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NBA Free Agency 2011: Yao Ming and the 13 Least Desirable Free Agents

Jason HeimCorrespondent IJune 2, 2011

NBA Free Agency 2011: Yao Ming and the 13 Least Desirable Free Agents

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 26:  Yao Ming #11 of the Houston Rockets looks on during their opening night game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on October 26, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agre
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Heading into NBA free agency this summer, there is a long list of players that every team would like to sign.

    Obviously that list of players is finite, and some teams will be forced to settle for free agents they may not necessarily have wanted but are content with.

    Then there are the players who, for one reason or another, most teams stay away from. Either they're overpaid, old, injury-prone or possess some other flaw that makes them undesirable.

    What follows are 13 free agents that are the least desirable signings this summer. I have to qualify the list, however, because it would be too easy to pick the 13 worst free agents in the class.

    This list contains players who should, and probably will, be signed because they can contribute, but won't be highly sought after. 

Nenad Krstic, C

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    BOSTON, MA - MARCH 23:  Nenad Krstic #4 of the Boston Celtics tries to talk with a referee after a foul call against him in the second half against the Memphis Grizzlies on March 23, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  The Memphis Grizzlies d
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Age: 27

    2010-2011 salary: $5.7 million

    Why no one wants him

    Nenad Krstic is seen as a one-dimensional offensive center who doesn't rebound or protect the rim. He's big at 7'0" and 240 pounds, which makes it all the more disturbing that he averages just 5.4 rebounds and 0.7 blocks for his career.

    He was never a strong athlete and has a major knee injury to his name, so his free agent profile doesn't explain him as a safe investment, especially at the salary he's made recently. 

     

    What he can bring

    Offensive savvy. He's no primary scorer, but Krstic can be a reliable third scorer on a contender. He showed that much by averaging 16.4 points in an abbreviated 2006-2007 season. Any team that needs a center with size who is able to create his own shot could look to Krstic.

Michael Redd, SG

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    NEW YORK - DECEMBER 19: Michael Redd #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks drives to the basket against Nate Robinson #4 of the New York Knicks on December 19, 2008 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and ag
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Age: 31

    2010-2011 salary: $18.3 million

    Why no one wants him

    Formerly one of the greatest three-point shooters in the NBA, Michael Redd has played in just 61 games over the last three seasons because of multiple ACL injuries.

    He played in the final 10 games of this season in his attempt to come back. Heading into next season, he'll be at a major discount because nobody is sure if he can stay healthy for a whole season anymore. 

     

    What he can bring

    Dead-eye shooting from long range. Redd used to hit two-plus threes per game at a career 38 percent. He used to be as deadly a scorer as anyone in the league, but his body now limits him. His skills undoubtedly remain sharp, it's just a matter of whether he can stay on the court to display them.

    At worst, he's a third scorer who sits on the three-point line for the remainder of his career. At best, he recaptures some of the glory of his prime and scores 18 a game with diverse scoring.   

Troy Murphy, PF

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    BOSTON, MA - MARCH 02:  Troy Murphy #30 of the Boston Celtics takes a shot as Mickael Pietrus #12 of the Phoenix Suns defends on March 2, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downlo
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Age: 31

    2010-2011 salary: $216k

    Why no one wants him

    I'm not exactly sure, but it's obvious that nobody does. As recently as '09-'10, Murphy was throwing up a double-double average with a steal and two threes per game. Those are good numbers for anybody, but Murphy accomplishments are very rare for a center. He possesses a mix of abilities that less than a handful of big men in the league can claim.

    Anyways, Murphy fell a long way in the last year. He was dealt in the offseason to New Jersey, where he was never healthy. He played in just 18 games before the Nets traded him to Golden State, which promptly bought him out so that he could sign with a contender for the playoffs. He chose the Boston Celtics, where Doc Rivers got him into just 17 games for an average of 10.5 minutes.

     

    What he can bring

    I detailed Murphy's unique skills above. He has great size at 6'11" and 245 and possesses great perimeter skills. He's left-handed, which always confuses defenders, and plays with smooth finesse. The only thing he needs to grab 10 boards and hit two threes per night is 33 minutes. 

