Ethan Norof

Offseason Beat

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NBA Free Agency: Report Cards

Monday, July 3, 2017


As someone who spends significant time teaching in a classroom, it’s only appropriate that we’re here to deliver initial report card grades for the 2017 NBA Free Agency period to date. Welcome to summer school!

 

With the fourth of July ready to roll in and names like Gordon Hayward, Otto Porter, George Hill and Danilo Gallinari  (among others) all remaining on the board—along with many, many others—NBA teams will be hard at work while most of us will spend the holiday as desired: Consuming, analyzing and digesting the beautiful, chaotic madness that is the offseason.

 

What we’ll do here is provide player information, a team grade for the contract, a player grade for the new pact and a narrative section that offers context behind the evaluation.

 

 

POINT GUARD

 

Player: Stephen Curry

Terms: Five years, $201 million to re-sign with the Golden State Warriors

Team Grade: A

Player Grade: A+

 

Curry went from being on the NBA’s biggest bargain to signing league’s most valuable deal of all time, but that’s what happens when you win back-to-back MVP awards, serve as the franchise face for a historical 73-win team and collect a second championship ring to add to the—still growing—title collection. Curry, like it or not, has woven his way into the NBA’s evolving story, and his portion of hoop history will be on how he helped to change the way the game is played.  

 

Player: Jrue Holiday

Terms: Five years, $126-plus million to re-sign with the New Orleans Pelicans

Team Grade: B+

Player Grade: A+

 

New Orleans was boxed into a corner when it came to negotiations with Holiday, but the bond between the player and the organization far exceeds what he brings to the basketball court. The Pelicans simply couldn’t afford—both figuratively and literally—to let Jrue entertain offers elsewhere, and they put an offer on the table the Campbell Hall graduate couldn’t refuse.

 

Player: Kyle Lowry

Terms: Three years, $100 million to re-sign with the Toronto Raptors

Team Grade: A

Player Grade: A+

 

The Raptors “overpay” from an annual average value standpoint, but the short-term nature of the deal allows Toronto to try and take advantage of their current window in a watered down Eastern Conference. From Lowry’s perspective, getting 30+ million yearly helps to ease the fact that he didn’t get the desired fourth year.

 

Player: Jeff Teague

Terms: Three years, $57 million to join the Minnesota Timberwolves

Team Grade: B-

Player Grade: A

 

This is a tough one to evaluate, and it’s because of what could have been.

 

There was no way for Minnesota to know that OKC would surprisingly acquire Paul George hours before free agency began, but the move had a direct impact in driving down the value of the 2018 first-round pick that was acquired for Ricky Rubio’s services. And for the Timberwolves, how much does a back-end first-round pick and a multi-year, $57M commitment to Teague change what it was instead of with Rubio, owed a shade over $29M over the next two seasons? It would have been nice to see the Wolves make the Kyle Lowry market more interesting than it wound up being, but there’s something to be said for asset certainty with Teague, who can play off the ball when Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns have the ball in their hands.

 

Player: Patty Mills

Terms: Four years, $50 million to re-sign with the San Antonio Spurs

Team Grade: B+

Player Grade: A-

 

It’s all about fit here, and it’s a marriage that both sides should continue to benefit from as the continuity continues. For context, Jordan Clarkson signed an identical contract with the Los Angeles Lakers last summer.

 

Player: Shaun Livingston

Terms: Three years, $24 million to re-sign with the Golden State Warriors

Team Grade: A-

Player Grade: B-

 

It felt like there should have been more money there for Livingston, a player who has gone through extraordinary circumstances to stand where he currently does. The shift in the point guard market helped to impact the supply and demand curve, and that meant the Dubs were able to retain a key bench piece for the next few seasons.

 

Other Deals: Ron Baker re-signs with Knicks for two years (terms TBD)…Michael Carter-Williams joins the Hornets on a one-year, $2.7 million deal…Jose Calderon signs a one-year, veteran’s minimum with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

 

SHOOTING GUARD

 

Player: J.J. Redick

Terms: One year, $23 million to Trust the Process and join the Philadelphia 76ers

Team Grade: A

Player Grade: A

 

I’ll admit that the sticker shock got to me when the initial number was reported, but there’s no such thing as a bad one-year deal when the move fills a legitimate need, the Sixers had a plethora of cap space and Redick’s arrival fits into the timeline of The Process perfectly. A starting lineup of Markelle Fultz, Redick, Ben Simmons, Robert Covington and Joel Embiid is looking pretty, pretty interesting right about now.

