Much of the focus during the initial few days of the NBA’s 2013 free agency period has been on the superstar players. While these marquee talents will undoubtedly have a major impact, it’s the unheralded, underrated acquisitions that often shake the landscape of the league.
For proof, look no further than the Miami Heat’s 2011 signing of Shane Battier. The versatile forward helped the club get over the hump and win back-to-back championships during his two seasons in Miami.
Let’s take a look at a few of the signings that could make a similar impression on their new team.
Kevin Martin, G, Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves needed to acquire a shooting guard that could play off of Ricky Rubio in the backcourt and stretch defenses with a three-point shot.
They failed to address this hole on their roster during the 2013 draft, but quickly rebounded by inking Martin to a four-year deal worth approximately $30 million, as per ESPN’s Marc Stein.
The veteran guard has played for three different teams during his nine-year career and holds averages of 17.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 30.8 minutes per contest.
While the 30-year-old is not a great defender and isn’t capable of getting to the line on a consistent basis anymore, he can simply shoot the lights out from the field and hit on 42.6 percent of his attempts from deep with the Thunder last season.
As long as Kevin Love is drawing attention down low and Martin is getting clean looks on catch-and-release shots off Rubio’s passes, the T-Wolves will be a better team in 2013-14.
Chris Copeland, F, Indiana Pacers
Poor bench play was the main reason for the Pacers downfall in the Eastern Conference finals this past spring.
The club knew that it needed to upgrade the second-unit significantly in the offseason, but would likely struggle with finding the cap space to bring in an impact player.
However, the team brass made the shrewd decision to target Chris Copeland, the New York Knicks’ versatile 29-year-old rookie that burst onto the scene last year.
ESPN New York’s Jared Zwerling reported that Indy’s pursuit was successful and the organization was preparing to lock Copeland into a two-year contract worth $6.12 million.
During his breakout regular season, Copeland appeared in 56 games and started 13 of those. He averaged 8.7 points on 47.9 percent field goal shooting and 42.1 percent three-point shooting.
At 6’8”, 225 pounds, he proved that he has the size—as well as the skill set—required to play numerous positions and was used to plug holes all over the oft-injured Knicks roster.
Copeland’s presence will certainly be noticed, as he projects to become an integral part of a Pacers team looking to capitalize on their epic run through the playoffs and challenge the Heat for supremacy in the East next season.
Earl Clark, F, Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers are preparing for a surge from the league’s basement to a serious postseason contender 2013-14.
During the 2013 draft, the franchise loaded up with a number of potential stars, including No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett and Russian sniper Sergey Karasev at No. 19.
Despite those solid selections, there was still a clear lack of talent and experience at the 3 in Cleveland. That all changed when general manager Chris Grant extended a two-year contract worth $9 million to Earl Clark, as per Sean Deveney.
By agreeing to these terms, Clark not only becomes the best small forward on the roster—but also gives coach Mike Brown another option in the frontcourt.
As a throw-in during the blockbuster Dwight Howard trade last summer, Clark surprisingly became a significant contributor with the Los Angeles Lakers.
He averaged 7.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game in 59 appearances, all career-highs for the four-year veteran.
The 6’10”, 225-pound forward certainly has the length to guard any 3 in the league and is also athletic and strong enough to play in the post if the team goes small.
Clark may not be a superstar in the making, but he’ll be a regular contributor and should be in line for his best season yet.