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The Swept Room Of Finnicky Dollars: Role-Player Roundup

Every two weeks, the gents at Free Darko will be taking a look at the deranged ecosystem that is the National Basketball Association in their own indelible fashion. Here's this week's entry, from Dr. Lawyer Indian Chief.


Pardon me if I don't disseminate the same tale we've been spinning every late March for the past few years. It's the one that argues ad nauseam that the NCAA Championship tournament is vastly inferior to any NBA game on any given night, and that the Big Dance is far too full of control freak coaches, bourgeoisie ticketing structures, missed free throws, games lost instead of won, low scores and unwarranted praise for hustle plays that are actually just some guy falling on the floor. I've decided to relax this year, take joy in a first round Beasley-Mayo matchup (which is about as close to NBA swag as you're going to get at the college level), engage in my yearly bandwagon cheering for Georgetown, and pour myself a highball.


You see, I'm far too happy right now given that every single night the NBA is cranking out game after game of pure beauty. This year has brought us Chris Paul vs. Deron Williams, The Birthday Cake, the Rockets impossible winning streak, the Hawks vying for a playoff spot, the absurdity of the Western Conference playoff picture, and marketplace madness that has brought smiles to the faces of Kevin Garnett, Jason Kidd, Shaquille O'Neal, and Pau Gasol. Much has been made of the excitement that this year's trading and waiving deadlines have brought, but really one can't state it enough: These are the good times. And as playoff infinity is right around the corner, we must turn to the lesser names, the daily cogs that make the big ole David Stern machine churn.


Amidst the flurry of all the blockbuster deals, a slew of role-players exchanged uniforms. These men of honor were acquired specifically for the purposes of seven-game series battles come May and June. Tiers below the Kidds, the Shaqs, and the Gasols, these common folk matter more than anyone even realizes in the postseason. Come playoff time, these honest souls will become the Kareem Rushes, Daniel Gibsons and Jerome James' of yesteryear. Some may even vie for the status of becoming the next Robert Horry. We have had now a couple weeks to size each of these guys up, and below I will assess each acquisition's chances for becoming America's next X-Factor. NCAA March Madness and Ron Paul serve as definitive proof that this country loves the underdog, and for all of you out there who concur, then I implore you to turn your eyes toward the NBA's journeymen:

Damon Stoudamire, San Antonio Spurs

Yes, Damon Stoudamire is a commoner these days. He went relatively unnoticed while taking over for Tony Parker when Parker was struggling with injuries a few weeks ago. Plus he looks really old these days, but the Spurs have strange ways of making old guys look tremendous. Chances of becoming this year's X-Factor: 3%


D.J. Mbenga, L.A. Lakers

Acquired for the sole purpose of standing in for the still-lame Andrew Bynum, Mbenga now functions as the type of player that a couple years ago teams would snatch just to throw six fouls at Shaq during the playoffs. Thing is, though, Shaq is looking fairly stoppable these days and once Bynum returns, Mbenga's services will hardly be needed. Chances of becoming this year's X-Factor: 9%


Malik Allen, Dallas Mavericks

Allen has only been in the league 6 years, but he seems to play the role of "veteran presence" on every team he joins. Seems to be keeping team morale up with his hilarious Hitler jokes. Chances of becoming this year's X-Factor: 12%

Juan Dixon, Detroit Pistons

I've always said that Maryland guys are cursed (see Joe Smith), but Juan Dixon still has swag from his Wizards days, and I think he can inject the Pistons with a little bit of backcourt versatility when Billups and Hamilton need a rest. Chances of becoming this year's X-Factor: 10%


Primoz Brezec, Toronto Raptors

What happened to this guy? He was balling on the Bobcats a couple years ago. Is that simply proof of the Tony Campbell theorem? Chances of becoming this year's X-Factor: 1%


Bonzi Wells, New Orleans Hornets

Remember when Wells was coming off that huge playoff series while playing for Kings a couple years ago? He soon after turned down a five-year $38.5 million contract with Sacramento, ended up signing for two mill with the Rockets, and the rest is history. Chances of becoming this year's X-Factor: 3%


Mike James, New Orleans Hornets

From team to team to team, James is just a guy who never seems happy. I don't like his general attitude potentially contaminating the swagger of the young Chris Paul, but James has a knack for coming up huge in big games. Chances of becoming this year's X-Factor: 32%


Bobby Jackson, Houston Rockets

Playoff-tested and if the Rockets' gameplan of everybody line up behind the three-point line and start chucking continues, B-Jax could have a huge impact come playoff time. Chances of becoming this year's X-Factor: 24%


Joe Smith, Cleveland Cavaliers

A small part of me wonders if one of these days, Average Joe is just going to say, "Screw it," and transform into the player everybody thought he was going to be coming out of college. With LeBron likely facing triple-teams and the Cavs' short on offensive options, I can see Smith going off for 25 one of these nights. Chances of becoming this year's X-Factor: 45%


Wally Szczerbiak, Cleveland Cavaliers

Wally is the anti-clutch. Cleveland fans are probably geeked that Bron finally has the 3-point threat he's always needed. As someone who watched Wally for years during the Timberwolves' playoff rut, I can say that Cleveland is better off bringing back Luke Jackson. Chances of becoming this year's X-Factor: 4%


Delonte West, Cleveland Cavaliers

I wouldn't mind at all if he and Daniel Gibson started a little rivalry trying to outplay each other, especially if either of them is taking clock away from the perpetually annoying Damon Jones. Chances of becoming this year's X-Factor: 29%.


Jamaal Magloire, Dallas Mavericks

Could end up starting center some nights, and that is not a good thing. Chances of becoming this year's X-Factor: 9%


P.J. Brown, Boston Celtics

Brown is the positive force that unites us all. Plus he's a huge body to throw up against Dwight Howard, which is more than I can say about Kevin Garnett. Chances of becoming this year's X-Factor: 16%


Chris Andersen, New Orleans Hornets

When Andersen was banished from the league for violating the NBA drug policy, Chris Paul called it the "worst moment" in his career. That says all you need to know about the Birdman's presence. Chances of becoming this year's X-Factor: 51%


Kyle Korver, Utah Jazz

If I am facing Utah in the playoffs, I am deathly afraid of Korver heating up. Defenders better not get lost in his dreamy eyes, or that's a quick three points in your face. Chances of becoming this year's X-Factor: 63%


Gordan Giricek, Phoenix Suns

The poor man's Korver. Chances of becoming this year's X-Factor: 7%

Sam Cassell, Boston Celtics

If hoops was baseball, we'd all be assuming that guys like Cassell and Dikembe Mutombo were huge HGH users. How does this guy still have functioning legs? A part of me wants to believe that Cassell still has a few big balls shots left, but I see this ending terribly should Sam-I-Am ever wind up covering Chauncey Billups for an extended period of time. Chances of becoming this year's X-Factor: 11%


Tyronn Lue, Dallas Mavericks

I have never ever ever understood the appeal of Ty Lue, but evidently he functions as some sort of tiny good luck charm. Shaq was beckoning the guy for his services before Lue signed with Dallas, and Kevin Garnett is one of Lue's biggest fans. Perhaps karmically Lue will have an impact, but he's not gonna get much clock playing behind the giddy Jason Kidd. Chances of becoming this year's X-Factor: 13%


Theo Ratliff, Detroit Pistons

Could be useful against KG, although if he ends up stealing any clock from Jason Maxiell or Amir Johnson, I'm gonna go egg Flip Saunders' house. Chances of becoming this year's X-Factor: 2%


Kurt Thomas, San Antonio Spurs

F#%cking Spurs. Chances of becoming this year's X-Factor: 74%

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