Thursday, 25 July 2013

Summer League Wrap: Ones To Watch And Kiwi Recap

Usually, NBA Summer League is an event which only the NBA hardcores in New Zealand follow and watch, a place where rookies and players trying to make their claim for a roster spot combine for what can at times be pretty uninspiring basketball.

This year, things changed.

With Thomas Abercrombie, Cedric Jackson and Steven Adams all getting court time in this year’s Summer League events, interest in New Zealand for this usually glossed over showcase has never been higher. There’s been so much interest in Summer League that I’ve been asked by several people to wrap up the tournaments that took place, and give my take on the players with Kiwi connections involved.

Before we get to those with a particular New Zealand interest, let’s take a look at those players who shone in the Summer League, and those you may be seeing a lot more of this upcoming NBA season.

Kent Bazemore

Bazemore was the key man in the Golden State Warriors team who won the Las Vegas Championship, and is a player who I’ve long held an affinity for.

Bazemore is 6’5”, but has a wingspan of 6’11”, a crucial aspect of making him one of the best defensive guards in the game. Bazemore’s shooting was sporadic last season, meaning he didn’t get too many minutes off the bench, but when he did he showed huge All-Defence potential, showcased best by his lock-down play of Tony Parker in the dying stages of the fateful Game One, which was then ruined by Jarrett Jack leaving Manu Ginobili open on the wing.

As a manic Warriors fan, I watched every game of their undefeated run to the championship, and it was a pretty strange watch. Bazemore was tasked with handling the point, a job he did pretty decently, but with precisely zero “scorers” on the side, it was defence-first, and you couldn’t find a better man to do that than the relentless Bazemore.

Jonas Valanciunas

It took a whole season, but I can finally spell Jonas Valencia Valanchewness  Valanciunas’ name without having to get it spell-checked.

The practice has come from excitedly typing his name whenever the big Lithuanian did crazy things in Summer League, and that was often, with Valanciunas (nailed it I swear) winning the Las Vegas MVP on the back of several bullying displays in the post.

It looked like Valanciunas had put on several pounds of muscle during the off-season, which will definitely come in handy when playing against the far bigger, more physical big men in the NBA. And it’s not like he desperately needed to either, with his rookie year stats of nine points and six rebounds per game being excellent for the raw big man’s debut season.

With Andrea Bargnani gone, the Amir Johnson-Valanciunas frontcourt will have free reign in the paint for Toronto, and there’s very little doubt in my mind that Valanciunas will end up as a much more productive player than Bargnani.

Ian Clark

Clark quietly shone in Miami colours during the Orlando Summer League, but the former Belmont star saved his best for the Warriors in Las Vegas.

Clark went undrafted in the 2013 class, despite shooting 46% on threes and also being named the Ohio Valley Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. With “Three and D” guys being so valuable in today’s NBA, this makes little sense, and Clark proved that with his off-season display, averaging 14 points per game across both camps, shooting the deep ball at a 46% rate and also displaying some good on-ball defence.

This all culminated in a ridiculous showing during the Las Vegas Final, where he truly caught fire, breaking several records with seven threes and a 33 point display. While both the Warriors and Heat had little room for him on their roster, the Utah Jazz – home of the worst back-court in the league – quickly gave the perfect role player a two-year deal.

Kelly Olynyk

I wish to bring up Mr.Olynyk simply to warn people about over-reacting to Summer League, which I’m sure you are thinking I’m doing here. Olynyk was the talk of the NBA world for a short few days as he averaged 18 points per game while showing a good ability to run the floor, create his own shot and step outside for threes. The hype got so far that some Celtics fans were, hopefully jokingly, likening him to Dirk Nowitzki.

While it’s all very nice, young Kelly hitting his turnarounds, he looks like a duck in traffic on defence, being far overmatched by almost every big man. Oh, and he shot 23% on threes. Sounds like a poor man’s Andrea Bargnani.
That’s right, that’s three digs at Bargnani in the past two articles. Enjoy, Knicks fans!

Reggie Jackson and John Henson

The co-recipients of the “You’re Too Good To Be Here” Award, Jackson and Henson showcased their supreme talents during overwhelming Summer League displays, only to be shown a lack of faith by their front offices just days later.
Jackson showed everyone what he’s capable of in when stepping in for Russell Westbrook during last season’s playoffs, averaging 15 points, five rebounds and four assists per game and showing he’s deserving of more minutes in a Kevin Martin-less back-court. Then, the Thunder decided to re-sign Derek Fisher, once again limiting Jackson’s minutes and replacing them with an old guy who simply stands in the corner and can’t play a lick of defence.

Henson was a stand-out in both senses of the word during Summer League also, averaging 15 points and 14 rebounds in his 27 minutes per game, as well as three blocks per encounter. Henson was pushing for starters minutes near the end of last season, tossing up a ridiculous 17 points, 25 rebound, seven block display against Orlando – one of the best performances ever by a rookie.

So what do the Bucks do with this burgeoning young talent? They go and sign a mediocre centre, Zaza Pachulia, to join the already packed frontcourt. Keep an eye on Henson in his far-too-limited minutes this season.

