Its been a static summer for the most part in the NBA, with few big names on the move. Kenyon Martin still has a bad knee and bad attitude in Denver, Kevin Garnetts clock is ticking in Minnesota, Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis are trying to play nice in New York, and Allen Iverson is a Sixer, at least for now.
There have been some moves made of interest, however, and we weigh in today on the 10 best and five worst of this off-season.
The 10 best moves
1. Charlie Villanueva to Milwaukee
The Bucks certainly remembered Villanueva after his 48-point game in March at Bradley Center. They acquired him from Toronto for T.J. Ford on June 30 – – a deal that almost got lost between the NBA Draft and the start of the free agent negotiating period.
The Raptors were overloaded at forward after drafting Andrea Bargnani and re-signing Chris Bosh. But giving up on Villanueva (13.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg) after one season was shocking. Villanueva had a better rookie season than the Bucks own No. 1 pick Andrew Bogut.
There wont be a lot of buzz about the Bucks heading into this season, but they should not be overlooked. Their starting five is Mo Williams, Michael Redd, Bobby Simmons, Villanueva and Bogut, with Dan Gadzuric, Steve Blake and Ruben Patterson off the bench.
The difference between finishing eighth in the Eastern Conference – – as Milwaukee did last season at 40-42 – – and finishing fifth was only two games. The Bucks bridged that gap with the best move this summer.
2. Shane Battier to Houston
Even after an injury-plagued 34-48 season, the Rockets might not be that far away from contending again. They won 21 of 31 games that Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming played together, which would project to 55 or 56 wins over a full 82-game season.
If Houston is to make the leap back into the Western Conferences top eight, Battier will be one of the keys. Simply put, Battier is rock solid, a career double-figure scorer who played in 396 out of a possible 410 games (96.5 percent) in five seasons in Memphis.
The basketball Web site 82games.com calculated Battiers fair salary rating for last season as being $10.54 million. He made less than half that with the Grizzlies. He’s also starting for USA Basketball right now at the FIBA World Championships in Japan.
3. Ben Wallace to Chicago
You have to look beyond the four defensive player of the year awards to find the value in Ben Wallace. Back in February, Wallace had one game against Minnesota when he finished scoreless in 36 minutes but totaled 17 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 blocks.
Whether hes worth $15 million a season, Wallace will change the balance of power in the East. Keep in mind that by trading Tyson Chandler and the $54 million left on his contract, the Bulls real cost of adding Wallace only was about $14 million total.
Wallace will be 35 when his new contract expires in four years. He figures to have led the Bulls to the NBA Finals at least once in that time. And if he needs any help, Chicago will get the Knicks first-round draft pick again next season.
4. Greg Buckner and Devean George to Dallas
The Mavericks added two perimeter defenders in Buckner and George, both of whom will fit with coach Avery Johnson. Buckner improved as an outside shooter in his two seasons in Denver and George has proven he can play a role on a championship team.
With the additions of Austin Croshere and Anthony Johnson from Indiana, the Mavericks have the kind of depth to make them championship favorites. Not only that, Dallas saved $19 million by trading Marquis Daniels for Croshere, who is in the last year of his contract.
Out of the four conference finalists last season – – Miami, Detroit, Phoenix and Dallas – – the Mavericks appear to have improved the most this summer.
5. Rudy Gay to Memphis
Looking back on the summer of 2006, the Battier trade might not look so hot from the Rockets perspective in a couple of years. Thats because they sent the draft rights to Rudy Gay to Memphis, the rookie who might have the best chance of being a star.
The Grizzlies probably had the best draft of any team, picking up Gay, Kyle Lowry and Alexander Johnson. None other than Jerry West said Gay has the potential to be an All-Star every year he is in the league, and described him as floating and gliding on the court.
6. Peja Stojakovic to New Orleans/Oklahoma City
If you went 9-21 after the All-Star break – – as the Hornets did last season – – you might consider doing something rash. The question is whether you would sign Peja Stojakovic to a five-year, $64 million deal, no matter how well he shoots the ball.
The Hornets spent an insane $126 million on Stojakovic, Tyson Chandler and Bobby Jackson. They had better make the playoffs this season to see some return on that investment – – and Stojakovic had better play like its the 2003-04 season again.
7. Vladimir Radmanovic to Lakers
They could have used an upgrade at point guard instead of a big man who can shoot 3-pointers. But the Lakers got good value out of their midlevel exception in Radmanovic, who will be under contract for the best years of his career – – ages 26-30 – – and can develop as a rebounder and defender.
