41 percent the next.
Mayo is an unrestricted free agent, and the Grizzlies haven't shown many signs that they plan on re-signing him. He is being looked at by a few teams, including Phoenix, Boston and Indiana.
O.J. is a high-volume scorer when he's running the show. He has an excellent perimeter game—shooting 38 percent from beyond the arc for his career—and can get to the rim when playing aggressively. Mayo thrives in isolation sets, although it would be pleasing to see him interact more with his teammates.
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Are you starting to remember who the guy in the picture is?
In case you forgot, it's former Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns point guard Aaron Brooks.
After five NBA seasons, Brooks decided to play for the Guangdong Southern Tigers during the lockout. In his one season overseas, Brooks would start in an All-Star game, compete in the three-point shootout and lead his team to the CBA Finals before losing to Stephon Marbury's team.
Prior to playing in China, Brooks was attempting to adjust to playing with the Suns, where he was traded after three-and-a-half years with Houston. The move came despite Brooks averaging a career-high 19.6 points and 5.3 assists per game the year before. He struggled tremendously to start the season, however, and it led to him being sent to Phoenix, where he would back up Steve Nash.
The move was made to allow Kyle Lowry to take over starting duties.
Brooks averaged 10.7 points—on 38 percent shooting from the field and 30 percent from deep—and 3.9 assists per game in 2010-11.
Brooks is now looking to make a comeback in the NBA. At only 27 years old and barely three seasons removed from breaking out and having the best season of his short career, Brooks is worth a shot by any team looking to sign a quick guard who could make his influence felt from inside and out.
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Once the New York Knicks traded Raymond Felton in the deal that brought in Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire could never be the same.
Instead of Felton constantly running successful pick-and-rolls with Stoudemire, the Knicks offense has been relegated to little more than isolation plays and the occasional pick-and-roll whenever Jeremy Lin is in the game. Even then, the Knicks still have trouble getting Anthony involved in an offense when he's not the primary ball-handler.
It's been tough for the Knicks, because Felton is actually one of the league's more underrated point guards. Although he recently had an off season with the Portland Trail Blazers, Felton had shown success with the Knicks and Charlotte Bobcats, averaging as many as nine assists per game with the Knicks before the trade.
Felton is your average traditional point guard; he can create plays as a passer and make shots from the perimeter. He's a solid player who does a solid job attempting to limit his turnovers and will usually make the smart play for his team. Any team with a big man who knows how to run the pick-and-roll would thrive playing with Felton.
He averaged 11.4 points—41 percent shooting from the field and 31 percent from deep—to go along with 6.5 assists per game in Portland in 2011-12. As I said, it was a tough season for Felton, who had to deal with a number of adjustments in the Trail Blazers franchise, which included the firing of head coach Nate McMillan and a trade of Gerald Wallace.
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Before finding himself in mediocrity with the New Jersey Nets and Houston Rockets, Courtney Lee was actually playing a vital role for an Orlando Magic team with championship aspirations.
Lee played a big role in the Magic's title run. As a rookie, Lee came in and exceeded expectations, averaging 8.4 points and shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc, and he continued to impress once the postseason began.
Showing no fear, Lee played in 21 playoff games and finished averaging eight points. Although his shooting percentages were well below what the Magic was hoping for, Lee's athleticism and scoring ability would still be worth having as a role player, off the bench or as a starter. Lee started 42 games during the aforementioned season.
However, Lee would be traded to the Nets the following year and take on a much larger role with his new team. He would start in 66 of the 71 games he played in, finishing the season with averages of 12.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists, while shooting 44 percent from the field and 34 percent from deep.
Lee has spent the past two years with the Houston Rockets as a sixth man and a starter. He most recently averaged 11.4 points per game, while converting a career high of 1.5 three-pointers per game on 40 percent shooting from deep.
Lee isn't the type of player who will make the pass, but he is a spark that could provide instant scoring. Not exactly someone you'd envision starting for your team, Lee fits in better coming off the bench and giving some needed energy to the game.