The Kiwi Connection:

Cedric Jackson

Jackson held a healthy lead in the Orlando Summer League assist stats, with eight a game for Miami, impressing the talent evaluators with his unselfish play in a shoot-first environment. Unfortunately, he couldn’t build on that performance in Las Vegas, struggling to take advantage of the scraps of minutes tossed his way from CJ McCollum’s high-dining table.

Everybody knew Jackson could pass, but what he needed to convince the front offices of was his ability to shoot the basketball and play defence, neither of which he displayed with any certainty. With the only gigs available at the end of the bench, Jackson needed to have an impactful skill on show, and I’m not sure he quite managed to do that.

Regardless, it was an impressive display from the honorary Kiwi, and one which will keep him on the radar of NBA squads for potential 10-day contracts and try-out opportunities.

Thomas Abercrombie

Although it wasn’t in anybody’s wildest dreams that Abercrombie would find his way onto an NBA roster, the athletic Breaker would have been disappointed with his limited impact made. After 16 scoreless minutes in the opening game, coach Jeff Hornacek clearly saw enough, giving Abercrombie mainly garbage time minutes from then on.

While he didn’t do anything wrong, Abercrombie’s performances were rather forgettable, with ball touches being few and far between as he unselfishly stood in the corner and played decent off-ball defence. He made all the right basketball decisions, but it would have been nice to see him hog the ball and force some shots up there, like everyone else on trial did.

But hey, at least he dunked off an inbounds pass.

Steven Adams

Finally, we get to the most hyped prospect in New Zealand basketball.
I’ve been well documented as one of the writers to attempt to slow down the hyperbolic Adams train, but I was impressed with what I saw from Adams in Orlando. He had three very solid games, finishing near the rim, setting hard screens and rebounding well, which is basically all that well-wishers can ask of him at this point in time.

I’ll reiterate my previous stance: Adams has potential, and I would love to see him starting on an NBA roster. But he’s still the fourth string centre on the Thunder, and should spend significant time in the D-League.

Summer League doesn’t show us who the great players are. It shows us who the bad players are. Adams has safely avoided that at this early stage of his career, it’s a promising beginning to what hopefully will be a very successful career.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

As Big as the British Open: Sanderson Farms Golf Tips

It takes something special for me to stop writing about basketball. Today, I have found what it takes.

The Sanderson Farms Championship, that's what!

The poor little tournament in Madison is continually overlooked by the golfing world as everyone fusses over the rich boys at the majors. Well, here at From the Carpark, we believe that every golf tournament deserves equal tipping treatment. Oh, and Sanderson Farms. What a name for a tournament.

Despite the PGA Tour's attempts to downplay this tournament, it's near impossible to beat the fun of backing players from a field with only one player who has won a title this season, as well as getting a rooting interest in a tournament that you would otherwise disregard. Another aspect which makes it completely opposite to the British Open is the course's high likelihood of producing very low scores.

This is how low-level this tournament is - Chris Kirk is the favourite, while DJ Trahan, a man who you usually find at $400, is situated nicely at $40. Seung-Yul Noh (English name: soon you'll know), hasn't made finished in the top 30 for 17 events, yet is enticing at $100. It's incredibly hard to find a player with a good recent record playing in this event.

As you know, I find no value in the PGA Tour, but the Sanderson Farms Championship is too hard to resist. Besides, with so many average players, the players at long odds have some nice value.

Here's who Skinny Dynamite is backing this weekend:

Sanderson Farms Tips:

Matt Every $66
Russell Knox $100
Soon You'll Know $100
Greg Chalmers $150
Will Claxton $150
Luke List $250
Bobby Gates $275

After looking at the recent form of everybody at long odds and seeing a whole bunch of MC's and T67's, I'm backing these unfortunate lot:

Greg Chalmers $150
Bill Lunde $125 
Ricky Barnes $100
Tim Petrovic $100
Russell Knox $100
Rory Sabbatini $70
Steven Bowditch $40

So, Greg Chalmers and Russell Knox have the "From The Carpark" tick of approval/curse of death. Personally, I'm hoping for a Monday of celebration after being the only person in the world to get the Alex Noren/Bill Lunde combo of winners.

Anyway, I'm off to continue with my basketball writing, enjoy the big golfing weekend and hopefully we'll have something to show for it come next Monday.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

2013 British Open Tips

As a golf fan, I love the time of the year when there's a Major on. As an amateur golf tipster, it's not quite as fun.

I'm not sure whether this is a defensible dislike in the tipping world or not. Usually, I do quite well finding value in the small European Tour tournaments, but struggle when the big names are added. While the value on some players becomes very enticing, there are just so many potential contenders that it is hard to legitimately, skilfully, pick out a winner.

Additionally, there is never any course form to go from with the British Open, as they change venue every year. So basically, you are picking players who you think could go low, but there's rarely a whole avalanche proof to go alongside that.

And yet, every major we seem to make a good profit from. This year at Muirfield, the scores aren't likely to be very high, but hitting fairways is extremely key. To win the British, you have to have some semblance of form as well, with only Ben Curtis being a true out of the blue winner in the past 10 years.

