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2010 NBA Free Agency Grades: Where We Talk About More Than Just LeBron James

With all but a handful of the top free agents now signed, sealed, and delivered, it's time to step back and assess the winners and losers of the much-vaunted Summer of 2010 free agency period. Obviously, Pat Riley and the Heat are at the head of the class after pulling off the heretofore never seen trifecta of landing three of the best players in the league in a single summer. And as the Hawks have taught us, sometimes it's better to let go rather than crazily throw money at putative "franchise" players.

For our purposes, we're counting signings, re-signings and any players received in sign-and-trade deals as "signings".



Signed: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, Juwan Howard, Zydrunas Ilgauskas

Lost: Michael Beasley, Dorell Wright, Jermaine O'Neal, Quentin Richardson

This one is rather self-explanatory. What we're witnessing (get it?) in Miami is completely unprecedented outside of a video game: wholly revamping a roster with a salary structure almost entirely devoted to three of the game's elite players, with mostly castoffs, rookies and afterthought veterans filling in around the edges. So can Miami get enough talent around their superstar trio? So far, the returns are encouraging. They desperately needed Miller and Haslem, who figure to provide some of the requisite shooting and rebounding/toughness they'll need from their role players, And Ilgauskas is the type of big body they'll need in the playoffs. Yes, that's one plus for each mega-star the Heat signed.



Signed: Kevin Durant, Morris Peterson

Lost: None

While seemingly every other NBA GM was busy throwing crazy money at marginal players this summer, Sam Presti stuck to the master plan. Extending Kevin Durant and preserving the rest of Oklahoma City's cap space should set the Thunder up quite well down the line.



Signed: Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, J.J. Redick (OS)

Lost: None

Yes, the Bulls missed out on the Big Three of free agency. Thinking of what might have been had LeBron James or Dwyane Wade joined forces with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah is certainly painful for Bulls fans, but adding Boozer and Korver (and possibly Redick) to their existing core is more than a decent consolation prize. Boozer is the perfect antidote to Chicago's struggles in the post, while Korver's lights out shooting should stretch defenses and punish teams for doubling either Rose or Boozer. In other words, the Bulls are quickly building the Utah Jazz East, with a top point guard (Rose rather than Deron Williams), Boozer and Korver teaming up to form a highly efficient offense. Whether that will be enough in the suddenly highly-competitive Eastern Conference is another question though.


Signed: Amar'e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton, Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike, Ronny Turiaf, Timofey Mozgov, Jerome Jordan

Lost: David Lee, Chris Duhon

This certainly wasn't Plan A for Mike D'Antoni. Or even Plan B. But as far as backup plans go, this one wasn't too bad for the Knicks. Stoudemire certainly doesn't make the Knicks contenders (and has more than a few injury concerns), but he gives New York some legitimacy they've desperately lacked the past...well, decade, as well as a highly-efficient scorer. The David Lee trade was a thing of brilliance for New York; an absolute coup that landed them a prospective star in Randolph in addition to two useful rotation players. Add in a short-term deal for the underrated Raymond Felton and the under the radar signing of athletic Russian big man Mozgov, and the Knicks should be a playoff team come next spring, without sacrificing too much in terms of long-term flexibility.



Signed: Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Jermaine O'Neal

Lost: Tony Allen, Shelden Williams

The Paul Pierce extension was a bit pricey, but two years each for Ray Allen and Jermaine O'Neal gives the Big Three one last hurrah to bring another title to Boston. After coming within a virtuoso performance from Ron Artest of winning Game 7 of the NBA Finals, the Big Three deserve that much.


Signed: Steve Blake, Derek Fisher

Lost: Jordan Farmar

They got a slight upgrade at point guard with Steve Blake and managed to retain Derek Fisher, simultaneously locking up a proven playoff performer and keeping him away from the Heat. Not bad work at all for the defending champs.


