Transactions 7/13-7/27

Charlotte Bobcats

7/17    Re-sign Matt Carroll

7/19    Re-sign Gerald Wallace

Both returnees got six years contracts, Carroll for about $27 million and Wallace at $57 million.  I guess Bobcat fans can’t complaint about failing to spend but, to me, the returns are mixed.  Carroll is a pretty good player but do you need to have him through age 33?  The team is already committed to Jason Richardson, and Wallace at two guard and small forward and Carroll is not a point guard (1.9 assists per 40 minutes in 2006-07).  Raymond Felton is also due a pay raise and a very high pick was invested in Adam Morrison (not to mention Walter Herrmann).  I know Morrison stunk for the most part last year but his top comps as a rookie are not terrible (Glen Rice, Dennis Scott, and Terry Teagle).  It might’ve been better to keep the salary slot open rather than commit to a decent player like Carroll.  For posterity, Carroll’s top comps are Gordan Giricek and Kevin Gamble, neither of whom retained much value after age 26.

Wallace’s deal is bit more sensible.  He’s only 24 and is playing quite well so signing him through 31 isn’t unreasonable and the price is below the current market.  There is a chance that Wallace won’t develop further or he could even regress but the factors indicate that this is a pretty good risk.

Chicago Bulls

7/17    Re-sign Andres Nocioni and sign Joe Smith

I have no quantitative proof of it but my gut just tells me that Nocioni is a poor risk.  He ultimately received a five-year $37.5 million extension, which locks him in Chicago through age-32.  Nocioni is a pretty useful player at this point but the Bulls have tons of younger, cheaper swingmen and Nocioni is coming off of injuries.  We are probably looking at Nocioni at his absolute peak and he is 14 ppg, 6 rpg and a tough defender.  I don’t know what the market was for Nocioni’s services but I think a three-year deal at similar money would’ve pegged his value a little better.

Smith gets a less exuberant two-year $11 million deal.  It’s hard to believe that Smith has not played for 12 seasons and that he’s still only 32.  It’s also hard to believe he was the first overall pick over Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett in 1995 draft but that’s neither here nor there.  At this point, Smith has been the same solid pro he’s been since his mid-20s.  He doesn’t really do anything particularly well but he’ll be a fine replacement for the aging P.J. Brown.

Dallas Mavericks

7/26    Sign Brandon Bass

Bass has spent the last two years doing very little.  On the plus side, he’s only 22 and can rebound a little bit.  I’m not sure a contending like Dallas is a great place for him to develop.

Denver Nuggets

7/16    Sign Chucky Atkins

If the reports of terms are true, this deal is very nice for the Nuggets.  Denver was faced with choosing between incumbent point guard Steve Blake and Atkins.  Blake is much younger (26 versus 33) and a better ball handler/passer but Atkins is a much better spot shooter and has frequently been used that way.  In this case, Blake received a pretty big deal from Portland and Atkins got two years and $7 million from Denver.  So, Denver got the much cheaper player and the player who meshes better with Allen Iverson.  Now, Atkins is not a panacea, he doesn’t pass well and is a really weak defender but Denver handled the choice between the two points correctly on every level.

Detroit Pistons

7/13    Re-sign Amir Johnson

7/17    Sign Cheick Samb

7/23    Sign Antonio McDyess to a contract extension

McDyess has been a superb value signing for the Pistons, who have gotten so much out of him its surprised me.  In fact, 2006-07, at age 32 and with a couple of knee injuries in the rear view mirror, McDyess had his best season since he was in Denver back in 2001-02.  Without being the wet blanket, you have to wonder whether Joe Dumars is pushing it a little bit by giving McDyess two more years and $14.5 million for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.  Dumars was in something of a bind because McDyess probably would’ve opted out this summer if he had not received this extension.  While this deal almost certainly overpays McDyess for the future, having him in uniform could really help Detroit, which is still a serious contender in 2007-08.  The other option would’ve been to let Jason Maxiell play more and suffer the short-term adjustment.  I prefer the latter option, if only because Maxiell is likely to be a better player within a year or so.  Still, it’s clear that Dumars gave McDyess the lowest possible extension possible to keep him in the fold (only two years and a slight raise).  So, the Pistons have done their best to try to keep the present team together without too much future commitment.

