In the NBA, the difference between making an impact and spending most of the season on the bench is often finding the right fit. A valuable contributor for one team might not fit the system of another, leading to a smaller role and less playing time.
That's why free agency is important for overlooked players. It gives them a chance to seek the right situation, where they can get an opportunity to stand out. Their signings might not steal headlines, but the effects will be felt next season.
So while most of the attention is centered around Dwight Howard, let's take a closer look at three underrated players who should make their presence felt with new teams. At least on the surface, it appears all of them found the right fit.
Paul Millsap (Two-Year Deal with Atlanta Hawks)
Millsap is a warrior. A power forward willing to do the dirty work in the paint in order to succeed. He's been caught in a crowded Utah Jazz frontcourt, but moving into a more prominent role with the Hawks should serve him well.
He averaged 17 points and eight rebounds while shooting 53 percent from the floor when given the chance to play 34 minutes per game three years ago. As he enters his prime, those are probably the low-end numbers the Hawks can expect next season.
That said, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him become a double-double machine playing alongside Al Horford, who will attract a lot of defensive attention. They will form a terrific one-two punch in the post for Atlanta.
Mike Dunleavy (Two-Year Deal with Chicago Bulls)
Even though Dunleavy continued to showcase his sharpshooting tendencies with the Milwaukee Bucks, the team was deep on the perimeter, which limited his role. He should be able to carve out a more favorable niche for himself in Chicago.
It's been six years since the Duke product was one of the NBA's breakout stars. He averaged 19 points while starting all 82 games for the Indiana Pacers. While he's not expected to have that type of role with the Bulls, it shows what he's capable of should he get thrust into the starting lineup.
More likely, he'll form a rotation with Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler. Getting a chance to play with one of the league's best point guards in Derrick Rose will also help as he helps the Bulls spread the floor and knocks down a lot of outside shots for the Eastern Conference contenders.
Marco Belinelli (Two-Year Deal with San Antonio Spurs)
No team in the league uses depth players better than the Spurs. In a system that's revolved around Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili for so long, the likes of Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard were able to star on the playoff stage.
The Belinelli signing signals two things. First, Gregg Popovich will continue the trend of giving his trio of superstars ample rest during the regular season. Second, the Spurs wanted a little extra insurance after Ginobili had some very rough patches during the postseason.
Belinelli is a natural shooting guard with the ability to knock down threes, an essential asset for perimeter role players for the Spurs. He can also run the point if necessary, giving him another chance at playing time. It should be a good match for both sides.
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