While the heavily-targeted free agents are lavished with limos, nights on the town, sushi dates and personal transportation through sea and air from organization higher-ups, the lower tier free agents are often restricted to letting the free agency dust settle before sparking interest from teams. This is a look at some of the best and worst lower-tier free agent signings.
Note: Players who accepted discounts to go to a championship contender do not count. Obviously, players like Mo Williams and David West were bargains.
Kyle O’Quinn PF, Knicks Contract- 4-year $16 million Age: 25
O’Quinn’s potentially unique skillset spurred the idea of his labeling as one of the most intriguing young prospects on the market. O’Quinn has displayed superior length and timing to become a valid rim protector, however, unlike most who are spacing liabilities, O’Quinn has flashed potential as an outside shooter as well. Bigs who can divert shots at the basket and space the floor are a rare commodity in the NBA and grants coaches luxurious lineup flexibility. O’Quinn remains a project, but a $16 million investment over four years is well worth further testing.
Brandan Wright PF, Grizzlies Contract: 3-year $17.1 million Age: 27
Compared to the frontcourt members of past Grizzlies squads, Wright labels as a paucity. His springboard leaping ability and Mr. Fantastic-type wingspan exemplify big man characteristics that have yet to be bestowed on the FedEx Forum faithful. His game meshes well with both Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, and Mike Conley will certainly enjoy his rim-rattling dunks on pick-and-roll action. Wright’s body structure takes the shape of the quintessential shot blocker and his past performance has done nothing to debunk such vibes. For just the full mid-level exception, Wright is a steal as he returns to the region of his upbringing.
Omri Casspi SF, Kings Contract: 2-year $6 million Age: 27
Casspi offers two highly desirable qualities of the modern NBA, combining shooting with positional versatility. Such enviable traits makes Casspi a bargain at just $3 million per year. Returning to the Kings will maximize Casspi’s impact (this sentence if the first and last time this type of assertion will be linked to the Kings) after finding a niche as a stretch four in smaller lineups.
Patrick Beverley PG, Rockets Contract: 4-year $23 million Age: 26
Beverley’s contract represents one of the premier bargains of free agency, and he fits seamlessly into Houston’s puzzle alongside James Harden. His feisty defense belies the aloofness from Harden on that end, and offensively, he works best as an off-ball shooter who can occasionally set up the offense when necessary. A solid, 26-year-old starting point guard receiving an average yearly payout of under $6 million over the course of the oncoming cap boom is certainly something Daryl Morey and rest of the organization should be pleased with.
Lou Williams SG, Lakers Contract: 3-year $21 million Age: 28
Winning the sixth-man award apparently merits nothing more than a stale free agent market, including minimal interest from one’s incumbent team. Williams, a volume bench scorer, was repeatedly passed over until the Lakers snagged him for just $7 million per season. At only 28, Williams should safely be able to play out this deal without an infringement from father time upon his basketball abilities, making the contract all that more advantageous for LA. Williams’ detractors point to his miniature size for a two guard pinning an even steeper uphill battle defensively for a player already lacking in that department. Also his ball-stopping doesn’t mesh as well with the current-day pace and space era. But Williams can still fill up a box score in a jiffy and guys like that will always eventually locate a landing spot somewhere.
Gary Neal SG, Wizards Contract: 1-year $2.1 million Age: 30
Neal’s addition to a fragile backcourt secures reliable depth and shooting for a backcourt that has been devoid of such common features. Neal can create his own shot; in fact, one of the knocks on Neal may be his overzealous nature to showcase this, but also serves as an effective spot up option. Considering Bradley Beal’s injury history, insurance is essential and Neal could imitate a poor man’s version of Beal if he misses games again. Even if Beal is healthy, the Wizards were left counting on Garrett Temple and Rasual Butler as backup options last season after Martell Webster went down with an injury. The Wizards snatched a more qualified option in Neal and for just the Bi-Annual Exception, it was one of the better value signings in free agency.
Gerald Green SG, Heat Contract: 1-year $1.36 million Age: 29
Never question Green’s ability to conjure aversion within a fan base resulting in numerous cases of apoplexy. His confidence in unflappable, and while usually reserved as a compliment, Green’s uninhibited nature can prove to be a liability. However, his scoring and highlight-reel athleticism are well worth the veteran minimum if simply to relieve fans of the dullness that quantifies Luol Deng’s game. If the Heat hierarchy of Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra become wearisome of Green’s act, they can simply opt to bury him on the bench without mockery of fiscal irresponsibility.
Justin Holiday SG, Hawks Contract: 2-year $1.96 million Age: 26
For less than $1 million per year, Holiday boasts upside as a wing 3-and-D guy in the Mike Budenholzer’s scheme. Holiday was conjoined with the pine for the most part in Golden State, but in the minutes he received, Holiday proved himself a capable shooter. And with his length, he could develop into a defensive asset as well. It’s a nice low buy for a player itching at an opportunity.
