Ball Don't Lie - NBA


A rambunctious July has but a week and a half left, and most of the free agent action has passed. Of course, that doesn't mean that there isn't a select group of unrestricted free agents still available, ready to help teams and earn their keep. Here's our humbled list of the best of the rest.

(Restricted free agents to follow on Wednesday ...)

1. Lamar Odom(notes)

We've been over why we think so highly of Odom. He's a stat machine whose best contributions often aren't picked up by the typical box score. Odom led the Lakers in plus/minus last year, not Kobe Bryant(notes). He scores, he rebounds at a high rate, he defends all comers, he runs an offense that many have trouble picking up. He might be 30, and the Lakers could win it all without him, but that doesn't take away from the fact that he is a special, special player.

The solution? The Lakers stop trying to act like tough guys, and give it up for the player who gave up big numbers last year to come off the bench and contribute to a championship.


2. Andre Miller(notes)

We've also been over where Andre Miller went wrong. He put up great stats in 2008-09, during a contract year, but his attitude wasn't always the best — whether the Philadelphia 76ers deserved his scorn or not. Miller turned 33 last spring, and though his 2008-09 averages of 16 points, 6.5 assists (to just 2.4 turnovers) and 5.5 rebounds are nothing to scoff at, there is a fear that he could drop off at any point.

The solution? Go safe, take the money from New York. And, if there's gas in Miller's tank, he can try the whole "act the good soldier in a contract year" bit with the Knicks, while working on a one-year contract.


3. Ike Diogu(notes)

Diogu at three? Is that a sign of just how slim the free agent pickings have gotten?

Hardly. This guy can play, he's just been stuck on a series of teams with a series of coaches that would prefer to value image (too small, too thick) over actual production (you know, the things you actually do on the court?). Unless you're a Michael Sweetney(notes) or an Oliver Miller, the overwhelming majority of NBA players' per-minute stats hold up, no matter the minutes. Diogu doesn't remind of Jack LaLanne, but he's hardly the type whose frame wouldn't hold up to 33 minutes. Pay, and then finally play, the man.

The solution? Chicago? Stop being cheap, offer the guy a minimum deal even if it creeps you closer to the luxury tax, and let Diogu and Tyrus Thomas(notes) fill out the holes in one's head with the bumps in another's. This involves the Chicago ownership, front office, and coaching staff making a sound move, all at once. Too much to ask, probably.


4. Von Wafer(notes)

He was undoubtedly a bit of a headcase toward the end of 2008-09, feuding with Rockets coach Rick Adelman, and this is probably why Wafer hasn't been re-signed by Houston. And with other free agent wings taking up residence in Cleveland, Boston, and Orlando (you got your Moons, your Marquis, your Barnes), Wafer's staunch refusal to take a deal above the minimum hurts his chances.

He averaged almost 10 points per game last year. He's not a minimum player. But when you walk out on your coach on national TV, in this economy? Deal with what you can get, Von Wafer.

The soluton? To Minnesota, for the minimum, to play nice and take dozens of shots on a team that entirely made up of point guards, power forwards, and Quentin Richardson's expiring contract.


5. Drew Gooden(notes)

He takes inefficient jumpers, his rebounding goes from tremendous to awful in the course of a week, he probably won't remember all the assistant coaches' names, and he doesn't play defense.

But Drew Gooden can score, he'll come cheap, and he's a good locker room guy to have around. And, if your starting power forward goes down with injury, Gooden can put up 12 and 7 in his sleep. And he sleeps a lot.

The solution? To Phoenix, who could use a player to start fast breaks, run a screen and roll, and play big forward with Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) at center.


6. Rasho Nesterovic(notes)

He was once a punch line, but the man delivering the punch line has now turned into a punch line, and doesn't really have a gig delivering punch lines about the NBA anymore.

Rasho will have a gig next year, because he deserves one. He's a damn good defender, something some NBA analysts would fail to realize when they decide to only look up blocks per game on their Blackberries, rather than watch the actual games. He can score with the floater, and would be a very good backup at a pretty cheap price.

The solution? To Houston. The Rockets can talk all they want about running and weaving in Yao Ming's(notes) absence, but they'll also need someone to defend the pivot, and not act like a Collins twin once the ball meets the center's hands on offense.


7. Leon Powe(notes)

Players usually don't come back from a second or third ACL tear very quickly, but I'm standing by my pronouncement that whatever team picks up Powe's medical bills right now will be very surprised with the beast they get next March. Powe should be back on the court well before then, he'll take a while to round into shape; and if the new team has a coach worth shouting about, then the Celtics will be very, very upset they didn't tender this guy the qualifying offer.

The solution? New York, you need scorers? You want someone to put up points for a year half a year before 2010? This is your guy.


8. Joe Smith(notes)

Same as it ever was. Defends, scores with either hand, hits jumpers, sets good screens, rebounds enough to deserve minutes. New team, every year, same professionalism.

The solution? I'm tempted to say Los Angeles, Orlando, Boston or Cleveland; so that Smith can finally grab a ring. Cleveland actually works, though, as the Cavs will need someone to work the baseline with Shaquille O'Neal(notes) in town.


7235. Allen Iverson(notes)

Doesn't want to come off the bench. Doesn't want to stop shooting. Doesn't defend. Doesn't work well with others. Doesn't want conform in any meaningful way (play with your jewelry on, for all I care, just stop taking 18-footers in transition). Doesn't want to take less money to play for a winner.

The solution? Congress, naturally.


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