Free agency begins on Monday, the start of a much-anticipated period of the NBA offseason.
While most of the focus and attention will be paid to the big name stars—including Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Josh Smith and more—there are plenty of other players on the open market that will make an impact.
Like Shane Battier when the Miami Heat signed him in 2011, these players have a chance to come in and make a similar mark—helping their team to perform well during the regular campaign and possibly even swinging a championship come next June.
Let’s take a look at a few of these unheralded talents that will be available.
Jarrett Jack, PG, Unrestricted
Jack greatly aided in the revitalization of Golden State Warriors basketball in 2012-13, as the team’s sixth man averaged 12.9 points, 5.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds during his first season with the club.
He was one of the better players on the roster and made the team’s second unit one of the more feared in the league.
Unfortunately for Golden State, his four-year, $20 million contract is now at an end, and the 29-year-old will have a chance to garner what could be the last big contract of his career.
With his leadership, incredible mid-range shooting and consistency, the eight-year veteran promises to be a hot commodity this summer.
Don’t be surprised if another club floats Jack a sizeable offer to leave the pine behind and become a starter in 2013-14.
Nikola Pekovic, C, Restricted
The Minnesota Timberwolves unearthed a diamond in the rough back in 2008, when they took Pekovic with the first pick in the second round of the draft. Since then, he’s steadily developed into one of the more dominant presences the Association has to offer.
At 6’11”, 290 pounds, Pekovic has the sheer size to defend any other big man in the league and is a fearsome rim protector. Penetrating guards will think twice about going in the paint to take on this Montenegrin juggernaut.
While he’s a bit injury prone, the 27-year-old had his career-best season in 2012-13, participating in 62 games while averaging 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds. He should only get better with more experience and better teammates.
The T-Wolves hold the right of first refusal, but it may be tough for them to match if a competitor is willing to give Pekovic a near-max contract this offseason.
Matt Barnes, SF, Unrestricted
Barnes has had one of the more interesting paths through the NBA in recent memory, as the 33-year-old has suited up for eight different teams during his 10-year tenure in the pros.
He caught back on with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2012-13, the team he originally played for back in 2003-04.
The journeyman put up solid numbers of 10.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game and brought his usual defensive intensity and energy to the table.
Now he’s in prime position to finally land a long-term deal, one that could be the first and last of his career.
It’ll be close to impossible for the UCLA product to pass up on job security and millions in exchange for the chance to win, but it’s not completely off the table.
Given the right circumstances and the market, we could see Barnes playing for a contender in the postseason yet again in 2014.
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