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Five underrated NBA free agent signings, including Blazers landing Gary Payton II, T.J. Warren to Nets

Some NBA free agency moves are so obviously impactful that they immediately alter the league’s landscape. Think Kevin Durant signing with the Golden State Warriors back in 2016. You knew right away that that was a major move. Not all signings are like this, though. Some fly under the radar a bit at first, but still prove to be substantial in time. We’re going to look at the latter type here. 

Here’s a look at five underrated free agent signings from this summer that could ultimately prove to be very impactful for their respective squads. 

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There’s so much uncertainty in Brooklyn right now following Kevin Durant’s recent trade request that it’s tough to predict exactly what the Nets roster or rotation might look like on opening night. Nonetheless, T.J. Warren was a solid pickup for the Nets. Warren has missed all but four games over the last two seasons due to injury issues, so it’s easy to overlook him at this point, but the dude can score. The last time he played a full season in 2019-20 he averaged nearly 20 points per game (19.8), while also adding 4.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists while shooting 53 percent from the floor and 40 percent from long range. 

If the Nets end up running it back with Durant and Kyrie Irving next season, then Warren will be able to provide some ancillary scoring around those guys and take some of the load off their shoulders on the offensive end. If those two are gone, Warren is capable of taking on a larger role on the offensive end, as he’s a guy capable of generating his own offense. Either way, he’s a legitimate offensive option that the Nets were able to get at a very reasonable rate (one year, $2.6 million). They just have to hope he can remain healthy. 

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Dragic, 36, is clearly in the twilight of his career, but he still has a little bit left in the tank, as he showed with the Nets last season. In 16 regular-season games with Brooklyn at the end of the season, Dragic averaged 7.3 points, 4.8 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game — solid production for a backup.

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In Chicago, Dragic will join a backcourt that already includes Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu, so it’s tough to predict exactly how big his role will be, but it’s never a bad thing to have an experienced veteran in your locker room, especially for a team like the Bulls who are hoping to contend in a competitive Eastern Conference. Dragic is a proven hand at an important position. Plus, he’ll serve as insurance of sorts, as Ball is still dealing with a knee injury that kept him sidelined for a large chunk of last season. 

Dragic is a relatively cheap investment with no long-term commitment, which could prove to be very valuable. It’s a low-risk, relatively high-reward move for the Bulls, and those often prove prudent. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Dragic have a legitimate impact at some point for Chicago. 

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Young Glove made a major impact for the Golden State Warriors last season by being the guy who did the dirty work, and he has the potential to do the same thing in Portland. Need the opposing team’s perimeter player slowed down? Payton II can do that. Need a timely rebound? Payton II will go get it for you. Need someone to knock down an open 3? Payton proved capable of doing that, too — he shot nearly 36 percent from long range last season. 

As a defensive-oriented guard that doesn’t necessarily need the ball in his hands or plays called for him to be effective, Payton II projects to fit swimmingly in Portland’s backcourt alongside the likes of Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons. Payton II has never averaged more than 17 minutes per game in a season, but that will likely change in Portland, and if his playing time increases, his production — and impact — will likely follow suit. 

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Danuel House isn’t a star player — far from it. But his size, versatility and ability to space the floor with his shot will immediately address some major needs for Philadelphia. At 6’6″ House has the size to play three different positions for the Sixers — on both ends of the floor — and because of that, he represents an upgrade over the other reserve perimeter options that the team had last season. 

Plus, as a career 36 percent shooter from long range, he’s a guy that opposing defenses won’t be able to cheat off of in order to apply additional pressure on Joel Embiid or James Harden. For those reasons, House was an ideal addition for Philadelphia at the price they got him at (two years, $8.5 million). He could end up playing a large role for the Sixers next season. 

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Fresh off of helping the Golden State Warriors hang another banner, Otto Porter Jr. is taking his talents to Toronto, where he projects to fit in nicely as a rotational perimeter player. With guys like Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher, Thaddeus Young and OG Anunoby, the Raptors are a team with extreme length and versatility on the defensive end, and at 6’8″ Porter Jr. fits right into that mold. Plus, he’s more than capable on the offensive end, where he’s averaged over 10.6 points per game and shot nearly 40 percent (39.8) over the course of his career. For a team looking to contend in the East, Porter Jr. is an ideal pickup, especially at the relatively reasonable rate of $12.3 million over two seasons. 

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