Signed: Tiago Splitter, Matt Bonner

Lost: Richard Jefferson, Ian Mahnimi

Ho-hum, another summer of quiet moves from R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich that figure to keep the Spurs relevant in the playoffs next spring. The forever-hyped Splitter gives San Antonio the athletic presence in the paint they need to complement an aging Tim Duncan. But even more important for the Spurs: Richard Jefferson's mind-blowingly inexplicable decision to opt-out of the last year of his contract that would have paid him $15 million, which alleviates a good bit of their payroll concerns. For Buford and Co., sometimes it's better to be lucky than good...


Signed: Al Jefferson

Lost: Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Wes Matthews (OS)

After what was shaping up to be a disastrous off-season, replete with stories about how Deron Williams was "frustrated" with the team's lack of direction, things are suddenly looking up for the Jazz. And all it took was a single phone call from David Kahn. After convincing the Bulls to give them a trade exemption in a sign-and-trade for Boozer, the Jazz were effectively able to trade him for Al Jefferson, getting a younger and cheaper option at power forward in the process. If Jefferson can regain his 2008 form now that he's two years removed from his knee injury, the Jazz very well could have landed a long-term building block at the cost of just two first-round picks, neither of which figures to be in the top ten. And yes, losing Korver and Matthews hurts, but that's why Utah drafted Gordon Hayward.



Signed: Drew Gooden, Corey Maggette, John Salmons

Lost: Luke Ridnour

After adding some veritable scoring punch from the wing, the Bucks should be even more fearsome next season. But while Gooden, Maggette and Salmons should all be solid rotation players for Milwaukee, the Bucks overpaid all three, and it wouldn't be surprising to see the team looking to unload any or all of them a year or two down the line.


Signed: Amir Johnson, Leandro Barbosa, Linas Kleiza

Lost: Chris Bosh, Hedo Turkoglu

Getting out from under Turkoglu's onerous contract and finagling a few draft picks from the Heat is a definite win for the Raptors, who never had a chance of retaining Bosh. Unfortunately, the Bobcats came to their senses and backed out of the José Calderon trade, which would have fast-tracked Bryan Colangelo's rebuilding plans. Getting Kleiza on reasonable terms is a decent move, but locking up Amir Johnson for $7 million a year undermines a return to fiscal sanity in Toronto.



Signed: Dirk Nowitzki, Brendan Haywood, Ian Mahinmi, Tyson Chandler, Alex Ajinca

Lost: Erick Dampier, Matt Carroll, Eduardo Najera

Poor Mark Cuban. The Mavs are stuck in that never-never land between contending and rebuilding. With an aging core that peaked 3-4 years ago, Dallas is desperately clinging to mediocrity -- and that's what their moves this summer have been about. Extending Nowitzki was a no-brainer, but overpaying to keep Brendan Haywood is a semi-desperate, albeit understandable, move. The Mavs managed a measure of redemption by stealing Tyson Chandler, adding the athletic shot-blocking presence they've missed the past few years, but the Mavs need to do more than just make moves at the margins.


Signed: Rudy Gay, Tony Allen

Lost: None

Did they overpay for Rudy Gay? You betcha. But at least he's young (23), and keeping him gives their young core a chance to develop together after finally exhibiting signs of life last season.



Signed: Travis Outlaw, Jordan Farmar, Johan Petro, Anthony Morrow, Quinton Ross

Lost: Yi Jianlian

It hasn't quite been the triumphant debut pundits expected from everybody's favorite Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. The Nets got unlucky in the draft lottery and missed out on all the name free agents this summer, but they've made a handful of decent moves in landing Anthony Morrow and Jordan Farmar, without committing too much in future salary. Giving the essentially unproven Travis Outlaw $35 million, however, is rather dubious.


