NBA free agency is up and running. While we will continue to hear rumors about the biggest names available, such as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, there is another tier of free agent options that promise to draw interest from teams around the Association.
While these players won’t receive a ton of play by the media, they can bring a whole lot to the table. They might not be starters on championship-caliber teams, but they can act the part of important role players.
Let’s take a look at the 10-most underrated NBA free agents heading into what promises to be a busy month of July around the NBA.
1. Nick Young, Guard/Forward, Los Angeles Lakers
Lakers also called Nick Young's reps to express interest in him. Young scored career-high 17.9 points last season, declined $1.2M option
— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) July 1, 2014
A former first-round pick of the Washington Wizards back in 2007, Young had a breakout campaign for the Lakers in 2013-2014. He tallied 17.9 points per game and shot 39 percent from three-point range. Young has indicated that he’s willing to return to Los Angeles, but by opting out he made it clear that he plans on testing the open market.
There promises to be plenty of interest in Young as a starter or a top bench option on a contending team. His scoring may have been out of whack last season due to the Lakers’ lack of options, but it does appear that Young has improved his overall game a lot over the past couple seasons.
2. Boris Diaw, Forward, San Antonio Spurs
Diaw has been a consistently good player for a long time. He stepped up big time for the champion Spurs when asked to play an important role this past season. The 32-year-old veteran of four NBA teams averaged over nine points and 4.1 rebounds per game last year. He shot 52 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range.
While not necessarily a starter at this point, Diaw should be able to make a big impact as a veteran presence for a contending team. The Spurs have to think long and hard about retaining his services, especially if other Western Conference teams show interest.
3. Channing Frye, Forward, Phoenix Suns
Reminder on Channing Frye–he and Iguodala share an agent, were teammates at UofAriz, and Frye signed with Suns when Kerr was GM there.
— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) June 26, 2014
A stretch four in every sense of the term, Frye has an ability to extend his game to the perimeter from the power forward position. He’s a career 39 percent three-point shooter. At 31 years old, Frye started all 82 games for the Suns last year, averaging over 11 points per game. He’s bound to draw a ton of interest from teams who miss out on some of the bigger names on the free agent market.
4. C.J. Miles, Guard/Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers
Miles is at his height right now. He’s a veteran that will give you solid minutes over the course of the season, but will never show the flashes that made him a high-valued option coming out of Skyline High School in Dallas some nine years ago. While Miles has never matured into a starter-caliber player, he can add something to the second unit. A volume scorer, Miles averaged just under 10 points per game in an average of 19 minutes per outing for the Cavs last season.
5. Patrick Mills, Guard, San Antonio Spurs
A late bloomer, as some would suggest, Mills picked his game up big time in the playoffs last season. He became an important part of the Spurs rotation in their championship run and should turn that performance into both a solid contract and a starting job. Mills shot 46 percent from the field and 43 percent from the three-point line while scoring an average of 10.2 points per game last season.
6. Jermaine O’Neal, Forward/Center, Golden State Warriors
Iverson, Kobe, Nash, Allen, Walker, Camby, Marbury, Peja, Jermaine O'neal, and Fisher are all products of the 96 draft.
— M.Barnes (@The_Muzik_Junki) June 27, 2014
O’Neal was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers during Bill Clinton’s first administration. To put that into perspective, LeBron James was 11 years old when O’Neal made his NBA debut. This didn’t stop the soon-to-be 36 year old from putting up a stellar season for Golden State last year. Acting as a starter and primary backup at two frontcourt positions, O’Neal averaged 7.9 points and over five rebounds per outing in 2013-2014.
7. Shaun Livingston, Guard, Brooklyn Nets
Sacramento, Charlotte, Minnesota, Orlando and the champs from San Antonio all calling, I'm told, about Brooklyn free agent Shaun Livingston
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) July 1, 2014
This is a feel-good story. Livingston’s early career was defined by chronic injuries that limited him to an average of 32 games in his first six NBA seasons. Since a breakout campaign for the then Charlotte Bobcats in 2010-2011, Livingston has been a solid under-the-radar option. He put up 8.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game for Brooklyn in 2013-2014. In addition to that, he shot 48 percent from the field and 83 percent from the free throw line. Not reliable as a starter due to past injuries, Livingston is a great bench option.
8. Jordan Hill, Forward, Los Angeles Lakers
On eve of free agency, forward Jordan Hill promises to have several suitors, including Lakers, Mavericks and Rockets, sources tell Yahoo.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 30, 2014
Hill was supposed to be a star when the New York Knicks made him a lottery pick back in 2009. It never worked out in New York, as the power forward averaged just four points in 24 games as a rookie before being dealt to the Houston Rockets. After a brief and unsuccessful stint in Houston, Hill joined a regressing Lakers team in 2012-2013 and averaged 6.7 points in 29 games.
It wasn’t until this past season that Hill got his first real shot as an important rotational player in the NBA. And he responded big time. The former Arizona standout averaged 9.7 points and over seven rebounds in 72 games (32 starts). He also shot a ridiculous 55 percent from the field. Look for him to receive a nice amount of interest this summer.
9. Darren Collison, Guard, Los Angeles Clippers
Clippers make call to Darren Collison's reps, but just a "cursory call." No deal in place yet.
— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) July 1, 2014
Not the flashiest of point guards, Collison is about as tough as they get from this position. He plays good defense, can run an offense and doesn’t make the stupid play. As Chris Paul’s backup for the Clippers this past season, Collison averaged 11.4 points and 3.7 assists per game. He’s a career 46 percent shooter from the field and is as consistent as they come from the line. Look for Collison to find a starting job somewhere, unless he decides to stick with the Clippers.
10. Evan Turner, Forward, Indiana Pacers
Report: Pacers decline qualifying offer for Evan Turner, making him unrestricted free agenthttp://t.co/xiotmjX52Z
— CBS Sports NBA (@CBSSportsNBA) July 1, 2014
Turner has been nothing short of an enigmatic figure since the Philadelphia 76ers selected him the second overall back in the 2010 NBA draft. Purely a volume scorer on a Sixers team without many options last season, Turner was able to put up 17.6 points per game before a mid-season trade to the Pacers.
Once he went to a more-talented team, Turner fell back to Earth. He averaged just seven points and struggled a great deal in tems of his overall performance. The talent is most definitely there, which makes Turner a decent under-the-radar option in the second-tier of free agency.