Predicting Ideal Landing Spots for Top Remaining 5 2012 NBA Free Agents

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistSeptember 24, 2012

Predicting Ideal Landing Spots for Top Remaining 5 2012 NBA Free Agents

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    With the NBA training camps opening for practice in just days, time is running out for remaining free agents to find a home—at least if they plan to get footholds in their respective rotations before the start of the regular season.

    Of course, some players will hold out and look for the best opportunity once the season gets into full swing.

    After injuries, chemistry issues and other miscellaneous problems begin taking their tolls on rosters around the league, demand will catch up to supply a bit more and create some opportunities for guys still on the job hunt. Those teams know there will be unsigned talent and D-League prospects available throughout the next few months, so they're in no hurry either.

    With an eventful offseason coming to a close, here is a look at five quality veterans left on the market and the most recent updates, and where they may (or may not) be headed.

Leandro Barbosa, G

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    You can safely assume Leandro Barbosa won't find a deal that pays him anything on the order of the $7.6 million he made in 2011-12.

    Despite hopes that he'd become a guy who could consistently play 30 minutes a game, Barbosa's shoot-first instincts and defensive shortcomings have forced teams to use him as a spark-plug off the bench for 20 to 25 minutes instead. In today's NBA market, that means he'll struggle to earn even a full mid-level exception.

    He may very well have to take far less if he's interested in playing with a contender. So, what are his options at this point?

    Barbosa claims that the Los Angeles Lakers, Brooklyn Nets and Phoenix Suns are all in play at the moment, and each scenario makes some sense.

    In Los Angeles, Barbosa would be reunited with Steve Nash, who of course led the Suns during Barbosa's most successful campaigns from 2006 to 2009.

    With Jodie Meeks, Steve Blake and Chris Duhon already slated to back up Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant, Barbosa's minutes with the Lakers might be limited, but the rotation could theoretically use someone who could create his own offense coming off that bench.

    In Phoenix, meanwhile, he wouldn't find many familiar faces, but he'd have plenty of opportunities to contribute behind Goran Dragic and Shannon Brown. Barbosa would allow Jared Dudley and Wesley Johnson to play most of their minutes at small forward instead of at the 2, and he'd provide another option at the point beyond rookie Kendall Marshall and Sebastian Telfair. 

    The Nets already have a backup point guard in C.J. Watson, and MarShon Brooks reasons to get the lion's share of minutes behind shooting guard Joe Johnson. Nevertheless, Barbosa would provide a different look from the defensively inclined Watson, so Brooklyn remains a somewhat plausible scenario.

    Keep your eye on the Cleveland Cavaliers as well. Even with Daniel Gibson in the backcourt rotation, the club could use the help behind Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.

Derek Fisher, PG

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    Derek Fisher isn't in especially high demand these days, but there's no question he remains on the radar of just about any contender looking to add some veteran experience to the bench.

    Through his 16-year career, Fisher has become a model of hard work, professionalism and all that good stuff you'd like to see younger players emulate. By that logic, he'd also be a good fit with a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers or Washington Wizards, teams with young, elite talent running the point. Who wouldn't want someone like Fish around to mentor the likes of Kyrie Irving or John Wall?

    Of course, at 38 years old, Fisher is no doubt more interested in adding another ring or two to his collection. But with five already in hand, the opportunity to make a difference with a lesser team might have its merits—especially if he has coaching in his not-too-distance future.

    For now, though, Fisher is predictably being linked to contenders, especially after working out with his old team the Los Angeles Lakers. 

    Head coach Scott Brooks has also suggested there remains a very real chance Fisher could return to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the club with whom he eventually landed after he was traded to and then waived by the Houston Rockets.

    And don't forget the Miami Heat. Though they don't need that extra veteran nearly as much as OKC, they could certainly use the depth behind Mario Chalmers and second-year point guard Norris Cole.

Kenyon Martin, PF

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    How much would you pay Kenyon Martin?

