DimeMag

5 NBA Players Who Need Freedom

Jimmer Fredette was the poster boy for the “free him” campaign. The talented BYU alumni was underutilized and did not receive nearly enough minutes in the Kings system. Now not every frustrated player, feeling like he hasn’t really got his shot, gets the luxury of a buyout. There are an awful lot of players in the NBA who might be better off somewhere else. There are other players like Eric Bledsoe, James Harden and Goran Dragic who contributed steadily to their teams but reached All-Star levels in bigger roles. It’s up to the franchise brass to seek these players out and attain their services before they pop on the big stage. Obviously a 30-something-year old player isn’t magically going to become a superstar overnight but there are a lot of young players being poorly utilized.

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Enes Kanter
Kanter is being disgustingly ignored in Utah. I want to give the Jazz the benefit of the doubt, I hope this solely has to do with their tanking mission but I doubt it. Why an end-of-his-time veteran like Richard Jefferson or a never-reached-his-potential role player like Marvin Williams take minutes away from Kanter is beyond me. Kanter is seventh in minutes on the Jazz, yet when he playes 25 minutes or more he’s failed to score 10-plus points only twice. Over a three-game stint in February, Kanter averaged 22.7 points per game, 9.0 rebounds a game, and shot 65 percent over 35 minutes. Those are All-Star numbers–granted on a small sample size. Kanter deserves the opportunity to be showcased in an offense that will use him. A big part of the reasoning behind letting Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap go was to create playing time for Derrick Favors and Kanter. That obligation hasn’t been fulfilled.

Brandan Wright
He’s in the middle of his third straight season as a Dallas Maverick. Wright is also in the midst of a third straight season in which he is averaging a 21-plus player efficiency rating (PER). His 23.9 PER this season is second on the team behind only Dirk Nowitzki. Wright has been solid for Dallas in limited minutes but continually gets pushed down the depth chart. He’s shooting close to 66 percent from the field and his per-36 numbers are very impressive: 18.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.8 blocks. The only player in the NBA who’s averaging 18-plus points, 8-plus rebounds, 1-plus steals and 1.5-plus blocks is Anthony Davis. Per-36 is a crap shoot, obviously not everyone can maintain the same rates in extended time. But the Mavericks have a potential star rotting away for 30 minutes a night on the bench and it’s slightly disheartening. Wright is under contract for one more season, so he may have his chance to truly be showcased next season.

Darren Collison
Collison is an interesting case. He started his career in New Orleans backing up Chris Paul. When Paul got hurt, Collison played his way into the spotlight and was later traded to Indiana, where he was supposed to blossom as the Pacers point guard of the future. He had three solid years as a Pacer but was ultimately outplayed by George Hill down the stretch. He was dealt in the offseason to Dallas and had a disappointing season as the Mavericks starter in 2012-13. So here we are in 2014 and Collison has come full circle, back in a reserve role behind Chris Paul.

When Paul got hurt this time around, Collison started 18 games, and the Clippers went 12-6 over that stretch as Collison shot close to 47-43-90 from the field. Collison may have a niche as Paul’s backup but the New York Knicks did call about him at the trade deadline. Collison has the talent to start for several teams in this league but whether it’s in his best interests, will have to wait and see.

Keep reading to see what two of the best teams in the West should do with two of their PGs…

Patty Mills
The San Antonio Spurs are known for getting the best out of their players. With the exception of their Big Three, most players have specific roles and are deployed accordingly. Mills, playing a meager 18 minutes per game, has the advanced numbers executives look for. He’s incredibly efficient with shooting splits of 47-41-88. His per-36 numbers are equally impressive and predict he would average just shy of 20 points in extended time with less than two turnovers per a contest. Yet as long as Tony Parker is in a Spurs uniform, the chances of Mills holding the reins are slim.

Mills is fourth on the team in PER and could test the free agency market this season. Although the Spurs are good at retaining their players, look for Mills to receive a sizable offer from another franchise. A team like the Knicks, who desperately need help at the point guard position and will have more wiggle room if ‘Melo leaves, could be a suitor.

Reggie Jackson
This is an obvious choice. When Westbrook got hurt, it was up to Jackson to step up and help Durant carry the offense. In reality, Durant didn’t need much help but Jackson played well regardless. Jackson isn’t a great playmaker but he is a solid scoring option. In a 21-game stretch with an increased role that saw Jackson play 33 minutes a game, he averaged just shy of 16 points, with five assists. Jackson isn’t as efficient as some of the other players on this list but he does have the physical tools to drive a team.

Jackson provides the Thunder with some options should things not go well this year in the postseason. If the Thunder management decide down the line that Westbrook and Durant might be better apart, they have Jackson on his rookie deal for one more season. If they stay the course, an expiring Jackson could be a valuable trade asset next season.

What do you think?

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