Predicting the Best Value Signings Yet to Come in 2014 NBA Free Agency
Teams have already dished out hundreds of millions of dollars in NBA free agency, but there are still cost-efficient signings yet to come.
With the current CBA's shortened contracts and punitive luxury tax, the league has seen the worth of financial flexibility and has, for the most part, sought to keep cleaner cap sheets. That's how a Cleveland Cavaliers franchise built around Kyrie Irving can suddenly pivot and clear enough space to bring home LeBron James.
At any price, James is the most valuable signing of the summer, but his situation is also instructive of how today's furious spending works.
The Cavs landed him, but about half the league could have conceivably worked into the cap room to do so. Some of that money is already tied up in contracted players, but the rest has to go somewhere.
How much goes to whom and what production it brings back define a winning or losing free agency. Best to avoid giving Marvin Williams $7 million a year, per Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports, and to snag Paul Pierce for the mid-level exception without thinking twice, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein. The less spent on one effective piece, the more left to surround him with more talent.
Three-point shooting is one of the most sought-after commodities in the game today. The Orlando Magic lacked spacing so much last season that they flashed back to 2009 and inked Ben Gordon to a two-year, $9 million contract.
Plagued by injury last season, Gordon played just 19 games and shot 28 percent from deep, but he's a career 40 percent long-range shooter when healthy. That could be the 31-year-old's only remaining plus ability regardless of his health, but that's enough for Orlando.
Now consider Ray Allen, who can make a claim to the title of most dangerous three-point threat of all time. He's turning 39 this summer, but he just hit 39 percent of his treys in the 2014 postseason, and his impeccable fitness kept him on the floor for all but 12 games over the past two seasons, playoffs included.
So when Probasketballdraft (affiliated with Sheridan Hoops) reported Allen would join James in Cleveland for the veteran's minimum, recognize a heist is afoot.
The Cavs will fleece the market if and when this deal comes to fruition, standing to benefit both from Allen's offense and from his world-class work ethic, which would do wonders in helping next-gen guys like Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins develop as spot-up threats as well.
In that regard, Allen could be worth the $1.4 million just for his smarts; the actual shooting is practically a bonus, and it will still be far more valuable for Cleveland than that price tag implies.
It's an oft-used title, but true combo guards are few and far between.
How many players, even in the NBA, are dextrous enough to beat their man off the bounce, explosive enough to slash into the lane, strong enough to finish through the rim and above contact—and on top of all that, run the point and pass effectively?
Jordan Crawford is by no means elite, but he's on that short list, and that's special. Still, what makes Crawford such an interesting free agent is how suspect he is as both a point guard and a shooting guard.
The de facto starting point guard prior to Rajon Rondo's return to the Boston Celtics last season, Crawford proved that he can assist when asked. Despite a ball-hoggish reputation, he dished out 5.7 dimes per game to go along with his 13.7 points before getting shipped to the Golden State Warriors, where his facilitation disappeared on a team with established distributors.
As a scorer, he has shot 40 percent overall in his career, including just 30 percent on threes. Considering he has attempted 3.6 threes per game in that time, teams could view him as a liability to offensive efficiency; it's certainly part of the reason he has played for four teams in as many years.
Per Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports, the Dubs are open to a sign-and-trade to send Crawford to his new home, with the Bulls, Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks reported to be potential destinations.
All those teams are big spenders and would want Crawford as a cheaper depth guy. Whichever of those squads nabs him, he won't wind up making too much more than the minimum, and certainly less than the $3.278 mini-MLE.
That would be fair for Crawford, considering his spotty production. Even so, that skill set and potential normally cost more on the open market, and he could quickly turn into a steal if the fit is right.
As Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported, the shape of Gasol's next contract depends significantly on whether Chicago can come to terms with the Los Angeles Lakers on a sign-and-trade. If the Bulls can send some salary back to L.A., they'll be able to bump up Gasol's deal by as much as $3.5 million, per Woj's sources.
At $10 million a year, the 34-year-old Pau, who averaged 17.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game last season, would be paid reasonably. For a true seven-footer with his talent and versatility, $6.5 million represents a gross underpay.
