NBA Free Agency 2012: 11 Players Destined for Success with New Teams
NBA free agency is still going on, but the vast majority of impact players know what jersey they will be wearing next season. While plenty of athletes chose to remain with the team they ended last season with, a number of solid players will be calling a new city home when the 2012-2013 season tips off this October.
Plenty of clubs had serious needs heading into free agency. Whether it was a consistent scoring option, an impact big man or simply a jolt of youth, teams pulled out all the stops to bring in their top targets on the open market.
A number of young players will get an opportunity to flourish in a new system, and several veterans are poised to be revitalized by a change of scenery. Sometimes, all it takes for a player to have a stellar year is the chance to wear a different uniform.
Although it is always tough to predict before a single minute of basketball has been played, look for these 11 players to make an immediate impact in their first campaign with a new team.
Jason Terry: Boston Celtics
After eight seasons thriving in Dallas as Dirk Nowitzki's sidekick, Jason Terry is bringing his shooting and playmaking abilities to a Celtic bench that desperately needed a consistent offensive threat. Although he is 34 years old, Terry is still incredibly quick and has the ability to get a shot off with any amount of space. He should thrive in Boston's veteran culture, and he will be counted on to continue to produce at a high level.
Terry will spend time backing up both Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley, given his ability to handle the ball or move without it. He can run the pick-and-roll well and is capable of getting to the basket off the dribble
He will assume the role Ray Allen played in the latter part of the 2011-2012 campaign, but unlike Allen, who did not adjust well to not being a starter, Terry thrives anchoring the second unit's offense and will form a formidable backcourt with Courtney Lee. That combo is better than many starting guard tandems.
Although Terry is by no means a quality defender due to his lack of size and strength, he does have good lateral quickness and gets his hands in passing lanes. Boston has a trio of dynamic defensive guards, so he will not be asked to do much on that end, but he will play his role and give a consistent effort.
Statistically, Terry may not have a brilliant year given the Celtics' depth, but he will feast off of the open looks Rondo and Paul Pierce create, make plays with the ball in his hands and be a consistent scoring option in 25-plus minutes per game.
One of the first big moves announced during free agency, the union of Terry and Boston makes perfect sense and should be mutually beneficial.
Antawn Jamison: Los Angeles Lakers
If there was one Achilles heel for last season's Los Angeles Lakers squad, it was their inability to find consistent scoring off the bench. Despite their limited cap room, the team was able to sign former All-Star Antawn Jamison for the veteran's minimum, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times.
In Jamison, the Lakers have someone who can play 30 minutes per game off the bench, spend time at both forward positions and fill several of their needs on the offensive end of the court.
Los Angeles did not have many quality outside shooters last season—teams packed the paint and dared the squad to beat them from the perimeter—but Jamison is a more-than-capable three-point threat, despite his fairly average percentage last season. In addition, his size allows him to draw opposing big men away from the basket, creating room in the paint for Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol and driving lanes for Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant.
He is not just a stretch-4 though, as Jamison can attack the basket, play in the post and drill shots consistently from mid-range. He is not a great defender or shot-blocker, but he is a solid rebounder and a decent passing forward as well.
A former Sixth Man of the Year, Jamison will thrive playing behind Gasol and Metta World Peace, but he is also is quality starting option should the team be hit with injuries. He can hit big shots if necessary and should mesh well with L.A.'s veterans.
Should Los Angeles employ a Princeton offense, Jamison's versatility and ability to move on the court will be essential to their success. His size and shooting can create mismatches, and he is a willing passer to boot.
He may no longer be a star in this league, but Jamison should have a very solid season in purple and gold.
O.J. Mayo: Dallas Mavericks
After losing his starting role and being relegated to sixth-man status, O.J. Mayo's departure from Memphis was all but inevitable. Now a member of the Dallas Mavericks, Mayo will assume the starting 2-guard role and bring his versatile offensive game and improved defensive ability to a Dallas team that experienced as much offseason turnover as any NBA team.
He had a tumultuous 2010-2011 campaign, but Mayo played well last season coming off the bench. He gave the Grizzlies a scoring punch and also bought in to their swarming style of defense, showing that he was more than just a perimeter scorer.
