Grading the Top 25 NBA Free-Agent Signings
Let the back-patting and buyer's remorse begin.
The NBA has been engulfed by a free-agency feeding frenzy for the past month. And now that almost all the T's have been crossed, the I's dotted and contracts signed, it's time to reflect, analyze and, in some cases, repent.
Though the 2012 free-agency class emphasized depth over star power, there were still plenty of superstar-esque deals handed out. There were also some unforeseen bargains to appreciate as well.
Who among the highest profile of available players received what they deserved, and who latched themselves onto a pact that would have made the Rashard Lewis of 2007 proud?
The Dwight Howard soap opera can steal headlines, Twitter timelines and our sanity, but it will never take our post-peak free-agency assessments away.
25. George Hill, G Indiana Pacers
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Contract Value: Five years, $40 million
I love a two-way combo guard as much as the next basketball enthusiast, but $40 million for George Hill is absolutely insane.
Hill had a solid year with the Pacers, and his averages of 9.6 points, three rebounds and over a steal per game are plenty impressive, but he's hardly a playmaker.
Versatility is hard to find, but Indiana inked a similar—albeit more unproven—player with better court vision in D.J. Augustin at the going rate of $3.5 million.
Yes, Hill is slightly taller than Augustin, and he's quicker and more athletic than many other guards, but he's not a star.
So why is he being paid like one?
24. Chauncey Billups, G Los Angeles Clippers
Harry How/Getty Images
Contract Value: One year, $4.3 million
Chauncey Billups may be going on 36, and he may be fresh off a torn left Achilles tendon, but he was a borderline steal for the Clippers yet again.
Before being sidelined for the rest of the season, the versatile combo guard was averaging 15 points and dishing out four assists per game while shooting 38.4 percent from beyond the arc.
No, he's not going to give you much on defense, but at his daily point totals, he doesn't have to. He and Chris Paul work well together, and most importantly, Billups is playoff-tested and proven clutch.
The Clippers can pat themselves on the back here.
23. Lou Williams, G Atlanta Hawks
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Contract Value: Four years, $21.1 million
In the interest of full disclosure, Lou Williams' grade is slightly bolstered by the fact that he provides much more bang for his buck than Joe Johnson ever did.
That said, Williams is the epitome of versatility on the offensive end. He gives Atlanta another option to throw into the point guard mix and will easily replace most—if not all—of Johnson's scoring output.
The Hawks will undoubtedly look to hone the playmaking abilities of Williams, but after the better part of a decade with a front-row seat to no-pass Johnson's antics, he's hardly a project.
Williams—with his modest new deal in tow—is going to flourish in Atlanta.
22. Jeremy Lin, PG Houston Rockets
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Contract Value: Three years, $25.1 million
A hearty congratulations to Jeremy Lin for capitalizing off his season of grandeur, but a wag of the finger to the Rockets.
Upon gracing the basketball world with the presence of Linsanity, Lin proved he could get to the rim, execute and thrive off pick-and-rolls, and even hit a jump shot or two. He also proved to be sloppy with ball and in need of some serious two-way refining.
There's no denying his potential, though; the kid can play.
But while the Knicks and their fans may forgive—and ultimately forget—Daryl Morey and the Rockets won't be as lenient if Lin wastes more than a few pennies of their money.
And let's face it, given how unproven the promising Lin still is, that's a legitimate possibility.
21. Goran Dragic, PG Phoenix Suns
Contract Value: Four years, $34 million
Jeremy Lin, meet your palpable predecessor, who is just as unproven and now, just as overpaid.
As the world watched Lin break ankles, as well as turnover records, Dragic, somewhat quietly, had a breakout season of his own in Houston.
In the absence of Lowry, Dragic used his balance of aggression and selflessness, along with a healthy dose of two-way diligence, to secure his spot among the NBA's most promising of youngsters.
But while Dragic—like Lin—has a suddenly high ceiling, his rise to prominence was long awaited and more of a relief than unexpected. Don't you think the Suns—and every other team—ought to have waited before throwing over $8 million annually at a potential one-year wonder?
No, I'm not talking crazy—but the salary figures in Dragic's latest deal sure are.
20. JaVale McGee, C Denver Nuggets
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Contract Value: Four years, $44 million
JaVale McGee is volatile, wildly inconsistent and often makes less-than-intelligent decisions.
But he's also an athletic fiend with great anticipation on the defensive end and a penchant for remaining more active on the offensive glass than most.
