Five Most Underrated Free-Agent Signings

By Jonathan Hartzell, NBA.com

The NBA offseason tends to be dominated by articles and information about the top players in the league. Often forgotten about are the fringe stars and role players on every team who do the little things to help win games.

With this in mind, here are the five most underrated free-agent signings of the 2013-14 offseason:

Earl Clark, Cleveland Cavaliers – 2-years, $9 million

Earl Clark should help the Cavaliers' bench.

Earl Clark should help the Cavaliers’ bench.

Clark instantly fills a void for the Cavaliers and he could help Cleveland make it back to the playoffs. The 6-foot-10 Clark had his best NBA season with the Lakers in 2012-13, averaging 7.3 points and 5.5 rebounds in 23.1 minutes. He will provide valuable length and athleticism off the bench at an extremely affordable rate and, at 25 years old, his game still has a lot of room to grow.

Jose Calderon, Dallas Mavericks – 4-years, $29 million

Jose Calderon's passing ability will be welcomed in Dallas.

Jose Calderon’s passing ability will be welcomed in Dallas.

The Spanish guard played eight seasons with the Toronto Raptors before being traded to the Detroit Pistons midseason. As a Raptor he experienced only one winning season, but he proved to be one of the best distributors in the league. He added a significantly improved 3-point shot last season to finish the season averaging 11.3 points and 7.1 assists on 49.1 percent shooting and a league-leading 46.1 percent from 3-point range. The contract he signed with Dallas this summer is arguably too long and expensive for a player who isn’t a stalwart defender. However, this will prove to be an important deal if Calderon is able to help Dirk Nowitzki lead the Mavericks back into the playoffs.

Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks – 2-years, $19 million

Paul Millsap may have a lot of reasons to smile in Atlanta.

Paul Millsap may have a lot of reasons to smile in Atlanta.

This is a great deal if the Hawks’ plan is to make the playoffs this season. Millsap is one of the most underrated power forwards in the league and incredibly Atlanta signed him to a practically risk-free two-year deal. The 6-foot-8 forward from Louisiana Tech played his first seven NBA seasons with the Jazz and averaged 14.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals last season. The one negative about this signing? It pushes long-time Hawk Al Horford back to the center spot where he is nowhere near as dominant as he is as a power forward. But when you have the opportunity to bring in a player of Millsap’s talent level, preferred rotations and positions can be worked out later.

C.J. Watson, Indiana Pacers – 2-years, contract terms undisclosed

C.J. Watson

C.J. Watson significantly upgrades the Pacers’ guard depth.

Watson has proven to be one of the NBA’s best backup point guards over the last few seasons and his presence on the Pacers will significantly improve their depth. Watson allows the Pacers to not fall too far behind when starter George Hill rests. Plus, Watson’s ability to handle the ball and shoot from 3-point range (41.1 percent last season) will let Indiana occasionally run a Hill-Watson backcourt. The 6-foot-2 guard spent last season as the top backup for the Nets’ Deron Williams and before that, spent two successful seasons with the Chicago Bulls. Watson knows his role and his ability to consistently perform it makes this a great signing for the Pacers.

Mike Dunleavy, Chicago Bulls – 2-years, $6 million

Mike Dunleavy Jr.

Mike Dunleavy Jr. is a well-skilled and solid NBA veteran.

Dunleavy is an excellent floor-spacer who can consistently knock down 3-point shots at a high rate and provides the Bulls with solid bench depth after the departures of Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli. His presence should help create driving and passing lanes for Derrick Rose, who is reportedly one of the major reasons Dunleavy wanted to play in Chicago. The 32-year-old Dunleavy spent the last two seasons with the Bucks, averaging 10.5 points, 3.9 boards and shot 42.8 percent shooting from 3-point range last season. This signing looks like a terrific deal for  Dunleavy and Chicago as it should help the Bulls reclaim their spot as a championship contender when Rose returns.

100 Comments

  1. Jorge says:

    Don’t let age fool you. Jose Calderon is 32 but his body is much younger. He takes care of his body and his game isn’t all about athleticism, it’s about smart basketball like Steve Nash, etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a breakout season with the mavs this year. They didn’t have the best offseason and their backcourt will struggle defensively, but Shawn Marion and Samuel Dalembert are underrated defenders that will take the load on that end of the court.

