NBA Free Agents 2011: Most Explosive Scorers Available on the Market
In a free-agency class where the likes of Jamal Crawford, David West and Nene Hilario reign supreme as the top available players, it makes it pretty obvious that the talent level may be lacking this offseason when in comparison to that of last year and next year.
While there may not be any franchise players to pick and choose from, there are a plethora of role players that have specialties in certain areas. With players like Grant Hill and Shane Battier providing veteran leadership and strong defense, there are also players who have the specialty of being able to score at a high volume and at a high level.
These players may be the most valuable in free agency this year as a number of teams will be looking to add a pure scorer to rev up their offense.
The five players mentioned in this piece would be extremely valuable assets to any team that they sign with. Their ability to score on their shots near the basket off of drives or off of their stellar shooting from the mid-range and perimeter which sets them apart from every other player that calls themselves a scorer.
The soon-to-be-mentioned players all have a possible chance of leaving their team as well with a number of their squads actually contemplating benching these offensive juggernauts.
By being threatened with a benching in favor of someone else, we could very well expect these five players to be on the move within the coming weeks and possibly contributing 15 to 20 points per night with their new team.
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The most underrated player during this year's upcoming free-agency period, Sacramento Kings shooting guard Marcus Thornton has received little attention since being drafted early in the second round out of LSU in 2009.
I consider this a problem because Thornton happens to be one of the most underrated players in the NBA despite being one of its best pure scorers. He hasn't had much time to prove himself in the two seasons that he's played in the league, but he has taken advantage of the situations where his team was pretty much forced to give him a chance.
The Kings would be the team to give him that chance and it resulted in Thornton averaging 21 points, five rebounds and three assists per while starting in place of the injured Tyreke Evans. Thornton would shoot 45 percent from the field overall and would convert on 36 percent of his three-pointers while making two per game.
In the 27 games he played with Sacramento, Thornton would begin to get recognized as one of the NBA's best pure scorers and he put that on an even higher level when he scored 42 points in the season finale against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Prior to joining the Kings, Thornton played a key role off of the New Orleans Hornets bench, where he averaged 15 points per on 45 percent from the field in 25 minutes of action per night.
It wasn't until the middle of the 2010-11 season that the Hornets would trade Thornton after a slow start to the season where he only averaged eight points per on 41 percent shooting.
Nevertheless, Thornton pushed it to the limit with the Kings as he put his full offensive repertoire on display. He's a dangerous player that can score from inside and out at an efficient rate which makes it a dilemma for defenders to either play up on him and possibly allow him to drive or to fall back and give him a jump shot instead.
As someone that can drive and score at a consistent and efficient rate, Thornton would be an asset on anyone's team and could be seen on the Kings bench next year if he does end up re-signing.
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Another vastly underrated player who's coming off of a breakout year, Washington Wizards shooting guard Nick Young was able to take advantage of the team's situation by getting the first consistent starting job of his career and leading the team in scoring at 17 points per game.
On a team where there were seven other players to average at least 10 points per game, Young being able to lead this team with a plethora of scorers is extremely impressive.
Usually, being teammates with the likes of Andray Blatche, Rashard Lewis or John Wall would mean a lack of looks, especially for a player like Young who had only averaged 10 points or more once in his three-year career.
Give props where they're due. Young took command of the team on offense as he unleashed one of the sweetest jump shots in the NBA and the cunning ability to use his length and athleticism to drive at will.
Like Thornton, Young has the benefit of being able to shoot and drive but also possesses the advantage of being 6'6", which makes him even more difficult to defend when considering the length and athleticism that he has attached to that frame.
Young started 40 of the 64 games he played in last year and would shoot 44 percent from the field overall to go along with the impressive 39 percent he shot from beyond the arc while converting on nearly two three-pointers per game.
He's an extremely dangerous scorer and it showed last season in a few instances where Young went off with a few notable games, including dropping 43 against Sacramento, 38 against Miami and 32 against Oklahoma City.
All in all, Young scored 30 points or better eight times in the 64 games he played. That is an impressive stat when considering the offensive firepower that his teammates possess.
