By now, you know how this works. Let's rip through the familiar faces who've found homes in new places over the last 24 hours, starting with perhaps the most interesting man in the NBA heading to the home of, um, the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame:
• The Cleveland Cavaliers have agreed to terms with free-agent center Andrew Bynum, according to Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski. We'd known Bynum had a two-year offer worth around $24 million on the table from the Cavs as of Monday night, but was also in talks with the Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks; ESPN.com's Chris Broussard first reported that Bynum had chosen to join Cleveland.
The unique structure of the contract makes this look like a very shrewd pickup by Chris Grant and the Cavs — Bynum is only guaranteed $6 million in the first year of the contract, with the remaining $6 million based on a variety of games-played and minutes-based incentives, and Cleveland holding a $12.5 million team option for Year 2 that would allow the Cavaliers to bring Bynum back at a set figure should he prove to be healthy enough to play this coming season.
"Healthy enough to play," obviously, is the operative phrase. (Also, given the state of Bynum's wheels, "operative" isn't a bad one, either.)
The 25-year-old center missed the entire 2012-13 campaign for the Philadelphia 76ers, failing to suit up for anything beyond team pictures after landing in Pennsylvania following a four-team deal that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers (he gone), Andre Iguodala to the Denver Nuggets (he gone) and a package headlined by shooting guard Arron Afflalo, promising young players Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless, and a raft of draft picks (three future first-rounders and two future second-rounders) to the Orlando Magic, who wound up winning that trade in sheer defiance of conventional wisdom.
The nightmarish season began with a preseason right knee bone bruise that knocked Bynum out for Philly's season opener and finished with season-ending arthroscopic surgery on both knees in March; by the time the 2013-14 season opens, it will have been 529 days since Bynum last played professional basketball. That's a lot, and certainly cause for concern if you're a Cavs fan wondering whether your team will have better luck than the Sixers did.
For the guaranteed price of just one year of Kyle Korver, though, I think it's a risk worth taking. If Bynum can't play, well, the Cavs already have a number of frontcourt bodies, with a rehabbing Anderson Varejao, 2011 lottery pick Tristan Thompson, 2012 first-rounder Tyler Zeller and 2013 No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett all in the mix for minutes at the four and five spots, and all you've spent is money.
Yes, that's cap space that could be used to improve Cleveland's roster or to take on somebody's salary dump in exchange for grabbing more assets in young players or picks; that's an opportunity cost, for sure. But Cleveland's already got draft picks coming by the ton over the next two seasons and young, inexpensive players in line to sop up the bulk of the minutes at virtually every position on the roster. What it didn't have is another All-NBA-caliber elite talent to put alongside point guard Kyrie Irving ... and, though it's difficult to remember right now, Bynum is most certainly that.
He's the guy who grabbed 33 rebounds against the San Antonio Spurs, who blocked 10 shots in a playoff game against the Denver Nuggets, who averaged 19 points, 12 boards and two blocks a game at age 24. He is, no kidding, dominant when right and engaged, the kind of frontcourt player who can elevate a team from good to great and, in the case of the Cavs, possibly from poor to playoff-contending. He's arguably the most gifted offensive center in the league, a legitimate low-block scorer who commands attention and punishes one-on-one defense; there just aren't very many of those sorts of guys out there. And while he's not a quick, nimble, elite defender, he's strong in the post and a real rim protector whom coach Mike Brown already knows how to use from their shared days with the Lakers.
Those days, of course, didn't always work out so well, which is one reason — among several detailed really, really well by Conrad Kaczmarek at Cavs blog Fear the Sword — that adding Bynum isn't necessarily a "risk-free" move. But it's still a potentially-high-reward move that imports All-Star-level talent for a just-above-midlevel price without scuttling the plan of building through the draft and around your young pieces. To me, that's worth the risk.
• The Detroit Pistons have agreed to terms with free-agent guard Chauncey Billups on a two-year deal worth $5 million, according to Wojnarowski, with the Pistons holding a team option for the second year, according to Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.