 

Redick probably would have liked to net a multi-year deal, but let’s be real—how do you pass up $23 million for a single season and the chance to hang out with Embiid every day?

 

Player: Tony Snell

Terms: Four years, $46 million to re-sign with the Milwaukee Bucks

Team Grade: B

Player Grade: B+

 

Snell, a restricted free agent, looks very smart in his decision to re-sign quickly given the way the RFA market is developing. As ESPN’s Bobby Marks said on Sunday, the summer spending in 2016 is having a direct impact in the current landscape, and Snell could have very well cost himself money had he tried to generate a widespread market for his services.

 

Player: Kyle Korver

Terms: Three years, $22 million to re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers

Team Grade: C+

Player Grade: B

 

Korver is one of the best floor-spacers a team could hope to have, and I know the Cavs were limited in their possibilities, but this is just such an uninspiring move for a team in desperate need of an injection of life. It’s amazing that needs to be said about a LeBron James team, but it’s hard to deny the deflated feeling currently surrounding the franchise. If you’re going to double your tax bill by signing a single player, you’d probably like it to be for someone a little more notable than Korver.

 

Player: Langston Galloway

Terms: Three years, $21 million to join the Detroit Pistons

Team Grade: B-

Player Grade: A-

 

Stan Van Gundy’s recent commitment to mediocrity has been nothing short of exemplary. Perhaps this means a Reggie Jackson trade could be on the horizon—which could change the SVG’s aforementioned vision—but Galloway has never really brought a whole lot to the table with the exception of being a good outside shooter. On top of that, the club is expected to retain RFA Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, just drafted Luke Kennard and inked Ish Smith last summer.

 

Player: Ben McLemore

Terms: Two years, $10.7 million to join the Memphis Grizzlies

Team Grade: C

Player Grade: A

 

What, exactly, has McLemore done to show that he’s worthy of a salary that is significantly more than the minimum? B-Mac did connect on 38.2% of his 3-point attempts last season, including a 40.3% mark after the All-Star Break, but that alone—combined with the fact that McLemore was a former seventh overall selection—doesn’t make him a nearly $6M player in a landscape where there is more supply than demand.

 

The Grizzlies are (always) desperate shooting and need to get younger on the wing with Tony Allen and Vince Carter both hitting free agency, and McLemore’s agent did a beautiful job of parlaying that leverage excellently into his client’s new deal.

 


Other Deals: Wayne Selden re-signed with the Grizzlies on a two-year deal (terms TBD)…Jodie Meeks looks to revive his career in Washington on a two-year, $7 million pact…Justin Holiday finally got his due, agreeing to a two-year, $9 million deal to come back to Chicago.

 

 

SMALL FORWARD

 

Player: Andre Iguodala

Terms: Three years, $48 million to re-sign with the Golden State Warriors

Team Grade: A

Player Grade: A+

 

This is a partnership that had to continue forward if Golden State was going to keep pushing in full force, and the Warriors getting Iguodala to commit will go a long way as the team looks to fill out the remainder of their roster. For Iguodala, 33, to get nearly $50M on his last big money NBA deal while getting the chance to chase a ring every season in the process is a very good look.

 

Player: Kevin Durant

Terms: Two years, $53 million (second-year player option) to re-sign with the Golden State Warriors

Team Grade: A+

Player Grade: A+

 

This was a no-brainer for both sides. 

 

Player: Joe Ingles

Terms: Four years, $52 million to re-sign with the Utah Jazz

Team Grade: A

Player Grade: B

 

I’m looking at the player grade from strictly a financial perspective, and Ingles likely sold himself short in his unabashed desire to return to Utah. From the Jazz’s point of view, Ingles is a critical cog in the operation, is one of UFA Gordon Hayward’s best friends on the team and an absolutely essential insurance policy should Hayward decide to sign elsewhere.