Golden State Warriors

7/16    Sign Marco Belinelli

7/17    Re-sign Kelenna Azubuike

If there is a running theme of today’s column it’s that decent shooters are much more plentiful than we might believe.  Here, the Warriors have nabbed to pretty good ones for pennies.  We all know that Belinelli tore up the summer league in Vegas and Azubuike played pretty well in actual NBA games (43% from three).  I know the Warriors are loaded with these types of players but it bears noting that the Raptors just paid a ton for Jason Kapono who very recently was a fringe guy too.

Houston Rockets

7/17    Sign Luis Scola

7/25    Sign Steve Francis

We mentioned Scola last week so let’s focus on the return of the prodigal Stevie Franchise.  At this point it’s hard to really understand what Francis is.  We all remember the athletic whirlwind out of Maryland who could jump out of the gym and created tons of shots.  Since he’s come to New York, however, his value has totally plummeted, which was probably related to playing time.  Take a look at Francis’ career stats:

1999-00 22 36.1 18.0 0.445 5.3 6.6 4.0 18.4
2000-01 23 39.9 19.9 0.451 6.9 6.5 3.3 21.6
2001-02 24 41.1 21.6 0.417 7.0 6.4 3.9 19.1
2002-03 25 41.0 21.0 0.435 6.2 6.2 3.7 20.6
2003-04 26 40.4 16.6 0.403 5.5 6.2 3.7 15.8
2004-05 27 38.2 21.3 0.423 5.8 7.0 4.1 18.9
2005-06 28 34.2 14.4 0.435 4.1 4.9 3.1 15.2
2006-07 29 28.1 11.3 0.408 3.6 3.9 2.3 15.1

As you can see, Francise was basically Gilbert Arenas for a three-year period.  His first hiccup came in 2003-04, which perhaps coincidentally coincided with Jeff Van Gundy’s slowdown offense.  In reality, however, Francis has been pretty much the same decent player three of the past four years, even without Van Gundy.  On a per minute basis, Francis’ New York stats mirrored his stats from Orlando in 2005-06 and his last year in Houston in 2003-04 and now the outlier seems to be Francis’ nice 2004-05 season.

This tells me that the future is not too bright for Houston fans who are expecting Francis to play like its the early 2000s.  Even if you assume that Francis was able to put up those stats if he was given the playing time and the touches, this Rocket team have at least two offensive options higher on the totem pole, with Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming.  So how can Francis, who really needs the ball to be effective, supposed to blend with these two, particularly McGrady?  Frankly, Francis will have to transition to sixth man, where he could be really effective.

On a plus side, Rick Adleman has always done a great job of finding shots for good offensive players who weren’t primary options. Adelman turned Cliff Robinson into a nice scoring sixth man in Portland and tons of talented offensive players in Sacramento over the years (Jon Barry, Bobby Jackson, Hedo Turkoglu, Jim Jackson).  In this case, Adelman’s options at point are Mike James and Francis, both of whom are shoot first but I think James’ better shooting from outside makes him the starter and Francis will steal minutes when Adelman needs a penetrator.

Indiana Pacers

7/23    Sign Travis Deiner

Nice little pickup for Indiana.  Deiner shot the lights out in college and looked okay in limited play as a rookie (36% from three).  At the very least, Deiner will mesh quite well with Jim O’Brien’s offensive schemes and I expect Deiner to establish himself as an NBA regular this season.

Los Angeles Lakers

7/19    Re-sign Chris Mihm

Mihm gets two years and $6 million, which is a pretty cheap deal.  Still, the contract is not without risk.  Mihm missed all last year with an ankle injury (actually two surgeries) and his rebound rate had been eroding a little bit already.  All that being said, Mihm is still only 28 and he has always been a live body and as a backup for Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, Mihm should be acceptable the next two years.