Seeing Billups in red, white and blue again (or, at least, Detroit's red, white and blue again) will make Pistons fans feel really good, which is cool. I'm not totally sure how great a move it will be on the court — Billups has been limited by a slew of injuries (most notably a torn left Achilles tendon) to just 42 games over the past two seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers, wasn't super productive when he was healthy and was downright bad in L.A.'s first-round playoff loss to the Memphis Grizzlies this past postseason. If nothing else, though, he provides a very smart, very experienced professional who might be able to push, poke, prod and help Brandon Knight develop into the Point Guard Of The Future that Joe Dumars hopes he can be.
The 37-year-old Billups is well past his prime defensively, but still has the size and smarts to guard in different backcourt pairings. He also spent the lion's share of the past two seasons off the ball and spotting up from outside, where he's still a pretty reliable shooter — 38.4 percent from 3-point range in 2011-12, 36.7 percent last season — so you'd figure he'll spend a fair amount of time at the two-guard to share the floor with Knight, Rodney Stuckey and recently re-upped backup point guard Will Bynum in what increasingly seems like it's developing into a ballhandler-by-committee approach for new head coach Maurice Cheeks.
Plus, Billups has loads of experience facilitating in the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop game, which should help activate bigs like Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. If he can hit shots when the ball swings his way, stay in the ears of Knight and 2013 first-round draft pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and keep Detroit's frontcourt fed, he might prove to be a cost-effective addition with a good chance to seeing the back-end of his deal.
For his part, Drummond — who now wears the No. 1 that Billups rocked in Detroit from 2002 through 2009 — seems willing to welcome Chauncey back with open arms:
That's very sweet, 'Dre. As Matt Watson notes at Detroit Bad Boys, that might not actually be able to happen, but if nothing else, it's the thought that counts.
While this is a feel-good situation for Pistons fans psyched to welcome back one of their longtime favorites, as PistonPowered's Dan Feldman notes, Billups' return also might mean the end of the Detroit line for 2012 second-round pick Kim English (something of a BDL favorite due to his Silver-shaking and Cash-karaoke'ing) and 2013 second-rounder Peyton Siva (who was fun at Louisville), since it gives Detroit 14 guaranteed contracts on the books. That's kind of a bummer, but probably not one that will have a significant impact on the Pistons' on-court product this season.
• The Minnesota Timberwolves will bring back free-agent swingman Corey Brewer on a three-year, $15 million contract, according to Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Marc J. Spears. ESPN.com's Marc Stein first reported the two sides were close on a three-year deal.
In practice, this works out to be a more complicated three-team scenario, with Minnesota's previously agreed-to signing of free-agent guard Kevin Martin turning into a sign-and-trade in which Martin's former employer, the Oklahoma City Thunder, signs him to a four-year, $28 million contract and sends him to the Wolves. Minnesota then ships point guard Luke Ridnour, and his $4.3 million expiring contract, to the Milwaukee Bucks, with the Thunder receiving a $7 million traded player exception as a result of shipping out more salary than they're taking back, giving Oklahoma City another asset it could use to help match salary in a deal made over the next year, should the need arise. Having shed Ridnour's money, the Wolves then have the room to add Brewer, go over the salary cap to re-sign Chase Budinger and figure out the restricted free agency of center Nikola Pekovic. (Collective bargaining agreement stuff is complicated, man.)
Once the trade completion/contract signing order of operations wraps up, the Wolves will begin Round 2 with Brewer, whom Minnesota chose seventh overall in the 2007 NBA draft. Brewer mostly underwhelmed in his first stint in the Twin Cities, due in part to a torn right ACL that limited him to just 15 games in his second season.
Brewer showed some promise as an active transition player and defender with an improved 3-point shot in his third season, but still shot just 40.6 percent from the floor and 31.3 percent from deep during three-plus seasons in Minnesota and de didn't really find his niche as a versatile perimeter defender and leak-out, fast-break demon until linking up with George Karl's go-go Denver Nuggets over the past two seasons. He became a legitimate chaos agent and rotation contributor for a 57-win squad last year, averaging a tick under 18 points per 36 minutes of floor time primarily by showcasing a well-developed skill for racing ahead of the pack following an opponent's shot to trigger the fast break and an improved sense of how to take advantage of space and defensive inattention by making sharp off-ball cuts in half-court sets.