    There are a lot of teams that can't give him that. Fair enough, but those teams will never get all they can out of Murphy. Some teams do have that kind of playing time available down low, and they'd be smart to go after Murphy, who didn't have a major injury or career decline dictating his struggles.

    I see his downfall in 2010-2011 as a crime with no perpetrator; I don't know what caused it or if that cause is still in effect. Because of that, I'm confident that he can get back to the level of impact that he had with the Pacers for a few years. 

Willie Green, SG

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 22:  Willie Green #33 of the New Orleans Hornets shoots the ball during the game against the San Antonio Spurs at the New Orleans Arena on January 22, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Hornets defeated the Spurs 96-72.  NOTE T
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Age: 29 

    2010-2011 salary: $4 million

    Why no one wants him

    He doesn't do anything well. It's amazing that he sticks in the NBA. He reminds me of Keith Bogans, my favorite punching bag in the league. (Don't give me a good reason to start on my Bogans rant. He makes me so mad.)

    Green has a groundless reputation as a good shooter, and I can't figure out why. He's a career 42.5 percent field goal shooter and only shoots 32.2 percent from the three-point line. He played 21 minutes per game for the Hornets this season and scored 8.7 points, grabbed two rebounds, dished out one assist and hit just 0.7 threes per game.

    Those numbers leave a lot to be desired from a player counting for $4 million.

     

    What he can bring

    Occasional streaky shooting. In the month of January, Green got loose for a couple 24-point outbursts in which he shot 10-20 and 11-19. He had seven other double-figure scoring nights that month, which means that once he gets going, his teammates should keep feeding him. 

    That hot shooting didn't translate to the win column, though, as New Orleans accomplished a weak 4-8 mark.  

Yi Jianlian, PF

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    WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 14:  Yi Jianlian #31 of the Washington Wizards during the first half against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Verizon Center on March 14, 2011 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by download
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Age: 23

    2010-2011 salary: $4.05 million

    Why no one wants him

    The sixth overall pick by Milwaukee in 2007, the Chinese forward hasn't even approached his alleged potential. From the time we saw footage of Yi going one-on-one with that chair in his pre-draft workout, we all thought he was going to be the best thing since sliced bread.

    Instead, the 70"' forward hasn't excelled at anything. His best year was in '09-'10, when he averaged 32 minutes in 51 starts for the Nets, putting up 12 points and seven rebounds per game. That was the biggest role he's been given in his four-year career, and the best we've ever seen of him.

    Last season in Washington was one that he'd like to forget. Used mostly off the bench, Yi was never able to get in a rhythm with the paltry 17.7 minutes he received on average, even on a dreadful team.

     

    What he can bring

    Size and polished skills. Yi is a small forward in a center's body and is in his element when shooting jumpers from 15 feet in. He can put the ball on the deck to dribble and he can pass. We've seen enough glimpses of his talent to know that it exists. We just haven't seen him break out yet. 

Yao Ming, C

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 26:  Yao Ming #11 of the Houston Rockets stands by the bench during their opening night game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on October 26, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledg
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Age: 30

    2010-2011 salary: $17.7 million

    Why no one wants him

    His body, specifically his feet, is a ticking time bomb. Yao has dealt with multiple broken foot injuries that have cost him large portions of a couple seasons and all but five games of the last two seasons.

    Rampant speculation has Yao on the verge of retirement because his issues are ongoing and constant, making it exceedingly difficult for him to play basketball.

     

    What he can bring

    Yao tried to play last season with a minute count, but the experiment failed quickly. After only five games played at 18.2 minutes per, Yao was done for the season with a ankle stress fracture stemming to an old foot injury. 

    If he makes it back, a big if, Yao is among the best centers in the NBA. He's a lock for 22 points and roughly 10 rebounds with two blocks and great shooting percentages. The Houston Rockets have an impossible scenario to navigate, needing to evaluate whether re-signing Yao is a wise investment, or if letting him walk can allow them to move forward. 

