Posted Jun 28 2012 10:11AM
Top free agents
Free-agent war horses
Free-agent role players
New rules will change free agency
The stars of free agency will be easy to find. They're the ones whose doorbells will be ringing at 12:01 on Sunday morning. They're the ones whose signings will be heralded by trumpets blaring and headlines screaming and special one-hour television shows on ESPN.
OK, maybe not that last one any more.
But even in the age of LeBron and The Heatles, it takes more than sheer star power to win a championship or even become a contender. That's where the bird dogs in the scouting departments earn their keep.
While the stars are shining for everybody to see, sometimes it's those less-celebrated names that can make a difference in taking a step forward next season. Here are a handful who could fly under the radar:
Stats: 13.8 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 0.9 bpg
Never mind the jokes and wisecracks about the marriage. This guy fought through all of the off-court distractions and delivered his second straight season of averaging a double-double for the Nets. He's got a body like a Greek statue and used it to carve out a spot as the fifth-leading rebounder in the league last season.
With Brook Lopez a free agent and also trying to come back from that broken bone in his foot, it would seem critical to take this hard-working blue collar guy across the river to Brooklyn. He has a kind of nose-to-the-grindstone approach that could attract attention from many corners of the league.
Stats: 13.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.6 bpg
Imagine, it was just a matter of months ago when he didn't like his trade to the Hornets and told general manager Dell Demps to get him out of New Orleans. Then he reconsidered and now, with Emeka Okafor gone, Kaman could be set up nicely as a veteran presence of the middle of a promising youth movement.
There will be others willing to pursue a big man who is active, runs the floor well and has the ability to put the ball into the hoop. He's probably past the point where you can count on him to be a steady workhorse and you don't want to overpay. But there's still game left in him.
Stats: 12.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg
Here's the proof that size doesn't always matter. That is, unless you can find a way to measure a player's willingness to battle and compete. Landry would make the Energizer Bunny look like a slacker with the way he goes after rebounds and make put-back shots consistently.
He uses quickness and a knack for finding openings to thrive in the paint and mixes in a very nice mid-range shot. He's not likely to land the big payday he's seeking in the new economic climate of the league, but he won't shortchange anyone on effort.
Stats: Did not play -- injured
The injury that drew all of the attention in Memphis last season was when Zach Randolph went down. But Z-Bo going to the sidelines only compounded a problem that had already existed with a thin front line after Arthur tore an Achilles' tendon before the season opener.
He's young, quick around the basket on offense, runs the floor and can knock down the 16- to 18-footer. It wouldn't hurt to work his rebounding, but if his wheels are good he's a solid young player with a considerable upside.
Stats: 5.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 0.5 bpg
Finally got a chance to get some decent playing time when Tyson Chandler left Dallas and he showed that there's some raw talent in there. Mahinmi attacks the backboards, has long arms and will gobble up rebounds.
There's virtually no offense to his game except cleaning up for put-back buckets. He's not a player you can write into the lineup and know what you'll get every night. But for a team with a starting center in place, Mahinmi has the kind of live body and aggressive style of play that can be a bonus.
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Dwight Howard finishes with a powerful slam during the fourth quarter.
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