We’ve shifted our focus here at DRaT from the NBA Finals onto the NBA off-season. Jake continues our position-by-position free agent preview series with the small forwards.
Players presented in descending order of who I would pay the most money in a team-neutral environment.
2012-13 salary: $14.97 million for Denver Nuggets
2012-13 stats: 13.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 5.4 APG, 0.7 BPG, 1.7 SPG, 52.0% True Shooting
Analysis: Andre Iguodala is most likely considered the top free small forward by nearly all of the league’s GMs. While Iggy’s averages might not jump off the page, he is a legitimate two way weapon with most of his value derived defensively. Iguodala struggled offensively for much of the past season, especially at the charity stripe, leading to a career low True Shooting Percentage (weighs three pointers as more valuable shots and includes value of free throws). Regardless, Iggy found a way to contribute offensively for Denver, scoring a large percentage of his points in transition and in the paint. What truly defines Iguodala’s value and thus makes him one of the most coveted free agents available is his defensive stardom. Iggy’s individual perimeter defense can only be matched by the likes of four time MVP LeBron James, Tony Allen, Luol Deng and now perhaps Paul George. Iguodala is able to zone in on the biggest threat the other team offers. By shutting down the opponent’s top scorer, Iguodala gives his team a healthy chance to win night in and night out. When he can get his jumper going, he is a lethal threat because of his explosive rim rattlers and acrobatic finishes. If I was a GM, I would not hesitate to give Iggy a max or near max contract. His offense rarely hurts the team as he knows his role but isn’t afraid to take an important shot; his defense is franchise altering and can win games on its own.
Possible teams: Nuggets, Pistons, Pelicans, Kings, Warriors, Hawks
2012-13 salary: $13.2 million for Atlanta Hawks
2012-13 stats: 17.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.7 BPG, 1.4 SPG, 50.1% True Shooting
Analysis: Josh Smith is probably the biggest question mark in this free agency group. On one hand, he has proven to be a valuable two-way player his whole career in Atlanta. On the other hand, he still hasn’t really come close to learning the value of high percentage shots and often does not bring defensive intensity on non-highlight reel plays. However, if there’s one thing we know about the NBA, it’s that potential pay$. To clarify, it’s not as if Smith will be earning this contract off potential. He’s undoubtedly proven the ability to put up gaudy individual statistics across the board and contribute at a near All-Star level (he’s probably the best player to have not made an All-Star team, if you give him seniority over Stephen Curry–a sure thing to make the next team). In my opinion, the value of the inefficient Smith is going to depend a lot on who he signs with. If Houston is somehow able to combine Smith and fellow free agent Dwight Howard, it’s going to be virtually impossible to score on them. Even just James Harden and the litany of other shooters Daryl Morey is sure to surround him with will provide acres of floor space that should give Smith the nudge to play in the paint where he belongs. I honestly think this hypothetical team could take a run at winning the Western Conference. On the other hand, if Smith lands in Detroit, we could see more lottery finishes in the future for the Pistons. While I like the core Detroit is putting together as a whole, I don’t think making Josh Smith “the man” is ever “the answer”. Smith needs to be part of an already strong culture that can elicit the many great positives in his game and eliminate the negatives. Regardless, he’s a very valuable talent and will undoubtedly receive a max contract from some lucky or unlucky team.
Possible teams: Pistons, Rockets, Hawks
2012-13 salary: $5.25 million for Sacramento Kings
2012-13 stats: 15.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.5 APG, 0.4 BPG, 1.4 SPG, 55.8% True Shooting
Analysis: It’s kind of surprising that ‘reke ended up on this list if only because he came into the league as John Calipari’s next great point guard, after preceding Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose. However, as the years have gone by and the losses have piled up in Sacramento, it’s become clear that Evans natural position is much more point-forward. After a phenomenal Rookie of the Year season, Evans struggled to find his groove in 2010-11 and 2011-12. Evans averaged career high True Shooting and rebound rates this season after being dismissed as an inefficient high volume guard in the past. Tyreke might need a change of scenery more than any other player mentioned considering the poor history of player development in Sacramento and the uncertain future it faces (note: things are definitely looking up now with a new owner, general manager and coach in place). Some have speculated that Evans could blossom into a bonafide star in San Antonio under the guise of Hall of Fame coach Gregg Popovich. Regardless, we know Tyreke is going to bring toughness, passing and improved efficiency wherever he goes this summer. As the only player on this list coming off his rookie contract, Evans is a restricted free agent and Sacramento can (and may) match any offer thrown his way. As of now, the Pelicans are rumored to be throwing a fat contract at Evans.
