10 Upcoming NBA Free Agents Who Have Improved Their Stock
If you missed Part I, "10 Upcoming NBA Free Agents Who May Have Hurt Their Value This Season," you can find it here.
I'm not going to waste your time or mine in listing the cream of the crop in this summer's free agent class since the guys who are poised to receive max contract offers can't increase their value any.
The other thing to note when looking at the list is that I avoided players with team options for next year because if they've increased their value then they will most likely have their options exercised by teams afraid of letting them go.
For example, does anybody think the Houston Rockets won't exercise the $3 million option on Carl Landry's contract for next season? Or that the Dallas Mavericks won't bring J.J. Barea back for $1.8 million?
However, there are a number of players on the list who are restricted free agents who have done wonders for their value considering the number of teams who will have cap space.
All that being said, here's the list (in no particular order):
Jon Brockman, Sacramento Kings
Anybody who saw Brockman playing for the University of Washington knew that he was a gamer. You might say that he was the Northwest's version of Bryant "Big Country" Reeves.
But as good as Brockman's college career was there weren't many outside of Washington who thought Brockman could have a career in the NBA. Mainly because he was a 6-7 power forward and, dare I say it, a bit chunky.
Brockman was drafted 38th by the Portland Trailblazers and then traded to Sacramento along with Sergio Rodriguez for the draft rights to Jeff Pendergraph.
When Brockman showed up for training camp he was almost unrecognizable. He'd slimmed down considerably and earned himself a two-year contract that makes him a restricted free agent in the second year.
What Brockman does won't show up on any stats sheets. Shaq even gave him a shout-out on twitter, dubbing him "The Brockness Monster" and comparing him to his old teammate, Mark Madsen.
The Kings are in line to have a significant amount of cap space with which to either sign free agents with or absorb another team's player in cap-clearing trade.
While I fully expect the Kings to bring Brockman back there's a chance that another team could offer Brockman a deal that the Kings might be afraid of matching.
David Lee, New York Knicks
Last summer when Lee was a restricted free agents it didn't seem like he was getting much attention from the handful of teams with cap space.
Perhaps the Knicks had scared teams away from signing him to an offer sheet that they vowed they would match.
Many expected the Portland Trail Blazers would go after Lee after getting rebuffed by Hedo Turkoglu and having their offer sheet to Paul Millsap matched by the Jazz.
Instead the Blazers used their cap space on Andre Miller and Lee returned to the Knicks for one year and $7 million.
Unless the Knicks can find someone to take either Jared Jeffries or Eddy Curry off their hands in a trade they might have to renounce Lee in order to create enough cap space to sign one of the top-tier free agents.
Lee is tied for sixth in the league in double-doubles with 20 in 37 games. He's averaging close to 19 points and 11 rebounds per game.
And while Lee's numbers might seem a bit inflated in Mike D'Antoni's system what can't be questioned is Lee's motor and ability to continue playing his heart out despite the fact that the Knicks have a record of 126-239 in his four-plus seasons.
Shannon Brown, Los Angeles Lakers
Brown is one of three point guards on the Lakers roster who can become a free agent this summer. Derek Fisher is in the final year of his contract and Jordan Farmar is a restricted free agent.
Ask any Lakers fan which of the three they'd want to have on next year's roster and most will say Brown.
Last summer Brown signed a two-year extension with the Lakers that gives him an option for next season at $2.2 million.
When given minutes, Brown has produced—both with highlight reel dunks and his ability to knock down open three-pointers.
Brown is very much in the same position that Trevor Ariza was in last season just without the spot in the starting lineup.
He is no longer the hidden gem that was considered a throw-in in last year's cost-cutting trade that sent Vladimir Radmanovic to the Charlotte Bobcats for Adam Morrison.
Since the Lakers have the league's highest payroll they might be afraid to offer Brown the type of deal and/or minutes that other teams might be willing to offer. For a team that's so far over the luxury tax, any deal for Brown would cost the Lakers twice as much money when you factor in the tax.
Lakers fans love to think that anybody would be crazy to leave a team in a warm-weather city that is in contention for a title every season. What they seem to forget is that anybody would jump ship if it meant getting the type of deal that would allow them to not have to find a job once their playing career is over with.
Channing Frye, Phoenix Suns
Like Brown, Frye signed a two-year deal with Phoenix that gives him a player option for next season at about $2 million.
Nobody could have predicted that Frye would have the type of season he has been having playing for his hometown team.
He's currently eighth in the league in three-point shooting at 44 percent. That's a pretty remarkable turnaround for a guy who had only made 20 of the 70 three-pointers he had attempted through the first four seasons of his career (28.5 percent).
It's inevitable that some will attribute Frye's career season to the "Seven Seconds of Less" system in Phoenix and/or because he's playing alongside future Hall of Famer Steve Nash.
The reality is that Frye has proven to be worth much more than what he's scheduled to make if he doesn't opt out.
