Posted August 05, 2013

Examining minor moves of free agency

2013 NBA free agency, 2013 NBA offseason, Rob Mahoney
After some delay, Nate Robinson finally found a home in free agency. (Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

After some delay, Nate Robinson finally found a home in free agency. (Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

While we’ve covered the major moves of free agency in greater detail here at The Point Forward, there are inevitably dozens of smaller acquisitions that teams use to fill out their depth charts, gamble on prospects and address specific matchup problems. As those moves are reported, check back here to find in-depth analysis on the fit, value and more.

July 11-23

Nate Robinson has agreed to a two-year, $4 million deal with the Nuggets. It’s not all that shocking that Robinson went unsigned for so long; he’s the kind of player a coach and general manager need to talk themselves into. He may have done more good than harm for the Bulls last season, but they were his fifth team in eight years for a reason. To embrace Robinson’s volume scoring, after all, is to embrace the possibility of his self-destruction. His quick-fire game can prove just as damaging to his own team as it can his opponents when employed in the wrong context or when paired with a shooting slump, making any reliance on his skills a somewhat dicey proposition. Chicago was in an optimal position to take that plunge last season because of Derrick Rose’s absence, and the Bulls wound up riding Robinson’s high-wire act through a first-round victory in the playoffs. Denver isn’t quite so starved for scoring, meaning it’s in an even more preferable position to use Robinson’s skills situationally. It’s tough to argue with the acquisition of such an explosive offensive player at this price, as the potential damage is mitigated by the security of Denver’s point guard rotation and the cost is ultimately negligible. Grade: B. (My colleague Ben Golliver gave the Nuggets a “B+” for the deal.)

Corey Brewer has agreed to a three-year, $14.1 million deal with the Timberwolves. Brewer is an energy specialist, fit to work over opponents in transition, be first to every loose ball, keep active on offense and wreak havoc on defense. That makes him a nice piece to have around, but not on so substantial a salary. Mid-level money is an awful lot to pay for a player who scored roughly a third of his points on fast breaks and can shoot from only one spot on the floor (the left corner). He’s still equipped to help the Wolves based on defense (compared to Minnesota’s wing alternatives) and activity (Brewer’s cutting ability should fit well in Rick Adelman’s offense) alone, but that doesn’t quite justify a deal of this size and length. Grade: C-.

Marreese Speights has agreed to a three-year, $11 million deal with the Warriors. The addition of Andre Iguodala helped shore up a lot of problems for the Warriors, but it doesn’t quite cover for the loss of forward Carl Landry via free agency. Signing Speights helps to fill that void, if not completely. Speights is similarly geared toward offensive production (he averaged 18.2 points per 36 minutes last season), though his game is more firmly perimeter-oriented than Landry’s; nearly half of Speights’ shot attempts last season came on mid-range jumpers, of which he made a 46 percent — a Kevin Garnett-level of intermediate proficiency. He’ll help tide over the Warriors’ second unit in the scoring column and work hard to clean the glass, though — as this price point would suggest — he’s not without his faults. Speights’ work on the defensive end tends to be lacking in a general sense, as he simply misplays his opponents’ moves on a far too frequent basis to be a quality defender. He’ll be a step down from Landry, who wasn’t a very good defender as it was, on that end of the floor, and could wind up playing zero-sum basketball as a result. But for such a meager contract — and with a third-year team option in case things go sour quickly — Golden State can live with that weakness, while riding Speights’ stout shooting to sustenance for its reserve lineups. Grade: B-.

Jermaine O’Neal has agreed to a one-year, $2 million deal with the Warriors. A fine pickup for a team that’s positioned to make use of O’Neal — who is coming off a nice bounce-back year in Phoenix — without relying too much on his fortune turn of good health. Whichever team employs O’Neal needs to be wary of his potential unavailability, as age (he’s nearly 35) and a long injury history will undoubtedly catch up to him at some point. He can’t be used for big minutes, and with the Warriors he doesn’t have to be. Andrew Bogut, Speights, and David Lee will all be ahead of him in the rotation, to say nothing of how his minutes might be limited by the Warriors running small-ball lineups. He’s a much more capable scorer than Festus Ezeli (and much more available, as Ezeli is set to miss another 5-8 months as he recovers from knee surgery), and a decent — if slow-footed — shot-blocking option. Much shouldn’t be expected of O’Neal at this stage in his career, but he’ll make for a nice choice to fill limited minutes for a fairly deep Warriors team. Grade: B-.

D.J. Augustin has agreed to a one-year, $1.3 million deal with the Raptors. Augustin was a disaster for Indiana last season. He was unable to carry the weight of the offense as a backup shot creator and was one of the worst perimeter defenders in the league. Still, it’s hard to find too much fault in signing an incredibly limited player to a one-year deal for just a bit more than the minimum salary. At the least, Augustin is a credible three-point threat and a decent enough passer in open space. He simply struggles when defenses collapse on his drives and has problems getting quality shots off inside the arc because of his size. He’s serviceable enough to be a third point guard to complete a team’s rotation, and one can only hope that to be the ultimate plan in Toronto. Though even if not, the Raptors won’t lose much; Augustin isn’t enough of a sag to doom Toronto’s hopes to contend for one of the final few playoff spots in the East, and at worst he’ll be gone next summer. Not a great signing, by any means, but a passable one given the near-minimum cost. Grade: C.

