NBA Free Agents 2013: Players Who Will Make Big Impact on New Teams
The 2013 NBA free agency period hasn't been all that captivating so far, but there are some stellar players who have committed to new teams and will make a massive difference on their respective squads.
Three of last season's sub-.500 teams have gone at least three consecutive campaigns without a winning record, but appear to have landed big catches on the open market. The prospective signings will be made official on July 10, when the Association's moratorium is lifted.
Below is a breakdown of three players who should help turn the fortunes of some of the league's direst franchises.
O.J. Mayo, SG, Milwaukee Bucks
This team may have just made the playoffs, but it was clear the Bucks had little business being there—particularly against the Miami Heat. That was made was evident when they were swept in four games by double digits in each contest.
As of Wednesday, Mayo was nearing a deal with the Bucks, according to Yahoo! insider Adrian Wojnarowski:
After moving close on a deal Wednesday, Milwaukee and O.J. Mayo will keep working into Thursday to finalize an agreement, sources told Y!— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 4, 2013
Mayo brings stability to a dubious backcourt. Milwaukee wants point guard Brandon Jennings to return, and he's set a specific desired salary, which the Bucks plan to match—or to agree with Jennings before July 10.
However, in light of Jennings' tweet on Friday, it appears he may be getting slightly impatient:
No Excuses!!! Just get it done.... #Branded— BRANDON JENNINGS (@BrandonJennings) July 5, 2013
It's hard to fathom that Mayo would join the Bucks without at least a slight inkling that either Jennings or fellow free agent Monta Ellis would be there for the long haul.
2012-13 was a stellar season for Mayo. He started all 82 games and average 15.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. He also shot his second-best percentage from the field in any season and a career-high 40.8 percent from three-point land.
When the former third-overall draft pick was reduced to a bench role on the Memphis Grizzlies, he honed his defensive ability, and that is an asset the Bucks haven't had on the perimeter.
Milwaukee may be a small market, but there's a legitimate chance for Mayo to improve a team that made the postseason and to be the Bucks' biggest star in the process.
Al Jefferson, C, Charlotte Bobcats
Is there finally hope for the Michael Jordan era in Charlotte? Perhaps, because signing Jefferson has been the Bobcats' majority owner's savviest move in recent memory.
Marc Stein of ESPN broke news of a deal for Jefferson on Independence Day, and noted in a subsequent report that it was a three-year contract worth approximately $41 million:
After two-day visit in Charlotte and initial indications he'd wait out post-Dwight Howard market, Jefferson and Bobcats struck deal this AM— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 4, 2013
Sure, there is an injury history with Jefferson, but he's only 28 and has one of the best back-to-the-basket games in the league. With his arsenal of moves and ability to finish inside and rebound, there is no question Charlotte will see a massive upgrade on its front line.
The Bobcats have been riddled with poor frontcourt play and saddled with a slew of first-round draft pick disappointments.
2006 No. 4 overall pick Tyrus Thomas' exorbitant $8.69 million salary can't be amnestied until July 10 (h/t HoopsHype.com). However, he's been informed it will happen, per Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer:
Tyrus Thomas can't be amnestied until July 10, but he's been informed it will happen.— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) July 4, 2013
Free agents DeSagana Diop and Byron Mullens weren't about to get Bobcat fans too excited, either. Mullens shouldn't be back after not getting a qualifying offer when Gerald Henderson did.
The problem is that defense wins championships, and Charlotte finished 29th in points allowed this past season.
Defense isn't exactly Jefferson's forte, but he'll at least supply ample scoring and rebounding help for a squad that ranked in the bottom-five in those categories this past year, too.
Kevin Martin, G/F, Minnesota Timberwolves
It's been eight years between winning seasons for the Timberwolves and nine since their last playoff appearance. There are some nice young pieces on the roster, but what the team really needed was outside shooting help.
That is precisely what Martin brings to the table. At 6'7", he has ideal size on the wing and has a quick release, which should help Minnesota spread the floor and have more offensive versatility.
Which team will make the biggest improvement in wins in 2013-14?
It will also discourage superstar Kevin Love from taking so many threes and establishing more of a post game—where he can be lethal as a passer.
The problem last year was that the Timberwolves had no one who could really hit shots from the perimeter consistently. They ranked dead last in converting from downtown at just a 30.5 percent clip.
Last season, Martin filled the sixth man role voided by the Oklahoma City Thunder's James Harden trade. Unfortunately for Oklahoma City, the team didn't have enough coin to keep Martin around.
New general manager Flip Saunders may have had a rather questionable draft, but he nailed the pickup of Martin, who should become even more dangerous as dynamic point guard Ricky Rubio continues to improve.
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