Free-agent roundup: Birdman returns to Heat; Pelicans add Morrow, Stiemsma + more

Led by Chris Paul's lickety-split re-upping with the Los Angeles Clippers, we've seen plenty of deals we already knew about confirmed and officially announced on Wednesday. The last 24 hours (or so) have also included several new agreements, so let's take a quick look at the latest acquisitions, starting with the promise of some familiar plumage in AmericanAirlines Arena next season:


• The Miami Heat have agreed to re-sign free-agent center Chris Andersen, as reported by Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski and later confirmed by the team. It's reportedly a one-year deal worth $1.7 million, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.

As Windhorst notes, the increase in Andersen's salary over the veteran minimum for players with 10 or more years of NBA experience — $1,352,181 last season, $1,399,507 for '13-'14 — will wind up saving the Denver Nuggets, who used the amnesty clause to shed Andersen's contract last summer — about $450,000 in amnesty payments they still owe Birdman. (There's a kind-of complicated formula dictating that stuff that's explained here.)

Andersen was an absolute revelation for Erik Spoelstra and the Heat after signing a 10-day contract in late January. He provided rim protection and paint deterrence where there previously hadn't been much; Miami opponents shot 53.2 percent in the restricted area with Birdman in the game during the regular season, compared to 60.3 percent when he sat, according to's stat tool, helping improve the Heat's defensive efficiency (the number of points allowed per 100 possessions) from a very good 100.6-per-100 (which would've ranked eighth in the league over a full season) to an elite 97.3-per-100 (which would've been No. 2 behind only the Indiana Pacers). Virtually the same efficiency marks held true in the postseason; Heat opponents managed less shots, shot lower percentages, got to the line less often and generally had a harder time getting stuff done with Andersen hustling to stall pick-and-rolls, offer weak-side help and shot-blocking, and getting his long arms in the way of things.

The offensive end, though — that's where Andersen made a surprisingly massive impact for Miami, especially in the postseason.

His effectiveness both as a screener/dive man in the pick-and-roll and when lurking along the baseline looking for opportunities in the "Bird Box," combined with the ability of Heat drivers/creators (largely LeBron James) to hit him with dump-off passes for dunks after drawing attention with penetration, made Andersen downright lethal in the postseason. He shot a staggering 80.7 percent from the floor — almost all of it, to be fair, on dunks and layups, but hey, you've still got to make 'em — in Miami's run to a second-straight title, going without a miss from the field in 11 of his 20 appearances and missing just 11 of 57 tries overall.

He was also an integral part in Miami's devastatingly effective small-ball lineup in the Finals, a five-man unit (Andersen-James-Mike Miller-Ray Allen-Mario Chalmers) that destroyed the San Antonio Spurs, outscoring the Western Conference champs by 29 points in just 16 minutes of shared floor time. All told, Miami outscored opponents by more than 19 points per 100 possessions with Birdman on the floor in the playoffs, a basically imaginary number that speaks to the sort of dominance that led Heat fans to fall in love with Andersen in record numbers. (Or maybe, as he's suggested, it's just that he's "a crazy-ass white boy.")

He helped make an already very good team terrifying at times last season — remember, Miami's 27-game winning streak started in his fourth game with the team — and was eager to come back at a low number. The $1.7 million number puts the Heat's 2013-14 salary at an estimated $88.3 million for the coming season, putting them even deeper into the super-punitive luxury tax and perhaps making it unlikely that they bring back sharpshooting Finals hero Mike Miller, but if Andersen even comes close to approximating this year's level of productivity and effectiveness — which isn't a wholly unreasonable bet, unless his athleticism completely disappears as he passes his 35th birthday (which is possible, of course), it's a price worth paying for a player who's a hand-in-glove fit for the Heat both stylistically and schematically.


• The New Orleans Pelicans have agreed to terms with free-agent shooter Anthony Morrow on a two-year deal for the veteran's minimum salary, according to Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Marc J. Spears, which will pay him about $2 million total. Morrow confirmed the signing on Twitter Wednesday afternoon: "they said I wouldn't play in this league after a year, lets get to work!"