Chauncey Billups has agreed to a two-year, $5 million deal with the Pistons. Detroit needed shooters, leaders and better passers, and managed to check all boxes in signing Billups — an enduring crowd favorite. Billups won’t be much of a tangible investment in Detroit’s future, but in principle he could help some of the younger Pistons along while loosening up a crowded offense. He won’t and shouldn’t be asked to run an offense on a full-time basis, but Billups can help a team that currently leans on the likes of Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey to get its offense in motion, largely by adding another angle for entry passes and offensive initiation. That should help Detroit as it looks to implement a new offensive system and work in the newly acquired Josh Smith, all with a pretty reasonable short-term deal for Billups . Grade: B-.

Elton Brand has agreed to a one-year, $4 million deal with the Hawks. Atlanta got an outstanding deal on Paul Millsap, brought back the sweet-shooting Kyle Korver at a reasonable rate and wound up matching a surprisingly affordable offer sheet given to Jeff Teague by Milwaukee. But along with those signings came the low-key addition of a really solid defensive big man in Brand, who should slightly relieve some of the defensive loss that will come with Smith’s departure in substance if not style. Brand won’t fly around the court in the same way that Smith did for the Hawks, but he’s able to wall off the rim and contest shots with long arms and smart positioning. Sound fundamentals allow Brand to make up for his lack of leaping ability, and with that he’ll be able to complement the defensive work of Al Horford when the two play together or take up the mantle as Atlanta’s primary interior defender when Horford rests. Altogether, Brand’s signing is just one of several moves that make the Hawks a reasonable contender for the East’s sixth seed, all made without compromising the team’s financial flexibility. Grade: B.

Randy Foye has agreed to be signed and traded to the Nuggets on a three-year, $9 million deal. Denver’s roster design hinges on a balanced attack of sub-superstars, which doesn’t bode terribly well for Foye. He could pan out as a solid piece if he were given the chance to play off the ball exclusively, particularly opposite a superstar who could set him up for spot-up threes aplenty. That just isn’t likely to be the case in Denver, as Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari — talented though they may be — aren’t quite to the level that would push Foye into the limited role he seems to need. His shooting efficiency tends to slump when he’s asked to do more with the ball, but the Nuggets will undoubtedly need Foye to initiate offense as a relief to the team’s other guards, a pivot point in particular sets, or merely on an improvisational basis when the primary options fall through. He’s still vaguely serviceable in those capacities, but the more the Nuggets can isolate Foye’s abilities as a wing shooter, the better. Grade: Grade: C+.

James Anderson was claimed off waivers by the 76ers on a two-year, minimum salary deal. New Sixers GM (and former Rockets assistant GM) Sam Hinkie is filling out his roster with the familiar — first in claiming Royce White following his release from the Rockets, and later in claiming Anderson once Houston cut him loose. In theory, Anderson is a decent situational scorer with a smooth jumper, but he has yet to make much of an offensive imprint in the NBA. That could well be a function of opportunity. Anderson has spent his career on Spurs and Rockets teams that were crowded on the wings. The same won’t be the case in Philadelphia, where Anderson will largely only need to compete with Evan Turner and Jason Richardson for playing time based on the deliberately depleted roster that Hinkie has pieced together so far. The Sixers are a sinking ship by design, and while they’re angling for a better pick in the 2014 draft, they’ll have a chance to see what Anderson can do in a slightly larger role while retaining the option of releasing him from the second year of his deal at no cost whatsoever (per Sham Sports). Grade: C+.

Tim Ohlbrecht was claimed off waivers by the 76ers on a two-year, minimum salary deal. Yet another Rockets cast-off picked up to round out the Sixers’ roster. Ohlbrecht hasn’t logged much NBA playing time yet, but he had a nice tour with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the D-League last season and is worth an extended look. At the least, Ohlbrecht is a big man who can catch and finish on the move — not only with dunks and layups, but also with short hooks and runners. He moves well for his size, and at the very least seems like a decent benchwarmer. If it works out, then Philadelphia will get two years out of Ohlbrecht on a bargain deal before he enters restricted free agency. If not, then the Sixers can release him at any time with no future penalty, as his contract is fully nonguaranteed in both seasons with no pertinent release deadlines (per Sham Sports). This is as low-risk as signings come, though we’ll have to wait and see what Ohlbrecht can offer given his dearth of experience against top-level pro competition. Grade: INC.

Brandan Wright has agreed to return to the Mavericks on a two-year, $10 million deal (via David Aldridge, Turner Sports). Dallas’ high-end moves (Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon) may be a bit rich for a team that needs to maintain financial flexibility for next summer, but the Mavs have done well otherwise to acquire (or in this case, retain) rotation-level talent at reasonable prices. Keeping Wright is an extension of that success, as the hyper-efficient prospect will reprise his role in Dallas and hopefully see some new opportunities in the coming seasons. Rick Carlisle hasn’t much allowed Wright to fully explore his game over the past two years, but Wright will be surrounded by more talent than ever and could be further enabled as a pick-and-roll weapon. Between Calderon, Ellis, Gal Mekel and Shane Larkin, Wright will have a wide variety of partners in the two-man game, each capable of setting him up for easy looks at the rim. If Wright completed 70.2 percent of his field goal attempts in the restricted area while playing off of Darren Collison and Mike James last season, how brilliantly effective might he be around the basket with more sophisticated playmakers setting the table? Grade: B.

