The Best Values Remaining on the 2014 NBA Free-Agent Market
The tail end of NBA free agency never fails to supply certain teams with low-key, impact signings. Judging by some of the names still up for grabs, this summer should be no different.
Most major difference-makers solidified their futures last month, but a number of budget signings can still be made by specific teams looking to add veteran leadership to the fold, or simply to tack on a skill off the bench.
You're surely thinking of the two major restricted free agents who've yet to sign a deal: Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe. But with both players demanding huge raises in their next contract, neither may be considered a "best value" at the moment.
Playoff teams searching for the last few pieces to the puzzle with limited dollars left to divvy out should look no further. The latter portion of free agency are filled with bargains, and here's a preview of those who'll bring the best value to their salary.
After missing a full season recovering from neck surgery, Emeka Okafor has gone widely overlooked. He'll be 32 by season's beginning and has nine years of NBA experience under his belt. The former UConn Husky could bring tremendous value to any team with his impact defense.
Even if he isn't immediately 100 percent of his prime effectiveness—and even if he may miss an early portion of the season—Okafor has a reputation for protecting the rim. Despite averaging under 30 minutes per game since 2008-09, he ranks 44th among active players in defensive win shares, according to Basketball-Reference.com. Over the course of his career, his team's opponents have scored a point more per 100 possessions while he's off the floor.
He's never been a tremendous talent on the offensive end, but his career averages are 12 points, 10 rebounds and 51 percent shooting. Most recently with the Washington Wizards, he averaged 9.7 points a game on 47 percent shooting.
Especially at this stage of the offseason, it's hard to see Okafor garnering much more than the veteran's minimum salary. At that price, he's worth a roster spot.
Ramon Sessions (28) is entering his eighth season and has appeared in the playoffs just once—with the Los Angeles Lakers after he arrived there midseason in 2011-12. Besides his brief stay in Tinseltown, he's fluttered around the league's bottom-feeders: Cleveland, Milwaukee, Minnesota and Charlotte.
But after finishing the season on a high note following a trade to the Bucks, Sessions may finally be ready for a contender to take a flier on him.
After arriving in Milwaukee for a second Bucks stint via a trade from the Bobcats, Sessions averaged 32.5 minutes per game, putting up 16 points and five assists per contest over 28 games (12 starts).
He shot 46 percent from the field with the Bucks, as opposed to 40.9 percent with Charlotte, and a respectable 36 percent from downtown—up from a dismal 22 percent with the Bobcats.
His 58 percent true shooting percentage is more than two points better than any he's posted over a full season. His 18 player efficiency rating in Milwaukee would put him among the league's most reliable, if he could stretch that performance out over a full campaign.
Coming off a two-year, $10 million contract, it's difficult to predict Sessions getting an offer close to his prior deal. On a likely short-term deal for a team's biannual exception, or around there, he could serve as a reliable backup point on a contending roster. After all, on his one stint with a playoff team—his 23 games in Los Angeles—he averaged 13 and six while shooting 48 percent from the field and 49 percent from three.
The book is out on Andray Blatche. He'll score in bulk for your team in limited minutes and will begin to hurt your chances if his role expands much further than that.
Ironically, that reputation—true as it may be—has boosted Blatche's value this summer.
With August upon us and no team willing to reward the forward, who turns 28 this month, with a legitimate contract, it's reasonable to assume that the former Brooklyn Net won't get an offer higher than the $1.43 million he opted out of.
But at a presumably low-ball salary this season, on a contending situation in the right circumstances, Blatche could morph from one of the league's most dangerous signings to one of the more valuable.
With strong leadership around him, like with LeBron James in Cleveland or with the championship-rich San Antonio Spurs, for example, Blatche would essentially be forced into putting his demons behind him. Under a coach who would keep his minutes limited, last year's line of 11 points over 22 minutes could translate to even bigger success.
In two seasons with Brooklyn, Blatche put up a PER over 20 and a true shooting percentage of 54. Per 36 minutes, he grabbed over nine rebounds, which isn't far off from his career average of 8.7 per 36. Still, over his Nets tenure, they were just as successful with him missing from the lineup.
On a team that has enough talent around him to counteract his shortcomings—his defensive lapses and all-around simple-mindedness on both ends—Blatche could provide major bench scoring for a small price. It'll be a value, so long as he isn't being relied on for more than those reserve minutes.
After a five-year stint with the Dallas Mavericks, Shawn Marion has hit unrestricted free agency for the first time since 2009. And even at 36, he's still bound to help a contending team in a reserve role.
He started 308 of his 361 games with the Mavs, but after his performance began to tail off last season while averaging 32 minutes a game, a lesser role is probably in the cards for The Matrix.
His defense has been the trademark over his 15-year career, but that reputation began to take a bit of a hit this past season. According to 82games.com, both his small and power forward opponents posted PERs over 17 in 2013-14.
Offensively, that horrendous-looking jumper managed to fall through the net at a 36 percent clip from long range last season, which is better than his career average. He took threes at a higher rate than he has in any season since 2007-08, and they ended up falling at the third-best rate of his career.
For teams looking to add experience to the bench while boosting perimeter defense and spacing out offense, signing Marion shouldn't run them more than $1 to 2 million. Most of Marion's NBA money has already been made, with two major contracts being signed during his prime—which leaves this as the primary time for the 36-year-old to ink a team friendly deal and chase one last taste of glory.
Fresh off his 39th birthday, Ray Allen's NBA career may very well be finished. According to Dom Amore of the Hartford Courant, the 18-year vet would be "content" with calling it quits this summer.
"I'm not in any rush," he said. "I've played 18 years, and the way I look at my career, I'm content with everything that I've done. I just want to take this summer and see how it goes."
Assuming he does return for a 19th year, it'll likely be on a vet's minimum. Considering everything he'd bring to the table, it'd make him the most valuable player, dollar for dollar, in the NBA.
Allen's three-point shooting slipped to a still-dependable 37.5 percent last season with the Miami Heat, where he averaged 9.6 points over 26.5 minutes a night. In spot minutes as a reserve this season, he still has the potential to stretch the floor and will always be a threat to nail a dagger in the closing minutes.
The speculative front-runner for Allen's services are the Cleveland Cavaliers, who now employ a forward named LeBron James (who most recently played for Miami and won a championship with Allen, if you aren't familiar). James has already lured former Heat teammate Mike Miller to the fold with the Cavs, and if the team manages to land Kevin Love via trade before the season, it'd be hard for the sharpshooter to resist one last title chase in Cleveland.
The Heat were six points better per 100 possessions with Allen off the floor over the last two seasons, so it's plausible that his days as a major-minutes contributor are over. But as a sniper coming off the bench for a team in the title chase, you can't go wrong committing under a million dollars of the salary cap to possibly the best shooter in league history.
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