2020 NBA Free-Agency Tracker: Live Grades for Newest Signings

Bleacher Report NBA StaffFeatured ColumnistNovember 23, 2020

2020 NBA Free-Agency Tracker: Live Grades for Newest Signings

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    NBA free agency was less of a frenzy Sunday, but clubs continued to reshape their rosters ahead of the here-before-you-know-it 2020-21 season.

    After Serge Ibaka joined the Los Angeles Clippers and Marc Gasol linked up with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Toronto Raptors retained Chris Boucher and lured Aron Baynes north of the border. The Milwaukee Bucks snagged a pair of specialists with stopper Torrey Craig and sniper Bryn Forbes. The Golden State Warriors reunited with the energetic Kent Bazemore, while the Portland Trail Blazers pounced on former top prospect Harry Giles III.

    These may not be earth-shattering, landscape-shifting maneuvers, but teams rarely win titles without at least decent depth around their stars.

    Bench-building may dominate the upcoming transactions, although the hoops world is still awaiting the new contracts for Anthony Davis and Brandon Ingram. The clock is also ticking on the Sacramento Kings' decision to either match Bogdan Bogdanovic's offer sheet or let him join the Atlanta Hawks.

    As we've been doing since the market opened, we'll analyze and grade each free-agent deal as it comes across the wire. Each new signing will jump to the top of this slideshow.

New Orleans Rolling the Dice with Steven Adams Extension

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Steve Adams is signing a two-year extension worth $35 million as part of his trade to the New Orleans Pelicans, according to ESPN's Zach Lowe and Adrian Wojnarowski. The deal will be fully guaranteed.

    The Pelicans are putting a significant price on Adams' services. Getting him from the Oklahoma City Thunder already cost multiple picks, including a first-rounder, and hamstrung their expenses at the peak of free agency. Now they're giving him a sizable multiyear extension before tangibly gauging his fit next to Zion Williamson.

    Reconciling the trade itself isn't hard. Adams was on an expiring contract, and the Denver Nuggets' 2023 first-rounder the Pelicans sent to the Thunder is lottery-protected and will probably land somewhere in the 20s. But Zion is their most important player—at bottom their second-most important, depending on how you feel about Brandon Ingram, who remains unsigned—and his specs have always suggested he needs a floor-spacing big around him to optimize lineups, failing his playing center himself.

    Signing Adams is a step in the other direction. He has a serviceable floater game but isn't going to stretch defenses. Jaxson Hayes has even more finite range. That will put a ton of pressure on Zion to develop into an average or better marksman on wide-open threes.

    It also stands to exacerbate the other question-mark shooters in the rotation. Lonzo Ball's outside touch is seesawy, Eric Bledsoe converted just 26.4 percent of his catch-and-fire triples last season (34.1 percent on wide-open looks), and Ingram has only one year of efficient, higher-volume three-point sniping under his belt.

    Opinions vary on Adams' value at the other end of the floor, but his defensive fit should be more seamless. He's not the most laterally quick big, but his brawn and IQ make him a human eclipse. He can cover a lot of east-and-west ground without needing explosive side-to-side amble. And while his rim protection numbers don't scream impenetrable anchor, he is a functional deterrent. Opponents have taken noticeably fewer shots at the basket with him on the floor in all but one of his seven seasons.

    New Orleans will benefit from his dirty-work affinity if nothing else. The inert body language players showed toward the tail end of their stay in the bubble won't fly if he's on the court, and he'll beef up a defensive rebounding attack that ranked 19th last year. Guards will benefit from his boxing out—especially Lonzo—and he'll convert some of his own boards into throwahead passes.

    Not to be lost amid all this: Adams isn't ancient. He turned 27 in July. This extension will take him through his age-29 season, on a dollar amount that will be eminently movable, albeit not necessarily a net-positive asset, unless his fit in New Orleans goes belly-up.

    And make no mistake, that's a distinct possibility. Integrating him into the offense could be a challenge, and head coach Stan Van Gundy may have to get creative with how he staggers Adams' minutes from those of certain perimeter players if he intends to use him as defensive cover for Zion.

    That doesn't render the Pelicans' logic asinine, but since he already cost a lottery-protected first, two future seconds from potentially bad teams (the Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards) and cap-sheet maneuverability, the extension reflects a of sense of urgency they didn't need to show and a leap of faith they didn't yet need to take.

    Grade: C+

Orlando Adds Potentially Serviceable Speed in Bone

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Jordan Bone is signing a two-way contract with the Magic, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. The 23-year-old comes to Orlando after spending last season with the Detroit Pistons on another two-way contract.

    Though Bone didn't show much during his sparse time with the Pistons (10 games), his time with the Grand Rapids Drive was far more encouraging.

