The Best Bargain NBA Free Agents at Every Position During 2013 Offseason
Right at 12:01 AM on July 1st, general managers and coaches will show up on the doorsteps of free agents fully ready to wine and dine the Lloyd Doblers of the basketball world for a night, ready to say anything to get a big-time player to sign.
Then, there's the other guys. The following free agents won't cause any sleepless nights, and they won't get tons of attention or the big paydays. We're dealing with players who, at the very most, would receive the mid-level exception this offseason.
That said, these free agents represent the bargains. At every position, here are the little signings that could end up making a big difference.
PG: Will Bynum
Will Bynum isn't one of the best 30 point guards in the league. Heck, he's not even the best guy named Bynum available in free agency.
But what Bynum could be is the Nate Robinson of this year's free-agency class, particularly since the real Nate Robinson is bound to get overpaid after multiple great playoff performances.
Bynum put together a great campaign on his own in Detroit, building very real chemistry with Andre Drummond as a lethal pick-and-roll and lob combo. The 30-year-old point guard, like Robinson, is small in stature, but he's incredibly aggressive both with his shot selection and passes.
Bynum's assist-to-turnover ratio of 2-1 isn't going to wow anyone and his size will scare teams away, but teams in need of some pop off the bench could do much worse.
Bynum's 18.8 points per 36 minutes on 46.9 percent shooting last season might not be attainable again, but pair him with an athletic big and surround him with good defenders on the second unit and he can handle a lot of the scoring load for a low cost.
PG: Darren Collison
Free agency is a "what have you done for me lately?" type of market, and that should make Darren Collison very affordable this offseason.
It's not that Collison had a bad year. He was right at or above his career averages in nearly every statistical category. Perception matters here, however, and Rick Carlisle and the Mavericks opting for 37-year-old Mike James fresh out of the D-League instead of Collison was damaging.
After bursting on the scene four years ago backing up Chris Paul, Collison has shown more shortcomings than improvement as a starting point guard. He's struggled with consistency and his ability to get his teams into the offense, but as a pure backup Collison still brings a lot to the table.
Just 25 years old, the former UCLA star can be very effective in transition and can be a pest to ball-handlers with full-court pressure. Collison can wear out slower guards with his quickness, and on nights when his jumper is falling, he becomes a totally different, starting point guard-caliber player.
He'll almost certain to be overlooked in free agency, but Collison could easily be one of the best backup point guards in the league next year. The expectations just need to be tamed.
SG: Martell Webster
Ray Allen, Klay Thompson and Kyle Korver are all great corner three-point shooters, but Webster was better than all of them from that area last season, both in terms of makes and percentage.
Only Shane Battier made more corner threes last season, and Webster also shot a ridiculous 49 percent on his attempts. That's where he made his living.
If there's one trend picked up from the playoffs, it's the importance of having shooters in the corners to space the floor. If they can defend a little bit, great. If they're good athletes, even better.
Webster provides all of those things, and last season he was healthy enough to finally show it.
After a season in which his true shooting percentage eclipsed 60 percent, Webster should be a hot commodity as a pure spot-up shooter with lots of gas left in the tank. His limited contributions elsewhere should keep the price reasonably low, however.
SG: Corey Brewer
Corey Brewer's stock may have taken a hit during a brutal playoff series against Golden State where he was lit up defensively and shot 30.9 percent from the field, but that only means he's more likely to be a bargain this offseason.
Putting aside a small sample size against a lethal backcourt, Brewer is still a very good individual defender who can frustrate just about any player into dumb mistakes with his length and quickness.
He's a "3 and D" guy with an emphasis on D, but Brewer did hit the fifth-most three-pointers in the league from the corner this season, albeit at a lackluster average of 35.9 percent.
Still, the 27-year-old swingman's ability to leak out and take off in transition is unparalleled around the league, and if he could tone down his usage rate and be a tad more selective, Brewer could be a highly effective sixth man capable of changing the tempo of a game merely by being out on the floor.
SF: Matt Barnes
Matt Barnes has played for salaries well below his on-court value for years now, so no one would blame him if he held out for a deal right around the mid-level exception this offseason. He's earned his first good payday.
That doesn't mean that Barnes still wouldn't be an exceptional value for anything below the mid-level exception ($5 million). Barnes threw together one of the best campaigns of his career for the Clippers last season, becoming an integral part of a second unit that was incredibly disruptive defensively.
