5 best value free agent signings of the NBA offseason
NBA free agency has concluded for all intents and purposes, as only a handful of players remain available who would play a significant role in a team’s rotation.
Now, while the likes of Kyle Lowry (Miami Heat) and DeMar DeRozan (Chicago Bulls) found new homes and Russell Westbrook was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, there were plenty of team-friendly free agent signings among starting-caliber players.
Here are the five best value NBA free agent signings thus far this offseason (note: players who signed for the league minimum or found new teams after being bought out during free agency are not included on this list).
5) Devonte’ Graham – four-year, $47.3 million deal with the New Orleans Pelicans
Graham was one of the more savvy, under-the-radar players on the NBA free-agent market and became a steal for the Pelicans from a contract standpoint.
The three-year guard has a smooth, compelling skill set. Graham shot 37.4 percent from beyond the arc over the last two seasons with the Charlotte Hornets. He’s a sly passer who can attack the rack and has gradually improved over his NBA career. Graham presumably joins a highly talented starting five alongside Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas.
Graham for a $12 million average annual salary is better value than Lonzo Ball for a $21.25 million average annual salary, which is what the former Pelicans’ floor general received from the Chicago Bulls.
4) Richaun Holmes – four-year, $46.5 million deal with the Sacramento Kings
The Kings don’t have a definite shape, but they do have a trio of players to be enthused by, Holmes being one of those individuals. The big man is an emerging force for head coach Luke Walton’s rotation. Holmes finishes in the paint, can put the ball on the floor and has been a productive force in recent memory.
Across the last two seasons, Holmes has averaged a combined 13.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game as the Kings’ starting center. Having Holmes in place for the long haul on a $46 million deal is a bargain, especially considering the probability that he grows more productive and impactful with age. He’s a player on the rise on a contract poised to become one of the better deals in the NBA.
This contract is great value for Sacramento and keeps Holmes, De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton intact for the long haul barring a significant trade.
3) Kendrick Nunn – two-year, $10.3 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers remade two-thirds of their roster with roughly half the team playing for the league minimum. They did, however, make a superb signing with the money they did have at their disposal by signing Nunn.
The combo guard had a bizarre tenure with the Heat but one that saw him come into his own as a reliable offensive player. Nunn is adept at sinking jump shots from the perimeter and scoring off the dribble. Across the last two seasons with the Heat, he averaged a combined 15.0 points per game while shooting 38.1 percent from beyond the arc last season.
Still 26, the best could be yet to come for Nunn, who has just two NBA seasons under his belt. With the Lakers, he can be the floor general for the second unit, providing a scoring jolt while getting the ducks in a row. Given the number of veterans present, Nunn provides youthful legs for an extremely affordable price.
2) Cameron Payne – three-year, $19 million deal with the Phoenix Suns
Payne is coming off the best season of his NBA career, where he served as the Suns’ backup point guard. Averaging 8.4 points to go along with 3.6 assists per game and shooting a career-best 44.0 percent from beyond the arc, he was a vital piece to the equation for the Suns en route to them winning the Western Conference.
Moving forward, Payne will play an indispensable role for the Suns, that being serving as Chris Paul’s backup and potential replacement for a period of time if injuries bite the latter down the stretch. Unfortunately for the 36-year-old, injuries continue to play a role in his career.
Payne experienced an uptick in minutes in the first round of the playoffs last season when Paul nursed a shoulder injury. He also has the skill set to complement those around him; Payne handles the rock, moves the ball and shoots well while possessing an ability to get inside off the dribble. A three-year, $19 million deal for Payne is an outright steal.
1) Dennis Schroder – one-year, $5.9 million deal with the Boston Celtics
Schroder signed for one-fifth of the salary he originally desired. Nonetheless, Schroder’s dragged-out, disappointing free agency ended in him signing the best value of the offseason for the Celtics’ sake. For better or worse, Schroder is an NBA starting point guard. He’s a stealthy scorer who attacks the lane, can stick outside jump shots and find his teammates in their hotspots.
Last season with the Lakers, Schroder averaged 15.4 points and 5.8 assists per game as the team’s primary point guard. In all likelihood, Marcus Smart will be new Celtics’ head coach Ime Udoka’s starting point guard next season, but if injuries present themselves or Schroder shows out off the bench, a change could be made.
The Celtics are aiming to get back in the Eastern Conference mix after a puzzling .500 season. They have the talent to bounce back and committed highway robbery in inking Schroder to a one-year, prove-it deal. Boston has a productive NBA point guard in his prime on the cheap.