Ring Chasers - Wings and Forwards
With salary caps tightening, contending teams are being forced to look at savvy veteran minimum signings now more than ever. Thankfully for those looking to dethrone the Los Angeles Lakers at the NBA’s summit, there are a number of players who can add something to those in search of a championship.
This series will look at a selection of veterans looking for their first or next ring, and break them down into the categories of:
Cost - Veteran Minimum, Tax-Payer Mid Level Exception, Mid-Level Exception
Today, we’ll be looking at a bevvy of wings and forwards who could make quite the impact on a contender’s roster, on both ends of the floor.
Carmelo Anthony - 36 years old, 6’8”
Mike Ehrmann/USA TODAY Sports
17 years of experience (77 playoff games)
10 x NBA All-Star (2007, 2008, 2010-2017)
2 x All-NBA Second Team (2010, 2013)
4 x All-NBA Third Team (2006, 2007, 2009, 2012)
NBA scoring champion (2013)
NBA All-Rookie First Team (2004)
Skillset: After unsuccessful stints in Oklahoma City and Houston, Carmelo Anthony’s return to the NBA in December 2019 showed that the man can still get buckets with the best of them. As a member of the Portland Trail Blazers, ‘Melo showed his offensive skills were still very much a problem.
After spending a year out of the league, Anthony averaged 15.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game on 43/38.5/84.5 shooting splits in a role that was a long-time coming. While ‘Melo showed he could still take over when necessary, his acceptance of a more supplementary role next to Damnian Lillard and CJ McCollum was a big step forward for the ten-time All-Star. With a playoff series statline of 15.2 points, 5.0 rebounds per game while shooting 42% from deep, Anthony ended the season strong.
Ideal role: Starting power forward or bench anchor
Suitable teams: Trail Blazers, Lakers, Clippers, Warriors
Cost: Vet. Minimum
Wesley Matthews - 34 years old, 6’4”
Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports
11 years of experience (46 playoff games)
Skillset: Veteran 3-and-D options are always something that NBA contenders are after for their roster, and Wesley Matthews fits that role to a tee. Matthews started 67 games for the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks, canning his threes at 36.4%. His athleticism has continued to dwindle after his Achilles injury in 2015, meaning Matthews isn’t the lockdown perimeter defender he once was. However, at a stout 6’4”, he’s still got the strength and skillset to plug a hole as a starter or rotation wing.
After declining his player option of $2.7 million, Matthews may go back to the Bucks on a new deal, or test his chances at another contender, for a pay rise.
Ideal role: Starting SG/SF or bench wing
Suitable teams: Bucks, Warriors, Clippers, Lakers, Blazers, Nets
Cost: Tax-payer MLE
Glen Robinson III - 26 years old, 6’6”
Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports
6 years of experience (12 playoff games)
NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion (2017)
Skillset: Glenn Robinson III is a great candidate as a 3-and-D role on a contender, while also generating some of his own offense. After joining the Golden State Warriors as a supplementary player, Robinson ended up starting 48 games for the struggling Dubs and was quietly very solid.
Averaging a career high 14.7 points per game on 48.1/40/85.1 splits, Robinson added in 5.4 rebounds per game and showed great production in almost 32 minutes per night, while taking on the opponent’s best player. After being traded to the 76ers, Robinson barely featured in their postseason push, and may be eyeing off a return to the Warriors on a minimum deal.
Ideal role: Starting SF or bench wing
Suitable teams: Warriors, Bucks, Clippers, Rockets, Blazers
Cost: Vet. minimum - MLE
Alec Burks - 29 years old, 6’6”
Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire
9 years of experience (17 playoff games)
Skillset: Capable of filling in either wing spot, Alec Burks has shown that he can score the basketball in a number of ways. With a smooth pullup jumper and steady stroke from downtown (38.5% last season), Burks also had a career year starting in Golden State and then also heading to Philadelphia. Burks posted the best points per game average of his career with 15.0, displaying his ability to handle the ball, drive to the rim and shoot the ball in a number of areas.
Converting his threes at 41.6% for the Sixers, and hitting 39.4% of his 2.5 pull-up threes per game, Burks’ quick trigger is exactly what a contending squad would love to bring off their bench. Able to hit from deep, get to the line and thrive in the mid-range, Burks’ offensive versatility is tantalising.
Ideal role: Sixth man
Suitable teams: Sixers, Warriors, Lakers, Rockets, Thunder
Kent Bazemore - 31 years old, 6’4”
Craig Mitchelldyer/AP Phot
8 years of experience (41 playoff games)
Skillset: A versatile wing, Kent Bazemore’s a stout defender, with his Defensive Player Impact Plus-Minus ranking in the NBA’s 92nd percentile. Splitting last season with the Trail Blazers and the Kings, Bazemore averaged 9.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game, with the 31-year old showing enough to suggest he’s a rotational guard on a contending roster.
Bazemore made his threes at 34.4% on 3.6 attempts per game, close enough to his career mark of 35.1% from downtown, to show that he’s steady from the perimeter without being scorching. Despite that, Bazemore can have some scoring bursts, but will prove his worth to a potential championship team on the other side of the floor.