With the departure of Jason Terry, the Mavericks desperately need a secondary scorer behind Nowitzki, and Mayo should fill that role perfectly. He can hit shots from outside, attack the rim off the dribble and score in transition.
Mayo has good court vision and has grown as a passer and an offensive playmaker over the past couple seasons. Although he may not be ready to be the true point guard that he wants to be, according to ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon, he is capable of initiating the offense at the top of the key and running the pick-and-roll.
In addition to being an electric scorer capable of going for 20 any given night, the Southern California product has made nice strides on the defensive end of the court. He has become a better on-ball defender and knows when to gamble and when not to compromise his position.
Though he will split minutes with Vince Carter and Delonte West, Mayo is the unquestioned starter and will receive the brunt of the time at the 2. Playing under a brilliant head coach in Rick Carlisle, expect his numbers to look more like his rookie and sophomore seasons rather than the past two years.
Ray Allen: Miami Heat
The days of Ray Allen scoring 20 points with regularity or taking 15 shots per game are long gone. While Allen may put up mundane per-game stats next season, he will undoubtedly have a successful inaugural campaign as a member of the world champion Miami Heat.
By joining the Heat for the next three seasons, Allen has earned himself what is essentially the NBA's cushiest job. The perimeter marksman just has to camp out on the perimeter and fire from beyond the arc. He will benefit from the double-teams thrown at LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Unless Wade is moved to point guard, Allen will likely be coming off the bench, but he should see around 20 minutes per game lining up at shooting guard and occasionally small forward in a quicker lineup.
Despite being 37 and coming off an injury-plagued season, Allen is still a superbly conditioned athlete who can run the floor well and is deadly hitting transition threes before a defense can get set.
The Heat's offense is predicated upon having shooters on the perimeter to stretch out a defense and force opponents to respect everyone on the court. Allen is also the NBA's all-time leader in three-point field goals, so he will be impossible to leave unchecked.
He needs just a fraction of space to get a shot off, but Allen is more than just a stand-still shooter. As a decent defender and passer, he is a more mufti-faceted basketball player than either Mike Miller or James Jones, whose minutes he will likely siphon.
Though it will be hard to adjust to seeing Allen donning the red and white Miami colors, he has put himself in a perfect situation as his career winds down.
Reggie Evans: Brooklyn Nets
In an offseason filled with high-profile moves, one of the Brooklyn Nets' savvier acquisitions was grabbing Reggie Evans, the rugged interior rebounder and defender, from the Los Angeles Clippers, in a sign-and-trade, according to ESPN New York's Mike Mazzeo.
Evans' regular-season numbers were far from staggering, but with increased minutes in the postseason, his stats improved to 3.0 points and 7.3 rebounds per game on 53.3 percent shooting from the floor. Evans even played crunch-time minutes because of the intangibles he brought to the court.
The Nets have plenty of offensive talent, but with Brook Lopez at center, they needed someone to come off the bench and take charges, crash both the offensive and defensive glass and dive on the floor for loose balls. Evans may not play more than 15 to 18 minutes per game, but he's a vital presence for the Nets and will likely see time at center despite being just 6'8".
Perhaps most importantly, on a team loaded with players capable of filling up a stat sheet, Evans can make a major impact without taking a single shot. He is the quintessential glue guy, and along with Kris Humphries, Brooklyn will be able to control the glass and dictate the pace of the game.
Evans is a decent post defender and is strong enough to push opposing big men off the block, but he is not going to be playing a Kendrick Perkins-type low-post role. Instead, Evans will be asked to dominate the boards, do the dirty work and finish the occasional pick-and-roll dunk or layup.
He won't put up great stats by any means, but being in Brooklyn black is an excellent situation for Reggie Evans.
Jerryd Bayless: Memphis Grizzlies
Though they lost O.J. Mayo, the Memphis Grizzlies wasted no time reloading by bringing in supersub Jerryd Bayless to fill his role as the first guard off the bench, per ESPN's Marc Stein. Bayless is coming off another solid season with the Toronto Raptors, and he is the exact player Memphis needed to bring aboard for the future.
They have one of the league's most dominant frontcourts, but the Grizzlies were extremely thin at the guard spots this offseason with just Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Josh Selby and Tony Wroten under contract. Memphis desperately had to add a quality piece that can play both the point and off-guard, and Bayless can certainly do that.
