7 Remaining 2014 NBA Free Agents Who Will Be Major Bargains
Sometimes, it's the role players—not stars—that make or break NBA championship teams. The Boris Diaws. The Mike Millers. The J.J. Bareas. Without those types of "glue" guys, too much pressure falls on the shoulders of a ballclub's top guns, and the results generally aren't favorable. Just ask LeBron James.
The free-agency period may be winding down, but there are still players of that ilk remaining in the pool. Sure, Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe may be the two most attractive pieces left, but with both asking for hefty contracts, it's hard to consider either a potential "bargain."
We see this almost every summer. Lots of rumors, a flurry of activity where just about all of the big names fly off the market followed by a lull where a handful of veteran free agents bide their time and wait for the best offer from what they feel is the best situation for themselves.
Some of the guys remaining could be a Diaw type: a player who makes all the difference in his team's title chances.
Memo to the franchises who are legitimate contenders: take notice.
Shawn Marion may not be the same Swiss army knife type of player that we saw in years past, but he is still certainly a valuable piece who could fill a significant role on a team looking to get over the hump.
With the Dallas Mavericks signing Chandler Parsons, it doesn't look like Marion will be returning to the city where he won his first NBA title.
"Now, his value in the marketplace is much higher than what we have right now, and so I would categorize that as a long long long long long shot," Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson told KESN-FM 103.3 (via The Dallas Morning News) regarding the chances of his team re-signing Marion.
That's good news for the rest of the league, as now the 29 other teams will get a shot at acquiring Marion's services.
While the man known as "The Matrix" averaged only 10.4 points per game last season, his lowest since his rookie year in 1999-00, he still posted 6.4 rebounds and remained an effective defender. Plus, he shot a solid 48.2 percent from the floor and connected on 35.2 percent of his three-point tries, his best mark since the 2002-03 campaign.
What you really have to like about Marion is his veteran experience. At 36 years old, the guy has been through just about every situation imaginable, and that savvy could pay dividends for a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets or Chicago Bulls.
The best part? Marion will come cheap, perhaps even on a one-year deal.
Remember the days of Andray Blatche doing ridiculous things like shamelessly pursuing a triple-double late in the fourth quarter?
Well, those days are gone now, and Blatche has actually transformed himself into a very useful role player.
The soon-to-be 28-year-old experienced a Renaissance during his time with the Brooklyn Nets, enjoying two productive seasons and proving to be a very dependable reserve in the playoffs.
Blatche is coming off a year that saw him average 11.2 points per game in 22.2 minutes off the bench, shooting the ball at a respectable 47.6 percent clip.
The former Washington Wizard also put his offensive rebounding prowess on display with the Nets, particularly during the 2013-14 postseason when he tallied 5.2 offensive boards per 36 minutes.
You think a contender could use that type of production off the pine? Absolutely.
It doesn't appear that Brooklyn wants him back, either. Per Rod Boone of Newsday, when Billy King was asked whether or not he had reached out to Blatche, his response was a simple, "Uh…no."
Well then. Have at him, rest of the NBA!
Now that Blatche has his head on straight, he may be able to find himself a nice deal on the open market, but one that is simultaneously team-friendly.
Outside of a meeting with the Toronto Raptors a couple of weeks ago (per ESPN's Chris Broussard), all has been quiet on the Blatche front. Expect that to change soon.
Big men who can move like Blatche are hard to come by in this league.
Here is the catch with Emeka Okafor: He missed the entire 2013-14 campaign due to a neck injury, but if healthy, he can be a significant difference-maker on an upper-echelon team.
While Okafor has never been an All-Star, he has remained one of the most consistent players in the league, steadily averaging close to a double-double throughout his career.
In his last season, Okafor posted 9.7 points and 8.8 rebounds, shooting 47.7 percent from the floor. He also represents a solid rim protector, never recording less than one block per game over the nine years he has played.
