The big names signed on the dotted line – or in Deron Williams‘ case, on the iPad – weeks ago, and the pool of talent is pretty much completely dry. But for contending teams, and even those who are just in the market for a veteran to give them a few good minutes or a few good pre-game speeches, there are still a couple of names available. None of these guys will be making consistently key contributions for a contender, but they’re all still viable NBA players.
Yesterday, we saw Carl Landry go to the Warriors, and Nate Robinson is on the cusp of signing with Chicago. Brandon Rush is also expected to return to Golden State officially within the next day or two. The crop is thinning every day. Here are the 10 best players still without a team.
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10. JODIE MEEKS
Whereas Terrence Williams has twice the potential and three times the athletic ability, and Tracy McGrady has the name, Meeks is probably the better option than either of them at the moment. You never know what type of mood Williams will be in, as we saw recently at the Jamal Crawford Summer Pro-Am All-Star Game, and with T-Mac? He seems almost a novelty at this point, a player who could score eight points in garbage time, and have all of his fans talking about the glory days.
Meeks started 50 games in Philly last season, and is a knockdown shooter (career 37 percent from deep) who is still only 24 years old. Meeks told HOOPSWORLD he’s gotten interest from the Lakers, Bucks and Wizards, and he’d fit in with any of those teams. The Lakers need shooters to surround their stars… the Bucks live and die by playing small and launching triples… and the Wizards are doing all they can to provide a core that can work with John Wall.
9. IVAN JOHNSON
Ivan the Terrible first gained significance because last season, he rocked an in-game grill harder than anyone since B.G. But it didn’t take long for his play to gain headlines as well. With Atlanta, he saw time in 56 games, and finished with a 14.37 PER. In April, when he was finally given some significant minutes, the 28-year-old averaged a solid 10.7 points and 5.9 rebounds a night. The Hawks extended the man a qualifying offer at the beginning of July, but since then we’ve barely heard a peep about what’s going on with his status.
8. DEREK FISHER
The old man showed he wasn’t quite done in the playoffs last season with OKC. At worst, at least he didn’t curl up into the fetal position like Ramon Sessions did, the man he was replaced by. Fisher showed last season he’s at the point in his career where he won’t play for just anyone. Ask Houston.
Fisher is 37 years old, and had a PER last year (8.02) that was so small, I’m not surprised Daryl Morey traded for him and then immediately bought him out. Chicago was interested, as was Brooklyn. But I haven’t heard anything over the past few days.
7. MATT BARNES
Barnes went and got himself arrested recently on an outstanding traffic warrant, and THEN on top of that, he supposedly threatened a cop and resisted arrest. On the court, it’s cool to be a menace. Off of it though? When you’re fighting to stay in the NBA, and have a track record of not only creating problems with the law, but also of failing to latch on with any team? It’s not good at all. In fact, the Lakers have already decided they won’t be bringing Barnes back, opting instead for Devin Ebanks. No one else appears to be interested.
With that said, Barnes is probably the best defensive player still available, and any contender could use him against either LeBron/Wade in the East, or Durant in the West. It’ll be interesting to see who gets picked up first: Barnes or Mickael Pietrus. Very similar players, Barnes is a loose cannon while Pietrus is threatening to go to Europe if he doesn’t get something better than the vet minimum.
6. CARLOS DELFINO
While he’s out in London stroking triples for Argentina’s National Team, Delfino is still pretty pissed at Milwaukee for not bringing him back into the fold. The man never did become the next Manu Ginobili as so many “experts” guaranteed he would be back in the day. But he’s still a solid defensive player, and always seems to pull bombs out of his ass. He’s done it the last three seasons with the Bucks, shooting above 35 percent from deep every year while hitting a combined 325 three-pointers in just 178 games.
The Cavs are reportedly interested, as are a few other Eastern Conference playoff contenders. More than likely, Delfino won’t sign anywhere until his home country’s Olympic run is over.
