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Deeper look reveals dynamic under-the-radar free agents

POSTED: Jun 30, 2015 1:59 PM ET

By Fran Blinebury

BY Fran Blinebury


NBA Playoffs: Free Agent That Benefited Most

Tristan Thompson and DeMarre Carroll's bank roll have benefited greatly during the 2014-15 postseason.

The clock is ticking. Free agent season is drawing closer for all the teams that hope to change their fate and future with just one four-star signing.

LaMarcus Aldridge will have suitors drooling from Portland to Los Angeles and a handful from his native Texas when the bell rings on Wednesday at midnight Eastern time.

Kevin Love will have his professed commitment to Cleveland tested. At the very least, folks will rattle Marc Gasol's cage in Memphis. Dwyane Wade might be tempted to fly the only NBA nest he's ever known in Miami, while DeAndre Jordan will regally sit at his home in Houston and allow the suitors to genuflect at his feet.

But while the big names will naturally draw the most attention and mentions on Twitter, it is often wise to keep any eye on that tier of free agents below the bold headlines, because they have a way of making a difference.

Think of the roles Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa played in the Warriors' drive to the championship. When they struck out on Chris Bosh last summer, the Rockets turned to Trevor Ariza and he solidified their defense and made the Western Conference finals appearance possible.

With that in mind, here are a dozen non-marquee free agents who could make a difference (listed alphabetically):

*** FREE AGENCY COVERAGE JUNE 30 ON NBA TV: The Starters, 6:30 ET | Free Agent Fever, 7 ET & 11:30 ET ***

Arron Afflalo, Portland Trail Blazers

It was expected that Afflalo would boost the Portland bench when he was obtained in a five-player deal at the trade deadline. Maybe things would have worked out if it stayed that way. Then Wesley Matthews tore an Achilles tendon, Afflalo had to move into a starting role and struggled badly. But in the right spot on a contender as a role player, Afflalo could be a boost.

Afflalo Beats the Buzzer

LaMarcus Aldridge goes deep to Nicolas Batum who then finds Arron Afflalo for the corner 3-pointer to beat the buzzer.

Corey Brewer, Houston Rockets

Make no mistake about it. Houston wants him back and the slashing, make-things-happen wing man wants to keep playing for coach Kevin McHale. But if the Rockets were to get tied up trying to make a run at one of the big name free agents, he could be a sacrificial lamb. The energy and versatility would be a plus to any roster.

Brewer Steals And Slams

Corey Brewer jumps the passing lane for the steal and slams it home.

DeMarre Carroll, Atlanta Hawks

The fact that he was the only member of the starting give not to make the Eastern Conference All-Star team last season is no reflection on his importance to what the Hawks achieved. Trouble is, if the team puts the first priority on re-signing Paul Millsap, there won't be enough left for Carroll, whose valuable two-way skills could fit in plenty of other places.

Carroll Leads

DeMarre Carroll scores 25 points and grabs 10 rebounds to lead Atlanta over Washington.

Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs

Green would likely be having a pleasant career in Europe if the Spurs weren't so willing to stick with him through numerous chances to build his game up to being a starter for a championship club. Sure, they'd like to have him. But they've got to spend big bucks on Kawhi Leonard, plan to pursue Aldridge and have to make a deal with Tim Duncan, so a whopping offer from another team could cut the cord in San Antonio. Then we'll find out if Green can be as valuable outside the Spurs' system.

Spurs Swing It Around

The Spurs come up with the loose ball and pass it around with the ball ending up in Danny Green's hand for the three-pointer.

Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic

With all of the young talent that has been collected in Orlando, it is time to make some choices in terms of both playing time and salaries. Harris is a restricted free agent, meaning the Magic can match any offer. But somebody throws big money in the forward's direction, there's a good chance they'll let him walk out the door.

Harris' And-one

Tobias Harris works the post, draws the foul and gets the tough jumper to fall.

Reggie Jackson, Detroit Pistons

Jackson started slowly after the mid-season trade that brought him to Detroit from Oklahoma City, then got comfortable and finished on the upswing. But did he do enough to establish himself as a point guard of the future and command more than the reported four-year, $48 million deal from the Thunder that he reportedly turned down prior to last season? Needs much defensive work, but he can get you points.

Jackson's Big Night

Highlights from Reggie Jackson as he scores 29 points including the game winner as the Pistons knock off the Heat.

Enes Kanter, Oklahoma City Thunder

The big man showed enough when set free from Utah at midseason that the Thunder want to bring him back. But at what price? OKC has been a team that overspends and won't here, especially if Kanter were to come back with a big offer (Milwaukee?). He's not a rim protector and has poor footwork, yet he'll only be 23 going into next season and there's the old saying about nothing being able to teach height.

Kanter Spins Free

Enes Kanter spins baseline and sinks the reverse lay-up off the glass.

Robin Lopez, Portland Trail Blazers

Brother Brook opted out of his $17 million deal for next season in order to cash in big time. Robin lacks his sibling's offensive game, but he's a willing and unselfish team defender, a solid rim protector and is a better rebounder than his brother, too. Portland would like to keep him the middle, but it's going to take more than the $5.3 million he earned last season to do it.

Brother Trouble

Robin Lopez gets the rejection down low on his one-minute older twin brother, Brook Lopez.

Wesley Matthews, Portland Trail Blazers

Before tearing an Achilles tendon in March, Matthews was the kind of perimeter force in today's NBA that could command the $15 million per season that he is reportedly seeking. He's a defensive vise, a solid perimeter shooter and a great presence in the locker room. The Blazers obviously missed him badly over the last two months of the season. With a usual 6-9 month rehab time off such an injury, is there another team willing to gamble that Matthews can get back to his old form anytime soon?


Wesley Matthews shakes Dwyane Wade with the fancy handle and sticks the wing triple.

Paul Pierce, Washington Wizards

It seemed like a good idea to bail out of the mess in Brooklyn and join an up-and-coming team in Washington last season. It was, and Pierce had fun while being a true pro and good all-around influence on the roster. But at 37 and maybe entering his last NBA season, wouldn't it be a better idea to hook on with a team that is closer to being a contender? That's why the Clippers and his old coach Doc Rivers make the most sense. But any team that gets him will be better for it.

Paul Pierce: Should He Go To Clippers?

Wizards, Clippers or retire? What should be Paul PierceĀ¹s next move?

David West, Indiana Pacers

The Pacers' bad fortune that began with last summer's injury to All-Star Paul George that resulted in a disappointing season eventually got to the veteran West and he opted out in Indy. There is talk that he could wind up with the Knicks. But at this point in his career, West would be best served taking his smarts and savvy to a playoff team that is looking to solidify itself or take the next step.

West Steps Through

David West steps through the double team and scores with ease.

Lou Williams, Toronto Raptors

The Sixth Man of the Year can fill up the basket and any team in the league can always use a guy to come off the bench and do that. The Raptors would like to have him back, but won't break the bank or tie themselves in a long-term contract to do it. There will be no shortage of interested parties from around the league.

Kia Sixth Man of the Year: Louis Williams

The Toronto Ratpors' Louis Williams is the Kia Sixth Man of the Year.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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