Wesley Johnson has agreed to a one-year deal with the Lakers for the minimum salary. Johnson has done exceedingly little to justify hope in what remains of his NBA career, but this season’s Lakers are in a position to once more probe his basketball potential just to make sure that nothing was overlooked. Good on them for trying, as they really have nothing to lose in giving Johnson one more proper shot in an NBA rotation. Grade: C-.

Jason Maxiell has agreed to two-year, $5 million deal with the Magic (via Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports). Maxiell isn’t a bad player, but I don’t quite grasp the motivation here for a team that clearly has no interest in competing for a playoff spot immediately. 30-year-old undersized bigs don’t often make for great rebuilding fodder, particularly when there are other young players (Tobias Harris, namely) on the roster worthy of the same slice of playing time. It won’t likely be an issue while Glen Davis is sidelined, but upon his return Maxiell should be of only marginal use. His workmanlike game might set a good standard for some of the younger players on the roster, but he could well wind up as a short-term source of merely solid defense while eating up playing time that would be better spent on Orlando’s prospects. We shouldn’t skip ahead without first seeing what Jacque Vaughn will make of this rotation, but I don’t see much justification for why a player like Maxiell would be all that worthwhile to Orlando. They have an out in the second year of Maxiell’s deal (via a fully unguaranteed second-year salary) should they choose to go in a different direction, but his role in the season to come would seem curious for a team in the Magic’s position. Grade: C-.

Nazr Mohammed has agreed to return to the Bulls on a one-year deal, presumably for the veteran minimum (via K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune). Mohammed proved useful for Chicago this season, as his height gave Tom Thibodeau a taller reserve rebounder and defender to use in lieu of Taj Gibson. He’s nowhere near the same class of defender as Gibson, nor a great fit for the Bulls’ specific needs. But Mohammed can hold his own in the post and understands the Bulls’ defensive system, which together make him worth keeping around. He won’t likely play much on a regular basis, but Chicago needed Mohammed or some player like him to provide a situational matchup option and safety net in the case of injury, and went with the safest choice possible in re-upping the most familiar of the bunch. Grade: C+.

Byron Mullens has agreed to a two-year, $2 million deal with the Clippers (via Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports). Mullens was a terribly inefficient offensive player last season and a minus defender overall, but at the very least he serves as an upgrade over the recently re-signed Ryan Hollins. If Mullens’ signing is the last move made by the Clips this offseason, though, that’s bad news; even if we assume that Doc Rivers is able to shore up some of the team’s defensive issues and that all else goes according to plan, L.A. is still another solid big man away from serious contention. Mullens is of little help in that regard, though he’s likely to perform better overall this season as a product of playing on a far more talented offensive team, and should have better scoring opportunities than he did previously. That said, Mullens’ fate as a Clipper will ultimately hinge on his ability to fill a more discerning role; few players in the league hunted shots as unabashedly as Mullens last season, and it goes without saying that he’ll need to rein in those habits if he’s to play any part on a more functional Clippers team. If he manages that much, he’s a decent option for limited minutes. If not, then even Hollins might be preferable to the terror of a green-lit Mullens. Grade: C.

Bernard James has agreed to a one-year deal with the Mavericks for the minimum salary. This signing is merely a formality, as the Mavs waived James (whose salary was unguaranteed) in order to clear an extra bit of cap room, only to then re-sign James to a minimum deal (using the minimum salary exception) after he cleared waivers. It’s a bit surprising that no team wanted to pick up a decent big on a cheap deal to fill out their bench, but Dallas lucked out and will bring back James for depth. Grade: — (no change, no grade)

Greg Stiemsma has agreed to a one-year, $2.7 million deal with the Pelicans (via Marc Stein, ESPN.com). A nice, reasonable get to replace Robin Lopez’s defensive impact at roughly half the price. Stiemsma is still too reluctant a shooter to be much of an offensive asset, but his shot blocking (he’s blocked 6.8 percent of two-point field goal attempts while on the floor in his two NBA seasons) should help out a team that ranked 28th in points allowed per possession last season. Stiemsma is much better than Lopez at actually challenging shots, and with that might better complement bigs like Ryan Anderson and Jason Smith — neither of whom is much of a presence at the rim. He’s clearly not a long-term option at the position, but Stiemsma should be a nice defensive piece during his time in New Orleans and can protect the still-slight Anthony Davis from some particularly unfavorable matchups. Grade: C+.

Ronny Turiaf has agreed to a two-year, $3 million deal with the Timberwolves (via David Aldridge, Turner Sports). Losing both Stiemsma and Andrei Kirilenko shortened Minnesota’s ranks of viable bigs, creating a need for just this kind of signing. All things considered, Turiaf works; the Wolves would undoubtedly prefer a better finisher or rebounder, but can make up for those Turiaf shortcomings through roster-wide scoring and Kevin Love’s bulk rebounding. Turiaf will fill a gap in the rotation rather than address some specific problem, but in that he still provides (marginal) value all the same. Grade: C.

Reggie Williams has agreed to a two-year deal with the Rockets for the minimum salary (via Marc Stein, ESPN.com). Houston is taking its chances on a handful of perimeter shooters by signing them to smart two-year deals, each with only a partial guarantee in their second season. That puts the Rockets in a great position to manipulate their core of role players for the 2014-15 season depending on how things unfold over the next year, and pocket the potential to clear a few roster spots if need be. Rockets GM Daryl Morey generally does a nice job of picking up useful players in this price range, and could have a decent scorer — if an underwhelming performer in every other category — in Williams. He doesn’t defend much at all and struggles to play a role in more complex offenses, but if nothing else Williams can contribute as a spot-up shooter and situational scorer while his unguaranteed contract serves as Houston’s referendum. Grade: C.


