NBA Free Agents 2012: 8 Players Still Available Who Will Be Absolute Steals
To the casual NBA fan, it may appear that this summer's free-agency period is already over. The stars and key players have all picked their destinations and locked themselves into deals, and even most of the quality role players out there have found their latest jersey to wear.
However, the real basketball junkies know that that is far from the case: There is still value to be claimed out on the open market. Whether it comes in the form of a little-known rotation piece, a much-maligned former starter or even just a young, underrated athlete, there are several players left in free agency who are capable of making an impact next season.
With most teams already over the salary cap limit or trying to preserve precious financial flexibility, no one is going to be throwing around huge money, and a savvy, low-key signing or two could make a world of difference during the regular season.
Here are eight free agents still available who could prove to be major steals this summer.
2011-2012 Stats: 8.4 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 0.8 APG, 36.5 3P%, 40.9 FG%
Every good NBA team could use a long-distance specialist, and Jodie Meeks is as pure as they come. He is not great at creating his own offense and may be a pretty mediocre defender, but Meeks has the ability to nail a shot from anywhere on the floor and must be guarded closely at all times.
He works well without the ball, coming off screens to create a good look, and he is a threat spotting up in the corner as well. He has a quick release but is also capable of reacting to a closeout and putting the ball on the floor.
In addition to being a perimeter marksman, Meeks is a solid athlete who can run the floor and play in transition, making him a good fit for teams that could use not only another shooter but an injection of youth.
He started in 50 of 66 games for Philadelphia last season, but with the emergence of Evan Turner, he saw his minutes plummet during the postseason, down to just 7.8 per game and one start in 13 contests.
With Philadelphia drafting Maurice Harkless, signing Nick Young and trading for Dorell Wright, they are clearly willing to let Meeks walk, and plenty of teams should come calling.
He earned just $884,000 last season but should see an increase in per-year salary for his next year given his proven scoring ability. According to Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld, Meeks' top three destinations are the Lakers, Bucks and Wizards.
Wherever he ends up, expect him to be a steal based on his offensive ability, whether he starts or comes off the bench.
2011-2012 Stats: 9.1 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.2 APG, 30.7 3P%, 38.1 FG%
**UPDATE: The Cleveland Cavaliers and Miles came to a two-year agreement on Friday, August 3rd.
Although he did not have a particularly efficient 2011-2012 campaign, C.J. Miles is still a capable scoring swingman who would make a nice asset to any team's bench.
Miles is not a phenomenal shooter, but he is decent from mid-range and is good at creating his own offense and slashing to the basket.
He hasn't been linked to many teams, but according to Royce Young of CBSSports.com, Miles is leaning toward joining the Lakers. He has also spoken with the Cavaliers, Mavericks and Jazz, where he has spent the first seven years of his NBA career.
Miles saw a slight dip in his minutes this season, but he is just a year removed from averaging 12.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 25.2 minutes of playing per night off the bench. He's the kind of player who could be the offensive anchor on a second unit but also is more than capable of sliding into the starting role as either a 2 or a 3.
For a team like Los Angeles that desperately needs a backup 2-guard, Miles would be a perfect addition. He could spell Kobe Bryant or play alongside him in a smaller lineup.
Although he is not a great defender, he can play in transition and finish well at the rim when he gets there.
At this point in free agency, no team is looking for a home-run addition, but Miles is the kind of player who can score when called upon. He thrives off the bench and has plenty of playoff experience.
He'll come cheap, and at just 25 years old, he still has plenty of good basketball left to play.
2011-2012 Stats: 8.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, 38.0 FG%
Obviously this comes with the caveat that Andray Blatche doesn't act like Andray Blatche, but the troubled big man is still an undeniably talented basketball player. Though he will come with a slew of baggage and plenty of bad habits, Blatche is just 25 and could be a solid addition to a veteran ballclub with a strong culture of accountability.
His numbers last season were pedestrian, as Blatche spent plenty of time in coach Randy Wittman's doghouse, but his 2010-2011 stats—16.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals on 44.5 percent shooting from the floor—look far better by comparison.
Offensively, Blatche is versatile enough to play both in the post and out on the perimeter. He isn't a great three-point shooter, but he is reliable from mid-range and can draw opposing big men out of the paint. At 6'11", he also has the ability to play both forward and center as needed.