Anyway, less analysis, more tips (gotta give the people what they want!). First up, we have Skinny Dynamite's tips.

British Open Tips:

Graeme McDowell $25 (7 places)
Henrik Stenson $50 (6 places)
Matt Kuchar $50 (6 places)
Thomas Bjorn $66 (7 places)
Richard Sterne $100 (6 places)
Martin Laird $100 (7 places)
Jaime Donaldson $125 (7 places)
Chris Wood $150 (7 places)

All 1ew 

I'm mixing things up this tournament  going with some relatively short players for a change:

Alexander Noren $150
Zach Johnson $90
Nicolas Colsaerts $66
Martin Kaymer $60
Dustin Johnson $50
Luke Donald $33

And of course, a few props to go with:

Will Luke Donald finish in the top 10: YES ($3.25)
Will Lee Westwood finish in the top 10: YES ($3.20) 
Will Phil Mickelson miss the cut: YES ($5.75) -It's Phil! Anything can happen!
Rory McIllroy to finish 21st-40th ($4.60)

That's all for this year's British Open, back the tips you like and best of luck with getting a winner. For the first time in ever, we haven't backed Jason Day, so there's a surefire winner for you.

Oh, and if you want tips for the superbly named Sanderson Farms Championship on the PGA Tour (small event alert!), hit me up on Twitter @NiallGunner and I'll endeavour to get some posted.

Enjoy yet another major championship.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

NBA Free Agency Update: Edition II

With no basketball to speak of outside of the Summer League, NBA fanatics are being forced away from their TV’s and computers in an attempt to get a social life.

Fortunately for you, I don’t have one, and am instead manning the fort on all the offseason news from the NBA. So, instead of researching all of the free agency news by yourself, I present to you the one-stop shop for analysis on every player and signing made in the past week of the NBA offseason.

It’s the second week of our NBA Free Agency team-by-team guide.

Atlanta Hawks:

Re-signed Jeff Teague (4 years, $32 million)
Signed Elton Brand (1 year, $4 million)

The Hawks finally ended their flip-flopping over Jeff Teague, matching the four year, $32 million offer sheet that the Bucks tabled for him, and ending all speculation that they would swap out Teague for Brandon Jennings.

Danny Ferry has come to the right conclusion here, with Teague being as far more efficient and promising player than Jennings, as well as somebody who is consistently underrated due to his lack of highlight-reel plays. Eight million a year is a very fair price for the Wake Forest alum.

In Brand, the Hawks get a cheap Paul Millsap back-up, somebody who can still score the ball and rebound proficiently in his old age. A decent price for a decent player.

Brooklyn Nets:

Signed Andrei Kirilenko (2 years, $6 million)

Kirilenko’s signing has been covered by my colleague Ben Appley, so I’ll keep my take short:

This signing propels Brooklyn into true title contenders. I was highly sceptical (as I tend to be) with those claims beforehand, but the addition of an all-round excellent player in Kirilenko really moves them from a side who was going to struggle with perimeter defence to one which now has enough depth to be considered legitimate.

Questions remain over how Mikhail Prokhorov convinced Kirilenko to sign for about 30 million dollars less than he could have received, but tax bills aside, everything is looking rosy for the Russian owner right now.

PS: Kirilenko should be starting over Pierce. All Boston fans, send your abuse to niall@nzhoops.co.nz.

Cleveland Cavaliers:

Signed Andrew Bynum (2 years, $24.5 million)

I think the term I keep coming back to for this signing is that it’s a “worthwhile gamble”. We all know the problems associated with having Andrew Bynum on your team – he’s injury prone, immature, and lacks effort. He’s also one of the best centres in the league when healthy.

That’s what makes Cleveland’s deal smart in my books. They are giving up only $6 million in guaranteed money, and the second year of Bynum’s deal is a team option. Basically, it’s a one-year trial for Bynum to show that he’s capable of being a night-to-night NBA star.

If it doesn’t work out, they can throw his money off the cap and use it to sign a big upcoming free agent (*cough* LeBron). If Bynum starts playing to his 2011-2012 level, then the Cavaliers could be a very nice playoff side this season.

Dallas Mavericks:

Signed Wayne Ellington (2 years, $5 million)
Signed Monta Ellis (3 years, $25 million)

Newsflash: The Mavericks officially don’t care about defence.

Firstly, Ellington is a cheap role player who can shoot threes, but isn’t that what Vince Carter is for?

More importantly, the Mavericks won (or lost?) the Monta Ellis sweepstakes, signing him to a not-horrendous three-year deal. While inefficient players like Ellis are becoming less valued in the NBA, he still can create a shot, is highly skilled at getting to the rim and is an underrated passer. Like the other members of the Mavs back-court (Jose Calderon), Ellis can’t play defence at all, meaning the Mavericks are going to concede a bucket-load of points to opposing guards.

The Mavericks also signed Devin Harris, but reneged on the deal when Harris suffered an injury. Expect the contract to be put back on the table when he regains full fitness.

