NBA

Examining the league's top free-agent role players

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Charley Rosen

Charley Rosen is FOXSports.com's NBA analyst and author of 17 sports books, the current ones being Bullpen Diaries: Mariano Rivera, Bronx Dreams, Pinstripe Legends, and the Future of the New York Yankees and Crazy Basketball: A Life In and Out of Bounds.

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During this summer's free-agent and trading bonanzas, literally all of the media attention has gone to the high-profile players who have switched allegiances. Guys like Shaq, Vince Carter, Rasheed Wallace, Ron Artest, Ben Gordon, Richard Jefferson and Charlie Villanueva. Guys who are mostly top-of-the line scorers, with only Rasheed, RJ and Ron-Ron also gaining kudos for their defense. And guys who will presumably make a highly noticeable impact on their new teams.
However, there are several players whose respective changes of address have not been as universally noted, but who will likewise have a considerable influence on the fortunes of their latest employers. Guys who are role players and whose primary contributions will not necessarily be reflected in numbers. Let's take a close look at some of these players and analyze how important those contributions might be.

Anthony Parker to the Cavs

For the past several years, Cleveland's most overriding offseason concerns have been to surround LeBron with the "right" players. That is, to focus on accomplished shooters and/or scorers who would hopefully make opponents pay dearly for collapsing their defenses around LBJ's irresistible forays into the paint. These recruits include Mo Williams, Wally Szczerbiak, Damon Jones, Larry Hughes, Flip Murray, Donyell Marshall, Sasha Pavlovic, Lucious Harris, Jeff McGinnis, Jiri Welsch, Ricky Davis, Jason Kapono, Daniel Gibson and Dajuan Wagner. The results have been mixed, yet disappointing overall. Shaq, of course, will be the Cavs' featured addition. But, in deviating from their usual modus operandi, Cleveland has also obtained the services of one of the best role players in the game. Here's what Anthony Parker will bring to the mix:
  • Incredibly accurate 3-point shooting: 41.5 percent for his career.
  • Excellent defense, with the size (6-foot-6, 215 pounds) to guard small forwards and the quickness to defend shooting guards.
  • An effective variety of iso moves, including turn-around and step-back jumpers.
  • Intelligent pass-work and terrific court vision.
  • Even though his lifetime average is 10.1 points per game, he doesn't need undue ball-time to score.
  • Endless heart and hustle.
  • Complete unselfishness. In other words, Parker is capable of doing the kind of trenchwork that all championship teams require. Plus his considerable, yet unassuming talents can fit into any system. Imagine the damage and the nightmarish matchups that the following unit could inflict on opponents: Shaq, LBJ, Williams, Delonte West and Parker. In fact, these five have all the earmarks of a championship-winning lineup. In Parker, at long last, the Cavs have a perfect compliment to LBJ's unique skills.

    Brandon Bass to the Magic

    Bass can routinely knock down mid-range jumpers, can rebound like he's a beggar and the ball is made of gold, and is always a fierce competitor. Moreover, the more he plays, the more accurate his jumpers will be. His presence augurs several changes in Orlando's game plan, most of them positive:
  • He's stronger and more athletic than the departed Hedo Turkoglu and will therefore provide Dwight Howard with a more mobile and more versatile rebounding buddy.
  • Bass is likewise a more forceful low-post defender than Turkoglu.
  • His particular skills provide an in-between alternate to the pivotal scoring of Howard and the long-distance shooting of Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus and J.J. Redick.
  • Passing isn't one of Bass' strong points, and without Turkoglu operating as a point-forward, the Magic will present a more traditional lineup — one, however, that will not present as many favorable mismatches on offense. This means that Jameer Nelson will have increased set-up responsibilities — a fortuitous turn of events since he's the Magic's best decision-maker and most reliable clutch performer.
  • The presence of Bass also forces Stan Van Gundy to open up his offense and create more off-the-ball movement — a change that will ultimately result in more versatility and more consistency. Overall, Bass makes the Magic tougher and more consistently aggressive.

    Darius Songaila to the Timberwolves

    Songaila doesn't possess A-plus skills in any of the common aspects of the game. He's a slightly better-than-average shooter (with limited range), rebounder and passer, and has very rudimentary ball-handling talents. On the high-plus side, though, he's an earnest defender and can make his free throws. Even so, the best parts of Songaila's game are his energy, his discipline and his smarts. So much of a given team's success depends not only on talent — which every NBA team has in abundance — but also on the ability of its players to execute at both ends of the court. Getting the ball to the right player in the right place at the right time is what wins games on offense. On defense, the key to success is being able to execute swift, coordinated and flawless rotations. Songaila is the ultimate facilitator whose value can only be discerned if the diligent viewer studiously tracks his movements through a game. Whoever winds up coaching the T-Wolves will undoubtedly come to feel that Songaila is one of his favorite players.
  • Tagged: Hawks, Bulls, Cavaliers, Pistons, Rockets, Clippers, Bucks, Nets, Knicks, Magic, 76ers, Raptors, Metta World Peace, Larry Hughes, Wally Szczerbiak, Richard Jefferson, Rasheed Wallace, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, Donyell Marshall, Vince Carter, Damon Jones, Flip Murray, Mickael Pietrus, Sasha Pavlovic, Jason Kapono, Mo Williams, Dwight Howard, Ben Gordon, Jameer Nelson, Delonte West, Charlie Villanueva, Daniel Gibson, Anthony Parker, Dajuan Wagner

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