Many Questions Amid Free-Agent Answers

Welcome to Phase 1A, the continuation foul of the first wave of the hectic opening days in free agency, as the Rockets break into the victory dance, the Hawks stay very busy from the Draft through the second week of July and the Nuggets do whatever it is that the Nuggets are doing.

This is still 1A because the first wave is not yet settled, not with deals set to become official on Wednesday and not with the next set of important decisions looming with Andrew Bynum, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis at the top of the list. If anything, the first wave was about raising questions moving ahead as it was about resolutions.

Now, for example, what do the Mavericks do at point guard? They went from needing a new start there to getting four. They nabbed Shane Larkin with the No. 18 pick in the June 27 draft and then notched a reported four-year, $29-million deal for Jose Calderon. When Dallas spent another $9 million over three years for a reunion with Devin Harris, and in the wake of luring Gal Mekel from Israel with a three-year contract, the issue quickly went from who has the position for 2013-14 to who gets squeezed out of minutes.

Calderon is the favorite to start. Harris’ defense and experience at shooting guard, and with O.J. Mayo gone from the Mavericks backcourt, makes it easy to envision Calderon and Harris playing together. But Larkin’s speed is a unique dimension that can also be utilized, depending on how well he acclimates to the NBA with the Mavs still in win-now mode.

Shifting to another division…what do the Warriors do for depth? They have a quality top six — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Igoudala, David Lee, Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes — and landing Igoudala while barely touching the core of the 2012-13 roster makes them one of the winners of the summer. But they need more bodies to really be in the conversation as one of the favorites to win the West.

Festus Ezeli, the backup center last season, is expected to be out another five to eight months after knee surgery. Carl Landry, the backup power forward, reached a deal with the Kings. Jarrett Jack, the backup point guard, reached a deal with the Cavaliers. That’s a lot of production to replace, or a lot of pressure on Nemanja Nedovic to go from the No. 30 pick to dependable backcourt reserve, though Golden State also likes the idea of Igoudala with the ball in his hands.

The Warriors will apparently have the benefit of acquiring Igoudala in a sign-and-trade, a technicality that creates flexibility under the salary cap that would not have existed if the deal was an outright signing. This way, they still have the mid-level exception and Traded Player Exceptions.

What becomes of Bismack Biyombo? The Bobcats spent a reported $41 million over three seasons to sign center Al Jefferson, the biggest free-agent deal in team history, after using the fourth pick in the draft on power forward Cody Zeller. That obviously takes minutes from Biyombo, the 2011 project of a lottery pick who needs playing time to have any chance of developing into the game-changer on defense a lot of teams thought two years ago he could become.

Maybe Charlotte sees him strictly as a third big man, and that’s fine. He fits well as a defensive presence with an awkward offensive game playing next to the post scoring of Jefferson or the fluid Zeller. But 2013-14 is the third season for Biyombo, ordinarily make-or-break time for players with a lot to prove. Managing frontcourt minutes will be a storyline to watch for new coach Steve Clifford.

Where does Josh Smith fit with the Pistons? Feel free to answer “he doesn’t.”

Detroit can use the frontcourt scoring – or the scoring, period – but Smith’s undisciplined offense, as several Hawks coaches were unable to change his shot selection, doesn’t help anyone. His shot blocking will help though. The real issue is whether the Pistons will take minutes from promising big men Greg Monroe or Andre Drummond to get Smith minutes at power forward, or whether Smith will play primarily at small forward.

Smith at $56 million over four years is a panic purchase by an organization trying to push back into relevancy. But Drummond, coming off an encouraging rookie season in a reserve role, and Monroe, their power forward and leading scorer, need the minutes, while No. 8 pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope needs the ball at shooting guard.


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  2. pokie says:

    I don’t think it is a coincidence that the Pistons add Rasheed Wallace to their staff the week they sign Josh Smith.