Denver Nuggets:

Signed Randy Foye (3 years, $9 million)
Signed JJ Hickson (3 years, $16 million)

Two pretty uninspiring signings from Denver to improve their bench. Foye can shoot threes, but is a liability defensively, while Hickson had a great year tallying double-doubles in Portland, but is likely to also come off the bench with JaVale McGee being hastily promoted to the starting centre role.

Neither signing is superb value, but both are about at their market rates and will provide more bench depth to a Denver team hurting from personnel changes this offseason.

Detroit Pistons:

Signed Chauncey Billups (2 years, $5 million)
Signed Will Bynum (2 years, $5.75 million)
Signed Luigi Datome (2 years, $3.75 million)

Is it wrong that I care more about the Datome signing than I do Billups re-joining his old squad from his glory days?

For those who don’t know him, Datome is the Italian League MVP, and he has a skillset which is very translatable to the NBA – deadeye shooting. Datome is the Italian Kevin Durant (hyperbole alert!), shooting at 47/41/91 splits, while also grabbing a fair amount of rebounds (six a game). I look forward to him coming off the bench and becoming friends with Kyle Singler.

Bynum is your prototypical forgettable back-up guard, while Billups is being paid $5 million to essentially mentor young players. To get him, the Pistons cut Kim English, an arguably better and cheaper player, so clearly they think either Billups has something left in the tank (highly unlikely) or they simply just want a good locker room.

Golden State Warriors:

Signed Toney Douglas (1 year, $1.6 million)
Signed Jermaine O’Neal (1 year, $884,293)
Signed Marreese Speights (2 years, $7.2 million)

Since when have the Warriors front office started making astute bench signings?

As a Dubs tragic, I’m pretty pleased with these signings, which have solidified our shaky-looking bench. Douglas can shoot threes and play defence, and should form a pretty nice defensive backcourt with fellow bench-rider Kent Bazemore.

O’Neal is a nice cheap pick-up after being rejuvenated by the Phoenix miracle training staff, the defensive minded former All-Star should fill the back-up centre role until Festus Ezeli comes back from injury.

Speights is the big signing however, effectively being a replacement for Carl Landry. While Landry is better in the post than Speights, Marreese is an elite jump-shooter from the top of the key, and will be able to spread the floor in second-string small-ball units. Defence is a big issue, but with bench signings, you can’t get everything.

Houston Rockets:

Signed Robert Covington (1 year, league minimum)
Signed Reggie Williams (1 year, $947,907)

I was a big fan of Reggie Williams, Golden State Warrior, but then he got ruined by the Bobcats. In 24 games on the Warriors in 2010, Williams averaged 15 points, five rebounds and three assists, before continuing to shoot 42% on threes the following season. There’s definite potential there, and maybe the Rockets system can get it out of him to the best extent.
Since I promised to cover everyone, Covington gets a mention. The Tennesse State power forward went undrafted, but the Rockets picked him up, expect to see some D-League time for the rangy, low-risk high-reward power forward.

Indiana Pacers:

Signed Chris Copeland (2 years, $6 million)

The late blooming Copeland is a nice fit in Indiana. The Pacers tried to fill the bench scorer role with last year’s Gerald Green signing, but that didn’t work, so Copeland, who shot 42% on threes last year, should be able to provide much-need scoring for the defensively sound Indiana squad.

Los Angeles Clippers:

Signed Darren Collison (2 years, $4 million)
Re-signed Ryan Hollins (1 year, $884,293)
Signed Brandon Davies (1 year, $490,180)

What an uninspiring bunch. There’s still hope for Collison to become a quality NBA point guard, and going to the Chris Paul School of Point should benefit him immensely. While Eric Bledsoe has become ridiculously overrated, Collison is still a slight downgrade on him, but a good investment nonetheless.

Hollins’ re-signing is exactly why the Clippers aren’t contenders. He is practically their back-up rim protector, and unless small-ball is maximised, potentially their first big man off the bench. I would rather have Jermaine O’Neal over Hollins, and it’s not close.

Davies is that BYU guy who screwed up their Jimmer-led title run by having pre-marital sex with his girlfriend and subsequently being suspended from playing. Remember that? Yeah, that’s all I’ve got on him.

Los Angeles Lakers:

Signed Chris Kaman (1 year, $3.2 million)
Signed Nick Young (1 year, $884,293)
Re-signed Robert Sacre (2 years, $1.6 million)
Signed Wes Johnson (1 year, $884,293)
Signed Jordan Farmar (1 year, $884,293)

Your 2013-2014 Los Angeles Lakers: WHERE THE STARS COME TO PLAY!

Miami Heat:

Re-signed Chris Andersen (1 year, $884,293)

A rare shot-blocking member of the Heat, re-signing the Birdman to the veteran’s minimum was always going to happen from Miami’s point of view. They’ll be hoping they can replicate their success with him in the line-up (39-3 in the regular season) during this upcoming season.

Milwaukee Bucks:

Signed Zaza Pachulia (3 years, $15.6 million)
Signed Carlos Delfino (2 years, $6.6 million)

Honestly, what are the Bucks doing????

