NBA Dollars And Sense: 10 Economically-Sound Signings This Offseason
This year’s free agency period produced some of the largest contracts of all time. We all know about Joe Johnson’s enormous six-year, $121 million deal and Amare Stoudemire’s five-year, $100 million deal, and while you do need superstars to win, it’s also important to have high quality role players.
This free agent period definitely favored the players, as contracts signed early on increased the value for almost every free agent. Although many teams paid big money for not so big players, there were some good deals made.
For example, the Dallas Mavericks signed Brendan Haywood to a six-year, $55 million deal. Now Haywood is a decent player, but the Mavericks are already deep into the luxury tax and Haywood is already 30 years old. It just doesn’t make any sense for them to keep digging themselves into a deeper and deeper hole just to sign Brendan Haywood of all people. This is a deal Mavs fans will be cursing for the next decade.
Let’s take a look at some of the best deals made this offseason. We’ll start at 10.
10. J.J. Redick
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When you think of bargains, J.J. Redick may not be the first player that comes to mind, but just hear me out.
We all know J.J. Redick is money from behind the arc. He is still the only player I have ever seen pull up for a deep three off the fast break. I would even argue that that’s more exciting than a dunk. Last season, Redick shot 40 percent from 3-point range, but I expect much better from him this season.
A lot of times when someone decides to go after a restricted free agent, they have to offer them a contract that they will accept, but also a contract that his other team will not be able to match. Redick agreed to a three-year, $20 million offer sheet that the Magic almost couldn’t match. They were lucky to be able to keep him. If the Magic were willing to pay a good price for Redick, I would think they will have a bigger role in mind for next season.
At this point, many fans have given up on Redick and labeled him as a bust, but last season he averaged 10 points a game in 22 minutes. He is still only 26 years old.
J.J. Redick is a player that can really open up the floor for Jameer Nelson when he is driving the lane. Teams always have to be playing attention to where Redick is on the floor, because he is a big 3-point threat.
Now that Matt Barnes is out, and Vince Carter is on the market, there may be quite a bit of extra playing time headed Redick's way next season.
This one will take a little time. If Redick can get on the floor he should prove to be more effective than he has been in the past. I realize Redick hasn’t really done much in his career, but I believe this year will be different. For now, I understand your skepticism.
9. Ronnie Brewer
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This season, Ronnie Brewer was traded from the Utah Jazz to the Memphis Grizzlies for a first-round pick. Brewer had played well in Utah, but a combination of things caused him to fail in Memphis. This offseason he found himself on the free agent market.
He decided to sign a three-year, $12.5 million deal with the Chicago Bulls, where he will compete for a starting job. Brewer is still a young player who has plenty of talent. If Brewer plays like he did in Utah, Chicago will be in for a pleasant surprise.
If you can get a decent starter for $4 million a year, especially in this year's free agency, that’s pretty solid.
Like I said before, the Bulls had quite a bit of money to use and adding Brewer was a really nice move. If the Grizzlies were willing to give up a first round pick for Brewer, there is something there. The Bulls really added a lot of depth this offseason and are a deep team.
8. Steve Blake
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This signing really makes sense for a lot of reasons. Steve Blake isn’t going to make any all-star teams, but he is going to be a great pickup for the Lakers this season. Blake signed a four-year, $16 million deal, and while $4 million may seem a little high, especially with the Lakers into luxury tax territory, but this is still a good move.
The Lakers can’t just bring anyone in to play point guard. They need a player that fits their triangle offense. Steve Blake averaged a modest seven points and five assists last season, but he is a good outside shooter, and he doesn’t really drive the lane much. He specializes in passing and outside shooting, and that is just what the Lakers need.
It’s no secret that Derek Fisher is getting older. He isn’t the player he was a couple of years ago and isn’t capable of playing 35 minutes a game. I’m projecting him to play about 25 minutes a game this year. This gives Blake a huge opportunity to log plenty of minutes. The Lakers will also probably rest Fisher before the playoffs so I think it’s possible that Blake gets as many minutes a game as Fisher does.
Last year, Jordan Farmar was the primary backup point guard, but this offseason he left for the Nets, which is yet another reason to like Blake.
In just a couple of years, Blake will likely be the starter for the Lakers. I really like this investment.
7. Linas Kleiza
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When Chris Bosh decided to bolt for South Beach it left the Raptors with a hole in the front-court, and a lot of cap room. We know about Amir Johnson, but I believe Linas Kleiza was the best signing the Raptors made this offseason.
