NBA Free Agency: Day 1 Grades
- Mike Conley resigns with the Grizzlies: 5 years, $153 million.
Wow. Is Mike Conley overrated now? Throughout his career, he’s been criminally underrated – no all-star appearances yet – and his stats haven’t been elite, but his +/- and his importance to the Grizzlies have been every bit of elite. He’s truly a jack-of-all trades, master of none lead guard, as he can defend, shoot and distribute well, but he isn’t amongst the league’s best in any of those categories, which has diminished some of his accomplishments in the eyes of the public. The Grizzlies go from a contender to a lottery dweller when he makes his way to the bench. But $30 million per year (the most lucrative contract in NBA history) to a guy that’s never averaged more than 17 PPG and 7 APG in a season, and has never sniffed the Finals? I get that the Grizzlies had to resign him, but this contract screams “elite perennial all-star/future HOF”, and while Conley is very good, he’s not that.
- Demar DeRozan resigns with the Raptors: 5 years, $130 million.
For a guard that can’t shoot consistently, this is a LOT of money. Yes, DeRozan is one of the best slashers and scorers in the game, has improved his passing, can play solid defense (at times), and makes a living at the foul line. But if defenses don’t respect your outside shot, it makes it a lot easier to defend, especially in playoff basketball where phantom calls are no longer the norm – just look at the series against the Cavs. DeRozan has improved his outside shot – up to 33.8% this season – but he is still far from a floor stretcher, and his shot faded big time when it counted most. As clearly the second fiddle to Kyle Lowry, this is too much money. However, like the Grizzlies, the Raptors had to resign their key free agent. If he can make his outside jumper more consistent, and he can (he’s only 27), then this signing will be an ‘A’.
- Andre Drummond resigns with the Pistons: 5 years, $130 million.
Andre Drummond has his flaws – he has no shot which makes him quite vulnerable to the hack-a strategy – but he is a dominant young big with sky-high potential. He’s not truly an elite rim-protector yet, but his will be – just look at him! He’s already a monstrous rebounder (probably the best in the game), and his offensive game is improving. Already one of the best big men in the game, the decision to resign him was a no-brainer.
- Bradley Beal resigns with the Wizards: 5 years, $128 million.
$128 million is a lot of money for a guy that can’t stay healthy and hasn’t yet taken that next step. Beal has only played more than 70 games once in his brief career. He is, however, a young talent who can score and shoot from the outside. However, he is not a great distributer and is a below-average defender. At the ripe age of 23, Beal can improve, and looks the part of a future all-star (when healthy). It would have been a mistake for the Wizards to let him go, as he wouldn’t have a shortage of suitors.
- Nic Batum resigns with the Hornets: 5 years, $120 million.
Batum is a Swiss army knife on the court, as he can shoot, pass, score, and defend very well. He is very versatile and makes up for Walker’s defensive shortcomings in the backcourt. He also allows Walker to play his more natural play-style as a score-first point. Arguably the most important player on the Hornets squad last season, this was a no-brainer and the deal keeps the Hornets as a fringe-playoff team in the East.
- Hassan Whiteside resigns with the Heat: 4 years, $98 million.
Whiteside is a top-tier talent as a starting center – he is a talented scorer and is a ferocious rebounder and shot-blocker. The problem? His defensive prowess is overstated because of his impressive block total. Too often he leaves his feet and either fouls, or jumps so far out of position that it results in a defensive scramble and an easy bucket for the opponent. In actuality, his team fared better on the defensive end with him riding the pine. This did improve for him as the season grew old. His well-documented character and attitude issues cloud this signing even further. Does he grow content with his millions and grow lazy? That’s a legitimate question to be asked. He’s got the talent of a franchise center, but the aforementioned lack of defensive awareness and character concerns make this a difficult signing to grade. If any team can mold him into an elite franchise center, it is the Heat.
- Chandler Parsons signs with the Grizzlies: 4 years, $94 million.
