By Andrew Banks
In the spirit of back to school season, I gave off-season grades for some of the top free agent signings and re-signings in the Association. I didn’t include everyone. Just the guys that I wanted to talk about because, you know, this is my blog site.
Clint Capela-Houston Rockets: 5 years, $90 million; $18 million per year
*13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game on a league-leading 65.2 percent shooting.
-Rockets lost valuable wing defenders and floor-spacers in Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, replacing them with James Ennis and Michael Carter-Williams. Signing Capela was priority #1 if they intend on keeping up with the top teams in the West. It still might not be enough to hold off the Warriors, but Capela insures that the Rockets will stay at or near the top of the Western Conference.
Kevin Love-Cleveland Cavaliers: 4 years, $120 million, $30 million a year
*17.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game while knocking down 41.5 percent of his 5.6 long range attempts per game
-This could make trading him at the trade deadline easier with a long-term contract rather than an expiring one (Clippers did the same with Blake Griffin). $30 mil a year through his 34th birthday is way too high for a player who is very good but not a superstar. Cavs should be in rebuilding mode, but Love is a stabilizing prescence
Carmelo Anthony-Houston Rockets: 1-year $2.5 million
*16.2 points a night on 40.4 percent shooting (both career lows) 35 percent from 3.
He’s a defensive liability now and even worse, Melo still envisions himself as a go-to scorer. The ball seems to get stuck in his hands. Playing with the high-octane Rockets with James Harden and Chris Paul, there’s a 100% chance Melo will not get the same touches he has gotten throughout his career. It’s also possible that he becomes more efficient going from playing with Russ Westbrook to playing with those above mentioned guys. I wouldn’t bank on it though.. see what I did there?
Michael Beasley-Los Angeles Lakers: 1-year $3.5 million
*13.2 points and 5.6 rebounds in just 22.3 minutes per game. He even shot 50.7 percent from the floor and 39.5 percent from 3-point range.
*Other additions: Rajon Rondo, Javelle Mcgee, Lance Stephenson
The numbers look good for Beez, the chemistry might be a different story. The Lakers won’t be short on story lines this season that’s for sure. This could either make beautiful music, or crash and burn. I’ll go somewhere in the middle.
Marcus Smart-Boston Celtics: 4 years, $52 million, $13 million per year
*10.2 points per game, 3.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists. Hasn’t shot better than 33.5 percent from 3 in his career, but makes up for it with every other part of his game.
A fireball of energy, the Celtics need his defensive versatility and tenacity. He’s an underrated playmaker and an unsung hero for this squad.
Jabari Parker-Chicago Bulls: 2 years $40 million
*12.6 points, 4.9 boards, 1.9 assists, 48 percent from the field.
This signing comes with obvious risk. Parker has torn his ACL twice in four seasons. He doesn’t play any defense, and is going to a Bulls team that had the third worst defensive rating in the league last season. Not to mention they already have a defensive ghost in their lineup in Zach Lavine (we’ll get to him later). $20 million is a hefty price, but they have a second year option so they can get out of this contract if things go south. Maybe the upside of Parker playing in his hometown will work out, but I’m not optimistic.
Zach Lavine-Chicago Bulls: 4-years $78 million
*16.7 points per game, 3.9 rebounds, 3 assists on 38 percent shooting from the floor and 34 percent from three.
The Bulls are really good at making questionable and irresponsible decisions. The Kings originally were the ones who offered this ridiculous offer (in typical Kings fashion) for Lavine, and leave it to the Bulls to match their stupidity. On the surface, the Bulls are well over paying for the level of production. Let me know if this sounds familiar: Multiple ACL injuries and doesn’t play a lick of defense. Having one wing player that doesn’t play defense in today’s NBA is troubling. Having two is downright detrimental. Stepping down from my soapbox, the potential scoring upside is what could make this deal worth it. He’s averaged 20 points in a season once upon a time and is still only 23. It’s up to Lavine to make the Bulls look less dumb about this contract. The Bulls might have to score 130 points a night just to stay competitive
Isaiah Thomas-Denver Nuggets: 1-year, $2 million
*15.2 points per game, 4.8 assists
Nuggets dumped Kenneth Faired and Darrell Arthur to avoid the luxury tax which makes this deal more than worth it. Hip problems plagued him last year as he continued his free-fall from stardom just a couple years ago. Hard to believe this man averaged 28.2 a game in 2016-2017. He had an awful shooting season (38 percent from the field and 33 percent from three). If he embraces being the 6th man backing up Jamaal Murray, he could provide a nice scoring punch for the Nuggets off the bench. Let’s see if Thomas has anything left in the tank.
