Ranking 10 Best Under-the-Radar Moves of the 2013 NBA Offseason
Under-the-radar moves are key to any NBA offseason under the league's more restrictive collective bargaining agreement.
They're also vital to any successful championship quest. Basketball history books are littered with unheralded stars rising to the occasion, whether it's Mike Miller's Game 5 barrage in 2012 or Don Nelson catching a lucky bounce to close out the 1969 Finals.
But they're also dramatically underappreciated in this superstars' league.
There's nothing necessarily wrong with that. Howard looked every bit like a superstar talent (17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game), even in a down year for the big man.
But he wasn't the only one swapping jerseys, and potentially changing a franchise's fortune, this summer. He was just the one grabbing the lion's share of the coverage, although several others have since moved the needle on the transactions page.
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce added championship experience and swagger to the Brooklyn Nets. Andre Iguodala brought hope and question marks to the Golden State Warriors. Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans drew a similar reaction from New Orleans Pelicans fans.
The under-the-radar additions were naturally left scrounging for back-page space.
Well, that's no longer the case. These unheralded hoopers will have their long-overdue run under the magnifying glass.
*Unless otherwise specified, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.
10. Phoenix Suns Draft Archie Goodwin
I was tempted to go with Boston Celtics summer league standout Kelly Olynyk as my rookie entry, but his selection wasn't overlooked. It was just miscast as a reach instead of a potential find.
Archie Goodwin, on the other hand, started last season as a virtual lottery lock and ended it just two spots clear of the second round of the draft. His buzz had diminished considerably by that point, so at least he avoided an agonizing wait in the green room.
But there are a number of things hinting at his oozing potential as a sleeper.
For starters, there's his turbo-charged 6'5" frame and 6'10" wingspan. He has the quickness to man either guard spot, the handles to blow by defenders at both positions and the strength to finish drives through contact at the rim.
He was also the Suns' second draft-night addition, behind big man Alex Len (the No. 5 overall pick). Len's had a pair of ankle surgeries this summer, but the 7'1" Ukrainian will likely have more eyes on him whenever he makes his debut.
Len's ceiling is incredibly high, but don't be shocked if Goodwin is right alongside him through each step up the NBA ranks. Just 19 years old, Goodwin steamrolled through Sin City with five double-digit outbursts, including a pair of 20-plus-point efforts, in seven games at the Las Vegas Summer League.
9. Memphis Grizzlies Acquire Kosta Koufos
Kosta Koufos started 81 games for the 57-win, third-seeded Denver Nuggets last season.
But this summer he was shipped off to Western Conference finalist Memphis Grizzlies for a price tag resting somewhere between door-buster bargain and petty theft. Koufos cost the Grizzlies only the oft-injured Darrell Arthur (career 12.9 player efficiency rating) and the rights to the No. 55 overall pick, Joffrey Lauvergne.
Koufos and his career 16.0 PER help round out what could be the league's best interior collection. Behind All-Star Zach Randolph and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies have a proven producer in Koufos (8.0 points and 6.9 rebounds per game in 2012-13), a tantalizing prospect in Ed Davis (the No. 13 pick in 2010) and a budding stretch big in 24-year-old Jon Leuer.
Koufos is the kind of solid, unspectacular talent that casual fans sleep on, but savvy hoops heads can appreciate. He plays both ends of the floor, converts his offensive chances around the basket (67.9 percent shooting at the rim last season) and consistently crashes the offensive glass (13.3 offensive rebound percentage in 2012-13, fifth in the NBA).
If you were one of the many that slept on this move initially, don't worry. He'll force you out of your slumber real soon.
8. Golden State Warriors Bolster Bench with Veteran Jermaine O'Neal
The Golden State Warriors say they're ready to treat Andrew Bogut as if he's at full strength, via Sporting News' Sean Deveney.
But that doesn't mean the 7-footer's body has signed off on the idea.
Bogut, the top pick in 2005, hasn't played a full season since his rookie year. He's missed at least 13 games in each of the last five seasons and was sidelined for 104 combined games over the last two.