  3. Tilney1004 says:

    What is Dummars doing throwing $56m at a guy who is known to be disruptive and lazy into a team full of young promising talent, I’d rather we took a 35-47 season (or there abouts) make improvements, give Monroe, Drummond, Knight, Singleton, KCP etc a chance to grow together for another year and had a lottery pick for 2014.
    $13m a year guarantees Smith will start, hopefully at the 3, trading Monroe and playing him at the 4 would make little sense to me, yeah he has issues on D, but he’s still a young guy on rookie deal, what have they got to lose? But knowing Dummars, Smith will start at the 4, Monroe and Knight will be traded for Rondo and some terrible contracts, Rondo can’t hit 3’s so we’ll still have spacing issues, then throw J-Smoov in to this and his horrendous long 2 shot selection and we’ve not solved any long term problems, but we’ve given away a young core and wasted at least $24m on salary.If Dummars could have just waited 1 more year, could have been great, but as usual in Detroit it won’t be.

  4. ghjk says:

    wow, the NBA surprise me everyday lol.. the lockout was just a big advertisment for the league in fact right?
    How can the Warriors trade huge contracts and tons of draft picks for a 700k$ guy without being veto’ed? Why teams use their amnesty on big contracts when they can trade it for someone who takes 20times less money?
    How can a franchise give a guy a contract worth 22M$/year without bird rights? I remember when STAT signed with the Knicks, writters were saying it was the last year free agents could get 20M/y contracts w/o bird/earlybird..

    ps: i’m not a hater of any team/guy, just someone who doesnt understand :p


    amnesty AMARE…. sign ELLIS….

  6. asdf says:

    Warrioirs could pick up Nate Robinson again to back curry up, he played fantastic for the bulls last year.

  7. Ranger says:

    Josh Smith will be great for Detroit .. they now have the roster & coach to play old-fashoined Detroit basketball

    .Hard nosed defense
    .Attacking the basket hard on offence
    .blue collar swagger

    • artifex says:

      The idea of having Igoudala in the mix as once was rumored sounded so fitting for Detroit.
      Defense first!
      But I agree having Wallace back there is good for the team and may also teach Smith to think Team

  8. KImmy says:

    I disagree. I think Josh Smith will prosper as a player and will make Detroit a better team. Remember, he only played for 1 team. Maybe the chemistry wasn’t tgood for him, maybe he had the wrong coaching style. Maybe some players shouldn’t play at home. I find him to be a lazy player who focuses more on being cool than anyhting else. I just don’t think Mo Cheeks and the Pistons will have time for all that postering and just taking bad shots whenever he feels like it. I think they will work w/ him, take the time, and eventually we will see him improve as I believe he can. He just did whatever he wanted in Atlanta cause he lived here and got away w/ it. Josh Smith is going to finally work hard for those millions.

    • Kamil says:

      Josh Smith cannot hit a pull up jumper. How is he going to play small forward effectively?

    • lozbmvp says:

      Josh Smith really isn’t an obvious choice for the Pistons. They will definitely be better next year, but I’m still not sure they’ll be able to crack the top 8 in the East. I would like to see Smith on a team where he is the second best player, pair him with a top guard to make a great inside out partnership. I think they have to cut Monroe and Drummond’s minutes too, Smith has was a PF the last few seasons with the Hawks, and in that position he almost made the all-star team – I think the Pistons have to keep him there.

  9. Kamil says:

    I think he should go to the bulls for a mid level exception, if they have one

  10. W/E says:

    lol Ellis and Bynum are bad for their teams, we all know that, Bynum will probably retire Ellis will move to China and finish his career there.

    • Don't sleep says:

      Bynum is a phenom at 7 feet plus with his skill set. He isn’t even late 20’s yet! The teams willing to gamble on his knees are just letting the money hype die down and trade options are available this summer. Ellis is another story. He needs to understand how to scale back his ego/shooting or follow Marbury being the man in China as a big fish in a small basketball aquarium like you said.

  11. steppx says:

    Id be shocked if the Kings sign ellis. I mean WHY????? You just drafted McLemore, why take the ball out of his hands with a total ball hogging chukker who refuses to play ANY defense. Makes little sense. I was hoping the kings were going to turn it around. I hope this is just a rumor. As for josh smith……..well, to call him a total drain on your offense is being kind. There is a reason the hawks never could go very far with smith there. If there is a single overrated player in the NBA its smith. Now maybe sheed and Cheeks will force him to learn how to play and utilize that elite athleticism…..because he does have that. But nine years and he still shoots 50% FTs is not the sign of someone who thinks he needs to improve.