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Lesser moves could make difference
The destinations of the mega-stars quite naturally attracted the most attention from the media and the fans. However, during the suspense and the headlines generated by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer, several significant free agent signings and sign-and-trades have passed under the radar.
LeBron James is one of many free agents making important decisions.
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While these “secondary” moves will certainly not have the same drama and impact as the moves of the A-level players, they will just as certainly be of critical importance to the teams involved.
For example, the consequence of the Lakers signing Steve Blake should not be underestimated. He has the vision, intelligence and passing chops to be an easy fit into the triangle. Plus, Blake is a dangerous 3-point shooter and an above-average on-the-ball defender. If he’s not as explosive as Jordan Farmar, Blake will make fewer mistakes and better decisions.
With Derek Fisher still on the team, Blake can count on playing at least 24 minutes per game, allowing L.A. to limit Fish’s playing time to six minutes at the beginning of the first and third quarters, as well as the last few minutes of the second and fourth quarters. Overall, Blake’s presence will make the triangle much more efficient.
In Boston, the re-upping of Ray Allen along with Paul Pierce means the Celtics believe this crew is capable of embarking on one more championship run. Jermaine O’Neal gives them some muscle in the middle while Kendrick Perkins recuperates, plus more offensive capabilities. O’Neal does lack KP’s power and defensive presence, but — if he can stay healthy — he still can provide 20 minutes of semi-quality work in the paint.
However, the tandem of O’Neal and the vertically challenged Glen Davis needs to be augmented. And Boston still needs a reliable backup point guard.
Even though he can’t defend or handle the ball, quick-trigger perimeter shooter Kyle Korver is a necessary component for Chicago — especially since Derrick Rose is only a 24.2% shooter from beyond the arc. Yes, he needs to have plays run for him, but Korver can spread the defense and keep the middle open for Rose and Carlos Boozer. If Korver is essentially a one-dimensional player, he provides precisely the dimension the Bulls so desperately need.
In Carlos Boozer, the Bulls finally have obtained the services of a go-to interior scorer they’ve lacked since … who? Orlando Woolridge? Artis Gilmore? Bob Boozer?
In Miami, Mike Miller would be the perfect complementary player for LBJ and D-Wade. If he signs, look for Miller to be the recipient of numerous kick-out passes when defenses cluster around the lane penetrations of James and Wade. Also, Miller would give the Heat a dependable long-range bomber to compensate for the erratic perimeter shooting of both LeBron and D-Wade.
Darko Milicic’s decision to forgo a return to Europe and stay in the NBA is a good sign for the T-Wolves. He’s always had the size, athleticism and skills to be a significant force in the lane, and his return to Minnesota — particularly if they can unclog the middle by dispatching Al Jefferson to some distant location — surely indicates that Milicic is ready to commit himself to being a big-time player. A five-year, $20 million contract is a relatively low-cost investment that just might pay extremely beneficial dividends.
Phoenix’s signing of Hakim Warrick is another low-risk deal. Just watch how Warrick’s quickness and scoring skills will thrive on the cookies Steve Nash will feed him.
David Lee gives Golden State a rare player who can do good things without having his number called. His arrival, along with the departure of Corey Maggette, will be greeted with hosannas by Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry.
For the Knicks, Anthony Randolph is Amar’e Stoudemire light — very light. Ronny Turiaf is a part-time banger with a jumper, and Kelenna Azubuike has a knack for dropping treys and getting injured. However, Raymond Felton is a strong, solid, screen/roll point guard who’s also a surprisingly good shooter and defender. Expect Felton to make sure that the Knicks make good decisions in the clutch — which will be a welcome change.
Will Michael Beasley become a grownup in Minnesota? Who knows?
Travis Outlaw will thoroughly enjoy his license to shoot in New Jersey. Don’t expect him to pass, defend or rebound, but don’t be surprised if he winds up being a 20-point scorer.
The biggest supernovas get most of the money and most of the props, but over the long haul, the right role players can be the difference between success and failure.
If you have a question or comment for Charley Rosen, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and he may respond in a future column.
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