These unsigned big men are ready to help (or hurt) your team
The season is barely a month old, but this is plenty of time for teams to have determined what is wrong with them. With unguaranteed contracts becoming guaranteed on January 10th, and 10-day contracts becoming available, now is the time to start looking to the free agent market and the D-League for potential call-ups. Over a three-part series of posts, we will take a comprehensive look at possible candidates, continuing here with big men.
Great care is taken not to include players signed elsewhere (e.g. Ivan Johnson and Hamed Haddadi, both signed in China), or who have declared themselves retired (e.g. Troy Murphy and Dan Gadzuric, who both retired this offseason). Often times, all players not in the NBA are assumed in the media and the public consciousness to be available to NBA teams, when this is just not the case. The below list therefore deals with unsigned and D-League players only.
David Andersen - Andersen's contract with Fenerbahce expired this summer, and he spoke of looking into an NBA comeback. It didn't happen, of course, but he remains unsigned.
Earl Barron - Barron intended to play this year in China, signing with Qingdao, but was released before the season started. Now 32, the journeyman may still have something left to contribute as a third stringer, but if the Knicks are no longer interested, that's his main suitor gone.
Josh Boone - Boone has an uncanny knack of peaking in his second year at places. In college, he was best as a sophomore. In the NBA, he was best as a sophomore. And in China, where he's been since leaving the NBA, all his career highs were in his second season. Boone's limited game has not expanded since leaving the big league, and his free throw shooting continues to regress, to the point he is now one of the very worst around. However, despite these deficiencies and his lack of ideal size, he can still rebound and defend the interior.
Kwame Brown - The Sixers waived Kwame after 22 games, 41 points and 37 fouls. Doug Collins is still a staunch believer, but Doug Collins hasn't a coaching gig any more, and there appear to be few other suitors. This quote from Michael Carter-Williams probably doesn't help.
Brian Butch - The oft-overlooked Butch continues to do this thing - stretching the floor and putting up vast rebounding numbers. Thus far this season for the Bakersfield Jam, Butch is averaging 15.6 points and 13.4 rebounds in only 33 minutes a contest, shooting 40% from three. Defensive concerns are valid, but production is production.
Marcus Camby - Waived by the Rockets despite a guaranteed contract, Camby turns 40 in March, and despite enjoying an Indian summer these past few years, he certainly looked his age last season.
Jason Collins - Collins is unsigned not because of who he is, but because of what he can't do as a player. In an era of stretch bigs, his one plus NBA skill is mitigated, and his huge weaknesses magnified.
Eddy Curry - In China last year, Curry averaged 23.1 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.0 turnovers in 30 minutes a contest, shooting higher from the field than from the line. He will give you right handed baby hooks and a whole bunch of mistakes. It is unlikely that any NBA team needs this.
Eric Dawson - The late blooming Dawson is again back in the D-League, on the cusp of a call-up. He is currently leading the Austin Toros with averages of 16.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks. Dawson is more than just a decent athlete - he is a skilled big man who produces on both ends. Unfortunately, his age (now 29) somewhat counts against him.
Dwayne Dedmon - Twice signed and waived by the Rockets thus far this season, Dedmon's combination of size, agility and shot blocking instincts will keep him on the radar for many years. It may however take him many years to develop into a consistent NBA player - right now, he fouls too much to be in any way reliable.
Ike Diogu - Diogu is on something of a world tour, looking to make a comeback. The book on him is well written, but what is a recent development is Diogu's increased three point shooting. In his latest stint in Puerto Rico, Diogu took three and a half three pointers per game, hitting 35% of them.
DeSagana Diop - Over the past five seasons, Diop has been arguably the worst player in the NBA. He turns 32 next month so rawness is no longer to blame.
Kyrylo Fesenko - After spending last season in the Ukraine, Fesenko signed last month with Polish team Slask Wroclaw, announcing his exciting arrival in an understated way with what might be some cake on his face. He was released a week later, however, due to an injury that the team feel he did not disclose to them. If healthy, Fesenko had shown enough signs (and size) to draw some more interest, but he turns 27 next month and has yet to be a reliable NBA player. So the window is fast closing.
Drew Gooden - Amnestied by the Bucks after a year on the inactive list, Gooden is being paid to sit at home, but presumably would rather not be. For all his faults, he is perhaps the most talented player on this list, and is worthy of a contract somewhere.
Justin Hamilton - 2012 Heat draft pick Hamilton joined the team for training camp with scant little hope of making the roster, got cut, and is now in the D-League. Thus far for the Sioux Falls Skyforce, he is averaging 15.3 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks, an intriguing combination of size, face-up offense and some post play. He will however require further development to his body.
Richard Howell - Steadily improving in each of his collegiate seasons, Howell went to camp with the Blazers, and even though he got cut, his D-League career is off to a great start, averaging 22.3 points and 12.5 rebounds per game for the Idaho Stampede. Whichever NBA team signs him will instantly get toughness, rebounding and some finishing ability, size be damned.
Didier Ilunga-Mbenga - "I'm available."
Mac Koshwal - After a very slow start to his career - one year in the Spanish second division, and two years battling visa problems - Koshwal finally got underway with a training camp spot with the Sixers this year. He did not make the roster, but it did lead to a stint in the D-League with the Bakersfield Jam, with whom he has worked out the last two years, and with whom he is averaging 15.6 points and 9.9 rebounds. Despite being 26, Koshwal is a bit raw, having never great opportunity to develop as either a pro or a collegiate. But his body type, rebounding rate and offensive talent keep him in the conversation.
