2012 NBA Free Agency: Ranking the Best Signings by Position

Mike ShiekmanFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2012

2012 NBA Free Agency: Ranking the Best Signings by Position

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    With the door almost shut on NBA free agency, some teams really lucked out with some pivotal signings this offseason. Months and even years from now, today's GMs will look back on the deals they made in the summer of 2012; some will rejoice, while others cringe. Today, though, we can only speculate.

    Which teams got their guy and gave him the proper price tag? Let's highlight the summer's best top three agreements by position.

Point Guards

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    Point Guard

    1.  Deron Williams: Brooklyn Nets for 5 years/$98.7 million

    The Nets needed a superstar to stay relevant after their first year relocating to Brooklyn. They got their man in Williams, who flirted with his hometown Dallas before winding up in New York.

    The talent around Williams was atrocious last year after Brook Lopez went down, and D-Will's numbers suffered for it. He'll play up to his top-10 status with Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and a healthy Lopez.

    2. Steve Nash: Los Angeles Lakers for 3 years/$27 million

    No number is too steep for a floor general; in Steve Nash, the Lakers got one truest to the word. He will be the solution to L.A.'s anemic offense.

    For the stat geeks, Nash assisted on over 50 percent of his teammates baskets while on the floor last season; nobody is better at getting the lesser players involved on offense. Expect a facelift in L.A. for the better.

    3.  Jerryd Bayless: Memphis Grizzlies for 2 years/$6 million

    The Grizzlies picked up an offensive spark plug in Bayless, who should be a focal point of their second unit.

    Bayless hasn't played for a contending NBA team in his career. Memphis had a need for scoring following O.J. Mayo's departure. Sounds like a perfect pairing.

    The Grizzlies had the toughness, now they may have found their scoring punch. Bayless should have no problem taking open threes and penetrating the lane alongside Memphis bigs Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.

Shooting Guard

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    1.  Ray Allen: Miami Heat for 2 years/$6 million (mini midlevel exception)

    Frankly, a brilliant signing by Miami. When any combination of Allen, Chris Bosh, Chalmers and Battier is on the floor as Miami's supporting cast, the efficiency numbers could be staggering.

    Over the last two seasons, Allen has averaged 44 percent on three-point attempts. Before, defenses would sag off on Chalmers or a Miami big to assist defending a Big Three member; now spacing is guaranteed when Allen takes the floor.

    Forget that he spurned Boston. That he left the Celtics for considerably less money, though, is a major coup.

    2. Lou Williams: Atlanta Hawks for 4 years/$21 million

    Free of the ridiculous Joe Johnson contract, Hawks GM Danny Ferry got production on the cheap, snagging Williams for a little more than five million a year. 

    Williams was able to put up gaudy efficiency numbers while only playing 26 minutes off the bench in Philadelphia. Based on his per 36 numbers, Williams will provide a scoring impact similar to what Johnson did from the 2 spot.

    3. O.J. Mayo: Dallas Mavericks for 2 years/$8.5 million

    Mayo needed to get out of Memphis after trade rumors left a bad taste in his mouth. As the Grizzlies got better, Mayo's numbers plunged; in Dallas, however, he will be the heir apparent to Jason Terry. 

    If Mayo is truly a shot-maker, he'll show it converting off double teams of Dirk Nowitzki. He's an underrated defender, as his defensive rating has improved each year since he entered the NBA.

    At the price they acquired him, the Mavs got a low-risk, high-reward deal with Mayo.

    Honorable Mention: J.R. Smith to New York Knicks for 1 year/$2.8 million

    Good price on the problem child volume scorer, but will he be more of the volume scorer or the problem child? The Knicks already have enough issues to address.

Small Forward

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     1. Lamar Odom: Los Angeles Clippers for 1 year, $8.2 million

    While Odom wasn't a free agent as he was traded just before the Mavericks were going to waive him, he makes this list because the Clippers picked him off the scrap heap.

    Last year was a discouraging sign for Odom as a professional, but his unique skill set is worth the 8.5 million dollar plunge.

    He provides a combination of length and athleticism that the Clippers didn't have with Caron Butler in the lineup. Add in his scoring ability, willingness to create for others, and the matchup problems teams will have guarding L.A.'s frontline, and the Clippers might have just got themselves a keeper.

