Like sands through the hourglass, these are the days of the post-star-and-significant-role-player-signing-period of NBA free agency. Let's continue our consideration of the smaller deals getting worked out in the league, beginning with a trip to the Big Easy.
Fredette, the 25-year-old former BYU superstar and No. 10 pick in the 2011 NBA draft, will receive a one-year deal for the veteran's minimum of $981,084, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein. Salmons, 34, will earn $2 million on a one-year deal to join his sixth team in 13 NBA seasons, according to Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com. Terms of Miller's deal were not disclosed, according to Brett Martel of The Associated Press; as John Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune notes, the Pelicans declined to extend a $1.15 million qualifying offer to the 24-year-old Miller, whom New Orleans selected in the second round of the 2012 draft, making it likely (as Dan Feldman of ProBasketballTalk surmised) that Miller got a minimum deal of $915,243).
While the Pelicans ranked sixth in the NBA in 3-point accuracy last season, knocking down 37.3 percent of their triples as a team, they ranked second-to-last in the league in makes and attempts per game. Whether you attribute this lack of long-distance proficiency more to head coach Monty Williams' offense, which has ranked in the bottom half of the league in long balls taken and drained in each of his four seasons on the bench, or to the horrendous plague of injuries that excised three of the Pelicans' top four 3-point shooters (Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday) from the lineup for significant stretches, the fact remains that New Orleans desperately needed floor spacing and shot-making ... and that was before their top beyond-the-arc marksman, Anthony Morrow, skipped town for a new three-year deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The market for high-end riflemen — where Jodie Meeks gets $6.5 million a year, for example — was too rich for a Pelicans team that's already paying premiums for Gordon, Holiday, Anderson and Tyreke Evans, and that (understandably, in my view) elected to use the bulk of its remaining salary-cap flexibility this summer to improve a leaky defense through the acquisition of paint-patrolling center Omer Asik. Instead, general manager Dell Demps preferred to take a "buy a few scratch-off tickets and see if you get rich" approach, bringing in Fredette, who hit a career-best 47.6 percent of his 3-pointers last season but couldn't secure playing time on either the Kings or Chicago Bulls; Salmons, whose long-range shooting (38.7 percent last season for the Kings and Toronto Raptors) stands as nearly the only NBA-wing-caliber part of his game; and Miller, whose long-distance accuracy dipped below league-average last season, but who connected at a 40 percent clip during a rookie season split between the then-Hornets and the D-League's Iowa Energy.
The Pelicans want as much shooting as they can find on the floor for the same reason that the Cleveland Cavaliers just imported Mike Miller and James Jones, and are reportedly still trying to lure Ray Allen to Ohio. No, not to make LeBron James happy, but because forcing opponents to have to guard guys 20-plus feet away from the basket opens up lots of room for other things — for pick-and-rolls, for dribble penetration, for post-ups — and makes it harder for defenses to commit extra resources to stopping a single dominant force.
New Orleans has that single dominant force — his name is Anthony Davis, and he is coming for you, NBA — but with myriad injuries and misfiring lineup combinations, they didn't have quite enough around him to prevent opposing defenses from bracketing him. (And he still put up 21 and 10 on 52 percent shooting. I can't wait to see him in Year 3.) The goal here is to make it more difficult for them to do that and, given the hefty amount of dollars New Orleans has already spent elsewhere, to do it on the cheap.
As Michael McNamara of Bourbon Street Shots notes, the hope in New Orleans will be that a return to health/availability/effectiveness for the Pelicans' bevy of ball-handlers — Holiday, Gordon, Evans, Austin Rivers, second-round pick Russ Smith — will mean that Fredette and Salmons will be responsible not for toting and distributing the rock, but simply for catching and shooting it, which they've proven capable of doing. Fredette will once again face the uphill battle of convincing a coach that the threat of his sharpshooting outweighs the promise of his poor defense; after failing to do so in both Sacramento and Chicago, you have to wonder whether this might represent the last chance for Jimmer to catch on before the ink officially dries his NBA (or, perhaps more accurately, sub-NBA) reputation. At least he'll have a pair of mistake-erasers in Davis and Asik behind him.
