NBA Free Agents 2012: Players Who Will Turn Their New Teams into Contenders

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2012

MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 21:  O.J. Mayo #32 of the  Memphis Grizzlies dribbles the ball against the Portland Trail Blazers during the NBA game at FedExForum on April 21, 2012 in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The pool of remaining NBA free agents is dwindling.

The market's marquee names are off the board, and teams are vying for that all-important role player at this point in the offseason.

Franchise-changing faces can be found among the players who've already signed. Their new teams will be ecstatic with the production added to their rotation from these new signings. 

A few teams weren't far away from making real noise in their conference. Let's see which players will turn their new team into contenders.


Jeremy Lin

This may sound crazy, but the Rockets are a sleeper candidate in the Western Conference as things currently stand. Their most talented players are also their youngest, but the talent is undeniable.

Lin is the perfect facilitator for a young unproven offense because he's also young and unproven.

Bringing Lin's pick-and-roll abilities to Houston will help the Rockets' younger players develop. Everyone will get more quality looks because of Lin's ability to run an offense. 

The Rockets may be eyeing Dwight Howard, but I don't think they need too.

Their frontcourt, with Royce White, Terrence Jones and Donatas Montiejunas, is going to be above-average for a very long time.

Lin's experience running the Knicks' pick-and-roll attack will benefit Houston. Some may argue that he wasn't worth what the Rockets gave him, but his ability to mesh with the currently faceless Houston roster will put that debate to rest. 


Nicolas Batum

Now that Batum is officially back with Portland we can talk about this.

Portland would have been interesting even if they hadn't matched Minnesota's offer, but they will be even better with Batum back in the fold.

Portland added Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard to its roster via the NBA draft this offseason. Add those two to Wes Matthews and LaMarcus Aldridge and you have yourself an intriguing lineup.

But small forward is still a question mark.

That's where Batum comes in. He's a two-way wing presence. He impacts the game on both ends of the floor and his offensive game is still a work in progress.

Portland may not make the NBA Finals, but the Western Conference better pay attention. If Lillard can steer the ship, this team will make some serious noise. 

Rip City is a great place to play basketball, and Batum makes their 2013 prospects even brighter.


O.J. Mayo

Mark Cuban and the Mavericks struck out on this year's biggest free agent names, but Mayo isn't a bad contingency plan. He's a dynamic scorer whose production could skyrocket in a larger role.

According to reporter Jeff Caplan the deal is a multi-year bid. That means Dallas has a capable perimeter scorer on more than a rental basis. 

Mayo averaged just over 15 points per game in his four seasons with Memphis. He's a versatile scorer, and he holds his own on the defensive end. He's also young (24), and youth is something that Dallas sorely needs.

The Mavericks will be active with next year's free agency class. Dwight Howard could be looking for a new home as could Chris Paul and many others.

Until then Mayo will get this team back to the NBA Playoffs.

In my opinion Mayo should have been chased harder. High-volume scorers who buy in on the defensive end don't grow on trees, especially ones who still have room to grow.