NBA Free Agents 2012: Michael Redd and Best Veterans' Minimum Values on Market
For NBA teams looking to contend for a championship, adding solid role players at the veteran's minimum is paramount.
Especially at this point in free agency, with almost every salary-cap exception exhausted, minimum-salary players can be the difference between a first-round exit and the Larry O'Brien trophy.
Whether these players are chasing a championship or simply former stars who can't give the game away, there are plenty of available guys in a position to contribute next season.
Here are five guys who represent the best values of the minimum-contract market.
Ben Wallace (C, UFA)
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2011-12 Team: Detroit Pistons
While many thought it was a foregone conclusion that Wallace would announce his retirement at the end of this past season, the center has made it clear in recent weeks that he'd like to return for his 17th NBA season.
Big Ben was a shell of his former Defensive Player of the Year heights this past season, scoring just 1.4 points and grabbing just 4.3 rebounds per game.
Regardless, the Pistons would be wise to re-sign the 37-year-old center so he can act as a mentor for No. 9 pick Andre Drummond.
The former UConn star has all the talent in the world, but his poor work ethic made Drummond plummet down some draft boards.
Even having just one year around Wallace could change that. The veteran center was never an overly skilled player, but he made up for what he lacked with an insatiable work ethic and toughness.
If the Pistons ever hope to have Drummond reach his full franchise center potential, it starts with re-signing the old one.
Jermaine O'Neal (PF, UFA)
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2011-12 Team: Boston Celtics
According to an interview with Hoopsworld's Yannis Koutroupis, O'Neal feels the "best he has in five years" after heading to Germany for the blood platelet therapy made famous by Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
Per Koutroupis, O'Neal also feels he has a lot to prove after never quite fitting in the Celtics' rotation the past two seasons.
That could mean huge rewards for whichever team decides to pick up the 33-year-old power forward.
The former All-Star is still a smart defender who uses his strong body to push smaller guys out of the post. O'Neal is also chasing a championship, so those young teams looking for veteran leadership need not apply.
And with the Lakers looking like the prohibitive favorite after working O'Neal out on Tuesday, L.A. could be in for another free-agent steal.
Derek Fisher (PG, UFA)
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2011-12 NBA Team: Los Angeles Lakers/Oklahoma City Thunder
For any contending team looking for a fantastic locker-room presence that is unafraid of the white-hot playoff spotlight, Fisher could be the answer.
At this point, Fisher is little more than a caretaker and spot-up shooter on the court, but his skills likely aren't as deteriorated as they appeared last season.
Fisher spent most of his offseason negotiating the new collective bargaining agreement, and his game suffered because of it.
With Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick reporting that the Cleveland Cavaliers look like the favorite for his services, Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving could be in store for invaluable mentoring from Fisher.
Darko Milicic (C, UFA)
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2011-12 Team: Minnesota Timberwolves
For all of the (understandable) jokes about Milicic's No. 2 overall selection in the 2003 draft, he's quietly become one of the more underrated post-defense presences in the league.
The Serbian center spent the last two seasons in Minnesota, where he was averaging 4.6 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in just 23 games of action this past season.
Despite having two years and $11 million remaining on his contract, the Timberwolves used their amnesty provision on Milicic on July 12.
The 27-year-old cleared waivers and will likely double-dip at just the veteran's minimum for next season.
Because of his age and shot-blocking ability, Milicic has no shortage of contenders vying for his affections. According to Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears, the Miami Heat, Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers are the frontrunners for his services.
Fun fact: If Milicic signs in Miami, the Heat would have four of the top five picks of the 2003 NBA draft on its roster.
Michael Redd (SG, UFA)
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2011-12 Team: Phoenix Suns
Despite debilitating knee injuries derailing Redd's run as a perennial All-Star, he's still the type of player that any contender should strive for.
Redd proved last season in Phoenix that a few leg injuries can't kill a sweet stroke, and the Suns' training staff once again improved its miracle worker reputation.
Phoenix has interest in bringing Redd back, but if Redd's goal is to contend for a championship, he should sign with the Chicago Bulls. The team reportedly has interest (per Fox Sports' Chris Tomasson) and may have a starting spot open, as the team is looking to shop incumbent starter Richard Hamilton.