Fab Melo - It's hard to have much worse of a rookie season than Melo did, the only highlight of which was a D-League triple double. Out of the league after only one year, camp contract with the Mavericks didn't end well, due to their 15 guaranteed contracts, and he has yet to join the D-League. Melo will no doubt get multiple looks in the future, but he needs some stability to develop first.
Darko Milicic - Still unsigned!
Reeves Nelson - Nelson has only played four games this season due to the suicide of his father, but he has been very productive in those four, putting up 53 points and 26 rebounds in 73 minutes. He is undersized and infamously temperamental, but he scores from inside and out, and he plays hard.
Lamar Odom - Odom's well documented decline now has an explanation. He will likely get a chance at redemption. It is less clear if he can take it.
Tim Ohlbrecht - The token big man in Rio Grande Valley's ridiculously high scoring perimeter offense, Ohlbrecht's job is to clean the class and score extremely efficiently. He is pretty good at this.
Arinze Onuaku - Onuaku broke out last season with a ridiculously high rebounding rate, averaging 9.5 rebounds in only 24 minutes per game for the Canton Charge. This briefly led to a stint with the Pelicans, and now he's back with the Charge again, averaging 14.6 points and 8.4 rebounds in only 21 minutes per game this time. Onuaku's game is mostly rebounding and three footers, with everything else a legitimate concern, but those are two things that readily translate.
Romero Osby - Drafted by the Magic, Osby was squeezed out of the roster shuffle, and now finds himself in the D-League, where he averages 15.6 points and 8.4 rebounds in only 29 minutes per game for the Maine Red Claws. However, he also averages 4 turnovers a game and is shooting 38% from the field. He has tools, but is caught between positions and needs to find an identity.
Johan Petro - Petro started the season in China, averaged 13.5 points and 9.8 rebounds in four games for the Zheijiang Lions, then was released. He fouls too much and scores increasingly inefficiently, yet he has done enough to earn a spot as a third stringer.
Joel Przybilla - Przybilla said in April he was not ready to retire. However, he has not been heard from since.
Willie Reed - Reed signed with the Grizzlies for the last day of the 2012/13 regular season, a move which also put him on the payroll for the duration of the playoff run. Now slightly richer, he is back in the D-League with the Springfield Armor, thus far averaging 14.4 points and 11.0 rebounds in 31 minutes per game. A face-up and post-up power forward with athleticism and shot blocking instincts, Reed is still raw and makes too many mistakes to be reliable, and perhaps could use another season in the D-League.
Garret Siler - The blisteringly efficient Siler just got released from China, where he shot his usual 68% from the field. He somewhat mirrors Curry as a player, yet without the athleticism, the sideshow, and with a better grasp of interior defense.
Craig Smith - Something of a forgotten man, Smith fell out of the NBA in the summer of 2012 despite a career PER of 16.6. His size was always a concern, yet Smith bangs, scraps, and knows how to get open and finish. Currently unsigned, he merits another look.
Kurt Thomas - Chicago's plan at the start of the year was to sign Thomas once he became healthy again, which was expected to be roughly about now. In light of how their season has gone, however, that plan may have changed.
Tyrus Thomas - Thomas's career implosion has been so emphatic that he's now entirely out of the league.
Trey Thompkins - Thompkins missed all of last season with a bone bruise in his knee, which, in addition to an underwhelming rookie year, mean his career is off to a slow start. Perhaps a season of recuperation need come before any call-up.
Jeremy Tyler - Tyler lost out on what looked like a good chance of making the Knicks's roster to the nepotism afforded to Chris Smith. He has gone to the D-League, and totaled 51 points, 19 rebounds and 13 turnovers in his first three games, still with plenty of work to do but also still only 22 years of age.
Jarvis Varnado - Varnado hasn't exactly expanded his game over the years, but he shouldn't especially need to. He is averaging 16.3 points, 11.7 points and 5.3 blocks per game for the Erie BayHawks thus far this season, and merits a longer NBA look than he has ever had to date.
Ty Walker - Former Wake Forest big man Walker is averaging 4.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.6 blocks. It is fairly self explanatory to say that he is a one trick pony - for a 7 footer who rarely leaves the paint, Walker's rebounding isn't even that good. However, Mickell Gladness made the NBA with a similar resume.
Hakim Warrick - Cut by the Magic without playing a game for them, Warrick recently worked out for Sichuan in China, but was not picked up.
Royce White - Only one year into his professional career, White is already incredibly short of suitors.
Chris Wilcox - The Clippers were rumored to be suitors for Wilcox, yet he remains unsigned. Always productive, even last year, it is perhaps a surprise he remains so.
Jordan Williams - Williams did not play last season, and although he signed with Bilbao in Spain for this season, he lasted roughly a fortnight before being released. The one time double double machine needs to produce somewhere to make it back, and quickly.
Chris Wright - On the cusp for a few years, the Dayton forward is off to a flying start this season, averaging 24.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per game for the Maine Red Claws. Wright is putting up his usual efficient scoring and numbers across the board - he might be without an ideal position, but this has never prevented him from being productive.
Luke Zeller - Zeller's bizarre stint in the NBA - bizarre because he has only one plus skill, shooting, at which he is not even especially noteworthy - seems to be over.