NBA free agents 2011 grades - Part 1

Fresh off a lockout precipitated by the propensity of GMs to offer outlandish contracts to mediocre players, GMs got down to the business of, um, doing it some more.

Below, find part one of my draft grades. Early observations:

We can probably hold off on the Lakers obituaries. They've made a couple of nice moves to offset the loss of Lamar Odom.

The Pistons aren't going to be very good.

The Nuggets are going to be very good.

In addition to overvaluing the wrong kind of talent, some teams simply don't have a game plan. That's a deadly combination, as the Timberwolves and Trailblazers fans will soon attest.

Enough. To the grades!


Tayshaun Prince - Pistons - 4 yrs. $25M

Grade: D

Ironic grade, since Prince no longer plays any. This signing makes absolutely no sense for the Pistons, who should be rebuilding coming off a 30-win season. Joe Dumars defended the re-signing on the grounds Prince deserves to retire as a Piston. Any notion of Prince deserving anything went out the window when he openly boycotted a team practice. In Prince, Detroit will have a still-competent offensive player whose defense will increasingly be a liability as he enters his mid-30s.

Rodney Stuckey - Pistons - 3 yrs. $25M

Grade: C+

Paired with the decision to amnesty Rip, this signing is palatable. It's short, easily tradeable, and gives the Pistons the chance to see if Stuckey can finally develop a reliable jump shot. Even better, it comes off the books at the same time as Gordon and Charlie V. Stuckey has improved every year, but players tend to stop improving once they reach their mid-20s.

Jonas Jerebko - Pistons - 4 yrs. $16M

Grade: B+

An essentially fair deal. It is likely last year's injury saved the Pistons the obligation for a major payday, but they also inherit a certain amount of risk. All in all, the dashing Swede is looking like one of the lone bright spots for Pistons this year.

Nene Hilario - Nuggets - 5 yrs. $67M

Grade: A-

The crown jewel of a mediocre free agent off season, Nene scored a pretty reasonable payday for a top-five center. The Nuggets might be lamenting the final year of the contract, but they have the talent and the organizational wisdom to make a serious playoff push in a wide-open Western Conference. At this price, it's a no-brainer.

David West - Pacers - 2 yrs. $20M

Grade: B+

A nice value here. West has a somewhat unfair reputation as an injury risk. That said, I'm not sure he fills a need for the Pacers, who have nice pieces in the front court. This makes the Pacers a shoo-in to be Washington Wizards Memorial hum-drum team that randomly has two players in the all-star game. "Granger and West are in? Time to go grab a beer."

Tyson Chandler - Knicks - 4 yrs. $58M

Grade: B+

If Chandler only has 9.9 ppg last year instead of 10.1, he's playing somewhere else for about $5M per year less. The Knicks overpaid a bit, as Chandler is unlikely to be as efficient on offense as he was last year. That said, he should be an outstanding defender throughout the life of the contract, and is the perfect pairing for Amare Stoudemire. He arguably makes the Knicks a top four team in the East, for which Carmelo Anthony will get all the credit.

Marc Gasol - Grizzlies - 4 yrs. $55M

Grade: B-

Gasol is starting to come into his own as a defender, but at this price, I'd be concerned about his conditioning. I suspect the Grizz believe they are paying for upside, but Gasol will be 27, so it's pretty likely what they've seen is what they get. Nonetheless, Gasol is a talent and I don't see how the Grizzlies don't keep together the core that took them surprisingly deep into the playoffs last season.

Thaddeus Young - 76ers - 5 yrs. $43M

Grade: A

Provided he has finally given up on shooting three pointers, this is a nice value. Given that he's only 23 and has room to improve, this is one of those situations you want to lock your player down for the long haul.

Greg Oden - Blazers - 1 yr. $8.9M


Grade:B+

Frankly, I would rather Detroit had thrown a $25-30M contract at Oden to see if he would bite on a longer deal for more guaranteed money. Not sure about one year. The Blazers are basically paying for his audition. If he can replicate his past performance over a full season, he's a max player. On the other hand, I certainly wouldn't have let him walk over $9M.

Jamal Crawford - Blazers - 2 yrs. $10M

Grade: D

Yet another aging wing player getting overpaid because he inefficiently scores in the teens. Wash, rinse, repeat. By the end of this contract, Crawford will have earned $75 million simply by being selfish. Is it any wonder why players are looking to emulate his example?

Marcus Thornton - Kings 5yrs. $40M

Grade:C-

Had a pretty decent little surge with the Kings, but 27 games is a small sample size, and he was ineffectual before that. Even if that stretch was a sign of things to come, you have a somewhat efficient shooting guard who doesn't play defense. $8 million is not the going rate for that kind of player.

