With all the big names taken off the NBA’s free agent market, franchise executives now look to sift through the rest of the players available to add depth and variety to their respective team’s benches. Although these signings rarely make big news in the press, the difference between a team with a deep bench against a team with a weak, thin bench makes a large impact on teams’ playoff chances and those teams’ success in the postseason.
Sam Young, Small Forward
Drafted in the second round out of Pittsburgh in 2009, Young posted promising numbers in his first two seasons as a Memphis Grizzly by averaging 7 ppg on 46% shooting. But, after a trade sent him to Philadelphia in March last season after playing only 11 mpg in only 21 games, he saw his production continue to drop as a result of even more restrictions of his playing time. In Philadelphia, Young only played in 14 games, at a rate of 10 mpg.
After a career at Pitt that saw Young post averages of 18 and 19 ppg in his junior and senior seasons, Young fell in the draft but was considered to be first-round talent. A career 45% shooter, Young can bring toughness off the bench for any team, as well as a solid perimeter game and scoring punch at either the shooting guard or small forward position. His tough-nosed defense is often overlooked, as well.
Jonny Flynn, Point Guard
Coming out of Syracuse in 2009, many expected Flynn to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves in their attempts to rebuild a terrible, terrible team. That is, until general manager David Kahn selected Spanish wunderkind Ricky Rubio with the T’Wolves’ ensuing draft choice at No. 7 overall. When it became known Rubio would join the team after spending two season in Spain, his presence resulted in the expendability of Flynn. This, coming after Flynn lost his starting job to Luke Ridnour in the 2010-11 season and played only 19 minutes per each of the 53 games he played.
With Rubio’s imminent arrival in Minnesota, Flynn was shipped to Houston, and later traded to Portland where he finished the most recent season. Between playing for each club, Flynn only saw an average playing time of only 14 mpg, and started only one of the 29 games he participated in. Flynn’s free agency allows him to pursue a new team that can offer him extended playing time and further his development. At 23-years old, Flynn is nowhere close to hitting the ceiling of what kind of player he can become, and showed a lot of potential in his rookie season, averaging 14 ppg and 4 apg.
Mickael Pietrus, Guard-Forward
Pietrus is not a player that many teams are chomping at the bit to sign, but Pietrus is yet another player who would bring value and depth to a team, especially a contender where he could come off the bench. He isn’t a great scorer, but offense is not what he stakes his reputation on as a basketball player. Rather, Pietrus’ greatest strength is his defense on the perimeter and would serve as a “stopper” coming off the bench.
Last season, Pietrus was used in that exact manner while playing for the Boston Celtics. In the playoffs especially, coach Doc Rivers assigned Pietrus with locking down an opposing team’s best perimeter player, most notably Dwyane Wade and LeBron James in Boston’s Eastern Conference Finals matchup against the Miami Heat. In addition to his defense, Pietrus can spread the floor with his three-point shooting ability, and brings a 36% career rate from beyond the arc. With nine years spent in the league playing primarily for playoff teams in Golden State, Orlando, and Boston, the 30-year old Pietrus also owns a wealth of experience in the league. Teams looking for a shooter/lockdown defender off the bench could do better, but also much worse than with what Pietrus brings to the proverbial table.
Kenyon Martin, Forward
Another experienced player, the 34-year old Martin will enter his thirteenth season in the Association if he plays out another year. Which he likely will as teams always seek out good rebounders and post defender—two aspects that make up the hallmarks of Martin’s career.
Coming off the bench for the Clippers last season, Martin played the least amount of time on a per game basis in his career, but still managed to have an impact upon games. He played in only 42 games at 22 mpg, but averaged 5 ppg and more importantly, 4 rpg for the Clippers. A career 48% shooter, and at 7 rpg over the course of his career, Martin should have another year or two left in the tank, especially in limited stretches as a specialist in rebounding and defense.
Carlos Delfino. Guard-Forward
Delfino could be as much of a steal as Flynn if he latches on with a team before the season begins. Although already 29-years old, the 6’6”, 230-lb. guard-forward would bring great value on the perimeter if signed. Last season, Delfino averaged 9 ppg and 4 rpg in 29 mpg while starting 53 of the 54 games he played.
In the 2011-12 campaign, Delfino shot right on par with his career shooting averages of 36% from distance and 40% from the field overall. After two seasons averaging 11 and 12 ppg, Delfino’s production dropped slightly, but only because of a decrease in playing time. With his length and versatility, Delfino proved he can contribute as a starter, but would also be a great veteran option off the bench.