He is an excellent three-point shooter, something the team sorely lacked. Opposing defenses were able to pack the paint and dare Memphis to beat them from the outside, and their glaring lack of shooting hurt them severely in the playoffs against the Clippers. Now they have a player that can stretch a defense and hit shots, both off the catch and off the dribble.
Although he is not a stellar individual defender, Bayless' lateral quickness should allow him to make an impact in the Grizzlies' team defense, which is about effort more than one-on-one abilities. As long as he can get his hand in a passing lane or two and not take unnecessary fouls, Bayless should find a role on the defensive end of the court.
At just 23 years old, Bayless has plenty of upside and will be able to come in and make an immediate impact in Memphis' backcourt rotation. Look for the Arizona product to have a career year scoring the rock and running the offense.
Kirk Hinrich: Chicago Bulls
With a lengthy recuperation period ahead for Derrick Rose, the point guard-strapped Chicago Bulls brought in Kirk Hinrich on a two-year, $6 million deal, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. Hinrich, who started his career with the Bulls, has struggled the past two seasons, splitting time between Washington and Atlanta, but he should see his numbers shoot back up with a starting job.
Hinrich is not an elite athlete, but he is a capable scorer and an excellent defender. He can lock down either guard spot and is physical on the perimeter. He should be a perfect fit for Tom Thibodeau's aggressive defensive system, and with Ronnie Brewer gone, he will often be asked to guard the opposing team's best wing scorer.
In addition, he is a capable distance shooter who can splash shots from beyond the arc. The Bulls needed to add some more shooting, and Hinrich will be one of their main floor-spacing options to open up room for Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer to work in the post.
Hinrich is a solid passer who can read a defense and find his way into the paint to make a play around the basket, whether it is a drop-off pass, a kick-out or simply pulling up for a shot. He can also run the pick-and-roll well and should be a good fit alongside the Bulls' dominant frontcourt.
Chicago needed to find a starting-caliber point guard to keep them in playoff contention next season, and the team got a true steal in Hinrich at just $3 million a year, as long as he can stay healthy. At 31 years old, he still has quality basketball left to play and though he will be splitting time with Nate Robinson and intriguing rookie Marquis Teague, Hinrich should be seeing about 30 minutes per game at both the 1 and the 2.
Although the Bulls will not be a championship-caliber club next year, the play of Kirk Hinrich at point guard should keep them in the postseason conversation.
Steve Nash: Los Angeles Lakers
Easily the most surprising move of free agency, the Los Angeles Lakers stunned the NBA by agreeing to a sign-and-trade for two-time MVP Steve Nash, according to ESPN L.A. Although he is 38 years old and not exactly bringing fresh legs to the team, Nash gives the Lakers the dominant point guard the team has been lacking for over a decade.
Nash played on a number of quality Phoenix Suns' teams, but none of them had the talent and championship pedigree of this Los Angeles squad. He will run an absolutely unstoppable pick-and-roll with Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, thanks to their strength, size and ability to finish at the rim.
He can get the ball to the two big men exactly where they want it—Gasol in the mid-high post and Bynum down on the block as close to the basket as possible. Both are more-than-capable scorers, and Nash should see his assists per game spike thanks to his new pair of seven-footers.
Defensively, having a pair of big men to protect the basket and provide help defense will be a tremendous boost for Nash. Nash struggles to keep opposing point guards in front of him, but having a dominant power forward and center behind him will help cover up his deficiencies.
Besides just his passing ability, Nash will receive his share of open looks from distance thanks to the attention created by his All-Star teammates. Though he will need to work more without the ball to accommodate Kobe Bryant, Nash can stroke his outside shots and give a Los Angeles team that desperately needed some perimeter scoring one of the league's most efficient and underrated shooters.
Nash will be able to speed up the Lakers offense and allow the team to play in transition and create easier scoring opportunities. Though the Princeton offense may take the ball out of his hands a bit, the sheer level of talent around him should allow Nash to have yet another excellent season as he cements the Lakers as championship contenders.
Goran Dragic: Phoenix Suns
Though the Houston Rockets' season ended in bitter fashion with the team missing the playoffs despite finishing with a solid 34-32 record, the play of Goran Dragic in the starting lineup with Kyle Lowry injured was nothing short of revelatory.