His absences meant Golden State sacrifices last season. With Bogut off the floor, Mark Jackson either lost size (Carl Landry-David Lee post pairing), offense (Festus Ezeli, 43.8 field-goal percentage) or competence (Andris Biedrins, 7.7 PER).
But now that 17-year veteran Jermaine O'Neal is on board, the Warriors might not notice a difference when Bogut makes his annual trip to the training room.
O'Neal missed 27 games of his own last season, but when he was on the floor he bore a striking resemblance to the player who was selected to six straight All-Star Games from 2002-07. He averaged 8.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 18.7 minutes, which gave him per-36-minutes marks of 15.9, 10.3 and 2.7, respectively.
For nothing more than a one-year, $2 million investment, the Warriors saved their identity.
7. DeJuan Blair Gets His Shot with Dallas Mavericks
DeJuan Blair has every reason to be smiling right now.
Sure he left the reigning Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs for the playoff-hopeful Dallas Mavericks, but at least Blair will finally have a say in his team's performance.
Blair, who spent the first four seasons of his career in San Antonio, was Gregg Popovich's secret weapon. The problem was that the coach never bothered to share that secret with the rest of the league.
Blair never averaged more than 21.4 minutes per game with the Spurs. His playing time spiraled to a career-low 14.0 minutes of action last season, despite his per-36-minutes production (13.9 points on 52.4 percent shooting from the field, 9.7 rebounds) closely resembling his career averages (14.9, 52.8 and 11.1, respectively).
Blair's not about to stumble into a starting gig. Dirk Nowitzki is still the Mavericks' best player, and newcomer Samuel Dalembert will likely open games alongside the former MVP. Brandan Wright, Shawn Marion and Bernard James could also factor in the post rotation.
But Blair will have the chance to compete for significant playing time, something that only came in spurts during his San Antonio days. A relentless glass eater and heady offensive player, expect him to make the most of this opportunity.
6. Indiana Pacers Add Free-Agent Sniper Chris Copeland
Chris Copeland is the face of under-the-radar players across the globe.
He was six years removed from his graduation from the University of Colorado before he finally found his way onto an NBA roster last season.
Despite closing his rookie campaign with 85 combined points over his last three regular-season games, he's still flying well off the radar. He averaged fewer than 16 minutes a night for the New York Knicks last season, then saw just 93 total minutes in the Knicks' 12-game playoff run.
While plenty are still sleeping on the 6'9" gunner, the Indiana Pacers are not a part of that group. They brought him in on a two-year, $6 million deal to bring floor spacing and untapped potential to their second unit.
Coepland's a shooter above all else (.479/.421/.759 slash line last season). But given Indiana's defensive pedigree (league-leading 99.8 defensive rating in 2012-13) and struggles from distance (34.7 percent, 22nd), that's what made Copeland so attractive.
As for what made the Pacers so appealing for Copeland? Well, he knows as well as anyone just how good they can be. Indiana dispatched Copeland's New York squad in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Hey, if you can't beat them you might as well join them, right? Especially when you can pick up a cool $6 million in the process.
5. Dorell Wright Brings Shooting, Experience to Portland Trail Blazers
After an atrocious showing by their second unit in 2012-13 (league-worst 18.5 points per game, via HoopsStats.com), the Portland Trail Blazers spent this summer overhauling their bench.
Former All-Star Mo Williams and rookie C.J. McCollum caused the biggest stirs, but "3-and-D" wing man Dorell Wright may leave the biggest imprint.
A nine-year veteran, he's not packing any surprises for his trip to Portland. But what he will bring is a buttery three-point stroke (37.4 percent in 2012-13) and suffocating perimeter defense (14.0 PER allowed to opposing small forwards last season, via 82games.com).
His dribble-drive game is limited, but with Williams, McCollum and reigning Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard controlling the rock, the Blazers weren't looking for another ball-handler.
Portland will carry realistic playoff hopes into the 2013-14 season. Overlooked but productive additions like Wright will help the Blazers realize that goal.
4. The San Antonio Spurs Do It Again
Marco Belinelli's career 38.7 three-point percentage says his reputation as a gunner is well deserved.
