Wake Me Up When September Ends
September 25th, 2008

John Hollinger wrote a long old piece two weeks ago in which he opines upon pretty much every transaction made this summer.

Well, if he can, I can. From the people you know about, to the insignificant ones you couldn’t give a Keith Closs about. That’s how I want it, so that’s how it’s going to be.

If you’re the kind of person who is annoyed by long posts, then the length of this post will annoy you. It is essentially done as a compendium of all the relative NBA parts of the Summer Signings sequence of posts, written so that I don’t have to do it when I do my season previews. This way, I might actually get them all done this year.

(Readers note: If the format and opinions contained within this piece are incredibly similar to those of John Hollinger, then that’s because John Hollinger is very good at what he does. And that’s why he did this first. To a much higher standard.

(Instead of this, just search for your favourite team’s name for their transactions.)


Big old eight figure deals:

Philadelphia landed a big name free agent, which hasn’t happened in the entire time that I’ve followed the sport. They did so by signing Elton Brand for five years and $79.8 million, after Brand reneged on a verbal agreement to re-sign with the L.A. Clippers, a deed for which he will join Carlos Boozer and John Salmons in hell or whatever. After this, Philadelphia also re-signed Andre Iguodala to a six-year, $80 million deal – those two now form the Sixers core, along with Louis Williams, Samuel Dalembert, Thaddeus Young and Andre Miller (who is staring down the barrel of an extension.) But none of them can shoot threes.

Baron Davis opted out and agreed to leave Golden State for the Clippers after Brand’s verbal commitment, but stuck to his promise even after Brand didn’t. So he’s going to heaven. His five-year, $65 million deal is comparative value, in a world where one in every two players averages $15 million now. (Sort of.) Monta Ellis got six years and $66 million to replace Davis at point guard, even though he isn’t one, and already he’s torn his ankle up in suspicious circumstances. So that made for a good start to the Warriors offseason.

Golden State also paid Andris Biedrins $54 million over six years, a comparative bargain in a world where people will overpay for unproductive centres in the hope that they start producing. But before both of those re-signings, they brought in Corey Maggette on a five-year, $48 million contract. This despite having drafted a small forward (Anthony Randolph) with a hell of a lot of promise, while also having Al Harrington, Stephen Jackson, Marco Belinelli, Kelenna Azubuike and Brandan Wright to get some 2/3/4 minutes. Corey Maggette is a good player, and the price for which he has signed represents decent value, but I still don’t see the point here. Now you have negative mismatches in your starting line-up. There’s not much to say about a starting guard line-up of Monta Ellis and Stephen Jackson. Play, Randolph.

Washington threw a load of money at re-signing Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison, committing themselves to a core consistently good enough to not win the East. Here’s hoping for another big leap from Caron Butler, but I don’t think he’s got one more in him.

Josh Smith signed an offer sheet with Memphis after his negotiations to re-sign with Atlanta got sticky and underwhelming. The offer sheet was of good value to Memphis. Unfortunately, precisely because of that, Atlanta matched it immediately.

Luol Deng went through the rather awkward process of setting an artificial deadline date for his negotiations, but disaster was averted when the Bulls overpaid to keep him.

Emeka Okafor turned a year of improved health and worse play into a six-year, $72 million contract from Charlotte, the details of which are not listed on this website purely because I forgot. That’s how we roll around here.

Toronto re-signed Jose Calderon quickly and easily to a five-year, $45 million contract. In the opening stages of free agency, the players signed are almost always overpaid. See also: Toronto, Jason Kapono, last year. But this time, that’s not the case. I’m teary eyed.

Chris Paul and Deron Williams both agreed to max extensions, in possibly the easiest negotiations in the world.

“How many years do you want?”
“OK, done.”

Easy. Cuts the heartache out of it.

Andrew Bogut took a five-year, $60 million extension from Milwaukee, one which he’ll justify if he makes an improvement like last year’s.


Reasonably big deals:

The Mavericks gave the full MLE to DeSagana Diop, without changing their core at all. Their core was never good enough, and yet all they did to change it is add Diop, a backup centre who may well start under some misguided “tempo” concept. So when you were nearly good enough to win a title, Diop wasn’t enough to get you over the hump, yet now that you’re nowhere near one, he’s all you need? I don’t understand that. Nor do I understand why a man who has never scored above 10 points in a game deserves $32.4 million. And I’ve tried to understand that, I really have.

Cleveland retained shooters Delonte West and Daniel Gibson for noticeably less than the MLE each. Alternatively, you could say that they’ve both been retained for the cost of one Rick Snow. Either way, I’m worried about this new version of the Cavs. You know, the one that does good business sometimes. And which has some idea of what decent guard play is.