Zaza Pachulia is a nice player, and one who probably does deserve five million dollars a year. Why the Bucks were the team that gave it to him makes no sense at all. Milwaukee currently has seven players who play either at power forward or centre, and only three guards. With John Henson, Larry Sanders, Ersan Ilysaova in place, as well as Gustavo Ayon and Epke Udoh, signing Zaza was not necessary.

Even more hilariously, Delfino was available at a cheap rate to re-sign last season, but the Bucks were not interested and he picked up a one year deal with Houston. So, of course, after a roughly similar level of play last season, the Bucks decided to splash the cash on Delfino, wasting over five million dollars in the process.

Sacramento fans, you have a new contender in the “Most Depressing Fan Base” sweepstakes.

Minnesota Timberwolves:

Signed Corey Brewer (3 years, $15 million)
Signed Ronny Turiaf (2 years, $3.2 million)

Brewer is one of those players of whom you love to have on a small contract, as you value his defensive intensity and ability to race out in transition. When you’re paying him $5 million a year, you start to complain about his horrendous shooting.

How Turiaf managed to steal that much money away from Minnesota is unbeknown to me. Not a good offseason for the Timberwolves.

New Orleans Pelicans:

Re-signed Al-Farouq Aminu (1 year, $3.7 million)
Signed Anthony Morrow (2 years, $2.1 million)
Signed Greg Stiemsma  (1 year, $2.6 million)

Quick pointers on the three signings from everyone’s second favourite, goofy-named team:

Aminu quietly went about his work last year, averaging seven points and eight boards per game. A good defender, he should live up to that contract.

The second part of Morrow’s deal is a team option, meaning the Pelicans have taken a calculated risk on a player who can shoot the lights out, but just had an off year last season. Expect more minutes for Morrow in New Orleans.

I love Greg Stiemsma so much I wrote a whole article on him for a media studies exam once. Result: Excellence. You’ll never hear me bad-mouth the Stiem Machine, in fact he’s probably close to Dwight Howard’s level as one of the league’s elite centres. He’s going to average 20, 10 and five this year – LOCK IT IN!

New York Knicks:

Signed Metta World Peace (2 years, $3.2 million)

Metta World Peace and JR Smith together, what a combination! I’m not sure Artest (sorry, I can’t call him “Peace”) is an upgrade over the jettisoned Copeland, but boy, this Knicks team is going to be hilariously dysfunctional.

I’ll leave the last words to Metta himself:

“"[I want to help] put that banner up on top of that thing up there called, whatever it's called up there"

Toronto Raptors:

Signed Tyler Hansbrough (2 years, $5.1 million)
Signed Dwight Buycks (2 years, $1.2 million)

Tyler Hansbrough keeps alive the streak of white big men playing in Toronto, and has been signed at a reasonable rate – you know what you’re getting from him at this stage of his career: Hustle, post defence and offence, and the opposition wanting to punch him in the face.

In Buycks, the Raptors are hoping for the next Patrick Beverley, with the former Marquette standout being the MVP of the French League last season. I trust Masai Ujiri, and again, this is definitely a low-risk option, so it’s one worth taking.

Like last week, let’s take a final look at the 10 best free agents yet to be signed:

1. Nikola Pekovic
2. Gerald Henderson
3. Brandon Jennings
4. Nate Robinson
5. Mo Williams
6. Lamar Odom
7. Jason Maxiell
8. Beno Udrih
9. DeJuan Blair
10. Gary Neal

Join us next week for “Free Agency Week 3: It’s Getting Ugly”.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Golf Tips: Scottish Open + John Deere Classic

Welcome to the weekly golf tips section of the blog, and, if you don't mind, I'm keen for a little bit of bragging to start us off this week.

Although two dastardly tied sixth's meant that Jaime Donaldson (tipped by me) and 175-1 longshot Richard Green (tipped by SD) didn't collect, I manage to scoop Graeme Storm at 144-1, with his tied third getting me some quality place money.

It could have been so much more too, as I had the rare 1-2 going after the first round, with Anders Hansen and Romain Wattel starting off strong. Much to my disgust, they shot a combined 11 over in Round Two

When I can be bothered, I'll look back at the Euro tipping year so far, but it seems like a pretty successful one. 

Let's move onto this week's event, the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open (What assets do Aberdeen have to manage???) They yearly build-up to the British Open, the event has attracted a strong field, with the likes of Ernie Els, Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson entering this year's tournament. The course is one set up for low scoring, unless the winds pick up I would be expecting a winning score of at least 13-under. 

Let's check out this week's tips.

North Kilttown Open Tips:

Skinny Dynamite:

Francesco Molinari $33
Shane Lowry $33
Alexander Noren $33
Stephen Gallacher $60
Peter Uihlein $80

all 1ew

Peter Whiteford $150
Darren Fichardt $225


all 1/2 ew

I like Skinny's picks this week, and with him having taken most of the short guys I like, I'll again go for guys with longer odds this weekend:

Me:

Francesco Molinari $33
Padraig Harrington $40
Marc Warren $45
Danny Willett $60 
Soren Kjeldsen $65

Edoardo Molinari $150
Matthew Baldwin $150
Tommy Fleetwood $150

Double dose of the Molinari's this week, and while I'm a bit scared of the unusual lack of Scots tipped out (Don't you DARE win, David Drysdale!), it's a quality bunch of golfers I'm backing this week, I'm confident I can muster something up out of these guys.

