Free agency may be an afterthought in the minds of the average NBA fan, but that doesn't mean it's concluded. Countless teams are looking to round out their roster, targeting free agents who promise to improve their current squad.
The question is, which veteran free agents can help title contenders?
Certain teams have a need for an interior player, either needing to improve their low-post game or improve upon their rim protection. Others are hoping to find a swingman who can mentor their young guards and forwards.
Here are the players who can serve that purpose.
Position: Power Forward
Experience: 11 Seasons
During the 2011-12 NBA regular season, Drew Gooden turned heads by posting a Player Efficiency Rating of 18.88 while averaging 13.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 26.2 minutes. In 2012-13, Gooden saw the latter number drop to 9.4 minutes per game.
We're inclined to believe that one season of limited action was more of a fluke than an indictment.
According to Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York, the New York Knicks are targeting Gooden in hopes of improving their interior depth. The Knicks are hoping to add a defensive-minded center, however, which makes Gooden a player with an outside chance of being signed by New York.
Just don't think that means another team couldn't use his services.
Teams that would most benefit from adding Gooden would be the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder. Both teams are title contenders, but most importantly, they have relatively young interiors with an absence of a low-post presence.
Gooden just so happens to specialize on the offensive end of the floor.
Blake Griffin is the next big thing at power forward, and his offensive game is often overanalyzed, but L.A. needs a reliable veteran down low. The Thunder, meanwhile, have Serge Ibaka's jump shooting, but Gooden's ability to score out of the post would offer a welcome change of pace.
Defense is an issue, but Gooden posted an above-average PER in all but one season from 2002-03 to 2011-12.
Experience: 13 Seasons
At 35, there's no question that Stephen Jackson has lost a step on both ends of the floor. With that being said, teams could do a lot worse when hoping to find a player to fill out their roster and potentially contribute 15-to-20 minutes a night.
According to Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld.com, the Houston Rockets appear to be the team most interested in doing just that.
Stephen Jackson is currently training and hoping to join a contender. I've heard Houston mentioned as a possible landing spot.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) August 12, 2013
The move certainly has merit.
The Rockets have a superstar tandem of James Harden and Dwight Howard that any general manager would love to build around. They also have a high-quality small forward in Chandler Parsons and quality veterans with Aaron Brooks, Marcus Camby and Francisco Garcia.
Throw in the likes of Patrick Beverley, Omri Casspi and Greg Smith and you have a team with a bench that could be strong.
Unfortunately, there is no sense of certainty when it comes to Houston's second unit, as Beverley, Garcia and Smith were the only three to do much of anything last season. Camby battled injuries, Brooks averaged 5.4 minutes in Houston and Casspi put up 4.0 points in 43 games with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Jackson's character issues are concerning, but Houston doesn't have much going for them beyond their stars and an established veteran would certainly help.
Position: Power Forward
Experience: 7 Seasons
Tyrus Thomas was once viewed as a future star after going No. 4 overall in the 2006 NBA draft. While he hasn't panned out as expected, that doesn't mean Thomas is of no value to a contender hoping to build up their interior.
Per Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York, the Knicks have expressed interest in acquiring Thomas' services.
The Knicks are looking to find a defensive-minded player who can help create depth behind Tyson Chandler. Thomas isn't the established front-runner, but he's certainly has the rewarding traits that deserve interest.
Few teams will turn down the opportunity to add a 6'10" power forward who blocks shots and crashes the boards at a quality rate.
The Knicks don't need Thomas, but he's a player with as much reward as any other on the free-agent market. With the Knicks looking to round out their roster, finding a high-reward player seems to make more sense than looking to a reliable source of mediocre contributions.
Upside is a dangerous thing to deal with, but the risk all but disappears when you're adding a 15th man.