Signed: Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick, Channing Frye

Lost: Amar'e Stoudemire, Leandro Barbosa

If they'd simply stopped after extending Channing Frye and pilfering Josh Childress for the relative pittance of the mid-level exception and a second-round pick, it would have been a solid summer for the Suns. Unfortunately, the Suns did not stop there, and instead did former GM Bryan Colangelo a colossal favor in taking on Hedo Turkoglu's horribly unappealing contract. Even from strictly a basketball perspective, Turkoglu makes little sense on the Suns as a "stretch four" given his nonexistent rebounding skills and inability to guard bigs. This is an attempt to get back to a 7SOL-esque mismatch at the four, except back then Shawn Marion's unorthodox, versatile game was able to make it work as a defender/rebounder/shooter extraordinaire. Turkoglu is none of those things.


Signed: Wes Matthews (OS)

Lost: Juwan Howard

Assuming the capped-out Jazz don't match Portland's $34 million offer for Matthews, the Blazers will have added a decent, young swingman who can defend and hit the open three. Not bad. But it's highly questionable whether Matthews is worth this much money, unless, of course, the Blazers are simply looking to acquire assets to make a bigger move down the line.


Signed: None

Lost: Dominic McGuire

No harm, no foul for the Kings, who continue to build through the draft, after picking up Tyreke Evans and Demarcus Cousins in consecutive years.



Signed: Tyrus Thomas, Dominic McGuire, Erick Dampier, Matt Carroll, Eduardo Najera, Shaun Livingston

Lost: Raymond Felton, Tyson Chandler, Alex Ajinca

It's been a puzzling offseason, to say the least, for the Bobcats. Keeping the explosive Tyrus Thomas in Charlotte was a good, smart risk, but what exactly was the thinking behind the Tyson Chandler trade? If it was supposed to be a salary dump, well, try again. Unless the Bobcats are packaging Dampier's non-guaranteed contract for a bigger piece, this was a complete mystery of a move. Although, to be fair, taking a flier on the Shaun Livingston reclamation project at very modest cost is a shrewd move.


Signed: David Lee, Dorell Wright

Lost: Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike, Ronny Turiaf, Anthony Morrow

In Lee, the Warriors landed a 20 and 11 player who should be an ideal partner for Stephen Curry in the pick-and-roll game. However, giving up three rotation players -- particularly the potential-laden Randolph -- to get the defensively-challenged Lee is a bit of a reach, especially considering that he likely won't thrust them into playoff contention. Add in the departure of sharpshooter Anthony Morrow, who left for a very reasonable deal, and it's clear that Larry Ellison cannot buy this team quickly enough to give its management some direction.


Signed: Kyle Lowry

Lost: None

The Rockets struck out in the Chris Bosh and Al Jefferson sweepstakes, but you can bet GM Daryl Morey is gearing up to make a run at Chris Paul and/or Carmelo Anthony should either of them get on the market in the next year or so. The Rockets have been stockpiling assets for quite awhile now and have plenty of ammo to make a mega-deal work.


Signed: Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes

Lost: Travis Outlaw, Steve Blake

Remember when the Clippers were supposedly in the running in the LeBron sweepstakes? It's alright, ESPN forgot too. Although few (any?) people expected LeBron to seriously consider L.A.'s other club, I doubt the Clippers faithful thought Randy Foye and Ryan Gomes would be the backup plan. That's not to say that Foye and Gomes won't be useful players who the Clippers managed to secure for decent money, but just that when a team has the cap space and young core the Clippers boast, you'd hope to lure someone better.


Signed: Chris Duhon, Quentin Richardson

Lost: J.J. Redick (OS), Matt Barnes

The Magic needed a backup point guard and a defender/shooter to replace Barnes, and they got both in Duhon and Richardson, although they paid a bit more than you'd like to for that duo. Still, with the Heat trampling over everyone else in free agency, there's an urgency to keep pace in the arms race in the Eastern Conference. Don't be surprised if Vince Carter and/or Marcin Gortat get shipped out soon, as the Magic look for a reliable wing scorer.


Signed: None

Lost: None

It would have been nice to find a taker for Elton Brand's massive contract, but then again, it'd be nice to have a time machine and be able to go back and never give out that contract in the first place. The Sixers weren't realistically going to move Brand unless it was in return for an equally appalling contract, so there wasn't much for Philadelphia to do this summer.