Memphis Grizzlies

7/13    Sign Darko Milicic and waive Alexander Johnson

7/19    Sign Andre Brown

7/24    Sign Casey Jacobsen

While Darko regressed a little bit last year, three years and $21 million is as good a deal as you can get for a young big man with some potential (look at what Samuel Dalembert and Chris Kaman are being paid).  Milicic rebound rate per 40 minutes is fairly pedestrian (9.1 reb/40) and his block rate is still good but is down from years past.  Nor are Milicic’s top comps at age-21 particularly inspiring (his first comp is Benoit Benjamin).  All this adds up to a player can reasonably be expected to be a competent center.  The worry is that a front line of Milicic and Pau Gasol will be bullied by stronger players.  It’s a reasonable concern but Darko is sure to be more formidable at center than trying to force Stromile Swift into the position.  So, the risk is minimal and there is a chance that Darko turns into a pretty good center.  What’s not to like?

If there is any regret it’s losing Johnson, who showed some signs of being a solid power forward.  He’ll surely hook up elsewhere.  Finally, Jacobsen is yet another one-dimensional three-point shooter to be found on the cheap.  He hasn’t been in the NBA since 2004-05 but there is no reason he can’t hit 38% of his threes if they want to keep him around for bench depth.

Miami Heat

7/27    Sign Smush Parker

Interesting move for both parties.  Parker has shown some skills as an NBA player, though he is far from a traditional point guard.  In that sense, Miami works.  Dwyane Wade will dominate the ball and Parker can match up against either backcourt player on defense.  The price is also pretty good (two years and $6 million).  Assuming Pat Riley can get Parker to defend consistently, this could be a good signing.

The move isn’t risk free.  Parker is in a strange place in that he is close to establishing himself as a bona fide NBA player but he is not really that good to be unreliable or feuding with coaches.  Parker managed to tick off both John Lucas in Cleveland and Phil Jackson last year in Los Angeles.  It’s not clear if the falling out with Jackson was a ploy to motivate Smush or an honest dislike.  A review of recent Laker recaps indicate that whatever the initial friction was, Jackson definitely was not happy by the end.  Check some of these recaps from the USA Today on Parker for April 2007:

-April 6, 2007:  Parker on Jackson: “”I gave up trying to read that man a long time ago.  [Jackson] just asked me if I got my energy back. And I was like, ‘Energy? I never lost it.'”

-April 15, 2007: Jackson on Parker: “I thought he had absolutely no energy out there in the third quarter, showed me nothing that he wanted to do.  He gave us an effort that wasn’t up to what we had to have.”

-April 24, 2007: Jackson on Parker:  “He should have some leadership ability [as a former starter].  I wasn’t happy with the passes he made and some of the decisions. And then the defensive end, obviously, was a problem.”

-April 27, 2007:  Recap of Parker’s game:  “Parker failed to score tonight and irked Suns’ coach Mike D’Antoni by trying to jam at the buzzer despite the game being decided. He also failed to realize the shot clock was running down on a late possession and then missed a 3-pointer badly on the Lakers’ next trip down the floor….It’s tough to tell whether D’Antoni or Phil Jackson is more angry with Parker right now.”

My sense is that some of the friction was more related to the fact the Lakers were going down in flames as an organization at the time.  Still, there is definitely some indication that Parker can be tough to deal with.  It reminds me very much of teams taking chances on Stephen Jackson in the early 2000s.  It’ll be interesting to see how this turns out but at such a low price there is little risk for Miami.

Milwaukee Bucks

7/23    Sign Desmond Mason

7/24    Re-sign Maurice Williams to a multi-year contract

Mo is only 24 and should be pretty solid for the duration of the contract (six year and $52 million).  The interesting question is whether the Bucks had to pay so much for Williams.  The market of bidders was really thin and Williams played up that he was considering going to Miami for a below market deal to play with Wade and Shaq.  Milwaukee evidently was nervous enough at the prospect to give Williams nearly $9 million per for six years but frankly I did not see Williams taking the Heat’s $5.5 million exception.  For a player like Williams, who was a second-round pick and never had a big contract,  leaving anywhere from $10-20 million on the table to play for Miami seemed unlikely.  In the end, the Bucks blinked because they had no other alternatives at the point.  It’s not a bad deal for the Bucks but they could’ve saved $10 million or so if they had the stomach for it.