Shooters get paid in free agency and go off the board quickly ... so long as they can do more than one thing, that is. J.J. Redick can handle the ball and execute team defensive schemes effectively, and so can Kyle Korver. Martell Webster can defend multiple positions and has a little bit of creativity off the bounce. Kevin Martin's more a scorer than just a pure shooter, and he, like fellow new Timberwolf Chase Budinger, also moves really well without the ball. Morrow can't really do anything but shoot — he's a defensive liability who doesn't rebound much off the wing and can't create offense with the rock outside of catch-and-shoot situations. This is, for the most part, why the Altanta Hawks shipped him out in favor of the more defensive-minded Dahntay Jones, and why he found himself out of Rick Carlisle's rotation with the Dallas Mavericks last season.

Still, though ... dude can shoot. Take out the 1-for-5 mark he managed in just 17 appearances in Dallas, and he's a 42.5 percent career 3-point shooter over four-plus NBA seasons, marking him as one of the dozen most-accurate long-range shooters in league history. He might not get a ton of minutes, given that he figures to be a third-string shooting guard behind Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans — or perhaps a fourth-stringer, if Monty Williams elects to use Austin Rivers off-the-ball some again this year — but if the Pelicans produce as many multi-guard/small-ball lineups as it looks like they might with their collection of wings and undersized bigs, he'll likely get more opportunities than he did under Carlisle in Dallas.

He sure won't help the defensive issues that appear to be the recast Pelicans' biggest worry heading into the season, but if he can reliably space the floor to provide driving lanes for the likes of Gordon, Evans and Jrue Holiday, ensure room for New Orleans to more effectively operate its pick-and-roll-heavy attack, and serve as a release valve to knock down open shots off drive-and-kick penetration, he could find himself earning more and more opportunities. And if he can't, well, you're only out a minimum contract, anyway. Shooting gets a chance to fail in today's NBA.


• Free-agent center Greg Stiemsma will join the New Orleans Pelicans on a one-year deal, according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. The 6-foot-11, 260-pound big man will make $2.7 million, agent Mark Bartelstein told's Chris Broussard.

This seems like a nice deal for both sides — Stiemsma gets to make what he would have made had the Minnesota Timberwolves picked up the second year of the deal to which they signed him last summer rather than releasing him Sunday night before his contract became guaranteed, and the Pelicans get a low-cost, defensive-minded big man to soften the blow of losing Robin Lopez in the three-team deal that brought Evans to New Orleans.

Stiemsma, 27, doesn't anchor in the post nearly as well as Lopez, but he's got quicker feet than you might think when it comes to defending the pick-and-roll, and he's grabbed a higher share of available defensive rebounds than Lopez over the course of their respective careers. The Wisconsin product's claim-to-fame, though, is shot-blocking — he's a legitimate rim-protecting presence, sending back shots on nearly 7 percent of opponents' possessions through two NBA seasons.

He'll give Williams another big, sound-enough body to work into his frontcourt rotation alongside Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson in search of units that won't give up gobs and gobs of points on the defensive end. And while he's not going to be confused with either one of those guys on the offensive end of the court, he's a better shooter than you probably realize, hitting 41.5 percent of his midrange looks and in the mid-to-high 40s on spot-up/pick-and-pop chances, according to Synergy Sports Technology's play-charting data, which could be a useful little tool in New Orleans' offense. It doesn't solve New Orleans' anticipated defensive woes, but it could help address the issues somewhat, and on a short-term deal for less than the mini-midlevel exception, it's a nice fit.


• The Toronto Raptors and free-agent power forward Tyler Hansbrough reached an agreement on a two-year contract, according to Spears. Terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed, but Brett Poirier of Canada's TC Media is reporting that the North Carolina product will earn between $2.5 million and $3 million per season; Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun pegged it in the same neighborhood, at least for Year 1.

Someone was going to get an annoyingly effective player once the Indiana Pacers decided to rescind their $4.2 million qualifying offer to the North Carolina product after agreeing to terms with David West and setting their sights on Chris Copeland, and it winds up being Masai Ujiri's Raptors. Hansbrough's not an especially pretty watch — his game is largely predicated on getting into the teeth of an opposing defense, drawing contact, making a face as he's getting fouled, either hitting the layup or missing it, and then going to the foul line, where he makes about three out of four tries, on average.

