In case you have been on a worldwide cruise that didn’t have cable or internet service for the past two months, the entire NBA landscape is at stake during the 2014 offseason.
Some of the best players in the league, including LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Lance Stephenson, Pau Gasol and maybe even Kevin Love (via trade), are available at the right price. However, for every franchise-changing talent, there are two or three underrated players who will immediately improve the fortunes of whichever team lands them.
With that in mind, here is a look at three players in particular who have flown under the radar in the early free agency process that should be receiving more attention.
Based on media coverage alone, you would be forgiven if you assumed that Kyle Lowry was the only point guard available via free agency this offseason.
Sure, Lowry is a great player, but there is another elite offensive weapon who can serve as the primary ball-handler for a team on the market. Isaiah Thomas could be on his way out of Sacramento, especially since Darren Collison is heading to the Kings.
Thomas posted nightly averages of 20.3 points, 6.3 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals during the 2013-14 campaign. He also shot 35 percent from behind the three-point line and 85 percent from the charity stripe and would likely be seen as an All-Star if he played somewhere more notable than Sacramento.
Perhaps the best part is the fact that he is only 25 years old.
If Thomas, who has plenty of premier basketball ahead of him, lands on a contender that already has a star or two in place, he can be a very dangerous secondary option. After all, we are talking about a guy who can carry the offensive load on his own if needed and score from anywhere on the floor, so look out if he is paired with some other playmakers.
Perhaps certain playmakers in Miami wouldn’t mind having a point guard of Thomas’ caliber?
Marc Stein of ESPN noted that some seriously talented squads are looking Anthony Morrow’s way:
It is downright scary to think about someone with Morrow’s shooting ability in an offense with the likes of James, Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook. Morrow was fourth in the entire NBA in three-point percentage at 45.1, and that number could skyrocket if he played with an elite penetrator who forces the opposing defense to collapse.
New Orleans may not have featured a player like that, but Morrow seemed to appreciate his time with the Pelicans, via John Reid of The Times Picayune:
I improved a lot as a player. Obviously, Coach Monty (Williams) put me in situations that helped me improve and the coaching staff.
Just all the guys I spoke to - Jarrett Jack and Chris Paul - before I signed here in the offseason said I would be fine coming in with my work mentality that they know I have. It's really been a good year working and proving and I am just thankful to have had the opportunity.
Morrow won’t draw many headlines with his decision, but if he chooses an ideal situation, he could change the fortunes of an NBA contender based on his outside shooting alone.
All D.J. Augustin did during the 2013-14 campaign was save the Chicago Bulls’ season when Derrick Rose went down with yet another injury.
When Chicago brought Augustin in, he immediately provided an offensive spark that was simply missing before. He posted nightly averages of 13.1 points and 4.4 assists behind 40 percent shooting from downtown and an 88.5 percent clip from the free-throw line. There were few players in the entire NBA who were more reliable from the charity stripe down the stretch of tight games.
Augustin isn’t going to bring a championship to a team by himself, but he can be a real difference-maker for a contender, especially as an option off the bench.
Think of how Patty Mills impacted the game in the NBA Finals for the San Antonio Spurs in relief of Tony Parker. He drilled three-pointer after three-pointer, found the openings on the floor and helped with spacing, served as something of a pest defensively and found his open teammates when Miami finally did pay attention to him on the outside.
Augustin can do all of that. The only question now is which team gets to find that out next year.
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