If teams are going to be on the lookout for free agents that could satisfy their need of providing instant offense and finding ways to score that the majority of the league's players can't, then they should probably give this list of the five slickest play makers a look in order to improve the offensive output of their team.
The 2011 free agency class doesn't have too much to offer in terms of All-Stars and superstars, but it does have a great deal of solid role players and play makers that can turn the tide of a game based on their ability to score in so many ways. Whether these players use their explosive ability to work the crowd back into it or can score from inside and out, these five will be of great benefit to anyone that pursues and ends up signing them.
To be recognized as a slick play maker, you need to be able to score in ways that most players can't. Not every play maker is alike either as some can rely on their slashing and driving abilities to score, others rely on their ability to get hot and hit from their perimeter, and others have a combination of both which makes it extremely difficult to defend them.
Free agency begins on December 9, which means organizations are going to have to get their priorities in order and find out which needs they need to fill. For those looking to add firepower to the offense, there's no doubt that they'll be mulling over their options if they should sign one of these play makers.
The slickest play maker that free agency has to offer this year, the Atlanta Hawks Jamal Crawford is being courted by many teams and could very well find himself in a different uniform upon the start of the 2011-12 season.
Crawford has been reached out to by a number of squads including the Chicago Bulls and Orlando Magic who are looking to possibly work a sign-and-trade deal as well as teams like the New Orleans Hornets and Minnesota Timberwolves.
So many teams are pursuing Crawford that we have no idea where he will go. One thing is for certain though and that's Crawford earning a big paycheck with a team that could be paying him near $10 million a season.
So what exactly constitutes Crawford receiving all this attention? For one, Crawford is one of the most dangerous and lethal perimeter shooters in the league. He can get hotter than hot if he makes a few consecutive shots from deep and can become nearly unstoppable from outside of the perimeter if you don't find a way to stop him early.
He's the only player in NBA history to score 50 points with three different teams and if that doesn't show you how lethal of a player he is, then nothing will.
While he is coming off of a disappointing follow-up to a campaign that earned him Sixth Man of the Year, Crawford is still as dangerous as they come and is being coveted by multiple teams for a reason. If a team requires a perimeter threat, shooting guard, or spark off the bench, then Crawford is going to be the one that they'll have their sights set on.
Not to mention, Crawford is one of the the craftiest players in the league when he drives. Equipped with one of the sickest crossovers you'll ever see, Jamal's ability to elude defenders with his quick handles has left numerous unfortunate defenders in a trance that they still haven't gotten out of.
One of the more underrated players that's set to hit free agency three days from the time I write this, Sacramento Kings guard Marcus Thornton is another player who mind find himself on the outside looking in due to his teams depth in the back court.
With the team drafting Jimmer Fredette, it seems that they plan on starting him at the point and then moving former point guard Tyreke Evans to play shooting guard. At 6'4", Thornton cannot play at small forward and will either become the Kings' sixth man or a starter on a number of other teams that wish to have his services.
In Evans' absence last year due to an injury that allowed him to play in only 57 games, the Kings traded for Thornton, who was then a member of the New Orleans Hornets, near the end of the season. In the 27 games he played and the 23 he started as the 2-guard, Thornton was highly impressive as he displayed a great deal of awareness when it came to playing on offense.
Thornton proved that he could not only shoot from long range as he converted two three-pointers per game on 36 percent shooting from beyond the arc, but that he also the outstanding ability to drive which is going to leave defenders in a quandary on how exactly to guard the 24-year-old.
Marcus averaged 21 points per game and it's reported that the Hornets, among a few others, may actually want him back and should be pursuing him when free agency starts.
Another stellar scorer that has seemed to receive little press or attention on his upcoming free agency period, Washington Wizards shooting guard Nick Young could find himself being let go with the possibility that the organization choose to utilize Jordan Crawford as their next shooting guard instead.
So far, only the Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Hornets, and Denver Nuggets have offered any sort of interest in Young and that report came in on December 1. As a restricted free agent, the Wizards will be free to match any offer that an organization has if they decide to make a run at Young. As stated before though, it's highly unlikely as the team will be going with Crawford.
It's puzzling to think that the Wizards would be so willing to give up on Young after four years and an impressive season last year in his first official starting job. In the 64 games he played and the 40 he started, Young had a few bursts of excellence that included a 39-point game against the Miami Heat where he converted on six of his seven three-point attempts.
Young averaged 17 points per game on 44 percent shooting from the field while also converting on nearly two three-pointers per game at a solid 39 percent clip. This is the third time in Young's four-year career that he has shot 39 percent or better from beyond the arc as he has shot above 40 percent twice already.
It's not all about three-point and mid-range shooting for Young as he's also a stellar athlete that has the ability to explode at any given moment if he's given the lane.
He's as strong as he is lengthy and that means defending Young is a lot more difficult than you'd expect because he can use strength or length to drive while also using his jump shooting range to keep defenders on their toes in expectations of a potential jumper being taken.
The 6'4" guard that has received a lot of attention on account of his long range and impressive dunks, Los Angeles Lakers backup guard Shannon Brown is set to hit free agency as an unrestricted free agent after playing the two best years of his career.
Prior to joining the Lakers, Brown wasn't given too much of a chance to prove himself. He only played 23 games in his rookie season in 2006 with the Cleveland Cavaliers before being traded the next year and playing in 15 games in stints with the Cavs and Chicago Bulls. Brown only played six games with Chicago before walking as a free agent and then becoming a member of the Charlotte Bobcats.
The Bobcats didn't want much to do with him either as he only played in 30 games before being sent to the Lakers for Vladimir Radmanovic. He wouldn't get much playing time in the short time he spent with the Lakers in the 2008-'09 season, but he did enough to prove himself and he would earn a steady job coming off the bench for the next two seasons.
The result? Brown lived up to the expectations by becoming a fan favorite and most recently averaging nine points and two rebounds per game. He's not the greatest facilitator or shooter, but he's a slick player that's going to attack the rim at all costs and provides the team with another slasher next to Kobe Bryant.
The Lakers have already offered Brown a qualifying offer, but it may not be enough as the teams pay roll is at a league high $91 million. With the New Orleans Hornets giving Brown attention, the guard may very well find himself playing alongside Chris Paul in a few weeks.
I fear for the teams that are set to bid on J.J. Barea of the Dallas Mavericks. After a solid postseason run where the Puerto Rican made a name for himself for the first time in his career, front offices across the league may overreact to what they saw in the postseason and could be offering Barea far more than what he's worth.
Sorry to say it to the teams are set to be disappointed when they overspend on him, but Barea isn't a starting point guard and should be relied on as the quick spark off the bench that the Mavericks utilized him as. It's not a knock on Barea's game at all, but he displayed no inkling on how to run an offense and only showed off how he could score from inside and out.
Barea will be signed to a hefty contract because of how slick he can be when he's driving to the lane. When you're listed at 6'0", 175 pounds, the only think you can rely on is your quick wits and utilizing that small frame to your advantage when driving against players that stand a foot taller and out weight you by 100 pounds. Barea knows how to avoid the blocks by recognizing how to contort and control his body and uses his speed to beat out the first line of defense.
As much attention as he received throughout the post season, it's surprising to notice that Barea only averaged nine points, four assists, and two rebounds per coming off the bench. It may not mean too much to the teams that pursue him, however, as they'll simply should be looking for a player that can provide some offensive support off the bench in a team's second unit.
Word is that Barea has listed the New York Knicks as his favorite option outside of Dallas.