Rasual Butler, Los Angeles Clippers
Butler is one of three Clippers who appear on this list. The Clippers stole Butler from the cost-cutting Hornets for a conditional 2016 second round draft pick. He's making close to $4 million in the final season of a 4-year, $14 million deal he signed with New Orleans back in 2006.
It's not often teams give away guys making 37 percent of their career three-point attempts for conditional second round picks. Butler is averaging 10.5 points on 42 percent shooting (34 percent from downtown).
While Butler might not be looking at a significant raise next season he's sure to make some GM look like a genius for snagging him—not bad for a guy drafted 52nd overall in the 2002 NBA Draft.
Sebastian Telfair, Los Angeles Clippers
For the first time in his six professional seasons people are talking more about what Telfair is doing on the court than off.
Some people have credited that to Telfair's cousin, Stephon Marbury, being out of the league. Those same people believe that Telfair no longer has to worry about being compared to his cousin and can now just be his own man and concentrate on getting better.
While Telfair's numbers won't impress anyone (4.6 ppg and 2.6 apg), he has shown flashes of brilliance reminiscent of what Chauncey Billups was doing in Minnesota backing up Terrell Brandon.
I fully expect Telfair's name to appear on a list of next season's biggest free agency steals.
While he isn't expected to make that much more than $2.5 million he's making this season, he may decide to exercise his $2.7 million player option for the opportunity to sign a long-term deal and get the chance to start elsewhere—not such a long-shot for a point guard who doesn't turn 25 until June.
Craig Smith, Los Angeles Clippers
The Rhino is the third member of the Clippers to appear on the list. Like Telfair, Smith's numbers won't dazzle anybody. In fact, Smith is averaging the fewest points per game (5.8 ppg) of his four-year career.
But just like Brockman, Smith provides instant energy off the bench and is worth more than the $2.5 million he is making this year.
Smith is the type of player who pulls down that big offensive rebound late in a game and attacks the rim with reckless abandonment—think Udonis Haslem Lite.
Perhaps the Clippers are limiting Smith's minutes so they can keep his value down next summer.
Either way, Smith should be a hot commodity for either a team that uses the bulk of it's cap space on a big-name free agent and needs someone like Smith to fill out a roster with or for a team that's limited in cap space and is willing to plunk down a portion of their mid-level exemption for a space-eater who shoots a high percentage and rarely makes mistakes.
Matt Barnes, Orlando Magic
Barnes is on his seventh team in seven seasons—pretty remarkable when you consider how much fans, teammates, and coaches love him. It's a crime that Barnes has yet to surpass $10 million in total career earnings with such a well-rounded game.
Just like Brown, Frye, and Telfair, Barnes has an option next year on the two-year, $3 million deal he signed with the Orlando Magic last summer.
He's averaging 8.4 ppg and 5.4 rpg in just 23 minutes, but he's 34th in the league in plus/minus. With Barnes in the lineup the Magic have outscored their opponents by 146 points.
Barnes is an X-Factor type player much in the same way that James Posey was for the 2008 Boston Celtics.
Barnes was a star for the Golden State Warriors when they upset the Mavericks in the 2007 playoffs. He has missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons with Golden State and Phoenix.
If Barnes can shine for the Magic in this year's playoffs the way he did for the Warriors three years ago then there will be no shortage of teams lining up for his services.
J.J. Redick, Orlando Magic
Redick, the 11th pick of the 2006 NBA Draft, has mostly been considered a bust up until now.
After three lackluster seasons in which most of the stories about him have been about his unhappiness with playing time, Redick seems to have the confidence of his teammates and head coach, Stan Van Gundy.
Perhaps it's because this might be Redick's last chance to earn himself a long-term deal.
Redick is averaging close to 10 ppg in about 23 mpg but he's shooting 41 percent on his three-pointers—good enough for 17th in the league and better than noted marksmen Jason Kapono, Rashard Lewis, and Hedo Turkoglu.
Redick will be a restricted free agent and is very much in the same situation as Shannon Brown. Since the Magic are so high over the luxury tax they might be unwilling to match even a reasonable offer for Redick from another team.
While I don't think that Redick will ever be the starting shooting guard on a championship team, he can be a valuable player off the bench for one.
Roger Mason, Jr., San Antonio Spurs
Mason is another guy who won't really impress you with his statistics. However, he's a smart player and great citizen who won't scare any GM from committing to him long-term.
Mason lost his starting job when the Spurs acquired Richard Jefferson and didn't utter a peep about the demotion. It's not that anybody would consider Mason a better player than Jefferson, but he was coming off a very strong year in which he hit a number of big shots and made 42 percent of his three-pointers attempts.
The Spurs are another team that might be unwilling to spend big money to keep bench players with so much money committed to their best players.
The Spurs also have to decide whether or not to re-sign Manu Ginobili and that might depend on how successful of a season they have this year.
There's always the chance that the Spurs elect to let Ginobili go and keep Mason, although that's a long shot.
Mason is making close to $3.8 million this season and, at 29, will be looking for long-term security after short stints with the Bulls, Raptors, Wizards, and Spurs.
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