Transactions: 7/2-7/13

Dallas Mavericks

7/12    Re-sign Devean George

7/13    Re-sign Jerry Stackhouse

The Stackhouse re-signing was an interest decision.  Stack is not young (33) and has had knee issues but he was a key player for the Mavs off the bench last year.  The extension is reported at three years and $18 million.  It’s hard to know where Stackhouse will be in three years.  Last year is difficult for predictive value because it was so uncharacteristic of his career.  Previously, Stack was a high volume shooter and logged a ton of minutes.  The trend now has totally reversed.  Stack played his few minutes (24 per game) but had his highest three-point shooting and also effective shooting percentages.  Stackhouse’s most similar comp at age-32 was Blue Edwards, who totally fell apart at age 33.  The number two comp to Stack was John Starks, who seems much more familiar.  Starks also had just turned into a sixth man and adjusted pretty well.  Starks declined slightly at ages 33 and 34 and was totally unable to contribute by age-35.  I expect Stack to follow a similar pattern.  So, year-three of Stack’s deal is a bit rich but its the price the Mavs are willing to pay for continuity on a team that looked pretty good most of the year and that seems pretty rationale to me.

George’s deal is one year and $2.5 million.  He had a player option for roughly $2.1 million but the Mavs were willing to give him a $400,000 raise to stick around.  George doesn’t do anything particularly well on a basketball court at this point but he is still a solid live body.  I’d think that a fringe minimum guy might be a gamble with more upside at a cheaper price.  It does seem like young hustler like Trenton Hassell grow on trees but clearly Avery Johnson feels comfortable keeping the vets.  For the cost of an extra million I suppose this isn’t a bad deal.

Detroit Pistons

7/11    Re-sign Chuancey Billups

Should the Pistons have played more hardball with Billups? For the Pistons there really wasn’t much choice.  They had to keep Billups because he was the team’s best player, the player with the most star power, the fan favorite, and the karmic connection to the 2003-04 title.  It is hard to have the stomach to make such a player create a bidding war in the market, even where you know the market is pretty limited (Milwaukee or Memphis?).  The only question was how much Detroit was willing to pay to keep him.  Five years and $60 million is a pretty nice compromise.  Billups is still very good and should retain this level for the next three years.  Years four and five of the deal (ages 34 and 35) will be overpaid but I can understand the move.

Houston Rockets

7/12    Acquire Jackie Butler and the rights to Luis Scola from San Antonio in exchange for Vassilis Spanoulis, a 2009 second-round pick and future considerations

Very nice snag for the Rockets.  The Spurs wanted to clear salary to get under the cap and the Rockets need depth.  Voila, the Rockets have some theoretical depth.  Butler showed some promise as a young player for the Knicks but could get no burn at all with the Rockets.  I think Rick Adelman is the type to find some use for a potential scorer like Butler.

Scola is an even more intriguing prospect.  He has been touted as the best power forward in Europe for several years and John Hollinger’s system projects him to be a useful pro, (17 ppg and 10 rpg per 40 minutes).  The Rockets are also claiming that Scola will be in the NBA next year.  This could give the Rockets a front court of Yao Ming, Chuck Hayes, Dikembe Mutombo, Justin Reed, Butler, and Scola, which is quite respectable.

Indiana Pacers

7/3    Sign Kareem Rush, Stephen Graham, and Andrew Owens

After being ostracized by the Bobcats, Rush spent 2006-07 playing in the Baltic League for Lietuvis in Lithuania.  Rush is pretty much only a shooter but that is a talent that can be very useful (see Kapono, Jason).  The Pacers are really good fit for Rush because Jim O’Brien believes strongly in letting three pointers fly and Rush is really the only Pacer guard who can do that.  Rush’s hope is to fill the same role that Tony Delk did for O’Brien in Boston.

Los Angeles Lakers

7/12    Re-sign Luke Walton

Walton is one of the more unique players in the NBA.  He is a small forward who really doesn’t create shots and is not a great defender but he is such a high percentage shooter and passer that he can fill gaps that few small forwards can.  Even if you accept all this, six years and $30 million is a big deal.  The money is not terrible but to assume that a role player can retain his value for so long is a scary proposition.  Obviously, the Lakers think he’ll develop into a well-rounded player but he isn’t a great rebounder, scorer, blocker, or stealer at age-26 so why should he be at age 30?  On the bright side, Walton’s deal is not so huge that is immovable and it’ll be acceptable the next two or three years.

Miami Heat

7/5    Sign Joel Anthony, Jeremy Richardson and Marcus Slaughter

Anthony is a very unique player.  Check his numbers at UNLV last year:

18.1 5.2 2.2 3.6 0.597 0.9 1.4 0.604 4.1 0.4 2.9 0.5

Anthony is only 6’9 but has a real Bo Outlaw vibe.  He is decidedly non-NBA caliber outside of his shot blocking (6 per 36 minutes!) and his boarding, which is okay.  Something tells me that Anthony just might be a Pat Riley type of guy at some point.

New Jersey Nets

7/13    Re-sign Vince Carter

Once again, overpaying for your own star is the name of the game.  The Nets seemed to play more hardball than most when it comes to negotiating with their stars.  But the Nets could absolutely not lose Carter for nothing and they didn’t have the stomach to leave Carter in limbo and try to workout some sort of sign and trade.  Instead, they’ll settle for a decent deal relative to other scorers like Paul Pierce, Tracy McGrady, and Rashard Lewis (more on that in a minute).  At the end of the day, Carter will be back the Nets will approach 50 wins and be a quasi-force.  It’s not exactly dynastic material but it’ll work for the next year or two.

