NBA Free Agency 2011: Carl Landry and the Top 10 Role Players Free This Summer
Though not as prolific as the 2010 version, 2011 NBA free agency presents a long list of impact players that could be changing addresses this summer.
The following players do all the thankless work that no star will trouble himself to do, yet is necessary for success in the NBA. They'll never get offered an eight-figure yearly salary and will most certainly be bargains at the prices they strike with their new, or incumbent, teams.
Here are the best unrestricted free agents for the summer of 2011.
Jamal Crawford, Atlanta Hawks
2011: 14.2 points, 3.2 assists, 1.7 rebounds, 42 percent FG
Specialty: scoring in bunches off the bench; energy
Snapshot: Crawford is the only free agent this side of J.R. Smith capable of averaging 15 points a night from the bench. He would probably love to start for a new team, but raises no drama over being a sixth man. In fact, he fits that role perfectly. Because he is content coming off the bench, teams don't have to worry about keeping him happy or disrupting their locker room harmony.
Chances of staying with current team: 60 percent. The Atlanta Hawks have major point guard problems and currently lack a starter. Even if he doesn't get off the bench next season, Crawford's minutes could increase because of the weak competition.
Troy Murphy, Boston Celtics
2010 (last full season): 14.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.8 3pt FGM, 47 percent FG
Specialty: rebounding; three-point shooting
Snapshot: Murphy, the nine-year veteran out of Notre Dame, fell on very hard times this season, missing most of the season injured, then being dealt, released, signed, then benched. The amount that Murphy seemingly aged between his age 29 and 30 seasons made a lot forget that he is just a year removed from averaging a double-double and being a focal point for his team.
It is my opinion that Murphy was the victim of continual change and injury this year, and that his forgettable year is more the exception than the rule. His track record supports that notion. With the right team next season, Murphy could regain status as a starter or significant role player, because he's certainly not finished at the turn of his thirties.
Chances of staying with current team: 10 percent. The Celtics took a flier on Murphy after he was released by New Jersey, and with a glut of big men on one-year deals, the Celtics will look to clean house next season. Even if they chose to retain any of their current bigs, Murphy would be third or fourth on that list.
Anthony Parker, Cleveland Cavaliers
2011: 8.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 40 percent FG
Specialty: on-ball defense; three-point shooting; durability
Snapshot: Parker will be 36 next year, but has aged well. His shooting was down this year, but he maintained strong percentages in small volume for three seasons before that. Since his impact doesn't extend far beyond shooting and good defensive awareness, the effects of aging are not drastic on him. He will be highly sought in this year's free agent market.
Chances of staying with current team: 30 percent. Cleveland doesn't have many offensive weapons, which forces Parker into a role that he isn't suited for. For that reason, he is unlikely, but not excluded from, returning to the Cavs.
Andrei Kirilenko, Utah Jazz
2011: 11.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.2 blocks, 46.7 percent
Specialty: none; he is a uniquely skilled forward, with strange abilities to block shots, make steals, pass and rebound.
Snapshot: Kirilenko, only 30 years old, has his best days behind him. Playing 37 minutes per game, blocking three-plus shots and pulling 1.5 steals just aren't in his repertoire anymore. He battled injury from 2008-2010 and missed a lot of games; he never seemed to recover his groove after that, which was partly due to Utah's glut of players at small and power forward. For whatever reason, the Matt Harprings, Kyle Korvers, C.J. Miles and Raja Bells grabbed all the minutes as Kirilenko fell out of Jerry Sloan's good graces.
He just turned 30 years old and should have some solid years ahead of him still, just not at the $18 million he made on his last contract.
Chances of staying with current team: 25 percent. He's played his entire nine years with Utah, but the writing is on the wall for Kirilenko. The Jazz traded for power forward Derrick Favors with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap already on the roster, so there are no minutes to be had at that spot. C.J. Miles has emerged as a dynamic scorer and should get valuable minutes next year, and will probably be backed up by top-10 pick in 2010 Gordon Hayward. There curiously are no minutes or plans for Kirilenko in Utah.
Glen Davis, Boston Celtics
2011: 11.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 29.5 minutes
Specialty: physicality; energy/hustle; mid-range jump-shooting
Snapshot: Davis broke out as a key contributor in last year's postseason, earning him a big hike in minutes this season. He responded by averaging career highs in scoring, rebounding and assists. He finds his success by offering hustle and effort off the bench while opponents play their second unit. He found himself getting significant run during crunch time because of his moxie and composure in big moments. Playing with the Celtics' veterans has certainly maximized Davis' talents.
Chances of staying with current team: 85 percent. I don't see the Celtics letting Big Baby depart. Boston drafted and made him into the player that he is. Plus, every free agent desires to play on that team and be in that locker room, so Davis has more incentive to stay than to leave. He has made himself a valuable part of the Celtic rotation, and a divorce now would be curious.