    Through 31 appearances, he averaged 17.5 points and 6.9 assists while downing 38.3 percent of his threes. The improved finishing he flashed inside the arc during his final year at Tennessee largely carried over, as well; he converted 46.1 percent of his two-pointers in the G League.

    Viewed through the long-term lens, Bone intrigues as a speedster who can unwind defenses in transition and knock down threes while moving away from the ball. His explosion in the open floor alone is enough to warrant an extensive look, though it will be his three-point shooting and defensive stamina (he has a neutralish wingspan) that determine whether he can one day crack an NBA rotation.

    Grade: B+

Houston Makes Nifty Upside Play with DeMarcus Cousins

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    DeMarcus Cousins will be signing a one-year non-guaranteed deal with Houston, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. Someone will find a reason not to like this, but you shouldn't waste your time.

    The Rockets are assuming zero risk with this move. If it pans out, they have a floor-spacing big who can out-craft fellow 5s in the post, drop standstill dimes from anywhere and even attack going downhill. If it flops, they can sever ties whenever without any long-term implications.

    Signing Cousins under these circumstances amounts to pure upside. The extent of that upside is a separate matter. Cousins has suffered a torn left Achilles, quad and ACL since January 2018 and hasn't appeared in a game since June 2019. It is impossible to know whether he'll be healthy enough to play an actual role, let alone what he'll look like and what that role will be.

    It is also impossible to know what, if anything, this says about the Rockets' immediate direction.

    Does it speak to a continued attempt to retain James Harden? Does it portend a Russell Westbrook-for-John Wall swap that reunites two Kentucky teammates? Does it suggest Houston will be trying to make the playoffs no matter what becomes of its two disgruntled superstars? Is it nothing other than an opportunistic roll of the dice?

    For the Rockets' sake, it's hopefully the latter. Any ulterior motive behind adding Cousins damages the optics. He can't be considered the type of difference-maker who impacts how they carry themselves moving forward. As a strict, no-BS value play, though, this is a rock-solid signing—regardless of whether it ends with Cousins and Harden playing the two-man game or the former trying to make a comeback on a roster ravaged by superstar firesales.

    Grade: A

Will Tacko Fall Have More of an Opportunity in Boston?

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Tacko Fall is sticking with the Celtics on another two-way contract, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. Bostonians can now get their first night of good sleep since the season ended.

    After appearing in just seven games for a whopping total of 33 minutes as a rookie, Fall should be on track for a bigger opportunity with the Celtics. This doesn't mean what it typically does.

    Actual minutes will still be hard to come by. He's behind Daniel Theis, Robert Williams III, Tristan Thompson and Grant Williams on the depth chart. But the NBA is no longer limiting the number of practice days players on two-way contracts get with the big-league team. That, in and of itself, should be huge for Fall's development.

    For their part, the Celtics can use someone standing 7'5" on their side. They're down one big after moving Enes Kanter and Vincent Poirier and adding Thompson, and while Fall's NBA fit is hardly clear, his shot-swallowing at the rim is worth further exploration. He notched an 11.3 percent block rate in the G League last year.

    Grade: A

Pelicans Up Their Hustle Factor with Wenyen Gabriel and Sindarius Thornwell

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Wenyen Gabriel and Sindarius Thornwell are inking veteran's minimum deals with the Pelicans, according to ESPN's Andrew Lopez. Gabriel's will include a team option for a second year.

    Neither signing figures to be particularly impactful, but they're both interesting. Gabriel, in particular, is pure hustle, and it manifests on the offensive glass. His three-point range is worth testing, too; he shot 5-of-12 from beyond the arc in 19 appearances with the Portland Trail Blazers last season.

    Thornwell's return to the Pelicans assures some needed depth on the perimeter. Brandon Ingram is their only wing larger than 6'5". (Lonzo Ball is 6'6" but not a wing.) Thornwell isn't taller than that himself, but he can comfortably match up with 3s. And if he strokes enough triples, New Orleans will actually have a reason to play him.

    Still, it would've been nice to see the Pelicans do more to add a proven wing or two as they wrap up the peak free-agency period.

    Grade for Gabriel: B

    Grade for Thornwell: C

Phoenix Snags Another Offseason Win in Langston Galloway

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    Langston Galloway will be joining the Suns on a one-year deal, according to HoopsHype's Michael Scotto. The dollar amount isn't immediately clear, but it doesn't matter. Phoenix already used its mid-level exception on Jae Crowder. Galloway is coming aboard for the bi-annual exception or the minimum, either of which would be good value.

    This continues the Suns' trend of, you know, winning the offseason. Reserve guard play was point of weakness last year, and they've not only addressed it but potentially turned it into a strength.