J.R. Smith re-signed with Denver, and George Karl will be gone before J.R. is. Which should please both of them.

Joe Dumars surprised us all when he signed Kwame Brown to a two-year, $8 million deal. Come on, Joe. You’re better than that.

Never bound by society’s conformities, the Golden State Warriors filled their backup centre hole with Ronny Turiaf, a power forward. This might not be the best idea, but it’s a better idea than using Al Harrington there. In overpaying to make sure that the Lakers didn’t match, the Warriors overpaid.

The Lakers paid Sasha Vujacic three years and $15 million after three seasons of nothing and one season of fine jump shooting. Paying someone on the basis of one season is always a risky proposition, and it sure didn’t work out for Vujacic’s namesake, Sasha Pavlovic. But then again, Vujacic didn’t subject himself to an embarrassing holdout, and probably won’t show up to camp 25 pounds overweight like Pavlovic did. This will help stave off any dramatic Pavlovic-like demise.

James Jones signed a five-year deal with Miami that has only two years of guaranteed money, which seems like a rather odd thing to do, but which has 2010 on the brain. His presence will once again ensure that Dorell Wright never actually plays, which seems to be a priority for the Heat.

Minnesota re-signed Ryan Gomes to a very similar deal to that of Jones, with the added advantage that Gomes is comfortably the better player.

New Jersey has enough forwards already, but that didn’t stop them giving a four-year contract to Eduardo Najera, either unaware of oblivious to the fact that four-year contracts to 32-year-old forwards who were never needle-movers anyway are usually bad news. They gave a similarly sized but shorter contract to Keyon Dooling in a sign-and-trade, meaning that a man who averages 3.9 assists per 48 minutes is now their backup point guard. I’m not sure what they’re trying to achieve.

New Orleans were lauded for giving James Posey the full MLE for four years, but we’ll see how they feel in two years time, when a soon-to-be-34-year-old Posey will have two years and $13.4 million remaining. Lest we forget – his importance was magnified due to the Celtics’ championship run, but Posey himself is past 30 and beginning to decline. Get as much as you can out of him next year, because that’s the sole year of value.

New York gave Chris Duhon the full MLE for two years, under the misguided idea that he’s the type of player that will reverse their fortunes. Such logic was used on Jared Jeffries, and such logic was wrong. Like Jeffries, Duhon is offensively flawed. He’s only pass-first because he’s a poor offensive guard himself, and he only has such a nice assist/turnover ratio because he rarely attempts even slightly tricky passes. Don’t go around thinking that this man is foundational for your halfcourt offence. He isn’t. And if his defence doesn’t come back to where it once was, you’ll be wondering what you just signed.

Robert Swift took the qualifying offer to return to the Thunder, one which was rather generously extended given that Swift has played only 96 out of a possible 7,872 minutes these past two seasons. (That’s 1.219%, percentage fans.)

Orlando rather foolishly gave Mickael Pietrus the full mid level exception for four seasons. The Magic are a franchise that have to severely limit their own budget from here on out after the Rashard Lewis contract, and yet now they’ve gone and overpaid for Pietrus, a marginal player who also happens to play a position where the Magic already have two vastly superior players (Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu). If Orlando has any aspirations over playing Pietrus at shooting guard, they’re about to find out the hard way what an idea that is. I don’t care how good Turkoglu is – you can’t have Jameer Nelson and Pietrus as your backcourt. Not unless you want Tony Battie to handle the ball-handling duties.

Louis Williams re-signed with Philadelphia for a bargain price of five years and $25 million. That is less than half of what Monta Ellis got from Golden State, and Williams is not less than half the player that Monta Ellis is. Not sure how they got this done.

Sacramento gave their full MLE to Beno Udrih, on account of his “breakout” season, overlooking the fact that 12.8 points and 4.3 assists with a less than 2:1 assist to turnover ratio is decidedly unremarkable from a starting point guard.

San Antonio, finally with money to spend, replaced the aging Brent Barry with another shooter in Roger Mason, as well as bringing back Kurt Thomas. Both contracts are slightly too big, but both are for only two years, which makes it worthwhile. (Readers note: such logic is also the saving grace of the Chris Duhon deal, and would have been the saving grace of the Mickael Pietrus deal had Orlando gone that route.)

Oklahoma City’s first free agency splash involved throwing a lot of money to the unproven C.J. Miles. The contract was surprisingly large at four years and $14.8 million. Even more surprisingly, Utah matched it. Almost immediately after doing so, though, owner Larry Miller voiced concerns about the Jazz’s proximity to the luxury tax in the near future. Yes, well, you should have thought of that before you matched the Miles deal. The saving grace is that Jerry Sloan will have to actually play Miles now.


