Posted Jun 29 2011 11:04AM
The quality of a free agent acquisition is as much about price as it is about talent. Joe Johnson is a great player to have on your team, except when you're set to pay him $24.9 million when he's 34 years old.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have a guy like Joel Anthony, who arguably does as much for the Miami Heat defensively as Johnson does for the Atlanta Hawks offensively, and is being paid just $18 million over five years. Johnson will be paid more than $18 million in each of those five years.
For the most part, guys who put the ball in the basket are going to get paid more than role players. But with advanced statistics becoming more prevalent, it has become easier to understand the value of players who contribute in other ways. It has also become easier to project how little-used players will perform in extended minutes.
Every summer, you have to look for those guys who just need a bigger role. But in 2011, the best free agent bargains may be veterans who are looking for a chance to prove they can still produce.
Here are five players who will likely give you good value for their price:
To get by as the league's shortest center, you have to be pretty tough and make the most of what you've got. Hayes has always been a rugged defender, but he had his best offensive year last season with the Rockets.
Hayes cracked the 15-point mark six times and recorded 11 double-doubles, after recorded just nine in his first five seasons in the league. But Hayes' value is obviously as a glue guy. The Rockets were a much better team (both offensively and defensively) with him on the floor.
This free agent class is best and deepest on the frontline. There are a lot of power forwards on the market and Martin had his big payday in 2004, so he could be had at a reasonable rate.
Martin has had microfracture surgery on both knees and missed the first 26 games of last season. But he played 30-plus minutes 17 times over the last few months and looked remarkably explosive considering his injury history. The Nuggets outscored their opponents by almost eight points per 100 possessions with one of the league's best defensive power forwards on the floor.
Mbah a Moute is one of a group of free agents who should provide good value for their cost ... but only if other teams are scared away by their restricted status. Given the parameters of restricted free agency, it will be hard to pry Mbah a Moute away from the Bucks, Arron Afflalo away from the Nuggets, Mario Chalmers away from the Heat, or Thaddeus Young away from the Sixers at a reasonable price.
Mbah a Moute has averaged less than seven points a game in his three years with the Bucks. But you'd have a hard time finding a player who can defend both forward positions as well as he can. Just ask Dirk Nowitzki, who has shot just 43 percent with Mbah a Moute on the floor over the last four seasons.
Young just turned 23 years old. Afflalo and Chalmers are just 25, and Mbah a Moute will be 25 in September. Beyond their standard numbers, they all bring value on the defensive end of the floor. And they'll continue to do it for years to come.
He's played just 61 games over the last three years, but Redd was able to return from his latest knee surgery for the final 10 games of the season. After a summer of work, it's easy to imagine him providing instant offense off the bench for a contender (Chicago seems like a great fit), or getting his career back on track with a lower-level team willing to give him a starting job.
Redd will turn 32 in August, but he averaged 22.1 points over six seasons before injuries derailed his career. Every team needs guys who can space the floor, and it's hard to imagine Redd will cost much after three seasons spent mostly on the shelf.
Josh Howard is another former All-Star who hasn't been healthy in a few years and might be worth taking a flier on.
As a full-time starter, Wilcox averaged 13.4 points and 7.4 rebounds over two seasons in Seattle. He has dealt with injuries and reduced roles in the three years since then, but his per-minute numbers were a career best last season in Detroit.
Wilcox averaged 17.0 points and 10.9 rebounds per 40 minutes for the Pistons. He doesn't block shots and isn't a great defender, but remarkably, he was a minus-8 over 996 minutes for a team that was outscored by 295 points for the season. The Pistons were much better offensively with him the floor than with him on the bench.
Wilcox is a nine-year veteran, but he turns just 29 years old in September. He'd certainly be a serviceable third or fourth big man for the next couple of years. And he should come pretty cheap.
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