While marquee free agents like LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan have dominated free agency news this summer, the signings with the greatest impact to the league are the smaller ones. In a league built and run by the stars, role players tend to be a forgotten commodity. Here are 3 over-looked signings that will shake up the league.
Monta Ellis to Indiana:
The Indiana Pacers went through a lot in 2014, losing two stars during the offseason, forward Lance Stephenson in free agency and All-Star Paul George to injury. Coming off an Eastern Conference Finals appearance, the team finished with a 38-44 record and missed the playoffs last season. While they were still strong on defense, the Pacers were lacking on the other end of the court. Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles couldn’t produce the same amount of offense as Stephenson and George. To fill Stephenson’s spot as the team’s 2nd option, the Pacers signed up guard Monta Ellis. Ellis has garnered a bad reputation around the league for his low-percentage shooting and lackluster defense. But Indiana offers a perfect place to let his talents shine through. Most of Ellis’ inconsistency comes from playing off the ball and not having the size to cover bigger players. Indiana needs a primary ball-handler to attack defenses as a facilitator, and have built they’re roster around defense. Lightning quick and with great vision, Ellis fits Indiana’s offensive needs perfectly, and Indiana can hide Ellis on the defensive end. With the edition of Ellis, Indiana looks strong and ready to return to the top of the East.
Al-Farouq Aminu to Portland:
The situation in Dallas is not looking good. They lost Tyson Chandler to Phoenix and DeAndre Jordan backed out of his agreement and signed with the LA Clippers. They also lost Al-Farouq Aminu. With 4 out of 5 of Portland’s 2014-2015 starting line-up on other teams, Aminu’s signing means more to Dallas than it does to Portland. Aminu played in a limited bench role for the Mavericks last season, though he was seen by their front office as the future of the Dallas frontcourt. Aminu is a versatile stretch-4 who can shoot from the outside and dominate down low. With Dirk Nowitzki entering the twilight of his career, many thought Aminu could eventually replace the future Hall of Famer. Now that they’ve been unable to secure Jordan, the Mavericks’ future is now in jeopardy. Without Aminu or Chandler, the team has no remotely adequate defender in the paint to cover up for Dirk short term, and need to design their plans for replacing him in the long term. The Mavs may continue to drop in the standings without a decent frontcourt next year, and could potentially miss the playoffs entirely. This will open up the playoff race for other teams, so look for the Suns and the Jazz go after Dallas’ spot in the playoffs next season.
Kosta Koufos to Sacramento:
From the surface, nothing is going right in Sac-town. George Karl has alienated his star player and his team owner and the Kings were so desperate for talent that they signed the struggling Rajon Rondo. But looking deeper, things may not be so bad in Sacramento. Former Kings player Vlade Divac has proved to be a smart GM. Divac replaced Nik Stauskas, who didn’t make much of an impact for the Kings in 2014-2015, with Marco Belinelli, a solid shooter who will bring a disciplined San Antonio mentality to the wild team. He also used his new cap space to sign Kosta Koufos. Arguably the best non-star on the market this year, the 7th year center played extremely well as a back-up with the Memphis Grizzlies last season. With DeMarcus Cousins primed to explode next season, Koufos will add some stable production in the front court for the Kings. Unless team politics get in the way, he, along with Belinelli, are undoubtedly going to improve the Kings, and the team that started off last season with a 5-1 record before DeMarcus fell ill could surprise the West by being even slightly successful.