There's been plenty of free-agent activity since Dwight Howard made his decision late Friday to join the Houston Rockets, with point guard Jose Calderon heading south to Dallas, Chris Kaman leaving Texas in favor of sunny SoCal and a slew of other agreements that Our Fearless Leader broke down earlier Monday.
("Agreements," it should be noted, but not signings. No deal can be made official until after the July 10 end of the league's annual moratorium on trades and signings.)
Let's take a look at some of the other roster-building work teams have done over the past few days, starting in my hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y.
• The Brooklyn Nets agreed to a three-year deal with 2011 second-round draft pick Bojan Bogdanovic and a one-year contract with veteran point guard Shaun Livingston, according to Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski.
Tim Bontemps of the New York Post reports that Bogdanovic, 24, will receive about $2.5 million of the Nets' taxpayer midlevel exception, which starts at just under $3.2 million this season. Livingston's deal is for the veteran's minimum of just under $1.3 million, although he'll only count on the cap for a shade under $900,000, thanks to the same wrinkle that chops down the Nets' cap charge for Andray Blatche. (I explained that here.)
The Nets turned their attention to bringing Bogdanovic over from Turkey, where he's spent the last two seasons playing for Euroleague side Fenerbahçe Ülker, once it became clear that they weren't going to be able to secure the services of Kyle Korver, who wound up receiving nearly twice the mini-MLE to stay with the Atlanta Hawks. He might not be on the order of Korver (few are) but according to the crew at Euroleague Adventures, the 6-foot-7 Bogdanovic profiles as a legitimate long-range bomber who hit 40.5 percent of his 3-pointers in Euroleague play and 38 percent in Turkish League games for Fenerbahçe this season, and who's got enough creativity off the bounce to be able to make opponents pay for reckless closeouts.
Now, Nets fans might find themselves feeling a little bit of déjà vu at that description after hearing similar praise of the floor-spacing marksmanship of Mirza Teletovic last summer. As you might remember, the Bosnian forward/Euroleague scorer couldn't crack the rotations of Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo, averaging less than 10 minutes a game in just 54 total appearances. But whereas Teletovic had Reggie Evans, Kris Humphries and (in small-ball lineups) Gerald Wallace ahead of him for minutes at the four, Bogdanovic looks to have a prime opportunity to earn burn behind starters Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson for a Nets team that looks thin on the wing if he can impress new head coach Jason Kidd. If he struggles in both knocking down perimeter looks and adjusting to playing defense stateside, though, he might wind up spending lots of time giving pounds to the Nets' coaches on the bench.
Seemingly decades removed from the days when he was considered the next big thing at the point, Livingston comes along for the ride, basically, to provide enough veteran insurance behind Deron Williams to ensure that Kidd and company only have to rely on second-year triggerman Tyshawn Taylor in case of emergency.
The Nets will be the seventh stop in the last six years for the 27-year-old Livingston, who had his promising future as the leader of the Los Angeles Clippers scuttled by one of the more vicious knee injuries you'll ever see, but has come back to forge a nice career as a steady lead guard (averaging about 2.2 assists for every turnover over the last half-dozen seasons) who uses his 6-foot-7 frame, long arms and active hands to help out on the glass and in disrupting things on the defensive end (four rebounds and about two combined steals/blocks per 36 minutes last season). He was also a net positive working off the ball as a two-guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers last year, which could offer Kidd some flexibility to use mix-and-match Livingston alongside Williams or Taylor in breather-ensuring lineups in which he could share ball-handling responsibility with a playmaking wing like Pierce or Johnson.
Livingston's a downgrade at the position from C.J. Watson, who'll leave Brooklyn come Wednesday to sign with the Indiana Pacers, and you don't want to rely on playing Shaun off the ball much — he's never been able to shoot a lick from outside. Still, though, finding an experienced backup who can fill a couple of gaps for the minimum represents a nice roster-completing pickup for a team that did its heavy lifting on draft night.