John Deere Classic Tips:

Despite my excellent bantering of how impossible the PGA Tour is to tip, SD keeps on trying. Let's see if he can nail something this week in the John Deere Classic, aka Steve Stricker's favourite tournament.

Brandon De Jonge $50
Harris English $50
Kevin Streelman $60
Matt Jones $66
DH Lee $80

all 1ew

Rory Sabbatini $110
Tommy Gainey $175
Scott Brown $200

all 1/2 ew 

Good luck all, back in a few days with another Free Agency piece.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

NBA Free Agency: Every Signing Analysed

The excitement in the NBA never stops.

Just as the epic NBA Finals begins to fade, Free Agency has kicked off, providing hundreds of more talking points for fans who were staring at a blank calendar.

Last week I promised to cover the “deals which have gone down”, and despite the fact that there have been plenty, I shall endeavour to do just that.
So, without further ado, let’s crack into every single free agent move which has happened so far this week, and what each deal means for the teams involved.

Atlanta Hawks

Re-signed Kyle Korver (4 years, $24 million)
Signed Paul Millsap (2 years, $19 million)
Signed DeMarre Carroll (2 years, $5 million)

One of the teams with the most cap space in the league, the Hawks have quickly gone about spending that dosh. Acquiring Paul Millsap at a salary of under 10 million per year is an excellent move, and signals a desire to remain a small-ball unit. Korver’s price is a little steep for my liking, but you know he’ll contribute with his consistent three-point shooting, while Carroll brings cheap wing defence to the table.

Josh Smith is out the door, while I’d like to see the Hawks use part of their remaining cap space to snap up the underrated Jeff Teague.

Brooklyn Nets

Re-signed Andray Blatche (1 year, $1.4 million)
Signed Shaun Livingston (1 year, $1.27 million)

The big Nets trade has been covered on NZ Hoops by my colleague Jason Kim, but there is still the matter of free agency to deal with for  Billy King and company. With owner Mikhail Prokhorov showing he doesn’t care about the luxury tax, Blatche was never going anywhere else. Despite his troubled and hilarious past, Blatche actually gave Brooklyn some semi-decent minutes last year, and should do well in a smaller role again this season.

Livingston is an underrated guard who offers several skills to a side off the bench, an adept pick-up for the Nets.

Charlotte Bobcats

Signed Al Jefferson (3 years, $51 million)
Re-signed Josh McRoberts (2 years, $6 million)

It’s weird to say, but those are two solid deals for the Bobcats. Jefferson is a necessary overpay, and will provide excellent low-post offence for a team who suffered from abysmal offensive big men last year. McRoberts, who came over in a mid-season trade, was their best big man for the season-ending stretch, snapping him up once again is a nice move for Charlotte.

Chicago Bulls

Signed Mike Dunleavy (2 years, $6 million)
Re-signed Nazr Mohammed (1 year, $884,293)

Getting Dunleavy at $3million a year is a steal for the Bulls, who desperately needed wing depth. Dunleavy offers a much more all-round game than the likes of Korver, yet can still splash threes, hitting them at a 43% rate last season. A great move by Chicago.

I love Nazr Mohammed, so another year of him in the league is fun, regardless of how many minutes the playoff hero receives.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Signed Earl Clark (2 years, $9 million)
Signed Jarrett Jack (4 years, $25 million)

Clark was a real surprise for the Lakers last season, being at times the only reliable bench player on the squad. The Cavs will hope he continues that bench output backing up Anthony Bennett and Tristan Thompson, and if not they have an out after one year, with Clark’s deal being non-guaranteed.
Jack was my pick for Sixth Man of the Year last year, and while his price is possibly a little steep for a back-up point guard, he’ll provide excellent scoring off the bench as well as great insurance for the injury-prone Kyrie Irving.

Dallas Mavericks

Signed Gal Mekel (3 years, $2.25 million)
Signed Jose Calderon (4 years, $28 million)

Hey, I did say I’d be doing every deal. Here, the Mavs are taking a flier on the Israeli MVP point guard, tying him up at a minimum rate and hoping for some production. A low-risk, high-reward gamble.

As for Calderon, he has always been a favourite of mine, being one of the most efficient offensive players in the league. A great passer and one of the league’s best shooters, he will be devastating in the pick-and-roll with Dirk Nowitzki, and while he can’t defend, he will at least provide reliable minutes, something the Mavs have been longing for from their point guard spot.

Detroit Pistons
Signed Josh Smith (4 years, $56 million)

This is a terrible fit for both player and team. Smith is one of the best forwards in the NBA, a player who will consistently fill the stat-sheet while also providing excellent defence. Unfortunately, the 10% of things he can’t do are going to be highlighted on the dysfunctional Pistons.