Devin Booker-Pheonix Suns 5-years, $158 million, $31.6 million per year
*24.9 points per game, 4.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists on 43 percent shooting from the field and 38 percent from three.
Booker is already a star in this league at just 21…21!! Averaging 24.9 points for a Suns team that has been horrible to watch is an impressive feat. He was this teams only legitimate scoring option and teams still couldn’t stop him. That’s a prerequisite for being a great player. He finally has legit talent around him, so this could really be a breakout year for him and the Suns. Here’s a fun fact: Booker is the third-youngest player behind LeBron and KD to reach 4,000 points. Here’s another fun fact: Last season he had the second highest scoring average by a player 21 or younger behind Michael Jordan himself. No debate here.
Dwight Howard-Washington Wizards:1 year, 5.3 million
*16.6 points, 12.5 boards and 1.6 blocks per game
It looks like a desperate signing on the surface but the Wizards actually upgraded their 5 spot by getting rid of Marcin Gortat. D-Howard is still an effective player at this stage in his career. He defends and rebounds at a high level and has the physique of an Under Armour mannequin. However this is his 5th team in 4 years. I’m thinking that there’s a reason for that. Just ask Kobe Bryant. Hopefully he doesn’t upset the chemistry in the locker room for yet another franchise, but going to the Washington Wizards of all teams could be like throwing a lit match on a gasoline trail.
DeMarcus Cousins-Golden State Warriors: 1 year, $5.3 million
*25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.6 steals per game on 47 percent shooting from the field and 35 percent from three
Let’s be real for a second. Cousins deserves a max deal based off his production last season and his career as a whole. He’s been the most dominant big man in the league for the better part of the last five seasons. If we can be real about his numbers, we have to be real about his injury history as well. He tore his Achilles right before the all-star break last season, and probably won’t return until Febuary 2019 at best. But a one year deal to play for the back-to-back NBA champions!? That is unfair. There’s no guarantee that Cousins can return to his MVP numbers. It was hard enough for Kobe to be the same guy after he ruptured his Achilles, and Cousins is almost 60 lbs heavier. He will have to fit into the culture of the Warriors and sacrifice some of his numbers for the good of the team. If he can prove that he still has some high level basketball left in him, he could earn a max deal with another team after this season. The Warriors don’t need him so this was a luxury signing. It’s a win-win situation.
DeAndre Jordan-Dallas Mavericks: 1 year, 24.1 million
*12 points per game, 15.2 rebounds, 0.9 blocks
Just the thought of pairing Jordan with Dennis Smith Jr (he should’ve won the dunk contest but let’s move on) and euro rookie sensation who is not really a rookie, Luka Doncic is tantalizing. Lob City 2.0 could be on the horizon. He’s a real defensive presence which is something the Mavs haven’t had since Tyson Chandler. He averages 10.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks for his career, but he is going to have to do better than the 0.9 blocks per game he averaged last year
Chris Paul-Houston Rockets: 4 years, $160 million, $40 per year
*18.6 points per game, 7.9 assists, 5.4 rebounds, 1.7 steals on 46 percent shooting from the field and 38 percent from three.
I still can’t believe he makes $40 million a year, but I get it. Houston wants to stay in the championship hunt for the foreseeable future. Locking up CP3 assures just that. But it’s safe to call him injury prone at this point in his career. Not to mention he’s 33 and will be 37 at the end of the deal. This contract is great for Paul, not so much for Houston.
Paul George-Oklahoma City Thunder: 4 years, $137 million, $34 million per year
*21.9 points per game, 5.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists on 43 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent from three.
I was shocked to see George not sign with LA and stick with Russ and the Thunder. The real winner is OKC. They needed Goerge to re-sign in the worst way. They’re luxury tax bill is sky high but at least they have one of the best one two punches in the league. The fourth year is a player option so George could opt out but even if he stays for 3, OKC will take that over none.
LeBron James-Los Angeles Lakers: 4 years, $154 million, $38.5 million per year
*27.5 points per game, 8.6 rebounds, 9.1 assists on 54.2 present shooting from the field and 37 percent from three
You thought I was going to forget about the king? (Still can’t believe he didn’t win MVP, look at those numbers MY GOD) For LeBron I feel like it is more of a career move than a basketball move. He’s playing with a wide array of characters to say the least. President of basketball operations Magic Johnson wanted to surround James with more play makers and ball handlers to keep some tread off of his tires. It’s a good plan in theory, but I don’t know if Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley and Rajon Rondo are the right play makers. For a franchise that has been stuck in a rut and ready to be back in the playoff limelight, this is obviously a great signing. This is bigger than basketball. LeBron checks all the boxes you want out of your face of the franchise.