Chuck Hayes - Kings - 4 yrs. $21.3M

Grade: A-

Hayes' production has been all over the place on the offensive end (witness his bizarre 38% TS in 08-09) but his defense alone is worth the price of admission. The question is whether the Kings know what they have and whether he'll get minutes on a team that puts an inordinately high emphasis on points per game.

Jason Richardson - Magic - 4 yrs. $25M

Grade: B

The last couple of years of this deal might turn brutal, as Richardson is nearly 31, but he is an efficient scorer and prolific three point shooter on a team built on that model. If you assume Dwight is gone, this is clearly a dumb move, but this is a fair contract for a perennially underrated player.

Rip Hamilton - Bulls - 2 yrs. $10M

Grade: F

The Bulls seem to have badly misread their situation here. Rip will almost certainly demand the starting job, which means opposing teams can simply sag off him and Derrick Rose. Defensively, Rip is atrocious, which doesn't exactly gel with the Bulls commitment to defense. Oh, and Rip is a stage 4 locker room cancer. Have fun with all that, coach Thibodeau.

DeAndre Jordan - Clippers - 4 yrs. $42M

Grade: B+

If you are going to overpay, overpay for young productive centers, yes? Jordan is a good defender with the makings of a great one, and he's only 23. He's a perfect fit to play alongside Blake Griffin, and the Clippers are clearly in "win now" mode with the acquisition of Chris Paul. The only snag is if Vinny Del Negro goes Two-Foul Charlie on him, which would limit him to 24 mpg, thereby limiting his value.

Caron Butler - Clippers - 3 yrs. $24M

Grade: F

If you're going to overpay, you don't overpay for aging wings, yes? Setting aside the fact that he has never been worth this much money his entire career, there is a very good possibility he'll play fewer than 150 games under the life of this contract. Bizarre.

Mike Dunleavy - Bucks - 2 yrs. $7.5M

Grade: B

Milwaukee's strategy seems pretty clear. Pay fair market value for average players and hope a younger player busts out. Makes sense for their market. Really, this is the sort of contract Tayshaun Prince should have gotten, and it's certainly reasonable. However, what does this do to move the needle for the Bucks?

Kwame Brown - Warriors - 1 yr. $7M

Grade: D-

Gets a D- because a) Kwame isn't THAT bad. b) It's only one year. and c) It's better than the Caron Butler deal. But yeah, beyond parody, this.

Glen Davis - Magic - 4 yrs. $26M

Grade: C

Not nearly as bad as his reputation, but a defensive big who doesn't rebound doesn't really fill any gaps for a team with Dwight Howard and Ryan Anderson. That said, he'll probably be effective playing alongside Howard (if he stays) or Anderson (if Howard bolts). I'd wonder against whom they were bidding for Big Baby's services, but I think I know the answer to that question, and that answer tickles my sadness.

Craig Smith - Blazers - 2 yrs. $Cheap

Grade: A

Details of the contract have not been announced for whatever reason, but we know he isn't getting very much. Smith is a very skilled offensive player who would could be a star if he had better conditioning. He's basically Charlie V if Charlie wouldn't keep shooting threes. A nice pickup for a team that needs front court depth.

Chris Wilcox - Celtics - Vet. Minimum

Grade: A

He was the Pistons' second best player last year by any metric. Unfortunately, Chris Wilcox is a 37 year-old combo guard with bad knees and a penchant for reckless drives to the lane, so I can see why Joe Dumars... Er, wait.

Josh McRoberts - Lakers - 2 yrs. $6.1M

Grade: A

Dear small-market owners. The Lakers just snagged a young, talented Power Forward who can rebound and hit three-pointers, all for dirt cheap. Too bad you were powerless to stop it by virtue of the fact that you are all idiots. If only David Stern hadn't given you all stupid pills.

Troy Murphy - Lakers - Vet. Minimum

Grade: A

" "-" ". " " " " " veteran, " Power Forward " " " " " "-", " " " ". " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " ". " " " " " " " " " ".

By the way, Dave Berri just did his win projections for the Lakers. On paper, this is a 70 win team, even in a shortened season.

Brandan Wright - Mavericks - 2 yrs. $4M

Grade: A-

Wright is certainly injury prone, but very effective when he gets on the court. Many of his issues have been shoulder related, and those problems tend to resolve, so this is about low-risk, high-reward contract.

J.J. Barea - Timberwolves - 4 yrs. $19M

Grade: D

In fairness, the present roster imbalance notwithstanding, the Timberwolves still have a hole at point guard. Really, though, that only makes the whole thing funnier.

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