Smith is at his worst when playing on the perimeter, as he lives in fantasy land, thinking he’s a good jump shooter, and meaning he’s nowhere near the offensive glass. With Detroit having woeful guards, Smith is going to be entrusted with a lot of isolation possessions. Secondly, if the Pistons do decide to play him at his more natural position of power forward, then Andre Drummond’s encouraging progress gets limited. Smith will produce in Detroit, but both parties could have done better.

Golden State Warriors

Signed Andre Iguodala (4 years, $48 million)

Let’s take a quick aside from the salary portion of the deal (12 million per year is a very acceptable rate for Iguodala), and look at the whole Warriors picture.
As you know, I’m a manic Warriors fan. And I like this deal.

Instead of taking a step backwards this year, which would have been highly likely with the departures of Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack, the Warriors have significantly improved. While those against the signing think the money would have been better spent on Dwight Howard, getting Howard would have resulted in the loss of either Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes, both highly promising wings. Now, they get to learn defence from one of the league’s best (and smartest) defensive players.

An added note of thanks to the Jazz for being so interested in tanking that they took on the awful Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins contracts. It’s finally great to be a Dubs fan.

Houston Rockets

Signed Dwight Howard (4 years, $88 million)
Re-signed Francisco Garcia (2 years, $2.6 million)
Signed Omri Casspi (2 years, $2 million)

The biggest saga of the whole offseason, Houston finally got their man after what seemed like an eternity of to-and-froing from the mind-changing Howard. Eventually, he made the right deal going to Houston, who are now probably a top five team in the West. 

Garcia was one of the biggest surprises of the playoffs, and is rewarded with a shiny new contract. Casspi barely got on the court last season in Cleveland, but earns a chance to show his worth in Houston, with a team option for his second year.

Indiana Pacers

Re-signed David West (3 years, $36 million)
Signed CJ Watson (2 years, $4.1 million)
Signed Donald Sloan (Multi-year deal)

Putting aside the inevitable West re-singing, it’s a fairly bland free agency so far for Indiana. Sloan is a handy player (and flopper), and will provide more from the bench than Ben Hansbrough did, but giving him a multi-year deal gives me a sense that they were bidding against themselves for the D-Leaguer.

Watson is a solid but forgettable back-up guard, but probably is an upgrade over last year’s failed DJ Augustin experiment. Solid, but uninspiring stuff from the Pacers so far.

Los Angeles Clippers

Re-signed Chris Paul (5 years, $107 million)
Signed JJ Redick (4 years, $27 million)
Re-signed Matt Barnes (3 years, $11 million)

Once Doc Rivers was announced as the new Clippers coach, we all knew Paul was staying. What happened after that has been the interesting part.

The sign and trade to get JJ Redick and Jared Dudley was the first part of the puzzle. While talk that the Clippers are championship contenders is severely overblown, Redick and Dudley both provide excellent shooting from the wing, a skill that was lacking from the likes of Chauncey Billups and Willie Green last season.  Redick is a little pricey, and Eric Bledsoe’s departure will put more pressure upon Paul, but a nice get nonetheless by the Clippers.

In the same mold, re-signing Matt Barnes was also a nice move. While the discount price of last season is gone, the Clippers are retaining one of the best off-ball cutters in the league, as well as a player who can hit threes and play defence – a valuable commodity in today’s NBA.

Memphis Grizzlies

Re-signed Tony Allen (4 years, $20 million)
Re-signed Jon Leuer (3 years, $3 million)

In re-signing Tony Allen, the Grizz get a player who is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, and possibly the worst perimeter offensive player in the league. Allen’s elite defence alongside his propensity to clang jumpers and miss lay-ups means 5 million a year is a happy medium.

I’ve long been a proponent of Jon Leuer, he’s nearly always played well when given an opportunity, and besides, when you have the opportunity to lock up a white towel-waver for three years, you HAVE to do it. Savvy move from Memphis.

Milwaukee Bucks

Signed OJ Mayo (3 years, $24 million)

Mayo was rumoured to be heading to all sorts of SG-needy contending sides, but in the end the Bucks swooped, signalling the end of the Monta Ellis era in Milwaukee. While it’s been fun to laugh at the Bucks this offseason, this isn’t a bad move, considering the current market rate for scorers.

Mayo shot 41% on threes last season, and while his defence is at times sloppy, his ability to create off the dribble is another valuable string to his bow.

Next up for the Bucks – finally jettisoning Brandon Jennings.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Signed Kevin Martin (4 years, $28 million)
Re-signed Chase Budinger (3 years, $16 million)

I feel like I’ve been way too positive in my analysis, so thankfully the Timberwolves are here to drag me back down to my normal pessimistic self. 
This Kevin Martin deal is not a good one.

The Timberwolves had two major issues last year: one was defence, and the other was three-point shooting. Martin improves the Timberwolves’ three-point shooting, but makes them even more awful on defence.

Clearly, Flip Saunders doesn’t care about defence, which was also signalled in re-signing Budinger (at a reasonable rate) to accompany Martin, instead of bringing back Andrei Kirilenko.

