6 NBA Free Agents Who Will Prove Us Wrong in 2012-13
Fans know what their preferred teams are getting in most free-agent signings.
However, a handful of acquisitions will surprise the faithful. Some of these surprises will give fans more reason to believe in their team's chances. Others will cause fans to wonder why certain players were signed in the first place.
In the offseason, funny money was given to a few players who fans believe didn't deserve it. Brook Lopez was a questionable choice for a Brooklyn Nets' max contract. Not only will he be seen as an unfortunate recipient of a large amount of resources, but he also doesn't project to be nearly as valuable as the team thought.
Some players will flourish in supporting roles. For example, Jodie Meeks will start to turn the corner in his new spot in Los Angeles.
Follow along for the list of players who raised eyebrows among NBA followers.
Happy Surprise: Jodie Meeks
Jodie Meeks was one of the later pickups in the second wave of free-agent signings this summer when the Los Angeles Lakers acquired him. Despite the timing, Meeks' impact will be huge coming off the bench for the Lakers this year.
Along with Antawn Jamison, Meeks will boost scoring for the Lakers bench and make good on the scoring potential that he showed while with the Philadelphia 76ers. In 2011-12, Meeks averaged 8.4 points per game and 12.2 points per 36 minutes. The year before, he averaged 10.5 points per game while averaging 13.5 per 36 minutes.
The Norcross, Ga., native is also a very efficient player. He averaged just 0.4 turnovers per game and had the third-best turnover rate at 5.4 percent.
He's also a deadeye free-throw shooter, having hit 90.6 percent from the line last season and 88.4 percent the year before.
He'll have a prime opportunity to make an impact on the Lakers offense. Metta World Peace will likely play just under 27 minutes per game, as he did last season. This will allow Meeks to play about 28 minutes per game and average double figures in scoring.
Meeks will help ease the scoring burden on Kobe Bryant, who felt the need to shoulder the load last season. The outside shooting that the Kentucky product provides will help space the offense.
Unhappy Surprise: O.J. Mayo
Dallas Mavericks fans might be excited that O.J. Mayo is arriving to thrust some electric scoring in the American Airlines Center.
He scored 15 or more points 27 times and averaged 16.9 points per 36 minutes for the Memphis Grizzlies last season. In his first two seasons, he averaged 18.3 and 17.5 points per game, respectively.
However, he was also the guy who helped blow the first-round series for the Grizz in May. Mayo shot just 27.4 percent from the field, including 17.6 percent in the last five games of the series.
He also drifted in the middle of the season. The USC product shot a meager 36.2 percent from the field and 30.2 percent from three-point range in February and only a slightly better 38.3 percent from the field in March.
A scout gave Sporting News a sharp critique of Mayo's game, saying:
He is not a great shooter. He is not a great slasher. He doesn't get to the free-throw line. He doesn't play great defense. He is a solid player, but he is not an All-Star or anything. It is hard to see after four seasons how he is going to all of a sudden erase his limitations.
Sometimes, Mayo looks like an exciting scorer. However, he often hangs out on the perimeter. His 40.8 percent field-goal percentage last season and 40.7 percent mark the year before don't give the impression that he'll be an effective scorer.
Still, he could have some hot games in which he lights it up and scores 20 or 25 points, but he'll have plenty of games like those of the playoff series against the Clippers when he tries to create his own offense but can't make shots.
All in all, Mayo will score just a little more than 16 points per game while hovering around the 40 percent field-goal mark and hitting a reasonable 36 percent from three-point range. Those numbers will be enough to keep Mavericks fans excited about him, but not enough to bring him close to the eight-figure salary he might desire.
Happy Surprise: Ramon Sessions
The Charlotte Bobcats made a nifty if not serendipitous acquisition by picking up Ramon Sessions.
Sessions had decided not to pick up his player option for the coming season, but he didn't find any takers among high-profile teams.
The Bobcats swooped in and found a potentially productive point guard to back up Kemba Walker.
Sessions should exceed expectations in two ways. First, he'll come off the bench to provide punch in the scoring department. Sessions has averaged 14 or more points per 36 minutes in the last four seasons. He averaged 11.3 points per game last season and 13.3 per game the season before.
He'll continue his strong scoring and consistently put up double figures off the bench. A 44.9 percent shooter for his career, the Bobcats can rely upon Sessions to knock down shots consistently. He'll be a solid burst of energy while allowing Walker some rest.
Sessions and Ben Gordon will combine to form a terrific bench-scoring duo.
