A year ago today, 2021 NBA Free Agency was shaping up to be a crazy one full of superstar options. Extensions and trades have put a damper on that dream for all the teams with cap space, but there are still going to be strong options. Looking past the clear big names, take a look at five players who can surprise and provide plenty of value.
2021 NBA Free Agency: Five Low-Risk, High-Reward Players
Back Court Players
TJ McConnell is enjoying a great year for the Indiana Pacers. At 29-years-old, he may be ready to chase a ring. In that scenario, McConnell is a fantastic backup point guard option. This season he’s averaging 7.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 6.7 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. He’s more than just a high-energy sparkplug off the bench now. It’s unlikely McConnell drops double-digit points on the regular, but he’s grown to be a strong playmaker as seen by his assists averages. In addition, he’s a tenacious defender. McConnell is one of the league’s leaders in steals per game, and he comes off the bench! He’ll be looking for a solid payday, and one he deserves, but McConnell is every contenders’ dream.
Malik Monk of the Charlotte Hornets seemed like a bust just a short time ago, but he’s bouncing back and have a solid season. Monk is averaging 13.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game in 22 minutes on the floor. Most impressively, however, is his shooting. Monk has essentially established himself as a three-point sniper, shooting at 42.4 percent from deep. It’s unlikely that Monk becomes a starter, but he has real sixth-man potential.
Alec Burks is paying off big time for the New York Knicks. He was seen as a low-risk, high-reward free agent last offseason and has exceeded all expectations. He’s averaging 12.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game this season. In addition, he’s shooting 41 percent from deep and 87 percent from the free-throw line. Burks is so much more than just scoring, however. He’s a near-elite defender, playing a major role in the Knicks’ suffocating defense. Although he doesn’t start, he’s also a regular on the court during clutch time. He’s the ideal bench player for a top contender.
Front Court Players
Bobby Portis struggled with the Knicks last season but has found himself once again with the Milwaukee Bucks. His numbers are down, due to coming off the bench, but his impact is clear. He’s averaging 11.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, but also shooting an astounding 46 percent from deep. Portis is on a player option, but will likely decline as it is for less than $4 million a year. He’ll find more on the open market, but the Bucks will surely attempt to keep him as he is an ideal backup for Giannis Antetokounmpo. Portis, however, is more than capable of being an NBA starter.
Kelly Olynyk of the Houston Rockets is another enticing option. He was recently traded away from a contender in the Miami Heat, so will likely look to return to a contender while leaving Houston this summer. His intangibles make him a great big man to have off the bench. Olynyk stretches the floor, is a decent rebounder, and can be a pesky defender. His veteran experience on playoff teams will also be welcome, as he was in the Finals just last season.
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