Most Blatant Ring-Chasers of the NBA Offseason
To put it simply, the NBA is a championship driven league. No matter how great a player is, their legacy is never complete unless they helped raise a banner and have felt the glory of winning the last game of the season.
For proof, look no further than LeBron James. After spending years being chastised for his inability to come up big in the playoffs, James throttled his competition and silenced all critics by shouldering the load for Miami as the team won their second championship in history.
In a league where it seems every great player has a ring in their trophy case, there are always a few veterans each summer who push for a change of scenery in order to position themselves for a run to the Finals.
Whether they are still high level contributors or looking to provide a presence off the bench or even just make the rotation for a contender, "ring hunters" will always be a part of the NBA game.
Without further ado, let's take a look at some of the most obvious championship chasers of this offseason...
Rashard Lewis: Miami Heat
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After pocketing an absurd $13.7 million in buyout money from the New Orleans Hornets, Rashard Lewis had his choice of teams to play for next season, and little financial incentive. Ultimately, the former All-Star opted to join Allen, James, Bosh and Wade with the Heat, according to the Miami Herald.
Though he is not the player he was with Seattle or Orlando, Lewis, who is on a two-year, $2.8 million veteran's minimum deal, is still a capable scorer who can line up at either forward spot. He will come off the bench to provide depth behind James and Bosh, while likely playing alongside them in a smaller lineup and helping to stretch the floor.
Last season, in just 28 games for Washington, Lewis averaged 7.8 points, 3.9 boards and an assist per contest while hitting an anemic 23.9 percent of his attempted threes. Still, Lewis is a career 38.8 percent distance shooter and more than capable of hitting open shots.
At age 32, Lewis' game has visibly declined, but he is still a decent rebounder, a big body and most importantly, a capable offensive player. His shooting will draw opposing bigs out of the paint and create driving lanes for his teammates to slash to the basket. Like Allen, Lewis will live off of the shots his teammates create for him and spend little time with the ball in his hands.
Lewis provides Miami with another capable veteran off the bench, bolstering their rotation and giving them a proven player to depend on who knows what it takes to win big games.
Plenty of teams were interested in Lewis because of his size and ability to stroke it from outside, but with money not an issue and an empty trophy case in his house, Lewis decided his best option was to forego his own stats and join the Heat's much-improved bench.
Boris Diaw: San Antonio Spurs
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For the first half of the season a disinterested, out-of-shape Boris Diaw lumbered around the hardwood of the Time Warner Cable Arena and handily led the league in weight-based jokes. But after reaching a buyout agreement with Charlotte, he joined San Antonio for the stretch run of the season and showed he could still be a quality frontcourt piece.
Diaw is rejoining the Spurs on a two-year $9.2 million deal with a player option in the second year, according to ESPN. He could see time at both power forward and center and may end up starting alongside Tim Duncan due to his versatility.
Diaw averaged 6.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and an impressive 3.6 assists per game while hitting 31.3 percent of his three-point attempts. He is undersized at 6'8" but he is an extremely skilled big man who can make an impact on multiple facets of the game.
He is an excellent passer that a team can actually run their offense through due to his ability to see the court and make plays out of the post. He is not the grittiest player, but Diaw is a capable rebounder and can draw opposing big men away from the basket with his shooting ability. He can create driving lanes for his teammates, particularly slashers like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
There are plenty of teams Diaw could go to for a more featured role than he'll have in San Antonio. The Spurs have no shortage of talented forwards who deserve their share of time on the court, but the team's veteran culture and history of success is more appealing than a more lucrative deal on a team that's going nowhere.
Grant Hill: OKC Thunder, L.A. Lakers or New York Knicks
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Although Grant Hill has yet to commit to one team, Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reports that the veteran swingman is choosing between the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder. Even at 39 years old, Hill's defensive prowess and veteran leadership make him a great addition for any contender.
After seeing his prime cut short by a series of debilitating injuries, Hill was rejuvenated during his time with the Phoenix Suns, emerging as a first-rate defender and a reliable scoring option. Now, in the twilight of his career, he is looking for one final shot at a ring before he hangs up his hi-tops.
Last year, Hill averaged 10.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per contest, but only shot 26.4 percent from three-point range. He would make an excellent addition to any roster that needs wing depth. He would back up franchise forwards in New York or Oklahoma City and would likely be starting for Los Angeles, who are extremely thin at the 3 position.
At this point in his career, the only thing Hill is missing is a championship. He's been an All-Star, an All-NBA player and has appeared in a slew of playoff games, but has yet to appear in a Finals.
Wherever he goes, he'll likely be playing 20-25 minutes per game and be asked to guard the opposing team's best perimeter scorer, move without the basketball to create open looks and hit the occasional perimeter shot. He had a terrible outside shooting year in 2011-2012, but is a typically reliable perimeter option who can help to space the floor and keep a defense honest.