That knack for generating opportunities off missed shots seems like a solid match for the sort of outlet passes and pace-pushing provided by Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, and Brewer (like Martin and Budinger) would seem to be a nice fit for Rick Adelman's corner offense, given the importance it places on off-ball movement. That silver lining comes wrapped around a dark cloud, though — Brewer can't shoot. He's shot 33.6 percent from midrange, 28.7 percent on above-the-break 3-pointers and 33.8 percent on short-corner triples over the course of his six-year NBA career, according to NBA.com's stat tool, making it seem unlikely that either Adelman or head honcho Flip Saunders (who emphasized the importance of upgrading Minny's shooting after taking over this offseason) will look too kindly on Brewer sharing the floor with Rubio, who's yet to prove he can reliably make jumpers through two NBA seasons.
On the other side of the ball, Brewer profiles as the sort of wing defender whose length and quickness enable him to guard multiple positions. In reality, though, he's not really a lockdown one-on-one defender, but rather an aggressive and ambitious passing-lane seeker, trapper and turnover-creator who notched a steal on 3 percent of opponents' possessions last season, the ninth-best mark in the NBA. Brewer helped make Denver's defense scary at times when paired with Andre Iguodala in hounding the perimeter, but it very much remains to be seen whether he can capably fill Andrei Kirilenko's shoes as Minnesota's top wing defender; while his long arms, quickness and athleticism likely mean he'll draw those assignments, he's susceptible to being overpowered by strong threes, and in a less frenetic, more disciplined defensive system, some of the value his steal-hunting provided Denver might be lost.
"Value" is a key word here. Brewer wound up being a bargain as somewhere between Denver's sixth and eighth man for $3.2 million a year, but it's hard to see him being as strong a value signing for $5 million — the same amount Tony Allen will make to be an actual, starting, lockdown, multipositional wing defender for the Memphis Grizzlies — on a team that might not be quite as good a fit for his primary NBA skills. You can't help but wonder, as the folks at Wolves blog Canis Hoopus did, if Saunders might have been able to land Luc Richard Mbah a Moute — a better, more versatile overall defensive wing who'll make right around the same amount of money as Brewer over the next two seasons — in a similar Ridnour-based sign-and-trade had Minnesota engaged Milwaukee sooner, before John Hammond shipped Mbah a Moute to the Sacramento Kings earlier this week. Instead, Wolves fans will have to hope that Brewer can find ways to contribute at least as much as he did for Denver while filling Minny's hole on the wing.
As for the Bucks picking up Ridnour: I mean, sure, OK, Bucks. This is probably too much money for what Luke Ridnour offers right now, but that doesn't really seem to be the point (such as there is one) so, sure, OK.
There's still uncertainty and mischief in Milwaukee's plans — whither Brandon Jennings? whither Monta Ellis? whither Jeff Teague? — but Ridnour will provide professional backup ball-handling services behind whoever starts at the point for the Bucks next season. He'll present Larry Drew with some two-point-guard-lineup options by slotting in at shooting guard behind O.J. Mayo, which is something he did quite a bit (spurred in large part by injuries) last season in Minnesota, albeit not all that successfully. He's a thoughtful facilitator who likes to keep the ball moving, and while his assist rate has dropped the past two seasons, so has his turnover rate.
So too, unfortunately, has his 3-point shooting, which makes him a considerably less valuable player than he was the last time Bucks fans saw a lot of him, as Brandon Jennings' primary backup on the 2009-10 playoff team that pushed the Atlanta Hawks to seven games. He'll be taken advantage of defensively by quicker point guards and stronger shooting guards, but he'll try hard and be a grown-up, and then, after the season, he'll be gone and the Bucks' balance sheet with be $4.3 million lighter. While I'm still not entirely sure what Hammond has planned for his roster, that much, at least, seems nice.