July 9-10

Chris Kaman has agreed to a one-year deal with the Lakers for the mini mid-level exception, worth $3.2 million (via Marc Stein, ESPN.com and Ramona Shelburne, ESPN LA). Despite clear needs in the backcourt and on the wings, the Lakers opted to use one of the few talent-adding mechanisms available to pick up another center. L.A. was short a usable big, mind you, but with Kobe Bryant’s return date up in the air, Metta World Peace an amnesty candidate, Steve Nash an injury risk and the team in need of better shooters, why not use the mini mid-level to chase a player more useful than an insurance center? Pau Gasol is more than capable of manning that spot for the bulk of the Lakers’ minutes and games, and it’s not as if Mitch Kupchak has stumbled upon some can’t-miss commodity in Kaman. He is a decent enough post player who can hit face-up jumpers, but the 31-year-old a bit of a mess in coverage and hardly a value-adding rebounder. He has a place in the league and could tide over the Lakers at times with bits of low-block scoring, but Kaman’s addition stands in the way of more pressing needs. Grade: C.

Jordan Farmar has agreed to a one-year deal with the Lakers for the veteran’s minimum (via Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA). Farmar doesn’t do much to change the Lakers’ general trajectory, but his addition provides the slightest help as L.A. looks to avoid a crash-and-burn season. He has trouble running offense and doesn’t tend to create quality looks for his teammates, but Farmar’s shooting ability (he’s a 37-percent shooter from three for his NBA career) should come in handy alongside Bryant, Gasol and — in spots — Nash. He won’t do much to help the Lakers defensively, though he can slide over to defend bigger guards on occasion. That should prove useful as Farmar may wind up logging some minutes at the 2, where he can be used to greater effect as a spot shooter and situational playmaker. Farmar’s a limited player, mind you, but for a minimum salary he’s a decent enough pick-up for a Lakers team that could make use of his skill set. Grade: C+.

Will Bynum has agreed to return to the Pistons on a two-year deal worth $5.7 million (via Marc Stein, ESPN.com). I had Bynum penciled in for relocation and a raise, but neither will apparently be the case as he agreed to stick with Detroit on an even cheaper deal than before. That’s great news for the Pistons’ bigs in particular, as Bynum is a pick-and-roll dynamo set to again make life easy for Andre Drummond, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe whenever he shares the floor with them. This piddling contract figure is undoubtedly tied to his age (Bynum has only played in the NBA for six seasons but is already 30) and lack of shooting range. For the moment, though, Bynum is a terrific reserve shot-creator who thrives in the most basic tenet of NBA offense. That he wasn’t in higher demand is a curiosity, particularly given that he’s fresh off a career year that saw him average 18.8 points and 6.8 assists per 36 minutes off the bench for the Pistons. Grade: A.

Toney Douglas has agreed to a one-year, $1.6 million deal with the Warriors (via Jared Zwerling, ESPN New York and Sam Amick, USA Today). Douglas is best served by a role that will allow him to play off the ball on offense while locking in against ball-handling guards on defense, and a spot on the rapidly improving Warriors should provide just that. Douglas can get himself into trouble off the dribble if he’s given too much freedom, but by sharing the floor with Andre Iguodala and/or Steph Curry, he’ll be able to contribute defensively while deferring control of the offense. That alone makes him an interesting positional successor to Jarrett Jack (who, while productive, could be an imposition at times), and better potential fit for the Warriors’ greater designs at a fraction of the cost. Lineups with Douglas, Iguodala, Klay Thompson and Andrew Bogut have the potential to play well above the defensive heights that the new-and-improved Warriors reached a season ago, all without Douglas’ style of play taking Golden State out of their regular, well-balanced offense. Grade: A.

Anthony Morrow has agreed to a two-year deal with the Pelicans for the veteran minimum (via Marc Spears, Yahoo! Sports). Morrow essentially has but a single NBA-level skill, but that one skill happens to be particularly valuable in the league’s current landscape and also coincides with one of New Orleans’ team needs. The Pelicans have just four players under contract who shot from beyond the arc at an above-average clip last season (one is Ryan Anderson), and two of them are primary ball handlers (Jrue Holiday and Brian Roberts) while another is a seldom-used reserve (Darius Miller). If Morrow can earn a spot in the rotation, he could open up room for his teammates’ dribble drives and pick-and-rolls, both of which will be valuable in leveraging New Orleans’ wealth of natural athletes. He’s a limited player otherwise, but one whose shortcomings are perfectly tolerable on a minimum deal. Grade: B-.

Wayne Ellington has agreed to a two-year, $5 million deal with the Mavericks (via Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports). Dallas took another, slightly more versatile shooter off the market in Ellington, and further built out a revamped backcourt that already includes Jose Calderon, Devin Harris, Vince Carter, Gal Mekel and Shane Larkin. Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle will have plenty of options among those perimeter players, though with Ellington he has his first pure shooting specialist of the bunch — a necessary addition given the lack of three-point range between Harris, Mekel and small forward regular Shawn Marion. Ellington doesn’t address’ Dallas most pressing needs (the Mavs are still staring into a void in their depth chart at the center position, with second-year big man Bernard James very tentatively penciled in as the opening-night starter), but he was attainable and cost-efficient — two considerations important to a franchise that has plenty of roster work ahead. His salary won’t get in the way of the Mavs’ pursuit of another big man in either the short or long term, and in the interim he’ll help stretch out opposing defenses to aid the efforts of Nowitzki and Calderon. Grade: B-.


