By Trevor Magnotti
The NBA Free Agency period has been expectantly wild so far. The new CBA has added some new wrinkles to the shortened period, as we get to experience the Amnesty Clause in action for the first time, and the new deal has produced plenty of unexpected moves and non-moves already. There has been much going on and there continues to be a lot going on, so I’m here to try my best to break down everything. This column will highlight the biggest deals, what they mean for the teams involved, and grades of the deals.
Shane Battier to the Heat
The Heat wanted toughness, and they get it in Battier. Battier, who spent last season split between the Rockets and Grizzlies, will be a welcome addition as the Heat’s sixth man. Battier gives a good defensive presence and an ability to guard pretty much any threat on the floor. Battier also adds a good stroke from outside, something the Heat lacked last season. If Battier can knock down the occasional jumper and keep opposing swingmen at bay defensively, which he’s spent the entirety of his career proving he can, the Heat are in good shape. Grade: A
Knicks amnesty Billups, sign Mike Bibby
The Knicks wanted to free up cap space, and that wasn’t happening with $14 million of washed-up Chauncey Billups sitting there. With Billups off the books, the Knicks freed up cap space for a possible Chris Paul run, or at least to sign a couple more players. They started that by picking up Mike Bibby from Miami. Bibby was largely ineffective in Miami’s system last year, but he’s only a year removed from being a significant starter for the Atlanta Hawks, and the belief is that he will be much more productive in a Mike D-Antoni offense. Also, the move frees up Toney Douglas to take over as the starter, and he could have a breakout season. It works for everyone. Amnestying Billups: A- Bibby Signing: B+
Caron Butler heads to the Clippers
The Clips kind of have a logjam at small forward, but it’s a good situation for them to be in. None of Caron Butler, Ryan Gomes, or Al-Farouq Aminu are anything spectacular, but the three of them together will definitely give the Clippers a capable 3 on the floor at all times. As for the Butler deal itself, it appears Butler is ready to go for the season, and even if the injury bug continues for him it is a relatively low-risk deal at only $24 million over 3 years. This deal works out nicely for the Clippers. Grade: A-
Tyson Chandler to the Knicks
A 4 year deal worth $56 million is a fair amount for a player that was arguably the second best on the Mavericks during their championship run. Chandler comes to New York via a three-way deal that sent Andy Rautins from the Knicks to Mavs and Ronny Turiaf to the Wizards. Chandler brings a big defensive presence to New York, and the deal means the Knicks aren’t totally screwed if Amare’s knees give out when Mike D’Antoni inevitably plays him for 42 minutes a game again. The Knicks also now have one of the most fearsome frontcourts in the league with Amare, Chandler, Carmelo Anthony and Jared Jeffries (Ok, kidding with the last one). If the Knicks can grab maybe one more starter-caliber player (Ideally a guard that can run and shoot from outside, like Leandro Barbosa did when D’Antoni was in Phoenix), the Knicks will be set. And if they get CP3 somehow, that would work too. Knicks Grade: A Mavericks Grade: B- (They lose Chandler but get what they wanted: cap room and a likely replacement for J.J. Barea)
Bucks add Mike Dunleavy
Mike Dunleavy is a very solid swingman who can play inside or out. He’s a nice signing for a drastically reshaped Bucks team that lacked outside scoring and size. Dunleavy will benefit from the slashing abilities of Stephen Jackson and Brandon Jennings, both of whom are likely to have plenty of assists on kick-out passes to Dunleavy for threes. This is a great need signing that really has flown under the radar. Grade: B+
Spurs grab T.J. Ford
In an odd occurrence, the Spurs and Pacers basically completed a trade with this signing, as Ford replaces new Pacer George Hill in the Spurs backcourt. Ford hadn’t been anything spectacular for the Pacers, but he’s still an adequate passer and decent defender that fits the mold of a Spurs team that is experienced and not flashy. Ford can provide a steady hand off the bench, and be an occasional spot starter if needed. An unsurprisingly safe move by the Spurs. Grade: B
Chuck Hayes gets nice deal from Sacramento
Hayes, the stocky power rebounder from Kentucky, is a great signing for the Kings. He’s a fun player that takes the game seriously, and he’s going to try to take over the glue guy role Sam Dalembert had last season. The Kings got him for relatively cheap too, at only $21 million over 4 years. Between DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson, and Chuck Hayes, the Kings have one of the most underrated frontcourts in the NBA. Grade: A
T-Mac goes to the Hawks
