NBA

Five underrated NBA free agent signings including Blazers landing Gary Payton II, TJ Warren to Nets

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Some NBA free agency moves have such an obvious impact that they immediately change the landscape of the league. Think about Kevin Durant signing with the Golden State Warriors in 2016. You knew right away it was a major move. However, not all signatures are like this. Some fly a little under the radar at first, but still prove substantial over time. We will focus here on the latter type.

Here’s a look at five underrated free agent signings from this summer who could ultimately prove very impactful for their respective teams.

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There’s so much uncertainty in Brooklyn right now following Kevin Durant’s recent trade request that it’s hard to predict exactly what the Nets’ opening night roster or rotation will look like. Nonetheless, TJ Warren was a solid pickup for the Nets. Warren has missed all but four games over the past two seasons due to injury issues, so it’s easy to overlook him at this point, but the dude can score. The last time he played a full season in 2019-20, he averaged nearly 20 points per game (19.8), while adding 4.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists while shooting 53. % from the ground and 40% from long range.

If the Nets end up getting him back with Durant and Kyrie Irving next season, then Warren will be able to provide some auxiliary scoring around those guys and take some of the load off their shoulders on the offensive side. If those two are gone, Warren is able to play a bigger role on the offensive end, as he’s a guy who can generate his own offense. Regardless, this is a legit offensive option that the Nets were able to secure for a very reasonable price (one year, $2.6 million). They just have to hope he can stay healthy.

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Dragic, 36, is clearly in the twilight of his career, but he still has quite a bit left in the tank, as he showed with the Nets last season. In 16 regular season games with Brooklyn at the end of the season, Dragic averaged 7.3 points, 4.8 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game – solid production for a backup.

In Chicago, Dragic will join a backcourt that already includes Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu, so it’s hard to predict exactly how big his role will be, but it’s never a bad thing to have a experienced veteran in your locker. room, especially for a team like the Bulls hoping to face off in a competitive Eastern Conference. Dragic is a proven hand at an important position. Plus, he’ll act as insurance of sorts, as Ball is still struggling with a knee injury that sidelined him for much of last season.

Dragic is a relatively cheap investment with no long-term commitment, which could turn out to be very valuable. It’s a low-risk, relatively rewarding move for the Bulls, and one that often proves prudent. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Dragic make a legit impact at some point for Chicago.

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Young Glove had a major impact on the Golden State Warriors last season by being the guy who did the dirty work, and he has the potential to do the same in Portland. Need to slow down the opposing team’s perimeter player? Payton II can do it. Need a timely rebound? Payton II will pick it up for you. Need someone to knock down an open 3? Payton has shown himself capable of doing that, too – he shot almost 36% from long range last season.

As a defensively oriented guard who doesn’t necessarily need the ball in his hands or whose games require it to be effective, Payton II plans to fit right into Portland’s backcourt alongside Damian Lillard. and Anfernee Simons. Payton II has never averaged more than 17 minutes per game in a season, but that’s likely to change in Portland, and if his playing time increases, his output – and impact – will likely follow.

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Danuel House is not a star player, far from it. But his size, versatility, and ability to space the floor with his shot will immediately meet some major Philadelphia needs. At 6’6″, House has the size to play at three different positions for the Sixers – at both ends of the floor – and because of that, he represents an upgrade over other reserve perimeter options that the team had last season.

Plus, as a career 36% shooter from long range, he’s a guy opposing defenses won’t be able to trick into applying extra pressure on Joel Embiid or James Harden. For these reasons, House was an ideal addition for Philadelphia at the price they got him (two years, $8.5 million). He could end up playing an important role for the Sixers next season.

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After helping the Golden State Warriors snag another banner, Otto Porter Jr. is taking his talents to Toronto, where he plans to fit in well as a rotational perimeter player. With guys like Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher, Thaddeus Young and OG Anunoby, the Raptors are a team with extreme length and versatility on the defensive end, and at 6’8″, Porter Jr. fits perfectly into that mold. Plus, he’s more than capable on the offensive end, where he’s averaged over 10.6 points per game and shot nearly 40 percent (39.8) in his career. For a team looking to struggle in the East, Porter Jr. is an ideal pick-up, especially at the relatively reasonable two-season rate of $12.3 million.

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