For the record, the Lakers’ record for most 3-pointers in a season (183) was set by Nick Van Exel in 1994-95. Radmanovic’s career best is 140 in his third season with Seattle.
8. J.R. Smith to Denver
No matter how entrenched Smith was in Byron Scotts doghouse, the Nuggets made a great low-risk move in getting him. They traded two second-round picks and Howard Eisley to Chicago for a 21-year-old guard entering his third season out of high school.
Denver needs a shooter in the worst way and Smith improved from a 28.8 percent 3-point shooter as a rookie to 37.1 percent in his second year. The only question is can Smith co-exist with George Karl.
9. Francisco Elson and Jackie Butler to San Antonio
The Spurs figure to get the same production from the center spot as last season, when they used Rasho Nesterovic and Nazr Mohammed, at less than half their $12.4 million price tag. Elson impressed the Spurs with how well he can run the floor and Butler played ahead of Eddy Curry at times in New York.
10. Marcus Banks to Phoenix
Will the Lakers regret passing on Banks and watching him sign with their Pacific Division rival? Banks wasnt able to find a starting point guard job, but backing up Steve Nash will afford him a significant role in Phoenix. His speed is a huge asset on a Suns team that took 44 percent of its shots last season in the before the shot clock reached 14.
The five worst moves
5. Joel Przybilla to Portland
Good for Przybilla to re-sign with the Blazers, where he established himself as an NBA player two seasons ago. Its just amazing that he would turn down offers from San Antonio and Detroit to stay with a team that went 21-61 and is years away from contending.
The Blazers big man rotation is going to be interesting this season, and Przybilla might not find his loyalty rewarded. Portland has two positions to split five ways between Przybilla, Zach Randolph, Jamaal Magloire, LaMarcus Aldridge and Raef LaFrentz.
Maybe the Blazers will luck into Greg Oden next year.
4. Derek Fisher to Utah
The one thing Fisher always has wanted is to be a starter. He gave up his job once with the Lakers after Gary Payton signed and then with Golden State after Baron Davis arrived. Now Fisher, at age 32, is heading to Utah to back up second-year guard Deron Williams.
Theres a lot Fisher can teach Williams, but it will come at a high price. Fisher has another four years and $26 million on his contract. The Jazz sent out three players with expiring contracts to get him, which will cost Utah about $22 million in the end.
3. Jared Jeffries to New York
Wouldnt it be fun to do the books for the Knicks? Someone at 4 Pennsylvania Plaza decided that Jeffries was worth signing for $30 million plus an additional $30 million in luxury tax penalties. This for a team that is still waiting to see just how much of the $40 million it owes Larry Brown will have to be paid.
The good news is that every NBA team not over the tax threshold gets $1 million kicked back to them thanks alone to Jeffries new deal. The Knicks got a versatile young forward who has never averaged more than 6.8 points in a season . . . and maybe some more Confederate money to spend.
2. Rafael Araujo to Utah
All you have to know about Rafael Araujo is that he likely would pick up about eight fouls if he ever got on the court for 40 minutes in a game. Such is his fouls per minute rate through two seasons. He also shot 40.3 percent and blocked 14 shots in two seasons, astonishing for a 6-foot-11, 290-pound center.
Araujo is only entering his third season, but he cant be a project much longer at age 26. The Raptors took him No. 8 overall in 2004, and Araujo might be out of the league after his rookie contract. His last chance will come in Utah, where he played in college at Brigham Young.
The Jazz, who have to exercise the fourth-year option in Araujos contract by Oct. 31, hope he can play a 15- to 20-minute role off the bench behind Mehmet Okur and Carlos Boozer. If so, then pencil him in for roughly four fouls every night.
1. Mouhamed Saer Sene to Seattle
The good news is that the Sonics wont have to sell the Sene pick (No. 10 overall) to their fans in Seattle. The bad news is that they will have to justify it to their fans in Oklahoma City once new ownership decides to move the team there.
Its unbelievable that Seattle would draft Sene, who averaged 3.1 points and 4.1 rebounds in Belgium last season, with project centers Johan Petro and Robert Swift already on the roster. Its like the Lakers drafting not one but three Andrew Bynums in a row.
The best quote from the NBA off-season might have come from Seattle coach Bob Hill in the Seattle Times. “He [Sene] is a better shot-blocker than J.J. Redick is a shooter, Hill said. Write it down, save it, and check back in four years.