Ideal role: Rotation wing
Suitable teams: Lakers, Clippers, Blazers, Warriors, Nets, Pacers
Cost: Vet. minimum - MLE
Justin Holiday - 31 years old, 6’6”
Bruce Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports
7 years of experience (9 playoff games)
NBA Champion (2015)
Skillset: Another veteran coming off a career year, Justin Holiday’s shown that his shooting ability at 6’6” are assets that a contender could utilise. With 42.8/40.5/79.1 shooting splits last season with the Pacers, the best of his career, Holiday’s year was the first time he had shown major production on a contending roster, helping the Pacers to the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference.
A savvy defender who can seriously stroke it from downtown is exactly what contenders are after to come off the bench, or impact the starting lineup, where he was forced to play for the Pacers due to injuries.
Ideal role: Spot starter or rotation wing
Suitable teams: Pacers, Trail Blazers, Warriors, Mavericks, Heat
Jae Crowder - 30 years old, 6’6”
8 years experience (72 playoff games)
Skillset: With the NBA’s resumption in ‘the bubble’, several players put their names up in lights, and Jae Crowder’s contribution to the Miami Heat’s NBA Finals run didn’t go unnoticed. Starting at power forward, Crowder continued to provide the tough defense and necessary assertiveness on the less glamorous end of the floor, forming a terrific one-two defensive punch with Jimmy Butler.
On the other end, Crowder’s three-point shooting caught alight in the seeding games and the early parts of the playoffs, but cooled down dramatically as the postseason wore on. His 34.2% from deep on 7.7 attempts per game. Despite that streakiness from downtown, Crowder remains a versatile two-way fit at the power forward position.
Ideal role: Starting power forward
Suitable teams: Heat, Clippers, 76ers, Warriors, Lakers
Garrett Temple - 34 years old, 6’5”
Michael Dwyer/AP Photo
10 years experience (30 playoff games)
Skillset: A veteran 3-and-D wing, Garrett Temple’s a tough wing that a lot of contenders would want in their rotation. While he’s not coming off a scorching shooting season in Brooklyn, where he made only 32.9% of his threes, Temple’s the type of player who can plug in and thrive without getting too many touches.
Due to Brooklyn’s injuries, Temple played a lot more than envisaged, averaging 10.3 points per game (a career high), on 32.9/47.3/80.5 shooting splits. Despite his team option likely to be declined by Brooklyn, Temple’s still the type of veteran presence that will get a look this season, albeit on a cheaper deal.
Ideal role: Rotation wing
Suitable teams: Lakers, Clippers, Warriors, Bucks, Mavericks, Nuggets
Cost: Vet. Minimum
Maurice Harkless - 27 years old, 6’7”
Morry Gash/AP Photo
8 years experience (33 playoff games)
Skillset: Maurice Harkless is an athletic weapon that can be utilised well on both ends of the floor. He’s also shown the capability to hit from long range at a decent clip, converting his threes at 37% during 50 games with the LA Clippers. While that percentage fell off a cliff when Harkless was traded to New York, crashing down to 28% from downtown, the stats with the Clippers is the more accurate representation. With less offensive talent in New York, Harkless was getting more attention, where on a contender, he’ll get more wide open corner looks from deep.
Harkless is also a handy defender, using his 6’7” frame to get into the passing lane, and also be adept at guarding wings or smaller guards. Corner threes and versatile defensive skills? Harkless will be a very useful player to any team looking at taking the next step to an NBA championship
Ideal role: Starting SF or rotation wing
Suitable teams: Warriors, Trail Blazers, 76ers, Rockets, Nuggets, Lakers
Marco Belinelli - 34 years old, 6’5”
Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports
13 years of experience (65 playoff games)
NBA Champion (2014)
NBA Three-Point Contest champion (2014)
Skillset: Marco Bellinelli has made a living out of doing one thing pretty damn well and that’s shooting from deep. A “down year” for the veteran swingman still ended with a season mark of 37.6% from deep, in just 15 minutes per game, which matches his career mark from downton. When you see that Bellinelli converted 39% of his open threes, there’s definitely a few contenders who would be willing to look past the 34-year old’s defensive deficiencies.
Ideal role: End of rotation shooter
Suitable teams: Warriors, 76ers, Lakers, Clippers, Suns, Nuggets, Nets
Cost: Vet. Minimum
Jeff Green - 34 years old, 6’8”
12 years of experience (72 playoff games)
NBA All-Rookie First Team (2008)
Skillset: Jeff Green’s bounced around the NBA for quite some time, showing tantalising bursts of offensive production, with the 6’8” forward known for his scoring ability. Then, Green found his way to the Houston Rockets late last season and things changed. There, Green showed real potential as a small-ball big, even playing minutes at the 5, as he posted 12.2 points per night during his 18 games for the Rockets, on effective 56.4/35.4/80 shooting splits.
In 12 playoff games for Houston, Green averaged 11.5 points, 5.0 rebounds per game, all while shooting 42.6% from deep, setting him up for more interest from contenders this offseason.
Ideal role: Reserve power forward or small-ball centre
Suitable teams: 76ers, Mavericks, Celtics, Heat, Hawks, Rockets
Cost: Vet. minimum or MLE