Ten bargain buys in NBA free agency
The biggest names in free agency are well worn and oft considered, but the offseason brings about the potential relocation of players in all tiers. They stand to fill out incomplete rosters all across the league, slotting in as supporting parts and bench warmers and at every slightly differentiated role in between. Below are a collection of players who could fit the bill in some such capacity at a bargain price – a particular concern for those contenders with limited resources or room under the luxury tax line.
Shelvin Mack, Atlanta Hawks (Restricted): After failing to catch on with his first two NBA teams, Mack finally found a home with the floor-spreading Hawks last season. His general-purpose game should travel well; what Mack lacks in a definitive strength he makes up for in a balance of skill set. With Atlanta, Mack showcased an ability to create against second-unit defenses and a flexibility in sharing the backcourt with other ball handlers. There's value in that, particularly for those teams lacking the means to more specifically address their weaknesses.
Beno Udrih, Memphis Grizzlies (Unrestricted): Udrih plays a bland game but he plays it well -- he's a quality shooter, first and foremost, and a willing passer. Both are attractive qualities in a backup point guard, though Udrih isn't the type to get to the rim consistently or test the integrity of an opponent's defensive structure. He's largely content to fire away from the outside, and is steady enough from distance (41.9 percent from mid-range, 45.2 percent from three) to justify that approach. Still, it's no coincidence that Udrih has managed to fade into the background of most every team he's played for. There's something about his unobtrusive style that makes even his positive contributions easily overlooked.
C.J. Miles, Cleveland Cavaliers (Unrestricted): Miles' last deal paid him just $4.5 million over two years and the reported details of his contract offer from the Pacers are somewhat similar. That's a great price at which to lock in a nice support scorer, especially now that Miles has leveled out as a 39-percent long-range shooter over his last two seasons. He's akin to J.R. Smith without the considerable baggage or Nick Young if he were burdened with a conscience, though with the benefit of being a more serviceable defender. Miles may lack for the explosion of those scorers but on average he hits his marks: 18.1 points and just 1.7 turnovers per 36 minutes over his last four seasons.
UPDATE: Miles reportedly agreed to a four-year, $18 million deal with the Pacers.
Xavier Henry, Los Angeles Lakers (Unrestricted): Henry has a tendency to drive into crowds, which results in many, many thwarted attempts at the rim and a startling number of free throws. Only 10 players in the league got to the line on a more consistent basis last season, almost all of which were superstars. Henry is a role player at best, though he was spectacular enough in that one individual attribute to draw some heady company. But it's an empty grouping given that Henry doesn't have the supporting game to back it up. Even on those consistent drives, Henry finished just 47.6 percent of his shot attempts around the rim. That's Henry in a nutshell – useful only to a point, inefficient from the field, and still in the early stages of leveraging his athleticism as a basketball asset.
Brian Roberts, New Orleans Pelicans (Unrestricted): A pick-and-roll specialist in a pick-and-roll league. Roberts doesn't have the playmaking chops that would allow him to run an offense full-time, though his ability to read and navigate his immediate surroundings makes him a fine scorer off the dribble. His pick-and-roll game is predicated on minor advantages: Changes in pace, a well-balanced shot, comfort in going both directions and just enough sizzle to keep defenders guessing.
Jameer Nelson, Orlando Magic (Unrestricted): Nelson went largely forgotten while caretaking for the rebuilding Magic, but now he's in position to help a winning team at a reasonable price. Nelson will have his suitors; not only is he still a quality backup option, but Nelson plays an intelligent, reliable game that is inherently good for rotational stability. It helps, too, that Nelson is one of the few guards of his size (he's listed generously at 6-0) who isn't a defensive liability. He's strong enough to fight through screens and heady enough to challenge opponents in one-on-one situations, the value of which is clear in a market filled with one-dimensional players.
Jordan Farmar, Los Angeles Lakers (Unrestricted): In a market robust with reserve-caliber guards, Farmar could be obtainable at a bargain price. He's neither a coveted veteran nor a prospect brimming with potential, instead falling into an interesting middle ground as a productive, streaky player still very much in his prime. Farmar showed his wares in Mike D'Antoni's point-guard-empowering offense last year with averages of 16.4 points (with 43.8 percent shooting from three) and 7.9 assists per 36 minutes. He won't likely have quite the same freedom elsewhere, though to this point Farmar has been successful in a variety of systems both with the ball and without. It seems safe to say that Farmar has played his way out of the veteran minimum market, though depending on how free agency breaks he may not cost much more.Garrett Temple, Washington Wizards (Unrestricted): There isn't much obvious appeal to Temple's game, as he's neither a range shooter nor much of a ball handler nor a remotely capable scorer. He is, though, the kind of player who thrives in the margins by making smart plays and playing sound positional defense. Temple is a solid choice for minimum-salary roster-filler – a role perfectly suited to his situational contributions.
Mike Scott, Atlanta Hawks (Restricted): A stretch big for teams on a budget. Scott only expanded his range to the three-point line this past season, though he converted a respectable 34 percent of his long-range spot-up attempts, per Synergy Sports. He's a quality mid-range option as well, though Scott is the kind of quick-trigger scorer that needs to be managed carefully. Provided that teams understand what they're getting into (a shoot-first player and iffy rebounder/defender), Scott could be a helpful floor spacer attainable on a reasonable deal.
Bernard James, Dallas Mavericks (Restricted): Teams looking to fill out the bottom rung of their depth chart at center should consider James, who in his first two seasons gave Dallas quality defensive minutes. Offense has thus far held him back; James doesn't have the moves or flexibility to finish around the basket consistently and in his two NBA seasons he's attempted all of eight shots outside the paint. Teams with ample offensive talent, though, can likely make do with those limitations for short stretches while benefiting from James' rim protection and rebounding.
On Tuesday's SI Now, SI Producer Matt Dollinger and SI NBA writer Ben Golliver talk about Carmelo Anthony's free agency options.