The worst moves of the offseason (cont.)
Maggette hurts his team two ways: no ball movement and no defense. On a Warriors team of chuckers, he ranked behind only guard Monta Ellis in shots per minute, and even that total is deflated by all the shots that don't get tabulated because he was fouled on the play. At the other end of the court, Maggette was a liability. As badly as Golden State plays defense, it was 6.3 points per 100 possessions worse when Maggette was on the court.
The crystal ball shows Maggette bouncing in and out of Skiles' doghouse because of indifferent defense, while passing becomes a secondary pursuit of Milwaukee's offense. Jennings is a ball-centric operator, having averaged 14.8 shots despite his 37.1 percent accuracy as a rookie. That tied him for the team lead in shot frequency with Salmons. Having Salmons and Maggette (owed about $31 million over the next three years) on the floor at the same time is corrosively redundant, potentially robbing minutes from such glue guys as Ersan Ilyasova, Carlos Delfino and Luc Mbah a Moute. And it means fewer touches and scoring opportunities for Milwaukee's best player, the unselfish Bogut.
Celtics sign Jermaine O'Neal to a two-year, $12 million deal
After O'Neal shot 9-of-44 from the field (20.5 percent) and was outplayed by the Celtics' big men in Miami's first-round playoff loss last season, Boston GM Danny Ainge was impressed enough to fork over the full mid-level exception for the 14-year veteran. As O'Neal moves to the slag heap side of the team's pile of proud veterans with bad wheels, one wonders why the Celtics didn't make a run at Juwan Howard, or spend the mid-level money on a pair or even trio of playoff-tested vets -- a million or two apiece for Joe Smith, Kurt Thomas and Fabricio Oberto -- or maybe even force the Heat to match mid-level money on restricted free agent Joel Anthony, who was better at defending the paint than O'Neal for Miami last season and subsequently re-signed with the Heat for $18 million over five years.
With Rasheed Wallace set to retire and Kendrick Perkins recovering from knee surgery the first part of the season, staunch defense down low should be the priority. Playoff clanks aside, O'Neal shot a career-best 52.9 percent during the regular season and had his highest scoring (13.6) and rebounding (6.9) averages in three years. But his blocked shots (1.4) were his fewest in 10 years, and if he, Glen Davis and perhaps Brian Scalabrine (a free agent who hopes to return) are supposed to hold down the fort until Perkins returns, there could be some more playoff series on the road for Boston next year.
Grizzlies re-sign Rudy Gay to a five-year, $82 million deal
Not quite as horrible as the Joe Johnson deal -- Gay is five years younger and has a shorter, less expensive contract. But the Grizzlies are still paying max money for a restricted free agent whose outside offers could have been matched, and Gay is still a long way from superstar status. And what does this do to the O.J. Mayo negotiations a year or two down the line?
Clippers hire Vinny Del Negro as coach
Del Negro did a credible job developing the Bulls' young core of players in his two seasons in Chicago. But his playbook is limited, and if he flips the keys to the offense to Baron Davis the way he did to Derrick Rose with the Bulls, it will stunt the development of Clippers rookie forwards Blake Griffin and Al-Farouq Aminu. Del Negro also had plus-.500 talent yet finished 41-41 both years with the Bulls. Incidentally, the coach he beat out for the Bulls' and Clippers' jobs, Dwane Casey, had a .500 record with an inferior Timberwolves team that fell apart after he left. Three and half years later, Casey hasn't been rehired. Proven winners Mike Brown and Mike Woodson are also out of work while Del Negro lands on his feet.
Timberwolves sign 2008 second-round pick Nikola Pekovic to a four-year, $13 million deal and re-sign Darko Milicic to a four-year, $20 million deal
A handful of prominent basketball pundits have developed a mob mentality over the supposed incompetence of Timberwolves president David Kahn. But a guy who flips Randy Foye and Mike Miller for Ricky Rubio and obtains Michael Beasley for a pair of second-round picks is probably more than just an arrogant buffoon.
That said, Kahn was bidding against himself when he gave Milicic $20 million over four years (although the last year isn't guaranteed), and should be wary of the ripple effect of also signing Pekovic, another big man who has played well in Europe. Signing Milicic and Pekovic is a concession that time and money were wasted on one of last year's free-agent signings, center-forward Ryan Hollins. But more significantly, it creates a frontcourt logjam that risks taking minutes from Kevin Love and Beasley. The Wolves need to see what they have in Beasley. But the top priority should be making Love -- their best player by a country mile and then a city block -- feel wanted. Love, who came off the bench during the second half of last season, already stated he wants to start. Alienating Love for the sake of more time for Milicic and Pekovic would make Kahn's enemies look good -- especially after Love leaves town.
Bobcats re-sign Tyrus Thomas to a five-year, $40 million deal
There is a very low potential for stardom among players who are extraordinarily athletic but continue to demonstrate limited production and court IQ even after being in the league for a few years. That's Thomas' profile right now. The four-year veteran is a low-post jumping jack with a career shooting percentage of 45.0, and he's an occasional impact player on defense who just as often gets in foul trouble and turns the ball over. Charlotte, a team with a solid defense but in need of scoring, just gave him $40 million. The good news is that he is only 23.
Magic sign Chris Duhon to a four-year, $15 million deal
With starting point guard Jameer Nelson often dinged or substantially hurt, the backup floor general for Orlando -- which remains an elite Eastern Conference contender -- is a vital. Duhon is a decent defender and takes care of the ball, but he hasn't shot better than 42.1 percent in his six seasons, with a career mark of 39.3 percent. That's not going to foster the spacing coach Stan Van Gundy prefers in his half-court sets. And with a four-year contract, it's a long-term gamble and only a minor short-term upgrade over Jason Williams.
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