NBA Free Agency 2012 Grades, Part 1

Free agency is upon us! Players are getting pizzaid! I have opinions!

Some thoughts:

- The vast majority of GMs fall into one of three camps. The first understands how to operate a team, but cannot assess talent. The Bulls are a pretty decent example of this. The second understands how to assess talent, but does not know how to execute a game plan. Hello Rockets. The third has no game plan and cannot assess talent. Looking at you, JoeD.

- If your GM does not fall into any of the above categories, congratulations, you are a Spurs fan.

- That teams are amnestying players to free up money to make equally stupid financial decisions is beyond parody.

- It will be funny when everyone is surprised by how much the Bulls and Knicks suck next year.

- The Heat are on the verge of making next season a moot point.

With all that in mind, let's get to some grades!

Ray Allen – Heat
3 yrs./9.5M
Grade: A+

Whatever you think of Allen’s decision, this is a no-brainer for the Heat, who can use Allen’s shooting to space the floor for LeBron and Wade. Heat haters had better hope for injuries, because Allen’s skill set is not the kind that deteriorates on its own.

Ryan Anderson – Hornets
4 yrs./$35M
Grade: A

Between Anderson and Anthony Davis, the Hornets suddenly have an elite front court. That Anderson isn’t even getting $10M per is proof too many GMs complete ignore per-minute stats when assessing players.

Darrell Arthur – Grizzlies
1 yr./$3M
Grade: A-

Prior to missing last season with a knee injury, Arthur was on his way to becoming a productive pro. Given his age, and the price, I think the Grizzlies would have done well to offer a multi-year contract. As it stands, they aren’t on the hook for much, but if he flourishes, they’ll have to pay him twice as much or let him walk.

Brandon Bass – Celtics
3 yrs./$20M
Grade: B

The Celtics have had a fairly incoherent offseason. This is the right price for Bass, but he is old enough that he can’t really be part of any rebuilding strategy. Danny Ainge gets credit for recognizing Bass was a key part of last year’s run, however, and it’s hard to fault a playoff team for getting the right value on its own players.

Michael Beasley – Suns
3 yrs./$18M
Grade: F

Beasley has been terrible the last two seasons, and it isn’t for lack of talent. The Suns are either basing this decision entirely on points per game, or they are hoping Beasley suddenly puts it all together. The former is a curious way to assess talent, and the latter is worth the veteran minimum, not $6M per. This is just a terrible signing.

Elton Brand – Mavericks
1 yr./$2.1M
Grade: A+

Can’t think of a better fit for Brand, who has been underrated in recent years by virtue of his enormous contract. Dallas needs to reload on the cheap for another run, and, well, this is how you do that.

Chauncey Billups - Clippers

1 yr./$4.3M
Grade: C

The Billups-as-SG experiment has essentially been a failure. His entire game is based around being able to run an offense with unparalleled efficiency. He isn’t a spot up shooter. The price is a bargain, but probably the worst fit imaginable for Chauncey.

Marcus Camby - Knicks
3 yrs./$13.2M
Grade: C+

Whether or not you like this signing depends on how you regard Camby. He is either one of the better defenders and rebounders of all time, or a guy who compiles stats by gambling at every turn. If he backs up Tyson Chandler, we should get some clear answers there. It’s an important question, because there is a real possibility the Knicks are going to be paying $13.2M for essentially one season’s worth of minutes. Camby isn’t an injury risk; he’s an injury guarantee.

Jamal Crawford - Clippers
3 yrs./$15.7M
Grade: F

Crawford is an average offensive player who shoots too much and does not play defense. He’s also getting paid through age 34, which means he will probably begin to rely even more on his shaky three-point shot. His 51 TS% last season was terrible, since he doesn’t really do much other than shoot. When Clippers fans are marveling at their first round exit next year, they can look to signings like this (and the fact that Blake Griffin is overrated).

