This year's free agency class will likely be stocked with enough franchise/league-altering talent to make mouths water and eyes bleed, with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony consuming almost every headline from now until they sign a contract.
Just below them is the second tier, a few All-Star caliber players who could immediately move the needle if they sign with the right team in a role that suits their strengths: Kyle Lowry, Luol Deng, Pau Gasol, Lance Stephenson, etc.
A few steps down from that group lies the bottom line of relevance: Solid, possibly overlooked veterans who have the potential to surprise in both good ways and bad.
Perhaps the most intriguing piece in this pile is Mario Chalmers, a borderline backup point guard who spent the past four years on the Miami Heat as a stress ball for LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.
He's best known as their obnoxious, never-not-flopping little brother -- He Who Takes Blame -- and nearly his entire career up until now has been spent trying to get away with every trick in the book while performing under the league's brightest lights.
But outside that very specific environment, he's almost an unknown commodity, already 28 years old, only familiar with the unique role of never having to do too much on a team over powered by some of basketball's all-time greats (including a 6-foot-8 point forward who forced Chalmers into more off-ball action than any starting point guard in the league). In that sense, we don't really know what Chalmers is and isn't capable of in a less cushy setting.
He's coming off the best regular season of his career, with averages of about 10 points and five assists per game, and career-highs in PER, usage percentage and assist rate. Entering unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career, questions are plentiful: Is he a backup? Is his success directly attributed to playing alongside an ideal cast of characters? Will his implosion in the NBA Finals create a recency bias in the negotiation process?
Chalmers has yet to step on an NBA court with high expectations. He just sort of fills the gaps, takes what the defense gives and benefits off having the other team worry so much about LeBron, Wade and Bosh. But when he disintegrates, as he did in the Finals, it's very ugly and very noticeable.
Chalmers averaged just 4.4 points and 2.8 assists in that series, shooting 33.3 percent from the floor and a decrepit 14.3 percent from behind the three-point line. Erik Spoelstra benched him for Game 5, but Chalmers' teammates had already given up on him by Game 3.
Here's one example from the third quarter, with Miami down 15 points. Wade catches the ball on the wing and instead of immediately moving it to Chalmers (who could not possibly be more open) in the corner, he shakes Boris Diaw to the ground and misfires a three of his own. Wade off the dribble is never a better option than Chalmers catching and shooting.
Things didn't change early on in Game 4, when Rashard Lewis caught a pass from LeBron and didn't even notice Chalmers --completely open once again -- in the corner. (To be fair, the shot clock was winding down, but still, just under three seconds is plenty of time to pass the ball and get off a good look.)
Having a monumental collapse in the NBA Finals is basically never a good thing, but insult is added to injury when it happens weeks before hitting unrestricted free agency.
If he played well and Miami won it all (or even made the series competitive), speculation on where Chalmers would end up next year would basically be nonexistent. But the Heat has as uncertain a future as any team in the league right now, and, honestly, re-signing Chalmers doesn't crack their laundry list of priorities. For them, he's replaceable.
Chalmers says he wants to stay in Miami, and that makes total sense. It's South Beach. But he's also aware (or, at least his agent is) that cashing in on the open market before his skills start to decline is a wise financial decision.
One five-game series aside, there's still a lot to like about a starting point guard who played for a team that rolled through the Eastern Conference four years in a row.
According to Synergy Sports, Chalmers was the NBA's number one defender of pick-and-rolls that resulted in a ball-handler turning it over, attempting a field goal or getting to the free-throw line, holding them to 30.1 percent shooting (0.51 points per possession) and forcing a turnover over a third of the time.
He's so great staying in front of his man, mirroring him below the pick or fighting above it and recovering to eliminate any passing lanes behind the point of attack. Chalmers thrived in Miami's ultra-aggressive scheme, with long, wild arms that absolutely murdered any point guard unfortunate enough to pick up his dribble. His above-average on-ball defense has value, and should translate if he signs with another team.
Offensively, he's proven able to stretch the floor as an effective three-point shooter. He shot over 38 percent from deep the past three years, and was a sensational 51.3 percent from the corner in 2013-14.
As a role player, Chalmers knows what to do. He's spent his entire career sacrificing shots, minutes and ball possession for the greater good, and for that he should be commended. But thanks to an embarrassing display in the NBA Finals, his age and an entire career's worth of production down in Miami's quintessential incubator, it's difficult to say whether any other team will be willing to give Chalmers a long-term contract as their starting point guard.
Even so, he understands NBA offense and knows how to run a pick-and-roll. He can shoot, play defense and create off the dribble. If the Heat choose to move on, another playoff team could do a lot worse than plugging Chalmers into their backcourt.