He could be up for grabs, too. The Wizards may be more inclined to stick with Jordan Crawford at shooting guard, which makes Young expendable and up for grabs.
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The most dangerous scorer in free agency this year and he's only averaged 20 points or better once in his career, Atlanta Hawks sixth man Jamal Crawford is prepared to weigh his options and take on a lucrative deal.
While many would usually be turned off by the idea of signing a 32-year-old that's never made an All-Star game and has only averaged 20 points per game or better one time, it needs to be known that Crawford isn't the type of player that's going to be a first option.
Rather than him being a primary scorer, he becomes much more dangerous as a second option or even providing a spark off the bench, which is what he has been to Atlanta over the past two seasons.
What an impressive two seasons they've been as well. Crawford has been utilized as both a starter and sixth man with the numerous teams he's been a part of. He is only two years removed from taking home his first Sixth Man of the Year award after leading all bench players in scoring at 18 per game while also converting on two three-pointers per game on 38 percent shooting.
He's coming off of a season where he regressed by only averaging 14 points per while hitting 34 percent of his shots from beyond the arc, but Crawford is still going to command a lot of attention from suitors that are aching for a sharpshooter that could potentially start.
The Chicago Bulls come to mind, but they'll need to keep in mind that the three-point specialist won't come cheap.
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Following a disappointing end to the 2010-11 campaign by missing every regular season game from the beginning of January through the postseason, a healthy Caron Butler will attempt to command a large salary after an impressive start in his first season with the world champion Dallas Mavericks.
Butler only played in 29 games, but he fit in perfectly with the fundamental approach of the Mavericks offense as he went on to average 15 points per on 45 percent shooting. He had started at small forward before the injury ended his season.
He was well on his way to assisting the team to a deep postseason run before the team decided to do it themselves.
Butler has been vastly underrated for the majority of his career since being drafted by the Miami Heat in 2002. He would spent time with the Heat and Los Angeles Lakers before seeing his best years come as a part of the Washington Wizards, where he would become a part of a team that included teammates like Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison.
Forming their own version of a big three, the Wizards would become perennial playoff contenders.
Butler would depart from the team in the middle of the 2009-10 campaign to join the Mavericks. He didn't be score as much as he did in the fast-paced style of the Wizards offense, but he found himself just as much a part of the offense and just as effective with the Mavericks, thanks to the mature approach he takes into every game.
He's supported by a stunning ability to drive and has a great deal of speed despite being listed at 6'7". Equipped with speed is also the strength which allows him to drive and out-muscle defenders to give himself more space on his drives and his jump shots alike.
Aside from the known ability to drive, Butler can also unleash a quality jump shot that netted him 43 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.
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Jason Richardson may not be the leading scorer averaging as much as 23 points per game during his time with the Golden State Warriors, but he does contain that ability to score in bunches and at a high volume if given the opportunity.
Richardson has been gifted teams that pride themselves on offense, which has allowed him to become a stellar three-point shooter as well as one of the NBA's most threatening figures in the paint.
Playing on teams like Golden State, Phoenix and Orlando has given room for Richardson to pick and choose his shots at will as he has become quite the renowned three-point shooter over the years.
An oddity of Richardson's three-point shooting prowess is that his career high of three three-pointers per night didn't come with either of those three fast-paced offensive teams, but rather when he was the number one scoring option in his lone full season with the Charlotte Bobcats.
Richardson played the best ball of his career that season, converting on 41 percent of his three-point attempts while averaging 22 points per night.
Last year with the Suns and Magic, Richardson would average two three-pointers per game on a once again impressive shooting percentage from beyond the arc at nearly 40 percent. He would also average 16 points per game, which would come as a result of going from playing a large role in Phoenix to a smaller role in Orlando with more three-point shooters.
A career 37 percent shooter from deep that's converted on two three-pointers per game, Richardson's production from deep has only seemed to improve as he gets older, which makes him all the more valuable.
The lift that he had on his dunks may be a thing of the past, but his shooting is refined and has become the most dangerous aspect and selling point of his game.