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Don’t Break the Bank: The Best Free Agents for Penny Pinching GMs

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As front offices awake from the adrenaline-induced coma of the 2016 offseason, regret and bloated salary caps still haunt their dreams. Somewhere in Portland, Neil Olshey is waking up in a cold sweat to a reoccurring nightmare of shelling out $17 million a year to Evan Turner and $11 million to Meyers Leonard. Meanwhile, prehistoric bigs like Joakim Noah and Luol Deng rot away on the Knicks and Lakers benches while lining their fossilized wallets with preposterous $72 million dollar deals.

Many GM’s have their eyes fixated on signing perennial All-Stars to max deals, but their salary reservoirs continue to run dry, sapped up from the aftermath of a toilsome 2016 summer. But even if depleted cap space prevents contenders from signing LeBron James and Paul George, frugal GMs are sure to take a look at a few players that won’t burn holes in their pockets.

Seth Curry, Mavericks

Free agent bargains are often the result of season-ending injuries, which happens to be the case with Curry. Before he missed all of last season with a fractured leg, the 2016-17 campaign saw him average 12.8 points a game on 42.5% from behind the arc and a ridiculous 45% of his threes off the dribble. He’s not going to spearhead a tough defense with the second unit, but his scoring prowess off the bench is invaluable to any organization. While he may never escape the “Steph’s younger brother” stamp, he is almost assured to get underpaid this offseason and haunt the 29 teams that passed on him with microwave shooting.

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Dante Exum, Jazz

Donovan Mitchell’s playoff crusade inevitably took eyes off anyone else in the Jazz backcourt. But hiding in the shadow of the prodigious rookie campaign was the former 5th overall pick, whose perimeter defense rivaled Andre Roberson for stretches post all star break. At 6-6 with lateral quickness and a lengthy frame, Exum played Harden as well as any guard is capable of in the Western Conference Semifinals. The 23 year old will most likely never live up to his draft position, but some thrifty GM will get a bargain this summer by signing the ex-Euroballer.

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Kyle O’Quinn, Knicks

Sharing the frontcourt with Kristaps Porzingis and Enes Kanter is all but guaranteed to take the spotlight off of you. But O’Quinn excelled in the penumbra of The Unicorn, specifically on the defensive end, where his 4.5 defensive box plus minus ranked 3rd in the league behind Rudy Gobert and Andre Drummond. His VORP (Value over replacement player) stands at a 2.3 , which led the Knicks despite O’Quinn averaging just 20 minutes a night. If the rumors that claim mutual interest between O’Quinn and The Warriors are factual, the Dubs may get away with highway robbery to fill their void at the center spot.

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Nerlens Noel, Mavs

Once you get past the halftime hot dog stunts and onslaught of Colangelo burner tweets, you come to the realization that Noel is still just 24 years old and possesses the mobility and length to be one of the premier defensive bigs in the league. The skills we saw in Philly have not vanished–rather they are latent–ready to be unleashed given the right situation. If Noel can find refuge in a winning culture that keeps him motivated, the fallen solider of “The Process” could end up a key component on a contending team. While Clint Capela and DeAndre Jordan are set to make north of $20 million next year, Noel will make a fraction of that, but could produce similar results.

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About Logan Collien

From Madison, WI Twitter: @lcollien

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