Goran Dragic – Suns
4 yrs./$30M
Grade: C+

The Suns are banking on Dragic being able to replicate his performance with the Rockets in a different system. If he can do so, this is a fine deal. If he suffers for lack of offensive options, and I think he might, they are overpaying, and I think they are.

Tim Duncan – Spurs
3 yrs./$34M
Grade: B+

It’s a fair deal, and what were the Spurs going to do, really?

Reggie Evans – Nets
3 yrs./$4.8M
Grade: A-

Evans is a one-trick pony. Unfortunately for him, his one trick is bizarrely undervalued. It’s kind of ironic the Nets are getting so loaded in the rebounding department when their center finds the practice so banal. At any rate, this is a fine deal.

Raymond Felton – Knicks
3 yrs./$10M
Grade: D-

Remember that one season when Felton was a great three-point shooter, and it looked like he might turn out to be a pretty nice player? Not any more. He’s the new Jamaal Tinsley.

Landry Fields – Raptors
3 yrs./$20M
Grade: C

Darling of the advanced metrics set, Fields is certainly more than meets the eye. However, what meets the eye isn’t particularly good. 51% TS, so-so rebounding, and more turnovers than I’d like from a guy who doesn’t score or pass. The Raptors are seeing something I don’t, and some people do see it, so I’ll be as neutral as I can.

Kevin Garnett – Celtics
3 yrs./$34M
Grade: C

As with Duncan, there is the “what were they going to do?” question, but I dunno. Garnett’s knees are failing him, and his game isn’t as adaptable as Duncan’s. Whereas I think the Spurs got the right value for their guy, I think the Celtics overspent here.

Eric Gordon – Hornets
4 yrs./$58M
Grade: D

This year’s Joe Johnson memorial “he’s a nice player, but what the hell?” award goes to Eric Gordon. Clearly, the Hornets want to surround Anthony Davis with great players. However, how does the team that fleeced the Magic on Ryan Anderson make this decision? This is a pure PPG contract.

Spencer Hawes – 76ers
2 yrs./$13M
Grade: A-

Hawes suddenly became a very productive player last year in 920 minutes of play. , Though there is a possibility last season was a fluke, getting a young center who can rebound and defend at this price is obviously a great deal. Again, this is one of those where I would have locked him down longer-term, rather than letting him audition for a bigger contract.

Roy Hibbert - Pacers
4 yrs/$56M
Grade: C-

Hibbert was basically in the same boat as Spencer Hawes, but got a much bigger payday. Actually, he’s two years older, so there it is more likely last year was a fluke. Even if he can maintain this level of production, the Pacers are massively overpaying their guy.

Kirk Hinrich
2 yrs./$6M
Grade: C

Hinrich is a mediocre player these days, but I think he fits the Bulls needs for this season pretty well. He gives them some three-point shooting and can competently run an offense, but little else. There’s guys available at the veteran minimum who can do that.

Ersan Ilyasova
5 yrs./$45M
Grade: A

I like what the Bucks did here a lot, basically extending the life of the contract to sweeten the deal for a valuable player, rather than giving him an eight-figure annual salary. He’s 25, so he’ll be off the books right about when his skills begin to decline. After a sterling draft, Bucks fans have reason to be excited about how this team is progressing.

Chris Kaman - Mavs
1 yr./$8M
Grade: F

Kaman posted below average ws/48 ratings when he actually did rebound. Now that he no longer does, he is just an offensive black hole who insists on sucking everyone else into his gravity of awful… When he even plays, that is. How is this worth $8M?

Jason Kidd - Knicks
3 yrs./$9.5M
Grade: C+

Kidd has been a nice player for a long time (albeit overrated for most of that stretch). However, his skills are clearly in decline, which stands to reason since he is 38 and not a great shooter. If the Knicks think he is an adequate replacement for Lin, they have another thing coming.