Orlando Magic

7/11    Acquire Rashard Lewis from Seattle for future second-round pick

7/12    Sign Dwight Howard to a multi-year extension

In relation to the Lewis deal, it’s really hard to say any other team overpaid for anyone.  Lewis will improve the Magic but the so overbid for his services that it seemed that their goal was to sweep him off his feet in a romantic gesture.  But like many whirlwind marriages that revolve around large engagement gifts, this one ain’t gonna be great either.  Lewis is a very good scorer but a poor rebounder.  To throw six years and $113 million seems a little excessive when comparable players were getting $50 or $60 million (see Carter and Billups).  If you accept that Lewis deserves a little more because he is younger (28 in 2007-08), an extra $50 million still doesn’t pass the straight face test.  In the short term, the Magic are a solid team but the team as currently constituted (Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, Lewis, Dwight Howard, and Tony Battie) is still not a contender to come out of the East unless Howard explodes another level.

The interesting side story is that there have been whispers for years that Orlando is not a profitable NBA team.  I don’t know how true this is but they almost always come up with big money for the hot free agents from their attempts sign.  Either the Magic make more than they say or they are making some last ditch effort with Howard and Lewis.

Phoenix Suns

7/11    Sign Grant Hill and re-sign Sean Marks; trade James Jones and draft rights to Rudy Fernandez to Portland for cash.

Hill will replace James Jones in the rotation, which should make for an interesting contrast from non-descript shooter to Hill, a guy who doesn’t shoot well but dominates the ball and attacks the basket (still).  He’s not near the player he used to be but Hill will be an upgrade for Phoenix and I am fascinated to see how he’ll blend with Steve Nash.

Hill fits in the long tradition of former stars who try to grab a ring in the twilight years.  The old Red Auerbach Celtics were the inventors of this technique, with Clyde Lovellete, Andy Phillip, Wayne Embry, and, most prominently, Bailey Howell.  All these guys got a ring with Bill Russell and Company.  Here are some of my favorite former All-Star who ended up as back ups with title contenders:

-Jerry Lucas, New York Knicks, 1971-74

-Bob McAdoo, Los Angeles Lakers, 1981-85

-Bill Walton, Boston Celtics, 1985-86

-Tiny Archibald, Boston Celtics, 1978-1983

-Gary Payton, Miami Heat 2005-2007

Walton’s Sixth Man Award for the Celts probably makes him the most famous of the group.  Another interesting member of the group could’ve been Alonzo Mourning, who was been a nice backup for the Heat but didn’t make the list only because he didn’t really change teams (he played with the Heat most of his career before this nice run on the Dwyane-Shaq team).

Portland Trailblazers

7/11    Acquire James Jones and draft rights to Rudy Fernandez from Phoenix for cash.

7/11    Reach a buy out agreement with Steve Francis

From a Knicks perspective, you have to wonder about Zach Randolph’s worth if the Blazers are willing to pay $30 million in buy out liability to Francis.  It is clear that Portland had no interest in Randolph or Francis, who can still play a little bit.  Jones will be with the club next year but he is likely to be limited to designated shooter.

San Antonio Spurs

7/12    Re-sign Matt Bonner and Jacque Vaughn

7/12    Acquire Vassilis Spanoulis, a 2009 second-round pick and future considerations from Houston for Jackie Butler and the rights to Luis Scola

The Spurs were able to get Bonner and Vaughn back at relatively cheap terms (three years and $9 million for Bonner and two years and two years and $2.5 million for Vaughn).  Both players are quite useful and Bonner’s role will only expand these next three years.  The trade was a little more surprising because Scola is probably to good a player to just give away (Spanoulis is almost surely going back to Europe).  You figure the Spurs know something to make this deal make sense but as smart as they are as an organization, this is the same group that gave away Leandra Barbosa to the Spurs.  The Spurs are valuing salary cap room over potential (Butler and Scola).  It’s not a bad decision in theory but if either Butler or Scola end up being pretty good, it’ll be a source of some regret.

Seattle SuperSonics

7/11    Acquire a future second-round pick from Orlando for Rashard Lewis

There was no way that Seattle was paying Lewis anything other than a below market contract so the fact that they got anything for him is a good thing.  You have to figure that the Sonics front office was chuckling a little about how willing Orlando was to pay twice what Seattle had on the table.

Toronto Raptors

7/10    Sign Jamario Moon

7/11    Sign Jason Kapono

The Raptors could’ve used another shooter but they to replace Morris Peterson but four year and $24 million for Kapono is way too much.  The Raptors already have Anthony Parker, Juan Dixon, Andrea Bargnani, and even Jorge Garbajosa to shoot from long range.  Why commit more than the mid-level for another shooter?  The Raptors probably would’ve been better nabbing another forward to bolster rebounding, particular offensively where they were last in the NBA.

Washington Wizards

7/5    Sign Oleksiy Pecherov

Pecherov was drafted in 2006 and was a long-term project.  He’s 7’0 and 210 pounds and played for the Ukraine last year.  I expect he’ll be back in forth with the reserve list or the NBDL next year.

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