Hill will likely look for a one or two year deal, given his age and injury history. Needing only a ring to round out his NBA legacy, the fact that he is looking solely at contenders is a surprise to no one.
Marcus Camby: New York Knicks
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After being courted by a slew of teams looking to bring in some veteran size and interior defense, Marcus Camby has officially returned to the New York Knicks, the team he helped to a miraculous Finals run in 1999. New York was looking for some frontline depth and Camby, whose storied career is missing only a championship ring, was a major priority this offseason.
In a sign-and-trade deal that sent a package of players including Toney Douglas and Josh Harrellson to Houston, the Knicks agreed to a three-year, $9 million deal. The 38-year-old will be a vital part of the team's bench and help to cement the defensive culture the club developed under Mike Woodson.
Last season Camby averaged 4.9 points, nine rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.4 blocks per contest. He has never been a particularly strong offensive player, but Camby is still a dynamic rebounder and defender who can contest shots and protect the basket. In addition, he is also one of the league's best passing centers, capable of making plays out of the post.
New York is far from a title favorite, but with Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire they have as much talent as anyone, especially once Iman Shumpert returns from his ACL injury. The team has underachieved the past two postseasons, but if they can finally put the pieces together and grab a decent seed, they have the potential to make some serious noise.
Camby will be a leader off the bench, filling the role of Jared Jeffries, snagging boards, guarding the post and taking charges, but he is a far more versatile player than Jeffries ever was.
With the premium on size in today's NBA, Camby had his choice of destinations, but the chance to contend for a title in New York was ultimately too enticing to pass up.
Steve Nash: Los Angeles Lakers
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In a free agency class that was sparse on huge names, all eyes were on where two-time MVP and offensive wizard Steve Nash would end up. Now, as per ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin, Nash has officially joined the Lakers in a sign-and-trade that sends a pair of first-round draft picks and a pair of second-rounders to Phoenix.
The point guard was as heavily pursued as any free agent this season, with the Knicks, Toronto Raptors and the Suns all making hard pushes for Nash's services. The Lakers were a dark horse, but many fans and pundits were surprised to see him end up in Los Angeles.
The Lakers haven't had a dynamic point guard in years, getting by on the veteran prowess of Derek Fisher and Ramon Sessions last season, but Nash gives them a phenomenal passer, lethal shooter and a surefire Hall-of-Famer to throw in the backcourt with Kobe Bryant.
Playing on a Suns team with little talent outside of Marcin Gortat, Nash still put up All-Star numbers, averaging 12.5 points, three rebounds and 10.7 dimes per game while hitting a staggering 53.2 percent of his attempts from the field. He nearly led Phoenix to a playoff berth and proved that even at 38 years old he still has plenty left in the tank.
Joining L.A., Nash will have the opportunity to run the pick-and-roll with two of the league's best offensive big men in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. He will certainly spend less time with the basketball in his hands, but Nash can find ways to be effective even if it means coming off screens instead of initiating the offense.
With so many incredible accomplishments already, it is hard to begrudge Nash a chance at winning his first championship, and his presence certainly re-establishes the Lakers as contenders.
Ray Allen: Miami Heat
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Could this list end any other way? Ray Allen's decision to leave Boston to play alongside LeBron James and Dwyane Wade has been dissected to death, but it is clearly because he wants a better shot at a second NBA championship before he retires his shooting sleeve.
Allen joined Miami on a three-year mini mid-level exception deal worth slightly over $9 million a year, according to Sports Illustrated. The Celtics were willing to offer the sharpshooter a two-year, $12 million contract and the Memphis Grizzlies dangled a two-year, $10 million offer at him, but ultimately the allure of South Beach and the chance to play with three of the league's top stars proved too much to pass up.
With the Heat, Allen will likely play a sixth man role as he did during the latter part of last season in Boston. Unless Miami decides to shift Wade over to point guard, which seems unlikely, Allen will serve as the team's first guard off the bench, and should play roughly 25 minutes per game.
He averaged 14.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game last season while hitting a blistering 45.3 percent from three-point range. Those numbers should take a significant dip, but he will still thrive off of the open looks that the Heat's Big Three create on offense.
Miami's roster has several players whose primary job is to camp out on the perimeter and wait for passes, but none of them can match Allen either in terms of outside shooting prowess or all-around play. Unlike a James Jones or Mike Miller, Allen can handle the ball and play decent defense on his position, he is not just a one-way player.
Ray had plenty of suitors this summer, all of which were playoff contenders, but at 36 years old, he decided to forsake money and join the defending champions to bolster their title defense. The move may have lost him some fans in Massachusetts, but Allen has positioned himself perfectly for a few more runs at a ring.