Top 10 off-season moves so far.
by Leo Sepkowitz | @LeoSepkowitz
The NBA offseason won’t officially end for another few months, but most of the fun is already over. Sure there’s the impending Dwight Howard trade (or not), but not much past that.
Free agents are beginning to settle for the minimum, the top name out there is Carl Landry and most teams are ready to move forward with what they’ve got. There’s been endless activity for the past few weeks, so it’s a good time to breakdown the summer’s best moves so far. This isn’t which teams have done the best to this point, just the top individual moves.
Quick note: you’ll notice that the Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Deron Williams re-signings are not on the list. I opted to leave off re-signings because, frankly, they’re too boring to write about.
10. The Hawks Swap Marvin Williams For Devin Harris
This obviously wasn’t a huge deal—like a couple of the moves on this list—but it was just so smart for Atlanta. Harris and Williams both get paid roughly $8.5 million annually for the remainder of their contracts. The differences are that Harris is a better player and he’s entering the final year of his deal. Williams’ contract has two years left.
It’s unclear why Utah was interested in this deal, but Atlanta landed a better player with a more favorable contract for a dime-a-dozen wing. It seems like the Hawks are going to make a push to bring in Dwight Howard and/or Chris Paul a year from now, and getting Williams off the books is a huge step toward doing so.
9. Clippers Trade Mo Williams For Lamar Odom, Sign Jamal Crawford
These were like corresponding moves. The Clippers traded Williams to Utah in a three-way deal which netted them Odom, and then signed Crawford to replace Williams. They overpaid for Crawford, but he’s a suitable replacement for Williams and probably a better player off the bench.
As for Odom, it’s a very smart risk. He was a great bench player for the Lakers just a year ago, and had some of his best years as a Clipper early in his career. He brings a lot of flexibility to a team which also added Grant Hill on the wing.
8. The Celtics Sign Jason Terry
I think Boston should have moved on with a core featuring Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo and whatever they could have gotten for Paul Pierce and KG via trade, but they didn’t. This was the next best thing.
Boston clearly likes Bradley as the starting shooting guard, and even if Ray Allen wanted to return, the Jet is a better fit. He’s best when coming off the bench, and his role in Boston will be exactly what it was in Dallas. Despite the perfect fit, Boston got even older with this signing, which is why it’s not higher on the list.
7. The Bobcats Land Ben Gordon And A First-Round Pick For Corey Maggette
I just can’t stop talking about this trade (read: this and this), which nobody else cares about even slightly. The swap is a lot like the Williams-Harris deal. Maggette and Gordon have similar annual salaries, but Maggette’s deal expires after the upcoming season while Gordon’s expires two years from now. To dump Gordon onto Charlotte, the Pistons gave up a protected first-round pick.
In next year’s Draft, the pick is top-14 protected. Then it drops to top-eight in 2014 and top-one in 2015 before going unprotected in 2016. Since it’s unlikely Detroit will select outside the top-14 next year, the pick should turn out to be very valuable.
The Bobcats limited their financial flexibility next summer, but it’s not like they should be burning cap space on long-term, free-agent contracts anyway. They need to rebuild and ignore the free-agent market for a bit while building through the Draft. That’s exactly what this trade will help them do.
6. The Mavericks Trade For Darren Collison
I’m not really sure how the Mavs worked this one out. The Pacers had enough cap room to sign Mahinmi as an unrestricted free agent. Instead of doing that, they dealt Collison and Dahntay Jones for Mahinmi, who they then signed to a four-year, $16 million pact.
Essentially, they gave up Collison, a starting-caliber point guard, and Jones, a decent reserve wing player. Mahinmi was no longer Dallas property, but Mark Cuban was able to move him for a really solid player. Not to mention both Jones and Collison’s contracts expire after this season, so Dallas will still have a ton of cap room next summer.
They were also able to bring in Elton Brand and Chris Kaman on one-year deals, OJ “Why Does Nobody Realize How Good I Am” Mayo on a cheap two-year contract, and shed Lamar Odom and Brendan Haywood’s contracts. Impressive.
5. The Hornets Move Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza
Wow, wow, wow. People like to say that since Joe Johnson was traded no contract is unmovable, and to that I counter with two words and an apostrophe: Amar’e Stoudemire. Anyway, New Orleans had two horrendous contracts hanging over them—Okafor (over $28 million for two years) and Ariza (roughly $14.5 million over two years). These guys, to me anyway, seemed like players that any GM who has an interest in staying employed wouldn’t touch.
Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld accepted that challenge. In exchange for the duo, New Orleans landed the League’s biggest expiring contract in Rashard Lewis, who even had a buyout which saved the Hornets another roughly $9 million. To top it all off, the Wiz kicked in a second-round pick which turned into Kentucky’s Darius Miller.
Essentially the Hornets did the exact same thing Detroit did with Ben Gordon, only they cut more money and didn’t have to give up a pick to do it.
By the way, the Hornets used the extra cash to land Ryan Anderson in a sign-and-trade, something the Wizards could have done if they hadn’t made the Lewis deal. Or if they were eager to improve and wanted to move Lewis, they likely could have swapped his expiring deal for a player like Joe Johnson before the Nets beat them to the punch. Or maybe *gasp* Stoudemire.
Just to rub it into Washington’s face a little more, here’s a quick comparison between Okafor and a few other comparable bigs signed this offseason:
Okafor: 10 points, 8 boards per game. Two years, $28 million remaining.
Luis Scola: 15.5 points, 6.5 boards per game. Three years, $13.5 million remaining.
Chris Kaman: 13 points, 7.7 boards per game. One year, $8 million remaining.
Elton Brand: 11 points, 7 boards per game. One year, $2.1 million remaining.
4. The Heat Sign Ray Allen And Rashard Lewis
As great as the Heat are when the Big Three are playing well, it was their role players who put them over the top in the Finals against Oklahoma City. Mike Miller and Shane Battier stepped up on the wing, knocking down open threes seemingly every time they got their hands on the ball. But Miami decided that those two, along with sharp-shooter James Jones, wasn’t enough, so they went out and got Allen and Lewis, former teammates in Seattle.
Allen has averaged nearly 2.5 treys per game for his career while shooting 40 percent from downtown. Lewis has fizzled the last couple of seasons, but is still more than capable of stretching the floor and creating mismatches with his 6-10 frame.
It’s one thing when guys like Juwan Howard and Ronny Turiaf come for the minimum, but these guys are at another level. When serious players who could get legitimate contract offers decide to go to Miami and play for less, the rest of the League is in serious trouble.
3. The Raptors Trade For Kyle Lowry
Toronto is not one piece away from being able to get past Miami or OKC, but very few teams are. Does that mean everyone should just give up? No, of course not. Lowry is an excellent defender and somebody who can catch fire offensively for weeks at a time. Between January and February, the only two months he was healthy last season, he averaged roughly 17/7/5 to go along with 2 steals and 2 threes per contest. He’s only 26 years old and has two years and $12 million remaining on his contract—a total bargain.
They gave up a lottery-guaranteed first-round pick in exchange, but with Lowry the Raptors have a pretty good chance of sneaking into the Playoffs. They won’t be winning a title any time soon, but if you can go from being one of the East’s worst teams to Playoff contender in one move, you do it.
2. Nets Trade For Joe Johnson
The Nets needed to bring in real talent if they were going to convince Deron Williams to stick around. Not unproven young guys, not mid-level type players—real pieces. So the always aggressive Billy King went out and got one. He swapped a bunch of expiring contracts and a Rockets pick they owned for a consistent shooting guard in Johnson. Granted the nearly $90 million left on Johnson’s contract is a ridiculous figure, but if owner Mikhail Prokhorov doesn’t care about paying it, then why should anybody else? The Nets weren’t going to have financial flexibility after bringing back Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez and Deron anyway, so what’s the difference.
1. Lakers Land Steve Nash
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this trade was actually pretty overlooked. Maybe it’s because it happened on July 4 when guys like ESPN’s Chris Broussard were on vacation, or maybe it’s because all anybody gives a shit about anymore is how things impact the Dwight Howard trade front. Wake up people! THE LAKERS GOT STEVE NASH. THE LAKERS GOT STEVE NASH. THE LAKERS GOT STEVE NASH.
Now that that’s out of my system, I can analyze a little. L.A. needed somebody who could knock down perimeter shots. They needed somebody who would take pressure off of Kobe offensively. They needed somebody who could get Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol involved in the same game. They needed somebody who isn’t Steve Blake, Derek Fisher or Ramon Sessions.
To say Nash fits the bill is the understatement of the century. Nash might make the Lakers two-or-three-or-four games better, but he also might make them eight-or-nine-or-10 games better. We can’t know for sure until he steps onto the floor alongside an already great team. Maybe they won’t gel as nicely as some (me) think they should. Or maybe they’ll have OKC, Miami and all the rest shaking in their boots.