July 8

Darren Collison has agreed to a two-year, $3.9 million deal with the Clippers (via Marc Stein, ESPN.com and Sam Amick, USA Today). Collison’s 2012-13 season warranted modest criticism, as blatant inconsistency cost him an opportunity to lay claim to a starting spot for a decent Mavs team. There’s no shame in that; although Collison rather definitively proved that he’s better used as a reserve than a full-time starter, he’ll now fill a valuable role for a likely contender and carry a lesser burden as a backup to Chris Paul. That’s a dream scenario for Collison, who will have a chance to re-assert himself and boost his free agent appeal while reserving the right to decline his second-year player option should he wish to test the market next summer. That out is a necessary component of why the Clippers were able to get a quality player at such a curiously low price, but it serves all parties well in this instance; while Collison benefits from the security of a loaded roster, L.A. lands a natural replacement for Eric Bledsoe (who was traded to Phoenix to acquire J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley) to keep the offense humming on the second unit. Collison isn’t the defender that Bledsoe was nor as compatible alongside Paul, but should otherwise address the Clippers’ need for a reserve playmaker who can push the pace and work over backup-grade defenders — all at a salary that may well be the bargain of free agency thus far. Grade: A-.

Devin Harris has agreed to a three-year, $9 million deal with the Mavericks (via Marc Stein, ESPN.com). The notion of Harris as a repurposed shooting guard might have seemed a bit odd at first, but Atlanta was ultimately able to field one of the best lineups in the league last season by using Harris and Jeff Teague as a starting backcourt. His pairing with Jose Calderon in Dallas this season should prove even more functional, as the veteran point guard covers for many of Harris’ weaknesses and vice versa. With Calderon, Dallas has the spot-up shooter and the facilitator necessary to maximize Dirk Nowitzki’s touches. With Harris, the Mavs get an off-the-dribble creator who can get things moving in a very different way, all without risk of being overexposed as a primary ball handler. Defensively, Harris can defend both backcourt positions well, and when paired with Shawn Marion (who has spent time guarding positions from 1-4) gives Dallas the flexibility it needs to hide Calderon against most opponents. That he was had on a three-year deal for so slim a price makes this an outstanding move, and a perfect companion signing to the initial agreement with Calderon. Grade: A.

UPDATE: Harris’ deal with the Mavs has been called off due to an impending surgical procedure on his toe, but he and the Mavs are reportedly renegotiating, per Marc Stein of ESPN.com.

J.J. Hickson has agreed to a three-year, $16.2 million deal with the Nuggets (via Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports). Denver couldn’t find a combination of bigs to provide steady defense last season, as JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried, in particular, were just too raw on that end to hold up against quality offenses. To exacerbate matters, Denver has now added Hickson, who may well be the worst defender of the three. NBA bigs are asked to do quite a bit on defense, and thus far in his career Hickson has problems tracking from one action to the next. That he’s a bit undersized as a center — where he was slotted in Portland last season — only tends to make things worse, and he may again have to fill minutes at that slot now that the Nuggets have traded their previous starting center (Kosta Koufos) for a smaller big (Darrell Arthur). His rebounding has been great of late and he does a fine job of seeking out those bits of open space around the basket to exploit with a quick layup or dunk after being set up by a teammate. But Hickson doesn’t in any way complement Faried or McGee — he merely duplicates some of what they offer while extending the team’s defensive problems deeper into the rotation. As comfortable as I am with Hickson at this price, Grade: C.

Ryan Hollins has agreed to a one-year deal with the Clippers, likely for the minimum salary (via Marc Spears, Yahoo! Sports). Hollins is an energy big whose game doesn’t really produce the more tangible benefits of high-energy basketball. He bounces around on defense, but rarely winds up in the right place. He’s a leaper, but doesn’t demonstrate the technique necessary to be an effective rebounder. He’s a solid enough catch-and-finish option, but so easily slips out of control if given the ball too early that his application is particularly narrow. Hollins can sop up a few minutes here and there, but frankly isn’t all that useful a player — even on a minimum deal. Grade: D.

Carlos Delfino has agreed to a three-year, $9.8 million deal with the Bucks (via Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports). Delfino can get a bit shot-happy at times, but he’s yet another example of a 3-and-D+ player — one who can hit threes reliably (Delfino has shot at an above-average clip from long range every year since 2007), defend multiple positions solidly and contribute elsewhere on the floor. In Delfino’s case, he can handle the ball more competently than most rotation shooters; he shouldn’t be initiating offense on a regular basis, but he’s a perfectly solid option for counter-drives or situational ball handling, and he generally does a good job of moving the ball on the perimeter. All of this makes him perfectly good rotation filler for a team that stands to lose four of its five top wing players (Monta Ellis, J.J. Redick, Mike Dunleavy and Marquis Daniels) from last season in terms of minutes played. There’s really not much for the Bucks to lose with a signing like this one; not only is the dollar amount reasonable for Delfino, but players of his type tend to hold their trade value and Delfino’s contract specifically will give the Bucks an out by way of an unguaranteed third season. He’ll give Milwaukee good minutes without much danger of overstaying his welcome or hurting their cap outlook, which makes for a good move all around. Grade: B-.

