NBA Free Agency: Diamonds in the Rough

 

The 2017-2018 season is winding down and with that free agency looms. The biggest stories of the 2018 free agency is where will LeBron James take his talents next, what’s in store for Paul George, and will Kevin Durant take less and sign another one-year deal?

While those players will be the focus of free agency, there are others who will fly under the radar, but can make an immediate impact on their new team. Here is a list of under-the-radar free agents:

1. Jabari Parker

Late in the 2016-2017 season, Parker suffered an ACL tear that sidelined him for the remainder of that season and most of the 2017-2018 season. He was limited to just 31 games in 2018, but still managed to make an impact. He averaged 12.6 points per game on 48 percent shooting and has a career average of 15.3 points per and 49 percent from the field.  The former second overall pick can, at times, stretch the floor with the three-ball as he shot 39 percent in his 31 games.

Still only 23 years old, Parker will be entering his fifth season. He has yet to play a full 82-game season. The former Blue Devil is a presence on the offensive end and could move between the three and four spot on the floor. He can take bigger defenders off the dribble with his quick crossover and he can post up and body smaller players with his 6’8 250-pound frame. Parker could be a great addition to any team in need of offense.

2. Jusuf Nurkic

While big men, DeMarcus Cousins, DeAndre Jordan, and Julius Randle will get more attention during the offseason,  Nurkic could be the most effective of the trio especially if Cousins can’t return to his dominant form following the Achilles tear. The Bosnian big man put up a respectable 14.3 points, nine rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game for the Portland Trailblazers. Essentially, Nurkic has the potential to post a double-double night in and night out.

While big men aren’t as valuable in today’s NBA as they were just 10 years ago, Nurkic has the potential to make a good team a great team. Case in point, look at the Blazers last season. Nobody thought they’d be one of the top teams in the Western Conference, but it turned out they finished with the third seed. Things did not work out for Nurkic and the Blazers in the playoffs as they ran into a buzz-saw in Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans. However, Nurkic held his own against perhaps the best big in the NBA. If given the right situation and team, Nurkic could be a force in the middle for a NBA title contender.

3. Tyreke Evans

Around the trade deadline, it was noted that plenty of playoff teams including the Cavs, Heat, Rockets, Thunder, and Celtics were interested in adding Evans to their rosters, but to no avail. The former 2010 NBA Rookie of the Year had quite the resurgence with the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2017-2018 season. Evans averaged 19.4 points per game in 52 games with the Griz, the most since he averaged 20 per game in his rookie season. Evans assumed the role of starting point guard for the Griz after Mike Conley went down with injury. He averaged 30.9 minutes per game, the most since the 2014-2015 season, and put up 5.2 assists along with 5.1 rebounds per game.

Evans is a player who can be a factor off the bench or in the starting lineup. He can play any perimeter position but is most effective playing the point. He is built much like a modern NBA point guard at 6’6 and has the lateral quickness and length to stay in front of most guards and contest shots. He is a capable three-point shooter and can be a playmaker. He can attack the basket and finish strong at the rim.

4. J.J. Redick

The former Duke star, in his 12th season, had his best scoring season to date. He averaged a career-best 17.1 points per game for the Philadephia 76ers. Redick was also among the best three-point shooters, finishing 12th on the season in made three-point shots with 219 and 15th in three-point percentage at 42 percent. At 33 years old, he still moves around the court like he’s in his prime. He comes off screens and sets up well beyond the arc.

Redick will add a dynamic on offense to whichever team he signs with as opposing teams will have to account for him each game. You can’t sag off of him because he’s a sharpshooter who doesn’t hesitate to pull the trigger nor can you close out too fast because he has the capability to drive and make plays off the dribble. Redick will also be an asset to have late in the game due to his 90 percent consistency from the line. It would be great to get the ball in his hands during late foul situations.

5. Will Barton

“Will the Thrill” is one of the more exciting players in the league, hence the nickname. He had his best professional season last year as he averaged 15.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game in 33.1 minutes. He started in 40 games he played in with the Denver Nuggets. Essentially the sixth man last year, Barton provided a spark off the bench with his ability to score the basketball. He can spot up for a corner three, but he also has the skill to be the primary ball handler.

Barton will be effective for any team who is in need of scoring and playmaking off the bench. He has the ability to be the spark plug for a stagnant starting unit as well. He also has shown he can be a closer as evident in the Nuggets 111-110 win over the Chicago Bulls. He hit the game-winning shot en route to a career-high 37-point performance.

6. Nerlens Noel

The original “Trust the Process” center was Noel when he was drafted sixth overall by the 76ers in 2013. He showed promise early in his career as an athletic big who was great on the glass and a fierce shot blocker. Injuries have since hampered his career as of late. With the Sixers, he experienced knee tendinitis which led him to be eventually traded to the Dallas Mavericks. Last season with the Mavs, Nerlens only saw action in 30 games due to a thumb ligament injury and a suspension late in the season. All that aside, the 24-year-old still has huge upside in the NBA.

Much like what Clint Capela is doing for the Houston Rockets, Nerlens can do the same for his next team. It will come down to passion and desire for him to be effective. Remember, he turned down a four-year 70-million-dollar deal from the Mavs last offseason in hopes of a max deal, but ended up with a qualifying one-year deal instead. It’s more than likely he signs another one-year deal in hopes of securing a heftier deal. He’ll have something to prove this upcoming season and can be a dominant defensive presence for his next team.

Each of these players have the substance and goods necessary to make their next suitor happy. It will be about how they are utilized and if they mesh well with the roster in terms of how successful they could be. The NBA free agency period starts in July.

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