    The NBA isn't so sure either. 

    The 34-year-old's production has declined pretty markedly over the last two seasons, and there's just no telling what you'll get out of a guy who has relied so heavily on his explosiveness over the course of his 12-year career.

    You can pretty much count on him rebounding, playing tough defense and getting a few points in the paint. The question is, how much more you would get than you would from a guy like Reggie Evans.

    Despite receiving interest from the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics, Martin reportedly still wants more than the veteran's minimum salary—a sticking point that could very well turn off most of the elite teams who would have any use for Martin.

    A team like New York isn't going to spend big money on a guy who plays the same position as Amar'e Stoudemire and Steve Novak, to say nothing of the fact that he'd make it more difficult for Carmelo Anthony to get minutes at the 4 (where he has excelled recently).

    Martin played 53 games with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2011-12 (including the postseason) and proved that he could still make a solid 20 minutes worth of contributions. 

    But, you're still talking about a guy whose biggest selling point is that he moves well enough to defend the pick-and-roll and can aggressively attack the offensive glass. He would be far more useful with an up-and-coming team like the Portland Trail Blazers or Cleveland Cavaliers than he'd be with the kind of playoff teams he's eyeing.

    He'll either accept his market value and sign with NYC or Boston, or he'll accept that he's better suited to help a young team and expand his options. 

Tracy McGrady, SF

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    It's hard to know what to make of Tracy McGrady's offseason thus far, but you can safely say it hasn't gone especially well.

    After finally falling off the face of the earth entirely during his brief stint with the New York Knicks, TMac spent the last two seasons attempting to prove he is still relevant—first with the Detroit Pistons and most recently in 2011-12 with the Atlanta Hawks.

    All that transpired in Atlanta, however, were career lows in points and minutes. 

    Not quite the comeback tour he was hoping for.

    He worked out for the San Antonio Spurs, but it's hard to imagine McGrady in Silver and Black after the club added small forward Derrick Brown on a non-guaranteed contract, further crowding an already well-stocked wing.

    McGrady could very well end up replacing Brown with the Charlotte Bobcats now that the New York Knicks reportedly decided to go in another direction.

    The Bobcats have shown some interest in McGrady, and he might not find a better opportunity than backing up rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and giving Charlotte's second unit a point-forward to make some plays.

    With his NBA career falling on hard times, he just might wind up in China.

Michael Redd, SG

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    Michael Redd did enough in his 15.1 points per game with the Phoenix Suns last season to prove he still has something left in the tank after injuries interrupted his prime.

    The 33-year-old averaged over eight points and made nearly 32 percent of his three-point attempts, suggesting there's an important role he can play with any number of second units. The trick will be finding one that doesn't also need him to defend or make many plays.

    Fox Sports' Sam Amico reports that Redd has had interest from the Washington Wizards, Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies, Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder.

    Redd appears to be out of the running with Memphis on account of limited finances, and it's a bit hard to imagine him finding much playing time on the already deep Nuggets roster. Meanwhile, the Bulls' acquisition of Marco Belinelli would seemingly give Chicago a spot-up perimeter shooter who wouldd make Redd superfluous.

    The Washington Wizards would have been a perfect fit before signing Martell Webster, but the team now has plenty of options behind shooting guard Bradley Beal—including Jordan Crawford, who started 32 games at the position in 2011-12.

    That leaves you with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team whose backup shooting guard (James Harden) won Sixth Man of the Year last season and earns a starter's minutes. OKC could still use another scorer on the bench, so they may very well wind up the most likely option, especially if they don't bring Derek Fisher back.

    Otherwise, look for Redd to potentially return to the Suns or sign on with a young, rebuilding club in need of some experience. The Cleveland Cavaliers, Charlotte Bobcats, New Orleans Hornets and Sacramento Kings all come to mind. If the Minnesota Timberwolves grow weary of the Brandon Roy experiment, they could always be of the mind to stockpile another shooting guard as well.