    They know that if he comes back, he could regain his dominant form, but they don't want to risk saddling their payroll with more dead weight for an injured player who is very likely to re-injure. 

T.J. Ford, PG

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    PHOENIX - DECEMBER 03:  T.J. Ford #5 of the Indiana Pacers handles the ball during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on December 3, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Suns defeated the Pacers 105-97.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly ackn
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Age: 28

    2010-2011 salary: $8.5 million

    Why no one wants him

    T.J. Ford is a major injury risk. Ever since a severe spinal cord injury in 2004, Ford has been considered fragile. He's missed at least 30 games in three of the past four years, and has been employed in a point guard platoon when healthy.

    There might an unspoken negative to his game, because Indiana coach Jim O'Brien consistently sat the more talented Ford in favor of Jarrett Jack at point guard. Ford was not outspoken about distaste for his playing time, so it's hard to pinpoint anything that put him in O'Brien's doghouse from an external perspective.

     

    What he can bring

    Ford was voted the league's fastest player in the past, and has enormous potential as a fast break point guard. He's never been a good shooter, but his passing and vision in setting up teammates is All-Star caliber. Though small, he uses his quickness as a strong defender on the ball. 

    If healthy and happy, Ford is an impactful starting NBA point guard. 

Sasha Vujacic, PG/SG

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 14:  Sasha Vujacic #20 of the New Jersey Nets waves to the crowd as he enters the game in his first return since being traded by the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on January 14, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO US
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Age: 27

    2010-2011 salary: $5.47 million

    Why no one wants him

    Vujacic is a gunner with too much confidence in his three-point shot. That's definitely his best skill, but it's not as strong as the confidence he has in it. 

    Often times, he makes himself a one-dimensional player by standing and watching on the three-point line, just hoping to get the ball to jack another three. It looks like he played a lot better in an expanded role in New Jersey, but when watching him with the Lakers, he was a train wreck most games.

     

    What he can bring

    Vujacic is a high-energy player, which is what every NBA bench needs. He isn't that skilled, athletic or strong, but he's big at 6'7" and hustles all the time. Couple that with his decent three-pointer, which he shot at 37 percent for New Jersey, and you may find a nice bench player who shoots a little too much. 

Greg Oden, C

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    DALLAS - FEBRUARY 04:  Greg Oden #52 of the Portland Trail Blazers during play against the Dallas Mavericks on February 4, 2009 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Age: 23

    2010-2011 salary: $6.76 million (restricted free agent)

    Why no one wants him

    Greg Oden is cursed. In the four seasons since he was drafted, Oden has only played in 82 games across two seasons. That's a total of one season out of four for the No. 1 overall pick in 2007 and the next generation's greatest center.

    His body is not equipped to be an NBA player. You can see it in the way he runs and the frequency of major injury. His knees, like teammate Brandon Roy's, are traitors that will never allow Oden to reach the heights he was expected to reach when he was drafted.

     

    What he can bring

    Now if, and that's an Oden-sized if, he can find a way to sustain good health, Greg can be a dominant inside presence. His short '09-'10 stint showed what he can do: 11 points on 60 percent shooting with 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in just 24 minutes. That is transcendent statistical production if prorated over a larger minute count. 

    His command of the paint and ability to take over a game is common to less than five big men in the NBA. He has it, but will his body free him to use it?

Delonte West, PG/SG

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    MIAMI, FL - MAY 01:  Delonte West #13  of the Boston Celtics shoots  during game one of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2011 NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on May 1, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expre
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Age: 27

    2010-2011 salary: $854k

    Why no one wants him

    Delonte West is not dependable. Whether it's struggling with depression, injury, or who knows what else, West has missed at least 18 games in each of the last four seasons, and significantly more in a couple of those. 

    Another troubling pattern is his inability to stick with a team. He's played for three teams (two stints with Boston) in his seven seasons. Maybe his organization gets fed up with his injury issues, or maybe he causes trouble in the lockerroom that must be swiftly dealt with.

    With exceptions, it's usually a bad sign when a player bounces frequently from team to team. West has been traded multiple times, showing that no team has ever considered him central to its plans.

