This offseason has had its fair share of big trades, free agent signings, and amnesty clause pick-ups. From Steve Nash going to the Lakers to Joe Johnson making his way to Brooklyn, the past few months have been a whirlwind of activity for some of the league’s top players.
There were moves, however, that didn’t get as much publicity but could still prove integral in the success of several teams next year. Here are the top five:
5. O.J. Mayo – Dallas Mavericks
After averaging 18 points per game on 45% shooting in his first two seasons, Mayo was surprisingly relocated to a bench role with the Grizzlies. He would still go on to average double digit points, but his other statistics suffered across the board. Now that he’ll be the starter in Dallas, Mark Cuban and company should expect some big returns from their free agent pick-up. The guards behind the former USC Trojan are more defensive-minded, so Mayo will likely be asked to take the scoring load off forward Dirk Nowitzki’s back – something that recently departed guard Jason Terry did well for several years. With just four seasons under his belt, Mayo could be a scoring machine for a long time in Dallas.
4. Ryan Anderson – New Orleans Hornets
After losing Chris Kaman to Dallas, Carl Landry to Golden State and Emeka Okafor to Washington, the Hornets had a serious need for size. They had drafted Anthony Davis with their #1 pick, but he’s young and still needs to develop before he can be the franchise center many expect him to be. To combat that, the Hornets traded for 2011′s Most Improved Player, Ryan Anderson. They also signed center Robin Lopez and forward Hakim Warrick from Phoenix, but Anderson is truly the prize of the trading haul for New Orleans. The 6’10”, 240 pound power forward had a career season last year, averaging 16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds. He might not provide much defensive assistance to Anthony, but his three-point shooting ability will stretch the floor for all of his Hornets teammates.
3. Kyle Lowry – Toronto Raptors
With Jerryd Bayless leaving Toronto through free agency and Jose Calderon looking to join a contender, it was extremely important for Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo to provide his core of talented young players – DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas, and Andrea Bargnani – with a similarly-skilled point guard. Lowry averaged career highs in points, rebounds, and steals last season, and could tally even more assists with the new talent around him. The former Villanova guard also has extended playoff experience, something that only three current Raptors have; that experience will help him take on a leadership role for his much younger teammates.
2. Antawn Jamison – Los Angeles Lakers
The 6’9” veteran forward may be in his 14th year, but he doesn’t seem to be slowing down. As a starter last season, Jamison averaged 17.2 points and 6.3 assists, while playing in all but one game for the Cavaliers. Alongside standout point guard Kyrie Irving, he was one of the few reasons to even watch Cleveland. In his return to the West Coast, the former Golden State Warrior should provide much-needed low-post scoring for the Lakers, who have lacked interior offense outside of forward Pau Gasol. The other current big men for LA – Josh McRoberts and Jordan Hill – are serviceable, but won’t come close to having the impact that Jamison should in his first season with Kobe and company.
1. Darren Collison – Dallas Mavericks
After missing out on Deron Williams and losing Jason Kidd in free agency, the Mavericks looked to be dead in the water in terms of point guard prospects for next season. Rodrigue Beaubois and newly-drafted Jared Cunningham were the only real possibilities on the roster; that is, until Indiana inexplicably traded Collison and Dahntay Jones to Dallas for little-used center Ian Mahinmi. The third-year guard has averaged 5+ assists in his career, but with a huge upgrade in surrounding talent, he really should have a huge season across the board. With this trade, the Mavericks have completed a total overhaul of their backcourt, forming a young and dynamic backcourt for the foreseeable future.