NBA free agency has been swinging over the several days. Plenty of big moves got the headlines, such as Jalen Brunson signing with the New York Knicks. Then other stories exploded, such as the massive extensions handed out to stars, the Kevin Durant trade saga, and other major completed trades such as Rudy Gobert heading to the Minnesota Timberwolves. With all this noise, there are always free agent signings that fly under the radar.
Underrated NBA Free Agency Signings
Gary Payton II was a great snag by the Portland Trail Blazers. Payton is mostly known for his defense capabilities, and rightfully so. Although a bench player for the reigning NBA champions Golden State Warriors, Payton II could always be trusted to guard an opposing team’s best backcourt player. This will bode exceptionally well for the Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons will be expected handle the backcourt scoring load. Of course, they’ll still give it their all defensively, but having one of them play alongside Payton II will allow them to focus more on the offensive end. Portland also won’t be rushed to throw Shaedon Sharpe into the fold immediately, allowing him to better acclimate to the pros.
Ricky Rubio coming back to the Cleveland Cavaliers is another fantastic move. Rubio is what any team wants from a backup point guard – a steady hand who can create plays but also get his own buckets when needed. Darius Garland is clearly the future of Cleveland, although he needed more help directly behind him. Rubio already has history with the Cavaliers and can help move the team over the play-in tournament hump.
Donte DiVincenzo can also blossom for the Warriors. Golden State lost talent this offseason, such as the aforementioned Payton II, but DiVincenzo’s fit is perfect for the system. He can play both guard positions, but can also play the three if needed. He’s a dynamic player overall, and his playing stile is set to thrive in the Warriors offense. An injury in the 2021 playoffs derailed his career, but Golden State will allow DiVincenzo to bounce back.
Otto Porter Jr. signed a very team-friendly deal with the Toronto Raptors. This was a tad surprising considering he carved a very solid role for the Warriors. The Raptors are getting one of the better bench wings in the entire league, especially when it comes to shooting. Toronto knew they needed to address shooting this offseason, and did just that with this signing. In addition, there’s been rumors regarding OG Anunoby‘s discontent. If he were to move, Porter Jr. provides excellent insurance.
Minnesota’s biggest move this offseason was the Gobert blockbuster, so of course that garners the most attention. Signing Kyle Anderson was a great move, however. He doesn’t necessarily excel in any department, but Anderson does all the little things well. Looking at the way the roster is constructed, it would be no surprise to see Anderson start at the three for the Timberwolves. He’ll be a reliable player who will play solid defense, facilitate, and score when needed. His experience with the Memphis Grizzlies last season will help Minnesota.
Bringing in Bruce Brown, and especially for relatively cheap, was a huge bargain for the Denver Nuggets. Brown can play both guard and forward. Although the size of a guard, Brown plays hard and big. Aaron Gordon saw a ton of work in being Denver’s defensive enforcer and the “forceful” player on offense, and Brown immediately lightens that load. The Nuggets love versatility and Brown brings this.
JaVale McGee is exactly what the Dallas Mavericks needed. The one question mark surrounding his contract is a player option in the last year, but perhaps that was needed to seal the deal. The most apparent need for Dallas after their playoff run was rim protection and rebounding. McGee, of course, excels at this. He rebounds at will and deters shots with strong defense. In addition to this, he looks like an excellent lob threat for Luka Doncic. There’s a very real possibility that McGee starts for Dallas alongside new acquisition Christian Wood. Dallas knew they had a frontcourt issue and they were quick to address it.
Isaiah Hartenstein did not receive the attention he deserved last season, and it happened once again during NBA free agency. The LA Clippers were surprisingly solid even after injuries decimated their team. Hartenstein played a major role in this. He remains one of the best rim protectors in the entire NBA, and that is not an exaggeration. In addition, Hartenstein is also quite useful on the offensive end. He’s not quite a floor spacer just yet, but he’s still command defensive attention. He’s not likely to start since the Knicks brought Mitchell Robinson back, but Hartenstein should once again be one of the league’s top big men off the bench.