The NBA: 2014 Free Agency Grades

With the essay announcement of LeBron James going home to Cleveland almost two weeks ago, the dominoes have fallen in the free agency signings. NBA teams scampered to woo, court and sign the remaining free agents. Here are the grades for the significant movements and acquisitions of the summer. Only those who changed teams are graded.

Paul Pierce and Pau Gasol are among the top players
 who changed allegiances during the off-season
(Image from: elitedaily.com)

1. LEBRON JAMES, MIKE MILLER, JAMES JONES - CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
Grade: A+
Adding the best player in the league immediately makes the Cavs a contender while weakening the 4x Eastern champs, Miami Heat. LBJ is very influential within the Cavs' management that there are reports that James is pushing a potential trade of Andrew Wiggins with Anthony Bennett and/or Dion Waiters (maybe draft picks too) for Kevin Love. With or without this trade, the Cavs should be among the best in the East. Getting a solid shooter in Mike Miller will also help spread the floor for LBJ. To add more injury to insult, ex-Heat James Jones also bolted South Florida to join LBJ. Even Ray Allen is rumored to join the Cavs.



2. PAU GASOL, AARON BROOKS - CHICAGO BULLS
Grade: B+
The Bulls dreamt of acquiring Carmelo Anthony together with another star player. Unfortunately, that didn't happen but they still ended up with a solid player in Pau Gasol. He is an upgrade over Carlos Boozer who was amnestied then picked by the L.A. Lakers. Gasol brings more offensively (better passer and low-post presence) compared to Boozer although he is not a significantly better defender. However, Gasol's size and length allow him to guard both PF and C spots. Boozer was frequently benched in favor of Taj Gibson due to his inadequate defense. I don't expect that to happen a lot to Pau Gasol. The Noah and Gasol tandem will be the best passing front-line and high-low post plays between them add another dimension to the offensively-challenged Bulls. However, their success still relies on Derrick Rose and the addition of Aaron Brooks stabilizes their PG spot.
     
3. LUOL DENG, JOSH MCROBERTS, DANNY GRANGER - MIAMI HEAT
Grade: A
There is absolutely no way to replace a 4x MVP and 2x Finals MVP but Miami did their best. The Heat managed to get Luol Deng to replace the minutes vacated by LBJ but the production won't be the same. It has to be a collective effort so Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger will try to compensate for the loss of LBJ. Is that possible? Probably not but Miami is in a better place today than last week. McBob is a versatile big who is a decent passer and can make the occasional jumper while Granger is trying to resurrect his career. Still, Miami should be good enough to make the playoffs and be competitive. They might even upset the Cavs if they meet in the playoffs.

4. CHANDLER PARSONS, TYSON CHANDLER, RAYMOND FELTON - DALLAS MAVERICKS
Grade: A-
The Mavs were a major player in the offseason. However, they struck out on the big-time players but their haul was still impressive. Chandler Parsons becomes their most expensive player after producing career numbers in Houston. Tyson Chandler gives them a defensive anchor and rim protector. However, Ray Felton is a slight downgrade over Jose Calderon. Felton played poorly in NY last season and was rumored to be out of shape. Dallas hopes that Felton plays with a chip on his shoulder and less belly fat.

5. TREVOR ARIZA, JEFF ADRIEN, ALONZO GEE- HOUSTON ROCKETS 
Grade: C+
The Rockets gambled on signing Carmelo and Chris Bosh and lost on both counts. They also traded Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik while Parsons signed with their city rivals in Dallas. They added Trevor Ariza who came in cheaper but is older than Parsons. They have similar skills but Parsons is a better player with more potential. Could this be addition by subtraction? Meanwhile, Jeff Adrien and Alonzo Gee can provide some minutes off the bench but they are minimal role players whose strengths are on defense.

6. JEREMY LIN, CARLOS BOOZER - LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Grade: B+
The new era of Lakers' purple and gold will begin with Jeremy Lin in the backcourt while Carlos Boozer starts at the front. Steve Nash is well past his productive years so the arrival of Lin alleviates that problem. In addition, Boozer can serve as mentor for their prized rookie, Randle. Lin and Boozer are not quite the Melo and LBJ connection that the fans were hoping and dreaming but this infusion of new talent will probably result into more wins for the Lakers. A healthy Kobe and rookie Julius Randle should give them great odds in making the playoffs.