Rashard Lewis – Heat
2 yrs./$2.8M
Grade: C+

Tough to hate on a minimum contract for a player who was productive just two seasons ago. That said, I think Lewis is an odometer rule player. Simply put, he has the mileage on his legs of a 36 year old (and isn’t the most diligent trainer in the world) and I don’t think he has enough left to be the floor spacer the Heat want him to be.

Jeremy Lin – Rockets
3 yrs./$25M
Grade: B-

There are some marketing considerations here, and Lin is a fine player, but he’s overrated and this is an overpay from a purely basketball perspective. His turnovers, combined with his lack of a three point shot, will limit his effectiveness. That said, they are paying for three years of his athletic prime, which is crucial for players of Lin’s type.

Brook Lopez - Nets
4 yrs./$60M
Grade: D

He doesn’t defend or rebound, and he doesn’t shoot efficiently. But he score teh pointz and that’s all that matters. I’m holding off from giving this an ‘F’ because I suspect the Nets intend to trade him for a much better center. If not, they’ll be mired in mediocrity for quite some time. 

Good luck with all that.

Robin Lopez – Suns
1 yr./$4M
Grade: A
Unlike his brother, Robin Lopez actually rebounds a bit and defends. So naturally he makes 1/3rd as much. Needs moar pointz!

Steve Nash - Lakers
3 yrs./$25M
Grade: A

This turns into an A+ if he just refuses to pass to Kobe Bryant. Nash is in decline, but could see a bit of resurrection as teams feel compelled to let him shoot wide-open threes. If the Lakers take the league by storm next year, Nash could be in line for his third completely undeserved MVP award.

Steve Novak - Knicks
4 yrs./$15M
Grade: A+

An absolute bargain. The dude hits half his three pointers. Weird fact. The Knicks had players posting two of the top ten true shooting percentages in the history of the NBA on the same team. Maybe a little less letting Iman Shumpert do things, yah?

Brandon Roy - Timberwolves
2 yrs./$10.4M
Grade: C

I am convinced the whole “Trailblazers medical staff is incompetent” meme is just agent spin. The T-Wolves are overpaying for their lottery ticket here. On the other hand, if they hit triple ‘7’s, the team suddenly becomes a contender. This is the right risk at the wrong price.

Luis Scola – Suns
3 yrs./$10M
Grade: B

Scola is a pretty average player, but he is extremely durable and plays a lot of minutes. His skills are in decline, but this contract takes that into account. A sound decision, but certainly not a game changer.

J.R. Smith – Knicks
2 yrs./$2.8M
Grade: A

J.R. Smith isn’t a high character guy, but is a good shooter who stays in his lane when he is on the court. To get him at this price is an obvious bargain.

Jerry Stackhouse – Nets
1 yr./$1.3M
Grade: D

Why bother?

Jason Terry – Celtics
3 yrs./$15M
Grade: D

After five straight years of steady decline, it’s pretty clear this contract will not go well for the Celtics. Terry seems thrilled to be in green, but I’d be thrilled if someone was giving me $10 million more than I was worth, too.

Jamaal Tinsley – Jazz
1 yr./$1.4M
Grade: F

Why is this guy employed?

Gerald Wallace – Nets
4 yrs./$40M
Grade: D+

Hey, Gerald Wallace is overpaid for once. And boy, is he ever. A prime candidate for an age-30 collapse, Wallace isn’t the player he once was as it is. On top of that, he will assuredly miss chunks of the season due to injury.

Deron Williams – Nets
5 yrs./$98M
Grade: D

Deron Williams is ludicrously overrated. He’s not a great shooter, turns the ball over quite a bit, and lacks three point range. Remember when people used to argue this guy was better than Chris Paul? Nets should have let someone else make this mistake.

Nick Young – 76ers
1 yr./$6M
Grade: F

In a game where the goal is to shoot a ball through a hoops, it is alarming how frequently teams will overpay players who are really bad doing just that.

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