    Picking up Cameron Payne's team option and re-signing Jevon Carter was a nice start. They were both molten in the bubble, and Carter plays with endless energy on the defensive end. Adding E'Twaun Moore was an understated move. He's another player who can drill set threes, and he'll hold up defensively against second-string matchups.

    Galloway might actually be the second-most valuable pickup or retention in the backcourt behind Carter and, obviously, Chris Paul. He has a nifty floater he gets to off the dribble, and nearly 60 percent of his shot attempts last season came as catch-and-fire threes, on which he shot 40.7 percent.

    Grade: A

Cavaliers Think Defense with Matthew Dellavedova's Return

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    Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

    The Cleveland Cavaliers brought up the rear in defensive efficiency this past season while allowing an atrocious 114.8 points per 100 possessions.

    That's probably the best reason to explain why the Cavs opted for another go-round with perimeter stopper Matthew Dellavedova, per ESPN's Olgun Uluc. It's a one-year deal for the vet minimum, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

    Dellavedova played his first three NBA seasons in Cleveland and was part of the 2016 champs. He departed for the Milwaukee Bucks after that season and was traded back to the Cavs in December 2018.

    His offense has never really materialized, and his shooting rates flatlined this past season (35.4 from the field, 23.1 from three). But he did pace Cleveland's rotation players in defensive rating differential, as the club was 12.1 points stingier per 100 possessions when he took the floor.

    The Cavs remain desperate enough for defense to justify living with his offensive limitations.

    Grade: C+

Pistons Take Low-Risk, Modest-Reward Flier on Anthony Lamb

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    Kiichiro Sato/Associated Press

    The Detroit Pistons signed someone who doesn't play center. Unless, of course, Anthony Lamb finds his NBA niche as a small-ball 5, which is very possible.

    Lamb, who twice earned America East Conference Player of the Year honors at Vermont, agreed to a deal with Detroit on Monday, per Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes. It's an Exhibit 10 contract, according to Vermont basketball's site.

    Lamb likened himself to P.J. Tucker. That's a rough outline of perhaps Lamb's best-case scenario, though it probably oversells his agility.

    It basically boils down to Lamb being a smart player who can shoot, offers some flexibility on defense and has more length (6'11" wingspan) than size (6'6"). His switchability at the defensive end and spacing will determine if he can carve out a career in the Motor City.

    Hopefully he doesn't get lost in the Pistons' frontcourt shuffle. If he is destined to play center, he'll just be one of many in the Motor City.

    Grade: C+

Raptors Add Interior Depth with Alex Len

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    At one point, Alex Len excited NBA folks enough to be a No. 5 draft pick. But Len hasn't been linked to excitement in quite some time, and even that initial intrigue quickly lost its luster as the 2013 class—the Anthony Bennett draft—failed to impress at almost every level.

    Len last started at least 40 games in 2015-16. He's averaged double-digit points once and did so on the 53-loss 2018-19 Atlanta Hawks.

    In terms of splash signings, Len barely makes a ripple. But the center position is nearly picked clean, and the Toronto Raptors needed reinforcements to cover the departures of Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, so they made Len their latest addition, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

    Len might land lower on the interior pecking order than Chris Boucher and Aron Baynes, but he is steady enough to handle modest minutes when needed. He's long, he's tough and he's active on the inside. As long as expectations are kept in check, he's useful to have around.

    Grade: B-

Lakers Smart to Sign Markieff Morris, Keep Him Away from Clippers

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The higher the stakes climbed, the heavier the Los Angeles Lakers leaned on Markieff Morris last season.

    He averaged just 14.2 minutes across 14 contests with L.A. in the regular season. That number jumped to 18.3 in the playoffs and 21.3 in the Finals. He was one of only five Lakers regulars to post a positive net rating differential in the playoffs (plus-0.7).

    Clearly, he impressed the champs, who signed him to a minimum contract Monday, as Shams Charania reported for The Athletic and Stadium. To make this even sweeter, the Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers were in a head-to-head battle for Morris, per Marc Stein of the New York Times.

    Don't forget, the Clippers even had Markieff's twin, Marcus Morris Sr., to serve as lead recruiter.

    Markieff Morris may not handle a monster role in the 2020-21 campaign, but he'll make the Lakers more versatile up front for when they need flexibility most. He can interchange defensive assignments in the frontcourt, and he can get really interesting when he finds his touch from distance (career-high 38.6 percent from three last season).

    Grade: A

Cavs Take Sneaky-Good Gamble on Damyean Dotson

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    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    Only nine teams averaged fewer threes this past season than the Cleveland Cavaliers' 11.2 per game. Just 10 clubs converted their long-range looks at a worse clip than the Cavs' 35.1 percent connection rate.