7. LANCE STEPHENSON, MARVIN WILLIAMS - CHARLOTTE HORNETS
Grade: A
The Hornets are becoming a surprise destination for free agents. They picked up two new guys that should make them a better team this season. Lance joining them gives Charlotte a versatile starting guard that can make plays and provide solid perimeter defense. He led the NBA in triple-doubles while leading the Pacers in rebounds and assists. Meanwhile, Marvin Williams will provide veteran leadership and outside shooting. He is not as good as McRoberts but Williams and his shooting will complement Al Jefferson and his post game.

8. PAUL PIERCE, DeJUAN BLAIR - WASHINGTON WIZARDS
Grade: B
The departure of Trevor Ariza allowed the Wizards to sign Paul Pierce who wanted no part of the Nets without Jason Kidd at the helm. Pierce provides veteran leadership and he can still make plays even at his advanced age. Pierce also replaces Ariza at the SF spot while getting the chance to mentor sophomore, Otto Porter who had an injury-riddled rookie season. DeJuan Blair also provides them a solid banger who hustles and recovers a lot of offensive boards and loose balls. Blair also gives them another big who can be a solid backup or nominal starter when (not if) Nene gets hurt during the season.

9. RODNEY STUCKEY, CJ MILES - INDIANA PACERS
Grade: B
The Pacers believed they were better than Miami last season until they lost in the ECF again. The departure of Lance Stephenson weakened their starting unit especially since they relied a lot on Lance to create and initiate plays for them. Stephenson was also a solid perimeter defender and that will be hard to replace. The Pacers tried to alleviate his loss by adding Rodney Stuckey and CJ Miles. Stuckey is a decent scorer while Miles can play defense and hit the occasional three. If you combine both players, you might have similar output to what Lance provided sans the theatrics and mind-boggling antics. Could this be another addition by subtraction method?

10. ISAIAH THOMAS - PHOENIX SUNS

Grade: A
When the Sacramento Kings signed Darren Collison to make him overpaid, critics believed that Isaiah Thomas would be on the move. That hunch proved to be correct because Thomas now plays for the Suns. This was a good pickup for the Suns who now have a three-headed monster at the guard spot (Bledsoe, Dragic, Thomas). The Suns' problem will revolve on rotation and playing time (Gerald Green mostly plays SG too) but that is an awesome problem to have. Thomas also provides them insurance in case they are unable to re-sign Eric Bledsoe after this season or if they decide to trade him.

SOME UNSIGNED UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
1. Andray Blatche 
The newly naturalized Filipino has not been signed by any NBA team. Blatche might have made an error by opting out from his contract with the Nets. However, Blatche is a skilled big man but he struggles defensively and he has been plagued with immature decisions.

2. Ray Allen
The best three-point shooter in league history is still a free agent but that is by his choice. Allen is undecided if he will keep playing or finally retire. It is rumored that Allen will probably join LeBron James in Cleveland.

3. Evan Turner
The former #2 pick of the 2011 draft is having problems finding a taker. Turner got lost in the rotation of the Pacers after he got traded there from the Sixers. Turner can score but his need for the ball and isolation plays make him less attractive.

4. Jameer Nelson
Nelson was waived by the Magic after playing 10 years with them. Nelson was their all-time leader in assists but that didn't save his job. Nelson has been plagued with injuries in his last 3 years and consequently, his production has dipped.

5. Shawn Marion
The Matrix produced solid numbers for Dallas last season but he remains unsigned. Marion can still play tough perimeter defense and he averaged 10 points and 7 rebounds. He will be a welcome addition to a team that values hustle and defense.

Here's your friendly neighborhood Hoop Nut talking about the 2014 NBA Free Agency on ABS-CBN Sports + Action's The Score!

Video #1 (before LeBron's decision): Post by Abs-cbn Sports + Action.

Video #2 (after LeBron's decision): Post by Abs-cbn Sports + Action.


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