NBA free agency has already had several big-splash moves, but some of the smaller, lesser-known additions can go a long way to winning a ring.
NBA free agency is always headlined by the biggest names changing teams. However, the less advertised transactions that build depth, experience, and flexibility can be just as important towards a championship run. For example, most would point to the additions of Jrue Holiday and Chris Paul as vital reasons for the Suns’ and Bucks’ finals appearances. And although their additions did just that, you cannot overlook the roles Jae Crowder and Bobby Portis served as well.
So far, this year’s NBA free agency has been highlighted by the sign-and-trade. Lonzo Ball, Demar Derozan, Kyle Lowry, and Devonte Graham lead the way in players’ already dealt. Additionally, many big-name players have been retained and or extended by their former teams. With Chris Paul, John Collins, and Mike Conley resigning, many of this offseason’s best are now unavailable.
Therefore, with most superstar additions off the table, the remainder of free agency should include key role players. Here are the best under-the-radar moves so far, as well as some of the best still out there.
BOBBY! BOBBY! BOBBY!
Bobby Portis was the perfect example of an underrated move last year. Milwaukee signed Portis to a veteran minimum after having his worst season in three years. He immediately proved himself as a very valuable addition by averaging 11.4 ppg and 7.1 rpg. While his counting stats didn’t noticeably increase, his efficiency skyrocketed. He shot 7.3% better from the field (52.3%) and 11.3% better from deep (47.1%), which was the third-best 3pt% in all of basketball.
After the regular season ended, most already expected Portis to be receiving a bag in the offseason. But then, he showed up in the playoffs and was an essential factor for a championship team, thereby increasing his value even more. However, Bobby loved Milwaukee and Milwaukee loved him. He took a pay-cut to “run it back” and re-signed for just 9 million dollars over two years. Retaining Portis was such a huge move and could very easily play into the Bucks making it back to the NBA Finals.
Jeff Green to the Denver Nuggets
Yet another prime example of a great signing last year, Jeff Green played huge minutes for Brooklyn last year. The truth here is that Jeff Green was simply better than Blake Griffin. His defense and three-point ability outshined that of Blake’s, but an unfortunate foot injury sidelined him for six playoff games. Green muscled up a return, though, and in his second game back, he posted a ridiculous 27 points on 7/8 shooting from deep. If not for his lingering foot problem, Brooklyn easily could have made it deeper in the playoffs.
Denver inked in the veteran forward to a 2 year 10 million dollar deal. With Paul Millsap’s production decreasing, while his age keeps rising, expect Green to fill his role. Green averaged 11 ppg, 3.9 rpg, and shot 49.2% from the field. These numbers are slightly better than both Millsap and Griffin. However, Brooklyn saw the pay versus production difference between Griffin and Green as enough to take the cheaper option in Griffin. In doing so, it allowed them to add another talented player to their already very skilled team..
Brooklyn Adds a Team Australia & Spurs Legend
Patty Mills is currently playing in the Tokyo Olympics but was apparently not busy enough to miss out on NBA free agency. For the past ten years, Mills has played a huge part in San Antonio’s success, but it was time for a change. Mills, a player who doesn’t even need to ring chase, signed with Brooklyn for 12 million dollars over 2 seasons.
These mid-level signing exceptions are a yearly must for contending teams. They provide championship-caliber teams with packed payrolls the ability to sign a good player without it impacting their salary cap. Patty Mills is a great replacement for Spencer Dinwiddie. While he doesn’t match Dinwiddie’s ability, Mills does bring lots of playoff experience and the ability to fill starting guard minutes for a team that struggled to keep guards healthy. The only problem with this signing is not using it on a defensive big, but Brooklyn will likely find a way to do so somehow.
The Lakers’ Retirement Home Signs 2 Young Guns
The Los Angeles Lakers have done A LOT! However, what they did not do was help their spacing or age. Sure, players like Wayne Ellington and Kent Bazemore provide some shooting, but their age will likely make their consistency unreliable. Since they now are led by three superstar players, none of which can shoot at a high clip, they are in dire need of scorers. They should also be focussing on remaining healthy for an entire season.
Winning a bubble championship came with the minor setback of a limited offseason for recovery. Ultimately, such a short offseason hurt them in the long term as they struggled to keep a healthy roster on the court. And so far in this NBA free agency, they have added tons of aging veterans that do not have sustainable health. But, they made two huge additions to help reduce their team age and increase their scoring.
Both the Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets relinquished their control of Kendrick Nunn and Malik Monk, respectively. Soon thereafter, the Lakers scooped them up. Both of them landing in LA is quite surprising as they could have likely gotten more money elsewhere. Nunn and Monk are natural scorers without much defensive integrity. This may come back to hurt the Lakers, but their bigger need for individual bench scoring has been fulfilled.
Monk averaged 11.7 ppg and shot just over 40% from beyond the arc. Nunn put up more points a night at 14.6 but shot a little worse. Nonetheless, these two youngsters bring energy to win and learn that was desperately needed from the extremely old roster LA has put together.
The Remainder of NBA Free Agency
There are still some major free agents available. Kawhi Leonard declined his player option but has been rumored to likely remain with the Clippers. Regardless, there remains the possibility of a HUGE Woj bomb if he chooses to move on. Outside of him, the star talent remaining is somewhat bare. Kelly Oubre and Dennis Schröder are both younger, experienced NBA starters, but have the tendency to disappear at times.
As for the under-the-radar signings, some key bench players are still available. Reggie Jackson is atop this list. His playoff numbers were astounding with Kawhi hurt and something almost any team would want. In his 19 playoff games, Jackson averaged 17.8 ppg, just over 3 apg and rpg, as well as shooting an impressive 40.8% from three-point land.
Some other names to look out for include Danny Green, Lauri Markkanen, and Josh Hart. There are countless other free agents that could attribute immensely to a winning team’s success. Focussing solely on the big-name additions in the NBA free agency only tells half the story. It is the smaller moves that build deeper rosters that will set apart winning teams from championship ones.
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