By now, hundreds of thousands of words have been devoted to the biggest stars. I think I’ve seen more headlines about LeBron James’ jersey number crowdsourcing effort than every move the Milwaukee Bucks have made this summer.
And that’s to be expected to a certain extent. Superstars can swing the power balance in a division, conference and even the league.
But in the background, away from the spotlight, teams are also making shrewd, cap-friendly deals that may go unnoticed now, but pay dividends come May. Here are some of the best deals.
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks, 3-years, $25 million
Yes, we now live in a world in which Dirk is earning half as much as Chandler Parsons. I know Dirk has enough nicknames at this point, but can we add “the anti-Kobe” to the list? Thanks to Nowitzki’s pay cut, the Mavs stay relevant, while the Lakers … well, their marquee summer signings were Carlos Boozer, Jeremy Lin and Jordan Hill. Lake Show? Uh, no.
Kirk Hinrich, Chicago Bulls, veteran’s minimum
When he retires, the Bulls may just retire his goggles. A Tom Thibodeau favorite, the Bulls coach is excited to have Kirk back on his roster, especially with Derrick Rose’s precarious knee ligaments.Thibodeau had this to say:
“It was huge for us because basically, he’s saved us the last two seasons. With Derrick being out, he probably doesn’t get enough credit. You really can’t measure him statistically, but he has the ability to start at the point, you can start him at the two, you can bring him off the bench, you can play him with Derrick. So I think it’s critical for us and he adds a lot of toughness to your team, he’s a great leader. So we’re obviously very pleased about that.”
Danny Granger, Miami Heat, 2-years, $4.2 million
Who needs LeBron James when you have Granger? Of course another summer signing, Luol Deng, will get the majority of the minutes, but Granger will have a chance to prove he still has something left. He’s still just two years removed from scoring nearly 19 points a game for the Pacers. For $2 million a year, it’s a low-risk, high-reward gamble.
Mike Miller, Cleveland Cavaliers, 2-years, $5.5 million
This one has to hurt Pat Riley. Miami’s decision to amnesty Miller and save the team money reportedly upset LeBron and now the two are reunited in Cleveland. This followed Miller managing to stay healthy for an entire season in Memphis, after only playing in 139 out of a possible 246 games for the Heat. Oh, and the Heat are still paying part of his contract.
D.J. Augustin, Detroit Pistons, 2-years, $6 million
After a nondescript first few years in the NBA, Augustin played the Nate Robinson role for the Chicago Bulls last season, effectively filling in for Derrick Rose. It almost makes up for Detroit signing Jodie Meeks to that inflated 3-year, $19 million deal. Nevermind, it doesn’t.
Thabo Sefalosha, Atlanta Hawks, 3-years, $12 million
Do you realize the Hawks gave the 30-year-old Sefalosha the same contract the Memphis Grizzlies gave a 37-year-old Vince Carter? Sefalosha often defended the opposition’s best perimeter player and will balance Kyle Korver’s strictly-offensive contributions.
Patty Mills, San Antonio Spurs, 3-years, $12 million
After Popovich called him “fat,” Mills was one of the key Spurs in last year’s finals. Do you realize Mills shot 19-for-35 from three-point range (54.3 percent) against the Heat in five Finals games? Oh, small footnote, he did that while playing through a rotator-cuff injury that will require surgery and seven months of rehab.
Kris Humphries, Washington Wizards, 3-years, $13 million
Few are as excited as freshly minted Wizards center Marcin Gortat about the Humphries signing. Considering Humphries cost half as much as Jordan Hill, Wizards management should be just as excited.
— Marcin Gortat (@MGortat) July 15, 2014
Isaiah Thomas, Phoenix Suns, four-years, $27 million
Yes, the Suns appear to be trying to corner the point guard market, but even so, Thomas offers tremendous value and if Phoenix winds up losing Bledsoe, then he’ll become a vital cog.
Anthony Morrow, Oklahoma City Thunder, 3-years, $10 million
The Thunder often struggled to space the floor last season. By switching out Sefolosha for Morrow, they lose defense but look at the shooting they gain, courtesy of Nylon Calculus.