NBA Free Agency 2012: Grading Every Team's Biggest Move in Free Agency
Now that's what I call a peak NBA free-agency period.
Though there are plenty of names left on the open market and still a bounty of moves to be made, the most pressing and significant ones are already done.
From Steve Nash joining the Lakers to the Heat bringing in Ray Allen, a bevy of blueprint-altering triggers were pulled across the board.
But do earth-shattering acquisitions necessarily indicate an offseason victory or even a logical course of action?
In the case of many teams, yes, it does.
For others, though? Not so much.
*Note: Free-agency moves apply to free agents only; trades that aren't sign-and-trades and extensions signed by players still under contract will not be considered.
Photo via presswire.
Biggest Move of Free Agency: Signed Lou Williams to a three-year, $15.7 million deal.
Joe Johnson who?
Williams can play both guard positions and provides instant offense regardless of the role he is asked to assume. His penchant for getting to the free-throw line is also an undervalued commodity the Hawks will welcome with open arms.
No, Williams is not a perennial All-Star, but he comes at a fraction of the cost Johnson did and is just as talented a shooter.
Atlanta easily had no qualms about dealing its leading scorer, and Williams' addition softens that already nonexistent blow.
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Signed Jason Terry to a three-year, $15.7 million contract.
Re-signing Kevin Garnett was big, but coming to terms with Terry was bigger.
Not only did Terry's addition seal Ray Allen's fate with the Celtics, but it also proved Boston wasn't prepared to rebuild just yet.
Though Allen will be missed, Terry's high-octane scoring will be a welcomed sight off the bench for the Celtics. His three-pointers in transition are set to become a staple in Boston.
Offensive abilities aside, though, Terry is 34 years old, and his numbers have been steadily declining. And again, his signing all but cost the Celtics Allen.
That said, while Terry's addition comes under paining circumstances, his integration into the lineup alongside Rajon Rondo ensures Boston remains a part of the championship conversation.
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Re-signed Deron Williams to a five-year, $108 million dollar pact.
Nets fans everywhere breathed a sigh of relief when Williams opted to remain with the organization.
Every move Brooklyn made over the past 18 months—Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and the pursuit of Dwight Howard—was made with the star point guard in mind.
Williams is an incredibly strong floor general who consistently attacks the basket, locks down the perimeter on defense and creates opportunities for his teammates.
Regardless of any other moves that were made, the Nets' offseason could only be declared a victory if Williams re-signed.
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Inked Ramon Sessions to a two-year deal worth $10 million.
While Sessions remains underrated, his presence—much like D.J. Augustin's—stands to stunt the growth of Kemba Walker as a playmaker.
Though the Bobcats remain a mess, and the addition of any competent talent whatsoever is a victory, there were other avenues worth exploring, like that of a big man not named Brendan Haywood.
Sessions provides Charlotte with a level-headed playmaker, yet he's not a savvy veteran or proven performer worthy of mentoring Walker, or any of the other players for that matter.
This was a very Bobcat-like move.
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Signed Kirk Hinrich to a two-year, $6 million deal.
Kirk Hinrich provides a sharpshooting stopgap to Chicago's wildly uncertain backcourt, and his addition was absolutely necessary with the departure of Kyle Korver, yet it's hardly a game-changer.
Though blowing up the roster was never a legitimate option, Chicago's borderline lackadaisical approach to free agency was mildly disheartening. One would have expected the Bulls to be more aggressive in pursuing a big-name player to instill a sense of hope within the fanbase and franchise.
But instead, there's Hinrich, whose addition is solid, but simply not captivating.
Biggest Move of Free Agency: Re-signed Luke Harangody.
With Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters in tow, the Cavaliers were expected to make waves this offseason.
But they haven't.
While Harangody's re-signing makes sense from a financial and familiarity standpoint, Cleveland was in need of a difference maker on the wing. As a career 37.6 percent shooter, Harangody hardly makes a difference.
Not an especially good one, at least.
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Signed O.J. Mayo to a two-year, $8 million deal.
Jason Terry's departure created a prolific scoring void that neither Chris Kaman nor Vince Carter could fill.
As volatile a person as Mayo can be, he has superstar potential. He's a proven scorer, underrated playmaker and crafty defender, and he'll automatically become Dallas' second option on offense.
Who else gives a team in desperate need of some answers all that for the bargain price of $4 million per year?
Absolutely no one. Mayo was simply a steal for Mark Cuban and company.
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Re-signed JaVale McGee to a four-year, $44 million deal.
The Nuggets have already shown that it's possible to win games without a true superstar, but it's highly doubtful even they could have made the playoffs without a sizable, starting-caliber presence in the low post.
