Ironically, just as last week’s NBA Draft had about as much star power as a WNBA game, this summer’s free agent class is also incredibly weak up top. Today, news broke that David West will opt out of his contract and become a free agent. He seriously might be the best player available this summer. Compare that to one year ago when it seemed every franchise player was on the market.
But just as the draft was, this class is deep enough that there is talent available. And every great team needs a Steve Kerr or a Derek Fisher or a Bruce Bowen or a Dennis Johnson or a Vinnie Johnson. When I say “role-playing” guys available, I’m talking about a certain group. I’m talking players I would legitimately feel comfortable with in a must-win in the Finals. If I was just a piece or two away from a title, I wouldn’t grab or go after players that have the basketball IQ of a squirrel (J.R. Smith) or avoid defense at all costs (Jamal Crawford) or struggle to make shots (Chuck Hayes) or are too talented for their own good (Aaron Brooks, I don’t need my backups shooting to run down the starters) or who I can’t see leaving their current situation (Grant Hill, DeAndre Jordan, C.J. Miles), or aren’t aggressive (Jeff Green) or guys that have too much potential to be boxed in (Wilson Chandler, Nick Young). I want guys who have specific skills – a jump-shooting two, a defensive big man, an athletic three.
With that, here are the 10 best role-playing free agents available this summer, the Ron Harper All-Stars.
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10. Mario Chalmers/J.J. Barea – It’s a pathetic summer for point guards. Pathetic. T.J. Ford, Aaron Brooks, Patty Mills, Early Boykins. Those are some of the top signal callers available. As we saw in the Finals, Chalmers and Barea can both play roles on a title team: Chalmers for his defense and three-point shooting…Barea for his annoying shot-making.
Dallas and Miami will look to bring them back (Chalmers is restricted, Barea, unrestricted), but with the buffet line so dried up, someone is pound to overpay.
9. Samuel Dalembert – We need a center right? Just as the PG spot will have teams fighting for scraps like they’re Eli and Solara stuck in a post-apocalyptic world, really big guys are gonna be gobbled up quickly. And Dalembert is one big dude. Perfect for someone who needs a big anchor inside, and won’t ask him to do much more than stand there, be big, ugly, and block a shot/grab a rebound here and there.
Dalembert isn’t much of a talent, but every great team could use someone like him. He can play the Luc Longley role. I almost put Kyrylo Fesenko here until I realized he’s Kyrylo Fesenko.
8. Shane Battier – Heartbreakingly, Battier wasted his prime years languished on a Houston team that was never quite good enough. Then, he finally catches a nice wave with the Grizzlies last year, who would’ve been PERFECT for him maybe two or three years ago.
He’s the master of defensive tricks, seemingly “inventing” stuff like the hand-in-the-face technique. Give him 20 minutes a night on a great team, and he’ll make a big difference.
7. Glen Davis – I said recently that while Davis shouldn’t be an option as a full-time starting power forward, he’s solid as hell as a backup, part-time fill-in. Last year, before his public mental breakdown in the playoffs, Big Baby dropped 12 and five, the best year of his career. He’s hit game-winners in the playoffs and played a central role on a couple deep Boston playoff runs.
Sadly, my guess is some lottery team drops dough on him, he starts and averages something like 13 and six, attempts so many charges that eventually Blake Griffin kicks him in the face, we forget all about his slobbering playoff moments and he ends up wishing he never left Boston by the third week in November.
6. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute – A Battier in training. The Milwaukee restricted free agent struggles offensively, but he’s one of the most versatile defenders in the league. He’s covered Kobe. He’s checked LeBron. He’s rumbled with Kevin Garnett. He’s a perfect example of someone who may never win an individual award but every GM will always want him.