Zaza Pachulia has agreed to a three-year, $15.6 million deal with the Bucks (via Marc Stein, ESPN.com). As much as I like what Pachulia offers as a defender and rebounder, I don’t much see the appeal in adding him to a retooling team that already has Larry Sanders, John Henson, Ersan Ilyasova, Ekpe Udoh, Gustavo Ayon, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Drew Gooden on the roster (UPDATE: Mbah a Moute has since been traded and Gooden has since been amnestied). The terms are decent enough in a general sense, but for team sussing out frontcourt prospects I’m not sure that Pachulia would really be worth the cap space he’ll absorb and the minutes he’ll eat up. Good player, decent deal, remarkably weird fit. Grade: C.

Shaun Livingston has agreed to a one-year deal with the Nets for the veteran minimum (via Mike Mazzeo, ESPN New York). Brooklyn’s top-heavy salary structure requires quality low-salary complements, and Nets GM Billy King has found one such fit in Livingston. He’s no C.J. Watson, but between Livingston and the recently acquired Jason Terry, Brooklyn should be able to replicate much of what Watson was able to offer last season. Livingston specifically offers functional playmaking and the slightest potential for defensive cross-matching, though frankly he isn’t all that skilled at defending either guard position. Still, Livingston can slash a bit, has an innate height advantage over many opposing guards and manages to create shots without turning the ball over often. Not a knockout by any means, but a good piece to pick up for a team that needs just this kind of minimum-salary add. Grade: B-.

Omri Casspi has agreed to a two-year, $2 million deal with the Rockets (via Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports). Houston was still in need of another shooter or two, and Casspi makes some decent sense as a buy-low wing capable of both spotting up and cutting to the basket. He never found his footing in two years with the Cavs, but showed enough with the Kings in his rookie and sophomore seasons to warrant another chance. There’s almost no risk whatsoever here; at a near-minimum salary with a second-year team option, the Rockets will be in control of deciding Casspi’s fate if things don’t quite pan out. If he manages to live up to his early-career promise, however, Houston stands to pick up a nice asset on a two-year term for a bargain price. Grade: B-.

Earl Watson has agreed to a one-year deal with the Blazers for the veteran minimum (via Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports). Portland GM Neil Olshey now has a three-man rotation locked in at point guard for the coming season, absent of all three of the Blazers’ previous reserves (Eric Maynor, Ronnie Price and Nolan Smith). That’s ultimately for the best, though the addition of Watson as an isolated move is a bit shrug-worthy. He likely has more to teach second-year guard Damian Lillard and rookie C.J. McCollum than some of the other available options, but Watson doesn’t really offer much more on the court than you’d expect of a third-string player. He’s still a perfectly decent passer and a manageable defender, but Watson was the second-worst per-minute scorer in the entire league last season among players who averaged 10 minutes a game or more. That’s not exactly preferable, but for the minimum salary and with two big-minute scoring guards ahead of Watson in the rotation, the Blazers can certainly live with a pass-first, pass-second, pass-third type on a minimum deal. Grade: C.


July 5-6

Dorell Wright has agreed to a two-year, $6.1 million deal with the Blazers (via Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports). Portland is making waves after suffering arguably the worst bench in basketball last season — first in drafting C.J. McCollum, then by nabbing Thomas Robinson when the Rockets were intent to give him away, later by sneaking into the Tyreke Evans sign-and-trade to land Robin Lopez and most recently in agreeing to terms on a fantastic deal with a coveted free agent wing in Wright. As valuable as spot-up shooters are in a league that hinges on floor spacing, the greater prizes are those who can offer both perimeter shooting and a few other beneficial attributes. Wright does just that, as he’s positionally flexible, accurate from beyond the arc, a solid positional rebounder, and better than expected when putting the ball on the floor to attack a rotating defense. He’s still firmly within the role player set, but contributes in so many different regards as to be a wonderful addition for a Blazers team that still needs a bit of everything. Grade: A.

Matt Barnes has agreed to re-sign with the Clippers on a three-year, $10.2 million deal (via Sam Amick, USA Today). Barnes will reprise his role as the Clippers’ top wing defender, though in the process his deal will eat into a bit of L.A.’s mid-level exception. That essentially rules out the Clippers in their courting of impact bigs like Carl Landry, but Barnes is well worth it; he very quietly played out the 2012-13 season as an understated piece for the Clips and one of the better reserves in the league, largely by way of a high energy level and generally pesky defense. Barnes even shifted over to guard bigs at times with mixed results, though he battled doggedly in those matchups and made up for his height and weight disadvantage with persistence and length. Altogether, Barnes can swing to guard several positions successfully, and has an offensive game that’s perfectly amenable to the Clippers’ roster. He may not be a consistent shooter, but Barnes is such an intuitive cutter that he doesn’t create any concern for spacing. Opponents who leave him unguarded will pay by his darts down the baseline, which tend to generate easy buckets (courtesy of Chris Paul’s assists), and timely offensive rebounds. Barnes’ contributions are subtle enough to make him attainable at this price, and L.A.’s rotation should be all the better for it. Grade: B+.

UPDATE: Per Sham Sports, Barnes’ deal only has $1 million in guaranteed salary (out of $3.4 million) in its third and final season. A good deal gets even better.