  2. No Regrets says:

    I meant, Dallas

  3. No Regrets says:

    Jose Calderon : Grossly overpaid, a move the Pistons will come to regret

  4. WILKSY08 says:

    For those hatin on Boozer still, you really need to check his numbers last season. He led tohe eastern conference in double doubles, had his best fg% year since he was in Utah. TBh he was a major reason wy the Bulls won so many games las year #stophatinonbooz

  5. The People says:

    People who reckon Oden will be healthy this year. Jesus christ. It is the exact same situation with brandon roy. Says he is coming back and people are all over it saying how it is such a good pick up…we all know what happened there. He’s knees are absolutely done…he is cooked. There is no saving his career, its over,

  6. thejerr says:

    only one signing is worth me worrying about, and thats greg oden to the heat…… if this dude stays somewhat healthy and can give u 15 to 20min a game….. watch out, miamis unstoppable AND they dont even have to play small

  7. RIP says:

    As a Pistons fan, I can say that Calderon is a horrible signing. I’m glad we let him walk, wouldn’t pay him that much and definitely not for that long. They’ll regret that contract in a year or two max. Just because there was not alot of good PG options in FA doesn’t mean you should overpay for one of the better ones available, I wouldn’t have given Calderon more than 2 years, 10 Million.

  8. Michael says:

    Jose Calderon the most uderated!! Mavs have OK team,considering everithing….

  9. JOE HARD says:

    Mark Cuban is wasting $29 M for a player like Calderon! He should have got the likes of DJ Augustin or Brandon Jennings.

  10. Truth says:

    Heat fans are like a kid that picks the all star team on nba 2k and beats the Bucks and brag about it all day long.

    • Sit Down says:

      I sense bitterness and hatred, yet no one provoked such a comment. Hopefully you simmer down by the start of the season and enjoy the NBA for the entertainment it provides instead of just watching just to see if the Heat will lose.

  11. ERIC says:

    REALLY!!!Brooklyn just got a Hall of Famer coach, two Hall of Famer players and two all-star!!!Also, Kudos for Clippers for trading for a coach. Best move so far.

    • Sit Down says:

      This article is about FREE AGENTS, the big acquisitions that BKN made were not free agents

  12. Devon Peterson says:

    Why not Kevin Martin for the Wolves?? That was possibly the best signing of the whole year. The wolves came through this year in the off-season.

    • JeffX says:

      Whats the bet Love gets traded or waits to the end of next seson and leaves Mini. I’ll bet he ends up at Lakers.

  13. Kimmy says:

    I only care about the Hawks for this particular article. I really hope Millsapp works out. I just have a gut feeling they will not make the playoffs this year. Not so much because they became a worse team, but because teams like Wizards, Cleveland, Detroit may have jumped a higher notch than them. This is fireworks to me. I’m very disappointed that the Hawks didn’t use all of their salary cap money to get more and better players. All summer long their website kept announcing this (how much money they have to spend to make a better team), but I never saw the fireworks here. Did I miss something? We will see. Go Hawks. Go Hawks. Go Hawks.

    • christopher roman says:

      Next summer is not a quiet one. This year might be a small part of their plan to build that potential championship team.I am not saying that they have space for Lebron, because I dont know what their cap space is, but they might lure stars if they a good point guard out of this year’s draft and have not necessarily a winning season, but Horford and Millsap producing 18 ppg and 9rpg numbers on average between the two. It is possible. NBA. Where Unexpected Happens.

  14. josey says:

    brooklyn nets picking up Andrekirilenko was agreat pickup! Hes a stat filler! Great 4 coming off the bench!

  15. Erick says:

    I would think that the Darren Collison signing would be up there. Nick Young should be up there as well.

    • best gm says:

      what has Darren collision done, ever? aside from filling in for CP3 when CP3 had all the role players trained to hit the corner three?

      You probably love J lin too…

      • christopher roman says:

        The only I will comment about is Jeremy Lin. I think he is overrated constantly by fans and the media. He is player that probably had a lot of time to practice certain moves on the court. had a chance to play and busted out all his moves knowing he had nothing to risk. Because it was not hard work or hidden talent. As soon as scouting reports got out on how to guard Jeremy Lin, he began to fade.For him to blossom, he would need excellent shooters and good players in the pick and roll, giving open lanes since he cannot finish strongly with both hands.

      • Sit Down says:

        @ Christopher Roman don’t worry, people have gotten over him like halfway through last season, I don’t remember seeing his name in the ESPN again after he went to the Rockets and one last time when he got injured during the playoffs.

  16. Ziden says:

    Eye still dink dat Robin Lopez going too da blazers waz da best deel. All so, eye like dat Paul Mill Sap went to da Hawkk, ree placing Josh Smith. Eye agree dat da mavs mad a good sine bye sining jose calderon. Da mavs kneeded a point gard, and know dey got one.

