We're now officially entering that period of the NBA offseason where most of the big fish are already out of the lake. As we saw during these past few days, the majority of signings and trades will now concentrate on basic rotation subs, past-their-prime veterans, and long-shot prospects.
Just because the names might be less recognizable does not mean that these deals could be any less critical to a franchise's roster chemistry and/or pocketbook. Dr. Trade finds that this period of Free Agency is often unsung, overlooked, and ultimately underestimated.
Sorry for dropping into the 3rd Person for a moment there, the spirit of Ricky Henderson must have come over me. Let's take a look at the most recent deals.
Completed Signing: F Tim Thomas to Dallas Mavericks
Tim Thomas has long been one of the poster boys for the perceived "over-talented but under-performing" clique that cause many to deride the NBA culture.
Thomas' early years in Philadelphia and Milwaukee seemed to bear much promise for a mobile shooter who could play both forward spots. Unfortunately, that luster has worn off as Thomas bounced around the League with the reputation of a poor rebounder, defender, and shot selector.
Yet, he will always have the talent necessary to improve a roster as a bench contributor. A focused Rick Carlisle coaching staff now have an additional scoring weapon from the Maverick arsenal when Nowitzki or Marion come off the floor.
Will Thomas get/make enough shots on a bench unit that includes fellow gunner, Jason Terry? That remains to be seen, but signing Drew Gooden to clean up the paint allows Thomas not to have to do something that he wasn't going to do willingly anyway.
The talent-pool continues to grow in the Big D. Here's hoping they can put (and keep) it together for a big run.
Completed Signing: PG Earl Watson to Indiana
Earl Watson has often been perceived as a fringe starter, one of those guys who is always brought in to compete for the job. One of those guys whose upside means that he should be starting someday.
Unfortunately for Earl, he never has been able to parlay that potential into a long-time starting gig. Nonetheless, he is a steadying influence who can score a little bit off the bench. He won't do much to wow you when on the floor, but his solid all-around game means that teams don't take a step back when he plays.
Indiana has been one of the forgotten franchises over the past couple of seasons. They continue to sign fringe starters, such as Watson, to round out a roster that has quite a few solid contributors, but little star-power, and little chance to make it out of the Playoffs' first round (should they overachieve and even get there).
Completed Signing: PF Ike Diogu to New Orleans
Here's a signing that I like a lot. The most hard-core NBA fans might know Diogu's name, but few of us have ever seen him actually play.
Diogu has bounced around the League during his first couple of seasons with Golden State, Indiana, Portland, and Sacramento, but has rarely gotten a chance to play. He either has not fit the system, or has been playing on a team with a logjam at the Power Forward spot.
New Orleans badly needed to bolster their front-line depth behind West and Okafor. Sean Marks, while being a fan favorite, was oftentimes over-matched by opposing front-line's athleticism and physicality. Hilton Armstrong continues to underwhelm, but at least provides a little size off the bench.
Diogu should finally get a chance to play, and to show those scoring and rebounding skills that he has flashed when given minutes. If he can't win a solid rotation job here, he probably won't be given too many opportunities in the future. The time is now to make his perceived potential into a reality.
G/F Marco Belinelli to Toronto
F Devean George to Golden State
I wonder if Devean George and Quentin Richardson have a running wager as to who will be traded more times during this offseason. This morning's Toronto/Golden State swap will fly under the radar for many fans, and rightly so. Most are unfamiliar with Belinelli's game, and George hasn't seen consistently meaningful minutes in a couple of seasons.
Yet, this deal makes sense for both teams.
If George stays in Golden State, he'll be playing once again for Don Nelson, and will provide some veteran know-how and shooting. He won't play much, and still is likely to be released, but his signing frees up more minutes for youngsters that the Warriors prize more highly than Belinelli.
If there's a place for European players to go, it certainly seems like Toronto, doesn't it? The Raptors continue to intrigue me as they build a FIBA-style squad for the NBA.
As little as two seasons ago, Belinelli was considered a prized prospect coming out of Italy. He flashed some real potential when given minutes last year, and Toronto represents the best chance from a scheme-standpoint for him to really shine.
Don't sleep on the Raptors this year, despite last season's disappointment; they are a lot more talented than people think. Especially after this productive off-season.
Toronto gets a better player, and one that makes way too much sense for this roster. Now, are they getting set to contend in the NBA or the World Basketball Championships?
Trust me on this one, because I am a Doctor.