Hansbrough gets to the line a ton, posting the league's fourth-highest free-throw rate among players who made at least 10 appearances and averaged at least 15 minutes per outing, according to Hoopdata, which helps make up for his poor shooting (just 29.8 percent outside the restricted area last season and 32.7 percent the year before that after a respectable 42 percent mark in his sophomore season) and makes him a pretty efficient backup big man. (If he can curb the turnover issues that snowballed on him last year, that'll be especially true.)

Hansbrough's not a great defender, but he's a hardworking one who's sturdy in the post and, while occasionally inattentive, has been well-drilled for the past two and a half years under Frank Vogel. He'll get his shot blocked a fair amount, he'll make things choppier and chippier almost every time he takes the floor, but he'll be a dogged and diligent reserve behind the likes of Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas; Raptors fans (and head coach Dwane Casey) will probably dig his lunchpail game in much the same way Pacers fans did.


• The Dallas Mavericks have agreed to a two-year deal worth more than $5 million to import free-agent shooting guard Wayne Ellington, according to Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski.

The upshot here is that Dallas adds a low-cost shooter who's knocked in 3-pointers at a 38.2 percent clip over his career to provide a mix-and-match complement to newly imported point guards Jose Calderon and Gal Mekel, as well as returning combo guard Devin Harris, in lineups that could benefit from some additional floor-spacing. (It's worth noting, as others have pointed out, that about 14 percent of Ellington's made 3-pointers came in twogames, and he posted oh-fers from deep 22 times, so one could term him a bit streaky were so one inclined.)

He's also a very good free-throw shooter, and he's a serviceable enough defender whose 6-foot-4 frame can help him bother shooters' releases and whose foot speed can help him pester pick-and-roll ball-handlers. He's not a dynamic offensive player, but he can handle a little bit and has some creativity around the rim; he's not explosive or flashy, but as long as he's hitting from outside, he's solid. As long as his primary job responsibility is to knock down open spot-up jumpers created for him through attention drawn by others, he should prove worth the contract.


• The Los Angeles Lakers will bring back guard Jordan Farmar, who has spent the last two seasons playing overseas in Israel and Turkey, on a one-year deal for the veteran minimum, according to ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin.

To a certain extent, working to buy out Farmar's contract with Anadolu Efes of the Turkish Basketball League to bring him back into the forum-blue-and-gold fold feels like an odd "get the band back together" signing in keeping with the "#vamos #juntos" tone of Kobe Bryant's post-Dwight-decision Instagramming. On the other, this is a Lakers team that either won't have Kobe for the start of the season or, if he's insane enough to come back for the start of the season, will almost certainly have a less-effective Kobe for the start of the season, necessitating more combinations of incumbent guards Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks. And if the Steves are going to have to work off the ball more often, then there would seem to be not only minutes available for a supplementary facilitator, but also a need for one.

On that score, Farmar fits the bill, averaging just under eight points and three assists per game in five NBA seasons spent mostly as a reserve ball-handler. And while Farmar's primarily played point guard in the pros, he did spend some time off the ball in two-point-guard lineups with Deron Williams on the New Jersey Nets and was fairly effective (at least offensively) in that capacity, shooting a career-best 44 percent from beyond the arc in his last NBA season. At 6-foot-2, he'd likely be a defensive liability against most shooting guards, but depending on what kind of lineups Mike D'Antoni wants to use, there might be a way to mitigate the damage in the interest of getting increased ball movement and spacing on the floor.

Farmar's not an especially skilled pick-and-roll operator, grading out poorly in each of the four seasons for which Synergy Sports Technology has tracking data for him, but he's a veteran guard who can initiate an offense and has a decent enough midrange game. Getting a 26-year-old contributor with the minimum isn't the worst thing in the world, and maybe it's good from a karmic perspective, too. After all, Farmar's leaving something like $9.5 million on the table just because he wants to be back home, back in the NBA and back with the Lakers ("I've been a Laker since I was born," the L.A.-born Farmar told McMenamin). Given all that's gone on with the team of late, L.A. could use some dudes who want to be there right about now, right?