    • christopher roman says:

      Jose Calderon is a good signing but not for a G.M. to give a contract for four years. A decent contract would have been a 2 year/ 12.00 million dollar contract

  17. rfjhooper says:

    Lakers are goin nowhere this season as they are going to tank. I just hope the new commish doesn t rig the draft (just like when the knicks got Ewing) so the Lakers go number one next year. Looking forward to the Hornet brand returning to Charlotte next year along with the number one pick. GO BEES

  18. rfjhooper says:

    Dwight Buyks is the best signing by far by the Raps. He is a rookie but came out 2 years ago and was undrafted. Went to France and has now broken into the league.

  19. Jimmy says:

    What about Robin Lopez to the blazers?

  20. lee says:

    mo williams and the paul millsap signing make no sense why would mo want to go to a team like that the have so many pg now it isnt funny and he wouldve been a great fit in indy behind george hill or in front of him paul millsap is a good player but he doesnt fit with this team horford is not a center and it was a dumb signing period no 1 else wanted him so it made since from his stand point but not theirs

    • Oldhawk says:

      Millsap to the Hawks makes perfect sense being that we lost Josh, because if he had stayed Al would be stuck at the center position anyway.

  21. bulls9 says:

    do you think that the bulls have got better or worse since 2011?

    • bull4life212 says:

      they 4 four of the same starting 5 and have the addition of butler starting which mates them a better offensive unit and just as good a defensive starting unit. there second unit hinrich is a much better defensive and ball handling guard than watson dunleavy is a good 2/3 option to back up butler and deng and an upgrade to brewer. Taj has improved both offensively and defensively the only downside is they lost asik and have nazr as backup center. and the two draft picks in snell and murphy seem good pick ups and teague looks to have improved greatly from last year. All in all i think they are improved they still have all the same defensive set up. They just have a better offensive lining!!

    • ac says:

      I’m a big admirer of Thibs and the Bulls system, despite being a Knicks fan. I think the Bulls starting 5 is better because they’ve stayed together and helped each other improve, which few NBA teams experience. I never would’ve thought Noah could become an all-star four years ago, yet he’s proven himself worthy. Same with Deng. The one bad free agent signing they made was Boozer. Love the guy, but he’s not worth his money. Still, their starting 5 when healthy is as good as anybody’s.

      Bench wise, I think they are missing a lot of the pieces they had two years ago. Watson, Brewer, Korver, Asik, Lucas, etc. I think unfortunately that’s the main thing that will keep them from getting back to where they were two years ago.

    • christopher roman says:

      Just the fact that they won games without Rose, even if it was through good defense, means that they might probably play better than before when Rose is not on the court. Remember that Rose takes from 15-25 shots per game. Those extra shots dont have to come from Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah’s hustle plays. P.S. Jimmy Butler has had an incredible season with still a lot to learn.

    • Sit Down says:

      IDK if this has been mentioned by those 3 guys before me because they wrote too much to read, IMO. I don’t think they made a significant decline or climb from 2011 but their opponents (LBJ, PG, etc.) has gotten better and make it seem as though the Bulls got worse. Not only did individual players get better, teams have been stocking up on ‘star-power’ and that can sometimes make it seem as though Bulls are worse.

    • bulls fan says:

      to be honest…yes….they shoudnt have gotten rid of some of the players like brewer, which were stepping up their game within the team, There is no patience in teams now….its just “its not working…TRADE!!” instead of giving players time to develop in a team, and to work out new strategies.

  22. Ben says:

    Martin to Minny should be up there.

  23. Joquan Coker says:

    I think the lakers should’ve tried to get Al Jefferson.

    • christopher roman says:

      No mean to disrespect but, Pau Gasol is nearly not the same defender he was before and Al Jefferson is not a good defender nor shot blocker. From the offensive standpoint, there would too many offensive options to handle and too little defensive presence. Foul trouble would be a problem because of penetrations in which a guard will not be afraid of the defensively weak towers in the middle

  24. J says:

    Jarrett jack is a way better back up than Daniel Gibson
    jose calderon is a great starting PG
    Dunleavy is as good as belinelli
    dejaun blair now he can get solid mins as a backup
    greg oden his injuries make it seem as though he wont help the heat but he will

    • ac says:

      Agreed. Don’t know how Jarrett Jack is not on this list.

