As free agency began today in the NBA, many people are trying to figure out where all the big name players are most likely to land.
But while the big name free agents will naturally draw the most attention on social media, it is wise to keep your eye on that tier of free agents below the headlines, because they have a way of making a difference.
Think of the roles that Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa played in the Warriors’ trek to the NBA Finals. When the Rockets struck out on Chris Bosh last summer, they went for Trevor Ariza and he solidified their defense and made their Western Conference finals appearance possible.
While keeping that in mind, here are five non-marquee free agents who could make a difference.
5. Robin Lopez, Portland Trail Blazers
Robin’s brother Brook opted out of his $17 million deal for next season in order to make even more money. Robin lacks the great offensive game that his twin brother possesses, but he is a unselfish and willing defender, a solid rim protector, and is a great rebounder, better than his brother. This job is essential and missing from many teams, giving Robin Lopez more value as a free agents. Portland would love to keep him in the middle, but it will take more than $5.3 million a year to do so.
4. Reggie Jackson, Detroit Pistons
Reggie Jackson started slow after a mid-season trade shipped from Oklahoma City to Detroit, then got comfortable and finished playing some of his best basketball. Whether or not he is worth more than the four-year, $48 million deal that was offered to him by the Thunder, and he turned down, I’m not sure. His defense leaves you wanting much more, but he can score points as well as any point guard.
3. Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic
Harris is just one of the many talented young players in Orlando, but it is now time for the team to make some decisions regarding playing time and salaries. Harris is a restricted free agent, meaning that the Magic can match any offer made to Tobias. But if somebody throws big money in the free agents forward’s direction, there is a decent chance that the Magic will let him walk out the door.
2. Wesley Matthews, Portland Trail Blazers
Before tearing his Achilles tendon in March of last season, Wesley Matthews was the kind of perimeter shooting threat that could easily command the $15 million per season that he is reportedly searching for. Not only is he a threat from the perimeter, Matthews is a decent defender and a great presence in the locker room. The Blazers missed him badly over the last two months of the season. With this injury, Matthews will be hard-pressed to find a team that will offer him what he wants.
1. Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks
Millsap has been very underrated for much of his career. There will be many teams who believe they can get the free agent forward and Millsap is coming off a contract where he was extremely underpaid. Perfect for a bidding war, which he must be seeking. With all the other big men on the market, it is easy to have a player of Millsap’s caliber fly under-the-radar. With the Hawks bringing in Tiago Splitter, they must be feeling that Millsap is leaving. Magic are the favorites at the moment to pick up this free agent.
[Image Source: Jason Miller / Getty Images]