• Carlos Delfino will return to the Milwaukee Bucks on a two-year deal worth $6.5 million, according to Wojnarowski, with a team option for Year 3 that would reportedly increase the total value of the Argentinian shooter's deal to as much as $10 million.
This one kind of stings for the Rockets, who waived Delfino just before the start of free agency to help create enough cap space to offer Dwight Howard a max-level contract but really liked what the 30-year-old veteran offered last season — which, mostly, was shooting. Daryl Morey paid Delfino to jack it up from beyond the arc, and that's exactly what he did, averaging a whopping nine 3-point attempts per 36 minutes of floor time and hitting at a 37.5 percent clip.
The 6-foot-6 swingman isn't a very good defender, but he's a feisty and at-times opportunistic one who's averaged about a steal and a half per-36 over the course of his eight-year NBA career. He's capable of helping on the boards off the wing, isn't an especially gifted playmaker and doesn't offer a ton offensively beyond 3-point shooting, but reliable perimeter shotmaking remains quite valuable in today's NBA and isn't too bad a way to spend a little bit more than the mini-midlevel exception.
That said, it seems weird that the Bucks are the ones paying him. Yes, they needed shooting and wing production after letting Mike Dunleavy head south to the Chicago Bulls, and yes, Delfino's got history with the Bucks organization after spending three years there before heading to Houston. But for a team like Milwaukee that seems to lack a coherent plan or clear direction, paying Delfino to hoist triples on unlikely-to-be-competitive teams until he's 34 doesn't feel like it makes a ton of sense. Then again, a veteran shooter on a short-money deal could be a flippable asset at the trade deadline this season or next, and it seems like it'll be fun to watch Delfino and Zaza Pachulia argue over whose head is biggest. That's a win, I suppose.
• The Houston Rockets will re-sign swingman Francisco Garcia to a two-year contract worth $2.6 million, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. You've got to like Garcia returning to Houston, if only for the value of the deal.
Yes, he'll turn 32 in December, but he's a versatile wing who can shoot — just a touch above 36 percent from 3-point range for his career, but he's shot league-average or better from deep in five of his eight NBA seasons and is a career 39.4 percent shooter from the corners — and defend some, as he showed during the Rockets' postseason matchup against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, and he'll actually be taking about a $5 million pay-cut from the $6.4 million he'd have made had Houston picked up its team option on the final year of his contract.
They didn't, because they had to squeeze every ounce of available cap space they could to make the Howard offer. But Garcia digs the team, the organization and the recent acquisition enough to stick around despite getting stuck. I'm not real high at all on Houston picking up Omri Casspi — if, as Woj reported, the Rockets like Casspi's shooting, they're looking at a different guy than one who's put up the 42/35/66 career shooting splits we've seen. But bringing back Garcia at such a friendly number ought to help cushion the blow of losing Delfino's floor-spacing on the wing.
• The Denver Nuggets and free-agent forward/center J.J. Hickson agreed to terms on a three-year contract worth $15 million, according to Wojnarowski. I don't really get this one, to be honest.
On its face, $5 million per year doesn't seem like a ton for a 24-year-old guy who made 80 starts in the middle for the Blazers and averaged a double-double last season while posting top-10 finishes in field-goal percentage, effective field-goal percentage (which accounts for 3-pointers being worth more than 2-pointers), as well as all three varieties (offensive, defensive and total) of rebounding percentage, which measures how big a share of available misses you grab. In fact, it kind of seems like a steal ... until you remember that while Hickson's rebounding numbers were impressive, Portland's as a team actually went down while he was on the floor, suggesting that rather than increasing the number of caroms the Blazers hoovered, he was actually taking a lot away from his teammates.
And that Portland scored more points per 100 possessions and allowed fewer points-per-100 when he sat than when he played last year, according to NBA.com's stat tool. And that Portland gave up more points in the paint per game than any other team last season, that Neil Olshey and company have been actively seeking an upgrade at the five for a while. And that despite an absence of gaudy numbers, recently imported Robin Lopez is widely considered to actually be such an upgrade because, when you get right down to it, J.J. Hickson is really a power forward who's been miscast as a center for the past few seasons.