Signed: Kirk Hinrich, Yi Jianlian, Hilton Armstrong

Lost: Mike Miller, Randy Foye, Quinton Ross

After blowing things up last season, the Wizards had ample cap space coming into this summer. New owner Ted Leonsis wisely indicated a proclivity for building slowly, but the Wizards have been ineffective at using that space. Taking on Kirk Hinrich's salary for the next two seasons to get the 17th pick in this year's draft wasn't that bad (especially if there's a lockout next summer and/or most free agents sign extensions out of fear or a potential work stoppage), but taking one year fliers on the wholly uninspiring pair of lottery busts Yi Jianlian and Hilton Armstrong is unimaginative at best. Still, at least Ernie Grunfeld didn't squander their long-term cap space.



Signed: Al Harrington, Anthony Carter, Shelden Williams

Lost: None

I can't imagine Carmelo Anthony (or the Denver faithful) will be too patient with more or less sitting pat -- I'm sorry, they added Al Harrington! -- a year after the Nuggets regressed, falling in the first round of the playoffs (again). Can Kenyon Martin's massive expiring contract net them a major piece?


Signed: None

Lost: None

After last year's disastrous and ill-advised spending spree on former UConn teammates Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, perhaps it was best that the Pistons took a few plays off this summer. Not adding any more salary is a plus, as Detroit should look to unload some of their bad contracts and hit the reset button on last year's fiasco.


Signed: None

Lost: Luther Head

The Pacers could still use a point guard, so look for them to keep scrounging on the free agency scrap heap (a trade for Ramon Sessions might make sense) as they look to fill that void.


Signed: Aaron Gray, Luther Head

Lost: None

The Hornets' ownership situation precluded them from making any roster shakeups this summer, but with Chris Paul making his discontent with the floundering direction of the club increasingly known, they can't afford to wait much longer to take some type of drastic action to try to resuscitate their fortunes.



Signed: None

Lost: LeBron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas

Like everything else that happened to the Cavs this summer, this grade is unfair. They tried. They really did. They had a trade for Chris Bosh lined up, before he quashed that. They poured adulation on LeBron and promised to remake the roster to his specifications before he announced his decision to take his talents to South Beach. And in the aftermath of the franchise demolition that was losing LeBron, they inked Rockets point guard Kyle Lowry to a term sheet, before the Rockets matched it. Now they're left with a roster of quasi-All-Stars and spare parts. Well, we'll finally get an empirical test of how good the rest of their team is, sans LeBron. Can they avoid the lottery? Doubtful.


Signed: Darko Milicic, Nikola Pekovic, Michael Beasley, Luke Ridnour, Kousta Koufos

Lost: Al Jefferson

If you like Michael Beasley, it hasn't been an utterly abysmal free agency period for the T'Wolves. But if you're wary of a player who recently complained that basketball is a "job" in the NBA, and who the Heat were only too willing to give away for quite literally nothing...well, it's been more of the same from David Kahn. Re-upping with Darko for $20 million is a caricature of a Kahn move, while shipping Jefferson out for pennies on the dollar to solve the team's frontcourt logjam that Kahn created is plumbing the depths of ineptitude. Serious question: is it possible for Kahn to get any worse? (Update: David Kahn has apparently accepted my challenge and upped the ante. Kahn has inked Luke Ridnour to a four-year, $16 million deal. Can't have enough point guards. Well played sir, well played).



Signed: Joe Johnson

Lost: None

Anytime you can lock up the 29-year old cornerstone of your team that set a record for worst playoff series defeat ever after getting waxed in the second round for the second consecutive year, all for the princely sum of $119 million, that's a move you have to make, right? Consider: this was a Hawks team that was fairly lucky to get past a depleted Bucks team playing without Andrew Bogut in the first round of the playoffs last spring...and they're bringing back the exact same squad, except now they're paying Joe Johnson $119 million. Can you say albatross? The real winner? Gilbert Arenas, of course, who no longer has the worst contract in the league.