Last year, Kleiza decided to go to Europe, but two years ago with the Nuggets, he played well and was regularly in the rotation. Before he could crack the starting rotation he left. Kleiza is still a good NBA prospect as he is only 25 years old.
In his last NBA season, he averaged 10 points and four rebounds, but he has bulked up since we last saw him. Now playing near 250 pounds it’s possible he could play more of a combo forward role. He played mostly small forward with the Nuggets, but Amir Johnson has had problems staying on the court, so Kleiza may have to play a lot of power forward.
Kleiza’s deal is a four year contract worth about $18 million. The deal is worth less than a deal signed by Darko Milicic quite a while ago. Milicic got a four year, 20 million dollar deal from the Timberwolves this offseason. This is a result of this year’s overpriced market. At this point, I would much rather have Kleiza than Milicic. The Raptors got great value here.
6. Raymond Felton
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This deal was really a good one for the Knicks. Felton signed a two year, $15.8 million deal with a team option for the third year. This deal is perfect for the Knicks. Felton fits perfectly into New York’s run and gun offense, and should see a large increase in his numbers. Last season his numbers didn’t look as good as they have in the past, but whenever you move into an offense like this, your numbers will no doubt go up.
This deal is also good for their new $100 million man, Amar'e Stoudemire. Stoudemire is accustomed to playing with Steve Nash, and while Raymond Felton is no Steve Nash, he is a much better point guard than Toney Douglas.
It’s no secret that Carmelo Anthony has expressed interest in playing in New York, and choosing to go there is going to be a much easier decision if the Knicks are good. It’s going to be a completely different situation if the Knicks are already competing for home court advantage rather than picking in the lottery and Raymond Felton will definitely give them a boost.
This deal also gives the Knicks cap flexibility in the summer of 2012 when Chris Paul will be on the market. If Chris Paul sees Felton go to New York and play extremely well, Chris Paul will be more likely to head over there after his contract expires, especially if Carmelo Anthony decides to go to New York as well.
5. Matt Barnes
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Matt Barnes has been a good role player for Orlando last season, and when he found himself on the free agent market this summer he had quite a few anxious suitors.
Barnes had actually agreed to terms on a contract of two years worth about nine million dollars with the Toronto Raptors. Unfortunately that deal fell through, allowing him to sign a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers worth about $3.8 million.
There is something to be said about playing for a championship contender, but Barnes took a pay cut of more than half from the contract he signed with the Raptors.
The Lakers already have a crowded roster, and Barnes will only add to the Lakers depth. Barnes isn’t necessarily a guy that can go out and get you 30 points on any given night, but he is a pretty good rebounder, but he is very good defensively. He can definitely play a good role.
Matt Barnes started 51 games for the Magic last season, but he will likely see a huge drop in his minutes this season. I still think he has great value for the Lakers this season.
4. Kevin Durant
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No, Kevin Durant was not a free agent this offseason, but yes, he signed one of its most important deals. His extension was for five years worth $80 million.
Let’s take a look at that really quick:
Dirk Nowitzki signed a four-year, $80 million deal, Carlos Boozer signed a deal for five years worth about $76 million, David Lee signed a six-year, $80 million deal, and Rudy Gay signed a five-year, $82 million deal. These players all have two things in common. First, all of them signed similar deals to Durant. Second, none of these guys are as good as him. If the Thunder are going to pay the preseason favorite for MVP as much as Rudy Gay, I’d say that’s pretty good.
I realize Kevin Durant hasn’t been in the league for that long and can’t really sign the big deal that other big names signed, but I still can’t get over it.
Not only did the Thunder get a good deal on Durant, but they locked him up long term. Kevin Durant is going to have a long productive career, and the Thunder should do everything they can to keep him in OKC for as long as possible. Kevin Durant has spoken out against these “super teams” but in today’s world you just never know. Either way locking him up long term is a good idea.
Durant wanted to be in OKC, and the Thunder wanted to keep him there. It’s as simple as that. This was one of the best moves of the offseason.
3. Shannon Brown
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Shannon Brown is a very talented player. Still only 24, Brown worked his way into the Lakers rotation last year and ended up having the best year of his young career by far.
It seemed to me that all signs pointed to Shannon Brown leaving this offseason, but Brown ended up sacrificing both money and minutes to return to Los Angeles. Personally, I thought Brown would probably end up with the Knicks.
