Grading the NBA Free Agent Signings

Thomas HalzackAnalyst IJuly 14, 2009

We’ve all heard about a tight market for free agents this offseason.

But a look at the actual signings so far gives mixed signals, IMO. By grading, I mean, "Were the dollars spent overpaid, fairly compensated, or a bargain?"

Let’s take a look:


Rasheed Wallace—Boston

Bargain:  At $5.8 mil per year with up to an eight percent raise in following years, Wallace has to be considered a bargain. He said that he wouldn’t play for less than $8 million, and I thought that was a reasonable value for him at this point in his career.

But he knew the state of the league’s teams and realized that playing for Memphis or OKC for more wouldn’t be a serious option if you want to contend.

At 34, Sheed was ninth in NBA Defensive Rebounding percentage at 24 percent last season. He makes a very good rebounding team even better, besides everything else.

He was 20th in Defensive Rating, and fourth best in turnover pct. And that is in a year that people said he stopped playing hard after a point in the season. He plays inside and out and does both very well.

Smart, emotional, and still a game changer when he wants to be.

Understanding that he and Antonio McDyess are signing for that amount puts Glen Davis’ market value more in perspective.

Mike Bibby—Atlanta

Fairly Compensated: 31-year-old Bibby re-signed with Atlanta for three years at $18 mil. Coming down from being vastly overpaid at $15 mil last year, it is a credit to Bibby and the Hawks that they got this done.

The Hawks aren’t known for being lavish, and this amount keeps consistency at PG for the ever improving Hawk team. They didn’t jump forward until Bibby came over from Sacramento.

He is a vital cog.

Looking at the other PG options available, staying here makes sense for both parties.

Five assists a game would seem only marginally acceptable, but the Hawks' players do a fair amount of dribbling on their own.

Perhaps too much.

And Joe Johnson has more assists than Bibby, because he also is directing the offense… a lot. Whatever deficiencies the overall offense has are really under the purview of the coach.

Defensively challenged, Bibby can run an offense and hit the three (Eighth in the NBA in total makes in ‘09, at 39 percent). The Hawks didn’t take the next step until he arrived two years ago.

Can they do better?

Yes, but not at that money right now.

Ben Gordon—Detroit

To be determined: Five years at $58 mil. Right now I want to say Detroit overpaid by a few mil a year. His offensive performance in the playoffs this season was eye opening for me.

He averaged 24 points against Boston. Granted the Cs were undermanned, especially at that spot, but Ben can make shots with a high degree of difficulty and under strong defensive pressure.

That performance drove his price right back up to where he thought it should be. I can’t see the Pistons getting the most for that money. There seem to be other players who would be better choices next year. Defensively he will always be challenged, but I could be wrong.

Another other question is, who was Detroit bidding against?

I think a lesser deal might have worked.

Anderson Verajeo—Cleveland

Fairly compensated: Six years at $42.5 mil. That is a lot of money for a guy who can’t create, shoot, handle, or dominate the middle. Still, I think other teams would overpay near that amount for the physicality, defensive presence, and flopping extraordinaire that Andy gives you.

He is the kind of guy you hate, unless he is on your team.

Again, who were the Cavs bidding against?

Maybe less would have been enough, and in some ways it was. The final season in the deal is a team option with a reduced buyout.

Jason Kidd—Dallas

Overpaid: $25 mil over three years. Kidd will be 39 when he finishes this one. Rick Carlisle helped resuscitate Kidd’s career; Kidd improved his three point shooting, and the Mavs did about as well I expected—50 wins.

Offensively, Kidd is still quite a player, and defensively he’s lost quite a bit. A two year deal would have been better, IMO. Cuban has the money, so it’s not as big a deal as it would be with other teams.

Chris Anderson—Denver

Overpaid: $25 mil over five years. Anderson was a killer shot blocker, leading the league with fully 9.3 percent of all shots blocks. Dwight Howard was at 5.9.

I haven’t watched Anderson enough to appreciate him getting that kind of money for one major skill, no matter how good he is at it. He also rebounds well, and the team’s defense is better overall on FG percentage and offensive rebounding.

Add in that he plays with the second unit for much of that, improves his value, IMO. If your second unit is positively impacting the game when you’re in—winner.

But consider this…Anderson was not only a shot blocker, he was the blockee on fully 19 percent of his own inside shots. To put that in perspective, Glen Davis—criticized by hoards of b-ball minions for getting his shot blocked far too much on the post—was only at 13 percent

You would have to go to rookie Bill Walker (22 percent) and Mikki Moore (21 percent) to find low post players on the Cs that got blocked more. And they both scored at a higher FG percentage inside than Anderson.

Chris Anderson will be 36 when that contract ends. Considering that he probably doesn’t improve much, I figure Birdman slightly over paid.

Maybe I’m wrong on this one.

We’ll see.

Antonio McDyess—San Antonio

Bargain: Three years at $15 mil. When everyone else on Detroit seemed to give up in the playoffs, only McDyess kept his intensity up to the end. He played more minutes than expected with Rasheed out, and filled up the stat sheet when he did.

As a starter for 30 games, he averaged 12 points and 11 rebounds in 34 minutes at age 34, and he could have scored more than that. He plays hard at both ends of the floor, is a character guy, and deserves every penny…and more.

Dahntay Jones—Indiana

Overpaid: Four years at $11 mil looks like a lot for a defensive stopper that has trouble stopping the big time players (Kobe) in the playoffs. I do like him and his toughness, but his plus/minus differential was at -9.9 overall.

His plus/minus was terrible with the starters (-18), but was a positive when playing with J.R. Smith instead of Carmelo (+13), and even more so when playing with Billups/Balkman/Anthony and Nene (+64).

Maybe not overpaid by a lot, but too long a contract. Two years would have been better to see how he fits with O’Brien and Indy.

Ron Artest—Los Angeles Lakers

Bargain: With his numbers and defense, he could have gotten more elsewhere, I believe. His baggage and super-ego is well known, and that works against him.

Still, even with his shooting going south, he is a game changer and one of the top defenders in the game. I wouldn’t want him on my team, but he’s worth the money to someone.

Whether he has matured and will accept secondary (tertiary with Gasol?) status all season is another story.

I’ll have a few more for the next installment.

Right or wrong?

Tom writes the Celtics Central blog for the Connecticut News site, the home site for four daily and four weekly Connecticut papers. This article first appeared there.


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