The San Antonio Spurs are the undisputed underrated kings. PATFO almost always gets enough credit when a player they acquired while flying below the radar makes an impact to make fans (and probably other coaches and team executives as well) stop, think, and ask themselves, "Where did that guy come from?" In this particular piece, I have listed my top 10 underrated player acquisitions that I think will have huge impacts to their respective acquiring teams, exceeding what most people expect. Here goes...
10, Pero Antic, Atlanta Hawks - I have to start off with this guy 95% of you probably don't know. Antic is a 6'10", 250-lb stretch 4 who is more talented and more athletic than our very own Matt Bonner. The Red Rocket isn't really a good gauge for the Hawks fans to be excited about, but that's probably the easiest way to describe Antic to those who haven't seen him play. His most recent assignment was with back-to-back Euroleague champions Olympiacos. His excellent touch from the perimeter, decent defense, and high basketball IQ should add more flexibility and versatility to the Horford-Millsap-Brand frontcourt of former Spurs top assistant and now Atlanta head coach Mike Budenhozer. Contrary to popular opinion, I actually believe that the Hawks are a better team this season.
9. DeJuan Blair, Dallas Mavericks - The former Spur will definitely earn rotation minutes with Spurs state rivals Dallas Mavericks. His size should help his new team that's bereft of toughness, setting screens for Dirk and perhaps a scoring option down low as well.
8. Omri Casspi, Houston Rockets - After a forgettable stint as a Cleveland Cavalier, the 6'9" Israeli swingman should be able to contribute solid minutes for the fun-to-watch Rockets. Casspi's decent touch from beyond the arc, athletic ability, frantic defense, ball handling skills, and length should serve as a decent backup to Chandler Parsons.
7. Nate Robinson and J.J. Hickson, Denver Nuggets - The Nuggest lost their coach and also lost arguably their best player (Iguodala) through free agency. They, however, acquired two players who can probably fill the void. Both players will certainly log huge minutes and contribute to a team that might be trying to find it's new identity.
6. JJ Redick and Jared Dudley, LA Clippers - I'm sure nobody will complain if I say that Doc Rivers is a much better coach than Vinny Del Negro. That being said, new acquisitions Reddick and Dudley are the type of guys Doc Rivers loves to coach. Reddick will probably mimic Ray Allen while Dudley does the other Allen in Tony Allen. The Clippers are now LA's best, even if Bryant gets back to fighting form.
5. Chris Kaman, Nick Young and Jordan Farmar, LA Lakers - Just as a lot of us here at PtR predicted, Howard on a Lakers uniform was a very bad idea... not when Kobe is still a Laker and especially not when D'Antoni is manning the sidelines. These three additions, however, seem like good fits to the offense that their coach likes to play. Nick Young may probably be a minus on the defensive end, but it's hard to argue that he's definitely an upgrade to Metta World Peace on offense. Farmar should give the Lakers an athletic and good defensive combo guard who can also shoot the occasional three if and when one or both Steves (Blake and Nash) disappoint. Kaman, on the other hand, should allow Pau Gasol, the team's best low post threat, to roam the shaded area again and not pretend like he's Dirk Nowitzski shooting all those perimeter shots last season. Of course, we have D'Antoni to blame (or thank) for that. Seriously, though, I expect the Lakers to be better this year than they were last year. I wouldn't be surprised if they crack that 7th playoff spot.
4. Mike Miller and Kosta Koufos, Memphis Grizzlies - A team that already has Mark Gasol and Zack Randolph just added another seven-footer to shore up their already impressive frontcourt. After playing his career best in a high-octane offense with Denver last season, Koufos should be an integral part in the big man rotation of a more deliberate Grizzlies offense. The Grizzlies were a team that lacked outside shooting to spread the floor and allow Mark and Zack to operate easier down low. Mike Miller should solve that problem if he stays healthy. Though Miller's defense leaves a lot to be desired, Memphis' well-established defensive mindset and propensity to zone should be able to minimize and offset this deficiency. It would not surprise me if the Grizzlies give the Spurs fits if they are ever to clash again sometime in the playoffs.
3. Marco Belinelli, San Antonio Spurs - I'm pretty sure a lot of you here will disagree about me putting this Spurs acquisition particularly high on this list. PATFO gave up on Neal because he can't do a lot of the things that Belinelli can. This is reason enough to get excited about. Belinelli played better than Manu did during the playoffs. I may be exaggerating, but that's certainly saying something. Marco is expected to spell Manu when Manu isn't playing like Manu. He has the skills and court smarts to do just that. The fact that PATFO was able to get him without losing something significant out of last year's should-be champs is the main reason why Belinelli's name is high on this list.
2. Luis Scola, Indiana Pacers - A team that has Luis Scola and Danny Granger coming off the bench is sure as hell a pretty deep team to say the least. Scola (and Copeland) should improve the Pacers' frontline rotation that obviously struggled when they were forced to have Mahinmi patrolling the shaded lane. Danny Granger's return is enough reason for the Miami heat to be worried about. Scola's addition just amplifies that worry a bit.
1. Andrew Bynum, Cleveland Cavaliers - The Cleveland Cavaliers won big last summer by acquiring Andrew Bynum, regardless of how you guys might dismiss him not just because of his nagging injuries, but also because of him being a head case. But if and when he's able to play and stay healthy, the Cavaliers certainly become serious contenders in the Eastern Conference. Remember how big of a problem he was for us when the Lakers were still significant? The biggest question there, however, is his health.