Mason’s return was also a surprising turn of events.  He was a promising young player when Milwaukee got him from Seattle in the Gary Payton-Ray Allen deal.  Since going to the Hornets, however, he’s really regressed offensively to the point that you have to question if he’s worth $5.5 million per year for the next two years.  He’ll be a huge downgrade from Ruben Patterson in terms of talent, though he has none of Patterson’s other baggage.  Ultimately, the back up small forward might not kill the Bucks’ season but they’ve lost ground here.

New Jersey Nets

7/14    Waive Hassan Adams

7/17    Sign Jamaal Magloire

7/23    Sign coach Lawrence Frank to a multi-year extension

While the Nets have quasi-coveted Magloire for a while.  During that time, Magloire has gone from a very solid center to mediocre reserve.  Magloire’s ultimate contract deal reflect that decline (one year and $4 million).  It’s not clear what the hell happened to Magloire as his decline came at ages 26 through 28.  Even the lower ceiling Magloire can help the Nets, who totally lacked rebounding and defense from the front court last year.  Magloire is now pretty slow, think of a smaller Erick Dampier, but look for him to play plenty next year.  Some will note that he doesn’t fit into the Nets’ offense at all but keep in mind that he’ll be eating up Jason Collins’ minutes and no one could be less offensive than Collins.

In assessing this move, however, you can’t just consider Magloire versus Collins.  The real choice seemed to be between Magloire and Mikki Moore.  Moore is a much better offensive player and fast break player than Magloire but, as we’ll see below, Moore got someone to pay quite a bit more than the Nets could justify.  Under the circumstances, the Nets had to sign someone and Magloire was all that was really out there.  As a consequence, the Nets had to cut Adams, a decent young player, to get under the luxury tax threshold.  Ideally, the Nets would’ve been willing to pay the $700,000 to keep Adams too but this won’t cripple the team or anything.

New Orleans Hornets

7/23    Sign Morris Peterson

In the shuffle of small forwards, the Hornets upgraded in letting Desmond Mason go for Morris Peterson.  Mo Pete got four years and $23 million out of the Hornets, which is probably fair price for a Rick Fox-type solid pro.  The only thing I don’t like is that the Hornets now have committed a ton of cash to aging small forwards between Peterson and Stojakovic.  Chris Paul will eventually get a big raise and the Hornets might have the selves stuck in the situation where they can’t afford a shooting guard because of all the money invested at small forward.

Phoenix Suns

7/20    Trade Kurt Thomas along with 2008 and 2010 first-round draft picks to the Sonics in exchange for a future conditional 2nd round pick and a trade exception

7/24    Re-sign Sean Marks

The end result of a bit too many exuberant contracts, the Suns had to bribe the under-the-cap Sonics to take Thomas off their hands.  Thomas has about one year and $9 million left on his deal.  He is still a decent player but the Suns are over the cap and paying essentially $18 million for Thomas was enough to make Robert Sarver puke.  So, once again, the Suns have dumped draft picks for money.  If the move enables the Suns to keep the both Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion, then it had to be done.  The one thing that gnaws at you a little is how quick the Suns have been to dump draft picks.  Yes, the suns should be good in 2008 but who knows where they’ll be in 2010?  Also, the Suns used to build their franchise with  mid-to-late draft picks more than any other franchise: (Jeff Hornacek, Dan Majerle, Andrew Lang, Cedric Ceballos, Richard Dumas, Oliver Miller, Wesley Person, Michael Finley, Steve Nash, Shawn Marion).  Since 2004, however, the Suns have given away Luol Deng, Nate Robinson, Rajon Rondo, Sergio Rodriguez, Rudy Fernandez, and not two more picks.  This may work out okay for the Suns but reverse in philosophy is stark and is surely to but them in the ass at some point.

