5 Underrated 2012 NBA Free-Agent Signings Destined to Pay Huge Dividends
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As the (arguably) three best players on the open market, this NBA offseason, all eyes seemed to be on Deron Williams, Steve Nash and Ray Allen once free agency began.
Yet, in the hullabaloo surrounding their futures, fans seemed to forget about the diamonds in the rough that were also available.
One case worth noting is that of Marcus Camby, who is still one of the top defensive players in the NBA despite being 38 years old and slowed by nagging injuries.
While to fans he may have seemed like a liability only worth the veteran's minimum, the New York Knicks saw his potential and inked him to a three-year deal, instantly giving them one of the most dangerous defenses in the league.
Similarly, the Dallas Mavericks needed a center who could replace the sluggish Brendan Haywood and bring some of the same tenacity Tyson Chandler did in the team's championship season. Though he is a tremendous roll of the dice, the team went out and got Chris Kaman.
Though their names may not be household ones yet (or, anymore), these underrated free-agent signings could prove to be the difference-makers for their respective teams once the season begins.
No. 5: Alexey Shved, Minnesota Timberwolves
Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
I'm normally very skeptical about international prospects, but Alexey Shved is something special.
He has good height at 6'6" and despite being on the skinny side at 182 pounds, this 23-year-old Russian could soon become one of the NBA's deadliest shooters.
Shved averaged just 10.6 points per game in the Euroleague last year, but he shot an astounding 49 percent from long range.
Minnesota Timberwolves GM David Kahn jumped at the chance to finally give his team an effective shooting guard who could both make shots from long range as well as drive hard to the basket.
In the end, shortly before the Olympics began, Shved was signed to a three-year, $10 million deal.
Like all prospects, Shved is hit or miss. He's used to playing a fast-paced game, and in Minnesota, coach Rick Adelman is going to want him to work on his defense, which could take some time.
Given Shved's willingness to learn, though, he'll do just fine on defense and even better on offense with Ricky Rubio getting him the ball.
No. 4: Marcus Camby, New York Knicks
Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE
As was mentioned before, Camby is 38 years old and has been injury prone throughout his career. Yet, he is still one of the best centers in the NBA.
Last year, with the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets, the former UMass Minuteman averaged nine rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 22.9 minutes per game. Given his age, that's pretty incredible.
Thus, while his three-year, $13.2 million deal with the Knicks may seem suspect, he is still more than capable of earning his pay like he should.
Camby gives the Knicks an immediate contributor off the bench and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler no longer needs to shoulder the entire load under the basket. New York can now be called extremely deadly at the center position.
If Camby can stay healthy throughout the year, then the Knicks could very well become NBA title contenders.
No. 3: Courtney Lee, Boston Celtics
Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
The Celtics had some big shoes to fill at shooting guard this offseason, as 37-year-old fan favorite Ray Allen ended up signing with the Miami Heat.
GM Danny Ainge brought in sharpshooter Jason Terry, but to put an aging sixth man in a starting role wouldn't make sense for a team looking to get younger. Therefore, Ainge went looking for a young gun to start at the 2.
Fortunately, Lee was available. As a member of the Houston Rockets last season, he averaged 11.4 points per game while shooting an astounding 40 percent from long range.
Lee isn't as clutch nor as deadly a shooter as his predecessor Allen, but he fits what the Celtics need, in the fact that he's only 26 (27 by season's start) and is under contract for four years and just $21.4 million. That's not a bad deal by any means.
More importantly, it gives Lee plenty of time to establish a fanbase in Boston, and given his abilities from behind the three-point line, he could very well make it seem as though Allen never left.
No. 2: Chris Kaman, Dallas Mavericks
Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
Were he not one of the most injury-prone players in the NBA, Chris Kaman would easily be one of the league's top centers.
He has great size at 7'0" and 265 pounds, and has proven that he can score just as well as he plays defense. In his sole season with the New Orleans Hornets last year, Kaman averaged 13.1 points to go with 7.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks.
Yet, once he hit free agency, deals were few and far between after a 47-game season due to injury. Thus, he signed a one-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks.
However, Mavericks fans shouldn't feel down about having Kaman as their team's starting center. Yes, the injury troubles are a concern, but keep this in mind: In Rick Carlisle's system, all that the center really needs to do is play tough defense and score when necessary.
Seeing as how Kaman has averaged 8.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks for his career, he'll give the Mavs the much-needed interior defense they lacked last season.
No. 1: Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns
Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE
Once Steve Nash signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Suns were without a point guard and needed a floor general who could do well in a fast-paced offense.
Signing Goran Dragic to a four-year, $34 million deal shortly after Nash's departure is the best thing that the team management could have done.
The 6'3" Slovenian averaged 16.9 points, 7.5 assists and 1.8 steals over the last two months of the season while filling in for the injured Kyle Lowry. On top of that, over that two-month span, he shot a respectable 37 percent from three-point land.
The Suns really couldn't have asked for anyone better to take Nash's place.
Like most European players, Dragic is used to playing a fast-paced offense with lots of passing and long-range shooting. In Phoenix, he'll be playing a very similar style under coach Alvin Gentry.
The money may seem a bit much, but given Dragic's motor and desire, he could very well have the Suns back in playoff contention thanks to decent scoring options like Michael Beasley and Luis Scola at his disposal.
Nash may be gone, but Dragic is the perfect man to carry on his legacy. His fine offensive abilities will do nothing but help in the desert.