      • christopher roman says:

        In fact Jarret Jack could even be a starter in some teams. His energy, his scoring ability not only off the dribble and spot up shots, but by finishing strong at the rim. Not to mention his offensive capability in tight situations (clutch). A very underrated signing. Can even play the two spot from time to time.

    • JeffX says:

      100% Jarrett Jack carried the Warriors on many occasions. Should be at the top of the list. I am not a Warriors or Cavs fan. He must have been close to winning 6th Man award this year. Hope he does well with Cavs. They should be fun to watch this year.

  25. Martin says:

    Josh Smith should be on here, everyone underrates him its ridiculous especially nba.com

    • christopher roman says:

      Nobody in the NBA underrates Josh Smith for his abilities. The problem is his discipline and decision making on the court. Even though he might play the small forward position well, he takes three point shots that are not exactly the best option and his rebounding numbers should be a little higher because of his athletic abilities. I will say this; he has all-star potential as soon as he starts playing a little more inside (other than dunking and hustle points), executes post moves and improve the OPEN three point shot. Tremendous upside with Underrated Potential but needs an excellent work ethic be an all-star

      • christopher roman says:

        I apologize, he might play the small forward position well but he is a power forward. that is the truth .

    • Sit Down says:

      He’s a solid player, but people try to put him as high as the high tier players as soon as he gets 3-5 good games in a row, but he helps the skeptics be skeptical once more by disappearing for 5-10 games. Consistent pattern and that is what is keeping him from being considered a ‘super star’ or a ‘franchise-player’

  26. Bob M says:

    I’m a big Al Jefferson fan. He has a great post game and Utah must believe that Kanter is going to be an All Star.

  27. TheAll-Star136 says:

    The other teams better watch out for #20 Greg Oden. He is also another underrated pick-up.
    The Heat will 3-peat!

    • aaaaaa says:

      Oden is probably the most OVER-rated pick up. There’s no guarantee he’ll even play, or even be good for all we know. Also if he doesn’t get hurt he’ll probably only play like 15 minutes a game max because of risk.

      • JeffX says:

        Fell sorry for the bloke, plenty of promise, but no knees is such a big issue. Wonder if he would’ve fared better if he didn’t get drafted by the hapless Blazers. It seems every new talent they find loses their knees. ALdridge doesn’t count cause he was traded but has some knee issues too. Roy of course is another sad tale.

    • Dieter says:

      Greg Oden is by far the best pick up. The risk of him playing just a few games and getting injured again is big, but he almost has the minimum contract. What if he doesn’t get injured? He only played 82 games but he still has all the off-court experience, size and talent. He could become a top 10 center in the league this season. I’d rather have Oden on my team with a small chance of him being a force in the middle for 1m, than having Ellis or Jennings on my team for 10m/year.

      Most overrated signing is probably Millsap, why did the Hawks sign him? With Smith walking out the door, they finally could’ve given the PF spot to their best player Horford. They should’ve signed Pekovic instead of Millsap. The Raptors should’ve signed Millsap.

  28. Kamote says:

    AK47 for $3M… Now the Nets can rest the Boston boys while still having a good five on the floor (Dwill, JJ, AK, Blatche, Lopez).

    • Sit Down says:

      I swear that is the best nickname ever, AK-47, and it actually fits the player’s name and #

  29. matthew mathis says:

    Kaman and Johnson for the Laker was greatly underrated and will be a huge surprise for who ever comes out of the east in the finals. LAKER NATION.

  30. hey says:

    someone should go for johnny flynn, played for the timberwolves and the blazers, then went to the NBL (australian leauge).
    Good player, i think everyone has forgotten about him know though.

  31. Edub says:

    It’s crazy how the Bulls put C.J Watson on the map and now he went from underrated to overrated. They are still thinking of the guy who had 2 good regular season with the Bulls and then they fail to remember what he does for his teams in the playoffs, he contributes absolutely nothing. Did nothing for us in the playoffs when he was with the Bulls and only helped the Bulls win when he missed the wide open dunk that shifted the momentum in our favor. He’s not even a point guard, he was picked up from the Bulls as a shooting guard.

    • Chris says:

      Absolutely. I remember watching CJ on the bench when Rose would do something amazing- Boozer and Noah would be screaming and jumping around you’d see CJ in the background dutifully giving out high-fives with a glum look on his face. Doesn’t seem like a team player and always awful in crunch time.

