There’s a time and place for shaking things up in the NBA, and there’s another for finding a rhythm with familiar parts and pieces. When free agency opened for official signings on Wednesday, most the attention went to the shiny new additions around the league, from Steve Nash in Los Angeles to Omer Asik in Houston. Creating — or holding together — a contender isn’t just about the add-ons, though; it’s about keeping the best players from before who already have experience.
Without ado, the top 5 most important re-signings in NBA free agency of 2012.
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5. DANNY GREEN, SAN ANTONIO
The Spurs can use his career 42 percent three-point shooting for all of the next three years he re-signed for. The reported $12-million deal is a steal for a three-point shooter who found his footing after spending time in the Developmental League to appear in all 66 games last season and shoot 43 percent from deep. That was the fifth-best in the NBA last season of any player 6-6 or taller who shot more than a handful of threes, but it’s not a slam on his athleticism, either, to peg him as a dangerous three threat. Though he has a harder time playing his way out of slumps because of the established star system in San Antonio, and thus fewer touches, he is the Spurs’ best inside-outside threat next to Manu Ginobili with his ability to drive.
4. CHAUNCEY BILLUPS, LOS ANGELES
The Clippers were mentally fragile without Billups in the lineup after his Achilles injury in February. That’s a fairly amazing testament to his professionalism and veteran feel for not only the game but a locker room — especially when you consider he didn’t want to be in L.A. in the first place last December. The Clippers need a player who can command his respect at point guard — even though he should see limited minutes early in the season because of his rehabilitation — not named Chris Paul. Both he and Paul are playing with one-year deals, but while CP3’s contract will be the talk of the NBA next season, Billups will be the steadying force amid the chatter.
3. ERSAN ILYASOVA, MILWAUKEE
That list we mentioned of the best three-point shooters 6-6 or taller includes Ilyasova as the second-best at nearly 46 percent. The five-year deal to keep him means a pairing of John Henson with the more polished offensively Ilyasova, the current leader of a patchwork frontcourt. He earned Eastern Conference player of the week honors this season and is the only option to dump the ball down to when Monta Ellis isn’t shooting for Milwaukee. The player I think Vladimir Radmanovic was supposed to be saw his rebounds, points, field-goal percentage and three-point percentage go up substantially in his fourth season. His dependability and relative youth (25) make him a cornerstone for Milwaukee.
2. BRANDON BASS, BOSTON
Kevin Garnett‘s return to Boston was the biggest story of the offseason for the Celtics, even with Ray Allen departing for Miami. Bass was one of the C’s top priorities, though, being locked down early in free agency with an agreement to re-sign for three years. His 12.5 points per game should increase next season after the team became comfortable with him as a replacement for Jeff Green’s role. Once you get in and show you belong with Boston’s veteran-laden team, Doc Rivers has proven he’ll expand your role (Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo as a few in the last two years). Bass is undersized if he plays four and not the fastest at the three, but he can score in bunches when needed.