The big free agents, the medium free agents, and with Tracy McGrady being signed by the Pistons today, even pretty much most of the small free agents have already been snatched up, but a few guys still remain. None of these guys will be game changers unless something unforeseen happens (like last year when every big man in Portland cracked in two, leaving old man Juwan Howard playing big minutes rather than just be the locker room/practice influence that he was expected to be). So maybe some of these guys will end up being useful, but most will at best maybe add one more win to their team over the whole season. I’m not listing guys who I don’t think can even be that small a factor (like Devean George), making this an inherently subjective list. And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if many of these guys end up not getting a job in the NBA this season.
Players Who Could Make The Biggest Impact (of the scrap pile that remains):
Kwame Brown – hands of concrete, but a decent defender
Joe Smith – backup vet big man, aka the Juwan Howard role
Earl Watson – solid backup vet PG, who actually started for Indiana much of last season
Rafer Alston – another backup vet PG, but his Skip To My Lou flashy temperamental attitude may be scaring teams off. Wanted to play for hometown Knicks, but we told him no.
Earl Barron – maybe I’m a homer (okay, definitely I’m a homer), but I was pretty impressed with Barron’s little end run with the Knicks where he averaged a double-double. Not many players can snag double digit rebounds, and he’s still pretty young, so I’m not sure why no one’s snatched him up for the minimum just to see if it was a mirage or not.
Louis Amundson – hustler extraordinaire, a poor man’s Anderson Varejao, but considering he can be gotten for like a fifth of what Varejao makes, I dunno why no one’s snagged him either.
Ime Udoka – one of those guys who spends a few years toiling away in D-Leagues and other countries before finally getting his shot in the NBA, but when they do they’ve got the full package of being really good hard-working defenders, good outside shooters, and they do all the little things right. See Anthony Parker and Bruce Bowen. But honestly I didn’t see Udoka play last season so maybe his skills/ability fell off a cliff.
Larry Hughes – you don’t want to rely on his fragile body and often poor choices, but he can still provide a little bit of a scoring punch off the bench.
Chris Hunter – this D-Leaguer played quite well for Golden State during that period when they literally had trouble fielding 5 healthy guys one game. Word is he’s likely to return to the Warriors. Good for them and good for him.
Kyrylo Fesenko (Restricted free agent) – played well for the Jazz in spot minutes and big guys are hard to come by. Particularly ones with a good sense of humor like Fesenko.
James Singleton – in the Udoka mold of a solid defender/swiss army knife type who played the three, four and five spots at points last season.
Allen Iverson? – no longer hearing any rumor of him still searching for a job, so he probably ain’t coming back. But if his ego could take it, he could still probably fill that Larry Hughes/Microwave role, giving the occasional punch of offense off the bench.
Lesser Backup Bigs:
DJ Mbenga – someone to absorb a few fouls from the teams with top bigs like the Magic, Lakers & Celts.
Steven Hunter – tank may be on empty.
Brian Scalabrine – athleticism = 0; enthusiasm = 10. But also a decent shooter and these days the NBA seems really into the “stretch” fours.
Malik Allen – even with Denver suffering injuries to KMart and Chris Anderson, Allen still didn’t get much run, so things look bleak.
Josh Boone – good rebounder, awful free-throw shooter, unintelligent defender. Eh.
Etan Thomas – used to be a solid high-energy defender/rebounder, but didn’t get much time on an Oklahoma City team starved for big men. At least he can read you some of his poetry.
Primoz Brezec – big older European stiff. What, that doesn’t excite you?
Adonal Foyle – was DJ Mbenga before DJ Mbenga was DJ Mbenga. But without ever getting any rings. However I’m impressed because in a TrueHoop article yesterday he recommended people read Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead.” Supposedly teammates love him and he no longer really expects to get any minutes, so that sounds like a perfect 15th man to me.
Fabricio Oberto – the Rich Man’s Primoz Brezec. Okay, maybe more like the Not-Quite-As-Broke-As-The-Poor-Man’s Primoz Brezec.
Jarron Collins – the worser of the twin Collins brothers. Neither can play any offense, but at least the other one plays pretty solid defense.
Rasho Nesterovic – the Middle Class Man’s Primoz Brezec.
Francisco Elson – seemed like he had potential as a backup big a few years ago, but it never materialized. I forget, was he the one who like grabbed Chris Kaman’s balls during one game?
Younger Backup Perimeter Players Who Maybe, Just Maybe, Can Take That Next Step And Actually Become Slightly Useful
Joe Alexander – I like the kid’s last name, but more as a first name.
Adam Morrison – Kobe said Ammo’s a player and the only reason he didn’t get any minutes on the Lakers was ‘cuz they were so deep. Riiiight. But if we can give Kwame & Darko five million chances, maybe someone’ll give this porn star-looking fella another shot too.
Javaris Crittenton – he swears not to get involved in any altercations with guns. But no promises in terms of nunchucks.
Rodney Carney – running out of chances.
Stephen Graham – has shown decent pockets of potential here and there. However he’s hoping to get another shot here (NBA) rather than there (Europe).
Yakhouba Diawara – played decently in spurts for Miami, but word is that the Heat are more into winning now than developing younger players. Sounds short-sighted to me. Players named James come and go (just ask any Cavs fan), but how often can you get a Yakhouba?
Backup Vet Point Guards
Anthony Johnson – was decent for Orlando two years ago. Of course he was already 57 years old then.
Earl Boykins – more a scorer than a distributor, and smaller than a Hobbit.
Kevin Ollie – pretty sure he’s still alive, but you can’t always tell from his play on the court.
Jamaal Tinsley – easily the most skilled of these remaining guys, and if he wasn’t such a head case he’d be up in the group of guys who could make an impact.
Backup Vet Swingmen
Michael Finley – left the Spurs mid-season to join the Celts in order to get more minutes. After losing Tony Allen, Boston only has Von Wafer and Marquis Daniels to backup the aged Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, yet they still seem uninterested in bringing back Finley. A class act, but I think the show’s over.
Ronald “Flip” Murray – once the poor man’s Larry Hughes, now probably the same as Larry Hughes and maybe he should be up there with Lar. Or maybe Mr. Hughes should be down here.
Steve Novak – is he old enough to be considered a vet? Probably should be a young with potential to still be useful, but as a tall slow white guy you start to think he must be old. However the guy can shoot lights out and I’m still waiting for some team to find a way to use him. He’s a minimum unguaranteed salary version of Kyle Korver or Jason Kapono who likely won’t complain if he gets no minutes. Someone should take a flier on that.
Jerry Stackhouse – almost old enough to join the Celts.
Sasha Pavlovic – played big minutes for the one version of the Cavs that made it to the NBA Finals. Sure, you can argue they made it there despite him, but just ‘cuz he’s been in Minnesota lately doesn’t mean he sucks. Okay, maybe it does.
Damien Wilkins – a poor man’s Flip Murray, which means we’re practically broke now.
Trenton Hassell – once was a good defender when he was in Minnesota (waaay back in the KG days when the team was halfway decent).
Jarvis Hayes – could still be serviceable.
Bobby Simmons – along with H & H (Hassell and Hayes, not the bagel shop) he helped the Nets avoid getting the worst record in league history by a few games! No, not the best endorsement, but when you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel here, I’d rather him than friggin’ Devean George…