5 Waiver-Wire Signings That Will Swing the NBA Playoff Picture
When an organization signs a player during the trade deadline, it's usually perceived as a sign of desperation.
It's a last ditch effort to get all the essentials before the playoffs begin. If teams need a big man, they'll search for whatever they can get just so they can have one on their roster. That's why you saw the Miami Heat desperate enough to sign Erick Dampier last year. The team needed plenty of help down low, so they became desperate enough to sign someone who was out of work.
These players are free agents for a reason. Either because they weren't getting the job done or refused to play for a specific team, they became free agents and were momentarily out of work. The five players we will soon discuss all fit into those three aforementioned categories.
It's tough to think that a waiver-wire signing could impact a team's possible playoff run, but we believe that these five players could possibly provide a boost of some kind to their new teams.
Let's take a look at five recently signed players who may just help swing the playoff picture.
Boris Diaw: San Antonio Spurs
Not only did they ship out an abysmal contract and disappointing player in Richard Jefferson for a former player in Stephen Jackson, but they also picked up former Charlotte Bobcat Boris Diaw for a low price.
Critics will argue that both of these players have motivation issues. I say that nothing gets a player more motivated than contending for a championship. Take Jackson off the Milwaukee Bucks and Diaw off the Charlotte Bobcats and put them in a championship environment and you can guarantee that both of these players are suddenly going to become committed.
Be wary of that bench. Any team with Diaw, Jackson, Danny Green, Gary Neal and Tiago Splitter coming off the bench is a team that I don't want to face at any point in the season.
Diaw does a little bit of everything on the court. He has a decent mid-range and post game, can rebound well and can even play the role of facilitator averaging as much as six assists per game. In the 2008-'09 season, Diaw went on to average 15 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Since then, his statistics have dropped and he was averaging seven points on 41 percent shooting to go along with five boards and four assists per with the Bobcats. Coach Paul Silas openly questioned Diaw's commitment to the team before the organization made the decision to buy him out.
In Gregg Popovich's system, every player can serve a purpose. Diaw will serve the purpose of everything that Tim Duncan and DeJuan Blair fail to do during their time. Luckily for the Spurs, Diaw is capable of playing alongside either of those players as he's extremely versatile when it comes to playing a certain position.
Derek Fisher: Oklahoma City Thunder
While this move wasn't too celebrated, it was actually the best move the Oklahoma City Thunder could have done with limited funds and an idea to not disrupt team chemistry at its peak.
By picking up Derek Fisher after he was waived by the Houston Rockets, the Thunder found a suitable second point guard to replace Eric Maynor, and a floor general who can hit timely shots and play the role of locker-room leader. On a team with so many young players itching for a ring, a player with five championships may be the perfect player to tell them how to get the job done.
The Thunder have been looking for a second point guard all year after losing Maynor for the season. Once Russell Westbrook hit the bench, the Thunder had been running with either Kevin Durant or James Harden as the point guard.
While it's been working out, the Thunder offense would much prefer to have those two get their looks playing off the ball so that they can find easier ways to get open instead of relying on their own abilities. Not to mention that neither of those players are capable point guards. Durant and Harden can run the point, but they're not the players you want as a second option.
Fisher won't average much. He'll come in and provide the same exact intangibles he provided to the Los Angeles Lakers. He started on that team for so long because he was an excellent leader who would hit shots whenever the team needed him to. The team didn't care that he wasn't shooting well or putting up prolific numbers; the Lakers just wanted him to make his usual shots and smart plays.
The Thunder are going to profit significantly from this move as they creep towards locking up the No. 1 seed in the West.
Gilbert Arenas: Memphis Grizzlies
This one may be a bit of a stretch.
Nobody wanted to give Gilbert Arenas a shot. Organizations didn't know how in shape he was, didn't know how ready he was to get back on the court and didn't want to deal with the headache. Even in Arenas' short stint in Orlando, he complained about not getting the ball as much as he should. He complained that he wasn't playing well because he wasn't getting enough looks.
Arenas was coming off the bench. Clearly this was a player who had the ego of a superstar, but the game of a role player. Sadly, Arenas has become nothing more than a role player who can be used in short stints to make a few jump shots and possibly energize the team.