Small, non-minimum deals:

The Clippers signed Kelenna Azubuike to a reasonable three-year offer sheet, which Golden State matched once Maurice Evans turned his back on them. Keeping Azubuike represents decent value for Golden State, but after the Maggette signing, one of either Azubuike or Marco Belinelli is going to once again be nailed to the bench, neither of whom should be there. Evans then went to Atlanta for a cheap price, where he’ll do a reasonably decent job of replacing Josh Childress in the rotation.

Soon after signing Evans, Atlanta then signed Ronald Murray, a man without an obvious role on this team. If you want him to be your backup point guard, good luck.

Boston brought Eddie House and Tony Allen for average prices. Reasonable moves free of cynicism.

Seemingly sure that they’ve got enough, Dallas re-signed Devean George, Antoine Wright and Juan Jose Barea for a combined $11.6 million. Why they keep paying Devean George is beyond me. The others are all right.

Walter Herrmann re-signed with Detroit for only one year and $2 million, and now that Jarvis Hayes has gone, they might actually play him.

Houston’s sole free agency signing has been giving the LLE to Brent Barry, giving them an extra needed shooter but doing nothing to resolve their point guard problem. The Rockets are saving their MLE for Carl Landry, who remains unsigned for whatever reason. (Can you hear me, Memphis? Indiana? Charlotte? So what if they match; you can try, right?)

(EDIT: Well done, Charlotte. Now watch Houston match because of how small that offer sheet is.)

Ricky Davis signed with the Clippers. The money’s good ($2.3 million next year), but the depth it gives them could be both a blessing and a curse – with Eric Gordon and Cuttino Mobley also at shooting guard, and Tim Thomas and Al Thornton getting small forward minutes, where does Ricky get his minutes? If he’s not going to get any, why sign him? Still, it’s good to have options.

Memphis signed Marc Gasol and Hamed Haddadi to replace Kwame Brown and Jason Collins at the centre spots, successfully ensuring that Darko Milicic is now their most experienced centre. Doesn’t sound good when you put it like that, but as young centre projects go, these two are worthwhile.

Needing a starting point guard, the Heat brought back Chris Quinn, who is in no way a starting point guard. However, resigning Quinn is a decent failsafe move, unlike what any pursuit of Stephon Marbury will be. The Heat also brought in Yakhouba Diawara, because you can never have too many awful offensive guards, and they also brought back Dorell Wright on a two-year deal so that he can sit behind the two other small forwards that they brought in this year. It’s weird that they do this.

Milwaukee made three rather cheap but odd signings. They brought in Francisco Elson as a tiny upgrade to Dan Gadzuric, in spite of Elson’s bad season last year. They brought in Malik Allen, apparently not satisfied with their quota of sub-45% shooting jump shooting ‘power’ forwards. And they brought in Tyronn Lue as a second or third point guard, in spite of the fact that he shares that same weakness as his peers Ramon Sessions and Luke Ridnour – he can’t defend his one position much. It doesn’t seem to me like they’ve correctly identified their flaws from last year. Still, it was a nice trade that they made. (More on this later.)

Sebastian Telfair turned a season of poor shooting, mediocre defence and often meaningless assists into a three year, $8.1 million contract. If nothing else, last year was an improvement over what went before, which doesn’t say much, though there is still upside there. Aside from that, the Timberwolves also re-signed Craig Smith for the bargain price of two years and $4.8 million, meaning that Smith will experience unrestricted free agency at the earliest possible opportunity. One of the better backup big men in the league, and he’s signed for that cheap with no real suitors? Why do people keep selling Craig Smith so short? He should never have fallen to the second round, and he should never be signed for less than players such as Francisco Elson and Kwame Brown. So what gives? Who cares that he’s a slightly rotund 6’7? He’s good.

New Jersey signed Jarvis Hayes, even after trading for Bobby Simmons and agreeing to terms with Eduardo Najera. I don’t know why they did this. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Hayes is an efficient outside shooter; he isn’t. And if it’s an outside shooter from the forward spots that you want, make Keith Van Horn start turning up. He probably won’t be much use, but…..well.

Anthony Johnson signed with Magic, replacing Carlos Arroyo as the backup point guard. Bill Walton once said about him, “if Johnson ever gets a jump shot, who’s going to stop him?”. Well, Johnson now has one, so I guess he’s now unstoppable. Getting an unstoppable player is not bad for the Bi-Annual Exception.

Toronto brought in their former draft pick, Roko Ukic, to be their backup point guard. Ukic is about to turn 28, and isn’t nearly the prospect that we think he is, yet his 12.7 scoring average as a shoot-first point guard is apparently enough to be a primary NBA backup point guard. We’ll see

Part two in a minute.

Posted by at 10:00 AM