In regards to Martin, this deal will only be profitable for two years at the max. K-Mart is 30, and already has a declining skill set. While he can still create off the dribble and get to the line, it will be tougher to do on a Timberwolves team lacking the offensive weapons of the Thunder, and eventually we will see him become a mere spot-up shooter. At that stage, the Wolves are going to find themselves paying 7 million a year for a guy to stand in the corner and shoot threes.

New Orleans Pelicans

Signed Tyreke Evans (4 years, $44 million)

Evans is an odd player. The Rookie of the Year in 2009-2010, Evans’ numbers have declined every year despite becoming more efficient in his time in Sacramento. While this can be blamed on the dysfunctional nature of Sacramento, Evans hardly demanded 11 million a year. I have full faith that Evans can get back to being a very good player on his new side, but giving up that much amount of money for him (as well as Robin Lopez and Greivis Vasquez in a sign-and-trade), seems slightly excessive.

New York Knicks

Re-signed JR Smith (4 years, $25 million)
Re-signed Pablo Prigioni (3 years, $6 million)

Have the Knicks learned nothing from last season’s disastrous contracts? Prigioni is awesome to watch, but he is also 35, and only averaged 3.5 points and three assists per game last season. Is it really that crucial to lock up your 35 year old back-up point guard for three years? The Knicks still have not learnt from the Marcus Camby/Jason Kidd horror contracts.

Speaking of dumb moves, signing JR Smith to a four-year deal has to rank up there. Smith has proven time and time again that he can’t be trusted on any side for a long period of time, with his mixture of boneheaded moves and terrible shot selection eventually leading to his coaches being driven mental by the enigmatic shooting guard.

Portland Trail Blazers

Signed Dorrell Wright (2 years, $6 million)

Portland have made some excellent deals this offseason, drafting CJ McCollum and trading for Robin Lopez and Thomas Robinson. Signing Wright is not quite as savvy a move from the Portland front office. All Wright brings to the table is above-average three-point shooting, which could probably have been garnered at a lower rate.

If I were tragically cheesy, I would say this is not the Wright Move. But I’m not, so let’s just move on…..

Sacramento Kings

Signed Carl Landry (4 years, $26 million)

Carl Landry brings several things to the table for a basketball squad. He is an excellent offensive player in the low post, using his undersized body to great effect in order to set up lefty hook shots. He also gets quite a few rebounds for his size. He also can’t play a lick of defence, and favours isolation plays instead of passing up the ball.

Which is a long way of saying he’ll fit perfectly in Sacramento.

San Antonio Spurs

Re-signed Tiago Splitter (4 years, $36 million)
Re-signed Manu Ginobili (2 years, $14 million)
Signed Marco Belinelli (2 years, $6 million)
Signed Jeff Pendergraph (2 year deal)

The Spurs have been the busiest team so far this offseason.

Despite all the criticism Ginobili copped in the Finals, he is still a very good offensive player, and one who had to be re-signed. Belinelli has improved substantially in his short time in Chicago, and he’ll slot right into the Spurs system, and dare I say it, could provide more production than Manu.

Pendergraph is signed to fill the end of the bench, and while I probably would have let Splitter go than re-sign him at that rate (especially on a four-year deal), I’m not a genius like the people who run the Spurs’ front office.

Toronto Raptors

Signed Julyan Stone (2 year deal)

Now, if you have reached this point of this mammoth article, you probably know who Julyan Stone is. If not, here’s a quick reminder: He’s that guy on the end of the Nuggets bench who played four games total last season. Lanky guy, good defender, randomly got a few starts in 2012? No, still don’t remember him?

Clearly former Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri is a fan, giving the Raptors a chance to use a team option on Stone if he lives up to their expectations. Whether he’s better than the other cheap options out there is still to be determined.

Washington Wizards

Signed Eric Maynor (2 years, $4 million)
Re-signed Martell Webster (4 years, $22 million)
Re-signed Garrett Temple (1 year deal)

You can always rely on the Wizards for head-scratching July moves. Signing the injury-hit Maynor is a risk, and probably one worth taking, as he’ll only be backing up John Wall. The need to rush out and re-sign Garrett Temple is odd to me, as the 27-year-old guard shot 41% in an incredible 36 starts for the Wiz (That’s how dreadful they were at times last year).

But nothing gives off more of a sense of “bidding against themselves) like Martell Webster’s contract. Firstly, the Wizards just drafted small forward of the future Otto Porter, meaning Webster is likely to be coming off the bench for the large majority of his contract. Secondly, although Martell is a nice player, he is not the dead-eye that people are claiming him to be. Sure, he shot 42% from deep last year, but the year before that he shot 34%, and for his career he tracks at 38% from deep, with a woeful 41% rate from the field. While he is an above-average defender, I don’t think many teams were queuing up to give him a big four-year deal.

Finally, let’s take a look at the 10 best free agents yet to be snapped up:

1. Nikola Pekovic
2. Jeff Teague
3. Andrew Bynum
4. Andrei Kirilenko
5. Gerald Henderson
6. Monta Ellis
7. Brandon Jennings
8. Elton Brand
9. Nate Robinson

10. JJ Hickson

Back next week, with hopefully less moves to cover!