Although Barnes is a slightly below-average three-point shooter, he creates space in other ways. One of the best off-ball cutters in the league, Barnes is always darting to the open area of the floor for easy layups or shots. A point guard's best friend, Barnes does most of his damage off the ball, and he's also one of the best rebounding wings in basketball.
Barnes is sort of a "crazy glue guy" more than a regular glue guy, but no one denies that he's an absolute nightmare to play against. You can probably compete for a title with Barnes as a starter, and that's something you can't say for most guys who make the type of money he'll likely receive.
SF: Chase Budinger
LeBron James would be a pretty good bargain at any price, but let's talk about the other gentleman in the photograph.
Chase Budinger may be flying under the radar after an injury-ravaged season with the Timberwolves, but there's a lot to like here. Budinger is just a year removed from shooting 40 percent from behind the arc with the Rockets, and he's just 25 years old. There's definitely room for growth, especially when you consider Budinger's immense athletic abilities.
Low-mistake, sharpshooting young athletes who rebound well aren't typically in high supply in free agency, but Budinger should remain affordable simply because he's been out of the spotlight. Budinger is coming off career-worst field goal and three-point percentages, and that makes him a strong buy-low candidate for a team in need of shooting.
PF: Elton Brand
After having one of the worst contracts in basketball for a few seasons with Philadelphia, Elton Brand could have one of the best this season.
Just a year removed from a campaign that put him in the race for Defensive Player of the Year, Brand can still get it done on the glass (10.1 rebounds per 36) and he can still block shots with those long arms (2.1 blocks). More importantly, Brand understands positioning and defensive rotations, making him the perfect heady veteran to bolster a team defensively.
Entering the twilight of his career, the 34-year-old forward is a prime candidate to sign a veteran's minimum contract with a contender this offseason. Brand has made his money, and now you have to think he wants his best shot at a ring.
Tough power forwards who can shoot from mid-range are always welcome on good teams (David West, Udonis Haslem), so don't be surprised if Brand ends up being a major factor on the cheap for a postseason team next year.
PF: Al-Farouq Aminu
If Al-Farouq Aminu had stayed at Wake Forest all four years, he'd be entering the draft this offseason. Instead, he'll enter the offseason as an unrestricted free agent. How often does that happen?
Aminu has yet to live up to his draft slot (No. 8 in 2010), but he was a project coming out, and he's a project now. Although some of the shine is gone, Aminu could still be a tremendous value for a team with a good player development staff, because Aminu does bring some elite skills to the table.
Per 36 minutes last year, Aminu nabbed 10.2 rebounds a game, which is an incredible number for a wing or a small-ball 4, which may be Aminu's true calling after all. The lanky 6'9" forward is also great at beating everyone up the floor in transition.
Aminu's ball-handling skills and jumper are a mess, but there's still plenty of time to straighten those out. While other teams clamor over imperfect new players in the draft, this imperfect old player could be a bargain for a team willing to exercise some patience.
C: Timofey Mozgov
Timofey Mozgov got lost in Denver's center shuffle this season, where he went on to hold the dubious title of "best third-string center in the league" in a runaway contest.
A restricted free agent unlikely to be retained by Denver this offseason, Mozgov is a huge body with just three years of experience under his belt. That's well short of the time it takes most big men to hit their stride, so it's not unreasonable to suggest Mozgov has more productive seasons on the horizon.
A really strong offensive rebounder (3.4 per 36 minutes) and shot-blocker (1.8 blockers per 36 minutes), Mozgov is excellent at creating extra possessions for more skilled offensive players to use. As a pretty good free-throw shooter as well (71 percent career), Mozgov takes almost nothing off the table as a backup big man who will challenge guys at the rim and make good use of his fouls.
Centers tend to get recycled every year, but Mozgov deserves an extended look as a backup center somewhere.
C: Zaza Pachulia
There's still a place for big, ugly, bruising big men, and Zaza Pachulia is just that. Although it's a fading art, getting a cheap seven-footer who can defend the remaining giants of the world on the block is always a good idea.
A good rebounder and post defender first and foremost, Pachulia is a guy who is well aware of his role and can function just fine as the first big off the bench. Although he's limited offensively, Pachulia draws lots of fouls and can hit free throws at a great clip (73.3 percent career FT shooter), and that's something that would make him a viable late-game option on both ends.
Pachulia's wallet may suffer this offseason because he's not flashy and he doesn't block shots, but there aren't many backup big men who are more solid, proven and dependable than Pachulia is.