3 Under-the-Radar NBA Free Agency Signings
But that doesn't mean free agency can't alter a team's chance at success. Sometimes, mid-level players can act as a missing piece to help propel a team to the next tier in the rankings or help a struggling team rebound toward the playoffs.
Which veteran signings this year fit the bill?
Luol Deng, Los Angeles Lakers
However, the perception of the Lakers' offseason quickly changed when the team announced it added Deng to the roster for four years and $72 million.
Kupchak says the 2-time All-Star will be "invaluable mentoring our young players on the court & in the locker room." https://t.co/xtmfU8lWvF
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) July 8, 2016
The former Miami Heat player, Deng proved extremely valuable for the Heat last season on both ends of the floor. His 51.4% effective field goal rate was the second-highest of his career, and he also posted an offensive rating of 112, which was tied for the best of his 12-year career.
On the defensive side of the ball, he also was a strong contributor with 2.8 defensive win shares, primarily from his 1.6 steals and 0.6 blocks per game.
Both of these assets will be vital for a Lakers team that is young at nearly every position on the floor and ranked 29th in the league in both offensive rating and defensive rating in 2015-16.
Another positive of Deng’s game is his versatility, which will be key in new coach Luke Walton's up-tempo style he bring with from Golden State Warriors. It is likely we will see Deng play big minutes at the power forward position, much like he did last season when Chris Bosh was unavailable for the Heat.
In his time as a power forward, Deng saw a bump in usage rate, offensive rating, and true shooting percentage. Having just turned 31 in April, Deng is still young enough to be a force on both ends of the floor while also providing a veteran presence to the youthful Lakers.
Al Jefferson, Indiana Pacers
Perhaps no marriage of new player and new coach was more ideally suited than was Nate McMillan and Al Jefferson in Indiana. McMillan is an old school coach who likes to slow the pace down and work the ball into the low post. This was proven in the 2008-09 season, during which McMillan's Trail Blazers led the NBA with an offensive rating of 113.9, just 0.6 behind the 2015-16 Warriors' mark, but were dead last in pace at a plodding 86.6 possessions per 48 minutes.
You see why this was destined to happen.
Last season, Jefferson was limited to just 47 games and 18 starts due to injury but still managed to keep his offensive rating above 100 for the 12th consecutive season.
Although he does not fit the mold of the new age big man, Jefferson has always been efficient with a career effective field goal percentage of 49.9% while being an effective free throw shooter at 70.7% for his career.
In the past three seasons, Jefferson's 1,465 post touches are fourth-most among centers, but among 36 centers with at least 700 such touches in this span, his field goal percentage of 56.02% on them ranks just 27th. His 1.29 points per post field goal attempts ranks 32nd.
Still, Indiana, a team that has struggled to overcome the loss of big men David West and Roy Hibbert, will gladly plug in a double-double threat who has the size to bother opposing bigs on both ends of the floor.
Ryan Anderson, Houston Rockets
Anderson may not be the exact basketball fit for Houston that Jefferson is to Indiana, but fantasy owners are sure to drool over the possibility of what he can do in the Mike D’Antoni space-and-pace offense.
Without a doubt, Anderson, who has attempted at least 340 three-point shots in five of the last six years, is a prototypical stretch four. That will play right into the hands of D’Antoni, who will want to replicate the success he had in 2006-07 with Phoenix, when the Suns led the NBA in offensive rating (113.9) and were second in three-point attempt rate (28.7%).
Not only does Anderson take a lot of threes, but he is also extremely efficient, owning an effective field goal percentage of 51.7% in his career. However, after besting a 50% effective field goal percentage for four straight seasons, Anderson has dropped below that mark in each of his last two seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans .
This should be easily remedied by his new teammate James Harden, who draws more double teams than nearly any player in the league, which will cause players to collapse and leave shooters open. With Anderson on the floor, nights like these will likely be avoided.
James Harden: 6-for-7
Everyone Else: 0-for-12 pic.twitter.com/rEREZgKWZU
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 28, 2016
Anderson will surely be looking to replicate his 2013-14 season, during which he shot a sparkling 47.6% on corner three-point shots, propelling him to a career-high 19.8 points per game.
Like Harden, D’Antoni, and the rest of the Rockets, he will not be counted on for defense, but he will surely make the team one of the most entertaining in the league.