There are so many aspects of the game that McGee needs to improve upon, yet his eye-popping athleticism and defensive anticipation render him well worth any risk involved. George Karl's penchant for improving the on-court welfare of his players only furthers this notion.
And to the naysayers who believe Denver overpaid, there's no need to fret. As we saw with Nene, if big men aren't prepared to live up to their lucrative deals, the Nuggets will find them another home.
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Signed Kyle Singler to a three-year deal.
Courtesy of last season's NBA lockout, the Pistons never got to see what they truly had in Singler, but what they saw in his stint overseas was enough to warrant a multi-year deal.
The Duke standout can play either forward position and score from anywhere on the floor, but his defense is laughable, and Detroit already had plenty of stretch 4s on the docket.
That said, Singler's ability to put up points in a hurry cannot be stressed enough to a team that finished in the bottom half of the league in points scored per game last season.
So, while signing Singler doesn't warrant excitement, it is at least justified, which is a fairly new concept for the perpetually enigmatic Pistons.
Golden State Warriors
Photo via isportsweb.com.
Biggest Move of Free Agency: N/A
Biggest Move of the Offseason: Traded for Jarrett Jack.
The Warriors have not signed any free agents, which should come as no surprise, given that they have very little cap space to work with.
Instead of leaving you with a cursory "Not Applicable" speech or trying to pawn off the signing of first-round draft pick Harrison Barnes as a free-agent pickup—it's not—I leave you to mull over Golden State's acquisition of Jack.
For the first time in what seems like forever, the Warriors are in possession of a truly competent and consistent floor general.
While offensive savants like Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis and Nate Robinson have been entertaining, Golden State's backcourt has been void of a true facilitator for quite some time.
But not anymore.
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Signed Jeremy Lin to a three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet that the Knicks declined to match.
If Lin continues to produce at the level he did for the Knicks beginning in February of last season, this move by the Rockets is ingenuity at its best.
However, given the incredibly small sample size, this was less about potential and more about making a huge free-agency splash, which it did.
That said, after cleaning house, the Rockets did need a point guard, so making a push for an athlete with an unknown ceiling is still justifiable.
As for committing more than $50 million to both Lin and Omer Asik over the next three years, though? That's a different story.
Photo via zimbio.com.
Biggest Move of Free Agency: Matched Portland's offer sheet of four-years, $58 million for Roy Hibbert.
No, I'm not crazy.
Hibbert's presence on the defensive end of the ball was unmatchable within this year's free-agent market, but the Pacers still overpaid.
The 7'2" behemoth is fresh off an All-Star season, but he hasn't shown nearly enough consistency on either end of the floor—perpetual foul trouble, anyone?—to warrant such a deal.
Understandably, Hibbert set his own market, and walking away from a 25-year-old big man with star potential isn't a move Indiana could easily justify.
While the Pacers made the right move here, it was far from a perfect one.
Los Angeles Clippers
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Signed Jamal Crawford to a four-year, $25 million deal.
With the opening disclaimer in mind, Blake Griffin's extension does not qualify, ergo Crawford's appearance here.
While the combo guard can put points on the board in a hurry, he's far from an efficient shooter: He shot 38.4 percent from the field last season and is at just 40.8 percent for his career.
Crawford's contract is not all bad, though. It is an indication of Donald Sterling's willingness to spend to making this team better, a sight we have arguably never seen.
That said, Crawford will be 36 when this deal ends, and he's already shown signs of slowing down and becoming more erratic. He's also nothing short of a liability on defense.
The signings of both Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill were reasonable and made sense, but overpaying for an older version of Mo Williams didn't.
Los Angeles Lakers
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Acquired Steve Nash from Phoenix.
The Lakers' acquisition of Nash is a sign-and-trade at its best—for the city of Los Angeles, anyway.
Forget that Kobe Bryant's game doesn't perfectly complement that of Nash. The Lakers gave up four draft picks that will be of little value—especially after this deal—for one of the league's greatest playmakers.
Regardless of how long it takes for Bryant and Nash to acclimate themselves to one another, this was an exemplary move by Mitch Kupchak and crew. Nash's court vision is guaranteed to immediately benefit every one of his new teammates, with the possible exception of Bryant.
And fittingly enough, the biggest move of any team for the entire offseason will also likely prove to be the smartest.
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Signed Jerryd Bayless to a two-year, $6.2 million deal.
The Gilbert Arenas experiment went okay for the Grizzlies, but the Bayless project is guaranteed to go even better.
Memphis is an incredibly talented team, from top to bottom. However, its greatest flaw was the team's inability to implement structured offensive sets when Mike Conley was on the bench.