By signing McGee to such a deal, the Nuggets are paying for both proven ability and potential; they know what he brings to the floor on defense, and they're hoping an offensive conscious eventually reveals itself.
So, go ahead, call this a ludicrous deal—if you like being wrong. It clearly isn't the best bargain, but after seeing what an offensively limited player like Roy Hibbert commanded, McGee's contract is right in line with the rest of the market.
And besides, Denver can always ship him off like they did Nene if he isn't performing up to par.
19. Jamal Crawford, G Los Angeles Clippers
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Contract Value: Four years, $25 million
Jamal Crawford can score, and he can even man the point, but when asking a player to be efficient is overshooting expectations, there's a problem.
The combo guard shot a paltry 38.4 percent from the field last season and appeared no closer to discontinuing his self-destructive shooting habits.
And while Crawford is a decent enough ball-handler to run the offense, he's a subpar distributor. His defense is also less than suspect.
The Clippers needed a upgrade in the backcourt, but after overpaying an older, slightly taller version of Mo Williams, they better hope that Chauncey Billups' body holds up next season.
18. Andre Miller, PG Denver Nuggets
Harry How/Getty Images
Contract Value: Three years, $14.6 million
I loved this contract when I thought it was a three-year, $9 million deal. Now, I still like it, just not as much.
Paying Andre Miller nearly $5 million per year isn't outrageous, especially if you consider how much Jeremy Lin, Goran Dragic and Steve Nash got.
The fact is, Miller is a two-way work horse who has shown little to no signs of aging. He's as consistent a backup as there is in the league and provides a strong veteran presence in the budding Denver locker room.
That said, he's 36, and there's no guarantee he remains durable. Had the deal been for just $9 million, this would have been an easy "A."
Instead, though, we'll have to settle for merely acknowledging it's a sound—yet slightly costly—deal.
17. Gerald Wallace, SF Brooklyn Nets
Chris Chambers/Getty Images
Contract Value: Four years, $40 million
Gerald Wallace's latest deal was half-deserved and half the product of a Nets team scrambling to put a core in place worthy of playing alongside Deron Williams.
Wallace is an incredibly talented scorer with a great first step. He's also one of the most underrated perimeter defenders in the league. But he just turned 30, and his offensive production has been in flux over the past five years.
And while the small forward's production stands to, at the very least, remain constant with some consistent playing time alongside Williams, his outside game needs work.
As easy as it is to justify this contract, it's just as easy to dispute; it's far from horrible, yet it's a long way from favorable.
16. Brandon Bass, PF Boston Celtics
Contract Value: Three years, $20 million
After a mediocre stint in Orlando, Brandon Bass lit it up in his first year in Boston.
By season's end, Bass was hardly the player he was a year ago—in a good way. The power forward had extended his range on the offensive end, refined his low post sets, improved his footwork on both ends of the floor and become a legitimate shot-blocking threat.
Though Bass has a lot to learn in terms of execution—especially on the defensive end—he's thrived alongside Kevin Garnett and pushed his potential ceiling even higher.
Subsequently, his new deal isn't just a deserved one. It's a bargain.
15. Ryan Anderson, PF New Orleans
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Contract Value: Four years, $36 million
Anthony Davis, meet the guy you will be expected to pass out of double teams to.
Ryan Anderson, the NBA's reigning Most Improved Player of the Year, is as sharp a shooter as there is in the league. He converted on over 39 percent of his three-point attempts last season on his way to averaging over 16 points per game.
While Anderson's footwork and anticipation on the defensive end are regrettable, for a forward who spends most of his time manning the perimeter, he's an extremely capable rebounder.
If Davis can offer some defensive guidance that Anderson strives to actualize, he could wind up being one of this summer's steals.
For now, though, he remains slightly overpaid by a New Orleans team who couldn't afford not to get the marksman.
14. Kris Humphries, PF Brooklyn Nets
Chris Chambers/Getty Images
Contract Value: Two years, $24 million
Considering what the Nets have put Kris Humphries through over the last year, his latest contract is more than deserved.
That said, from a basketball perspective, Humphries still has plenty to prove.
While he has had career years the past two seasons, it will be interesting to see how effective he is on an actual playoff team. As much as we want to believe he is a double-double machine, he could, in fact, merely be the benefactor of assuming a prominent role on a basement franchise.
