Commentary

Summer Transactions: Let's review

Originally Published: September 9, 2008
By John Hollinger | ESPN.com

Josh SmithScott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty ImagesJosh Smith and Andre Iguodala re-upped with the Hawks and Sixers, respectively, over the offseason.

Well, it's been a much more interesting summer than we initially expected. Between surprise free-agent defections, a couple of blockbuster trades and some fairly insane midlevel contracts, the NBA landscape is looking much different than it did in June.

Now that all the action is done (well, unless you're Ben Gordon), it's time to come through with the broom and sweep up. I'm going to look at all the transactions since June that we haven't already discussed and note what I think each means for the player and his team.

Just to review, I've already covered a lot of the major moves this summer and won't repeat myself here. Those include:

  • The three-team Mo Williams trade to Cleveland.

  • The Ron Artest trade to Houston.

  • James Posey's move to New Orleans.

  • The Marcus Camby trade to the Clippers.

  • Elton Brand's move to the Sixers.

  • The frenzied first days of free agency.

  • The Richard Jefferson trade to Milwaukee.

  • The T.J. Ford-Jermaine O'Neal trade.

  • The Kevin Love-O.J. Mayo swap.

    Now let's go back and wrap up the rest. Here's how it all breaks down:

    Big money deals

    Restricted free agents Andre Iguodala, Luol Deng, Emeka Okafor and Josh Smith got roughly similar deals, with Smith's being a year shorter after he signed an offer sheet with Memphis. That's a bit odd, since Smith is the best player of the bunch, but he also was in the worst negotiating position because his qualifying offer was so much lower than the other players'. For the other three, it was fair value for not-quite-All-Star talent; for Smith, it could end up being a steal.

    The best deal of the bunch, however, might have been Jose Calderon's five-year, $40 million deal to stay in Toronto. Given how well he played a year ago and how much lesser players have commanded on the open market, that's a screaming bargain for an All-Star-caliber point guard.


    Big money deals, Bay Area division

    Corey Maggette's five-year, $48 million deal with Golden State has been criticized, but actually, that's great value for such a proficient scorer, and even the back end isn't really ugly. I think he could have a big year in the Bay and average in the mid-20s this season.

    Monta Ellis signed a six-year, $66 million deal with the Warriors, which looked great until he wrecked his ankle last month, apparently while bodysurfing, skydiving, zorbing or engaged in another contractually prohibited activity. If he comes back healthy, though, it's still money well spent.

    Andris Biedrins' incentive-laden six-year deal might be the best value of all, at least if Don Nelson deigns to play him more than 27 minutes a game. The Latvian lefty is an up-and-coming star in the middle, and keeping him for less than $10 million a year is a huge bargain.

    Midlevel mayhem

    Surprisingly, several deals were signed for the midlevel exception or close to it, despite the fact that this has been the kiss of death in recent seasons. Let's see whether these guys fare any better:


    Duhon

    Chris Duhon signed only a two-year deal, so at least the Knicks have that going for them. He's a pass-first guy, which hasn't been seen around these parts in eons, but he's coming off an off year and his rep for partying makes the Big Apple seem an unlikely place for him to turn it around.

    Mickael Pietrus inked a four-year, $23 million deal to become Orlando's defensive stopper. Last season, he fouled so often it's inconceivable he could stay on the court long enough to have much of an effect, but the Magic won't be playing him at power forward in crazy smallball lineups. Nonetheless, this seems like the classic "midlevel curse" contract -- Pietrus never was much good at Golden State and was signed as much for potential as for production.

    Louis Williams, on the other hand, looks like a bargain at five years for $26 million. He is in his third year out of high school and has improved every year, and when you put him side by side with Ellis, there doesn't seem to be $40 million worth of difference.

    J.R. Smith looks like another decent value at three years for $15 million. While his attitude scared off half the league, most folks don't quite get what an amazing scorer this guy can be. Over the second half of last season, he scored both more frequently and more efficiently than Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson.


    Vujacic

    Sasha Vujacic could be more of a risk, with his three-year, $15 million deal. He's coming off a career year after three horrific seasons to start his career, so we shouldn't be completely sold that this is his true ability. On the other hand, he was so good last season that even if he drops off some, the Lakers will get fair value on the contract.

    James Jones went for five years and $23 million to Miami, which would be a horrible contract if not for the fact that only the first two years are guaranteed. Jones shot the lights out for Portland last season but was playing way over his head and is unlikely to repeat those numbers any time soon. He's a nice floor-spacer off the bench but overpaid at this price.