He is not a great man-to-man defender or low-post protector, but he has an uncanny knack for forcing turnovers and reading passing lanes while also using his length and size to block and contest shots.
The Washington Wizards amnestied Blatche, meaning he will be still receive the remainder of his contract from Washington after he signs a new deal. According to ESPN New York's Jared Zwerling, that may make him more open to receiving the veteran's minimum because he has guaranteed money coming in.
He has gained a well-deserved reputation as a me-first player who is obsessed with his own numbers, as evidenced by his tireless effort to procure a triple-double, but the fact is that there aren't many starting-caliber players left—and Blatche is one of them.
He's a good passer out of the post, a reliable scoring option and a good rebounder both offensively and defensively. From a talent standpoint, Blatche would be a nice addition to plenty of teams, and he could be a brilliant signing if he finally shows some growth and maturity.
2011-2012 Stats: 5.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 0.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 44.1 FG%
Kenyon Martin spent the beginning of the 2011-2012 season with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball League, but he joined the Los Angeles Clippers midway through the regular season and proved to be a valuable first big man off the bench.
Though his numbers were not staggering, Martin was a key piece for a Clippers team that desperately needed some frontcourt depth. Despite being just 6'9", he spelled both Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and made his presence felt on both ends of the court.
Martin is capable of finishing at the rim and playing on the block, and he is a threat in the pick-and-roll game. Griffin and Jordan are both shaky shooters at best, and while Martin is not great in that department, he can knock down a 15-footer if necessary.
Even with his age and injury history, Martin is still a playmaker on the defensive end. He is extremely physical in the post and on the glass, and he can defend players with size on him because of his strength.
There are few big men in the league who can guard multiple positions as well as Martin, who had some stellar moments against Rudy Gay during the Clippers-Grizzlies first-round playoff series.
He is not the dynamic athlete he once was, but Martin can still block shots and make plays above the rim when necessary.
He may no longer be a starting-caliber player, but he brings a veteran knowledge and an undeniable toughness that plenty of teams these days need. At this point in his career, he will likely only look to join a contender, and there are a number of teams that could use some depth in the frontcourt and a dose of grit and defensive intensity.
Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York reported that Martin won't sign for the veteran's minimum, but he could be a candidate for a bi-annual exception after earning $2.5 million last season.
Logical destinations for Martin could be Boston or Philadelphia, but any team that signs him will be getting a proven commodity on a solid deal.
2011-2012 Stats: 11.1 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.9 SPG, 38.2 3P%, 42.5 FG%
Although not one of the summer's marquee free-agent guards, the lack of interest around the league in Leandro Barbosa has been somewhat shocking. The former Sixth Man of the Year had a solid campaign, splitting time between Toronto and Indiana, and at just 29 years old he is still a reliable option off the bench.
Barbosa can notch a steal or two, but he is depended on almost solely as an offensive player. Over his career, he has filled the roles of second-unit scorer, ball-handler and playmaker very well.
Barbosa can shoot the three well, as he did last season, forcing defenses to pay close attention to him on the perimeter, but he excels at getting to the basket by using his explosive first step. Barbosa has a good handle and is a threat with the ball in his hands because of his ability to attack the basket and find his way to the rim.
He also is capable of playing without the ball and coming off screens or making plays for his teammates instead of just looking for his own shot.
There has been little news about Barbosa as a free agent, with the exception of a recent tweet from ESPN's Marc Stein stating the Lakers may have interest in the Brazilian shooting guard.
Even if he is not playing 30 minutes per game, having a player capable of scoring consistently off the bench is a valuable asset. When a starting guard is struggling with their shot, Barbosa can be inserted as a stopgap thanks to his driving ability and quick-release jump shot.
He earned a hefty $7.6 million last season, but the lack of interest he has generated is a strong indicator that that number should decrease substantially. A team that could snatch him up for the bi-annual exception or even a veteran's minimum would be making a brilliant move by bringing in a multi-faceted offensive player who can carry his team for stretches when he gets going.
2011-2012 Stats: 10.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.3 SPG, 32.1 3P%, 41.2 FG%
Alonzo Gee may be a restricted free agent after Cleveland extended him a $2.7 million qualifying offer, per ESPN, but the 25-year-old swingman has yet to receive any serious offers on the open market.
