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John Schuhmann

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
Luc Mbah a Moute has a rep for defending either forward position well.
Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

Five free-agent sleepers who can make a difference

Posted Dec 8 2011 10:35AM

The 2011 free agency season already has a good head of steam, and nobody is even allowed to sign until 12:01 on Friday morning. The rumors, of course, are rampant, and several players have announced their decisions on what uniform they'll be wearing this season.

Still, the biggest dominoes have yet to fall. The three top available centers haven't made their choices. A lot, too, depends on what the New Orleans Hornets do with a possible trade of Chris Paul. That will affect how several teams build their rosters.

Though this is considered a relatively weak free-agency class, there's still value to be had beyond the biggest names, especially when it comes to filling specified roles.

Here are five guys who can give a team more value than they may show on the surface.

Mike Bibby, G, Miami

8.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.3 apg, 43.1 FG%, 44.0 3P%

Role: The shooter

Bibby's reputation has taken a hit. He obviously isn't the player that he was four or five years ago. But he was very effective as an off-ball shooter last season, ranking sixth in the league in 3-point percentage.

Teams should be wary of his 44 percent mark from downtown last season; his career mark is just 37.5 percent, and he went ice cold (28 percent) in the playoffs. But a look back at the Hawks' season reveals that they were pretty good with Bibby on the floor and completely fell off after trading him to Washington.

Bibby is a defensive liability, yet he certainly has value as a shooter off the bench.

Where he'd fit: Miami. The Heat could do worse than bringing back both Bibby and restricted free agent Mario Chalmers, who bring different skill sets to the table.

Chuck Hayes, C, Houston

7.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.7 apg, 52.7 FG%

Role: The defensive anchor

To get by as the league's shortest center, you have to be pretty tough and make the most of what you 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 recording just nine in his first five seasons in the league. But Hayes' value is as a glue guy. The Rockets were a much better team (both offensively and defensively) with him on the floor.

Where he'd fit: Hayes is reportedly close to agreeing to a four-year, $20 million deal with the Sacramento Kings. Since he's basically the anti-J.J. Hickson, he should be a critical cog for the Kings.

Luc Mbah a Moute, F, Milwaukee (restricted)

6.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 0.9 apg, 46.3 FG%

Role: The stopper

This slot was reserved for the efficient Arron Afflalo, but it seems that secret is out. Afflalo should see a big payday in the next week.

Mbah a Moute doesn't give you what Afflalo does offensively (he was 0-for-7 from 3-point range last season), but he has a deserved reputation for being a defensive stopper at either forward position. He has helped the Bucks rank in the top four defensively each of the last two seasons.

Where he'd fit: Because Mbah a Moute isn't going to give them much offensively, the Bucks (who ranked dead last in offensive efficiency last season) may be better off letting him leave so they can achieve more balance. The Pacers need a defensive lift and could use him to back up both forward positions, especially if Josh McRoberts goes elsewhere.

Josh McRoberts, F, Indiana (restricted)

7.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.1 apg, 54.7 FG%

Role: The third big man

McRoberts started 51 games for the Pacers last season but got pushed to the bench by Tyler Hansbrough in March. Still, the Pacers were much better when McRoberts was on the floor.

The Pacers outscored their opponents by 2.5 points per 100 possessions when McRoberts was in the game, but were outscored by 4.2 when he was on the bench. That on-off-court differential of 6.7 points per 100 possessions ranked 36th in the league.

Offensively, McRoberts was efficient. Among the 299 players who logged at least 750 minutes last season, he ranked 17th in true shooting percentage. He finished well around the basket, shooting 68 percent from the restricted area, but was only 50-for-133 from outside the paint.

Where he'd fit: If McRoberts just swapped spots with Mbah a Moute, he'd make a great fit in Milwaukee. But the Bucks are already paying Drew Gooden $26 million for the next four seasons and also have Ersan Ilyasova back for another year. So, with Kenyon Martin in China and Nene perhaps signing elsewhere, Denver could be a place for McRoberts to see a larger role.

Rodney Stuckey, G, Detroit (restricted)

15.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 5.2 apg, 43.9 FG%, 28.9 3P%

Role: The combo guard

Stuckey's shooting numbers aren't too pretty, but they were an improvement on his previous season and he ranked fourth among point guards in free throw rate, attempting 46 freebies for every 100 shots he took from the field.

Despite his below-average shooting, the Pistons were still excellent offensively, scoring 107 points per 100 possessions, when Stuckey was running the show. Stuckey is not a distributor though. He ranked 49th in assist ratio among 62 point guards who played at least 750 minutes last season, dropping only 24 dimes for every 100 possessions he used.

Where he'd fit: The Pistons selected point guard Brandon Knight with the No. 8 pick in the Draft and are obviously building for the future. That doesn't mean that Stuckey's gone, but there are other teams that could use him more. The Celtics could use some offensive punch off the bench, and the Lakers certainly need a successor to Derek Fisher at the point.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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