Chris Simmons (@sik0simmons)
A “Fresh Start” is a very underrated way to kick start a career in the NBA. In a year where Lebron James and Kevin Durant will loom over free agency, there are fringe all-star players who need a change and may be the missing link for another team. Often these are either players who have fallen out of favor with their coach/team, or players who have reached their ceiling with their current squad. These players make up the “Middle Class” of the NBA but are often the linchpin that holds their teams together making their eventual destinations (almost) as important as any of the elite game changers.
In a point guard heavy league finding a 1 who can run your offense efficiently, score at will, all while playing solid to great defense night in night out is imperative. Michael Conley Jr. fits that billing very well. However, lacking bombers behind the arc, the Grizzlies offense struggles to score enough points to beat top tier teams like Golden State and San Antonio and that presents a problem for the underrated star. While Conley is not quite a superstar, he can be the piece that elevates a team’s play to elite levels. Conley could re-up on the comfort of Memphis but he is likely surveying the field and considering a young team like Minnesota that he can develop or a fringe playoff contender like the Pelicans in need of a point that can hold his own against the best.
At 30 years old and having played for five teams in eight years, Aaron Afflalo is very much a hired gun. However, lately he’s found himself in Kurt Rambis’ doghouse for being what he is. Every team needs a consistent off-ball guard to help ease the scoring burden for the lead ball handler, and that is exactly what Afflalo does. While this seems like a slight against him, there is plenty of room in the Association for professional scorers as Jamal Crawford has proved over his lengthy career. Afflalo could easily slide in with Memphis and offer a boost through his three point shooting off the bench, or even as a starter but he would have to be paired with a defensive minded, pass first point guard (Rajon Rondo?) as he ranked 86th of 97 qualified shooting guards in defensive plus minus.
Gerald Green is another world traveler who has managed to hang onto a spot in the NBA due to his insane athleticism and streaky three point shooting. To date he has both helped and hindered his cause as he has shown a willingness to help out on the defensive end but isn’t a good enough defender to get minutes for the Miami H. Despite not getting consistent minutes Green has not pouted and he recently put up a 30 point scoring barrage to help his team put away the Sacramento Kings. That is the crux of his value, instant scoring and the athleticism that can really help a team like the SUNS or even the Los Angeles Clippers who are looking for help at the 3 spot.
Joakim Noah was once a major pain for Eastern Conference teams trying assert their dominance. Just two seasons removed from leading his team and position in win shares, on his way to a Defensive Player of the Year award, Noah is still productive but he can’t stay healthy and has logged a ton of minutes. At this point he’s probably not a player 30MPG player and because of his shooting woes, he fell out of favor with Bulls Head Coach Fred Hoidberg. Noah’s best landing spot would be a team like the New York Knicks who could use a defensive anchor around their young center who can distribute like a point guard and keep Carmelo Anthony well fed.
No player is more misused than Dwight Howard on the Houston Rockets. After being run out of town by Kobe Bryant, it seemed Howard had found a home with the Rockets and James Harden forming the best inside out one-two punch in the game. But in order for that to work, Harden was going to have to pass him the ball. That hasn’t happened this season and the big man’s Usage rate has taken a precipitous fall. Houston no longer runs plays for Howard who isnt even the most heavily used Center on his team. His best landing spot would be a return to the Orlando Magic, Portland Trailblazers or another young team with great guard play in need of a defensive anchor that can finish over the top.
BONUS – Nick Young
For obvious reasons, Nick “Swaggy P” Young needs a new start. The Lakers are a mess and plan on trading him. Imagine what happens if they dont . . .