That's what the Memphis Grizzlies were hoping when they signed him last week.
After O.J. Mayo, the Grizzlies don't have much offensive support coming off the bench. Marreese Speights has been a surprise averaging nine points per, but it's a steady slope down as the next highest scorer off the bench is Quincy Pondexter, who is only averaging five points.
Without Zach Randolph, the Grizzlies could use as much scoring as they can get. Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, Mayo and Tony Allen are all averaging over 10 points per, as well as Mike Conley, Jr., who has played surprisingly well and is averaging 13 PPG.
Arenas will look to possibly add another dimension to an offense ranked 18th in the league in points per. It'll take a few weeks before he gets fully acclimated. I wouldn't sleep on him too much, however, as shooters like Arenas can get hot out of nowhere. Don't forget that this was a player who was once one of the league's premier scorers. He still knows how to score, he's just looking for the rhythm.
Memphis is currently in the sixth spot in the West.
J.J. Hickson: Portland Trail Blazers
This might be a bit of a reach, but I wouldn't count the Portland Trail Blazers out of the playoff race yet.
Anything can happen down the stretch. The Blazers may be nearly four games out of the final eighth spot, but there's so much that can happen within the next month's worth of basketball. With injuries playing such a large part this year, who's to say that the Blazers might catch a few lucky breaks if the team's currently in front of them suffer a setback or two?
It's going to be tough. However, this Portland team is resilient and has dealt with worse. Remember that they were in a similar situation last year when Brandon Roy went down with his knee injury. LaMarcus Aldridge was able to rally the troops and get them to the postseason. The team from this year is just as volatile with the likes of Jamal Crawford, Wesley Matthews and Raymond Felton containing the ability to swing a game.
Even the Blazers' latest acquisition in J.J. Hickson could play a key role down the stretch. The Blazers have been dealing with the weakness of having an inexperienced (as well as an aged) frontcourt and a young athlete like Hickson may just be the answer as a backup to Aldridge.
Prior to Hickson joining the team, the Blazers had been running with guys like Joel Przybilla, Kurt Thomas and the recently departed Marcus Camby as their most prominent big men. These players aren't able to make the impact that the Blazers need. You can't expect over-the-hill veterans and a stiff like Przybilla to help out in the frontcourt.
Hickson is coming off a dismal stint in Sacramento where he received little playing time and was reduced to obscurity. This comes after a few successful years in Cleveland where he averaged 14 points and nine rebounds in his final year with the club. Hickson showed off a lot of athleticism, had a decent mid-range shot and was extremely aggressive under the rim.
J.J. might not be the definitive answer, but he's a temporary answer. He's looking to get his career back on the right track and just may be motivated enough to start putting up numbers similar to what he put up in Cleveland.
Ronny Turiaf: Miami Heat
The Miami Heat are desperate for a big man.
The Eddy Curry experiment wasn't working out as quick as they planned; Kenyon Martin chose to go to the Los Angeles Clippers, Joel Przybilla chose to go to the Portland Trail Blazers and the team saw nothing out of Rasheed Wallace during a personal workout. The Heat was running out of options and they were left thinking that maybe Dexter Pittman would have to be the answer.
That was going to be the plan, until the Washington Wizards decided to cut Ronny Turiaf after an uneventful first half of the season. Turiaf played in only four games with the Wizards due to a broken hand and with so many young big men already on the roster, the team decided to cut ties with the player they acquired in December of 2011.
Turiaf is a perfect fit for the Heat. Not only do the Heat simply get a big man who can actually rebound and play some sort of defense in the middle, they also get a player who has high energy and could motivate this team through the momentary lulls that they often get into.
With a guy like Turiaf racing for rebounds and playing excellent defense, he might just inspire some of his teammates into working a little harder. This Heat team seems to get bored at intervals and it'll drastically affect play on both sides of the ball. Lazy defense and jump shots will become the norm, and that's something the team does not want to fall into as it has caused a number of minimal deficits to turn into substantial deficits in the span of a few minutes.
Turiaf could be the player that gets these guys fired up through those tough times.
He's not much of an answer, but he's an answer. He's better than just about every other center the Heat currently have on their roster and he's going to help provide some much needed interior defense and rebounding to a team that has struggled mightily at both aspects.