      • JeffX says:

        lol. Think the bench mob from Chicago a couple of years ago was good because they knew each other and Asik was excellent, as was Taj. I think Dunleavy is a great signing for Bulls. Was hoping for someone like Dunleavy, who has a bit of length, that can play SG. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Dunleavy, Jimmy B and Snell (if he shows promise and gets any minutes) rotating thru SG / SF. I like what Dunleavy brings tho. Bulls would like Asik or similar back though as Taj is a tad small as a backup Centre and Nazr although played well, has limited minutes in the tank. Interesting to see what Murphy brings (if he sees any time).

  32. Kobe-Lebron-Carmelo-Pau-Steve@Manila says:

    LA should have not let go of Earl Clark.. He is great..

  33. Ben says:

    Earl Clark, most definitely.

    • JeffX says:

      Agreed! Cleveland got Clarke cheap, he has plenty of upsides at 25. Cleveland will be a young and improving team. Wonder if it will entice LeBron back after end of next year and the big 3 are 4 years older (since they came together).

  34. MIKE says:

    FIRST TO COMMENT YES

  35. jonski22 says:

    Why did the Bulls let go Nate Rob?

    • Game Time says:

      This is what frustrates me about the league. I look at what Nate did for the Bulls last season and wonder why they would let him go, but keep Carlos Boozer.

      • Vlad says:

        Carlos Boozer wasn’t a free agent!! He is under a contact!! They can’t just let him go
        Think before you write something

      • chitownraised says:

        the reason they kept boozer and let nate go is because they want to see what they have in teague as a third option which would move nate to the 4th pg and he doesnt want that plus the organiztion wants to see if they can make it to the finals with there core players boozer being one of them nate was never a permanent solution he was only there because rose wasnt and im a bulls fan and will miss nate but if u think about it it makes sense for both bulls and nate

      • MIAMIHOTBLK says:

        Miami Heat did change their bench at all with the exception of Mike Miller. Great teams do that…STICK WITH WHAT WORKS!!!

    • Vlad says:

      Because Derrick Rose is going to be back and they don’t need him anymore
      Derrick Rose will start and Hinrick will back him up and Nate would be the 3rd option and he doesn’t want that!!

    • Randy says:

      Ummm. Nate Robinson was a free agent. He would get much less playing time on the Bulls with Rose back, he doesn’t want that. And plus the Bulls can’t afford what he wants to be paid anymore since he certainly is worth more now. Its not that hard to figure out.

  36. bhimz says:

    lance stephenson showed great improvement during the playoffs, now they sign c.j watson as back point guard to hill. would this make lance the 3rd option?

    • BigBoy says:

      at 6’5 hes a ball handler with speed and athleticism i give him that. but hes no backup PG if thats what you had in mind. definitely wont start over a healthy granger. hes the backup 2 who will be relied upon greatly with cj and the 2nd unit.

    • K.cee says:

      Lance Stephenson is a SG. He will be the back up SG

    • Dallasbaby says:

      Lance doesn’t play point guard.

    • Chitown says:

      Lance plays back up sg bro

    • Paul Dres says:

      Lance is SG, not PG. If granger plays as a starter, Paul George goes to SG and granger SF. If lance starts, it will be same starting five as last year with lance at SG

  37. Moomz says:

    Hansbrough to the Raptors is also a great free-agent signing!

  38. marty says:

    Milsap and calderon are the most overatted signing

    • naaah….the most underrated though is oden signing in miami…they’re going to pay a relatively talented young man for $1m per year? thats like a HUGE bonus for them…but they wont be back in the finals ;)

    • No 1. Aussie says:

      lol the most underrated signing this year was Brandon Jennings. Now they he is out of the basket-case that is the Bucks, he will grow and thrive in the positive environment that is Detroit. Don’t EVER click my name, you sir are a joke

    • Jojo Lecitona says:

      How can you say that? What’s your basis? I think you din’t know what you’re talking that even you mispelled overrated into OVERATTED.

      • ... says:

        I’m pretty sure Jennings was signed as a free agent through the sign and trade clause, therefore he was signed as a free agent but the team signing him had to give up players

      • Haydz says:

        no, think about it…. its a SIGN & TRADE. Therefore, he signed with his current team so they then had the rights to trade him. So no, it doesnt count as a Free Agent signing.

    • christopher roman says:

      I agree with probably Calderon being a little overrated considering the contract, but you cannot argue Millsap’s talent. His numbers may not be glorious, but remember he was playing alongside Jefferson and Favors. Two guys with excellent rebounding abilities and scoring abilities (Jefferson) also. he is also more disciplined than Josh Smith. Great pickup for Hawks.