    Two second-round picks of recent vintage also re-upped as restricted free agents. Daniel Gibson's five-year, $21 million deal with Cleveland seems a bit optimistic for a player who was so utterly one-dimensional last season. Ryan Gomes' five-year, $21.3 million contract with the Timberwolves seems closer to fair value based on his strong campaign in 2007-08, although the back end could get ugly since it pays him until he's 30.

    I don't get it


    Brown

    Kwame Brown's two-year, $8 million deal might be Joe Dumars's second-most questionable move as Pistons GM (we all know what's No. 1). Brown has been a failure at every stop since being drafted first overall; in fact, many of his numbers have gotten worse since he was a teenager. Why pay so much for a player who has produced so little, especially when there is no track record of improvement?

    Will Solomon and Lorenzen Wright signed with the Raptors and the Cavs, respectively, for the minimum. They both are overpaid. Solomon washed out of the league five years ago, and his numbers from Europe have been unimpressive since; Wright was such a horrific bust with the Hawks that he didn't play even though they were desperate for frontcourt help. There's little evidence that either player belongs in the league.

    Milwaukee inked Francisco Elson to a two-year, $3 million deal, even though he's 32, had a horrific 2007-08 and never was terribly productive prior to that -- but entering a season with Dan Gadzuric as your backup center will make you do crazy things.

    Tyronn Lue signed a one-year, $2.2 million deal with Milwaukee. In a vacuum, that's fine, but he's their third point guard, and you never should have to pay more than the minimum to fill that spot on the roster.

    Milwaukee also signed limited veteran retread Malik Allen to a two-year deal for $2.6 million, which is scary because Scott Skiles might actually play him, just like he did in Chicago.


    Johnson

    Orlando inked Anthony Johnson to a two-year, $3.97 million deal to be its backup point guard, but his game slipped in the latter part of last season. In all likelihood, he'll be a major dropoff from the Keyon Dooling-Carlos Arroyo pairing that held the job a year ago.

    The Nets signed 32-year-old Eduardo Najera to a four-year, $12 million deal, ignoring a mountain of evidence that short power forwards decline rapidly in their 30s.

    I'm still waiting to find out who in the Mavs' organization Devean George has pictures of. He signed a third contract with Dallas, even after providing abundantly mediocre production in the first two, and it wasn't just a token minimum-wage gig either -- he got a two-year deal worth $3.2 million. Or maybe it was a belated reward for his efforts to try to save Dallas from making the Jason Kidd trade.

    While the Mavs were busy locking up unproductive swingmen, they re-upped Antoine Wright for two years and $3.6 million, too. This announcement was a bit of a surprise to me, given that it came right after I talked to an exec who was on the fence about whether to offer Wright a deal for the minimum.

    Jarvis Hayes is a middling shooter who was torched on defense last season, but the Nets gave him a two-year, $4 million deal anyway.

    Yakhouba Diawara might be the single worst offensive guard to enter the league in the past decade, but that didn't stop Miami from giving him a two-year deal worth $1.8 million in hopes that he'll become a defensive stopper.

    Bargain pickups


    Barnes

    Phoenix grabbed Matt Barnes on a one-year deal for the veterans' minimum. He had a rough time at Golden State last season, but this is outstanding value for a tough combo forward who can handle the ball and space the floor.

    Detroit's retention of Walter Herrmann (one-year, $2 million deal) also stands out. Herrmann was forgotten last year after a strong rookie year in Charlotte, but he's a very good offensive forward who should be an upgrade on Hayes.

    The Hornets' pickup of Devin Brown -- two-year deal at the league's minimum -- is of superior value. Brown is a solid wing reserve who isn't terribly weak or strong in any one area, but he's worth a lot more than the minimum.

    Golden State's nabbing of Ronny Turiaf for four years and $17 million was a coup, especially since he was a restricted free agent -- usually teams match those deals, but the luxury-taxed Lakers backed off. Turiaf is both highly active and an underrated shooter and gives the Warriors a strong backup center for the first time in eons.

    Many wondered why Utah matched Oklahoma City's four-year, $15 million offer to C.J. Miles, given its impending luxury tax situation a year from now, but this was too good a value to pass up. Miles is only 21 and played quite well in his limited minutes last season.

    Atlanta screwed up horribly by letting Josh Childress leave for Greece, but inking Maurice Evans for three years and $7.5 million was a nice recovery. He can defend wings and shoot 3s, and those were two areas in which Atlanta was shorthanded.


    Allen

    Tony Allen's two-year, $5 million deal with Boston looks like a good value, especially given his ferocity on defense -- but only if he can make any kind of strides in his recovery from a 2007 knee injury.

    Eddie House earned his two-year, $5.6 million deal with strong shooting in the Finals, showing he's one of the league's better backup point guards, despite his inability to dribble against pressure.