Despite being a mediocre facilitator, Bayless is an instant upgrade over anything the Grizzlies had. He's great when it comes to attacking the basket, and his crafty drive-and-kicks show there's hope for him as a bona-fide distributor as well.
For what Memphis needed and the money it had to pay, inking Bayless was a no-brainer.
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Brought in Ray Allen on a three-year deal worth $9 million.
Mike Miller's heroics in Game 5 of the NBA Finals were spectacular, but it never hurts to add some insurance in the form of a future Hall of Famer.
Allen is the NBA's all-time leading three-point shooter, and his presence in Miami will stretch already wafer-thin defenses to the breaking point.
Though the Heat's newest star does not come without his share of concerns—being able to establish a flow offensively despite fewer shots being one of them—he ensures that Miami remains the favorite to win next season's title.
And as far as reigning NBA champions go, there's not a better move the Heat could have made this offseason.
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Re-signed Ersan Ilyasova to a five-year, $45 million deal.
Ilyasova is coming off a breakout season that saw him average 13 points and 8.8 rebounds per game while drawing comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki.
While the potential for Ilyasova to be a potential one-year wonder is very real, he's an efficient shooter who has shown a willingness to adapt and guard an array of positions on the defensive end. And that type of diligence cannot be discounted.
The catch? Retaining his services came at a price, and a steep one at that.
Even though Ilyasova appears to be on the rise, committing a boatload of money to him over half a decade is far from ideal.
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Finalizing a two-year, $20 million deal with Andrei Kirilenko.
I'm not belittling what Kirilenko can do on the basketball court, but betting $10 million per year on a 31-year-old who is a full season removed from the NBA is perplexing.
At his peak, Kirilenko was a strong scorer, suffocating defender, deft rebounder and prolific shot-blocker. But he was on the decline even before he spent a year playing in Russia, and there's no way he matches his output from his time in Utah.
The Timberwolves are clearly trying to surround the increasingly disconcerted Kevin Love with additional talent, but $20 million on a declining wing was not the way to go.
Minnesota should have been able to get a more guaranteed bang for its buck.
New Orleans Hornets
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Matched Eric Gordon's four-year, $58 million offer sheet from Phoenix.
Despite Gordon's attempts to derail New Orleans' plan to retain him, inevitability prevailed when the Hornets matched the max offer sheet handed out by the Suns.
Fortunately—for both New Orleans and Gordon's image—the combo guard is finally saying all the right things, leaving the door for a picture-perfect ending to this unforeseen saga ajar.
However, while re-signing Gordon was a great move for the Hornets, they are essentially investing max money into an athlete who played at a superstar level for just nine games. Despite his career averages, that's an incredibly small sample size to go off.
That said, Gordon set his own market, and the Hornets had no choice but to match. And should he be able to remain healthy and produce at a high level for the life of the contract, he will wind up being a steal.
New York Knicks
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Acquired Raymond Felton in sign-and-trade from Portland.
In all likelihood, Felton is going to play sound basketball for the Knicks, but that doesn't change the fact that his acquisition paved the way for New York to allow Jeremy Lin to walk away without receiving anything in return.
Once we move past Lin, though, Felton's familiarity with Amar'e Stoudemire and the Big Apple itself bodes well for a Knicks team still searching for their identity.
That said, it's difficult to completely support this move, knowing that Felton will never be a superstar and that he cost the team much more than Dan Gadzuric and Jared Jeffries.
Oklahoma City Thunder
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Signed Hasheem Thabeet to two-year, $1.8 million deal.
The 7'3" Thabeet has yet to prove himself worthy of significant playing time, but he was a good pickup for the Thunder nonetheless.
Not only does the center add size to the roster, but he's a skilled shot-blocker who has an opportunity to learn from one of the best defensive players in the league in Serge Ibaka.
While it's unlikely Thabeet makes any kind of memorable impact, stranger things have happened. He's got the size, and even the tools, to succeed. It's just a matter of understanding how to use each to his advantage.
But even if he continues to disappoint, the Thunder are paying him peanuts, meaning it's impossible for them to come out as a loser in any capacity here.
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Re-signed Jameer Nelson to a three-year, $25 million deal.
Nelson earned quite a payday from Orlando despite coming off arguably the worst season of his career since he was a rookie.
Whether you believe the floor general will recover from last season or not, the fact is Nelson is 30 and won't fit into the Dwight Howard-less future the Magic should be preparing for.
Because while veteran leadership is of the utmost importance to rebuilding teams, Nelson and all his inconsistencies simply aren't worth $8 million a season anymore, if they ever were at all.
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Signed Nick Young to a one-year, $6 million contract.
