NBA Free Agency: Breaking Down The Deals

Erick BlascoSenior Writer IJuly 18, 2007

IconIt's free agent season in the NBA, and a number of big-name and lesser-known players have been signed or re-signed. Here's a look at how the latest deals will play out around the league:
Chauncey Billups—Detroit
Billups is still one of the best in the business at distributing the ball, finishing on drives, nailing pull-up jumpers, and, most importantly, producing in the clutch.
It's a shame that Flip Saunders has reduced Chauncey to delivering post and iso feeds. The Pistons' biggest offensive problem the last few seasons has been a lack of creativity—which is a function of playcalling, not playmaking.
The Billups deal brought cheers from Detroit fans...and sighs from fans in Dallas, Orlando, and Miami, who were praying for Billups' arrival in their towns.
Steve Blake—Portland
Blake has a decent basketball IQ, a pass-first mentality, and a jump shot good enough to keep defenses honest.
As a starter in Portland, he'd be called upon to ensure that Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Greg Oden receive the ball where they can do damage with it. As a backup, he'd provide steady depth behind Jarrett Jack.
Another prudent decision by the Blazers front office.
Matt Bonner—San Antonio
Bonner has been a good glue guy since his college days in Florida, and has always been a deadly long-range shooter. Gregg Popovich has been working on Bonner s versatility—toughening him up and teaching him the intricacies of championship defense. Look for Bonner to play an offensive role similar to that of Robert Horry in the future.
As the Spurs don't miss on player evaluations, and as Coach Popovich is adept at exploiting player strengths while masking player weaknesses, it's reasonable to expect that Bonner will be a useful player for San Antonio sooner rather than later.
Grant Hill—Phoenix
Can Grant Hill—age, injuries, and all—keep up with the Suns?
Hill's intelligence and creativity will certainly mesh with Steve Nash in the halfcourt, but the Phoenix fast break may suffer with Hill in the lineup.
Hill also isn't a great defender anymore—but outside of Raja Bell, neither is anyone else on the Suns.
Look for Hill to be a useful 20-minute-a-night performer in the regular season...and to make more meaningful contributions when the game slows down in the playoffs.
All told, this is a good deal that will go largely unnoticed until the postseason. And it will be a better deal if the Suns hold on to Kurt Thomas to defend Tim Duncan in the playoffs.
Jason Kapono—Toronto
Kapono doesn't do much besides shoot and he needs help from his teammates to do it.
In Miami, Kapono was often left open when teams doubled Shaq or crashed on Dwyane Wade. In Toronto, he won't be so fortunate.
With the occasional exception of Chris Bosh, the Raptors don t have the kind of powerful post presence that draws double-teams. Worse still, all of their wing players are finesse jump shooters—which means Kapono won't get nearly as many open looks as he did with the Heat.
Bryan Colangelo is trying to mold the Raptors into Phoenix East...but T.J. Ford isn't Steve Nash. Expect Kapono to be a non-factor when the Raptors lose in the first round again next year.
Rashard Lewis—Orlando
Orlando overpaid to get Lewis, but passing on him would have left the Magic with just one proven scorer on their roster.
Besides, if you want to win in the NBA, you'd better be ready to spend money.
Lewis can produce points from downtown or at the hoop, and he ll provide spacing to free up Dwight Howard down low. He also has no qualms about passing the ball, and his presence will allow Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson to be the backups they really are.
Lewis doesn t defend well and is prone to turnovers which means the Magic still need to acquire a legit point guard and another power post player.
If they don't, Orlando will have trouble winning a playoff series. If they do, Rashard will help make the Magic a formidable foe in the Eastern Conference.
Jerry Stackhouse—Dallas
Stackhouse can still hit turnarounds in the post, drive to the middle and fade, and knock down three's all game long. He's also never been shy about taking the big shot in the clutch...unlike his teammate Dirk.
Unfortunately, Stackhouse has always been inconsistent when it matters, and has been increasingly hit-or-miss in the last few seasons. As he gets older and his body breaks down, don't expect that to change.
That said, Stackhouse helps the Mavs create matchup problems for any opponent—and if he s on, he can fill the basket in a hurry. Unless Dallas gets someone who can dominate the fourth quarter, though, Mark Cuban's team will be doomed to disappointment.
Jacque Vaughn—San Antonio
Vaughn keeps the ball moving, plays harassing defense, makes postseason jumpers, and obeys his coaches like a drone.
San Antonio is the perfect place for him.
Luke Walton–Los Angeles Lakers
In most offensive systems, Walton's lack of athleticism, mobility, and one-on-one scoring prowess would land him on the bench.
In the Lakers' triangle, his limited talents are a perfect fit.
Phil Jackson can utilize Walton's ability to move the ball, fill open lanes, hit open jumpers, and, occasionally, surprise opponents by spinning to the post. In fact, Walton and the triangle are an ideal marriage and this is a smart re-signing by both team and player.