The group of Salmons, Miller and unguaranteed-contract shooter Luke Babbitt represents a significant step down at the small forward position from free-agent starter Al-Farouq Aminu on the defensive end and on the glass, but if they can provide more offensive punch than the brick-laying former Demon Deacon, it could work out to be a wash. Given the slim pickings in the free-agent wing crop at this stage, adding a known-quantity veteran like Salmons and a potential-laden prospect like Miller isn't the worst place to shop for value at the three, although I do wonder if Chris Douglas-Roberts — who looked downright decent (well, besides the hair) in about 21 minutes per game for the Charlotte Bobcats last season — would've been available for the roughly $3 million that the Pelicans will pay the two of them. (Or, perhaps even better, the still-unsigned Shawn Marion, who's probably got his sights set on landing with a contender, but would be an awful nice pickup alongside that Davis-Asik back line.)
If either scratch-off pays out, the Pelicans' weak wing rotation could be in business. As it stands, though, I've got the sneaking suspicion that Tyreke's the best small forward on this roster.
• The Charlotte Hornets are bringing back Jannero Pargo, according to his agents at Priority Sports. He will receive a one-year deal worth $1.5 million, according to Shams Charania of RealGM. (It's unclear whether he's getting the full $1.5 million, or the 10-plus-year-veteran's minimum salary of $1,448,490, with Charania just rounding up.)
I do not have a treasure-trove of new and original thoughts and feelings about Jannero Pargo, so here's what I wrote when the then-Bobcats signed him to be their third-string point guard last August, with relevant numerical updates in brackets:
The -year-old Pargo likes to shoot, getting up 17. field-goal attempts per 36 minutes of playing time for the Bobcats during [a 29]-game stint in Charlotte last season. He doesn't do it exceptionally well — [39.1] percent from the field and a below-average 35. percent from 3-point range over a  NBA career spent with seven teams (he also spent time overseas in Russia and Greece) — but he does it vigorously, at least, which is nice.
Pargo did assist on more than 40 percent of his teammates' buckets during his floor time in Charlotte last year, which represents pretty nice production for a third-stringer; he also hit 40 percent of his triples, which suggests the possibility of spot-minute usefulness off the ball for a Hornets squad that has added a pair of ball-handlers this summer (Lance Stephenson, Brian Roberts) to starting point man Kemba Walker and returning combo guard Gary Neal. He's a defensive liability at 6-foot-1 and, like most NBA players nearing their mid-30s, isn't quite as quick as he once was, but he ought to continue to fit in fine in Steve Clifford's system and locker room as a knows-his-role veteran and in-case-of-emergency-break-glass source of reserve offense.
• The Houston Rockets are bringing back reserve point guard Ish Smith, according to Yahoo Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski. It's a one-year deal for the veteran's minimum, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle; for a three-year vet like Smith, that pays $948,163.
The 26-year-old has bounced around quite a bit in his brief NBA career. He broke into the league with the Rockets during the 2010-11 season after going undrafted out of Wake Forest and found himself shuttled back and forth between Houston and the D-League's Rio Grande Valley Vipers before being shipped with Shane Battier to the Memphis Grizzlies in a trade-deadline deal that netted Daryl Morey and company Hasheem Thabeet, DeMarre Carroll and a future first-round pick. After finishing out the season, the Grizzlies waived Smith, who had a brief stint with the Golden State Warriors before catching on with the Orlando Magic; he spent the better part of a year in Central Florida before getting sent to the Milwaukee Bucks in the J.J. Redick deal, and just a few months in Wisconsin before being traded to the Phoenix Suns in the Caron Butler deal.
The nomadic Smith seemed like a decent bet to get waived given what looked to be a crowded Suns backcourt, but he stuck around, beating out former lottery pick Kendall Marshall backup point guard minutes behind starters Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. Smith made 70 appearances for first-year head coach Jeff Hornacek, and while his stat line was humble — 3.7 points, 2.6 assists and 1.8 rebounds in 14.4 minutes per game on 42.3 percent shooting — they all represented career-highs for the 6-foot Smith, who mitigated his inability to hit from the perimeter (1 for 23 from 3-point land) or finish at the rim (54.8 percent inside the restricted area) by being really, really fast with the ball and, in the words of Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby, playing "with an infectious joy."
