NBA Free Agents 2012: Debuts to Watch for During Wednesday Night's Action

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistOctober 31, 2012

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 12:  Jeremy Lin #7 of the Houston Rockets celebrates a play during the game against the New Orleans Hornets at the Toyota Center on October 12, 2012 in Houston, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The 2012 Free Agent Class didn't make quite the splash some anticipated, and was instead overshadowed by a number of blockbuster offseason trades.

And while tonight marks the debut of numerous high-profile traded players––Andre Iguodala in Denver, James Harden in Houston, Kyle Lowry in Toronto––it also features a number of impact free agents trying on their new duds for the first time.

Last night alone, we saw free-agent acquisitions like Steve Nash, O.J. Mayo, Ray Allen, Jason Terry and Elton Brand debut for their new squads.

That was on a day with only three games. Tonight, we have nine.

And although the disappointing (and tragic) postponement of Knicks-Nets deprives us from adding Deron Williams and Raymond Felton to this list, there's still plenty of new faces to be excited to see.

Let's check a few of them out:


1. PG Jeremy Lin—Houston Rockets

Everybody knows the magical saga of Linsanity that swept the nation last winter. Since that enrapturing month, however, Jeremy Lin has been a bit of an enigma. Never has a player been so unconditionally adored overseas while also being so domestically polarizing.

Here in the states, the scope of opinions on Jeremy Lin ranges from "legitimate future all-star" to "overrated fluke" to the unfortunate "marketable product of reverse racism."

Any way you spin it, however, you can't deny that the country––and the world––will be on edge, watching to see if he can play up to his exorbitant contract.

The preseason returns were a little (okay, a lot) disconcerting. Lin shot a woeful 28.3 percent on his 46 preseason attempts and only averaged 6.3 points in 25.3 minutes. The late addition of James Harden will take a lot of the scoring load off his shoulders, but Lin still needs to be much, much better than that.

Especially with the weight of a continent seemingly resting on his shoulders.


2. PG Goran Dragic, SF Michael Beasley & PF Luis Scola—Phoenix Suns

The Suns lost the engine that's made them go since 2004 this offseason, but they reloaded with a triad of high-upside free-agent signings.

The most important is Luis Scola, whom the Rockets myopically amnestied in an attempt to clear cap room for Dwight Howard. Landing Scola—one of the league's premier only back-to-the-basket post scorers—at a bargain, is an incredible place to start rebuilding.

Also in tow is former NCAA Player of the Year and second-overall pick Michael Beasley. The capricious lefty has been given the cursed label of "bust" since entering the league, but that's a misnomer. He hasn't quite reached his potential, but with improved shot selection, he can be a very serviceable NBA scorer. It's a tad misleading since he shot so much, but he did average 19.2 points per game a couple seasons ago for Minnesota.

Finally there's Goran Dragic, the unfortunate soul who has to replace a two-time MVP at point guard. Fortunately, Dragic has already endeared himself to the Phoenix faithful; he backed up Nash from 2008-2011 and earned his place in Suns lore by doing this:

After a scorching second-half for Houston last season, Dragic got his wish and became a full-time starting point guard. If he, Beasley and Scola can find a way to share touches, Phoenix may not be quite as bad as some people think it might be.


3. SG Jamal Crawford—Los Angeles Clippers

After a lackluster debut season (everywhere but from the charity stripe) in Portland, Jamal Crawford packed his bags and headed for Hollywood. And if he can regain the sixth-man form he exhibited in previous years, the Clippers might not be playing second banana in Los Angeles for very long.

Which is why Crawford's debut tonight should be so intriguing. Which Jamal Crawford are the Clippers gonna get?

Will it be the uber-explosive bench scoring Crawford who won Sixth Man of the Year in 2010 and once hit sixteen consecutive shots in a game? Or will it be the lethargic automaton Crawford, who slogged his way to 30.8-percent three-point shooting (a career low) and a 38.4 field-goal percentage (the worst since his rookie year) in Portland.

He's been cold since deep in the preseason, but the rest of his game has looked chipper and spry. Given the uncertainty surrounding Chauncey Billups, Jamal Crawford could be the keystone player for this year's Clip Show.