     

    What he can bring

    I'm not sure West is best used as a starter because of consistency concerns. As a backup used in spurts, West offers a good blend of assists, three-point and free throw shooting and defense. He won't hurt you by shooting too much or turning the ball over, either.  

Josh Howard, SG/SF

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    WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 26: Josh Howard #5 of the Washington Wizards against the Dallas Mavericks  at the Verizon Center on February 26, 2011 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Age: 31

    2010-2011 salary: $3 million

    Why no one wants him

    As recently as two seasons ago, Josh Howard was the starting shooting guard for the Dallas Mavericks pouring in nearly 20 points per game and competing for All-Star berths. 

    Soon, he fell out of favor with coach Rick Carlisle and got hurt, and became expendable in a trade to the Washington Wizards for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson. 

    He's been a wreck in the nation's Capital. After a season-ending ACL tear last year, Howard played just 18 games this season in nominal minutes. He doesn't look like the same player that he was before the knee injury, which is common for players who sustain it. 

    Now he's a 31-year-old with a major knee injury on his resume. Potential suitors will tread very carefully in deciding to sign Howard.

     

    What he can bring

    In his early days with the Mavs, Howard was a dynamic slasher who used his athleticism and length to effortlessly get to the basket. He was a tenacious and smart defender, averaging nearly 1.5 assists per game.

    He likely can't do what he used to in getting to the basket, but his jumper, which was never poor, could make him a third or fourth scorer on a playoff team. He could be a Corey Brewer-type player with a little more offensive ability.

    At 31, he should still have quite a bit left in the tank if his brain and body are straight.  

Jared Jeffries, PF

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    BOSTON, MA - APRIL 17:  Jared Jeffries #9 of the New York Knicks celebrates after teammate Toney Douglas #23 made a shot in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 17, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachuset
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Age: 29

    2010-2011 salary: $900k

    Why no one wants him

    Jared Jeffries has made a career on...well...nothing. He can't score (5.1 career points on 43 percent). He doesn't rebound that well (4.2 career rebounds). He certainly isn't a defensive producer (0.5 blocks and 0.7 steals). For some reason, he's found a home in the Knicks high-octane system as the antithesis of the Mike D'Antoni prototype. 

    I guess he's a D'Antoni favorite because the coach knows that Jeffries will devote all his focus to the end of the floor that the Knicks stink at: defense. He doesn't have to worry about Jeffries taking shots away from his scorers, and knows that he'll get all the 6'11" power forward's effort on D.

     

    What he can bring

    Defense, I guess? A team-oriented attitude? Jeffries won't give you anything statistically, so you have to find a way to make him significant in ways that stats don't capture. That's altered shots, help defense rotations, screens to get teammates open, etc. 

    He is good for these things, or else he would have been long out of the NBA by now. Something makes this guy stick that doesn't show up in the stat sheet, so as long as you're not paying him more than $1-2 mil, he's worth rostering.

Jeff Foster, C

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 09:  Jeff Foster #10 of the Indiana Pacers reacts to his offensive foul against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half at the Staples Center on January 9, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.   The Lakers won 121-119.  NOTE TO
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Age: 34

    2010-2011 salary: $6.6 million

    Why no one wants him

    Jeff Foster is a one-way player, adding nothing to a team's offense. When he's out there, his team is basically resigned to playing 4-on-5 on offense, though he will set screens and dutifully run plays. No one whose career high is seven points per game should be making as much money as he does, though he contributes in other areas at an above average level.

    He's also developed a penchant for injury, playing in just 72 games over the last two seasons. For a 34-year-old, that's a sign of physical breakdown that only gets worse with time.

     

    What he can bring

    Foster is a high-effort rebounder and defender. He possesses great size at 6'11" and 250 pounds, which allows him to play physical with good low-post scorers. He's never been one to block shots, but he gets a high amount of steals for a big man, which means that he knows how to be in the right place at the right time.

    For a short-term, low-money contract, Foster is a big man that most teams would love having off their bench.

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