Possible teams: Pelicans, Kings, Spurs
2012-13 salary: $9.78 million for Minnesota Timberwolves
2012-13 stats: 12.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.0 BPG, 1.5 SPG, 59.0% True Shooting
Analysis: Andrei “AK47” Kirilenko is one of the more intriguing players available on the market this season. He’s coming off a really strong season, although he did miss some chunks of time with minor injuries. On the surface, Kirilenko carries averages that resemble a lower-middle class man’s Josh Smith. Both snag a few assists and rack up absurd amounts of steals and blocks. However, while the five years younger Smith is the superior player right now, it’s closer than it seems. Using True Shooting %, that nifty little stat I want you all to learn, we can see that Kirilenko was a vastly superior offensive player, outpacing Smith 59.0-50.1. Even though the two forwards have very similar skill sets (big tweener forwards who crash the glass, wreak havoc defensively and are decent shooters), AK47 intelligently chooses his scoring opportunities and is able to parlay this into better three point looks and less inefficient chucking. Kirilenko can’t play quite as many minutes as Smith, but his heady defense and careful offense are huge benefits to any team. Minnesota was much better with Kirilenko active this season and it was moderately surprising to see him opt out of the $10 million he would have been owed for next season. It seems like AK47 is trying to get one last long-term contract in and recognizes that his value will be higher this summer than next after a strong comeback year (he played in Russia for all of the lockout shortened 2011-12 season).
Possible teams: Timberwolves, Pelicans, Pistons
Best of the Rest:
Tony Allen: After struggling to truly find his place in Boston, Allen has emerged as a defensive star for Memphis. Perhaps no one has had more success locking down scorers on the perimeter in the last few seasons. While Allen amasses so much value defensively, he struggles mightily shooting and somehow manages to miss scores of open layups (it’s a running joke with his teammates in Memphis). Many teams will be trying to pay him, but his offensive miscues bump Allen down a few million and a few notches on my list. Prediction: Memphis
Kyle Korver: Chicago fans are familiar with and perhaps nostalgic for Korver’s sweet shooting. It’s no secret that Korver’s a lights out shooter who is terrific at navigating screens to find open space. What’s really increased his value in recent seasons is his defensive improvements. Korver’s been able to stay on the court by keeping his man in front of him and making a surprising amount of stops near the basket. This two-way value pays off. Prediction: Brooklyn
Matt Barnes: Barnes flipped from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Clippers last season and word is he might be flipping back this summer. A member of the 2009 Orlando Magic Finals team, Barnes has proven year in and year out that he’s perfectly capable of playing strong defense, crashing the boards, and hitting the occasional timely three. Yet he still only receives minimum contracts. Sometimes, I don’t understand this league (for the record, I thought it was BONKERS that last summer Chicago was able to nab Nate Robinson for the minimum and let John Lucas III sign a larger non-minimum contract in Toronto). Prediction: Los Angeles Clippers
Mike Dunleavy Jr.: Dunleavy Jr. is a sweet shooting forward with size. He’s not great defensively, but he has the ability to score more than 10.0 PPG when given the opportunity. If any teams need wing shooting, he should be a terrific fit. Prediction: Houston
Dorell Wright: Wright is a three point specialist who appeared to be on the verge of breaking out a few seasons ago but never really did. Regardless, he’s still really good at making three pointers, albeit inconsistently. In the right role, he could be key off the bench and spreading the floor for a contender. Prediction: Minnesota Afternoon update: Oklahoma City is “aggressively pursuing” Wright.
For Geo’s preview on the free agent centers, click here.