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#pounditTuesday, May 30, 2023

10 under-the-radar NBA free agents to watch

With NBA free agency so close, it’s no secret where most of the attention will fall. The destinations of the likes of Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker, and Klay Thompson will potentially dictate where the league’s centers of power are for the next half a decade, if not longer.

However, there are many more free agents beyond just the big names. A number of important role players are hitting the market this offseason. They won’t be as exciting as some of their counterparts, but as the Toronto Raptors would tell you, you can’t win an NBA title without some valuable role players — the likes of which will be out there this summer.

Here are 10 under-the-radar NBA free agents who could end up having a big impact on the teams they sign with.

10. Taj Gibson

The 34-year-old forward is no longer going to be a top frontline player for any teams, but Gibson was one of the better players on the Timberwolves over the last two tumultuous years. Gibson consistently averaged a double-digit point total, knows the game well, and is an intelligent player to have around. It’s possible Gibson could return to the Timberwolves in a mentor role, but he’d be a solid second unit player on a contender.

9. JaVale McGee

Yes, really. McGee had the best season of his career last season thanks to the extended minutes the Los Angeles Lakers ended up giving him. Everyone knows that McGee is a useful but never great center at this stage of his career, but as that stint with the Lakers proved, he can contribute when given the chance. That goes for contenders, too — after all, McGee was a valuable reserve for the Golden State Warriors teams that won back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017.

8. Terrence Ross

Teams in need of bench scoring could do far worse than Ross, who shot over 38 percent from three-point range last season for the Orlando Magic. He averaged 15 points per game in just 26 minutes per night, and he’s capable of catching fire and taking control of an offense for minutes at a time. Ross’ overall game is limited, and when he’s not scoring, there’s not a lot else to him, but when he is, he’s hard to stop. There’s huge value in that.

7. Garrett Temple

Temple doesn’t have any single great aspect to his game, but the versatile guard also doesn’t have any obvious weaknesses, either. He can score, but not at a high level. He can pass, but he’s not dazzling. He’s a good, but not elite defender. None of it matters, because when you put all those factors together, you have a very useful reserve player who can give you good minutes on a nightly basis — the exact sort of player a lot of contenders would love to have.

6. Ed Davis

Davis has always been a favorite of contending teams — the Portland Trail Blazers got a lot of mileage out of him. It’s largely down to his rebounding prowess, which very much counts as his specialty. He’s not a starter, and his game is very limited, especially in today’s NBA. But even the best shooting teams need someone who can come in off the bench, grab some boards, bang around in the post, and contribute some good minutes. That’s Davis in a nutshell.

5. Trevor Ariza

If there’s any doubt as to how important Ariza can be to even a good team, the Houston Rockets definitely missed him this season. He may be a classic three-and-D wing player, but Khris Middleton is about to get a lot of money for doing the same thing, so Ariza’s value should not be underestimated. He was a poor fit on non-contenders last year, and the best spot for him would be on a team that expects to be in the hunt for an NBA title. He could be hugely vital there. Just ask the Rockets.

4. Dewayne Dedmon

Dedmon is never going to win any awards, but centers who can shoot from the perimeter have never been more important in the NBA. Dedmon’s newfound skill made him a 38.2 percent three-point shooter last year, while simultaneously adding 7.5 rebounds per game. He’s a solid defender and, perhaps even more importantly, he’s now capable of spacing the floor. There are some pretty good teams he could be a starter on. He’ll be a popular name this summer for that reason.

3. Seth Curry

Steph’s little brother put himself more on the map with a strong postseason with Portland, so he might not be quite as under-the-radar as he once was. Unlike his older brother, Curry isn’t much of a playmaker, and he won’t really be an impactful defender, but when you can shoot 45 percent from three-point range, there is a prominent spot for you in the NBA. Curry profiles best as a bench scorer who can come into games, knock down threes, and give defenses a lot to think about. If used properly, he will become an enormously valuable player.

2. Kevon Looney

Much will be written about the futures of Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant this summer, but the Warriors will absolutely miss Looney if he departs, too. He worked himself into a key player for the team, typically off the bench, with scoring and rebounding ability. He was so important to their playoff run that he may have priced himself out of a return. The attention will primarily lie with his more high-profile teammates, but Looney may actually be in line for a larger role with a different team this summer.

1. Danny Green

Kawhi Leonard isn’t the only free agent the Raptors are faced with losing this year. There is, after all, a reason that Green has been an important part of two NBA champions. He had his best three-point shooting season of his career with Toronto last season and heated up just in time to play a significant role in the NBA Finals. He doesn’t actually do much else on offense other than shoot, but it’s easy to ignore those limitations when he shoots as well as he does. He’s regarded as a good teammate and a quality glue guy, and while his eventual signing won’t steal the headlines, it could make a huge impact on whoever he lands with.

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