Bismack Biyombo C, Raptors Contract: 2-year $6 million Age: 22
Biyombo began to come on late last season for Charlotte, but it obviously wasn’t enough for MJ and company to extend him even just his qualifying offer. Biyombo is young and physically impressive and gambling on unlocking his ceiling is worth the $3 million per year Toronto signed him to. He immediately becomes the Raptors most effective rim protector after the organization put forth little effort to bring back Amir Johnson. Offensively, Biyombo is a disaster, struggling to even catch and finish on rim rolls, but on the side of optimism, his hands upgraded from nonexistent to chunks of metal by season’s end.
Reggie Jackson PG, Pistons Contract: 5-year $89.4 million Age: 25
Jackson is a tier or two above the free agents being analyzed here, but any discussion revolving around the worst free agency contracts requires Jackson’s inclusion. Jackson’s shaky jumper and pseudo-Stephon Marbury stretches of play are disturbing, but he is a starting caliber point guard and at just 25-years-old has time on his side. However, his performance hasn’t warranted a near-max extension and the fact that Detroit was competing with…uh, themselves for his employment is disconcerting. Jackson’s restricted free agency survived the titanic wave of signings with little interest, and by the time the Pistons engaged in serious negotiations, only a few teams had the cap space to offer Jackson a deal so lucrative. It may be a bit obligatory to assign faith to the point guard the organization traded for during the middle of the season last year, but faith doesn’t reconcile for a lack of practical business strategy.
Aaron Baynes C, Pistons Contract: 3-year $20 million Age: 28
It turns out Blake Griffin didn’t banish Baynes’ soul from the Earth during last year’s postseason, affording Baynes the current euphoric state after his hefty payday. Baynes accepted his role of banger and agitator in San Antonio with gusto, but generally that type of role doesn’t result in over $6 million per season.
Alexis Ajinca C, Pelicans Contract: 4-year $19.2 million Age: 27
The Ajinca extension in a nutshell is passable, but in combination with Omer Asik’s 5-year $60 million contract the commitment to plodding big men with no offensive skills exceeds acceptable payroll. The sizeable extension handed to Asik encounters greater disdain from me than Ajinca’s because Ajinca is younger and certainly more financially-friendly. The Warriors exposed Asik for his individual inadequacies in the postseason and Ajinca is essentially a mirror image with less polish and experience.
Joel Anthony C, Pistons Contract: 2-year $5 million Age: 32
Joel Anthony shouldn’t being cashing paychecks greater than the veteran minimum, not in this universe or any alternate universes, but welcome to Detroit Basketball where anyone who has touched a basketball in the past three months deserves to be a millionaire.
Kosta Koufos C, Kings Contract: 4-year $33 million Age: 26
I actually like Koufos as a player. He was underrated in Memphis (basically anyone who plays for Memphis is underrated) blending rim protection and rolling while also mixing in some crafty postwork on occasion. Koufos’ athleticism won’t provoke animated exclamations from viewers, but his overall play won’t inspire fans to scream at the television either. The problem is his fit with the Kings, which are built around the hulking interior dominance of DeMarcus Cousins and new lottery-pick Willie Cauley-Stein. The Koufos signing allocates Cauley-Stein time to develop at his own pace, but Koufos will cram up Cousins’ space to work in the post, and when paired with Cauley-Stein neither is much of an offensive threat unless directly at the rim.
Jason Smith PF, Magic Contract: 1-year $4.5 million Age: 29
I get it, and I don’t get it. On the get hand, the once flush free agent market had desiccated into a semblance of the Sahara by the time the Magic scooped Smith up with their abundance of cap space, and signing him for just one year ensured the team maximum flexibility moving forward. However, Smith’s value doesn’t equate to $4.5 million and it’s perplexing the Magic weren’t willing to entrust that cash as a down payment on O’Quinn, who they agreed to sign-and-trade to the Knicks for just $4 million annually.
Rodney Stuckey SG, Pacers Contract: 3-year $21 million Age: 29
After being relegated to a minimum contract last offseason, Stuckey recuperated his value on the market with a solid season for Indiana as the team’s go-to shot creator (yeah, offense was difficult to come by last season for the Pacers). While Stuckey’s yearly salary matches that of Lou Williams, a similar combo guard scorer, his place within the Pacers rotation is a bit murky after the team signed Monta Ellis to $10+ million per season over four years. Stuckey is a thicker version of Ellis who can hold up better defensively against twos, but overall their roles and skillsets are similar with Ellis being the more superior of the duo.
Cory Joseph PG, Raptors Contract: 4-year $30 million Age: 23
Unless Joseph is the keeper of the Spurs secret winning formula, Toronto overextended in its offer to the backup point guard. Joseph has proved himself as a pesky on-ball defender who also requires acknowledgement from opposing defenses, but the Raptors essentially paid Joseph for the best-case scenario concerning his development instead of his current standing as a player.
 Asik’s contract essentially acts as a 4-year $45 million deal due to the last year being nonguaranteed.
 Cauley-Stein has some potential on his midrange jumper, but it still needs plenty of work.