• The Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly bringing in free-agent swingman Nick Young on a one-year deal for the veteran minimum of just over $1.1 million, according to agent Mark Bartelstein. This marks the second straight day that Mitch Kupchak and company have brought in an L.A. native on a cheap deal — on Wednesday, it was point guard Jordan Farmar — and, as I think I've said a fair amount when discussing minimum deals thus far in free agency, this is the kind of flyer that can't really hurt.
"Swaggy P" is, by nature, a scorer. He jacks up shots like he thinks he'll never see the ball again, and when he's hitting them, that can work pretty well — like, for example, the 30-point game he hung on these Lakers last season or his 29-point outburst against the Los Angeles Clippers. It doesn't work often enough, though, which is why he's averaged 11.3 points per game on 42.7 percent shooting over six NBA seasons.
He's a pretty reliable 3-point shooter — just under league-average (35.7 percent) for the Philadelphia 76ers last season, comfortably over (37.4 percent) for his career — and an athletic wing player who can finish in transition and take opposing defenders off the dribble. He won't defend much at all, and he's not as helpful on the glass as you'd like from a 6-foot-6 swingman with his springs, and though he's not super turnover prone, he also doesn't facilitate for others very much. He's kind of a mini-Kobe — or, at least, he seems to think of himself that way.
With Bryant working his way back from Achilles surgery and the circumstances surrounding when/how effectively he'll return remaining somewhat unclear, he'll get the chance to prove that that's exactly what he is. When Bryant gets back, any time they share the floor will be must-see TV — Kobe's death stare at ill-advised Young jumpers will be epic — but, as he showed with the Clippers two seasons ago, Young can be a solid contributor in a limited role off the bench when put in his place within an established pecking order. He's a nice get for a bargain salary. Still, though: Get ready for a lot of Swaggy jumpers, Lakers fans.
• The Houston Rockets have agreed to a two-year deal with free-agent swingman Reggie Williams, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein. The 26-year-old will make the veteran's minimum, which will pay him $947,907 this season, and the Rockets will hold his option for Year 2.
Daryl Morey and company are betting that a steady diet of wide-open looks created by the defensive attention that must be paid to Dwight Howard, James Harden, Chandler Parsons and the Rockets' other offensive players will help Williams regain the 3-point shooting form he displayed in the D-League (41 percent from long distance in 31 games with the Sioux Falls SkyForce) and his first two seasons with the Golden State Warriors (35.9 percent from deep as a rookie, 42.3 percent as a sophomore) rather than the disappointing performance he offered in two forgettable seasons with the moribund Charlotte Bobcats (30.8 percent in 2011-12, 30.6 percent in 2012-13).
He's a better playmaker than you might think, averaging 3.7 dimes per 36 minutes of floor time last year and assisting on a career-high 18.2 percent of his teammates' buckets while he was on the court. He's also a pretty abysmal defensive player who's a bit too small to body-up small forwards and a bit too slow to check guards, and has never been especially good as a helper. Then again, he's also never played with many good defensive players in Golden State and Charlotte, either, so maybe being on a better team will help him out in that regard. Given how little reliable shooting is left on the board, Williams isn't a bad guy on whom to take a minimum-salary flyer to provide spot depth behind Harden, Parsons, Francisco Garcia and Omri Casspi.
Other deals and signings confirmed Thursday:
• The Chicago Bulls officially brought back reserve center Nazr Mohammed. He'll get a one-year deal for the 10-plus-year veteran's minimum of $1.4 million.
• Manu Ginobili tweeted a shot of him signing his new contract with the San Antonio Spurs, which is reportedly a two-year deal worth $14 million. The Spurs also confirmed the signing of Marco Belinelli, who'll make $6 million over two years.
• The Brooklyn Nets officially announced two moves — the re-signing of big man Andray Blatche to a one-year, $1.4 million deal and the addition of reserve guard Shaun Livingston to a one-year, $1.3 million deal.