Nearly all of the NBA's top free agents agreed to terms or officially signed with a team in the past three weeks, allowing a bit more certainty when projecting player values for the 2012-13 season. To drive home the dwindling quality of remaining FAs, here is a quick list of the best remaining free agents (unrestricted or restricted) at each position:
PG - Derek Fisher, Nate Robinson, Jonny Flynn, and nostalgia pick Gilbert Arenas
SG - Brandon Rush, Mickael Pietrus, Leandro Barbosa, Jodie Meeks, and nostalgia pick Michael Redd
SF - Alonzo Gee, Carlos Delfino, Josh Howard, Matt Barnes, Terrence Williams, and nostalgia pick Tracy McGrady
PF - Carl Landry, Andray Blatche, Kenyon Martin, Anthony Tolliver, and nostalgia pick Troy Murphy
C - Darko Milicic, Hamed Haddadi, Kyrylo Fesenko, possibly Mehmet Okur, and nostalgia pick Jermaine O'Neal
Most of these remaining FAs should carve out a backup role next season, but only a handful can even be considered as starters, so the impact of their signing won't be too great. With that in mind, I will now explore some repercussions of July's wild offseason moves, providing quick-hit analyses for an arbitrarily selected group of intriguing players who changed teams.
(Note: I am not discussing rookies in this column --that will come later-- and for simplicity's sake all "fantasy value" references are per-game averages for eight-cat leagues.)
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A Wolf Named Andrei
As I write this, Andrei Kirilenko is finalizing a two-year, $20 million deal with the Timberwolves. The instant-hyperbole Twitter machine, which giddily pans GM David Kahn at every opportunity, has been criticizing the deal, but given the length of the deal it seems reasonable to me. AK may be exiting his prime at 31 years of age, but the reigning EuroLeague MVP still has gas in the tank -- in 15 EuroLeague games, he averaged 14.1 points (53.3 percent FGs, 41.7 percent 3PTs), 7.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.9 blocks in under 30 minutes per game. His most recent season in the NBA, with Utah in 2010-11, he returned sixth-round fantasy value in 31 minutes per game, despite attempting only 8.5 shots per game. The Wolves are paying him $10 million per season to start at SF and be a difference-maker, so I expect him to be quite active on both ends of the court. Why, exactly? Ricky Rubio doesn't look for his shot, Brandon Roy's durability is a giant neon question mark, and the Wolves don't have much depth on the wings, to put it lightly. I am conservatively penciling Kirilenko in for 12.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks, and with his newfound shooting range he's a reasonable middle-round fantasy pick in eight- and nine-cat leagues. My biggest concerns regard his ability to stay healthy, as he's missed an average of 19.0 games in each of his previous seven NBA seasons. If he does suffer a lasting injury, Chase Budinger would likely emerge as a sneaky source of 3-pointers, if not much else. (*Update: The Wolves officially signed AK for two years on Friday)
Iso-Joe in the Borough
Joe Johnson attempted 15.5 shots per game last season, his lowest total since forcing his way out of Phoenix in 2005, and he didn't average 19+ points in either of the previous two seasons. A change to the Nets may not be a cure-all, but I expect Johnson to thrive alongside an All-Star caliber PG, something he hasn't had since playing alongside Steve Nash with the Suns. Ideally, his 'iso-Joe' tendencies will be minimized, he'll face fewer double-teams, and he'll get more stand-still shot attempts, which is great news for a career 36.8 percent shooter from downtown. He posted early 4th-round fantasy value last season, and I'd be comfortable drafting him in the same spot this year. On a side note, Hawks fans should still be buzzing about GM Danny Ferry's ability to unload one of the league's worst contracts, paying JJ $90 million over the next four years. Yes, the Hawks only got back one year of Anthony Morrow and a protected future first-round pick from the Nets via Houston. The Hawks only have $17.3 million in guaranteed salary next summer, however, giving Ferry the chance to turn around the franchise with astonishing speed.