There are free agents every NBA offseason who can turn the fortunes of a franchise around, but the summer of 2014 could see a league-altering amount of talent switch teams. That’s not even taking into account the loaded draft class that has inspired discussions of tanking throughout the year.
HoopsHype has a comprehensive list of players who could hit the market in some form or another with early-termination options, player options or team options or as restricted and unrestricted free agents. Among the marquee names are superstars like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Pau Gasol.
However there are a number of other players who will fly under the radar this summer while the superstars receive the majority of the headlines.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few under-the-radar players who could change uniforms this offseason and immediately provide a boost to a new team.
*Stats are through games from Sunday, April 13.
Gordon Hayward (Restricted free agent)
The Utah Jazz may be having a season to forget, but Gordon Hayward has impressed by averaging 16.1 points, 5.2 assists, five rebounds and 1.5 steals a game.
Hayward has shot nearly 37 percent from behind the three-point line during his career as well, so he could offer a team a way to stretch the floor on offense. What’s more, Hayward can create his own shot off the dribble, finish through contact and hit from mid-range when defenders back off of him.
Hayward has struggled a bit this season from the field (41 percent from the field, 30.9 percent from downtown) in relation to his career averages as arguably the top option in Utah’s offense. In an ideal scenario projecting forward, Hayward would sign somewhere that there is already a star in place.
He has difficulty matching up with the opposing team’s best defender, but in this hypothetical, he could post up from the wing and take advantage of weaker matchups. His shooting numbers would likely look even better.
Avery Bradley (Restricted free agent)
Avery Bradley is a restricted free agent this offseason, but if comments that the Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made to 98.5 The Sports Hub are any indication, Bradley may still be wearing Celtic green next year, via CBS Boston.
“We have every intention of having Avery Bradley with us in the future, I think Avery is a terrific player and I think he’ll be with us — I’m very hopeful.”
While he is averaging 14.7 points a game and is a threat from behind the three-point line, Bradley’s true value comes primarily on the defensive side of the ball.
Ideally, Bradley would land somewhere that an established point guard is already in place. He isn’t much of a distributor (1.4 assists per game) but can hit open shots if someone else sets him up.
Regardless of his offense, Bradley will make some money this offseason because defensive stoppers come at such a premium in the Association. There are so many incredibly talented scorers in the league (and there will be even more after Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and company join the fold), that teams need players like Bradley if they hope to contain the opposition.
Isaiah Thomas (Restricted free agent)
The Sacramento Kings don’t receive much national attention because they have struggled this year (and play after much of the country has gone to sleep in Sacramento), but Isaiah Thomas has put together a very impressive statistical season.
He is posting nightly averages of 20.6 points, 6.3 assists, three rebounds and 1.3 steals. He is also shooting better than 45 percent from the field, 35 percent from behind the three-point line and 85 percent from the free-throw line.
Jonathan Santiago of ESPN’s True Hoop Network pointed out that even though Thomas missed some time this year, his desire to be on the floor was still there:
In a perfect scenario, Thomas would go to a team where there was another point guard in place. He is only 5’9”, and the physicality of the NBA schedule may take a toll on him in the long-term if he is playing 35-40 minutes a night consistently. He is a terrific scorer who can also stop opposing ball-handlers on the defensive end with his lateral quickness.
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