Notable Players Returning from Overseas
While most of the rumors circulating around the NBA right now are related to the Feb. 19 trade deadline, there are a number of notable free agents who are generating a bit of buzz too.
That’s because many players have finished their season overseas and will be looking to join an NBA team in the coming weeks. The Chinese Basketball Association’s season is nearly over, which means the free agent pool will be considerably stronger very soon.
Hassan Whiteside is proof that sometimes a player who’s toiling overseas just needs an opportunity to play in the NBA to show what he can do. While Whiteside’s success will be hard to match, there are a number of players who could end up being a significant contributor for an NBA team:
Andray Blatche – The 28-year-old big man is receiving interest from quite a few teams, since he dominated during his stint in China. He averaged 31.1 points, 14.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.8 steals while shooting 62.9 percent from the field, which understandably impressed a lot of executives around the league. There have been questions about Blatche’s maturity and professionalism in the past, but on a short-term contract it seems like he would be a low-risk, high-reward signing. The Miami HEAT, Brooklyn Nets and Memphis Grizzlies have reportedly expressed interest in Blatche, and expect even more playoff teams to be linked to him in the coming weeks as well. Teams like the Dallas Mavericks, L.A. Clippers, Portland Trail Blazers and Toronto Raptors have been in the market for a big man, so they could pursue him too. Blatche is a talented player who has shown that he can be a contributor in the NBA, averaging 11.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and one steal last season off of the Nets’ bench.
Will Bynum – It was somewhat surprising that Bynum didn’t get signed by an NBA team when the Boston Celtics acquired him and subsequently waived him in late October, as he has always been a productive reserve throughout his NBA career. A few teams reached out, but the veteran guard ultimately signed in China (replacing top 2015 NBA Draft prospect Emmanuel Mudiay on Guangdong once the young point guard got injured). While in the CBA, Bynum averaged 22.5 points, 7.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals while shooting 56.3 percent from the field. Now, Bynum is receiving interest from a few teams that are looking to bolster their backcourt, such as the Washington Wizards. Most of the teams in the mix for Bynum are waiting to see what unrestricted free agent Ray Allen does before making any kind of move, but the 32-year-old Bynum should receive a lot of interest once Allen is off the market.
Michael Beasley – Beasley had a very successful season in the CBA, averaging 28.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.9 steals while shooting 55.5 percent from the field. He also set a CBA record for most points in the league’s All-Star Game (59), an achievement that’s even more impressive when you consider that he was a late addition to the game and dropped those 59 points off of the bench. Beasley had met with a few NBA teams before taking the deal in China, and he should receive interest from teams once again. Beasley has always been talented, but maturity issues have scared some teams away in the past. With that said, some executives were impressed with how he carried himself during his stint with the Miami HEAT last year, accepting a smaller role with maturity and playing the most efficient basketball of his career. Beasley’s decision to go to China also was applauded by many people around the league, as it seemed he was humbled and willing to do whatever was necessary to get his career back on track. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see a contender take a chance on Beasley just to see what he could bring to the table. Like Blatche, Beasley seems like a low-risk, high-reward move because he has the talent to really help a team and, if things go badly, they can just part ways with him. He could be a contributor if put in the right situation. Currently, Beasley is training in Miami as he waits for an NBA opportunity. Several teams have shown interest, but nothing is imminent and it seems that most teams want to wait until after the trade deadline to have serious talks with his camp.
Jordan Crawford – Crawford played just a handful games in China before he injured his eye and it swelled up to the point that he couldn’t see out of it. He returned to the U.S. to receive treatment and then tried to re-join his CBA team for the playoffs, but it didn’t work out. During his brief time in China, he averaged 29.4 points. It’s no secret that Crawford is an excellent scorer, and he could help a team that needs some scoring off of the bench. Cleveland, Miami, Portland, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta and Memphis, for example, are currently ranked between near the bottom of the league in bench scoring, and adding someone like Crawford could help. Back in October, he told Basketball Insiders that the Sacramento Kings seriously pursued him over the summer, so they could look at him again (if they’re still interested). Crawford has played for four teams in four years during his NBA career, but he has still managed to be effective scoring the ball with a career average of 12.2 points per game in 24.7 minutes.