There has been virtually no interest in Okafor thus far, so clearly, the neck injury is scaring teams off. He'll eventually land somewhere, though, and the squad that inks him will be getting a potential X-factor if the big man can remain healthy.
Just speculating here: The Miami Heat could definitely use Okafor, as could the Portland Trail Blazers as a big man off the bench.
One can make an argument that Ramon Sessions is one of the more underappreciated players in the league.
While he isn't spectacular in any one particular area, he is solid across the board. He can score a little bit, distribute the rock and play some defense.
Sessions enjoyed a very nice 2013-14 season, particularly after being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, where he averaged 15.8 points and 4.8 assists in 28 games. He also shot 46.1 percent from the floor and posted a player efficiency rating of 18.
Where most of Sessions' value comes, though, is in his ability to get to the free-throw line.
You would never expect a player like Sessions to be so adept at drawing contact, but the point guard has managed 4.4 free-throw attempts per game throughout his career. Translated over 36 minutes, that comes out to 6.1 free-throw tries a night.
Sessions hits his foul shots, too, boasting an 80 percent lifetime clip from the charity stripe.
The 28-year-old entering his eighth year could serve as a great backup floor general somewhere.
Similar in vein to Jameer Nelson, who just signed a two-year, $6 million deal with the Mavericks (per ESPN's Marc Stein), Mo Williams is certainly past his prime, but he can be of help to a contender looking for a spark off the bench.
Williams can still shoot the three-ball well, knocking down 36.9 percent of his long-distance tries for the Trail Blazers in 2013-14. He averaged 9.7 points and 4.3 assists in 24.8 minutes.
Mo also has a nice chunk of playoff experience, having played for the Cleveland Cavaliers during the LeBron James era.
He isn't exactly the greatest defender in the world, but that's not what you would bring him aboard for. If you're signing Williams, it's to score points in bunches.
Per ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon, Williams had conversations with the Mavericks, but obviously, Dallas' signing of Nelson rules the Mavs out as a possible destination.
Perhaps the Rockets and Golden State Warriors, both of whom can use another point guard, will make a play for the 31-year-old's services?
You have to think Williams will get a similar contract to Nelson.
Remember that monster game Mike Scott had in the playoffs against the Indiana Pacers when he buried five three-pointers in the second quarter?
Well, nights like that build up an impending free agent's value.
Small sample size? Sure, but the fact that Scott was able to significantly help his team on that big of a stage has to play at least a minor factor in the minds of front offices looking for a summer bargain, especially during an age of basketball where stretch big men have become so valuable.
It's not like Scott was an afterthought during the regular season, either.
The smooth-shooting big man connected on 47.9 percent of his field-goal tries in 2013-14, demonstrating his ability to spread the floor by draining 62 triples.
Scott isn't much of a rebounder or defender, but he is a "microwave" type of player who can come off the bench and fill it up in a hurry.
As a matter of fact, Scott averaged 18.6 points per 36 minutes this past season.
Scott is a restricted free agent, so the Atlanta Hawks can match any offer.
Ray Allen may be one of the oldest players in the league, but that doesn't mean he can no longer fill a defined role.
Of course, Allen is no longer the kind of guy who can consistently put the ball on the floor and get to the rim or make plays for his teammates, but he can still shoot the rock, and outside shooting remains one of the most important facets of constructing a championship ballclub.
Allen shot a solid 37.5 percent from downtown this past year, and he bumped that number up to 38.8 percent in the playoffs.
The future Hall of Famer was also effective from two-point range during the regular season, hitting on 53 percent of his tries from inside the arc.
According to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, Allen is leaning toward joining LeBron in Cleveland. With Mike Miller already in tow, signing Allen would give the Cavaliers some deadly perimeter shooting.
The Mavericks are also making a play for Allen, per Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com, but it appears that the Cavs are the front-runners. Plus, now that Dallas has inked Nelson, you have to think it is out of the running for Ray's services.
All statistics in this article are from Basketball-Reference.