We cannot neglect to acknowledge, though, how fierce a rebounder and how versatile a scorer he can be. His ability to defend a wide array of positions is also nothing short of invaluable.
Given what Humphries has shown over the past two seasons and how well he has coped with the chaotic happenings of the Dwightmare thus far, this was a deal the Nets would have been hard-pressed not to offer.
13. Raymond Felton, PG New York Knicks
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Contract Value: Four years, $18 million
Before you call me a hopeless Jeremy Lin endorser—though I maintain you don't let an asset like that walk away for nothing—this has little to do with him. And it has little to do with Raymond Felton's annual salary.
It has everything to do with the contract length, though.
Players in Felton's position—i.e. coming off one of the worst seasons of his career—are usually forced to accept a one-, maybe two-year deal at most, because they have to prove they can bounce back.
The Knicks are investing an ample amount of years in a point guard who thrived in their city, but under a different head coach, running a different system.
So, while under $5 million per season seems reasonable, four years is somewhat laughable.
12. Brook Lopez, C Brooklyn Nets
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Contract Value: Four years, $61 million
I know what you're thinking: But what about his foot?
Call me a hopeless optimist, but Brook Lopez's foot is not of major concern.
Why? Because prior to last season, Lopez appeared in all 82 games of each of his first three seasons. Not to mention the conspiracy theorist in me is also convinced he was rushed back from his original fracture in a desperate attempt by the Nets to land Dwight Howard before the trade deadline.
But I digress.
Lopez is a 7-footer who can give you 20 points a night. He has managed to balance a smooth jump-shooting motion with strong finishes at the rim, and he is a heartbeat—or rather a few footwork tweaks—away from becoming a standout rebounder and shot blocker.
Yes, it's essentially a max deal, but competent 7-footers are hard to come by, and even harder to keep.
Just ask the Magic.
11. Ray Allen, SG Miami Heat
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Contract Value: Three years, $9.5 million
Ray Allen may be 37, but he shoots the lights out of any building he enters.
Having a future Hall of Famer assume such a role at the bargain price of just over $3 million a year, though, is a luxury.
One that the already stacked Heat now have.
10. Chris Kaman, C Dallas Mavericks
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Contract Value: One year, $8 million
Don't be fooled by Chris Kaman's awkward demeanor; he's surprisingly coordinated.
Kaman is no Dwight Howard, but the Mavericks struck gold when they landed the offensive-savvy big man on a one-year deal.
Though the 7-footer is best known for his great touch around the basket, he's an underrated interior defender who isn't afraid to battle on the glass or challenge shot attempts.
Considering how much money the rest of the available bigs commanded and how badly Dallas needed a free-agent victory, Kaman's latest contract is a bonafide bargain.
9. Jason Terry, SG Boston Celtics
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Contract Value: Three years, $15.6 million
Jason Terry's premier spot-up shooting will complement Rajon Rondo's unfathomable court-vision quite nicely, but that's not all.
While plenty will resent Terry's signing to some degree because it essentially ended Ray Allen's tenure in Boston, the fact is, at this stage of their careers, Terry is a more versatile athlete.
Though Allen has one of the purest shots the NBA has ever seen, he cannot create his own offense, or opportunities for his teammates, the way that Terry can.
It's impossible to replace Allen's accuracy, and Terry is much more of a loose cannon, but for what the Celtics needed heading into next season, he was the better fit.
8. Nicolas Batum, SF Portland Trail Blazers
Harry How/Getty Images
Contract Value: Four years, $46.5 million
Nicolas Batum was easily one of the most talented and polarizing free agents on the market, but the Blazers still overpaid.
Though Portland had no choice but to match the the Timberwolves' offer sheet, it has to be unsettling to know that Batum could have been extended at a significant discount prior to the end of the season.
While the small forward is an impressive athletic specimen who can score from anywhere on the floor and defend multiple positions, he's still raw. His frame is in need of some additional mass, and his ceiling is far from realized.
Despite such concerns, the Blazers made the right decision. It was just far from a safe one.
7. O.J. Mayo, SG Dallas Mavericks
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Contract Value: Two years, $8 million
O.J. Mayo may turn out to be the biggest steal of free agency.
Mayo was slated to make over $7 million next season, but the Mavericks were able to bring him aboard for nearly half that—ingenuity at its best.
Though the volatile shooting guard has disappointed since his rookie season, he maintains his superstar ceiling. Mayo can score from anywhere on the floor, is a phenomenal slasher and is even a suffocating defender.