Second, this savvy ball-handler will help Walker grow. A 26-year-old joining his fifth team in six NBA seasons, Sessions will guide Walker in pushing the offense, selecting shots wisely and balancing shooting opportunities with those of distributing the ball to his teammates.
Walker will make a nice leap in his sophomore campaign after a disappointing rookie year. That will result from having a nice journeyman helping him.
Unhappy Surprise: Raymond Felton
The New York Knicks have what they hope to be a helpful facilitator in newcomer Raymond Felton. He won't be asked to shoot to the extent that Jeremy Lin was allowed to last season.
His role will be to just get the ball into the hands of Knick scorers.
A New York Times article gave an "optimistic" assessment of Felton, proposing that "Felton would serve as a better binding agent than the enigmatic Lin."
The Knicks have every right to be optimistic about Felton's prospects after watching Lin bounce to Houston.
However, they'll have to get familiar with the reality that Felton is a mid-level point guard at best and has largely made his hay on poor teams, such as the woebegone Charlotte Bobcats, where he spent his first five years, and last season's Portland Trail Blazers.
Felton has generally posted above-average numbers. He's averaged between 11 and 15 points per game in six of seven seasons and 6.5 or more assists in five of seven seasons.
However, he isn't exactly an efficient player. He has shot 41 percent or better in just three of seven seasons. His career assist-to-turnover rate is a middling 2.54.
Some may hope that his 54 games in New York in 2010-11 figured to be a defining stretch in his career. During that time, he averaged 17.1 points and nine assists per game.
As productive as that period might have seemed, it was an anomaly. In the upcoming campaign, Felton won't score nearly as much as he did in that stint, deferring instead to New York's primary scorers, Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, as well as other shooters like J.R. Smith and Steve Novak.
This is supposed to be a winning environment. To be a playoff team, the Knicks need Felton to be a facilitator for others, not someone who looks to pad his scoring numbers.
Having said that, while Felton might have some success banging it in to Stoudemire and Anthony, he'll need to cut down on turnovers that hinder an offense.
If Felton were average and efficient, then the Knicks wouldn't have any problem climbing the ladder in the Eastern Conference. However, with Felton playing inefficiently, the Knicks won't make significant strides.
Happy Surprise: Rashard Lewis
The expectations are low for Rashard Lewis as he enters his first season with the Miami Heat.
He shot just 38.5 percent from the field and 29 percent from three-point range in just 28 games for the Washington Wizards last season.
Now 33 and coming off knee problems from last year, Lewis is seen as a smoldering ember at the end of his career.
Lewis might not ever shoot 40 percent from three-point range, as he has done three times in his career. However, he will halt the free fall that he was in over the last two years and once again become a high-impact three-point shooter.
Lewis will get roughly 20 minutes per game off the bench and punch in a couple of three-point shots while avoiding the chore of rotating much on either end. He'll be up his three-point shooting percentage by playing off more demanding ball-handlers.
The former Seattle Supersonic has already figured out how he could make his presence felt. He told The Palm Beach Post:
I've already figured out that you've got to double-team LeBron (James), you have to double-team Dwyane Wade, you've got to double-team Chris Bosh, and then you think they're gonna leave Ray Allen open?...So they've got to leave somebody open.
As long as he can make himself open to a backup role, Lewis will be a relevant shooter for Miami.
Unhappy Surprise: Brook Lopez
Those Brooklyn Nets fans who have anticipated the return of Brook Lopez shouldn't get too excited.
Lopez missed all but five games of the 2011-12 season due to a broken foot. In August, he told The Philippine Star, "I'm probably about 90 percent healthy, but I'm pretty sure I'll be back in full shape entering the NBA season."
The Nets counted Lopez for 20 points per game before his foot injury. It's doubtful that he produces that amount of scoring this season. His foot will slow him down, even if he says he's 100 percent when the season begins. He will struggle to get to the spots on the floor where he wants to shoot.
He'll shoot a little bit worse due to recurring discomfort. That's not exactly good since he's a 50 percent shooter on his career.
Besides, Lopez won't shoot 16 times per game like he did in 2010-11. He'll be a third scoring option behind Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. That means that Lopez will likely take around 11 shots per game.
The Stanford product is going to be even worse on the boards. My guess is that he'll average a little less than the six rebounds per game that he had in 2010-11. He won't be that strong battling inside.
A broken foot is often a bad omen for the career of a center. Broken feet proved to be the death knells of the careers of Rik Smits and Yao Ming.
Lopez won't have his career veer directly off the road. However, he will struggle to find his form in his first season after signing a massive four-year, $61 million deal.
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