With the 2011-2012 NBA season two weeks away, teams have been in a free agent scramble post-lockout hoping to put their teams together and make a run during this 66-game season. The Dallas Mavericks are the defending NBA Champions and are ready to make a repeat run, but what player signings in free agency or trades went below the radar to improve NBA rosters inside and outside the boxscore?
Shane Battier (New team - Miami Heat, Old team - Memphis Grizzlies)
It wasn't but last summer that the Heat brought in Lebron James, Chris Bosh and a host of role players to join Dwayne Wade in Miami in hopes of winning an NBA title. The Heat came up short, losing to the Mavericks in the NBA Finals. A star-powered lineup adds Battier, 33, who might be the difference. A knockdown three-point shooter, veteran role player, and great defender are all Battier qualities that should make things easier for the "Big 3" in South Beach. The 6'8" forward played in all 82 games last season for Houston and Memphis and shot 38% from downtown. Battier is also a great locker room guy and can be a leader on the court if called upon.
Chuck Hayes (New team - Sacramento Kings, Old team - Houston Rockets)
The "Chuckwagon" will be missed at Toyota Center in Houston, but the undersized center Hayes has earned his contract with the Kings simply by doing the "dirty work" in the post in Houston the last six seasons. Hayes won't score you many points, but the veteran will grab you a ton of rebounds, defend the opposition's best post player and give you 28-30 minutes of hustle basketball. Hayes can also occasionally score in the post if the defense starts napping on defense.
The Kings may not get to the playoffs, but Hayes can work with and make J.J. Hickson and DeMarcus Cousins better NBA players by getting better at the "little things on the court," something Hayes has made a living doing in the NBA.
T.J. Ford (New team - San Antonio Spurs, Old team - Indiana Pacers)
George Hill (New team - Indiana Pacers, Old team - San Antonio Spurs)
The speedy Ford has found a home in San Antonio to backup All-Star PG Tony Parker as the Spurs have moved on from George Hill, trading him to the Pacers on draft day. A virtual flip flop of backup point guards, the Pacers get Hill, 25, who played great in San Antonio as a key role player the last three seasons and the Spurs get Ford, 28, the oft-injured guard who has yet to play all 82 games in an NBA season.
I like the moves for both teams, more for the Pacers of course, who get HIll to play behind Darren Collison. Hill scored nearly 12 points per game last season while adding 2.5 assists per game and can really push the basketball. Ford may thrive under Greg Popovich with a change of scenery on tap yet again as Ford makes his fourth stop in his NBA career (Bucks, Raptors, Pacers). What worries me for the Spurs is Ford averaged a career-low 5.1 points per game last season and only played in 41 games and starter Tony Parker has missed 30 games over the past two seasons.