Ranking the NBA's Top 5 Value Signings of the Offseason
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But as important as those big names are, oftentimes the supporting cast is just as important. A team needs the right kinds of players to surround their star for the team to be successful.
And that's where these rankings come in. You will not find any Howards or Pauls. But you will find some of the best value deals of the summer. As in low-cost deals that will yield high margins for the teams.
A bit confused? Think Ray Allen signing with the Heat last summer. Or Tony Allen making $3.3 million last year. Maybe Danny Green and his $3.5 million salary. These aren't the players who carry a team, but their contributions can far outweigh their contracts.
So here we go, counting down the five best value signings of the NBA offseason. And don't kid yourself that these additions aren't important. LeBron and the Heat can vouch for just how integral they can be.
Hint hint, watch this video.
5. Earl Clark, Cleveland Cavaliers
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Yes, Earl Clark was the center of some debate when he was starting over Pau Gasol for much of the 2012-2013 season. But once you get past that, Clark was very effective in the playing time he was given.
First off, he's listed at 6'10" with a 7'2" wingspan. So though he may be more comfortable playing the three, he can guard fours thanks to his size and length. In other words, the guy is versatile.
And he's got a 33" max vert. So though he's no Vince Carter, he's an athletic player to be sure.
But onto how he played. Because as we all know, just because a player has the physical tools doesn't mean he's going to be any good. Enter Kwame Brown.
In Earl Clark's 23.1 minutes per game, he averaged 7.3 points, and 5.5 rebounds on 44 percent shooting. So from the surface, nothing too special.
Delving a little deeper is where it gets interesting. When playing power forward, he ranked 19th out of 70 in assist rate. He was also a respectable shooter, with a 50.6 effective field goal percentage on threes.
As an aside, effective field goal percentage (or eFG%) is a statistic that measures a player's shooting efficiency while weighting threes a bit more for their added point value.
So he's a big small forward who can play the four when need be. He's a pretty decent shooter who can also pass pretty well when he plays power forward.
But exactly how he fits on the Cavaliers team is the important part. He signed a two year, $9 million deal this offseason.
The Cavaliers will be a guard driven team next year, with Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Jarret Jack being the focal points. They'll hope that Varejao and newly signed Andrew Bynum can stay healthy, and they'll integrate top pick Anthony Bennett into the front court rotation along with a much improved Tristan Thompson.
Earl Clark is the only player on the roster who's main position is small forward. So there's a positional need for him.
But more than that, he fits on the team. He can be a stretch four when needed, and they might really need him if they're going to rely on guys like Bynum and Varejao to stay healthy.
Clark can rebound, pass a little bit and shot 38% on corner threes. So he can hang out over there or in the short corner to space the floor while Bynum or Thompson roam the paint.
Think of it this way. If the Cavs opt to go three guards, then Clark can play the stretch four position with a small forward's skills. He gives the Cavaliers versatility, and the ability to exploit mismatches.
The only reason he isn't higher is that he plays for the Cavs. Who aren't supposed to be anything more than a young up-and-coming team next year. If he filled this role for a title contender he would be higher, but alas. Maybe in a couple years, but for now, he's just five on this list.
4. Marreese Speights, Golden State Warriors
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After the Warriors used their cap room on Andre Iguodala, the fans in Oakland knew that they had to let two huge pieces from their 2013 campaign walk. Those would be Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack.
So they had to go about finding cheap replacements. Enter Marreese Speights, the 2014 version of Carl Landry.
He's a bit bigger, at 6'10" and 255 pounds. And might be a bit more rugged. Or at least he sounds like it in this interview he gave Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group.
"I bring another big man who really knows the system, knows how to run the court," he said from the team's downtown facility. "I bring some toughness, a guy who wants to win."
Speights is a rugged rebounder, averaging almost 10 rebounds per 36 minutes. For good measure, he also averages 1.3 blocks. Providing a bit of rim protection too, something Landry wasn't exactly known for.
What Landry was known for was his mid-range jumper. And that's also something Speights can bring to the table.
Speights shot 48 percent from 16-23 feet for the last two seasons, which is five percent better than Landry. So really, he might be an improvement in that arena.
Speights signed a three-year deal worth almost $11 million, so if he can provide 75 percent of what Landry did for two thirds of the money, the Warriors will make out very well in the deal.
And that seems very doable. Of course Speights is a different player, and a younger one too. At 25, he's four years younger than Landry. So he might not have some of the same veteran know-how.
But he's a big guy with some moves who can run the floor. And provides some of that some toughness and a silky jumper the same way Landry did.
Only time will tell if this signing pays off for a Warriors team on the rise. And that's the reason he's not higher. He partially fills a hole left by Landry, rather than providing something new to the team.
He'll be very valuable, but measuring up to Landry will be a tall order.
