Most of the star players in free agency are now off the board, but there are still plenty of impact players to discuss in this updated version of the Free Agency Breakdown with unique analytic angles. We here at Sheridan Hoops will break everything down for you into bite sized Winners & Losers style pieces.
The Houston Rockets, GM Daryl Morey and Dwight Howard were WINNERS after agreeing to a four-year deal worth $88 million to finally, mercifully, ending the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. Morey set out a year ago to acquire two stars to legitimately compete in this SuperTeam Era that currently rules the NBA and got them in Howard and Harden.
Houston also signed Francisco Garcia to a team-friendly contract worth $1.3 million over two years. Garcia could probably replace Carlos Delfino in a spacer-type role for Houston after shooting 37.4 percent from three last season. Houston then picked up another spacer in Reggie Williams, who needs to greatly improve from his 30.6 shooting percentage from three last season with Charlotte.
Of course, the Howard deal makes the Los Angeles Lakers the big losers of the offseason for getting nothing out of Howard and looking ridiculous in doing so. They will now try to delude themselves into thinking players like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will come next offseason. Good. Freaking. Luck.
But if there is any consolation for Laker fans, I do like their signing of Chris Kaman a lot. Despite a sharp decrease in minutes with the Mavericks last season, from 29.2 to 20.7 per game, Kaman shot 50.7 percent from the field (his best percentage in a season in which he played over 40 games since the 2005-2006 season) and averaged 10.5 points with 5.6 rebounds. His Win Shares per 48 minutes was his best mark since the 2007-2008 campaign. Expect better production in LA with a slightly increased workload. And Jordan Farmar won’t be a bad player either for the veteran’s minimum.
Dwight Howard’s good friend, Josh Smith, ended up with Detroit for four-years and $56 million and Al Jefferson cashed in for three years and $41 million with Charlotte. This brings us a really interesting philosophical question: Can these players be the highest paid, and best, players for playoff teams? The answer is likely no. But does that mean the teams shouldn’t try?
Despite a subpar year by his standards Smith is still a really good player, so the jury is still out on this signing for the Pistons. Smith will make a really good frontcourt with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, but do the Pistons have the backcourt to compete? Not right now, even with the Chauncey Billups signing (two years, $5 million).
Billups will add veteran leadership and a fan favorite to the Detroit roster, but he’s only played 42 total games over the last two seasons. But when he’s played he’s been good, shooting 36.7 percent from three last season with a Win Share/48 number that’s well above average. It’s just hard to envision Billups being healthy all season. Billups will join Will Bynum, who Detroit re-signed to an affordable two-year deal worth $5.75 million. Bynum shot a career best 46.9 percent from the field and averaged nearly 10 points per game for the Pistons in 2012-2013.
It’ll also be interesting to see how the team uses reigning Italian League MVP Gigi Datome, who inked a two-year deal worth $3.5 million. Our resident Euro expert A.J. Mitnick told me that he’ll need to adjust to the NBA game, but the potential is there for Datome to become a nice NBA player. I’ll take his word for it…
On the Charlotte side of things, there’s no doubt that Jefferson is a really, really good player. Anyone who shoots nearly 50 percent from the field and averages nearly 18 points and over nine boards per game is really good. His defense will certainly help an inept Bobcats team in that department, but his offensive rating of 109 last season leaves something to be desired.
Can Jefferson, Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo coexist in the frontcourt? Can Jefferson be the best player on a playoff team? Jefferson has made the playoffs just twice in his nine-season career, losing in the first round on both occasions. Golden State signed David Lee to an enormous contract, and Golden State ended up okay by hitting it big by drafting Stephen Curry, Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson. Charlotte will have to do that in order to not look foolish with this Jefferson signing, so, again, the jury is still out.
How exciting will the Golden State Warriors be next season with the aforementioned four players along with Andre Iguodala? Win! Iggy won’t have to be the best player for the Warriors, which is good because very much like Smith and Jefferson, he will never be one of the best two players on a legitimate contender.