    The Clippers were smart to try to steal Kelenna Azubuike with a three-year, $9 million deal, and the Warriors were equally wise to match it. Azubuike already is a quality backup and still is improving, and given his youth and health, the deal carries virtually no risk.

    Royal Ivey signed a two-year deal for the minimum in Philly; although he's very limited offensively, this was a nice move because he's a big guard who can defend 2s but play the point on offense -- which means they can pair him with Louis Williams off the bench.

    New Jersey has longed for Dooling for years and finally grabbed him with a three-year, $6.8 million deal. He doesn't really have a position, but he's a very active defender who shot well last year and should be a solid combo guard off the pine.

    Denver lifted Renaldo Balkman from New York in a salary dump, and his energizer skills should translate extremely well in the Nuggets' fast-paced, mile-high madness.

    Marc Gasol isn't as good as his brother Pau, but on a three-year deal for $10 million he's fantastic value. His European numbers show he'll be a solid third big man, and he did nothing in the Olympics to shake that perception.

    Draft do-overs


    Ewing Jr.

    Sometimes teams look at things a little differently after they've had a few weeks to digest the draft. Second-rounders Sean Singletary, Kyle Weaver and Patrick Ewing Jr. were traded before they ever suited up, while undrafted rookies Anthony Tolliver from Creighton (Tolliver came out in '07 and played two games for the Cavs last season) and Anthony Morrow of Georgia Tech earned contracts with the Spurs and the Warriors, respectively, after strong summer leagues. Weaver, a defensive specialist for Oklahoma City, and Morrow, a sharpshooter for Golden State, have the best chances of playing meaningful minutes this season.

    Another rookie, 7-2 Iranian Hamed Haddadi, comes over after a strong Olympic tournament on a three-year, $3 million deal with Memphis. I expect he'll need some development time, but he might be in the rotation by the second half of the season.

    Three other foreigners also join the fray after being second-round picks. Sun Yue, a Chinese swingman tabbed by the Lakers in 2007, signed a two-year deal to play for their D-League team ... at least that's what he'll be doing most of this year.

    Toronto inked Croatian guard Roko Ukic to back up Calderon; his European stats suggest he's a marginal backup at best and might not be up to the challenge.

    Finally, Phoenix went completely overboard with its second-round pick, Goran Dragic, paying him a big chunk of its midlevel exception just to have him come over and back up Steve Nash for 10 minutes a night -- something his translated European stats say he won't be able to do very well.

    Then there's Bobby Brown. He's American, but it was his one-year stint in Germany that caught Sacramento's attention and earned him a two-year deal to back up Beno Udrih. Well, he's a better value than the money spent on Udrih, that's for sure.

    But the most interesting draft do-overs are when other teams take on players after a first team has given up on them.


    O'Bryant

    Take Patrick O'Bryant, for instance. He hardly saw the light of day in two years with Golden State, but Boston thought enough of his potential to give him a two-year, $1.65 million deal. I thought this was an extremely clever move with almost no risk and a fairly high upside, as I suspect O'Bryant might be quite a bit better than he showed with the Warriors.

    Three teams have given up on Gerald Green, but that didn't stop Dallas from inking him to a one-year deal for the minimum. The kid definitely has talent, but if being cut by Houston this past spring doesn't motivate him to get his act together, nothing will. It's a good, low-risk move by Dallas.

    Charlotte did the same thing with Cleveland and Chicago castoff Shannon Brown, but I'm not nearly as enamored of his odds -- his numbers were terrible in Cleveland, and because he played substantial minutes in both the NBA and the D-League, the verdict on him seems pretty clear.

    Randolph Morris wasn't drafted, but Atlanta snapped him up on a two-year deal for the minimum after the Knicks wasted a year and a half of his life by sticking him at the end of the bench. Morris' numbers from Kentucky indicate he could be a decent backup center, which is exactly what the Hawks need.

    Two other little-used second-rounders from recent drafts also changed teams. D.J. Strawberry went from Phoenix to Houston after sitting at the end of the Suns' bench last year, while Steve Novak moved to the Clippers after the Rockets couldn't find room for him.

    Novak is an elite shooter who might get more daylight in the Clips' forward rotation, but good luck to them finding a carbon-based life form he can guard. Strawberry has the opposite problem: His D might earn him a few scraps of playing time in a crowded wing situation with the Rockets, but only if he makes shots.

    Finally, Marcus Williams had a terrible two-year stint in New Jersey, so it's puzzling that Golden State gave up anything of value, even an uber-protected first-rounder, to acquire him. But maybe the Warriors had a premonition that Ellis would hurt his ankle. I really have no idea what to expect here -- Williams is talented enough that he could get his act together, step in for Ellis and have a big year, or he could show up fat, keep playing selfishly, get lit on D and lose his job to C.J. Watson by Christmas.

    Fillin' out the bench

    Some deals I love. Some deals I hate. And with some deals, I just kind of shrug my shoulders and move on. Here are a few of them:


    Mason

    Fellow Wahoo Roger Mason signed a two-year, $7 million deal with San Antonio to be a sharpshooter off the bench. He will defend and be an upgrade over Jacque Vaughn as the backup point guard, but he's shot sharply in only one of his pro seasons thus far.

    Ricky Davis went to the Clippers on a two-year, $5 million deal after an off year in Miami. If he has any bounce-back at all, this will seem like a steal, and he's young enough it could be in the cards.

    Michael Finley re-upped with San Antonio for two years and $5 million. He's fading, but he still can hit those Js and knows where to be on defense.

    Craig Smith's two-year, $4.8 million deal with Minnesota was a low-risk move and will have good value if he keeps his weight down because the dude can really play around the basket. But I'd feel better if he showed up to camp 15 pounds lighter.

    Dorell Wright signed a two-year, $5.5 million deal with Miami, in the valiant hope that maybe this will be the year a team stops jerking him around and lets him play.

    Brent Barry signed a two-year deal with the Rockets for $3.97 million, which will be a fantastic value if he's over the calf problems that submarined the second half of his 2007-08 season.

    Sebastian Telfair isn't any kind of star, but he is getting better at running an offense. His three-year, $7.3 million deal to be the backup point guard in Minnesota seems in line with the market.

    I'm a J.J. Barea believer, so the offense-minded guard's three-year, $5 million deal with Dallas was encouraging. But if you want more minutes, dude, you gotta get some stops.

    Kurt Thomas' two-year, $8 million deal seems pricey for his production and age, but if the Spurs didn't pay him that somebody else would have -- he defends well and his jump-shooting game should age gracefully.

    Bottom fishing

    Now we get to the real no-names and journeymen. For starters, we had a very interesting trade. I'm not sure two teams have swapped third-string point guards before, but just for kicks, the Jazz and the Clippers had Jason Hart and Brevin Knight exchange uniforms. Knight is the better player but will be available for only half as many games.

    Here are some short-attention-span thoughts on the other minimum deals consummated this summer:

    It's rare to see a starter get the minimum, but that's what Anthony Carter re-upped for in Denver; the well-traveled vet seemed way in over his head a year ago, but the Nuggets hope his shooting revival can last another year. ... Jason Williams went to the Clippers for the vet's minimum to back up Baron Davis and will provide good value if he can play more than 60 games. ... Donyell Marshall signed with Philly after the Sonics, er, Thunder cut him loose, and his 3-point shooting could be a big boost off the pine as a zone buster. ... Boston took a flier on Darius Miles, some suspect just to sabotage the Blazers' promising cap situation. ... Josh Powell joins the Lakers as a decent fifth big man. ... Dee Brown looked overmatched in Utah two years ago and might struggle in his new gig in Washington. ... Tarence Kinsey played well for Memphis two years ago and could help Cleveland with his athleticism on the wing. ... Ditto for Hassan Adams in Toronto; the Raptors really can use a guy like this. ... Louis Amundson can rebound but does little else. However, Phoenix might not mind. ... Anthony Roberson is an undersized gunner for the Knicks who might enjoy the freedom of Mike D'Antoni's system. ... Brian Skinner is a nice pickup for the Clips as an extra big. ... Paul Davis, on the other hand, is coming off a knee injury and faces a long road to establish a career. ... Kareem Rush isn't really any good, but he can shoot and might see minutes on a Sixers team that needs floor spacers. ... Theo Ratliff showed he might have something left in his stint with Detroit; he'll back up Samuel Dalembert in Philly. ... Chris Andersen will try to stay clean and bring his Birdman routine back to Denver. ... Dahntay Jones will help Denver with his defense if he stops trying to be a scorer. ... Orlando's Adonal Foyle is a great guy and a decent third center. ... Ronald Murray shoots every time but might win the Hawks' backup point guard job anyway. ... Ryan Bowen and Sean Marks are valued locker-room guys, just in case the already harmonious Hornets needed any. Um, you guys weren't planning on using them in a game, right? ... Charlotte's Ryan Hollins is an athlete in search of a game, but he's getting better. ... Just so we could be humored one last time by a "local team signs All-Star center" news release, the Heat inked what's left of Jamaal Magloire to a one-year deal.

    John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. To e-mail him, click here.