Interesting move by the Hawks, who didn’t need another swingman, as they have that one dude named Joe Johnson who plays the same position and is eating up half their cap number. However, when you can get T-Mac for the veteran minimum, it’s not a bad thing. This is totally low-risk, as if T-Mac can stay injury-free and be even half the player he was with the Magic in the early 2000s, this instantly becomes one of the steals of this free agency period. However, it’s unlikely that will happen. What is likely is that T-Mac will be a reliable player off the bench and will have a slight scoring hike replacing Jamal Crawford in an offense built to get the ball to the shooting guard in space. Grade: B-
Oden re-ups with Portland
If there was anyone that needed to not resign with their previous team this offseason, it was Greg Oden. His time with the Blazers has resulted in 2 completely missed seasons, only 82 played games, and, coupled with Brandon Roy’s knee issues, an eye-opening to the fact that the Blazers medical staff may be the worst in professional sports. Oden would have been much better off making a move to a different team (Indiana, Cleveland, and Denver were options), starting anew, and possibly resurrecting his career. By staying in Portland, Oden stays with a bad medical staff, and is still behind Marcus Camby on the depth chart. Really don’t understand this move. Grade: D
David West signs with Pacers
After a failed sign-and-trade between the Hornets and Celtics that wreaked of David Stern denial (Seriously, how is the Chandler deal ok but Jermaine O’Neal to New Orleans is unfair?), David West signed a two-year, $20 million dollar deal with Indiana. This is a huge deal for the Pacers, as they get a great high-post scorer and established veteran on a team that is full of youth. West will join bangers Tyler Hansbrough and Roy Hibbert in the frontcourt, and should be a valuable player for the Pacers, even if he’s not back to one hundred percent after his ACL injury. Grade: A-
76ers resign Thaddeus Young
The Sixers got one step closer to a potential deadline trade of Andre Iguodala by resigning Young, who broke out coming off the bench last season for the Sixers. Philadelphia was very high on Young, and may have overpaid for him. However, they get to keep an athletic swingman who they can build around for the future, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Grade: B-
Lakers trade Lamar Odom to Mavericks
A somewhat surprising move, but after getting dangled in the proposed CP3 deal for the Lakers, Odom was angry and wanted out of L.A. He got his wish, as the Lakers dealt him to the defending champs for a first-round pick. Odom will probably have a similar role in Dallas as he did in L.A., as a forward that can play the 3 or 4 off the bench and spell Nowitzki or Marion. The deal also works out for the Lakers, as a team that is as old as L.A. could use some youth infusion. Lakers Grade: B Mavericks Grade: B+
Predictions: Chris Paul, Where the Centers are headed, and other random thoughts about what’s next
Chris Paul: I think he’s staying in New Orleans. The NBA just wants too much for Paul, and so far have scared off the Clippers and Lakers. The Knicks and Celtics don’t have the pieces to make a trade, and the Hornets are left with the Warriors as the only team that can make a serious run for Paul. Enough has been said about the botched Laker deal that I don’t want to get into it, but I will not be surprised if Paul plays out the season in New Orleans.
Dwight Howard: I think the Howard to the Nets deal will happen. The Nets have assets, and Dwight would be a good match with Deron Williams. I think the Magic have a chance at keeping him, especially if they sign Billups, as do the Lakers. However, I think New Jersey is his most likely destination.
Other Centers: With Marc Gasol looking like he’ll be staying in Memphis, I’d expect to see Nene headed to Houston. DeAndre Jordan, the other major unsigned center, will probably resign with the Clippers.
Gilbert Arenas: It will be interesting to see where Agent Zero heads after getting Amnestied by the Magic. One destination that would make a lot of sense for him is Miami, where he can chase a title and be a productive member of a competitive team. New Jersey might also be in the mix, but I think he’s headed to the Heat.
Chauncey Billups: He wants Orlando or Miami. I really hope Charlotte picks him up on waivers though, because the the idea of Billups retiring because he doesn’t want to play for a small-market team totally defeats the purpose of the lockout, and is way too funny to me.
Rip Hamilton: Now that he’s cleared waivers, I think it’s basically a done deal that he’s heading to Chicago.
Jamal Crawford: New York may be a possibility, as it’s a good fit for him. I think Chicago’s out. If New York doesn’t go after him though (and depending on Arron Afflalo’s status), I could easily see him heading to the Nuggets.
Arron Afflalo: I really don’t know. Gut instinct is New Jersey. However, I could easily see him resigning with Denver, going to New York, or Indiana.
Juwan Howard: Ok, this one’s a joke. Honestly this is a total unknown but I feel he will be signing with Miami again.
Thanks for reading. Be sure to check back next week, when I surely will be writing about how none of the moves I predicted in the second half of this column actually happened. Oh the NBA, how I do love it so.