While his recent string of inconsistencies damaged his market value, he's entering a perfect situation in Dallas, where he will assume a steady role as the team's second offensive option. The stage is officially set for Mayo to reach his full potential.
6. Roy Hibbert, C Indiana Pacers
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Contract Value: Four years, $58 million
Something about the Roy Hibbert signing doesn't feel right.
While Hibbert is fresh off an All-Star season, we cannot fail to acknowledge that the Pacers overpaid for his services, courtesy of the Blazers.
The big man is extremely limited offensively, and while he is a defensive stalwart, he struggles to stay out of foul trouble and perform on either end of the ball consistently.
Hibbert's new deal suggests that he's the type of player Indiana can build around. If we're being truly honest, though, he has yet to prove to us that he's worthy of being considered a cornerstone.
And at more than $14 million a season—on average—Hibbert should provide more certainty than that.
5. Tim Duncan, C San Antonio Spurs
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Contract Value: Three years, $36 million
Allowing Tim Duncan to sign with another team was simply not an option for the Spurs.
Once again, Duncan was a pillar of consistency for San Antonio all season long. His efficient two-way performances were evident more than ever, as he proved that his calculated versatility had the potential to trump the explosiveness of his counterparts.
While the Spurs crashed and burned in the Western Conference Finals, keeping their current core intact was crucial, as championships are built on continuity, among other things.
And even though Duncan is 36, he's still an integral piece of San Antonio's championship aspirations.
As for whether he'll be worth this kind of money two years down the road, well, the Spurs will have to worry about that later.
4. Kevin Garnett, PF Boston Celtics
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Contract Value: Three years, $34 million
Kevin Garnett is one of the few NBA players who could go from contemplating retirement to signing a multi-year deal.
That said, after the season he had, he earned the right to that genre of indecision.
Garnett dialed back the clock quite a bit over the second half of last season. He battled in the paint for rebounds, swatted away field-goal attempts, put his endless range to good use and was the epitome of coordination.
While there are plenty who would have balked at the idea of paying a 36-year-old $34 million over three years, even after a season like Garnett's, Danny Ainge is not one of them.
And Boston fans should thank their lucky stars for that.
3. Eric Gordon, SG New Orleans Hornets
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Contract Value: Four years. $58 million
An injury plagued season and inexplicable series of offseason outbursts aside, Eric Gordon is a superstar.
The numbers are there to support it—18.2 points, 3.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game for his career—but we've yet to see Gordon play a full season as the player everyone assumes he is.
What little the Hornets saw of the shooting guard they liked, and so did the rest of us, but despite this being a necessary and uplifting signing, it's not without substantial risk.
New Orleans essentially invested $58 million into a player who appeared in only nine games for it, and that's far from picture-perfect.
So, while Gordon's new contract is a justified one, it comes with more uncertainty than any of its counterparts.
2. Steve Nash, PG Los Angeles Lakers
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Contract: Three years, $27 million
The 38-year-old Steve Nash is going to be worth every penny of the $27 million the Lakers are paying him over the next three years.
Sure, there are obvious concerns about Nash's ability to mesh with the self-indulged offense of Kobe Bryant, but that would be true of any pairing of this magnitude.
The fact is, Nash is a facilitating genius. His court vision is unmatchable, his execution is impeccable, and his intelligence is at an all-time high.
Bryant has never—nor has the rest of the team—played alongside a point guard of this caliber. Nash's arrival opens up new doors for the Lakers, like that of title contention, which is one that appeared to have closed.
This contract isn't based on potential or even agelessness; it's based on fact. Nash is going to take the Lakers to new heights.
1. Deron Williams, PG Brooklyn Nets
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Contract Value: Five years, $98 million
Without Deron Williams, the Nets were screwed.
Every move the now Brooklyn-based franchise has made over the past 18 months has been executed with the intention of it helping to ensure the return of a franchise cornerstone.
Though Williams spent much of last season on the bench, his ability to carry an entire franchise on his back is undeniable.
Unlike most floor generals, Williams is the perfect balance between speed and strength. He consistently attacks the rim, embraces the art of drive-and-kicks and is a lockdown perimeter defender who can defend out of position if called upon.
Most importantly, though, Williams is a beacon of hope for a franchise that uprooted itself and is only just beginning to brave a new environment; he's the face of the future for a Nets team in desperate need of a direction.
And you simply cannot put a price on that.