Expect him to still get the latter amount, though. That's all Chicago can offer him as a free agent, and the Lakers have no incentive to help the Bulls facilitate Gasol's departure.
Carlos Boozer's $16.8 million contract next season stands between Pau and his bigger deal, but the Lakers would be better served spending that money elsewhere than to take on Chicago's financial burden; Chicago would otherwise have to amnesty Boozer and still pay the money he's owed.
If the Bulls would offer a Taj Gibson or a Jimmy Butler, things would be different, but it wouldn't make sense to do so when Gasol is willing to sign outright anyway.
Unfortunately for Gasol, that $10 million figure doesn't look likely. Instead, he'll make less per year than Marvin Williams, and for that, the Bulls will still rejoice.
For seven years, Rodney Stuckey has attacked the rim and shot in volume for the Detroit Pistons. Now that he's finally leaving, we'll see if some other organization can harness his talent more productively.
Like Crawford, Stuckey also has the combo-guard gene. He put up 5.2 assists per game back in 2010-11, though Detroit used him less and less as a distributor and can barrel his 6'5" frame through the lane and absorb contact en route to a score inside, though with less of the supreme leaping ability Crawford has.
Unfortunately, Stuckey also struggles with his jumper, shooting 42 percent for his career and 29 percent from beyond the arc. That one-dimensionality keeps him from being a player worthy of the full MLE; defenses can sag off Stuckey, daring him to let fly and throwing multiple bodies at him when he drives.
That's easy to do when he's the most dangerous perimeter scorer on his team, as Stuckey often was in Detroit. In a more well-rounded offense that uses him as the secondary or tertiary guard threat, he'll be able to attack lesser opponents and put pressure on a defense shifting its attention elsewhere.
A team with stretch forwards would suit Stuckey much better than the Pistons' post-heavy roster did. Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel proposed Chris Bosh's Miami Heat as a good fit, and there's logic there; Dwyane Wade currently fills that role, and Stuckey could thrive both in lineups with Bosh and spearheading the second unit.
CBS Sports' Matt Moore suggested Stuckey to Miami for $4 million and somewhere between the mini-MLE and the full one seems likely. With some helpful teammates around him, Stuckey could parlay that modest investment into a run at the 2015 Sixth Man of the Year.
In one tumultuous season, Evan Turner posted blatantly inflated stats and emerged with an unfairly negative reputation.
Beginning the season in a frenetic offense with the tanking Philadelphia 76ers, Turner posted 17.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. If he didn't look like someone earning his No. 2 overall draft selection four years prior or a cornerstone of a playoff team, he at least flashed interesting potential as a jack-of-all-trades wing who would be able to shine in a supporting role.
In theory, he got that chance when Philly dealt him to the Indiana Pacers, and that's why his market value is shot.
Turner's minutes per game dropped from 34.9 as a Sixer to 21.1, and his stats in kind fell to 7.1 points, 3.2 boards and 2.4 assists. He was unable to spark the stagnant Pacers offense, and he was unable to contribute to their hard-nosed defense.
After a physical altercation with Lance Stephenson the day before the playoffs began, per Wojnarowski, he played just 12.4 minutes per game in the postseason and appeared in just 12 of Indiana's 19 games; in the conference finals against the Heat, he played four total minutes.
If this seems like a referendum on Turner's ability on a contender, it shouldn't be. He failed to mesh with a Pacers team already in the throes of discord when he arrived. Sporting a uniquely multifaceted game, he could be an asset for a team that cares to let him show what he can do.
According to Darren Wolfson of 1500espn.com, the Minnesota Timberwolves could give him that shot with a one-year trial. The Wolves would get a starting-caliber wing as their sixth man, likely for not much more than the minimum, and Turner would get to prove himself before reentering free agency next summer.
It's a sensible match, and considering the Wolves will either be desperate to surround Kevin Love with talent or to fill his void if they trade him, Turner would get every opportunity to produce. With that chance, he would easily outperform the contract he receives.
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