Potential Impact Players Still Available in 2014 NBA Free Agency
We've officially hit the slow period of the NBA offseason, as most rosters are close to being filled and the big fireworks have already gone off.
Even with that being the case, there is still a very strong pool of free-agent talent available, including a few players who could make a major impact next season.
Before we get to five of the best candidates, let's explain why a few big names didn't make the cut.
Detroit Pistons big man Greg Monroe has informed the Detroit Pistons he plans to sign his qualifying offer, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY Sports. That would take him off the market.
The 7-foot Bynum may not be reuniting with Phil Jackson’s Knicks or any other team next season because he is seriously contemplating sitting out 2014-15 to undergo the Germany-based knee therapy called “The Regenokine Program’’ that would require an extra long rehab, according to his agent David Lee. But he could be in play for the following season.
“He would be looking at in a longer-term situation,’’ Lee said. “He’s still a baby. If he went to college, he’d be coming off his rookie contract at age 26.’’
Veterans like Elton Brand and Ray Allen barely missed the cut, along with riskier additions like Michael Beasley and Dante Cunningham. Each might make an impact but probably not on the same level as the following five free agents could.
The restricted free-agency negotiations between the Phoenix Suns and prized guard Eric Bledsoe have remained at a stalemate.
While it's hard to tell which way this will end up going, it is possible that Bledsoe follows the path of another high profile RFA, Detroit Pistons big man Greg Monroe.
Here's USA TODAY Sports Jeff Zillgitt of:
The relationship between the two sides has soured, a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports. The person requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.
The person also said Bledsoe, 24, strongly is considering signing the Suns' qualifying offer for $3.726 million — good for the 2014-15 season — to become an unrestricted free agent after next summer.
That's precisely what Detroit Pistons forward-center Monroe plans to do. Monroe has informed the Pistons he plans to sign the qualifying offer ($5.479 million) for one season, spend 2014-15 in Detroit and become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
While it seems incredibly unlikely that a team with cap space like the Philadelphia 76ers would swoop in with a major offer, you never really know what can happen. Bledsoe's ability to play either guard spot could make him an ideal fit just about anywhere, and he has plenty of potential to grow.
It seems most likely that Bledsoe will end up staying in Phoenix, at least for a year. Still, he's by far the biggest impact player on the market, as he's a two-way force with potential to be a legitimate star for a long time.
Free-agent small forward Shawn Marion could certainly shake up the playoff picture based on where he ends up.
Although Marion is worth much more than a veteran's minimum contract, he may be willing to take that in order to chase a ring this season. A team like the Indiana Pacers can offer more thanks to their injured player exception, but Marion might be prioritizing a trip to the Finals over a bigger salary.
ESPN.com's Marc Stein tweeted this about Marion and his choice between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers:
Indy IS trying to wedge its way into contention for Shawn Marion and Larry Bird did meet Monday with Marion, but Cavs remain in lead for now.
There are likely other teams that would love to have Marion on board. His ability to defend multiple positions and his rebounding lend itself well to virtually any role, and he's an experienced player who can help a team compete right away.
The star power of LeBron James may be enough to lure Marion to Cleveland, where he could have a huge impact on the Eastern Conference favorite. He's not the player he once was since he's lost a step, but Marion can still swing a series with his defense.
It's a little confusing that Andray Blatche is still out there on the market, considering he's in his prime and is one of the most skilled big men available.
Here's Chuck Myron at HoopsRumors.com breaking down Blatche's curious offseason:
It’s worth wondering why Andray Blatche is without an NBA contract in the middle of August. He’s 27 years old, stands 6’11″, and is coming off a season in which he averaged 11.2 points and 5.3 rebounds in 22.2 minutes per game with an 18.8 PER for a Nets team that went to the conference semifinals.
His continued free agency might stem simply from a demand for more money than the market is bearing. He turned down a player option to stay with the Nets for a salary of nearly $1.438MM, slightly more than the minimum, so he probably envisioned a raise, which wouldn’t be easy to find at this stage of free agency.
The market may have dried up on Blatche, but he's shown very recently that he's capable of making a huge impact. Blatche was a big part of the turnaround last year for the Brooklyn Nets, and his post scoring and shooting ability would make sense off the bench for plenty of teams.
You would think that if Blatche were willing to come back down to the minimum, he'd find a job without any issue. He's definitely worth more than that, but he might have to suck it up and take less than that.
Depending on where he ends up and the roster in place, Blatche could end up being one of the better reserve big men in the league once again if he gets the minutes and plays intelligently.
Another one of the more interesting unsigned talents out there is journeyman point guard Ramon Sessions. After another strong year with the Charlotte Bobcats and Milwaukee Bucks, Sessions watched most of the backup spots get snatched up this season.
Here's Cray Allred at HoopsRumors.com:
One of the most productive free agents who still hasn’t found a team this summer is Ramon Sessions. In fact, of the 30 point guards who scored at least 10 points per game while averaging over 4 assists, Sessions is the only player without a contract. Sessions wasn’t far off his career PER average of 16.7 last season, a number that ranks with many of the league’s better rotation players.
Sessions is in the prime of his career and is still a blur on the court, and his ability to get in the paint and draw fouls is something you would think plenty of NBA teams would be jumping all over.
Perhaps there's an issue with Sessions' desired salary, as it would be nearly impossible for him to get something in the range of $5 million a season like he has the last few years.
Maybe Sessions can use a dried up market for backup guards as a chance to hop on board with a contender for the first time in his career. Sessions just hasn't played a lot of winning basketball, so maybe taking less money to get more exposure would be a worthwhile investment.
He'd likely need injuries in front of him for this to happen, but Sessions is a quality player who could shine with enough playing time.
Young wings with size, shooting ability and strong rebounding skills usually don't last long on the open market, but free-agent forward Jordan Hamilton is still hanging around.
Here's Tom Ziller at SBNation.com with his take on why that might be:
Hamilton finally got his NBA shot in Year 3, but not in the role you'd expect. In college and through garbage time of two seasons, he looked like a microwave scorer with an itchy trigger finger from deep. The propensity to fire threes stuck, but in larger bench roles with Denver and Houston this season his usage sunk without benefiting his efficiency.
The problem is that he abandoned dashing to the rim, settling instead for long jumpers almost exclusively. He has the athleticism and quick trigger to do both. If he can attack more and draw some fouls, he could end up as a poor man's Kevin Martin with legitimate small forward rebounding. He's definitely worth a flyer for teams with holes, like Philadelphia or New Orleans.
Hamilton has never really received significant playing time over the years, but when he has been on the court, he's shown a bit of a scoring punch. It certainly seems like a team could do much worse with a roster spot and a minimum contract, which is all it might take to get Hamilton at this point.
Hamilton's bench scoring could be a real asset, and his ability to become a small 4 could help a team stretch the floor offensively next season.