With the NBA Finals almost at its end, the now year-round state of the NBA heads into its next stage: the offseason. Composed of the NBA Draft, the Summer League, of course free agency, as well as the Tokyo Olympics this summer, there will be much to follow for NBA fans even with months until the regular season begins. The upcoming free agent class has a lot less flash than we’ve had in years past, and is headlined by two players with player options, Chris Paul and Kawhi Leonard, who are unlikely to leave their respective teams. This leaves us with a handful of above-average free agents who aren’t superstar caliber, with the likes of Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry, Demar DeRozan, and Victor Oladipo being the NBA’s hottest commodities. Obviously there is more to an offseason than just free agency; trades are bound to occur, and starpower such as Damian Lillard, Colin Sexton, Kemba Walker, and Ben Simmons have all been discussed preliminarily as potential pieces that could be moved. Trades such as these could be what steal the show this offseason due to this year’s weaker free agent class. However, all of the bigger names aside, I would like to take a look in on some guys hitting the market who are under the radar and could be major additions to any team looking to sign them. This postseason we have seen role players such as Pat Connaughton, Cameron Payne, Terrence Mann, Austin Rivers, and Kevin Huerter come up huge for their respective teams and be vital for playoff success, and there are many more out there who could make a similar impact. Here’s a list of a few:
The quick and crafty point guard stands at only 6’1 and 190 lbs, but actually does most of his work from inside the arc. Coming off a tremendous year for the Pacers in which he averaged 8.6 ppg, 6.6 apg, 3.7 rpg, 1.9 spg (second in the NBA), and shot 55.9% from the field, McConnell only averaged 0.7 three pointers attempted per game. This seems to go against what a modern NBA point guard’s skill set should be, but McConnell is elite at getting to his spots in the mid-range and down low, so that he is still an offensive threat, regardless of his three point shooting. Last season, 90.7% of McConnell’s field goal attempts were two-pointers, with 67.2% being within 10 feet of the rim where he is almost automatic with an arsenal of floaters and fadeaways to get the job done. On the defensive side, McConnell has never averaged under 1.5 steals per 36 mins in his six seasons in the league and is right up there with the peskiest guards in the league in terms of poking the ball free. Unlike lots of other smaller guards, McConnell isn’t a defensive liability, which is immensely important once the playoffs come around.
Best fits: Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers
A veteran shooting guard who has played nine seasons for five different teams, Bazemore is a great locker room guy who knows his way around a basketball court. After really struggling to start his 2019-20 season with the Blazers, Bazemore was shipped to the Kings midseason where he started to pick up his play and took that momentum into this season when he signed a one-year deal with the Warriors. Bazemore posted career highs in both field goal percentage (44.9%) and three point percentage (40.8%) last season and was a key role player throughout the year, also starting in 18 games. The minutes that Bazemore got last season were his lowest since the 2015-16 season, but he definitely made the most of them with his great shooting as well as averaging a nice 3.4 rpg and 1.0 spg with his 7.2 ppg. Bazemore isn’t going to blow you away with anything that he does, but he is solid. He makes the right plays, shoots the right shots, and given last year’s shooting splits, can really help a team in need of three-point assistance.
Best fits: Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat
With the top big man in this upcoming free agent class being *checks notes* Kelly Olynyk?, it will be vital for teams looking to upgrade down low to look for an under the radar kind of guy. Tony Bradley is that guy, pal. A former first round pick by the Lakers in 2017 who was traded to the Jazz on draft night, Bradley has started to find his footing in this league over the last couple seasons after being limited to a deep reserve role at the start of his career. After appearing in just 12 games over his first two seasons, Bradley put up career highs in points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game, and field goals made and attempted per game last season with the Sixers and the Thunder in his fourth year in the league. With a career 64.9% field goal percentage, Bradley’s offensive game is centered inside the paint, and he isn’t going to stretch the floor much, but he provides solid rebounding numbers on both ends and has the physical tools, such as his 7’5” wingspan, which could turn him into a solid interior defender as well.
Best fits: Sacramento Kings, Toronto Raptors, Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder
Craig is going to live easy no matter who wins this year’s NBA Finals. Due to him playing with both the Bucks and Suns this season, he will get himself a championship ring regardless. Aside from that, he has been a tremendous midseason addition to the Suns. In 32 games for Phoenix, he has averaged 7.2 ppg and 4.8 rpg on 50.3% from the field and 36.9% from deep. A clear 3-and-D guy, Craig can guard basically anyone on the floor with his 6’7 frame, and can also get to the rack as well as knock down jumpers on the offensive end. He is literally the perfect role player for any team looking to make a playoff run, which is evident in the Suns’ success in these playoffs. Currently on a minimum deal with the Suns, Craig deserves a bit of a raise, but is still an extremely undervalued asset who would be a cheap addition to a team needing forward depth.
Best fits: Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers
If you weren’t one of the valiant few who tuned in to watch the Houston Rockets after they traded James Harden and went on a 20 game losing streak midseason, I don’t blame you. However, those who did so missed out on the incredibly overlooked season of fourth year guard Sterling Brown. Coming into this year, Brown had spent all three of his seasons with the Bucks where he played sparingly and didn’t cut out much of a role. But with the way this season unfolded for the Rockets, there were opportunities galore for players like Brown to show their skills, which he indeed did. Brown finished the season with career highs in points per game (8.2), rebounds per game (4.4), minutes per game (24.1), games started (14), and three point percentage (42.3%). Just a 34.5% three point shooter in his first three seasons combined, Brown really found his stroke last season, finishing 17th in the league in three point percentage and proving himself as a multi-faceted scorer. Brown finished the season on a great stretch as well. Over his final 11 games he averaged 12.2 ppg on an incredible 53.3% from the field and 55.4% from three. Definitely a guy that any team will want to take a look at to keep improving for years to come.
Best fits: New York Knicks, Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks
Vanderbilt, coming into his fourth year in the league, is still just 22 years old, so there’s much more potential that he’ll be able to flash as his career continues. However, for the career he has thus far, he has produced quite well. Appearing in just 28 games in his first two seasons combined, Vanderbilt burst onto the scene with the Timberwolves last season, appearing in 64 games, while starting in 30 of them. The rare 6’9 forward in today’s league who isn’t able to stretch the floor, Vanderbilt makes his presence known through his rebounding and defense, as he excels in the little things rather than putting the ball in the net. Averaging just 5.4 ppg last season, 78% of Vanderbilt’s shots came from within three feet of the basket, and over 71% of his field goals were made off of an assist, showing his limited skillset on the offensive end. So we know he isn’t really a scorer, but his per 36 minutes stats in some other areas are noteworthy; last season he averaged 11.6 rpg, 2 spg, and 1.5 bpg by those metrics, and showed up very well in other advanced stats such as his 16.2 PER as well as his 3.1 WS. This shows that there is obviously tons of value in Vanderbilt’s game, even if he isn’t going to score in the double-digits—yet we have seen an immense amount of players (Draymond Green and P.J. Tucker, for example) who have been successful in the league without being scoring threats.
Best fits: Portland Trail Blazers, Orlando Magic, Brooklyn Nets, New Orleans Pelicans