Players and teams can start signing contracts on Thursday, and while LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony get all the attention, some of the most important guys are the role players. It’s those guys who do the little things that help their team win. They don’t win the scoring titles or make the all-NBA teams – most of them aren’t even starters for their team – but they contribute to the victories in ways that often go unnoticed. With that in mind, here is a list of five players (one at each position) who could help improve any team into a playoff contender.
Andray Blatche, center
The Nets gave Blatche an opportunity to move past his time with the Washington Wizards, which ended in 2012 in an amnesty buyout, and they were rewarded. Blatche was one of best backup centers in the NBA by averaging 11.2 points and 5.3 rebounds in 22.2 minutes per game during the 2013-14 season. He could also help a team looking for some defensive help.
Below is his adjusted defensive impact graph during the regular season. Warm colors (red and orange) indicate that offensive players shoot better when a player is on the court. Blue colors indicate the opposite and as you can see, there aren’t many spots on the floor where the opposition had the advantage with Blatche on the court.
Chris Andersen, power forward
Miami Heat big man Chris Andersen could be a big addition for anyone looking for a finishing touch around the basket coupled with solid defense around the rim and against the pick and roll.
The Bridman shot 79.8 percent on touches starting within 12 feet of the basket during the regular season and had an overall effective field goal percentage of 64.9 percent.
Opponents shot just 47.8 percent when Anderson defended the rim and, according to Synergy Sports, he allowed just 0.9 points per possession when the opposition ran the pick and roll (58th best in the league).
Dante Cunningham, small forward
Cunningham’s off-court issues could be a distraction, but he tallied 6.3 points and 2.9 Win Shares for the Minnesota Timberwolves and is another player who can help any team looking for help on the defensive side of the court. According to Synergy Sports, Cunningham allowed just 0.65 points per possession against the pick and roll, good for sixth lowest among all players last season.
Vince Carter, shooting guard
The 37-year-old Carter is coming off a season in which he averaged 11.9 points per game and 0.92 points per possession when the Mavericks had him handle the ball during the pick and roll – 21st best in the league. He was also extremely effective at the right corner-three, where he converted 12 of 25 (48 percent).
Rodney Stuckey, point guard
Stuckey finished his 2013-14 campaign averaging 13.9 points and 2.1 assists in almost 27 minutes of play per game. He averaged 2.4 points per game off turnovers and when Detroit gained possession via a steal, Stuckey had an effective field goal percentage of 61.6 percent.
He is not a long ball threat (27.3 percent from beyond the arc) but he did convert the close shots — those that originate within 12 feet of the rim — at a rate of 53.6 percent plus created 0.9 points per possession when posting up (53rd best in league). Stuckey also created 8.6 points per 48 minutes off assists last season.