    The Cavs attacked both numbers by landing Damyean Dotson on a two-year, $4 million deal, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

    Dotson, the 44th pick in 2017, spent his first three seasons with the New York Knicks. In each of the last two campaigns, he's averaged better than one triple per contest on 36-plus percent shooting. He should be an easy and helpful addition to Cleveland's 26th-ranked attack.

    "[I] like the Cavs taking a flier," ESPN's Zach Lowe tweeted. "Dotson can shoot threes off movement, and he moves *fast* off the ball."

    Cleveland needs spacers to open attack lanes for Collin Sexton and Kevin Porter Jr. and clear the middle for Andre Drummond's rim rolls.  Dotson will help maintain floor balance and do it at a decent price.

    Grade: B

Hawks Find Frontcourt Depth with Solomon Hill

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    Kim Klement/Associated Press

    The Atlanta Hawks are getting an early start on their 2020-21 playoff push.

    Buoyed by the presence of ascending All-Star Trae Young, the team has kept busy accelerating its rebuild since brokering the trade deadline blockbuster deal for Clint Capela. Free agency has already delivered Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo and Kris Dunn, and it might yield another difference-maker depending on whether the Sacramento Kings match Bogdan Bogdanovic's $72 million offer sheet.

    Those are the bullet points of Atlanta's offseason. The addition of Solomon Hill on a one-year deal, as reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, is more of a footnote.

    A first-round pick in 2013, Hill is a combo forward who gets stretched thin if he's asked to provide more than roster depth. He has some positional flexibility on defense, but he doesn't have a lot of value on offense unless his threes are falling (career 33.6 percent).

    He might need an injury to become a nightly regular in Atlanta, but at least he'll be around to fill that void should any disasters strike.

    Grade: C

Suns Strengthen Second Unit with Dario Saric's Return

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    There were myriad reasons why the Phoenix Suns perked up just in time to compile the bubble's only blemished record. An overlooked one was that Dario Saric nestled into the perfect role of second-team offensive hub.

    A disappointment for much of his first season in the desert, Saric sprang to life upon moving to the bench for the sweet-shooting Cam Johnson. The switch gave the starting group a needed sniper and let Saric settle in as a primary option for the bench mob. Just like that, he became a nightly source of 14.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists while compiling a pristine 57.4/52.4/87.9 shooting slash.

    Phoenix apparently took notice. The Suns brought back Saric on Monday on a three-year, $27 million deal, his agents told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

    This seems like the latest in many smart investments in the franchise's present. Grabbing Chris Paul was obviously the headliner, but Phoenix did well to pry Jae Crowder out of Miami and keep Jevon Carter around. Tack on Saric, E'Twaun Moore, Cameron Payne and rookie Jalen Smith, and this bench group looks formidable.

    The Suns might not be title contenders yet, but they could rank on the next tier. Keeping Saric only helps solidify that spot.

    Grade: B+

Paul Eboua Could Be Miami's Next Developmental Success

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    From Udonis Haslem and Tyler Johnson to Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn, the Miami Heat have mined the undrafted ranks to find more than a few hidden gems.

    Athletic Cameroonian forward Paul Eboua, who "committed to join the Heat" and compete for a two-way contract, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, has the tools to potentially become the next in line. In fact, Eboua followed the breadcrumbs of those rags-to-riches hoopers straight to South Beach.

    "We targeted Miami because we like the Heat's success developing players," Eboua's agent, Rade Filipovich, told Jackson. "They have an unbelievable development program, great coaches with Erik Spoelstra [and his assistants], a great shooting coach with Rob Fodor."

    The 6'8" Eboua might have a long-term home at center, where his 7'3" wingspan helps him play bigger than his size. He's a high-energy, athletic rim-runner, which sounds an awful lot like Miami's first-round pick, Precious Achiuwa, but that just means the Heat have a type.

    Eboua needs plenty of seasoning, but that happens to be Miami's specialty. If his feel ever comes close to matching his physical tools, he'll be a massive steal.

    Grade: B

Celtics Smartly Give Jayson Tatum the Max

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Some offseason decisions are unclear after months of analysis. This wasn't one of them.

    The Boston Celtics made the no-brainer call on Sunday to reach a five-year extension with Jayson Tatum worth up to $195 million, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Tatum could max out the contract's value by making first-, second- or third-team All-NBA next season and gets a player option in the pact.

    Drafted third overall in 2017, Tatum turned previous flashes of stardom into the real thing in 2019-20. His stat sheet yielded one personal best after another, and he upped his production to the next level in the postseason. He averaged an absurd 25.7 points, 10.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.0 steals across 17 outings while steering the Celtics to their third conference finals in four years.

    Only 22 years old, the All-NBA third-teamer still boasts massive potential on both ends of the floor. He always seemed likely to heavily factor in Boston's future, and this deal guaranteed it.

    It might be a lot of money, but it's very well spent.

    Grade: A+