How did offseason moves pan out?
Last offseason saw a number of major player trades and acquisitions
So far, Zach Randolph's move to Memphis has proved to be the best deal
Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson have struggled with their new teams
With most teams at or near the 50-game mark and the All-Star Game just a week away, it's a good time to evaluate how the league's most significant player acquisitions from last offseason are panning out. Teams have had enough time to get adjusted to the new personnel, and the flurry of player movement likely to occur closer to the Feb. 18 trade deadline has yet to shuffle the rosters.
Here's a look at the top 10 acquisitions from last summer (which eliminates early-season deals such as the November trade that sent Stephen Jackson to Charlotte and Oklahoma City's December pickup of Eric Maynor). To protect the reputation of Pistons president Joe Dumars, we've decided to restrict the choices to teams with winning records -- Detroit's Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva are the only team-jumpers among the top 15 logging time for losers. And to hide the fact that some idiot once thought Charlotte's acquisition of Tyson Chandler was a worthy gamble, we've also decided to leave the Chandler-for-Emeka Okafor deal out of the discussion.
That leaves only two notable roster additions nudged out of the chosen 10: Channing Frye in Phoenix and Aaron Afflalo in Denver. For the record, both were shrewd, cost-effective moves that added a valuable dimension to the affected teams (three-point shooting from the center position for the Suns, solid wing defense for the Nuggets).
Now, on to the others, listed alphabetically. (All stats are through Feb. 3.)
Trevor Ariza, Houston Rockets
HOW ACQUIRED: Free agent
CONTRACT: Five years, $33 million
PROGRESS: When Ron Artest jumped to the Lakers, the Rockets pivoted to L.A.'s Ariza, essentially swapping the free agents. The gambit has worked on defense, where Ariza has paired with Shane Battier to once again give Houston a couple of staunch, versatile defenders on the wings. But on offense, Ariza has emulated Artest's shoddy shot selection from last year, and is hurting the Rockets by being even less accurate than Ron-Ron. Nobody has missed more three-pointers this season (he's third in the league in three-point attempts but is hitting only 30.1 percent), which, coupled with his lousy 42.7 percent shooting from two-point territory, is a major reason why Houston scores nearly 10 fewer points per 100 possessions when Ariza is on the court, according to 82games.com.
VERDICT: Ariza is six years younger than Artest and has obvious defensive prowess and athleticism, and it's not surprising he's still finding his way in this Yao Ming-less season in Houston. Signing a fat, long-term contract, despite never averaging more than 8.9 points in a season, has likely had him feeling pressure to produce offensively. But if he's going to continue to be an iron man (he leads Houston in minutes), he needs to shoot much less and/or more accurately.
Ron Artest, Los Angeles Lakers
HOW ACQUIRED: Free agent
CONTRACT: Five years, $33 million
PROGRESS: Given the early injuries to Pau Gasol, the Lakers would not have the best record in the West without Artest. He's been a compliant role player, shooting and scoring less than ever before in his 11-year career, yet hitting a respectable 39 percent of his three-pointers to help space the floor. Defensively, he can still throttle most forwards (but not jackrabbit guards any more) with a combination of guile, quickness and physicality. The Lakers allow 6½ fewer points per 100 possessions when Artest plays.
VERDICT: Artest said he came to L.A. to win a ring, and he has played true to his word. With his checkered history and the upcoming pressure cooker of a deep playoff run, it'd be foolish to assume he'll stay reliable. But as of right now, this has been a superb, high-value pickup for the Lakers.
Vince Carter, Orlando Magic
HOW ACQUIRED: Traded from New Jersey with forward Ryan Anderson for Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee and Tony Battie
CONTRACT: $33 million over this season and next
PROGRESS: Carter's damage is clear: He shoots more than anyone on the Magic and has the team's worst field-goal percentage, effective field-goal percentage (which factors in the extra productivity of three-pointers) and true shooting percentage (which even takes into account his gaudy 84.2 percent from the free-throw line). Oh, and his assist average (2.9) is the lowest of his 12-year career, despite having the league's second-most-accurate shooter -- Dwight Howard at 60.1 percent -- camped out in the low block. The silver lining is that the Magic allow six fewer points per 100 possessions when he plays.
VERDICT: Carter, whose teams have never gone beyond the second round of the playoffs, has a chance to bolster his reputation by adequately replacing the departed Hedo Turkoglu. But for that to happen, the 33-year-old guard, who long thrived on his athleticism, will have to get healthy, play smarter and take advantage of his opportunities in the clutch.
Jamal Crawford, Atlanta Hawks
HOW ACQUIRED: Traded by Golden State for Acie Law and Speedy Claxton
CONTRACT: $19.4 million over this season and next
PROGRESS: A viable candidate for the Sixth Man Award (I'd vote for Cleveland's Anderson Varejao right now), Crawford has been a godsend for capably manning both backcourt positions, enabling Atlanta to rest aging Mike Bibby or go small by pushing Joe Johnson to small forward. Crawford not only is posting career highs in points per minute and true shooting percentage, but he's also adjusted his game to the demands of the point, averaging 5.1 assists against 2.8 turnovers per 48 minutes.
VERDICT: Coming into this season, Crawford was dogged by a reputation for being a gunner whose teams have never made the playoffs. But he looks smoother and more confident in his new role, and he deserves a lot of credit for Atlanta's ability to hang with the East's elite. That's a huge payback for Law and Claxton.
Richard Jefferson, San Antonio Spurs
HOW ACQUIRED: Traded from Milwaukee for Bruce Bowen, Fabricio Oberto and Kurt Thomas
CONTRACT: $29.2 million over this season and next
PROGRESS: It's been an unsatisfying campaign for Jefferson, whose skills have yet to mesh with the Spurs' Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Even accounting for the four fewer minutes per game he is playing (31.3) compared to his career average (35.5), his field-goal and free-throw attempts are way down -- bad news for a natural slasher. His "usage percentage" (how often he is statistically involved in the team's possessions) is at a career low, and his points, rebounds and assists have declined from month to month, even as Parker and Ginobili continue to battle minor injuries.
VERDICT: Jefferson was seen by many as the shrewdest pickup of the offseason, the insurance policy for the injury-prone Ginobili and a quality performer who has always flourished while being his team's second or third option. Instead, he has been disappointing, and almost the opposite of a catalyst. Being deferential hasn't helped Jefferson or his teammates. Maybe it's time for a little more ego and signature drives to the basket.
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