    The Mavericks did not have a motivating presence in their locker room large enough to get Odom's attention. Enter Chris Paul. The league's most complete point guard won't take any lack of effort from their newest acquisition.

    2. Rashard Lewis: Miami Heat for 2 years, $2.8 million

    The veteran's minimum is an absolute bargain for Lewis, who three years ago was earning max money and scoring 17 a game, the majority from outside.

    His extended range for a 4 man makes him an intriguing fit for Miami's small ball desires. We could see Lewis playing at the center position in some instances. With LeBron James and Dwyane Wade penetrating, open looks will be commonplace for Lewis. Another shooter can't hurt.

    3. Andrei Kirilenko: Minnesota Timberwolves for 2 years, $20 million

    After tussling other suitors for a glut of small forward free agents, the Timberwolves settled on Kirilenko. For a team needing to establish a defensive identity, the Wolves lucked out ending up with the pesky defensive specialist.

    Kirilenko will provide a similar scoring lift to Michael Beasley, without commanding the usage rate. As an added bonus, chemistry could be off the charts with this international-laden squad.

Power Forward

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    1. Ryan Anderson: New Orleans Hornets for 4 years, $36 million

    New Orleans acquired their stretch 4 of the future with Anderson, who should be an ideal pick and pop man for Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers. 

    Compared to Ersan Ilyasova's deal of 4 years for 45 million, the Hornets got a more productive player at a better yearly rate—not to mention the Hornets new guy is coming off a Most Improved Player Award.

    Anderson, who was a catch-and-shoot weapon with Dwight Howard, may see similar opportunities playing with potentially the next Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis. It will be an interesting blend between Anderson's and "The Brow's" games; neither has much of a back-to-the-basket skill set, but their potential is sky high.

    2. Blake Griffin: re-signed with Los Angeles Clippers for 5 years, up to $95 million

    Obviously Griffin would take the top spot in most cases, but a knee injury from USA basketball camp is his second lower-body issue in four years. With his high-flying, attack-the-rim style he's employed the past couple seasons, it is not farfetched to label him an injury risk this early in his career. 

    With that said, Griffin has certainly earned his max contract. He's stimulated interest in the Clippers, something very hard to do with the Lakers playing in the same building.

    More importantly, signing Griffin long-term should make a strong impression on Chris Paul, who the Clips would love to keep off the market.

    3. Antawn Jamison: Los Angeles Lakers for 1 year, $1.35 million

    Antawn Jamison, where have you been?

    Averaging 17 points and eight rebounds on a lowly Cavaliers team for two seasons, apparently. After making good money from Cleveland and Washington but playing in an NBA Finals, Jamison's contract indicates that he's ready to win above all else.

    And the Lakers are happy to scoop him. Their bench was softer than styrofoam last season; Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris simply played too many minutes for them to be a championship contender.

    One of the best deals of the offseason, Jamison should thrive playing alongside some of the league's best talent in L.A.

Center

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    1. Jonas Valanciunas: Toronto Raptors, likely 2 years, $7 million 

    The Lithuanian center's deal has yet to be disclosed, but the NBA rookie wage scale renders Valanciunas a bargain at his stage of development. He has plenty of Euroleague experience alongside an Olympic resume. He will be able to make his mark in the post against NBA bigs.

    With a shortage of true centers in today's NBA, Valanciunas is a throwback who prefers having his back to the basket. Having one of the only bigs in the league with this type of skill set will be a nightmare to opposing teams, as the Lithuanian can really play.

    With their new center and fresh additions Kyle Lowry and Terrence Ross, among others, the Raptors have now become one of the NBA's teams of intrigue.

    2. Roy Hibbert: re-signed with Indiana Pacers for 4 years, $58 million

    Many will point to Hibbert's ineffectiveness in closing out Miami in the second round, but I see the opposite. The fact that he was able to cause the eventual NBA champions serious issues is exactly why this max deal is justifiable.

    Hibbert has taken his game to another level each year and the former Georgetown Hoya is only 25. The young big has some time to grow and learn how to dominate inside over a seven-game series. When that happens, look for Indiana to be one formidable foe.

    3. Tim Duncan: re-signed with San Antonio Spurs 3 years, $30 million

    No matter how old, you can't leave one of the all-time greats off this list. He re-signed with the Spurs as quietly as possible this offseason. 

    Just as he prefers it.