NBA free agency starts tomorrow and teams have a two-week span in which to negotiate with players. No formal contracts can be signed until that period is complete. Unrestricted free agents can sign with any team they wish, while restricted free agents can sign an offer sheet with any team they like, but their current team has the right to match the contract and keep the player. This makes signing a restricted free agent a dicey proposition. You want to get the player for as little as possible, but you want the contract to be big enough to scare off their old team.
ESPN’s Chris Sheridan has a list of the top free agents, but here are five guys that I think will be undervalued this summer:
Jared Jeffries, WAS (restricted)
The stock of this 6’10” swingman rose significantly with his defensive play on LeBron James in the playoffs. He’s rangy and can defend without being too physical (and having to foul.) He’s not a big scorer, but wasn’t asked to take many shots with Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler on the team. Still, he shot 45% from the field and 32% from the 3PT line. His FT% (59%) is the only major hole in his game. I envision him signing a contract with a $5 M-$7 M average salary.
Marcus Banks, MIN (unrestricted)
Banks’ play after the All-Star break – 12.2 ppg, 5.2 apg, 47% shooting – earned him many admirers around the league. But there are plenty of point guards available, so his value will be somewhat depressed this summer. He’s young (24) and he’s more of a pass-first point guard, which makes him worth mid-level money ($5-$5.5 M per season). Whoever locks him up should have a good point guard for years to come.
Chris Wilcox, SEA (restricted)
In 29 games with the Sonics, Wilcox averaged 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds, while shooting 59% from the floor and 79% from the free throw line. He proved that all he needed was consistent minutes to be productive and that the main reason he didn’t play for the Clippers is that he was buried behind Elton Brand and Chris Kaman. My guess is that Wilcox will sign a contract averaging in the $7 M-$9 M range, and he’ll be worth every penny.
Speedy Claxton, NO (unrestricted)
Claxton might end up being the best value on this list. He’s not the best shooter (42% lifetime), but he’s more of a setup man than a scorer. He averaged 12.3 points and 4.8 assists playing alongside Chris Paul for the Hornets. In three games as a starter, he averaged 20.7 points and 9.3 assists on 51% shooting. Speedy is a great guy to bring in if you have a few other stars you want to feature. I wouldn’t be surprised if he, like Banks, signs for mid-level money ($5 M-$5.5 M).
John Salmons, PHI (restricted)
If the Sixers do trade Allen Iverson away, they’d be smart to re-sign Salmons soon. He played very well as a starting guard, averaging 10.6 points and 5.2 assists per contest, and played even better in games that Iverson missed. A team that needs a complimentary, versatile swingman could sign Salmons to a deal in the $5 M-$7 M range and get good value for the duration of the contract as he continues to improve.
There aren’t as many quality big men available this summer, so four of the guys on this list are guards or swingmen. Expect the price of centers to be extremely high, especially considering the contracts that Tyson Chandler and Samuel Dalembert signed last summer.