Aaron Brooks, Phoenix Suns
2011: 10.7 points, 3.9 assists, 1.3 rebounds, 0.5 steals, 1.0 3pt FGM
2010: 19.6 points, 5.3 assists, 2.7 rebounds, 2.5 3pt FGM
Specialty: long-range shooting; penetration; fast-breaking
Snapshot: Which year represents the real Aaron Brooks, his breakout 2010, or the injury-plagued, backup-relegated 2011? Brooks was a revelation last year, as he launched himself into the conversation of All-Star point guards. This year, he started as the Rockets' primary point guard, then went out after just five games with a badly sprained ankle. He missed 22 games and never really recovered. After being traded to Phoenix, opportunity was seldom as Steve Nash's distant backup.
Chances of staying with current team: 55 percent. I can see this going either way. He might leave Phoenix, a favorable locale for his game, wanting to find a new starting job elsewhere this offseason. The trade, after all, could have put a bad taste in his mouth. On the other hand, Nash's contract expires after next season and retirement is looming for the to-be 38-year-old. No other stands between Brooks and the starting job with the Suns.
Carl Landry, New Orleans Hornets
2011: 11.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 0.4 steals, 0.5 blocks, 50 percent FG
Specialty: hyper-efficiency; toughness; rebounding
Snapshot: Landry's five years have proven him as one of the league's best at getting the most of his shots and minutes. He is a career 54 percent shooter with only 1.3 turnovers in 25 minutes per game. As a starter with the Kings in last year, Landry posted career highs with 18 points, 6.5 rebounds and a steal per game. His season ended after just 28 games, but the league's scouts saw what he is capable of in starter's minutes.
Chances of staying with current team: 60 percent. If David West were healthy, the chances would be noticeably lower. The reality is that West's ACL rehab will probably keep him out well into 2012, and Landry will likely start next season as the starting power forward. New Orleans has no leverage since West is out, so Landry might be able to stay where he is, get paid above market value and default into a starting role.
If not, he'll have plenty of suitors hungry for dependable size down low.
J.R. Smith, Denver Nuggets
2011: 12.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.6 3pt FGM
Specialty: three-point shooting; explosive scoring; athleticism
Snapshot: Smith's field goal attempts took a curious dive below 10 this year (he'd been above 11.7 for two years running) and his scoring suffered as a result. He took significantly less threes this year, but shot a robust 39 percent from that distance. The jury is out on how Smith would fit in anywhere else because Denver just seems to be the place where he's comfortable and content. He is a personality as explosive as his scoring, which means that teams need to be sensitive about the environment of the organization before signing him. He'll mainly be counted on to score off the bench, with little else to contribute.
Chances of staying with current team: 75 percent. George Karl knows how to get the best out of Smith, as with the whole team. Denver is truly a place where the sum is greater than the parts. Smith is a big part of that equation and is valuable off the Nugget bench. Many teams won't touch Smith because of isolated legal trouble and control issues on the court.
Kris Humphries, New Jersey Nets
2011: 10 points, 10.4 rebounds, one block, 52.7 percent FG
Specialty: rebounding; toughness; athleticism
Snapshot: Humphries, the seventh-year player from Minnesota, finally came into his own this season with extended minutes. He bounced around in his first six years among three other teams before landing in Jersey last year. With the injury and subsequent trade of projected starter Troy Murphy and slow growth of No. 3 overall pick Derrick Favors, Humphries quietly stepped in and unleashed hell on opponents. He averaged a double-double with a block in just 27 minutes per game and the season ended as he was still improving. He essentially earned himself a contract in the ballpark of five years and $35 million because of his half-season of strong work.
Chances of staying with current team: 90 percent. Why not? The Nets are trying to become a contender rapidly, and Humphries was unexpectedly fantastic for them in 2010-2011. He's earned a big contract and, for lack of any other options, New Jersey will likely offer it to him to keep him from leaving.
Shane Battier, Memphis Grizzlies
2011: 7.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, one block, 0.8 steals, 1.2 3pt FGM
Specialty: on-ball defense; help defense; three-point shooting; leadership; intelligence
Snapshot: It's ironic how a player with the least impressive stats on this list draws the most descriptive adjectives. Battier, as widely known, contributes benefits that transcend the stat sheet and don't always result in winning. However, he is universally regarded as one of the best defenders and spot-up shooters in the league, and every GM would jump at the chance to grab him off the free market. He instantly upgrades the leadership, work ethic and character of any NBA team.
Chances of staying with current team: 35 percent. He played his first five seasons with Memphis before moving to Houston, which makes him familiar with the situation. However, there's just no room for him at forward on this team. Rudy Gay, Sam Young, Zach Randolph and Darrell Arthur all stand in his way as contributors. His departure could be mutual, as Grizzlies management will be hesitant to pay a 10th or 11th contributor the $7-9 million it will take to ink Battier.
Be on the Lookout For...
Here are more free agents capable of having and impact and shifting NBA power.
Jeff Green, Boston
Joel Przybilla, Charlotte
Tyson Chandler, Dallas
Tayshaun Prince, Detroit
Mike Dunleavy, Indiana
Jason Richardson, Orlando
Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia
Grant Hill, Phoenix