10 under-the-radar NBA free agents who could make a big splash
5. Zach Randolph
Z-Bo will turn 36 in July. He’s no longer a dominant force in the paint, but Randolph’s abilities haven’t dipped too much; he can still get buckets in the post.
The former Spartan’s Player Efficiency Rating this year was 18.5, not all that far off from his 19.4 career average. He averaged 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds in only 24.5 minutes per game. He still boxes out well and has that nice lefty 20-footer. He may need to take a decreased role, but at this point he has earned $140 million in his career — the 14-year veteran might be willing to step out of the spotlight in order to pursue a championship.
The Grizzlies may try to keep him around — it’s difficult to imagine that team without Gasol and Randolph bruising together in the post — but they may need to choose between Z-Bo and 26-year-old forward JaMychal Green. Green had a breakout season, and it’s likelier that he’ll end up back in Memphis and Randolph will suit up for a new team.
4. Taj Gibson
Gibson was the best player in the Thunder-Bulls deal earlier this season, which sent Gibson, Doug McDermott, and a second-round pick to Oklahoma City in exchange for Joffrey Lauvergne, Anthony Morrow, and Cameron Payne. Gibson wasn’t a perfect fit in OKC — it can take time for big men to find their place in a Westbrook-run offense — and he’ll turn 32 this offseason, but he’ll still receive quite a bit of interest.
He’s a voracious competitor, rebounder, and defender. Gibson, a former first-round pick out of USC, was one of the Bulls’ key pieces on their playoff teams of the 2010s. In 2013-14, he finished second in Sixth Man of the Year voting (Jamal Crawford won the award). This season he averaged 9.0 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.
He’ll be one of the best big men on the market. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Golden State, which favors agile big men who can grab boards, made a run at Gibson.
3. Rudy Gay
Ahh, Rudy Gay. One of the more talented wings since he entered the league from UConn as the eighth overall pick in 2006, Gay is an enigma. He’s always been an “Almost All-Star,” but never gotten over the hump.
He has toiled away in Sacramento for the last four years, but continues to put up good offensive numbers on a bad team; he averaged 18.7 points and 6.3 rebounds this season.
Though Gay has not become a superstar as some people expected during his early years with Memphis, he’s a consistent scoring threat. Because he’s coming off of a serious injury (he ruptured his Achilles’ tendon in January and missed the rest of the season), a team might be able to land Gay at a decent price.
Whether he wants to cash in with another bad team, where he would be the first or second option, or take less money to join a contender remains to be seen.
2. J.J. Redick
As the NBA has become more three-happy, Redick’s value has increased. His game has developed quite a bit, too, throughout the course of his career.
The former NCAA Player of the Year (2006) from Duke was a vital piece for the Clippers the past four years. This season, he scored 15.0 points per game and shot 43 percent from deep — sixth-best in the NBA. He’s an underrated defender. Needless to say, having a three-and-D guy who shoots that well is a major asset in today’s game.
Redick really knows his role; he’s refreshingly self-aware.
He’s no longer in his prime, but Redick should still have a couple good years left in the tank. He’s also a well-liked locker-room guy. As we saw with Golden State this season, a team’s culture is perhaps just as important as the talent of its roster.
1. Danilo Gallinari
Gallinari has been overlooked throughout his career in New York and Denver, but teams will fight for the Italian big man’s services this offseason. The 6-foot-10 forward, the sixth-overall pick in 2008 (he went immediately after the UCLA teammates Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love), shot 39 percent from three and put up 18.2 points per game this year.
He’s a 90 percent free-throw shooter, too, and in recent years he’s improved at drawing fouls. Perhaps most importantly, he stayed healthy. Gallinari has battled a number of injuries, including an ACL tear, throughout his career.
The Nuggets finished only one game out of the West’s No. 8 spot, and Gallinari was a big reason for that. All indications are that Gallinari is in the best years of his career.
He isn’t a max player, but Gallinari has a lot to offer, and there will be teams lined up to recruit him. He should command roughly $20 million a year and even has shown an interest in returning to Denver.
The players on this list won’t turn heads this offseason like Gordon Hayward, Blake Griffin, or Chris Paul, but they could turn the tide of a playoff series. Others to keep an eye on: Greg Monroe, Jeff Teague, P.J. Tucker, James Johnson, Nene, Thabo Sefolosha, Jeff Green, Darren Collison, and Gerald Green.
Basketball nerds, rejoice: NBA free agency officially commences July 6. Free agents can begin reaching verbal agreements with teams July 1.