Golden State also added nice depth in Marreese Speights on a three-year deal, an efficient offensive player who could use some work on the defensive end, and Jermaine O’Neal, who shot 48.2 percent from the field and averaged over 5 rebounds per game in just under 19 minutes per contest. Toney Douglas also joins the team with his strong defense and a 38 percent mark from downtown.
For the trade made with Golden State, the Utah Jazz come in as winners. If we’ve learned anything about the NBA, it’s that teams usually have to hit rock bottom before contending. After losing Jefferson and Paul Millsap, Utah has decided to blow things up. They took on the expiring contracts of Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush along with a pair of first-round selections from Golden State so salary space could be cleared for Iguodala. Utah will be really, really bad next season just in time for that great 2014 draft, all thanks to the Warriors.
Minnesota really d0 need to sign Nikola Pekovic, and will reportedly pay him fair value with a four-year deal worth $50 million. Besides for averaging 16.3 points per game with a 52 percent field goal percentage that ranked 20th in the league last season, he was a top-15 offensive rebounder and his 20.2 PER from last season landed him a shade outside the top 20. He handled his minutes increase last season and has proven himself as a truly valuable asset in the league.
On the other hand, three years and $15 million is too much for Corey Brewer, who’s scoring average of 12.1 per game is good except that he did little else for the Nuggets last season. Brewer is not a player who should be attempting 10.8 shots per game, which was his number in 2012-2013. His PER of 14.7 was pretty good, but the rest of his numbers were fairly average. So the jury is still out on the Wolves, though the Kevin Martin move was a really good one, based on the healthy of their top players.
Did the Milwaukee Bucks really give O.J. Mayo and Zaza Pachulia a combined $39 million? The Bucks could save themselves from being losers if Atlanta doesn’t match the four-year, $32 million offer sheet signed by Jeff Teague. If they can get a point guard who’s better than both Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis who averaged 14.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game on 45 percent shooting and 36 percent shooting (along with 1.5 steals per game) from three for just eight million per year, that’s a steal. Acquiring Luke Ridnour is a nice move also. He shot over 45 percent last season and though his numbers are getting worse as his career progresses, he still provides nice offense to the teams he’s played on. So Milwaukee has been upgraded to jury is still out.
For all the people spelling doom and gloom for the Atlanta Hawks, they ended up doing a pretty good job in replacing Smith with Paul Millsap on a two-year deal worth $19 million. In fact, Millsap was better than Smith and a player I’d rather have on my team. If you compare the most recent seasons the two players had, Millsap was more efficient, had a better PER, more Win Shares and nearly identical scoring and rebounding stats per 36 minutes. And Atlanta did a nice job in signing DeMarre Carroll to an affordable contract after putting up a nice 15.5 PER season with a 116 offensive rating and a season where he shot 46 percent from the field. Call the Hawks winners, especially if they match the offer sheet on Teague. But signing Mo Williams wouldn’t be overly terrible either.
It’s now clear that the Cleveland Cavaliers, definite winners, are fully intent on making the playoffs next season. They wisely spent $34 million on Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark. Jack is coming off the two best seasons of his career. He shot over 40 percent from three last season and averaged more than 17 points per game in 12 postseason games with the Warriors last season. His defense has never been very good, his 108 defensive rating was actually a career best, but he’s an offensive force right now who will pair nicely with Kyrie Irving and spell the developing Dion Waiters.
Clark finally played significant minutes for the first time in his career and did quite well for the Lakers when they were ravaged with injuries. He can be a strong role player for the Cavs as well if given the chance. Los Angeles was 37-22 in games Clark played in, and 24-12 in games Clark started. Sounds like a winner to me. And signing Andrew Bynum to a low-risk, two-year deal with only $12 million guarantee is a really prudent move for a team with a hole at center and a desire to make the playoffs next season. It’s such a great fit with a young Cavs team.