Portland Trailblazers

7/13    Sign Steve Blake

7/18    Re-sign Travis Outlaw to a three-year contract

As we noted above, Blake is not a great prospect, just a solid pro.  The Blazers, perhaps remember his career season with them in 2005-06, gave three years and $12 million.  The price is relatively fair but the real question is what Blake gives the team.  Both incumbents, Sergio Rodriguez and Jarret Jack are better and cheaper.  Take a look at their stats from last year side-by-side:

Rodriguez 12.9 3.7 0.423 0.282 1.4 3.3 1.1 14.1
Jack 33.4 12.0 0.454 0.350 2.6 5.3 2.4 14.6
Blake 33.5 8.3 0.432 0.343 2.5 6.6 2.1 11.0

To make the comparison fairer, we took Blake’s stats only with Denver (he spent half the season sitting on the bench in Milwaukee).  Even so, Jack is at least as good as Blake and Rodriguez also looks like he has some real promise.  In the end, the Blazer now have to sit one of the three guards or make a deal before the odd man out loses trade value.  The end result is that without a good trade, the Blazers will be wasting either money or talent (or both).

Sacramento Kings

7/13    Sign Mikki Moore

I always thought that Moore could play but this deal is a bit generous (three years and $18 million).  Moreover, the Kings are precisely the kind of team that doesn’t need Moore.  Moore showed himself to be mostly an offensive threat who could be pushed around under the boards, kind of like Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Spencer Hawes, and Brad Miller.  While I’m happy to see Moore get a payday after persevering for so long, he brings little new to the table for the Kings.  Given the Kings’ rebuilding mode, you’d think that an older player like Moore makes no sense.

San Antonio Spurs

7/18    Re-sign Fabricio Oberto

7/23    Waive James White

Yes, Oberto is about as slow and unathletic as a useful center can be but he was useful last year.  The deal here is for three years and $10.5 million, which is not huge cash for backup center.  On the minus side, Oberto is not young (he’ll be 32 in 2007-08) and you have to wonder how much slower he can get and still be helpful for an NBA team.

Seattle SuperSonics

7/20    Trade a future conditional 2nd round pick and a trade exception to Phoenix for Kurt Thomas and 2008 and 2010 first-round draft picks

With a cap room to burn the Sonics get two first-rounders for holding Thomas’ too hot contract.  It’s a very nice bit of opportunism and the return reflects Phoenix’s desperation in avoiding the luxury tax.  This is exactly the kind of low-risk gamble that could turn out to be legendary years later.  Stay tuned for the 2010 on this one, the Sonics are holding a nice little lottery ticket for that date (no pun intended).

Toronto Raptors

7/24    Sign Maceo Baston

Baston is another member of the old Maccabi Tel Aviv squad that won the Euroleague a few years ago and he’s reunited with former Maccabi teammate Anthony Parker in Toronto.  Baston will be 32 but he was the best player on that old Maccabi team and should be a nice addition to Toronto, which needs another power player for 10-20 minutes per night.

Utah Jazz

7/13    Sign Jason Hart

7/26    Sign Ronnie Price

Losing Derek Fisher means that the Jazz will pit to former Sacramento King backup point guards for the job.  Hart is the better player of the two at this point, though Price can definitely play.  Expect the Jazz to pick the guard who meshes better with Jerry Sloan, which for some reason I think will be Price.

Washington Wizards

7/16    Re-sign DeShawn Stevenson

Last summer, Stevenson turned down three years and $10 million and ended up getting stuck playing for $1 million for Washington.  The story ends happily for Stevenson who was pretty solid last year and he now has a four-year $15 million deal.  Stevenson started all 82 games last year for the Wiz and was a tough defender.  Stevenson still can’t score but he’s not a complete non-factor on offense.  He probably isn’t a viable starter for a good team but the contract is not terrible, even for a bench player.

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