Brown’s best attribute is his athleticism. There is no doubt about that, I believe New York would have been a great option for Brown. The team’s up-tempo offense would have been perfect. They could provide him with solid minutes, as well as an adequate contract.
Shannon Brown is an exciting player to watch. He only scores about eight points a game, but he can really get the crowd going with a huge dunk, or a flashy pass on the fast break. His contract is a two year deal worth 4.2 million dollars, with a player option for the second year. Many people thought Brown would get a big pay day this offseason, but apparently he really likes the Lakers.
Many people thought the reason why Brown was so late to sign was that he was trying to give the Lakers as much time as possible to dump Sasha Vujacic’s contract, but when that fell through he decided to come back anyways. I can’t imagine Brown accepts his player option, but this does provide a bigger window of time for the Lakers to dump Vujacic. Signing Brown for just over two million dollars was huge.
With the price of role players being driven up, I am definitely surprised Brown came back. Hopefully he can help the Lakers complete their three-peat and get a new deal after next season, but for now, I see him as a huge bargain.
2. Tiago Splitter
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The Spurs no doubt committed highway robbery when they signed 2007 first-round draft pick Tiago Splitter to a three-year, $10.9 million deal earlier this offseason. Splitter has been one of the best European prospects over the past few years and now we will finally get to see him play.
Many people thought that Splitter would command the Spurs’ full mid-level exception ($5.85 mil) this offseason, but I guess they were wrong. Tiago Splitter won not only the Spanish League’s MVP award last season, but he also won the Finals MVP.
It is more than likely that Tiago Splitter will immediately step into the starting center spot for the Spurs. With Antonio McDyess aging quickly, he should play big minutes right away.
He might not be Pau Gasol, but he is very good in a pick and roll situation, and he has a very high basketball IQ. He should also be an impact player on defense right away. Between Tim Duncan, Antonio McDyess, and Splitter the Spurs should always be able to put a capable defender on the other team’s best player.
San Antonio’s front-court reserves are not known for their defense, and are definitely not capable of guarding the NBA’s elite big men. No matter how much he tries, DeJaun Blair is still going to get dominated by Pau Gasol, and Al Jefferson on the low block.
Although Splitter is a great talent, he probably won’t be an immediate all-star. He needs to keep developing his jump shot, add weight, and keep working on his low post game, but paying less than $4 million a year for a starting center in the NBA is nearly impossible, and the Spurs were able to defy the odds.
NBA success takes a lot of hard work, but if Splitter is willing to put in the time he has a chance to be very good. Working with the Spurs coaching staff will have a huge impact on Splitter, as they are no strangers to foreign talent. Time will tell if Splitter will be a superstar in the NBA, but I have a hard time believing he won’t exceed the expectations of a player making less than $4 million a year.
1. The Miami Heat’s Free Agency
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Now, I could have flooded this entire slideshow with all of Miami’s signings, but I decided to just put it onto one slide.
First, The signing of Udonis Haslem. He signed a five-year, $20 million deal, but he could have gotten much, much more. Dallas reportedly offered him a significantly larger deal that he turned down to return to Miami. Haslem has been in South Beach his entire career, and felt a run at a championship was worth taking less money. Haslem is a tough guy who can do the dirty work for the Heat this year.
Next, we see Mike Miller. Miller signed with the Miami Heat for the full mid-level exception, and I think that was a great deal for the Heat. Last season, Miller shot 48 percent from behind the three-point line last season, and if it’s possible I think he could shoot even better from behind the arc this season. With Bosh, James, and Wade all on the floor, Miller is going to be the last guy on people’s minds. He will get plenty of open looks, and if he gets hot he could really open up the floor and create huge problems for apposing defenses.
The Heat also got their “big three” to take pay cuts to play together and they got Zydrunas Ilgauskas, James Jones, Carlos Arroyo, Eddie House, Jamaal Magloire, Joel Anthony, and Juwan Howard to sign minimum contracts as well as the rookie Dexter Pittman and returning player Mario Chalmers as well as other role players filling out the roster.
It’s crazy how the Heat got so many players to sign for less money to come to Miami. They really have an impressive roster and I think they are the preseason favorites for the NBA championship. There is no questioning the Heat have the talent to do so. Pat Riley is an absolute genius, and we have to give credit where credit is due.
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