5. C.J. MILES
C.J. will always be a Dime favorite, but even we have to admit last season was a major disappointment for him. His numbers dropped across the board, and while Utah could’ve used more of his youth and shooting on the perimeter, he barely averaged 20 minutes a night.
At the beginning of free agency, it seemed as though he’d hook on with Dallas pretty quickly. But they’ve moved on, having brought in O.J. Mayo, and re-signed Delonte West. Cleveland is still a possibility, but wherever Miles goes, he quickly needs to regain the form he showed with the Jazz two seasons ago when he dropped nearly 13 points a night.
4. KENYON MARTIN
First things first: Martin was awful with the Clippers last year, shooting 44 percent while finishing with a sub-double digit PER. He’s nowhere near the player he was even two or three years ago. But one thing he does do well is antagonize. Every great team needs a little crazy in them, and Martin will bring that. Ask his former teammates. Some have noted over the years how K-Mart is so reckless you constantly have to reel him in with words of encouragement. That might not work on a young team still looking to figure itself out. But if Martin can find the right situation, the 6-9 forward is still athletic enough to earn minutes off the bench.
3. LEANDRO BARBOSA
Barbosa never completely fit in with the Pacers, a product of their crowded backcourt and style of play. Yet teams shouldn’t expect him to be anything more than he has been since his glory days with Phoenix: around 10 points a game off the bench, no defense, and a few triples here and there.
Barbosa doesn’t have much of the burst left that once made him so hard to guard with the Suns, but he’s one of the best teammates in the league – Steve Nash told me last year he is one of his three favorites teammates ever. That’ll help him stick around for a few extra years.
2. JOSH HOWARD
Has anyone in the NBA had a weirder career than this former All-Star? His fall from grace after being named an injury replacement in the 2007 All-Star Game was shocking. Despite the ACL injury, and his stubbornness when it came to smoking weed, the way he went from one of the best young players in the league to completely forgotten in Washington was perplexing. Resurfacing in Utah last year on a one-year contract, Howard averaged 8.7 points and 3.7 rebounds. But whereas his jumper was once suspect, it has now completely deserted him. He shot under 40 percent from the field in 2011-12. Howard also scored only 15 points in four playoff games against San Antonio, and because of that finish, it became clear the Jazz wanted to move on without him.
Yet Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports reports Utah is still in the mix, along with Indiana, Golden State, Brooklyn and New York. Expect a decision soon.
1. ANDRAY BLATCHE
Ahhh, the man who was such a distraction he was banished from Clown U. Think about how immature people like Nick Young and JaVale McGee were when they were in Washington, and yet neither one of them received the same treatment as Blatche. Once the big man signed a $35 million extension in 2010, in the eyes of most Wizards’ fans, he just stopped trying. That’s a damning assessment, and along with his conditioning, explains why a 6-11, 25-year-old with a feathery shooting touch can’t find a team.
Someone should take a chance on Blatche, and I think it’ll happen at some point before training camps open… even if he shot 38 percent from the floor last year (AWFUL) and averaged just under six boards a night. He’s BY FAR the most talented player still available, and last I checked, we’ve seen a few big men develop late (even if most of that had to do with growing into their bodies instead of growing actual on-court brains). A few seasons ago, I remember Blatche going head-to-head with Kevin Garnett, and giving as much as he was getting. He also became somewhat of a cult hero in fantasy basketball, regularly exploding at the end of forgotten seasons as every other team rested many of their starters. Who remembers the final 12 weeks of 2010 when he averaged in succession over those three months: 21.1 points and 8.5 rebounds, 20.5 pounds and 6.7 rebounds, and 21.5 points and 8.6 rebounds? Or how about the following April when he REALLY blew up, posting averages that looked like something out of a Tim Duncan Wikipedia page: 23.6 points, 10.3 rebounds and a combined 3.4 steals/blocks a game.
Blatche still has the potential to become a starting player in the NBA, and while I doubt it ever truly happens for any amount of long-term time, the amnesty victim has a few things no one else on this list does: talent, youth and size.
Who do you want your team to sign?
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