As for the rest of his stat line, though, it screams that the label grossly oversimplifies his game.
He's comfortable creating for others (2.0 assists against 1.1 turnovers last season) and gives coach Gregg Popovich yet another option to initiate the offense. His defense rarely cracks his scouting report, but the numbers suggest it's a stronger part of his game than advertised (12.3 PER allowed to opposing shooting guards in 2012-13, via 82games.com).
His shot selection leaves something to be desired—career 41.8 field-goal percentage—but with Popovich's direction and the offensive talent around him, his shooting numbers could spike next season.
He has the size (6'5", 195 pounds) and skills to play either guard spot. Plus, he's a versatile threat as part of an attacking offensive unit (flanked by Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili) or an impenetrable defensive group (with Cory Joseph, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard).
San Antonio targeted Belinelli early in free agency. It's hard to second-guess a front office with this kind of track record.
3. Los Angeles Clippers Find a Winner in Jared Dudley
Jared Dudley was built to play for a championship contender.
Those aren't my words. Those are from the six-year veteran himself. "I'm an ideal piece for a team like that," he told AZCentral.com's Paul Coro when reacting to being traded from the Phoenix Suns to the Los Angeles Clippers this summer.
The words might have a tinge of arrogance to them, but it's hard to argue with what he said.
Dudley's a high-character, high-energy guy with a skill set rarely seen among hustlers.
He shoots well (career .473/.405/.743 shooting slash), rebounds (career 3.6 per game), distributes (2.6 assists a night in 2012-13) and defends anywhere along the perimeter. The Clippers have plenty of scorers on the roster already, but he's good enough at making something out of nothing that his 2012-13 scoring average, 10.9, could carry over to his new team.
The transaction that sent him to LA received plenty of coverage, but with names like J.J. Redick, Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler involved, Dudley was an afterthought.
Now that his talents are on display in a major market, he'll be a headline grabber early and often.
2. Brooklyn Nets Bring Back Andray Blatche
But one of their fiscally responsible maneuvers could help put all of these pieces together.
Andray Blatche was wildly productive during his debut season in Brooklyn. He paced the Nets' second team with 10.3 points per game and trailed only All-Star center Brook Lopez in field-goal percentage (51.2) and PER (21.9).
Still collecting paychecks after being amnestied by the Washington Wizards last summer, Blatche didn't have to go searching for a major pay day. His rocky seven-year tenure in Washington might have kept him from hitting the jackpot, but his renaissance season in Brooklyn certainly could have netted him more than the two-year, $2.8 million contract (player option for 2014-15) he ultimately signed.
Blatche wasn't the only bargain signing that the Nets made. Veteran Andrei Kirilenko agreed to a two-year, $6.5 million deal (player option for the second season) after opting out of his $10.2 million salary with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
But unlike Blatche, Kirilenko did anything but fly under-the-radar. Those $7 million left on the table sent rival executives to the conspiracy-theory realms.
As for Blatche, he's simply an underpaid, underappreciated and overlooked piece in Brooklyn's championship puzzle.
1. Indiana Pacers Rescue Luis Scola from the Desert
If the Indiana Pacers' acquisition of Luis Scola is any indication, the price for proven NBA talent is so low that I'm looking for a hired gunner for my next pickup game.
Scola is the model of consistency. He's missed just eight games over his six-year career, while averaging between 17.3 and 20.2 points per-36-minutes in each of the last four seasons.
He'll be one of the leading men on Indiana's overhauled reserve unit that now features shooters Chris Copeland and C.J. Watson. Former All-Star Danny Granger or fourth-year guard Lance Stephenson, who started 72 games for the 49-win Pacers last season, will share the spotlight with Scola.
Scola brings incredible value on his own. But considering he cost Indiana only project player Miles Plumlee, the underperforming Gerald Green (36.6/31.4 percent shooting last season) and a lottery-protected 2014 first-round pick, this heist deserved so much more attention than it got.
It's only a matter of time before this is rightfully recognized as the steal of the summer.
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