Parsons is a classic jack-of-all trades, master of none type of player. He can shoot, and pass very well – meaning he can fit in any offensive system – and is a solid/versatile defender. This seems steep for Parsons, whose lengthy injury history and upside – stemming from his “master of none” style of play – screams ”solid starter” and nothing more. This signing wreaks of desperation from the Grizzlies who are trying like hell to stay relevant.
- Evan Fournier resigns with the Magic: 5 years, $85 million.
Call me a Big 10 homer if you will, but the Magic would’ve been better off giving Oladipo this kind of deal, and shipping Fournier, in my opinion. On the bright side, he is young (only 23), can play three positions offensively and is an elite young shooter/scorer. However, his defense leaves a lot to be desired.
- Dwight Howard signs with the Hawks: 3 years, $70.5 million.
People really need to chill with the whole “Dwight Howard sucks” shmear campaign. Yes, he’s trending downwards and still is unpolished offensively. But he can still be a 15 PPG scorer, and is one of the best rebounders and rim-protectors in the league. The Hawks knew that they wouldn’t be able to keep Horford, and Howard is not a bad plan B.
- Joakim Noah signs with the Knicks: 4 years, $72 million.
The Knicks go from overpaying Robin Lopez last offseason to overpaying Joakim Noah this offseason. Lopez has never been that good – he’s merely OK – and Noah is clearly on the decline, so I don’t understand this deal. Phil Jackson is under a lot of pressure to turn the Knicks into contenders, and that’s what this deal smells like to me. Only a few years back, Noah was an MVP candidate, and was an elite rim-protector, rebounder and distributer out of the center spot. Now? He’s an oft-injured big on the decline. On the bright side, Noah will be a great locker room presence and will leave it all on the court for the Knicks and fits well into the triangle.
- Evan Turner signs with the Trail Blazers: 4 years, $70 million.
Let’s start with the good first. Turner found his niche last season with the Celtics as an elite 6th man who can distribute, score and defend. But is that worth $70 million over four years? Turner isn’t an elite scorer or defender and still cannot shoot. Will he help Portland? Yes! But he’s a better fit off the bench where he can be the primary ball-handler, and this deal is too rich for that. I don’t get how he fits into the starting rotation if indeed he starts like he’s being paid to.
- Kent Bazemore resigns with the Hawks: 4 years, $70 million.
Bazemore turned in a career year last season as a full-time starter for the Hawks, and fits the new mold of a 3-and-D wing. However, this was his first year as a standout. Before that he was known for his bench celebrations with the Warriors! Giving a guy $70 million who scored less than 12PPG is risky business, especially considering he isn’t elite in other areas.
- Timofey Mozgov signs with the Lakers: 4 years, $64 million.
LOL. Mozgov was rated just about as poorly as Roy Hibbert was last season and signed a $16 million per year contract. If he can bounce back to previous form, he could be a solid starter for the Lakers, but who knows.
- Solomon Hill signs with the Pelicans: 4 years, $52 million.
WOW. LOL. Solomon Hill has done NOTHING to deserve a contract like this. Hill’s playing time decreased from 29 to about 15 minutes per outing, and is a career 32.5% 3-point shooter, which kinda blows the whole “3-and-D” thing out of the water. Hill does have size and can defend multiple positions, but he hasn’t consistently produced enough to warrant a contract this lucrative.
- Jordan Clarkson resigns with the Lakers: 4 years, $50 million.
With all the lucrative deals going out, this is a steal for the Lakers – thanks to the Areanas provision! Clarkson may be better off in the 6th man role, but is a solid starter as he can play both guard spots and can score. His defense must improve if he wants to be a long-term starter.
- Matthew Dellavedova signs with the Bucks: 4 years, $38 million.