3. Mike Miller, Memphis Grizzlies
Mike Miller is a great shooter, and that's exactly what the Grizzlies need.
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Let's start this slide off with a number, and it's a bad one.
That's how many threes per game the Grizzlies made in 2013, last in the NBA. They also shot an atrocious 34.5 percent from downtown, 24th in the league.
It's safe to say, adding a career 40.6 percent three point shooter should really help. Especially one who makes almost two a game.
That would be Mike Miller, the guy who's eFG% on threes last year was 60.6 and the year before that it was 68. In fact, since 2007 he's never been below 54.5 percent.
Yes, you can call him a sharpshooter.
Miller signed with the Grizzlies after being amnestied by the Heat. And he is desperately needed in Memphis.
The Grizzlies are centered around Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, two big time post players. In order for them to operate effectively, the floor has to be well spaced. Meaning there have to be shooters on the floor who can prevent their men from wandering into the paint. It's really a pretty simple concept—basketball 101.
But the 2013 Grizzlies simply didn't have the personnel to make that happen. And watching them play in the playoffs made that incredibly apparent. Though they had some very talented post players, they had a hard time operating when defenders could clog the paint.
Now it's not like Mike Miller is going to play 35 minutes a game and solve this issue single-handedly. He's notoriously injury prone and not getting any younger. So though this is a nice signing, and a sorely needed one, he won't be a savior.
But him along with Quincy Pondexter can at least give the Grizzlies the skill sets they need to maximize Randolph and Gasol.
And don't forget, Miller has been battle tested over his last three years with the Heat. Memphis plays a tough brand of basketball, and Miller fits well with that.
It's a great signing by a team with a need. Just wish the guy could stay on the floor and play more than 20 minutes a game.
2. CJ Watson, Indiana Pacers
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To that point Watson's eFG% on threes was 61.7, which is a sight for sore eyes in Indiana.
And just like Memphis, Indiana is a tough team. Watson's game fits beautifully with that. He's not one to shy away when the game is on the line, as his eFG% from three rose when the game was within five points. In those situations it was a ridiculous 74.2 percent.
The Pacers really could have used a guy like this in their seven game Eastern Conference Finals battle with the Miami Heat. Watching that series it was painfully obvious that the Pacers needed bench help, especially at point guard, and shooting. Badly.
Watson is definitely an upgrade over DJ Augustin. And you can bet he won't get manhandled in the playoffs like Augustin did.
He also provides Pacers Coach Frank Vogel with some much needed versatility. Watson can play along side starting point George Hill, giving the Pacers two shooters in the backcourt. Something that can be very valuable in the right situation.
Additionally, Watson is a guy who knows his role. The Pacers are a grind it out, work it down low kind of team. Paul George may be a blossoming star on the wing, but the foundation of the team is down low with Roy Hibbert and David West.
Watson won't have a problem feeding the beasts in the post and being a team player otherwise. He'll fit right in with the hard nosed Pacers, and be a valuable piece to a team on the rise.
1. Andrei Kirilenko, Brooklyn Nets
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Despite rumblings from other owners that Mikhail Prokhorov made side deals to sign countryman Andrei Kirilenko to a bargain of a contract, the deal still stands. And as such, it's easily the best value signing of this offseason.
Kirilenko inked a two-year deal for $3.18 per season. For a guy who very played well while making $10 million last year, it seemed he was due for a raise, not a dock in pay.
But oh well, he's on the Nets and on a very cheap deal. The rest of the league is just going to have to deal with it, unless David Stern does something about it.
Until then, Kirilenko fits very well into this Nets roster. With a star studded team in Brooklyn, the last thing they need is another ego who needs shots to stay happy. And AK-47 isn't one of those guys.
He spent much of his NBA career playing second fiddle to Deron Williams in Utah, averaging between 11 and 12 points per game on roughly eight shots. And he seemed content to do so.
Kirilenko won't take shots away from Brook Lopez, or Williams, or Joe Johnson or Paul Pierce. What he will do is stuff the stat sheet.
For his career, Kirilenko averages 5.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.9 blocks and 2.1 steals. And in 2006, he recorded a 5x6 game, meaning he had at least six rebounds, steals, assists, points and blocks. The only other player to do that was Hakeem Olajuwon.
Yes, he has aged a bit since 2006, but Kirilenko is still a great all around player. The only statistic that was down from his career averages last year was his blocks, which were at one per game.
And the Nets are going to need someone on the wing to play defense. Three times he was selected for all-defensive teams, and he can still bring that when he needs to.
The Nets have a lot of stars, and a lot of guys who need their points. Kirilenko is an egoless player who is fine only taking a couple shots a game. He'll defend, rebound and take some of the playmaking responsibilities off of Deron Williams.
So he's a tremendous fit at a bargain basement price for a serious title contender. He's also the best player on this list. Thus, AK-47 takes the cake as the top value signing of this summer hands down.