Chris Copeland has agreed to a two-year, $6.1 million deal with the Pacers (via Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports). Indiana’s bench renovation continues, this time with a clever play for a floor-stretching big man. New York’s means to match a contract offer to Copeland — who is a restricted free agent — are limited due to lacking both cap space and Copeland’s Bird rights, thus enabling Indiana to make a bid for his services that would price the Knicks out of the running. The Pacers, meanwhile, get a terrific burst scorer (Copeland averaged 20.3 points per 36 minutes last season) who can be protected from his own defensive limitations by a stout system. Acquiring such a prolific shooting big can’t often be accomplished at this price, but Copeland is enough of a specialist (he’s not much of a rebounder and a bit too slow to make for much of a defender) for Indiana to swoop in to acquire him at a decent price. That they have, and his sweet-shooting perimeter game should fit the post-centric Pacers well. Grade: B.

Francisco Garcia has agreed to a two-year deal with the Rockets for the veteran minimum (via Marc Spears, Yahoo! Sports). Houston had no choice but to decline Garcia’s $6.4 million team option in order to create the necessary cap room to sign Dwight Howard, but has agreed to bring Garcia back post-haste on a veteran minimum deal that will pay him $2.6 million in total. That’s an awesome price for a skilled shooter and hard-working defender to round out the Rockets’ rotation, particularly given how perfectly Garcia fit since landing in Houston back in February. There aren’t all that many legitimate 3-and-D types left on the free agent market, but Houston nabbed a good one at the lowest possible price to better create room for Howard and James Harden to operate. Grade: A.

Josh McRoberts has agreed to a two-year, $5.4 million deal with the Bobcats (via Marc Spears, Yahoo! Sports). Charlotte is in a weird place after turning out its pockets to make Al Jefferson a massive contract offer, but could certainly do worse than than landing a serviceable NBA player like McRoberts at a perfectly reasonable salary. McRoberts doesn’t produce in bulk nor hold much potential for dramatic improvement, but at present he’s a hard-playing big who can create leverage with his movement. He’s just enough of a three-point shooter to make defenders think a jumper possible when he catches the ball on the perimeter, though in truth McRoberts is best served as a cutter or mid-range pick-and-pop option. He’s also better than most bigs when it comes to both moving the ball and attacking the basket off the dribble, completing a composite package of offensive skills that makes him a pretty useful role player. All of that said, McRoberts tends to give up quite a bit defensively, where he’s just not quick enough to pressure and recover as is necessary of modern NBA bigs. A good player to have around nonetheless, merely one with a clear ceiling and obvious limitations. Grade: C+.

Al-Farouq Aminu has agreed to re-sign with the Pelicans on a one-year deal worth $3.8 million (via Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports). New Orleans was so dissatisfied with Aminu’s play that the team opted to decline his fourth-year option in the fall of 2012 — a drastic and rare fate for a former lottery selection. Hasty though that decision was, it’s easy to put together why the then-Hornets front office thought they had seen enough; by that point Aminu had yet to offer any discernible value on the court, and was actively hurting New Orleans as an offensive non-factor and clumsy defender. Neither of those problems was totally remedied in the season since, but Aminu elevated his game well enough (largely through vastly improved rebounding, boosted scoring efficiency and growing spatial awareness) for the Pelicans to extend his stay. One year should be enough time to further gauge Aminu’s development while vetting his much-improved statistical output for flukes, and it all comes at a price point that’s a pinch less than Aminu’s fourth-year option would have been. Grade: B-.

DeMarre Carroll has agreed to a two-year, $5 million deal with the Hawks (via Sam Amick, USA Today). It’s hard out there for perimeter players who can’t shoot or handle, but Carroll earned this deal with self-awareness. Last season the Jazz used Carroll as a spot-up shooter a bit more often than they rightly should have, but his style of play can be more fairly represented by his dead sprints in transition, high-pressure (though not always highly effective) defense, consistent work on the glass and capacity for hustle points. Carroll doesn’t often step outside himself, and for that reason is a generally stable, risk-averse player. Some teams find comfort in that, particularly if they have the skill and versatility elsewhere on the roster to make up for all that Carroll cannot do. Still, he’s not quite good enough defensively to make him all that great a value, meaning that the Hawks have paid a tolerable price for a scrappy and limited player. It’s not a bad move by any means, but not one that makes Atlanta a better team. Grade: C+.

Jeff Pendergraph has agree to a two-year deal with the Spurs (via Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports). San Antonio was in need of another rotation-quality big man with DeJuan Blair likely signing elsewhere this summer, and found a workable (and likely cheap) fit in Pendergraph. His greatest appeal is on the defensive end, where he’s impressively mobile in coverage for a spare big. Pendergraph still gives up points on the basis of not being much of a shot blocker, but he does manage to alter attempts simply by getting in the way and establishing good position. There’s plenty of room on the Spurs roster for that kind of defender, especially given that Pendergraph can also hit 15-foot jumpers and provide solid rebounding. He won’t play a ton, but Pendergraph should fit nicely as a situational counter for matchups where Matt Bonner or Boris Diaw might not make sense. Grade: B-.


July 4

Earl Clark has agreed to a two-year, $8.5 million deal with the Cavaliers (via Sean Deveney, Sporting News). Cleveland had a clear need at small forward last season and acquired Clark to log minutes on the wing. He’s versatile enough to swing between multiple positions, and in that gives Mike Brown some interesting options as he goes about building the Cavs’ rotation. Clark’s height and athleticism make him a prime candidate for defensive cross-matching — a valuable attribute in a league of increasing positional ambiguity — while his rebounding ability (8.6 boards per 36 minutes last season) allows him to compensate for teammates who may underwhelm on the boards.