And then you remember that the Nuggets already had JaVale McGee, Kenneth Faried, recently acquired Darrell Arthur and Anthony Randolph in the frontcourt ... and that they just lost Andre Iguodala, could soon lose Corey Brewer and could be without a rehabilitating Danilo Gallinari for a chunk of next season ... and that Denver seems to be relying a lot on sophomore-to-be Evan Fournier and new Nugget Randy Foye at the two ... and you kind of wonder whether a backup four/five who doesn't make you better defensively is the best way that Tim Connelly and company could have spent $5 million a year, even if that seems like a fair rate for Hickson's box-score production.
Maybe new head coach Brian Shaw can find ways to mask Hickson's defensive deficiencies and maximize his effectiveness in the screen game and as a finisher/board-crasher, but this feels like something of a miss in an offseason full of them for Denver.
• The Charlotte Bobcats agreed to terms on a two-year, $6 million deal with free-agent forward Josh McRoberts, according to Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Marc J. Spears.
When McRoberts joined the Bobcats in a sleepy 2012-13 trade deadline deal that sent Hakim Warrick to the Orlando Magic, the expectation was that the swap would amount to nothing much at all beyond Orlando waiving Warrick (which happened in short order) and McRoberts continuing to underwhelm except for an occasional alley-oop finish. The noted Charlie Day-lookalike showed flashes in Charlotte, though, sopping up the somebody's-got-to-play-them minutes for the circling-the-drain 'Cats (just under 31 minutes per game in 26 appearances, including 19 starts) and making a little something out of them, averaging about nine points, seven boards and three assists per contest.
He's not Chris Webber or Brad Miller or anything, but the 6-foot-10 forward's got good vision and a willingness to facilitate when operating out of the high post, which would figure to pair well with recent signee Al Jefferson, who'll be living on Charlotte's left block for the next two to three seasons. Ditto for incumbent big man Bismack Biyombo, who needs to stay pretty close to the basket to be able to do much of anything other than screen-setting, or rookie Cody Zeller, who will probably benefit from a bit of cleverness in helping him find looks in the half-court. Mini-midlevel-ish money for the possibility of average reserve production and keep-things-moving passing seems like a win for a Bobcats team that just overpaid massively in the Jefferson deal.
Three years into an NBA career that began as a lottery pick of the Los Angeles Clippers, Aminu might just be what he is — a long (6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3-1/4-inch wingspan) defensive-minded small forward who's an elite rebounder for his position, really only generates offense as a finisher in transition or by attacking the glass, and can't shoot from outside (27.2 percent beyond 10 feet last season) to save his life. Even if that's all he is, there's definitely value to that — players who can defend multiple positions and make contributions without needing the ball matter, especially for a Pelicans team that figures to feature a lot of multi-guard lineups including ball-dominating guards Eric Gordon, draft-night acquisition Jrue Holiday and restricted free-agent target Tyreke Evans.
How much the Pelicans improve this season will depend much more on what kind of leap Anthony Davis makes from Year 1 to Year 2 and on the health/productivity of that reconfigured backcourt than on anything Aminu provides. But considering the paucity of small-forward types on the Pelicans' roster — and the fact that New Orleans was 7.7 points per 100 possessions better with Aminu on the floor last season than when he was off it, according to NBA.com's stat tool — paying less than $4 million to see if the still-only-22-year-old Wake Forest product still has some room to grow makes sense.
• The Atlanta Hawks and free-agent forward DeMarre Carroll agreed to terms, according to Woj and Sam Amick of USA TODAY Sports. Carroll will sign a two-year deal worth $5 million, according to CBSSports.com's Ken Berger.
To a certain extent, Carroll and Aminu work the same side of the street, as wing players whose primary contributions come in the form of attentive and aggressive (if not always fruitful) perimeter defense and rebounding, who derive most of their offensive value as board-crashers and transition lane-fillers, and who can't reliably handle or shoot the ball or create their own offense. While Aminu intrigues with his combination of youth, length and athleticism, though, Carroll's a grit-grind-hustle type who would've made perfect cultural sense had he stayed with the Memphis Grizzlies beyond the early stages of his sophomore season.