 

Player: P.J. Tucker

Terms: Four years, $32 million to join the Houston Rockets

Team Grade: A

Player Grade: A-

 

Tucker is exactly the kind of player who fits well into what Mike D’Antoni and the Rockets do, and for Houston to be able to land the well-traveled veteran for under $10M annually when he had a robust market is quite the feat. D’Antoni can now play lineups that feature Trevor Ariza and P.J. Tucker interchangeably, and that type of defensive versatility on the wing is a desirable commodity to boast in today’s NBA.  

 

For Tucker, an A- represents an opportunity to earn more cash elsewhere—which could have been a factor given his new deal in Houston is the biggest of his professional career—but a clear path to challenging the Warriors for Western Conference supremacy is a challenge the hard-nosed Tucker appears ready to confront.

 

POWER FORWARD

 

Player: Blake Griffin

Terms: Five years, $173 million to re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers

Team Grade: A

Player Grade: A+


The Clippers could have thought about letting Griffin walk out that door had CP3 stuck around, but the tables were immediately turned when Paul decided to take off for Houston. Griffin had all of the leverage, Steve Ballmer’s Clippers always have all of the cash and it didn’t take long for an agreement to come together.

 

Player: Serge Ibaka

Terms: Three years, $65 million to re-sign with the Toronto Raptors

Team Grade: B

Player Grade: A

 

The value of this deal would likely feel more appropriate if Jonas Valanciunas was on another roster, and perhaps that’s the route that Toronto could now choose to explore. Ibaka would do himself and the Raptors a lot of favors by rediscovering his inside game on both ends of the floor, and Masai Ujiri is betting big that his long sought after big man validates his vision by becoming the player he once was in OKC.

 

Player: Taj Gibson

Terms: Two years, $28 million to reunite with Tom Thibodeau and join the Minnesota Timberwolves

Team Grade: B+

Player Grade: A

 

Gibson is a solid depth move for any competitive club, but he holds additional value on this specific team because of his prior experience with Tom Thibodeau. As a big man capable of playing behind both Gorgui Dieng and Karl-Anthony Towns while serving as a strong and influential voice in the locker room, Gibson stands to have a primary reserve role on a revamped Minnesota roster.

 

Player: Paul Millsap

Terms: Three years, $90 million* to sign with the Denver Nuggets

Team Grade: A

Player Grade: A-

 

The Millsap-Nikola Jokic pairing is going to be fascinating to watch on both ends of the floor, and the Nuggets are finally getting the man they’ve so ardently chased for the last two-plus seasons. A potential starting five of Jamal Murray, Garry Harris, Wilson Chandler, Millsap and Jokic promises to be packed with potential, but there are major defensive questions.

 

For Millsap, a player who has been consistently undervalued and underappreciated, it must feel incredibly overwhelming to have an organization emphasize your individual value to the culture of the team. The asterisk on his deal represents the fact that the third year is a team option, and while that changes the lens in which the deal needs to be viewed, it’s hard to see a $30M annual average value coming from elsewhere for the 32-year-old veteran. It’s a much more palatable deal for Denver, but it’s also easy to see why Millsap chose to take the money.  

 

Other Deals: Amir Johnson keeps collecting big checks by signing a one-year, $11 million deal in Philly…David West wants to keep the good times rolling, so he re-signed for his final NBA season with the Golden State Warriors, likely at the veteran’s minimum.

 

CENTER

 

Player: Cristiano Felicio

Terms: Four years, $32 million to re-sign with the Chicago Bulls

Team Grade: D

Player Grade: A

 

Who, exactly, was Chicago bidding against when the Bulls immediately re-signed Felicio at the start of free agency? The Brazilian big man has occasionally flashed intriguing potential and will be just 25 later this week, but if that’s the best defense of the deal then it’s not a very compelling case.

 

Player: Nene

Terms: Three years, $11 million to return to the Houston Rockets

Team Grade: C

Player Grade: B

 

I know the James Harden and Chris Paul combination will be incredible, but is the Clint Capela-Nene pairing really enough depth for Houston in the middle?



Follow Ethan Norof on Twitter @Ethan_Norof for more fantasy basketball analysis, advice and all things Los Angeles Lakers.
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