Still, the 25-year-old forward is clearly learning on the job, and at the moment he’s neither a good shooter nor a particularly intuitive cutter. Part of that can be explained by the fact that he’s logged just 2,769 minutes in four seasons, about 400 fewer than rookie guard Damian Lillard played last season alone. Clark will inch along as he continues to get regular burn, and he’s worth a look, particularly on a short-term deal with no guaranteed salary in its second season. Grade: B-.

Marco Belinelli has agreed to a two-year, $5.6 million deal with the Spurs (via Ramona Shelburne, ESPN LA and Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports). I noted going into free agency that the key to harnessing Belinelli’s game was moderation, and no NBA team better embodies that moderation than San Antonio. Belinelli should fall in line for the Spurs as a shooter and cutter who can play off of Tony Parker, but he also adds to the mix as a complementary ball handler — a role that Gary Neal and Danny Green tend to have trouble with. Neal is an especially interesting point of comparison; Belinelli could wind up competing with Neal, a restricted free agent, or wind up replacing him should Neal get a contract offer too rich for the Spurs’ liking. That makes this both a solid add and a sound insurance policy on a reasonable salary. Grade: B.

Julyan Stone has agreed to a two-year deal with the Raptors (via Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports). Stone draws some intrigue as a 6-foot-7 athlete with basic point guard skills, but he played very little in his first two seasons for a Denver team that had both more qualified ball handlers and more productive wing players. Toronto, however, is in a much better position to take a flier on Stone. Kyle Lowry’s future with the Raptors has yet to be determined, Toronto declined an option on the contract of John Lucas III and Sebastian Telfair is an unrestricted free agent. That leaves plenty of room for Stone whose his pass-first game should be welcome on a team with so few playmakers. We haven’t seen enough of Stone to pin down exactly what he can offer an NBA team, but he’s an interesting enough prospect to warrant an extended tryout elsewhere. Grade: INC.

UPDATE: Toronto has since balked on signing Stone, per Doug Smith of the Toronto Star, due to some lingering concern with his recovery from knee surgery. Smith reports that the Raptors may consider adding Stone at a later date, but for the moment they’ll move on without him.


July 3

Jon Leuer has agreed to a three-year, $2.9 million deal to re-sign with the Grizzlies (via Marc Stein, ESPN.com). Memphis was in need of a stretchy big after parting ways with Darrell Arthur via draft-night trade, and it secured a perfectly suitable option on the cheap in re-signing Leuer. This is a nice, understated move that stands to help the Grizzlies’ spacing in spots, as Leuer’s range makes him effective both as a pick-and-pop threat and a spot-up option on the weakside. He’s nowhere near as capable as Arthur on the defensive end, but Memphis is in a better position than most to manage his limitations in that regard while reaping the benefits of his shooting. Grade: B+.

UPDATE: Per Sham Sports, the third and final year of Leuer’s contract (worth $1 million in 2015-16) is fully unguaranteed.

Donald Sloan has agreed to a two-year deal with the Pacers for the minimum salary (via Ken Berger, CBSSports.com). So long, Ben Hansbrough. Reserve ball handlers were among Indiana’s greatest offseason need, and in the wake of agreeing to terms with C.J. Watson on a multiyear deal as a replacement for D.J. Augustin, the Pacers have arranged to add Sloan as a third guard. The specific length and dollar amount of this deal have yet to be reported, though it’s likely a minimum or near-minimum deal with an out for the Pacers — perhaps in the form of unguaranteed salary in the deal’s final years. Such an out makes sense considering that Sloan still hasn’t quite proven himself to be an NBA player. He’s put together a few decent stretches over the last few seasons, but, in total, he has been an end-of-the-bench type at best. That’s exactly the kind of opening that Indiana is looking to fill, but there were certainly more inspiring options for the spot. Grade: C+.

Garrett Temple has agreed to a one-year deal to re-sign with the Wizards for the minimum salary (via J Michael, CSN Washington). Any halfway decent ball handler would have made for an upgrade in Washington over A.J. Price and Jannero Pargo, and Temple — a December addition — offered that upgrade along with some positional flexibility. He’s versatile enough to both handle in spots and play off of it in others, making Temple a great fit for a team that will rely largely on John Wall and Eric Maynor to initiate the offense but could use an alternative in spots to free up those players and relieve them.  Temple also works hard and defends competently, though he’s limited enough offensively to fall out of a rotation. On a one-year minimum deal, he makes perfect sense to keep around. Grade: B.

4 comments
OK
OK

Mahoney,

Your editor or your rabbi make you write that bit of hasbara about Casspi?

Azeron
Azeron

Kobe also very maturely stopped following Howard on Twitter.  Thirty-four years oiled and still acting like a sullen spoiled brat.  Gotta love it!

spiderminion
spiderminion

I don't get why the Spurs went for Belinelli. He brings back a bit of what Ginobili has lost with age, but I think another big would have been more suitable. You already have Parker, Ginobili, Neal, Green, Joseph, Mills (?) in Guard spots. In addition, are you really going to play Belinelli over Ginobili in the big minutes/games? 

imutau
imutau

@Azeron Um? Dwight shut down his feeds for the Laker's also just so you know. Personally I think we put too much stock into who does what in social media.