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Re-Grading the Top 10 Free-Agent Acquisitions After the NBA's First Quarter

Sam CooperCorrespondent IIIDecember 16, 2012

Re-Grading the Top 10 Free-Agent Acquisitions After the NBA's First Quarter

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    Now that the first quarter of the NBA regular season has come to a close, we've had an opportunity to see most of the summer's biggest acquisitions in action. 

    It's now a lot easier to assess the decisions that general managers made to sign these players a few months ago. While some teams have gotten great bargains, other teams seem to have only wasted their money this past offseason.

    On that note, here are updated grades for each of the summer's top free-agent acquisitions.

Jason Terry, Boston Celtics

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    Grade: B-

    Jason Terry was brought in by the Boston Celtics on a three-year, $15,675,000 deal this past summer. Terry was coming off a season in which he posted averages of 15.1 points and 3.6 assists per game for the Dallas Mavericks

    So far, Terry has done what has been expected of him. Head coach Doc Rivers has started him for 16 of the first 22 games of the season, and Terry is averaging 11.4 points, 2.0 assists and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 45 percent from the field and 37 percent from behind the arc. 

    Terry has seen a drop in his production from his tenure with the Mavericks, but you could argue that he isn't getting all the touches he needs. Terry is taking just 8.8 field goal attempts per game, which is the lowest number since his rookie season.

    His usage rate of 17.1 percent is also a career low. The drop in production really can't be pinned on him, not when he is hitting his shots just as consistently now as he has in the past. 

    There is no telling if Terry will start to look his age in the next couple of seasons, but he's living up to the salary right now.

    He hasn't had a huge impact on the team, but most of that is out of his control. 


O.J. Mayo, Dallas Mavericks

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    Grade: A+

    If there's one player on this list who warrants an A+, it has to be O.J. Mayo. Just like the Chris Kaman signing (see next slide), taking a chance on Mayo seemed risky for the Mavs.

    Mayo's first two seasons in the NBA were both very strong, but his numbers took a hit after that, mostly due to lack of playing time.

    But in Dallas, Mayo has been simply astounding. Right now, he's averaging 20.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. He's also shooting 48 percent from the field, and even more impressive is his 51 percent clip from beyond the arc.

    Mayo is top 10 in the NBA in points, three-point field goals and effective field-goal percentage.

    Then consider the fact that he's signed to a two-year, $8.2 million contract, and it's clear that this move by the Mavericks was the biggest steal of the offseason. 

Chris Kaman, Dallas Mavericks

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    Grade: B-

    Considering that Chris Kaman has logged more than 60 games just once in the past five seasons, giving him a one-year, $8 million deal seemed risky for the Mavericks over the summer. It's worked out pretty well so far.

    Right now, Kaman has started in 14 of his 21 games played. He's posting averages of 14.2 points and 6.5 rebounds, but that's in just 26 minutes of play per game. He's also shooting a career-high 53 percent from the field.

    Kaman is now 30 years old, and he's definitely not the same player who made an All-Star appearance for the Clippers back in 2010. However, he is playing perfectly fine so far in his first season for Dallas, and although the $8 million price tag may still seem a bit steep, his one-year contract is very low risk.

Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns

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    Grade: B+

    Saying goodbye to Steve Nash was difficult for a lot of Suns fans, but in a league with so many young point guards, it wasn't difficult to find a replacement.

    Since returning to Phoenix, Goran Dragic has done a little bit of everything. He's averaging 15 points, 6.4 assists and 1.9 steals per game, and he's shooting 46 percent from the field and 35 percent from three-point range.

    Dragic also came up big in the clutch for Phoenix just a couple days ago, as he made a game-winning layup over Marc Gasol to help the Suns snap a seven-game losing streak. 

    Dragic is proving to be very valuable, as he can pass and defend, and he can score in a number of different ways. Also, his four-year, $30 million contract has made him somewhat of a bargain. He might not be the next Steve Nash, but he is a quality point guard.

    Right now, Phoenix's chances of actually making the playoffs are slim, but Dragic is a good piece to build around. 

Raymond Felton, New York Knicks

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    Grade: A

    Because an out-of-shape Raymond Felton had such an awful season last year with the Portland Trail Blazers, the Knicks were able to easily snatch him up in a sign-and-trade in which they gave up almost nothing of value—unless you consider Jared Jeffries and Dan Gadzuric good role players. 

    A lot of Knicks fans were excited from the second they heard the news. Felton was putting up All-Star numbers for the Knicks a couple seasons ago before being traded as part of the package that brought Carmelo Anthony to New York. 

    Other New York fans were less excited, mostly because it meant they wouldn't see Jeremy Lin manning the point anymore. But I'm not sure any reasonable fan would still tell you that signing Lin would have been the better route for the Knicks to choose. 

    Right now, Felton is posting averages of 15.9 points and 6.8 assists per game, and he is a huge reason the Knicks have been so great up to this point.

    Felton has led a Knicks team with Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert (and sometimes Melo) sidelined to victories over playoff-caliber teams this year.

    He's signed to a very reasonable four-year, $14.8 million and he is playing well above it.

    There are a lot of games left, but this acquisition looks like it could be one of the best the Knicks have made in years. 

Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers

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    Grade: A-

    Jamal Crawford has bounced around a lot in recent years, playing for New York, Golden State, Atlanta, Portland and now the Clippers—all in a span of five seasons. Although Crawford's play seemed to have dropped off a little after winning the Sixth Man of the Year Award three seasons ago, he might just be back.

    When Crawford won that award, he was a 29-year-old in his prime. Now 32, he's still proving himself to be one of the top bench players in the NBA. As of now, Crawford is averaging 17.1 points per game on 43 percent shooting. 

    At times, Crawford is an absolutely amazing scorer. He's leading the league in free-throw percentage for the second straight year, and he is able to knock down a shot from anywhere on the court.

    Unfortunately, he doesn't do much else. Crawford isn't known as a good defensive player, and he doesn't exactly crash the boards or rack up assists either. Still, he's being paid for his scoring ability, and anything else is just an added bonus.

    Signed to a four-year, $21.3 million contract, it's safe to say that Crawford has been a bargain for the Clippers. 

Ryan Anderson, New Orleans Hornets

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    Grade: B+

    Last season, Ryan Anderson used his three-point shooting to ultimately land the Most Improved Player Award. He led the league in both three-pointers made and attempted, and he averaged 16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

    This season, Anderson has only gotten better. Right now, he's shooting 47 percent from the field and 42 percent from behind the arc. Additionally, Anderson is averaging a career-high 18.2 points per game, and he's one of the NBA's best in offensive rating. 

    Of course, Anderson doesn't play much defense. He's great on one end of the court, but he doesn't do it all. That's why he doesn't get a higher grade.

    Nonetheless, Anderson has been a great pickup for New Orleans. All they needed to send in the sign-and-trade was Gustavo Ayon, and now they have a guy who looks like he will be one of the league's top sharpshooters for years to come.

    Anderson is signed to a four-year, $34 million deal with the Hornets.

Ray Allen, Miami Heat

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    Grade: A-

    Even at age 37, Ray Allen still has it. This is Allen's first NBA season as a bench player, but he's still been effective offensively. Allen is averaging 12.4 points per game while shooting 49 percent from the field and 46 percent from behind the arc.

    Additionally, Allen has been huge in the clutch for Miami. Through just a quarter of the season, he's already hit multiple game-winning shots for the Heat.

    Defense is a different story for Allen. When playing shooting guard, he has allowed his opponents to score 17.8 points per 36 minutes. We know Allen is not a very good defensive player, but does it really matter as long as he's able to outscore his opponents?

    Defense is obviously important, but Allen has one job as a bench player for the Heat: to score. As long as he continues to outperform opponents on the offensive side of the ball, he will more than earn his two-year, $6.3 million contract.

Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Grade: Incomplete

    With just 50 minutes played all season, it's impossible to grade Steve Nash right now.

    Nash is coming off another good season in which he averaged 12.5 points and 10.7 assists per game. He still has a great shot that he can get off at anytime, but passing is Nash's most dangerous asset.

    Once the 38-year-old Nash comes back, he will be looked to as the savior for the struggling Lakers. Will he be prepared to handle the pressure put on him both by Lakers fans and by Mike D'Antoni's run-and-gun style of play? He's done it before, but this is different. 

    Money is rarely an issue for the Lakers, but he's signed to a three-year, $27.9 million contract. They simply cannot afford to have him watching on the sidelines.

    But D'Antoni's coaching and the physical demands of his offensive system could set Nash up for failure.  

    Furthermore, the Lakers are going to have to rebuild at some point. Dwight Howard's future with the team is in question, and Kobe Bryant, Nash and Pau Gasol are all on the wrong side of 30.

    Meanwhile, this Nash sign-and-trade will cost the Lakers more future draft picks, and the team is now without a first-round pick in 2013, 2015 and 2017 and is without a second-round pick in 2014 and 2015.

    Rebuilding may be a long and very slow process without the necessary assets already in place.

Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets

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    Grade: C-

    Surprisingly, the Harvard graduate ends up being the one with the lowest grade. 

    When the Rockets signed Jeremy Lin to a three-year, $$25,123,938 contract, they expected the player who energized crowds at Madison Square Garden for the Knicks last season.

    Right now, Lin is averaging 11.0 points and 6.1 assists per game. He's shooting just 40 percent from the field and 31 percent from downtown. 

    To be fair, Lin is still young and has more time to develop. Additionally, not all of his struggles can be pinned on him. For example, Lin is now often reduced to settling for jump shots instead of driving the lane or finding the open man.

    Those two skills happen to also be such strong aspects of James Harden's game.

    I'm not saying the two can't co-exist, but the offensive scheme is flawed. It definitely shows, as the Rockets average just 105 PPG with Lin on the court, compared to 111.8 PPG with him sitting on the bench.

    Defensively, Lin is no lockdown defender either. He does average 1.7 steals per game, but he allows opponents to average 13.7 points and 7.4 assists per 36 minutes, while shooting an effective field goal percentage of 51 percent. All of those numbers are better than what Lin is giving on offense.

    Not all has been bad. Lin has cut down on turnovers, but he has to improve offensively.

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