After coming to the Cavaliers midway through last season following brief stints in Washington and San Antonio, Gee proved to be a revelation. He played hard on both ends of the floor, crashed the glass from the perimeter and started 29 of the 40 games in which he appeared for the team.
He improved in his first full campaign with the Cavs, averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists and steals. He also demonstrated a good motor and the ability to play well both off the bench and in the starting lineup.
Gee is a very physical wing player who can absorb physical contact on drives to the basket while also muscling his way inside to grab tough rebounds. He is not afraid to get into the paint and make a play around the rim.
That physicality translates to the defensive end, where Gee is a solid multi-position defender. He has the size and quickness to cover both shooting guards and small forwards as needed. He is aggressive on the perimeter and capable of forcing turnovers, but he also knows when not to gamble and leave himself exposed.
Offensively, Gee has a decent jumper and is a three-point threat, although he is not exactly a long-distance marksman. Still, he was a consistent floor-spacing option, played well alongside Kyrie Irving and could finish well at the rim.
He was not particularly efficient from the field last season, but that should continue to improve, as the 2011-2012 season was his first playing major minutes regularly.
Gee may very well end up back on the Cavaliers next season, but teams would be foolish not to make a few calls about a talented, hard-working player who is still available for cheap.
2011-2012 Stats: 8.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.7 SPG, 51.8 FG%
Partially because he has spent the brunt of his career with the Charlotte Bobcats—except for eight games in 2010-2011 as a New York Knick—and partially because he does not have one standout part of his game, Derrick Brown has been an extremely under-the-radar player since joining the league in 2009.
However, the former Xavier standout quietly had the best year of his young career last season, receiving over 22 minutes per game and making the most of his time on the floor.
Brown is a tremendous athlete with a great motor and incredible leaping ability. He is capable of skying for tough rebounds or dunks, and even though he is just 6'8", he can play both forward spots.
He is not a spectacular playmaker, but he is solid off the dribble and has an improved mid-range jump shot. Brown is not a three-point shooter, but he can make a defense pay for leaving him open and is capable of moving without the basketball offensively.
The Bobcats initially tendered Brown a qualifying offer, but they have since rescinded it, which made him an unrestricted free agent. With Michael Kidd-Gilchrist coming aboard and Bismack Biyombo already on the roster, the team may have felt they didn't need another young forward, but Brown will certainly find a new NBA home.
He's a nice rotation player off the bench who can do a little bit of everything, and while he may never be a star, he did show major improvement last season. If he continues that upward trend, he could be a very capable starter in this league.
2011-2012 Stats: 7.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.2 APG, 34.8 3P%, 42.9 FG%
Terrence Williams, a former lottery pick of the New Jersey Nets, has yet to truly find his niche in the NBA. He split time last season between Houston and Sacramento, showing flashes of his phenomenal talent, but that ability has yet to turn into any real free-agent offers.
Williams is an extremely versatile player. At 6'6", he primarily lines up at small forward but is capable of stretching the floor with his shooting, attacking the basket and even running the team's offense in a point-forward role.
He averaged 3.1 assists with the Kings and is capable of creating offense not only for himself but for his teammates with his ability to make plays on the perimeter and in the paint.
He is a decent rebounder for his size. Best of all, he is capable of grabbing a board and, with his solid handle, going coast-to-coast and making a defense pay for not hustling back.
He is a great athlete who can excel in transition and finish at the rim, and although he is not an elite defender, he has quick hands, shows good activity and moves well laterally.
Williams is not a specialist in any one aspect of the game, which may be what has kept him from signing a deal, but he is a multi-faceted player who has proven he can put up decent numbers with consistent playing time.
He played the most efficient basketball of his career with Sacramento, shooting 46.1 percent from the field, and he did not force the issue as much as he has in the past.
According to Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld, Williams was drawing interest from the Kings, Phoenix Suns and Detroit Pistons, but that report was July 3rd, and there has been little subsequent news.
If Williams can find a system that works for him with a quality head coach who plays him for 25 or so minutes per game, expect him to be one of the better value picks at the end of free agency.
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