The former Steve Nash protege averaged 18 points, 8.4 assists, 1.8 steals and 49 percent shooting in 28 starts for Houston. He ran the offense beautifully, both in the half court and on the break. He shot the ball with staggering efficiency and ran an excellent pick-and-roll, particularly with new Suns teammate Luis Scola.
Dragic has all the physical tools to be one of the better starting point guards in the league, and if he can continue the momentum he had at the tail end of last season, he should hit the ground running playing in a familiar Phoenix system. He is familiar with coach Alvin Gentry and has the court vision to excel in the team's fast-paced offensive system.
In addition, Dragic plays a very mistake-free brand of basketball. He rarely forced the issue or made careless errors and knew when to make the fundamental pass over the flashy pass. He can get into the lane and attack the basket or collapse a defense to create an open look from the perimeter for a teammate.
He will be a leader in Phoenix next season as the team begins the post-Steve Nash era, but he has a pair of quality offensive big men in Scola and Marcin Gortat, as well as reliable shooters in Channing Frye and Jared Dudley, who can open up the court and stretch out a defense.
The Suns may have a rough season as they adjust to life without Nash and Grant Hill, but with a system suited to his skill set and some solid young talent, Dragic should have a very nice first year as Phoenix's starting point guard.
Courtney Lee: Boston Celtics
Despite having little flexibility after signing Jason Terry, Brandon Bass, Kevin Garnett and Jeff Green, the Celtics were able to pull a sign-and-trade that netted Courtney Lee on a four-year, $21.5 million deal, per ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg.
With Avery Bradley likely missing the early portion of the season, Lee will be the de facto starter. He is an excellent three-point shooter and slasher who should play very well alongside Rondo. He can spot up in the corners but also cut to the basket and create high-percentage shots for himself.
Lee is also one of the league's better perimeter defenders. He can cover point guards, shooting guards and even the occasional small forward. He is an incredibly savvy and disciplined defensive guard. He can read passing lanes and rack up steals, but also knows when not to cede his position or make a risky play that could lead to a foul or an easy lay-up.
Lee should mesh extremely well with Boston's defensive-oriented system. He can shut someone down in the half court or transition and will often be asked to cover the opposing team's best scoring wing.
The Celtics need outside shooters to open up driving lanes for Rondo and Pierce, and Lee should help to replace Ray Allen in the perimeter scoring department. He may not be as reliable, but he has a quick release and is a threat both in the catch-and-release game and pulling up off the dribble.
He can handle the ball a bit but will likely not be asked to do that much next season. Once Bradley returns, he may end up coming off the bench, but he has succeeded in that role before and should still see heavy minutes thanks to his defensive prowess.
At 26 years old, Lee may not have the highest ceiling, but he has finals experience, knows what it takes to win in the playoffs and will instantly find his niche on the TD Garden hardwood.
Gerald Green: Indiana Pacers
One of last season's feel-good stories, Gerald Green, who had been out of the league since a stint with the Dallas Mavericks in 2009, caught on with the New Jersey Nets, proving that he belonged in the NBA and was more than just a tremendous athlete and a high-flyer.
Green displayed a more versatile offensive game, hitting the three with regularity and attacking the basket, but he also played the best defense of his career. Green parlayed his stellar comeback into a three-year, $10 million deal with the Indiana Pacers, according to Royce Young of CBS Sports.
Though Green will not be starting, he proved last season that he can play solid, efficient basketball coming off the pine. The 26-year-old swingman will play behind both Paul George and Danny Granger, depending on what kind of lineup Frank Vogel wants to trot out.
Green's shooting prowess will open up the floor for big men Roy Hibbert and David West to attack in the post, while his athleticism and ability to run the court should mesh with George, Granger and the recently re-signed George Hill.
He is a great young piece for this Pacers team that is looking to solidify itself as a contender, and if he can produce at the level he did for New Jersey, this move will look like an absolute steal. Along with D.J. Augustin, Indiana has one of the best bench backcourts in the entire league.
He played with the maturity he lacked during his first run in the NBA, picking his spots better, not forcing the issue as much and simply showing a higher basketball IQ.
Green's uncommon athletic ability should mesh with this spry, fast-paced Pacers team, and fans should expect even more visible growth from the former slam dunk champion.