He's bounced around a bit, however, shipping off to Houston with Hasheem Thabeet to bring back Shane Battier before being waived, briefly catching on with the Denver Nuggets and ultimately finding a home with the Jazz as a fill-in-the-blanks guy whose value rarely comes through in the box score. Well, that's not 100 percent true — Salt City Hoops' Andy Larsen cites how infrequently Carroll turns the ball over, especially in comparison with how often he causes or aids in the creation of turnovers, as well as his "eye-popping" offensive rebounding, as proof that the 26-year-old Missouri product understands the value of both extending his team's offensive possessions and curtailing the opponents'.
That also shines through in Carroll's on/off-court numbers, available via NBA.com's stat tool. The Jazz outscored opponents by 5.4 points per 100 possessions when Carroll played last season, and were outscored by 3.1-per-100 when he sat. That's an 8 1/2-point-per-100 swing, equivalent to the difference between an elite team (say, the Miami Heat) and a just-above-average one (the Brooklyn Nets) or between an average one (the Chicago Bulls) and the least-efficient teams in the league (somewhere between the Orlando Magic and Charlotte Bobcats).
Now, that doesn't mean Carroll's going to be the difference between the Hawks being a lower-tier Eastern playoff possibility and a fierce contender to be feared. But it suggests there's demonstrable value in the hard-working, hustling, mistake-limiting game Carroll plays, and for $2.5 million a year through age 28, he figures to be a very nice addition to new head coach Mike Budenholzer's team as a backup small forward. And if Danny Ferry finds a deal he'd like that could benefit from the inclusion of Carroll as ballast, there aren't likely to be too many rival executives unhappy with the idea of importing a solid, inexpensive citizen known for working his tail off, either.
• The San Antonio Spurs have agreed to terms with former Indiana Pacers forward Jeff Pendergraph, per Wojnarowski. The deal's believed to be worth $4 million over two seasons, according to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News.
To the extent non-Pacers, Portland Trail Blazers and Arizona State Sun Devils fans remember Pendergraph, it might be because he was the dude who got into a weird scuffle with Heat guard Norris Cole at the very end of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals that resulted in Flo Rida's manager getting ejected from AmericanAirlines Arena. Pretty great claim to fame, huh?
Over the course of the past couple of seasons, the 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward has profiled as a solid per-minute rebounder (especially on the defensive glass) and he showcased a somewhat improved jumper last season (40 percent from outside 10 feet). But he turned the ball on 14.5 percent of his touches (league-average for forwards last year was 11.2 percent, per Hoopdata) and it's worth remembering there's a reason that Frank Vogel basically never went to the end of the bench Pendergraph occupied. Pendergraph will likely grab the minutes that belonged to DeJuan Blair last season, offering a bit more on the defensive end and a bit less on the offensive end, and make a little more money that he might be worth to do so.
• The Portland Trail Blazers and free-agent point guard Earl Watson agreed to terms on a one-year, veteran's minimum contract, according to Woj.
Watson's a respected veteran who's been around the league a long time; his presence should benefit the young guard tandem of Damian Lillard and rookie C.J. McCollum, around whom the Blazers will be building their teams for years to come. That said, Watson was very bad for the Jazz last season, shooting just under 31 percent from the floor and not even cracking 18 percent from 3-point range. (On the bright side, he almost never shoots, taking just 5.2 field-goal attempts per 36 minutes of playing time.) He's still a capable facilitator, managing four dimes a game in a tick over 17 minutes per contest for Utah, but the 12-year vet's also become looser with the ball as he's grown older, coughing it up on more than a third of the possessions he used last season.
Getting a pass-first type for the bargain-basement minimum isn't the worst thing in the world. Considering Watson's glaring limitations on both ends of the floor, though, him playing more than spot or mop-up minutes might not be far off for the Blazers.
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