2014 NBA Free Agents Who Can Be Had at Major Discount
Even with all the money flying around the NBA, there are some productive free agents who will prove to be bargains for their 2014-15 teams.
Make no mistake, though—about half the league's teams could work their way into max-contract cap space should they so desire, and the players are reaping the benefits.
In an environment in which the injury-prone Chris Kaman gets $10 million over two years from the Portland Trail Blazers, per an Associated Press report (h/t USA Today), finding useful players whose price tags fall below market value will be a needle-in-a-haystack kind of task.
But it's not impossible, and the savvy organizations that find those sweet deals will reap the benefits that come from financial flexibility. Not only will these guys improve their respective squads' on-court products, but they will allow the front offices to spend elsewhere and add even more talent alongside their new acquisitions.
According to the Star-Telegram's Dwain Price, Vince Carter and the Dallas Mavericks will likely agree to keep chasing a championship together.
The eight-time All-Star's last contract with Dallas, signed in 2011, paid him $9.27 million over three years, per Sportrac. Now that he's a 37-year-old swingman, Carter won't be in line for a raise, and yet he would still be a very nice snag at that or a lower price.
He anchored the second-unit scoring for an unexpectedly feisty Mavs team last season, dropping 11.9 points per game and shooting just a hair below 40 percent from beyond the arc. By harnessing Rick Carlisle's strategic wizardry, Carter was able to capitalize on open corner looks and generate space with well-timed cuts, if not necessarily the quickest ones at his age.
While no longer high-rising Vinsanity, Carter sports a more varied game than your usual backup shooting guard. Someone like Anthony Morrow could potentially make twice what Carter would based on his deadlier three-point shooting, but the former Tar Heel can produce just as much with a fuller offensive toolbox.
At this price, Carter's a steal for anyone. In Carlisle's hands, the value just keeps increasing.
With the Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics, Jordan Crawford showed he could be an asset in high-usage situations with the ball in his hands. Finding a scorer like that who is affordable and amenable to coming off the bench amounts to a coup for aspiring contenders.
That's why, per Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, the list of Crawford suitors consists of win-now franchises and major markets: the Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks.
Barring the unforeseen or a Zen Master mind trick, the Knicks won't challenge for the 2015 title, but their inclusion on this list helps to place Crawford's market value. Totally capped out, they only have the mini-mid-level exception to spend in 2014 free agency, meaning they could offer him only $3.278 million at the most.
Other teams could offer more, but considering Crawford is a subpar long-range shooter and defender, that's not likely.
Even so, it's rare to find a true combo guard who at 6'4" can dish the ball and attack off the bounce to finish at the rim; thrust into a starting role in his time with Boston last season, Crawford posted 1.37 points and 5.7 assists a game.
Where so many otherwise great teams suffer from stagnant second-unit play, Crawford presents a one-man solution to that problem.
The trend forming on this list: Talented, versatile guys willing to help an NBA Finals hopeful in a modest capacity (and with a salary commensurate to it) are huge acquisitions for the franchises lucky enough to land them.
Pau Gasol represents both the epitome of that description and its upper limit.
A true 7-footer who can score inside, nail long twos and pass expertly from the high post, he's the only guy on this list who will get a starting spot on his next team, regardless how championship-ready it is prior to his arrival.
So when Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that the San Antonio Spurs are pursuing him with just their mid-level exception, the rest of the league must either stop them or duck and cover.
Let's appreciate what larceny San Antonio would be pulling to pair Pau with Tim Duncan at that price.
With the downtrodden Los Angeles Lakers last season, the Spaniard wasn't worth the nearly $19.3 million he made, and his effort seemed to wane for stretches as he tried working his way through his less-than-ideal usage in Mike D'Antoni's offense. He still managed a 19.34 PER with 17.4 points and 9.7 boards per game, and he made it seem uneventful.
The market for floor-stretching bigs is booming, but Gasol is poised to be a significant outlier in his quest for more rings.
The Orlando Magic have chosen a future without Jameer Nelson for the first time since 2004, but the point guard still has impactful playing days ahead.
He's not a viable starter anymore, and he was slated to make $8 million next season had Orlando not waived him. Cutting ties with the franchise's all-time assists leader gives the Magic greater ability to surround youngsters Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton with more shooting.
Nelson can't provide that. He hit 39 percent overall and 34 percent from deep in each of the past two seasons, though an excessive shooting burden has something to do with that. Without the responsibility to produce as much offense himself, Nelson's efficiency will tick up moving forward.
As for the rest of his game, he knows how to run an offense, and even as his quickness slips, he's still a skilled enough dribbler to turn the corner and force the defense to adjust, if not outright beat it.
An aging 6'0" guard wouldn't necessarily garner much more than the veteran's minimum, but Nelson has always proven his worth in big moments. Wherever he goes, he'll be a welcome addition to the locker room, a steadying presence both on and off the floor.
Four years after being selected No. 2 overall in the NBA draft, Evan Turner's potential value to a winning team is somehow still a total mystery.
Nevertheless, it's still greater than it is in the wake of a miserable stint with the Indiana Pacers.
Though his shooting percentages were predictably mediocre, Turner began the 2013-14 season looking like an intriguing player amidst the tanking that was Philadelphia 76ers campaign, averaging 17.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.
Then Indy took a flier on him at the trade deadline, and everything took a turn for the worse.
Turner could do nothing right as a Pacer, putting up 7.1 points, 3.2 boards and 2.4 dimes the rest of the way and getting into a fistfight with Lance Stephenson the day before the playoffs began, per Wojnarowski. That was his last moment of relevance for the season.
After three seasons and change on middling or worse Sixers squads, Turner's Indy days provided his first impression on how he might play for a team legitimately eying a deep playoff run.
But it's a small sample...and not a particularly fair one at that. Though he might not have helped relieve the acrimony in Indy, the dissension predated Turner's arrival. And the ineffectual Pacers squandered the opportunity to have Turner inject some creativity in their dismal offense.
Maybe the padded Philly stats don't represent Turner's true ability, but neither does the Indy disaster. So when Kurt Helin of NBC Sports reports that the Minnesota Timberwolves are looking at Turner and suggests he could be "a decent gamble" for the minimum or slightly more, we're looking at a severe buy-low scenario.
Prior to the midseason trade, the full mid-level exception wouldn't have been out of the question for Turner. Maybe that would have been an overpay, but whoever signs him now will get a hefty discount instead.