Then there’s a next tier of free agents — Pau Gasol, Lance Stephenson, Chandler Parsons, Chris Bosh — who are all waiting in the wings to see how the dominos fall after the big two ink their new deals.
But what about the other guys? You know, the veterans who still have some juice left in the tank or the role players that at times seem to be the missing links on championship squads.
Many are still available. Here’s XN Sports’ top five different-making role players:
1. Ray Allen
There’s no doubt Allen can still play a year or two more in the Association. His numbers took a bit of dive in 2013-14, falling to 9.6 points per game, but that was also on a team with LeBron James and Chris Bosh providing the bulk of the scoring and a veteran player under a minutes watch.
Anybody who thinks Allen cannot still make a late-game 3-pointer should think again. Allen could follow LeBron if he heads to Cleveland or return to Miami with him. But on a team that needs a clutch perimeter shooter that can spark the offense at times should look at Allen’s résumé.
2. Paul Pierce
The Truth quietly averaged 13.5 points and 4.6 rebounds last season with the Brooklyn Nets, despite injuries keeping him off the court for some time. Without question he has some more to contribute to a contending team.
The Los Angeles Clippers make a lot of sense for Pierce, given L.A. is his hometown and he has a quality relationship with coach Doc Rivers. But as a first or second forward off the bench, it’s hard to find a free agent better than Pierce.
Nelson averaged 12.1 points and 7.0 assists per game on an atrocious Orlando Magic squad last season. But he’s proven in the past he can be a point guard on a championship-caliber roster, too.
Nelson could be a starter or a quality backup point guard, and since the Magic released him as they continue to rebuild, one team in need of back-court depth should scoop him up.
4. Shawn Marion
Marion still flashed some of the athleticism last season that made him an All-Star all those years in the desert, and managed to average 10.4 points and 6.5 boards per game for the Dallas Mavericks.
It’s hard to find a player who will devote so much attention to defense as Marion does, and he’d be a great defensive presence for an NBA squad in need of some help at small forward.
5. Kirk Hinrich
Every time I see Hinrich on the court he’s always making a terrific pass and giving 110 percent on the defensive side of the court, and no team can suffer from having a quality backup point guard on their roster.
Hinrich averaged 9.1 points and 3.9 assists per game last season with the Chicago Bulls. He should come at a low-cost, but provide big benefits.