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Grading NBA Free Agency's Biggest Signings

by Photo of Scott Davis

With some of the biggest NBA free agent names getting scooped up recently, here’s a look at grades for each signing

Grading NBA Free Agency's Biggest Signings

Tomorrow, July 10, NBA free agent signings and trades become official when the moratorium period ends. From July 1-10, teams and players can only agree to signings and trades -- the deals aren't technically official or completed, though. This means that tomorrow, that all of the player movement that's taken place during the last week and a half will actually send players to new homes.

This year's free agency period hasn't been as crazy as some years (think back to the summer of 2010), but it has still experienced its fair share of drama. In the last few days, some of the biggest names on the market have made decisions about where they will go. Here's a look at grades each signing deserves.

Dwight Howard to Houston Rockets:

The Rockets were the first team to meet Howard, and frankly, they may be the best fit for him. They have a second, young star in James Harden; a young, growing point guard in Jeremy Lin; an up-and-coming, solid surrounding small forward in Chandler Parsons; a viable back-up in Omer Asik; and a surrounding market that won't grill him for every move he makes. Howard left up to $30 million on the table with the Los Angeles Lakers, so clearly, he was more concerned with fit and winning. The Lakers wouldn't have been able to gather the necessary pieces to surround Howard, and if last year was any indication, the Steve Nash-Kobe Bryant-Pau Gasol-Mike D'Antoni-Dwight mash-up wasn't working.

There are still questions about the signing, though. Of course, if Howard is only 75% of himself like he was last season while he recovered from back surgery, then the Rockets aren't getting the superstar they need to get to the Finals. Similarly, Howard said he didn't like playing in D'Antoni's fast-paced, pick-and-roll system, which is exactly what the Rockets did last season, but even faster. Howard is a great roll man in the pick-and-roll, and Lin and and Harden are both great ball-handlers, too, but if Howard isn't happy with the system, there will be the same problems.

Still, this seems like the right move for Dwight, going to a young, talented franchise, and the right move for the Rockets -- they just acquired the best center in the NBA.

Grade: A

Josh Smith to Detroit Pistons:

The Rockets were trying hard to bring Smith aboard and join Howard in the front-court, but ultimately, Smith went to the Pistons in a somewhat surprising, but intriguing move. The Pistons netted Smith on a four-year/$56-million deal (about $14 mil. per season) and now have, perhaps, the most promising front-court in the NBA. Smith will play both forward spots with Detroit, alongside Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Drummond and Smith are both explosive, high-flying big men that will give Lob City a run for its money; and furthermore, all three players can play both ends of the court.

For a young, borderline directionless team like the Pistons, Smith probably isn't the franchise-changing move that will put them in the playoffs, but it's a start. He won't provide the veteran leadership that they need to push forward, but he's an All-Star talent on a team that's been lacking it recently. And in a few years, that Smith-Monroe-Drummond trio will be suh-weet.

Grade: B+

Andre Iguodala to Golden State Warriors:

Hey, remember that young Warriors team that was so fun during the playoffs and showed so much promise for the future? They just signed one of the most athletic, versatile wingmen in the game, while losing important, but not irreplaceable assets. Andre Iguodala will sign with the Warriors for a four-year/$48-million contract, giving them a guard-forward who can defend, distribute the ball, get out on the break, and score. Though the Warriors lost Brandon Rush in clearing space for Iggy, and they didn't re-sign Jarrett Jack or Carly Landry, Iguodala gives them a real player to get them over the hump into the Western Conference's elite teams.

The move will likely put either Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes (probably the latter) on the bench as a sixth man which will make up for some of their lost depth. The Warriors were missing a lockdown defender last year -- perhaps Iggy's best skill -- and another scorer to put behind Steph Curry. Klay Thompson and David Lee can both provide that back-up scoring, but as was the case in the playoffs, Thompson went hot and cold and Lee was injured. If Andrew Bogut and Iguodala can both stay healthy, the Warriors could also vastly improve their defense. One of the best signings of the summer.

Grade: A

Jose Calderon to Dallas Mavericks:

Here's the thing: the Dallas Mavericks won the championship in 2011. That summer after, the Mavs essentially decided that a repeat wouldn't be possible, and they'd save money for the big Summer of 2013 crop of free agents. They let Tyson Chandler go, Jason Terry left, DeShawn Stevenson left, Jason Kidd eventually left... and in their wakes, they signed hold-over guys who've made little impact. Well, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Josh Smith, and Andre Iguodala are all off the market and the Mavs haven't figured out what they're doing. Dirk Nowitzki is in the twilight of his brilliant career and it's being wasted.

So, to try and make up ground, one would guess, the Mavs signed 32-year-old, good-but-unspectacular, Jose Calderon to a four-year/$29-million contract. That's a little over $7 million per year for a guard that will be 36 when his contract ends. Calderon is good: for his career he averages 10 points on 48% FG, 39% 3FG, 2.5 rebounds, and 7 assists per game. He's a step-up from Darren Collison last season, but what exactly is the plan, Mavs, besides for staving off a complete rebuild?

Grade: C+

Paul Millsap to Atlanta Hawks:

Paul Millsap has long been an under-appreciated, solid power forward, tucked away in the hidden market in Salt Lake City, Utah. While a good player -- he's averaged 16.1 points per game, 50% FG, and 7.8 rebounds the last three years -- he didn't have a future in Utah. So, with Josh Smith fleeing Atlanta, the Hawks swooped in and grabbed Millsap as a replacement (and a good one, because he and Smith have pretty similar production levels). However, the puzzling thing is that Atlanta signed another forward who can play small forward, but is more comfortable at power forward. Al Horford has grumbled for years about wanting to move from center to power forward, and now he has another player in his way. Zaza Pachulia ended up going to Milwaukee, so the Hawks really don't have a big man to play center, and there aren't many good big men left on the market. Millsap is a good pick-up, but another questionable move in regards to the future.

Grade: B-

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