Masai Ujiri may not be in charge anymore in Denver, but the Nuggets got a big win after signing J.J. Hickson to a bizarrely affordable three-year contract worth $15 million to essentially replace Iguodala, and by inking Randy Foye to a three-year deal worth $9 million as well. Foye will be a great fit for this Nuggets team after averaging nearly 11 points per contest last season on 41 percent shooting from three. He’s never been a very good defender, but at $3 million per season Denver did quite well to get a dead-on shooter.
By anyone’s standards, Hickson had a fantastic season for the Blazers. He started all 80 games he played in, shot 56.2 percent from the field and averaged nearly 13 points and over 10 rebounds per game. He put up career highs in Win Shares (6.9, just 0.8 fewer than Jefferson had last season, and certainly more than Smith), PER, True Shooting percentage and Effective Field goal percentage. Hickson will provide the team big minutes inside, especially after Kosta Koufos was dealt to Memphis on draft night.
Speaking of draft night, I remember when the Dallas Mavericks took Shane Larkin and it was viewed among people I talked with at the Barclays Center as a very successful pick. So then Dallas strikes out on Howard and Chris Paul and decides to spend $38 million on two more point guards (even if they’re good ones) in Jose Calderon and Devin Harris. The Mavs are trying to load up on point guards and sign veteran players for a final run with Dirk Nowitzki? Is anyone really sure what Dallas’ plan is right now? Mark Cuban? Needless to say, Dallas is a huge loser so far.
Maybe Greg Oden will help? Will Wayne Ellington (yet ANOTHER guard) help? He averaged nearly 12 points per game over his last 19 contests and shot 39.2 percent from three last season, but how he fits in a really crowded Mavericks backcourt is yet to be seen. Can’t complain too much for two-years and $5 million, though.
The jury is still out on the Sacramento Kings. Replacing Tyreke Evans with Greivis Vasquez was a good choice, as outlined earlier, but overpaying a good fit in Carl Landry (four years and $27 million) is a bit of a mixed bag. Anyone who could average 11 points and six rebounds on 54 percent shooting in just over 23 minutes played per game is a nice asset, but nearly $7 million is a lot for a player like that. Of course, the Kings will instantly become losers if they follow through on this heavily rumored signing of Monta Ellis.
Hopefully their acquisition of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute means that Ellis is no longer on the table. For the low price of a second round pick, Mbah a Moute gives the team an actual viable small forward. He’s shown the ability to play defense, a big step up for Sacramento, and shot over 35 percent from three last season.
Winning Budget Signings
Miami- Getting a role player like Birdman Andersen for $1.7 million is an obvious steal. He shot 57.7 percent from the field last season and had an astronomically high .207 Win Shares per 48 minutes. In the playoffs, he hit 46 of his 57 field goals. That’s insane!
New Orleans- I’m not a big fan of the Tyreke Evans trade, but the Pelicans continue to add nice bench pieces. After re-signing Al-Farouq Aminu, New Orleans signed Greg Stiemsma for one year and $2.2 million. The Stiemer wasn’t as good last season as the season before, but he still averaged 1.2 blocks per game and a good 101 defensive rating. He can’t play offense at all, but he’s a really nice rim protector for the price. They also signed Anthony Morrow for two years, a career 42.4 career three-point shooter.
Toronto- Tyler Hansbrough has actually gotten a bad rap when he was with Indiana behind that great frontcourt, but he wasn’t bad at all last season. His 43.2 field goal percentage isn’t very good for a big man, but he rebounds and defends nicely. We’ll see if that translates with the woeful Raptors.
Shlomo Sprung loves advanced statistics and the way they explain what happens on the court. He is also the web editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. A 2011 graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, he has previously worked for the New York Knicks, The Sporting News, Business Insider and other publications. His website is SprungOnSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter.