Miss something in NBA free agency? We analyze every under–the–radar deal, including new contracts for Matthew Dellavedova and Solomon Hill.
Head still spinning from after the crazy start to 2016 NBA free agency? Ours too. With so many new contracts being handed out, it's easy to miss some of the player movement this off–season. Here's a roundup of grades for under–the–radar moves in free agency so far.
Kent Bazemore: 4 years, $70 million with the Hawks
Over the past six months, Bazemore has acted as a bellwether for the NBA’s free agent explosion. A capable, athletic, 27-year-old role player without the slightest glimmer of stardom makes for an interesting benchmark; team officials and media types speculated for months what Bazemore might be earn in this market in part so they could better understand new, league-wide pay scales. The definitive answer to that season-long parlor game: $70 million over four years, after Bazemore turned down other suitors to return to the Hawks.
At that rate, Bazemore’s deal might have actually come in more reasonable than expected. It’s hard to find a wing who can contribute on both sides of the ball without doubling as some kind of liability. Bazemore has worked hard to bridge those gaps to his game. The anxious energy that made him a problem for a half-court offense has been quieted. His jumper, a sticking point from the start of his NBA career, is now effective enough to keep an opposing defense honest. From all his length and energy came a dependable sort of balance. It behooves Atlanta to bring back that sort of player, if only to have one less concern in figuring out how the next iteration of this team (with Dwight Howard stepping in for Al Horford) might operate. – Rob Mahoney
Ian Mahinmi: 4 years, $64 million with the Wizards
Few players in the league last season did as much to improve their free agent stock as Mahinmi. Everything in his career up to that point indicated he was a solid reserve center: good for energy and defense, but too limited and too foul-prone to be relied on for heavy minutes. A starting position for the Pacers gave Mahinmi the opportunity he needed to disprove that premise; not only did he play more minutes than ever before, but he made impressive passes on the move, finished in ways he hadn’t before and anchored a top-three defense over the course of a full season.
This is why he’ll be paid $64 million over four years to man the middle for the Wizards, no matter the awkward fit. Mahinmi and incumbent Wizards center Marcin Gortat can’t really play alongside each other. Yet with the free agent options dwindling after Washington struck out with Al Horford and Ryan Anderson, Mahinmi became a priority based on available room and overall value. Add quality talent at affordable rates now, sort out the rest when the trade market allows. – Rob Mahoney
Tarik Black: 2 years, $13 million with the Lakers
Black emerged as a useful enough role player the last couple years, and the Lakers retain him short-term and maintain some roster continuity. This won’t move the needle either direction for L.A., but the 24-year-old has been productive in spot minutes and brings energy and rebounding off the bench. They’re paying him the most he can earn under the Early Bird provision, so this is a sign of commitment from the front office. He’ll back up Timofey Mozgov next season. — Jeremy Woo
Matt Barnes: 2 years, $12 million with the Kings
While Barnes can be notoriously hot-headed, bringing him in to watch Boogie Cousins’s back and reunite with Dave Joerger could be a great pairing. He provides some necessary competitive edge off the bench, one that Sacramento has managed to fill out effectively through free agency after taking long-term swings through the draft. It’s a very reasonable deal for a consistent, if not spectacular veteran who ups the toughness quotient. If Rudy Gay is indeed on his way out, Barnes should passably fill out some of those minutes, although he is now 36 years old. Sometimes, insanity loves company. — Jeremy Woo
Tomas Satoransky: 3 years, $9 million with the Wizards
The Wizards didn’t own a pick in this year’s draft, and didn’t bother trading in, either. Part of that likely had to do with the knowledge they could bring over Satoransky, the 32nd overall pick in 2012, from Barcelona. The 24-year-old Czech swingman shot 38.9% from three across competitions last season, averaging 9.6 points and 4.2 assists per game and should be an immediate rotation piece on a more-than-affordable contract. He’s a good athlete and two-way combo guard at 6’7”. For the money, that’s well worth taking a shot here. — Jeremy Woo
Garrett Temple: 3 years, $24 million with the Kings
Here’s another shrewd move from the Kings, who have sensibly filled out their roster with veterans that should, in theory, help hit reset on weird locker room stuff and understand the value of keeping DeMarcus Cousins happy. Temple’s a streaky shooter, but brings perimeter defense and energy. Sacramento might be paying him slightly more than his production would suggest and gave him a player option for year three, but they addressed a definite need and reportedly beat out some teams much closer to the playoffs for his services. All in all, this is fine. — Jeremy Woo
Cole Aldrich: 3 years, $23 million with the Timberwolves
A Minnesota native, Aldrich comes home on a fine contract and will help fill out the Wolves’ rotation while adding some experience to a youthful roster. He was highly productive on a per-minute basis behind DeAndre Jordan last season, and whether or not his role expands, if he keeps that up he’ll be worth the money. He doesn’t directly address a positional need, but it’s a solid enough bargain. At 27 years old, Aldrich should still be relevant by the time the Wolves are a playoff team, which might be sooner than later. — Jeremy Woo
Tyler Johnson: 4 years, $50 million with the Nets
Brooklyn inked Heat guard Johnson to a poison-pill offer sheet that pays him reasonably for two years, then spikes to the $18–19 million range for two more (the last of which reportedly has a player option). It would appear to be a lot for a somewhat-unproven player who missed a large chunk of last season with a shoulder injury, but this is also the type of deal that could be advantageous for the Nets in the long term.
Once an undrafted rookie, Johnson has a well-rounded skill set and legitimate upside as a combo guard. Brooklyn’s so strapped for draft picks right now that taking big swings on young guys like this is somewhat sensible as a rebuild strategy. It’s difficult to see Johnson ever producing like a player worth $18 million a year, but if he winds up somewhere in the middle, it’s not the worst roll of the dice given the Nets’ situation. The unique contract structure is boom or bust, but that’s the reality of what it took to sign Johnson away. Miami will likely have to pass on keeping him. – Rob Mahoney
Andrew Nicholson: 4 years, $26 million with the Wizards
The 26-year-old Nicholson is a decent bench player at a fair price who should slot in behind Markieff Morris and bolster the frontcourt. It’s a reasonable deal for a player with some untapped upside who should be a solid fit for what the Wizards want to do. Washington’s chances of returning to the playoffs still lie with their backcourt, but they’ve done well to get them some help. — Jeremy Woo
James Ennis: 2 years, $6 million with the Grizzlies
The Grizzlies have had an outstanding off-season and round out their bench with a nice upside play in Ennis, who had a brief stint with the team last season. He ended the year on a very good nine-game stretch with the Pelicans, and for a team that’s always seemed to lack for wing shooting, you could do a whole lot worse. It’s a good price for a player who could certainly outperform his deal, and his familiarity with David Fizdale from their Miami days can’t hurt either. — Jeremy Woo
Wesley Johnson: 3 years, $18 million with the Clippers
The Clippers retain a passable rotation piece in Johnson, who can do a bit of everything and will sign a reasonable-looking contract. With Jeff Green departing, Johnson may be asked to do a bit more off the bench, and he’s a reliable enough two-way option. But as better role players continue to fly off the board and L.A. prioritizes keeping a so-so bench group together, the team’s pursuit of Durant looks more and more like a regrettable pipe dream. — Jeremy Woo
Austin Rivers: 3 years, $35 million with the Clippers
For better or worse, Doc Rivers has aimed to keep his bench in place as the Clippers retreat from the KD sweepstakes. The nepotism jokes are a little tired, but this is a bit of a generous offer, even if Austin is still just 23. He’s making just slightly less to come off the Clippers’ bench than Jeremy Lin will get to start in Brooklyn, and gets a player option on top of it. He did post a career high 8.9 points per game last year, improved defensively and showed some toughness in the playoffs, but he’s also a one-dimensional offensive player who struggles from the foul line. Rivers has to make a huge leap to justify this deal. It looks all the worse given reports that L.A. made a poor contract offer to Jamal Crawford. — Jeremy Woo
Anthony Tolliver: 2 years, $16 million with the Kings
The Kings have been chasing a stretch forward to add to their crowded frontcourt, and after whiffing on Ryan Anderson, they walk away with a watered-down facsimile, from a skill standpoint. Tolliver is not the answer to their shooting woes, but the deal is reasonable and is structured similarly to Arron Afflalo’s contract, with just $2 million guaranteed for the second season. As a 35% career three-point shooter, at the very least, he’s a more sensible fit next to Sacramento’s glut of bigs than Quincy Acy ever was. — Jeremy Woo
Trevor Booker: 2 years, $18 million with the Nets
This is another thrifty move from Brooklyn’s new front office, bringing in a reliable vet at a position of major need. The 28-year old Booker was a helpful reserve in Utah, but marginalized by Trey Lyles’s emergence. His leadership and interior toughness should benefit the Nets and fit in with their rebuilt rotation, and there’s no long-term commitment. It’s a fine move, but isn’t pulling the Nets out of the basement. — Jeremy Woo
Arron Afflalo: 2 years, $25 million with the Kings
A starting-caliber two guard on a team-friendly deal? The Kings? Too sensible to be true. Afflalo’s contract reportedly guarantees just $1.5 million for the second year, which gives the Kings added flexibility and looks somewhat puzzling from the player’s perspective. The Kings were in pursuit of shooting and gain some actual stability on the perimeter with this move. With the team also adding Garrett Temple and drafting Malachi Richardson, this could signal the end for Ben McLemore in Sacramento. — Jeremy Woo
Marvin Williams: 4 years, $54.5M with the Hornets
Two forwards critical to the Hornets' success last season hit the open market this week as coveted, unrestricted free agents. Both turned down more lucrative offers to return. The latest is Marvin Williams, who after playing the best basketball of his career in Charlotte last season has agreed to a four-year, $55 million contract to continue his work there. It's because Williams took to playing power forward as well as he did that the Hornets evolved; perimeter shooting (40.2% from three-point range), sound defense, and hard-earned attempts at dynamism made Williams a transformational piece.
For as much as that quality was valued elsewhere, Williams prioritized a known fit. Some NBA players spend their entire careers looking for a big payday and a working environment they find comfortable. Williams, already 30, now has both. There was no need to sell him on a system he had already thrived in, a coaching staff he now knows well, or the virtues of the competitive roster already in place. Williams knew what leaving Charlotte might mean and, just as importantly, knew what he was looking for. The result was a relative bargain for the kind of player who would have proven difficult to replace. — Rob Mahoney
Courtney Lee: 4 years, $48M with the Knicks
There are definite red flags in the body of New York's offseason work thus far but Lee makes perfect sense under the circumstances. The Knicks have signaled their interest in the immediate by the players they've chosen to target: first Derrick Rose, then Joakim Noah, and now the 30-year-old Lee. Each makes varying degrees of sense for New York but the thought process is on the table, regardless. Team president Phil Jackson does not intend to wait until Kristaps Porzingis takes the next step before building something.
Whether that something really has the structural integrity to support a winning season remains to be seen. Lee should help the cause; even if Rose or Noah were to be bothered by further injuries, Lee helps matters as a low-maintenance wing who can contribute on both ends of the floor. That's the kind of wing that Carmelo Anthony needs to play alongside, not to mention one of value to Rose and Noah given all that Lee contributes without the ball. Any healthy offense relies on cutting, shooting, and intuitive positioning. These are Lee's strongest suits—along with competitive perimeter defense well beyond what the Knicks could manage last season. Take issue with New York's dwelling in the present if you wish, but adding Lee (at a relative bargain, no less) is a smart indulgence of that direction. — Rob Mahoney
Matthew Dellavedova: 4 years, $38M with the Bucks
Cavs general manager LeBron James may have given away the team’s position on retaining their restricted free agent point guard. Assume Dellavedova will be priced out for Cleveland, given their heavy luxury tax situation and LeBron's farewell. He wasn’t impactful in the Finals and while steady, he was far and away their most replaceable rotation piece.
Delly did shoot 41% from three and average 4.4 assists last season, but will find himself surrounded by less talent in Milwaukee and likely with less space to operate. He fills a need off the bench, and should be a slightly positive addition assuming the Bucks get back to their high-pressure defensive ways. But meanwhile, it stings a bit to see former Buck Jerryd Bayless walk to Philly at a similar price and for one less year. The Bucks have pried a useful part away from a division rival, but at a steep price. — Jeremy Woo
E’Twaun Moore: 4 years, $35M with the Pelicans
It feels like E’Twaun Moore has been around forever, but he’s only 27. The Pelicans have an unstable backcourt situation with Eric Gordon gone and Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans hitting the market a year from now. It won’t move the needle significantly, but it doesn’t hurt to add a guy who can shoot (45% from three) and take care of the ball and ably defend both guard spots. Moore comes off a career-best season and had interest from teams in more competitive positions than New Orleans. It makes enough sense. — Jeremy Woo
Jared Dudley: 3 years, $30M with the Suns
Dudley, known as one of the NBA’s better locker-room guys, returns home after spending five seasons in Phoenix early in his career. Back then, he was a serviceable three-point shooting swingman, and he’s since reinvented himself as a useful stretch forward. For the Suns, who are retooling with lottery talent and looking to steady their ship for the long-term, having Dudley in their rotation and around their young players is a win on multiple levels. He’s not shifting the win column much by himself, but should slide into Mirza Teletovic’s role (at the same price his precursor got in Milwaukee) and be a useful part of this rebuild. — Jeremy Woo
Justin Hamilton: 2 years, $6M with the Nets
The Nets need players, and they get a very cheap one with a bit of room to grow here. At 26, Hamilton has bounced around the league a bit and been serviceable in small sample sizes. He had a few nice games for the Wolves down the stretch last season, and given a consistent role it’s fair to think he’ll give you workable minutes. As the Nets patch together their roster, saving some cap room with a low-risk move like this—even if the upside isn’t great—looks sensible. — Jeremy Woo
Solomon Hill: 4 years, $54M with the Pelicans
While Hill isn’t exactly the sort of name Pelicans fans dream about flanking Anthony Davis, he came on during the playoffs for the Pacers and arrives at a relatively good sticker price. Still just 25, the former first rounder fits with New Orleans’s competitive timeframe and gives them some options with his ability to play both forward spots and hit a jump shot (though not an elite shooter, a 57.9% clip from three in the playoffs likely helped his long-term case). With Ryan Anderson headed to Houston, Hill can be a stretch four when Davis shifts to center and slide up to the three if the Pelicans continue to deploy plodding 7-footers. A lot of pieces are up in the air on this roster, both this off-season and next, so adding one with a little extra upside is a win. — Jeremy Woo
Darrell Arthur: 3 years, $23M with the Nuggets
Denver brings back a steady, serviceable player at a strong price while maintaining some roster continuity for a team that skews young. Giving Arthur—one of their veteran leaders coming off one of his most productive seasonsa nice pay bump is a good start to free agency for a team unlikely to make a huge splash. The Nuggets have gathered a lot of developmental assets and aren’t in position to take a huge swing yet. Retaining an experienced vet who could have likely made more elsewhere should work out just fine. — Jeremy Woo
Ish Smith: 3 years, $18 million with the Pistons
The Pistons have shuffled the deck nicely so far this off-season and make a solid addition in Smith, who played well with the Sixers last season (14.7 points, 7 assists per game) and can now settle into a more suitable reserve role behind Reggie Jackson. After bouncing from team to team, Smith nets some deserved financial stability and will be a useful piece in a rotation that should thankfully run deeper this season. When you look at what other reserve-type guards are getting early in free agency, this is very strong value. — Jeremy Woo
Mirza Teletovic: 3 years, $30 million with the Bucks
Teletovic is a nice player and useful veteran shooter, so this isn’t a bad value at all, but it’s not totally clear what the Bucks are doing with their frontcourt. Thon Maker likely won't be a big contributor this year, and even if you treat Giannis like a guard, there’s still Greg Monroe, John Henson and Jabari Parker occupying the nominal four and five positions. So, it appears the stretchy, super-sized lineups we dreamed about in Milwaukee are edging closer and closer to reality. Teletovic (like Maker) is a Jeff Schwartz client, so him settling for a reasonable deal with Jason Kidd’s team makes sense, but the actual personnel fit is a bit iffy. There may be more shuffling to come with the Bucks’ big men. — Jeremy Woo
Jerryd Bayless: 3 years, $27 million with the 76ers
The Sixers stayed ahead of the veteran guard market here and closed quickly on Bayless, who is now the oldest player on their roster. He’s been a useful reserve for the Bucks the last couple years and can play both guard spots. He’s the type of player that makes sense both as a floor spacer and matching up defensively if you’re playing Ben Simmons as your lead ballhandler. The deal offers Philly flexibility going forward and moves them closer to the salary floor. This helps steady the endless revolving door of Sixers guards and adds veteran savvy to an otherwise college-like locker room. It’s a start. — Jeremy Woo
D.J. Augustin: 4 years, $29 million with Magic
Augustin reunites with Frank Vogel and should provide helpful depth and perimeter shooting (40.5% from three last season) at point guard. The Magic have been proactive in filling out their roster and now have a glut of backcourt parts to mix and match, including Elfrid Payton, newly re-signed Evan Fournier, promising Mario Hezonja, recently-acquired Jodie Meeks, C.J. Watson and Shabazz Napier. It’s not yet clear how this rotation will look, but Augustin is a serviceable player on a reasonable contract that offers Orlando flexibility going forward. — Jeremy Woo