Report Card Grades for Every 2013 NBA Free-Agent Signing This Week
Another week in July means another week of unforeseen movement throughout the NBA.
With nearly all the big fish already hitched to a different wagon, the past few days have mostly been filled with hopeful contenders rounding out their rosters and middling scrappers gearing up for another season of "eighth seed or bust."
Here are our grades for each signing, based on how Player X helps Team Y in 2013-14 and beyond.
Andrei Kirilenko to the Nets
After trading for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry, it appeared the Brooklyn Nets were going all in for the title in 2014 with an extremely talented starting five.
Due to the amount of salary they took on, however, it was thought their bench would suffer, with tight means as to how they could create legitimate depth behind the starters since those guys would be making all the money.
Then, Andrei Kirilenko shocked everyone in basketball by accepting Brooklyn's mini-mid-level exception. Kirilenko entered free agency this summer after opting out of a $10.2 million player option with the Minnesota Timberwolves, presumably to lock up the last long-term deal of his career.
Still capable of bringing two-way brilliance to the court (he averaged the fourth-highest per-game scoring and rebounding numbers of his career last season), Kirilenko will undoubtedly help the Nets reach their championship goal.
He can shoot from distance, defend three or four positions better than half the league's players can guard their own and intelligently thrive on offense moving without the ball.
The fact that Brooklyn will only pay him $3.18 million next season is a steal.
Chris Kaman to the Lakers
After getting spurned by Dwight Howard in what has to be one of the most humiliating events in franchise history, the Los Angeles Lakers have a roster that’s far from competing for a championship and likely on the outside looking in for the playoffs.
Given the Lakers' old backcourt that includes a rehabbing Kobe Bryant trying to come back from a serious Achilles injury, Howard’s departure could be taken as a sign that now is the time for this organization to rebuild.
Even though it’s for only one season and comes at a cheap price, the Lakers made a mistake by signing Chris Kaman.
Last season with the Dallas Mavericks, he shot over 50 percent from the floor, averaging 10.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. In other words, even though Kaman’s 31 years old, he can still be productive. But the Lakers don't need random production from a solid 10-year veteran. They need to develop young talent, sell high on talented stars for valuable assets and start a genuine rebuild (see: Celtics, Boston).
Signing current journeymen like Kaman might have the Lakers fighting for the No. 8 seed, but is that what they really want? Even if it is on a one-year contract for just $3.2 million, keeping their sacred 2014 cap space clear, there are "better" big men out there to sign.
Toney Douglas to the Warriors
Two years ago, Mike D’Antoni handed the keys to his fast-paced New York offense to then-25-year-old Toney Douglas. The results were disastrous enough to nearly knock Douglas out of the league. In nine games as a starter before being relegated to the bench for good, Douglas shot 32.8 percent from the floor and 30.2 percent from behind the three-point line, averaging 11.7 points and 4.1 assists.
Rehabilitating his image and resurrecting his career with a solid bounce-back campaign in both Houston and Sacramento last season, Douglas has asserted himself as a quality backup point guard—someone who can knock down threes and pressure opposing ball-handlers down the length of the court.
Filling in for Jarrett Jack (in a reduced role, comparatively, to be sure), Douglas should thrive in a winning situation with the Warriors. From Golden State’s perspective, hauling him in on a one-year, $1.6 million deal is low risk, high reward.
Tyler Hansbrough to the Raptors
After the Indiana Pacers chose not to extend Tyler Hansbrough a qualifying offer, there was a very real chance his career in the NBA was over.
Hansbrough has few two-way skills an NBA team can put to use (apart from the occasional trip to the free-throw line and his ability to instill pure rage in opposing players and fans), but apparently the Toronto Raptors believe he's worth two years of their cap space—albeit at just $2.5 million next season.
Wayne Ellington to the Mavericks
In signing Wayne Ellington to a two-year, $5 million deal, the Mavericks aren’t going out on a limb. Known as a solid shooter, Ellington has been above average from behind the arc in his career, shooting 38.2 percent from three.
But that’s about it. Despite showing some promise as a serviceable rotation player in half a season with Cleveland last year (17 starts and 25.9 minutes per game), Ellington’s never averaged more than 22 minutes per game for an entire season in his four-year career.
Still, players who can spread the floor are valuable right now, and grabbing one who’s only 25 years old on a cheap contract is a solid deal.
Chauncey Billups to the Pistons
Mr. Big Shot returns home. That’s the off-court headline this signing will spawn, but can he provide anything meaningful on the court this season? That’s debatable, as he looked washed up in 22 starts with the Los Angeles Clippers last season, averaging career lows in both points (8.4) and shots (6.0) per game.
If he’s willing to tutor Detroit’s new “franchise point guard” Brandon Knight—maybe teach him some go-to moves in the post?—this signing is more than worth it. But apart from that and the sentimental value in bringing back a 36-year-old point guard who can barely log 15 minutes a night, there’s little Billups can offer anymore.
Nick Young to the Lakers
Despite his multiple flaws on both ends of the court, including a committed need to shoot every time he touches the ball (holding a career average of 1.0 assists per game in a six-year career is nothing to brag about), signing Nick Young to a one-year deal at the veteran's minimum is a steal.
Who knows how many games Kobe Bryant will miss next season? With Young in his place, the Lakers are getting a high-volume, low-efficiency gunner whose style of play equates to losing—exactly what they need!
Getting him for practically nothing is icing on the cake.
Marreese Speights to the Warriors
Marreese Speights is an above-average rebounding talent who can also step out and knock down a mid-range jumper with suitable consistency. The Golden State Warriors are lucky to find such an appropriate replacement after losing their own free agent, Carl Landry, to the Sacramento Kings.
The Warriors are starved for depth in the frontcourt, and signing one of the more underrated big guys on the open market should be hugely beneficial for both parties.
Speights averaged 10.2 points per game in 39 contests with the Cleveland Cavaliers last season after being acquired from Memphis (8.3 PPG in 79 games overall). If he can carry that type of production over in limited minutes while playing for a pseudo-contender, this signing could be looked at as a huge win.
Jermaine O'Neal to the Warriors
With Festus Ezeli expected to be out for an extended time in 2014 due to a serious injury, Andris Biedrins gone to play with the Utah Jazz and the delicate Andrew Bogut a twisted ankle away from missing extended time, the Golden State Warriors were very thin in the frontcourt heading into next season.
They already added Marreese Speights with a three-year contract, but that doesn't solve the need for a rim protector. If healthy (a monstrous "if"), Jermaine O'Neal can be a stable defensive presence whenever Bogut needs a rest.
Signing him to the league minimum on a one-year deal cuts nearly all the risk involved.
Ronny Turiaf to the Timberwolves
It'll be his seventh team in nine years as a big man in the NBA, but this stop could cede more playing time for Ronny Turiaf than the last few.
Greg Stiemsma is off to play with the New Orleans Pelicans, and though rookie Gorgui Dieng is aboard, restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic has yet to decide which jersey he'll be suiting up in next season. For those two reasons, signing Turiaf to a two-year, $3.2 million contract was smart. Not sexy, but smart.
As someone who brings smart energy to both ends of the floor, Turiaf is a great addition for a team rounding out its last roster spots with some cheap depth.