The impression a player makes in the season before free agency is often of utmost importance, but NBA teams nonetheless handed out a total of $84.5MM this summer to seven NBA veterans who didn't play a single game in the league last year. That's less than the $119.192MM going to Brook Lopez and Eric Gordon, who combined to play in 14 games in 2011/12, but in their limited court time they at least showed glimpses of their star potential. Some players required teams to go back to 2010/11, or even farther, to see what they could do against NBA competition.
Jeff Green, Celtics (four years, $36MM):
Concerns about his health may have prompted a six-week delay in the official announcement of the signing, but the Celtics clearly have little doubt about Green's recovery from heart surgery and his ability to deliver on the promise that made him the fifth overall pick in 2007. It appeared the opposite was true when his aortic aneurysm was discovered in December, and the C's not only voided their one-year, $9MM pact with Green, but withdrew their qualifying offer to him as well, making him an unrestricted free agent. Remarkably, the Celtics wound up giving Green a contract that's four times as long at the same annual salary he would have made on the initial deal.
Andrei Kirilenko, Timberwolves (two years, $20MM):
The 10-year NBA veteran played in 2011/12, but he did so against European competition for CSKA Moscow. His numbers of 12.9 points and 6.6 rebounds in 26.4 minutes per game weren't eye-popping, but he won Euroleague MVP and Best Defender honors, and that was enough to convince Wolves GM David Kahn to bring him back stateside. After the two sides finalized the deal, Kirilenko averaged 17.5 PPG and 7.5 RPG to help lead Russia to the Olympic bronze medal.
Brandon Roy, Timberwolves (two years, $10.4MM):
It looked like chronic knee problems had cut short the career of the three-time All-Star when he retired last year, and the Blazers seemed convinced that was the case when they used the amnesty clause to waive him and remove the remaining $68.699MM of his contract from their books. Roy then began to drop hints about a comeback, and wound up making it happen with the Wolves. It's unclear just how his knees will handle the rigors of an 82-game season, but simply by returning to the court, he'll cost the Blazers $17MM they would have gotten on an insurance payout if he had been "permanently disabled."
Aaron Brooks, Kings (two years, $6.6MM):
One of a handful of players to sign in China during the lockout, Brooks never reached an agreement to return to the NBA with the Suns, who held exclusive negotiating rights with him through June. Phoenix extended a $2.97MM qualifying offer to Brooks for 2012/13, but pulled the offer when Goran Dragic came on board. Brooks fared somewhat better in unrestricted free agency, drawing a two-year, $6.6MM contract from the Kings. Brooks served mostly as a backup in 2010/11, but started all 82 games in 2009/10, averaging 19.6 PPG and 5.3 APG with a 16.0 PER, significantly better numbers than in any other season of his four-year NBA career.
P.J. Tucker, Suns (two years, $1.646MM):
No free agent signing from this summer has been out of the league longer than Tucker, who was drafted 35th overall in 2006 by the Raptors and disappeared after just 17 games in 2006/07. He signed a two-year minimum-salary deal that's partially guaranteed for this season, but it's worth less than half of what he could have made overseas.
James White, Knicks (one year, $854K):
White is another 2006 second-round draftee who inked a minimum-salary contract this summer. He played six games with the Spurs in 2006/07 and another four with the Rockets in 2008/09, but has otherwise been relegated to D-League and international ball.