Isaiah Thomas signed a four-year, $27 million deal with the Suns. His departure from Sacramento was a given once they signed Darren Collison, but the Kings still extracted a valuable $7 million traded-player exception by turning IT2's deal into a sign-and-trade.
Kings GM Pete D'Allesandro cited multiple reasons for why he felt a changing of the guard was necessary, including the need to increase the pace of the Kings’ offense. He also suggested that implications for the team’s long-term salary structure played a part in choosing to pass on matching Thomas’ contract with the Suns. “There aren’t easy decisions when you’re trying to put a roster together,” D’Alessandro said. “When you do the analysis, you have to say, okay, I have to put everything aside, and just look at things from a more objective way."
That's a fascinating quote, because it doesn't take a pair of Google Glasses to see that Thomas has been objectively a more effective player than Collison since entering the league in 2011. Here are some stats from each player during the 2013-14 season (per-36-minute to account for IT2's starting role vs. Collison's backup job):
Isaiah Thomas: 21.1 points, 1.8 threes, 5.9 FT attempts per game, 3.0 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.3 steals and 3.1 turnovers, with a Player Efficiency Rating of 20.5.
Darren Collison: 15.9 points, 1.2 threes, 3.9 FT attempts per game, 3.3 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.6 steals and 2.3 turnovers, with a Player Efficiency Rating of 16.2.
Thomas himself gave a compelling argument for his value in a candid interview with SLAM magazine shortly before signing with the Suns. It's good enough that I'll quote it at length. "It hurt [when the Kings signed Darren Collison], but at the same time that’s been my story my whole life," he said. "People have doubted me, people always bring guys in who they think are going to outplay me or outwork me and that’s just not the case ... A lot of guys in this league can’t average 20 points and six assists like I did [in 2013-14] ... I know that being 5'9" scares a lot of people, because that’s not the prototypical starting point guard in the NBA. I’m going to keep fighting, keep working and I’m going to show teams and show people that I am a legitimate starting point guard ... If I was 6-foot [tall] I would be signing for $90 million contract just like [Kyrie Irving] ... I know the politics of the game and I know what I’ve been through to this point. I'm 5'9" and that’s why I was the 60th pick. That’s why the Kings keep bringing new guys in. That’s the reason why."
Thomas now finds himself with the Suns, who (in stark contrast to the Kings) made it crystal clear how much they appreciate his value to the club and the community. He should find himself playing a solid 30+ minutes as Phoenix's sixth-man, but may struggle to recapture last year's 2nd-round fantasy value as long as Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe are both healthy. Keep in mind that Bledsoe is a restricted FA who could be playing elsewhere next season, but the Suns have already begun contract talks with him and they seem committed to matching any offer sheet (the Bucks are interested).
Thomas was tremendously efficient while running pick-and-rolls last season (41.7 percent of his plays) and he was even better in isolation (12.6 percent of his plays). According to Synergy Sports, his points-per-possession ranked in the top-30 in both play types. The Suns' offense actually used slightly fewer pick-and-rolls and iso plays last year, but Thomas should still be a solid fantasy option in the third round, and a value pick in the fourth. Note: IT2's value would surge if Bledsoe does end up somewhere else.
Chris Andersen agreed to a multi-year deal with the Heat despite also being pursued by the Knicks and Cavaliers. It's encouraging to see the Birdman settle into such a productive role toward the end of his career, and Miami has done well to keep the core of their team intact, but fantasy owners can't expect more than the borderline value he offered in 14-team leagues last season.
Caron Butler agreed to a two-year, $9 million deal with the Pistons. As I've written in multiple blurbs over the past few weeks, Stan Van Gundy seems to have a single-minded focus on improving his team's perimeter shooting. It's a reasonable stance for a team that ranked 29th in the NBA in 3-point percentage last season (32.1 percent, only better than Philly), especially since they're already stacked in the frontcourt. Butler is a solid veteran who can fill a productive bench role, as he proved with OKC last year, but his days of fantasy glory are far gone.
Marvin Williams agreed to a two-year, $14 million deal with the Hornets. Williams missed 16 games last season and had a below-average Player Efficiency Rating of 14.0 (the league average is 15.0), and it's hard to justify such a big deal for a veteran who has been wildly inconsistent throughout his career. He'll give the Hornets some length at the SF position and to his credit he did make 35.9 percent of his 3-pointers last season, resulting in a career-high effective FG percentage of 51.9 percent. Even if Williams earns more than the 25 minutes he averaged last season, which isn't certain, fantasy owners should view him as a late-round flier at best.
Bulls rookie Nikola Mirotic will sign a three-year, $17 million contract which is a very substantial sum for a first-year player. Chicago clearly has high hopes for their highly-skilled 6'10" power forward, who averaged 12.4 points, 1.3 triples, 4.6 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 0.8 blocks in a mere 24 minutes per game with Real Madrid last season. He'll need to add some muscle to his frame, and unfortunately for fantasy owners he's unlikely to have a big role as the Bulls seek to re-establish themselves with a healthy Derrick Rose and a frontcourt of Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Pau Gasol (with Carlos Boozer still an outside possibility).
Greg Smith was traded from the Bulls to the Mavericks, where he's equally unlikely to have any fantasy relevance. The Mavs have Tyson Chandler as their starting center with Brandan Wright backing him up, leaving minimal opportunities for Smith and Bernard James (especially if DeJuan Blair stays, but he may soon be sign-and-traded to the Wizards).
Kirk Hinrich agreed to a two-year, $5.6 million deal with the Bulls. The second year is a player option and it's a very reasonable deal for the veteran guard, who should see his minutes reduced with Derrick Rose ready to start at PG on opening night.
Nick Young signed a four-year, $21.5 million contract with the Lakers.
P.J. Tucker agreed to a three-year, $16.5 million contract with the Suns.
Greivis Vasquez agreed to a two-year, $13 million deal with the Raptors.
Steve Blake agreed to a two-year, $4.2 million deal with the Trail Blazers.
Jordan Farmar agreed to a two-year, $4.2 million deal with the Clippers.
Devin Harris agreed to re-sign with the Mavericks on a three-year deal worth approximately $9 million.
D.J. Augustin agreed to sign with the Pistons for approximately $6 million over two years.
John Salmons agreed to a deal with the Pelicans on Monday.
Matt Bonner returned to the Spurs on a one-year deal at the veteran's minimum.
Richard Jefferson agreed to a one-year deal to fill out the Mavericks' bench.
Vince Carter signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the Grizzlies.
Kent Bazemore agreed to a two-year, $4 million deal with the Hawks.
Anthony Morrow signed a three-year, $10 million contract with the Thunder.
Brian Roberts signed a two-year, $5.5 million deal as a backup PG with the Hornets.
The Mavericks acquired Chandler Parsons after the Rockets declined to match his hefty three-year, $46 million offer sheet, which was constructed in such a way that Houston GM Daryl Morey felt it would be too constricting in future seasons. I've run out of space to discuss this in depth, and there are even more deals I've not even mentioned, but they'll all have to wait until a future column.
Before I end, it's worth mentioning that the Wizards, Rockets and Pelicans completed a quirky three-team trade on Sunday. Here's the breakdown of what each team received:
- Wizards get an $8.5 million traded-player exception for dealing Ariza, as well the non-guaranteed contract of Melvin Ely from the Pelicans.
- Rockets get Trevor Ariza, Alonzo Gee and the Pelicans' protected 2015 first-round pick.
- Pelicans get Omer Asik, Omri Casspi and $1.5 million from the Rockets (in a separate but related deal the Pelicans also got SF Scotty Hopson from the Hornets for cash).
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