I really like this deal for the Bucks. This seems like the going rate for backup guards – maybe a little pricier – but Delly fits with the Bucks very well. He has the ability to start, and provides a nice off-ball PG option for a team that features the Greek Freak as the primary ball-handler. He can shoot well from outside (right around 40%), can distribute (rarely turns the ball over), and is a pesky on-ball defender. His defense was overrated for a while, thanks to last year’s Finals, but he is still a very solid defender. Delly will leave it all on the floor for the Bucks, and will provide them that emotional leader that will do the dirty work. Every championship caliber team needs one, and the Bucks may use him in that role in a few years.
- Jeremy Lin signs with the Nets: 3 years, $36 million.
I’ve gone back and forth on this deal. I think J-Lin would’ve been better off resigning with the Hornets. This would provide stability in an otherwise unstable career, and he worked really well in that 6th man role. I can’t see him functioning well as the lead guard for a really bad team where the defenses are zeroed in on him. I think his role is best as a 6th man. The price is a little steep – not too egregious – but I think this was a bad career move for Linsanity.
- E’Twaun Moore signs with the Pelicans: 4 years, $34 million.
The Pelicans got themselves a nice backup guard who can play both guard spots. He can really shoot the long ball and is a solid defender as well, who really knows his role and plays within a system. He can play behind both Hield and Holiday/Evans, and fill in for injuries like he did with the Bulls. I like this deal, even if he’s had only one year of proven play.
- Mirza Teletovic signs with the Bucks: 3 years, $30 million.
Telly can score and stretch the floor… That’s about it. The Bucks need floor stretchers to make room for the Greek Freak and Jabari to maneuver, and Telly can do that. He is 30, but the price range isn’t too bad (Jon Leuer got a 4 year, $42 mil. contract from the Pistons).
- Al Jefferson signs with the Pacers: 3 years, $30 million.
I don’t get the fit, but the value is too good. With the Pacers and Bird wanting a more run-and-gun style of play, I’m not sure how Big Al fits into that. However, he is still a strong low-post scorer and rebounder who will be a great tutor for Myles Turner.
- Jared Dudley signs with the Suns: 3 years, $30 million.
Dudley is a nice stretch combo forward who can defend pretty well. Those kind of players are in high demand right now, so this contract doesn’t look too bad. The Suns needed help on the wing, and he can also provide minutes at the 4 when the young guns are resting.
- D.J. Augustin signs with the Magic: 4 years, $29 million.
Upon first glance, this deal looks awful. But keep in mind that the going rate for backup guards is about this range, so it isn’t an F like it looks. He’s still nothing more than an OK backup guard, though.
- Jerryd Bayless signs with the 76ers: 3 years, $27 million.
Bayless is a nice scoring combo guard who can fill it up from deep, but is not a natural distributer and is a sieve on the defensive end. He’s an elite catch-and-shoot three point shooter, so his fit with Ben Simmons looks good. This is a little pricey, but the deal is solid nonetheless, as he will provide a scoring punch off the ‘6ers bench. I’m sad to see him go as a Bucks fan.
- Darrell Arthur resigns with the Nuggets: 3 years, $23 million.
Arthur is a solid big who can defend and stretch the floor (38% from three), but I don’t see how he fits in the logjam in the Nuggets frontcourt as it stands. This is good value, though.
- Joe Johnson signs with the Jazz: 2 years, $22 million.
Aha! So Johnson wasn’t totally washed up after all. I was certain that he would go ring-chasing this offseason, so I was caught by surprise when he signed with the Jazz. As a likely backup (unless Hayward is traded), the money is steep, but he provides a versatile offensive option who can score and stretch the floor, while also providing a veteran presence in an otherwise young locker room.
- Ish Smith signs with the Pistons: 3 years, $18 million.
This is one of the bargains of the off-season. Ish Smith showed off his elite change-of-pass style of point guard play this past season, as he can probe the defense and is a very good distributer. The going rate of backup points was much higher than this, so bravo to the Pistons.
- Jeff Green signs with the Magic: 1 year, $15 million.
What exactly are the Magic doing? They have assembled an odd assortment of talent this off-season, and I’m not exactly sure how Jeff Green fits. Green is talented and can shoot/score/defend, but has historically disappointed throughout his career.