Earl Clark – It was just two seasons ago that Clark played very well for the Los Angeles Lakers, initially thriving as a reserve and then replacing Pau Gasol in Mike D’Antoni’s starting lineup for 36 games (in which he averaged 9 points, 6.8 rebounds and nearly a block and a steal). But after struggling with the Cleveland Cavaliers the following year, he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers and ultimately waived. He received a pair of 10-day contracts with the New York Knicks at the end of last season, but didn’t stick. He turned to China this past summer, signing with Shandong and averaging 26.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.1 blocks while shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 45.2 percent from three-point range this season. Now, he’s hoping to salvage his NBA career. As he showed in Los Angeles, he can hold his own at the NBA level and he’s a solid two-way, high-energy contributor.
Dominique Jones – Jones has bounced around a bit since being drafted 25th overall in the 2010 NBA Draft, with his only NBA experience coming during his three seasons on the Dallas Mavericks (during which he won a ring). He has always put up impressive numbers in Summer League, D-League play and overseas games, and this year was no different. He went to China and recorded jaw-dropping stats, averaging 36.8 points, 8.4 assists, 7.8 rebounds and 2.7 steals while shooting 57.4 percent from the field. He finished third in the league in points per game and first in assists per game. He was virtually unstoppable out there. The question is can that success translate to the NBA? A number of teams are intrigued and are curious to find out. It seems he may finally get a second stint in the NBA, as several teams have expressed interest in him (including the Washington Wizards). The 26-year-old is extremely talented, and could provide some backcourt depth for a team if given an opportunity.
Al Harrington – Harrington’s streak of 11 consecutive seasons of averaging double figures in points ended during the 2012-13 season with the Orlando Magic. It was a brutal year for Harrington, as he was limited to just 10 games due to knee injuries (and some tanking by Orlando). However, he bounced back last season with the Washington Wizards, averaging 6.6 points and 2.4 rebounds in 15 minutes while providing leadership to the young team. His numbers don’t jump off of the page, but he was productive for a 33-year-old coming off of serious injuries. This season, Harrington went to China and put up the excellent numbers we’ve all come to expect from him, as he averaged 32.4 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists and a steal while shooting 59.9 percent from the field. However, he played in just 10 games before leaving the CBA. Harrington has made it clear that he wants to sign with an NBA team now that his stint in the CBA is over. Last August, he told CSN Washington that he really wants to re-join the Wizards. It remains to be seen if there’s mutual interest from Washington in the 34-year-old. Other teams looking for a reserve scorer and strong veteran presence could pursue him too.
Bobby Brown –Brown has had several stints in the NBA, playing briefly for the Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Clippers. However, he has never managed to stick with a team, so he’s made a living playing overseas in countries like Germany, Poland, Greece, Italy and China. He’s coming off of a monster season in the CBA, in which he averaged 31.8 points, 6.4 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals. Brown is reportedly receiving interest from a number of teams, including the Washington Wizards, and he could definitely help a franchise that’s looking for some bench scoring. He had a 74-point game in China, which gives you an idea of how dangerous Brown can be offensively. Brown badly wants to play in the NBA, and he has been doing a web series about his journey back to the league. He’s 30 years old so he’s not going to be a long-term solution for a team, but it’s possible he could get a look from a team on a short-term deal.
Sebastian Telfair – Telfair began this season as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, signing a one-year deal over the summer. However, the team decided to part ways with the veteran point guard after he appeared in just 16 games (averaging 8.4 points and 2.8 assists in 20.4 minutes a night). The Thunder signed Ish Smith using a hardship exception that allowed them to add a 16th player, and surprisingly decided to keep Smith instead of Telfair when it came time to trim the roster back down to 15 players. Telfair signed a deal in China shortly after being cut, and he averaged 19.9 points, 4.5 assists and 1.4 steals in the CBA. Now, he’s hoping to join an NBA team for the remainder of the season, and he has reportedly received interest from the Los Angeles Clippers among other teams. Sources say that nothing is imminent between Telfair and the Clippers, but L.A. is a possible suitor. The 29-year-old is a 10-year NBA veteran with career averages of 7.4 points and 3.5 assists in 21.5 minutes per game.
Pooh Jeter – Jeter has just one year of NBA experience under his belt from when he played for the Sacramento Kings during the 2010-11 season. He appeared in 62 games, averaging 4.1 points in 13.8 minutes. However, he has had a lot of success playing abroad, starring in countries such as China, Ukraine, Spain and Israel. This season, he averaged 25.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists and two steals in the CBA, while shooting 51.3 percent from the field and 42.7 percent from three-point range. He worked out for the Los Angeles Lakers before the season started, and he’s back in L.A. training now as he weighs his options and hopes for an NBA call.
Honorable Mention: Metta World Peace, Byron Mullens, Von Wafer, Jeremy Tyler, Kevin Murphy
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