Nick Young provides instant—albeit inconsistent—offense, which the Sixers are in desperate need of after allowing Lou Williams to move on to the Hawks.
Though Young continues to remain a defensive liability and elude the high ceiling he was once assigned, Philadelphia can part ways with him at the end of next season if it sees fit, rendering him a low-risk, high-reward acquisition.
And for a Sixers team that is devoid of a clear direction, this is a deal that suits their immediate needs without sacrificing any future flexibility.
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Inked Goran Dragic to a four-year, $34 million deal.
Attempting to replace Steve Nash is a virtually impossible task, but it's one the Suns have handled admirably.
After selecting the draft's most talented playmaker in Kendall Marshall, Phoenix went on to bring back Dragic, a fundamentally sound floor general who impacts the game in a variety of ways.
Not only is a Dragic a strong scorer and facilitator, but he's much tougher on the defensive end than people give him credit for. He's got quick hands, great anticipation and hardly ever gets beat off the dribble.
No, Dragic isn't Nash, nor will he ever be. But he's as good a replacement as there was available.
Portland Trail Blazers
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Matched Minnesota's offer sheet of four years, $46.5 million for Nicolas Batum.
The Blazers paid dearly for not working out an extension with Batum by the midseason deadline.
Like plenty of other players from this year's free-agency class, Batum capitalized off his potential more than his past accomplishments. He was paid handsomely for the player he could become, not the one he is.
That said, after missing out on Roy Hibbert, retaining Batum was a necessity. He's Portland's best chance at finally pairing LaMarcus Aldridge with another star and, at 23, is young enough to justify the investment.
It's not everyday you come across a lanky forward who can post gaudy stat lines on the offensive end while defending a wide variety of positions on the other side of the ball, which is why the Blazers were wise to ensure Batum didn't wind up with the Timberwolves.
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Signed Aaron Brooks to two-year, $6.6 million deal.
This was one of the most puzzling moves of the entire offseason.
Brooks' signing virtually ensures that Jimmer Fredette's days in Sacramento are numbered. And while the college standout struggled to make any sort of progress during his rookie season, are the Kings wise to abandon ship this early?
Especially for a mediocre talent like Brooks?
Though Brooks is incredibly quick and adept at attacking the basket, he's as deficient a facilitator as Fredette, is known to have a poor attitude and has yet to even broach the lofty expectations that were set for him five years ago.
The Kings struck gold when Thomas Robinson fell into their lap at the NBA draft, but apparently, expecting the team to make another constructive decision was too much to ask.
San Antonio Spurs
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Re-signed Tim Duncan to a three-year, $36 million deal.
After the season Duncan had, how could the Spurs not re-sign him?
Though the big man is 36, he remains a pillar of consistency. His penchant for two-way efficiency is an understated commodity that has allowed him to fly under the radar while dominating his position for 15 years.
Most importantly, though, Duncan's return made it clear San Antonio was gearing up for another championship run with its current squad.
And after the season the Spurs had, it's hard to argue or disprove that kind of logic.
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Signed Landry Fields to a three-year, $20 million pact.
The Raptors only signed Fields in an attempt to block the Knicks from acquiring Steve Nash. And while New York missed out on Nash, so did Toronto, rendering this contract a borderline disaster.
Fields has plenty of potential on both ends of the floor, and the Raptors could use a two-way player on the perimeter, but he's simply not worth nearly $7 million annually.
His tendency to disappear down the stretch will make sure of that.
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Biggest Move of Free Agency: Signed Randy Foye to a one-year deal.
Randy Foye and Mo Williams are together again, just as it should be.
Like Williams, Foye can man both guard positions and put points on the board in a hurry. Unlike Williams, though, he's exceptionally strong for his size and relishes in the opportunity to rebound and defend out of position.
Despite his endless upside, however, Foye is a below-average playmaker. He's not especially skilled in the art of involving his teammates and is liable to jack up a slew of unwarranted shots.
However, he's also an absolute warrior who will leave it all on the floor every night, an attribute that all but eclipses his deficiencies as a facilitator.
Photo via bulletsforever.com.
Biggest Move of Free Agency: Signed A.J. Price to a one-year contract.
Prior to the addition of Price, John Wall was the only true point guard on the Wizards roster, rendering his signing a blessing for merely positional purposes.
Price—should he get ample playing time—is unlikely to make the type of impact that is reflected on the stat sheet, as he's more of an intangibles guy.
The point guard looks to create for his teammates first and foremost and is an intelligent defender who's great at protecting the passing lanes.
Washington made less than a splash in free agency but can take solace in knowing it picked up one of the most selfless bit players available.