There was no longer any room at the inn for Ish once Phoenix drafted Syracuse product Tyler Ennis and acquired former Kings point man Isaiah Thomas behind Dragic and Bledsoe, but there's just about always room somewhere in the league for a very fast, good-hearted point guard who dishes assists more than twice as often as he turns the ball over. In this case, that place was Houston, where the incumbent backup point guard just got traded for nothing and the likeliest replacement is a 23-year-old with 252 minutes of pro experience. Smith's up-close-and-far-away weaknesses make him close to the antithesis of the Rockets' ideal offensive player, but he's an inexpensive caretaker with whom the front office is familiar. Also, he seems to be funny:
I'll always think highly of Ish Smith because of what he said when I asked in Austin whether he prefered 'Ish.' He joked, "Call me Ishmael."
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) July 17, 2014
• The Dallas Mavericks announced Friday that they have agreed to terms on a deal with Summer League standout forward Eric Griffin. The length of the contract remains unclear — ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon reports it as a one-year deal, while RealGM's Charania has it as a three-year pact — but there seems to be agreement that it's unguaranteed.
You may remember Griffin as the guy who, as a member of the Miami Heat during the 2013-14 preseason, jumped clear over the Brooklyn Nets' Mason Plumlee after biting on a pump fake:
... or as the guy who, just last week, punched one all over the New York Knicks' Shane Larkin during Las Vegas Summer League action:
Evidently, the 6-foot-8 Griffin's springs and Summer League stat-sheet stuffing — 9.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, two blocks and 1.3 steals in 19.3 minutes per game, entering Friday's action — were enough to earn him a longer look in Big D. It's unlikely that break camp with a veteran-laden Dallas squad already featuring the likes of Chandler Parsons, Jae Crowder, Richard Jefferson, Monta Ellis and Ricky Ledo on the wing, but MacMahon reports that if the Campbell University product doesn't make the Mavericks, his "D-League rights will be owned by the Mavs affiliate Texas Legends," keeping him in the system to develop as a potential future contributor or asset down the line.
• The Washington Wizards are hanging onto reserve point guard Garrett Temple, according to J. Michael of CSNWashington.com, bringing him back on a two-year deal for the four-year veteran's minimum of $981,084. Temple will hold a player option for the second year, according to Michael.
And so's Marcin Gortat:
— Marcin Gortat (@MGortat) July 18, 2014
... which is nice.
After spending the first three years of his professional career bouncing back and forth among five NBA teams, three D-League squads and A.S. Junior Pallacanestro Casale of the Italian second division, the LSU product found solid ground in the District of Columbia in the winter of 2012, catching on with the Wizards and averaging about eight points, four rebounds, 3 1/2 assists and 1 1/2 steals per 36 minutes of floor time as a backcourt reserve (and sometime starter) for Randy Wittman. He settled into a pure reserve role for last season's playoff-bound Wiz, and while his scoring game took a step back (36.2 percent from the field, 20.7 percent from 3-point land) and he was bumped back to the third-point-guard slot by the addition of Andre Miller, the 6-foot-6 Temple still offered some utility as a versatile wing defender and, as Michael notes, "a solid practice piece to push John Wall and Bradley Beal."
It's a familiar refrain — a hardworking, defensive-oriented, steady enough veteran who knows the system and is well-liked in the locker room getting to stick around for about a million bucks a year. There are worse ways to fill out the 15th slot on the roster.
• A point of clarification on a previous installment: Initial reports of Devin Harris' new agreement with the Mavericks indicated that the veteran guard would receive a three-year deal in the $9 million range. What the two sides actually signed, though, was a four-year, $16.55 million deal in which only $1.3 million of the final season is guaranteed, according to Stein.
You wonder if the extra year and bump in average annual value came as something of a quid pro quo gift after Harris' expected deal with the Mavericks last summer went from three years and $9 million to one year at the veteran minimum after a pre-signing physical revealed a dislocated toe on Harris' left foot that required surgery. After outperforming that deal in Rick Carlisle's backcourt rotation for a 49-win Mavs team that gave the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs a real scare in the opening round of the playoffs, Harris not only gets made whole, but also might get a crack at near-starter's minutes on a Dallas squad that bid farewell to point men Jose Calderon and Shane Larkin and replaced them with underwhelming Raymond Felton.
Harris isn't quite as strong a bargain at roughly $4.1 million a year as he is as $3 million. If he's able to fill those minutes with the same level of per-minute productivity and defensive versatility in the backcourt he turned in after returning from injury last season, though, he'll likely still be worth it; if he can nudge his long-range shooting percentage north to the roughly league-average level he hit with the Atlanta Hawks two seasons ago, he'll represent one of the better values of the summer. (Still not nearly as great a value as his big German teammate, though — especially after his change in contract terms.)
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