Each offseason, a wealth of talent leaks into NBA free agency, and while the eyes of the globe are transfixed on LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, contenders will be loading up with lesser names.
For now, that is. Look at the San Antonio Spurs, who quietly brought on Boris Diaw, Danny Green and Patty Mills throughout the last few offseasons before lifting up the Larry O'Brien Trophy this year.
Not every team can do what the Spurs were able to with players who received little attention, but those franchises that can properly identify immediate contributors for the right price and place them in a system that plays to their strengths routinely win in free agency.
Below is the next batch of free agents that are available this summer whom many will look back on and admire, although right now they are seemingly lost in the shuffle.
Marcin Gortat (C, Washington Wizards)
Freed from the shackles of Dwight Howard and then the Phoenix Suns, Marcin Gortat exploded onto the scene last year with the Washington Wizards and is now free to cash in on a major deal.
Expect that to happen, too, especially if the Wizards balk at his asking price. Despite averaging 13.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game last year on 54.2 percent shooting, Gortat is far from a household name at this point.
More important than anything, Gortat has quietly proven that he can be a deadly addition to a talented lineup. Look at what ESPN Radio 93.5's Jeremy Werner hints at in Miami:
Gortat in Miami may be a pipe dream, but it speaks to how highly contenders will view him. The Polish Hammer is a force beneath the rim and can score at an impressive clip when the offense runs through him in the post.
At 30 years of age, Gortat may not get a huge number on the open market, but he will be smartly pursued by contenders who are willing to bank on his continued production at both ends of the floor.
Jordan Hill (F, Los Angeles Lakers)
Coming off a year in which he was given the most average minutes per game of his career (20.8), Jordan Hill may finally be the steal on the market that many have consistently pegged him to be for some time.
At 6'10" and 235 pounds, Hill is an imposing defender at times and a superb scorer when given the opportunity. Last year's averages of 9.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 0.9 blocks are nothing outside of a slight preview of what is possible if Hill is given more time on the court.
Which he figures to have if a contender thinks the price is right. One thing's for sure—Hill might not be back with the Lakers, as his frustration with then-head coach Mike D'Antoni was abundantly obvious.
"It gets old," Hill said of his role in D'Antoni's rotation, via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times. "It’s what you can expect, though. It’s not a surprise. I can’t do nothing, but stay humble and continue to keep my head high and support my team.”
That may equate to a bitter taste in Hill's mouth, which won't be further helped by the fact that the Lakers remain stalled in a rebuild. Hill understands, and he would certainly be an outstanding fit for a contender that is ready to consistently use him for large chunks of time each contest, if not outright make him a starter.
DeJuan Blair (F, Dallas Mavericks)
He may not have an ACL in either knee, but DeJuan Blair makes up for that factoid, which dropped him into the second round of the 2009 draft, with routine double-doubles when given ample opportunity to see the court.
Blair averages 14.9 points and 11.0 rebounds per 36 minutes, which are unruly numbers for a guy who thus far has been confined to a situational role at best.
There is a chance that role will not change for him in the future, but wherever Blair lands, he will strongly make a case to be the starter given his boatloads of production. On this year's market, there are simply not many forwards who can bang on the low block with extreme effectiveness and also score at such an effective clip.
Remember, Blair is just 25 years old. The knee concerns have proven to not be a major issue so far in his career. While the Pittsburgh product was not a success story in San Antonio, there are teams who can nab him this offseason and use him properly.
If and when that happens, watch out.
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