10 Best NBA Free Agent Acquisitions of All-Time
As the NBA regular season enters its final two weeks, masses of basketball fans are getting amped up for the coming playoffs.
And still, many more are looking forward to the other exciting events that fill the postseason; the draft and free agency.
2010 may or may not be the best ever NBA free agency signing period in the history of the league, but one thing is for sure—it is the most over-hyped free agency ever.
Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh are the class of the 2003 draft class, and while both have been rumored lately to be staying where they were drafted, either could be playing in a new locality next year.
Joe Johnson, Ray Allen, and Manu Ginobili are second-tier players who will make an impact on whatever team has them in 2010.
But the King of this summer will be LeBron James, as the sweepstakes to land the NBA’s best player has been heating up for almost a full year now.
In anticipation of a huge summer of big-name moves, here is the list of the top 10 NBA free agent acquisitions in NBA history.
Gilbert Arenas, Washington Wizards
Now that Arenas’ NBA career is completely up in jeopardy after multiple injuries and pulling three guns on teammate Javaris Crittenton, but don’t forget that “Agent 0” was one of the best in the game a few years ago.
Originally drafted by Golden State in 2001, Arenas was still growing as a player when he signed with Washington in 2003.
After only averaging 14.6 points per game with the Warriors, Arenas blossomed into an All-Pro with the Wizards, scoring superiorly at 25.7 per in the next four years before injury.
Sure, Washington was never really a threat to win a championship with him, but Arenas was the chief factor in them making the playoffs three years in the 2000s.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Okay, so Tim Duncan has only played for the Spurs in his illustrious 12-year career, but he did come close to leaving San Antonio, allegedly.
The only one that knows whether Duncan really contemplated leaving the one team is him, but he did test the free agent market to be sure in 2000.
“Timmy” stayed after winning a second title in 2003, and ended up more than happy staying in Texas.
Then Duncan and the Spurs won two more rings for San Antonio and ended up being dubbed the team of the 2000s.
Dikembe Mutombo, Atlanta Hawks
Dikembe Mutombo was on top of the world in 1995, literally and figuratively.
Mt. Mutombo as he was affectionately called in Denver, stood 5,287 feet above sea level in the Mile High City.
Mutombo used his seven-foot frame to intimidate opponents as he towered over defenders and threw razor sharp elbows on rebounds regularly.
He was the most dominant defender in the NBA at the time, the best center on that end of the court in the last 20 years.
Following his stellar 1995-96 season, in which Mutombo averaged 11 points, 11.5 rebounds and an amazing 4.5 blocks per game, the Denver Nuggets were disassembled and Mutombo was signed by Atlanta.
The Nuggets were arguably the worst team over the next eight years while Dikembe Mutombo continued to shine with the Hawks.
Danny Ainge, Phoenix Suns
Danny Ainge was a hard-nosed player who never backed down from a challenge. He could also shoot, and he added a much-needed punch to the Suns bench when he signed with them in 1992.
During that season, Ainge shot 40.3 percent from beyond the arc and he made a miraculous 150 three-pointers.
Combining with Charles Barkley and others, Ainge was instrumental in the Suns going to the NBA Finals against Chicago before losing to Michael Jordan’s Bulls in six games.
Michael Finley, San Antonio Spurs
Finley was a star in Dallas, as a major scoring threat and a decent rebounder.
After his glory years, Finley became a free agent in 2005 and was sought after by many teams. He decided to stay in Texas, moving down the road to San Antonio as Finley chased an ever-elusive championship.
In 2007, Finley was instrumental in the Spurs playoff run, including a magical game against the Nuggets.
Finley set a San Antonio record for three-point makes in a playoff game with eight makes from downtown and sunk Denver’s hopes all at the same time.
He continued playing with the Spurs for two more seasons, starting a majority of the games, and was solid even in the late stages of his career.
Grant Hill, Phoenix Suns
Grant Hill is the guy everyone should want to root for. Not only is he a good guy, but he’s been devastated by injuries over the course of his career.
Hill is still playing quite well, especially since he’s in his 14th year. He is a driving force behind the Suns, always providing hustle, especially on the boards, and he can still drive the rack as well.
Robert Horry, San Antonio Spurs
Horry was originally drafted by the Houston Rockets in 1992, but his career was less than brilliant early on. After throwing a towel in coach Danny Ainge’s face in 1996, he was traded away from the Rockets to the Lakers.
After much success in LA, Horry decided to become a free agent and chose the San Antonio Spurs after citing family troubles.
The sharp-shooting small forward proved to be a dagger in opposing team’s hopes many times, and he was the Spurs major outside threat during their 2005 and 2007 championships.
Including the two with San Antonio, Horry won seven NBA championships in all, stellar indeed.
Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns
Nash is one of those oddities in the NBA. He’s like the fine wine of basketball players, actually improving as he ages.
No one can doubt that Steve Nash was terrific with the Mavericks from 1998-2004, but he has been out of his mind with the Suns since then.
In 2004-05, his first year back in Phoenix (Drafted him in 1996), Nash became one of six guards to win the NBA MVP award.
Then he won the MVP again, and was only the fourth player to shoot 50 percent or better from the field, 40 percent from the three point line and 90 percent or better from the free throw line.
Oh, and this year, he’s accomplishing the awe-inspiring shooting feat again—for the third time—making him the only player in history to do so.
Even with no championships in Phoenix, or ever for this guard for that matter, Nash isn’t just one of the best free agent signings, he’s one of the all-time NBA greats, period.
Chauncey Billups, Detroit Pistons
Chauncey Billups is one of the top point guards in the NBA currently, but long before now, he was a steal in the free agent market in 2002.
Billups was on his fourth team with the Timberwolves in the 2001-02 season when the Pistons saw their point guard of the future and couldn’t pass it up.
While bouncing around all those teams Billups couldn’t find his comfort zone, as he averaged a mere 11.1 points and 3.8 assists.
But with the Pistons “Mr. Big Shot” was born and his numbers skyrocketed to 17.5 points and 6.3 assists per game while playing a major role in the Pistons’ championship run in 2004.
Billups set an NBA record last year with the Nuggets, as he’s been to seven straight conference finals appearances, meaning he was definitely one of the finest free agent acquisitions in the history of the league.
Shaquille O’Neal, LA Lakers
Shaquille O’Neal was bigger and stronger than a diesel truck in his heyday. Not only that, but he knew how to finish and rebound while being physically overpowering and graceful at the same time.
Dominant was his 30.7 points and 15.4 rebounds per game in 1999-2000, and graceful was the alley-oop dunk from Kobe to beat the Trailblazers in the playoffs.
The Lakers won the title that year, then two more times in a row before the “Big Aristotle” left for greener pastures and another championship in Miami.
Shaq was the named the MVP of all three of the Lakers’ championship series and he was arguably a bigger piece to those LA titles than Kobe Bryant was.
O’Neal was full of great quotes through his playing days, this one sums up the last statement.
“Kobe, you can’t do it without me…Kobe, tell me how my a$$ tastes,” Shaq freestyle rapping in New York after his fourth title, first with the Heat.
What will 2010 bring?
Where will James call home next season?
New York? New Jersey? Cleveland?
How about Wade, Bosh, and the many other players who are likely to move in 2010?
Only time will tell, and that time is coming soon, my friends.
Rich Kurtzman is a Colorado State University Alumnus of the Communication Department. Kurtzman is the Denver Nuggets Featured Columnist here on B/R, the Denver Broncos FC on NFLTouchdown.com and the Colorado State Rams Examiner on examiner.com.
Follow him on twitter @ www.twitter.com/richkurt