Filling the Wings: The Sexy Free Agents
Posted by Zach Lowe on Jun 29, 2010
Given the C’s tight cap situation, it is more likely that they will use the bulk of their cap exceptions, including their mid-level exception, on big men and fill some of the open spaces on the wings by re-signing one of their own free agents (Tony Allen) using Bird Rights.
Still: That cap situation could change, and the C’s will be looking for depth on the wing even if Paul Pierce and Ray Allen both re-sign (as is likely). There are far more available swing men than big guys, so we’ll be profiling them in groups.
Today: A look at the sexier names that could be available for the full mid-level (around $6 million per season) or less.
• Mike Miller. Probably the name that has been mentioned most in the comments. Miller is likely worth more than the mid-level, but he has expressed a desire to play for a contender, and he may have to take less money to make that happen.
Miller has had a very strange couple of seasons. He attempted fewer shots combined in 2010 and 2009 than he did in 2007, and no one is quite sure why Miller stopped shooting even as he toiled for awful teams (Minny in ’09, the Wiz last season) and his shooting percentage stuck at around 50 percent. Miller is a great shooter. He’s hit at least 48 percent from the floor in each of last three seasons, and he’s a 40.5 percent career shooter from deep.
According to plus/minus numbers at Basketball Value and 82games, Miller’s teams have scored more efficiently with him on the floor versus with him on the bench in all but one season since ’03.
His defensive numbers are neutral to slightly negative, but we’ve seen a bunch of supposedly mediocre defensive players hold their own in Boston. Defense can be as much about coaching and systems as it is about individual talent.
If Perk were healthy and Shelden Williams had proven worthy of a small rotation role, pursuing Miller with the mid-level would be a no-brainer. Alas.
• Tracy McGrady. Get ready to hear T-Mac’s name a lot. He’s made noises about being willing to sign for the veteran’s minimum, and teams over the cap can sign as many players as they’d like to vet minimum deals.
McGrady has become a terribly inefficient scorer as he has aged. He hit just 38 percent from the floor last season and hasn’t sniffed anything above 43 percent from the field since 2003. McGrady took fewer shots at the rim last season and got to the line less than ever before, and though the 2010 sample size was tiny, both developments marked the continuation of trends that started in Houston.
Plus/minus systems haven’t had great things to say about McGrady in years, and the Knicks gave up 8 more points per 100 possessions last season with T-Mac on the floor—a huge number.
But McGrady can pass. He’s always been able to pass. He has recorded assist rates worthy of a point guard, and the Knicks used him a bit in that role last season. Perhaps T-Mac could thrive in a lesser role in which he’s asked to facilitate rather than score? Would he accept such a role? Is it worth the minimum salary (about $1.35 million for McGrady) to find out?
• Al Harrington. I have no clue what Al Harrington is going to be worth on the open market, but I know there is far greater skepticism about his value to a team now than there was in 2003. After looking at the numbers, though, I’m intrigued. Harrington has spent the last three seasons jacking threes in one crazy offense (Golden State) and one offense in which he was allowed to shoot as many threes as he liked (New York). His accuracy suffered as a result, but Harrington has shown he can hit a percentage in the high-30s or low-40s from three, and that alone is a useful skill.
We know the caveats: He’s an average-to-bad rebounder for his size (6’9”), and he hasn’t shown all that much interest in passing the ball in five years. (There was a time when he picked up 3 dimes a game, you know).
But Harrington takes care of the ball, takes as many shots at the rim as Paul Pierce (yes, pace has had something to do with that), and plus/minus stats from the past three seasons paint Harrington as a neutral-to-positive player.
As a hybrid forward, Harrington could have greater appeal to a team with a thin front line. If he can be had on the cheap, Boston should look.
• Travis Outlaw. If you’re signing Travis Outlaw, you’re signing him because he can shoot jumpers and has the sort of length (he’s 6’9”) that suggests he might become a decent defender at the three spot. About 80 percent of Outlaw’s shot attempts are jumpers, so it’s a good thing you can rely on him to shoot between 37 and 39 percent from three-point range. He took and made a ton of clutch shots for Portland in 2009. He missed most of last season with a broken foot and sort of fell off the NBA radar after Portland dealt his expiring deal to the Clippers in the Marcus Camby trade.
He doesn’t rebound, he won’t get you assists, and plus/minus numbers over the last three seasons veer more into negative territory.
But he’s just 25, and he can shoot. Worth a look.
• Hakim Warrick. He has the Syracuse pedigree and the gasp-inducing athleticism, but there’s very little in the NBA record to suggest Hakim Warrick is ready to be a contributor on a good team. You sign Warrick out of blind faith in a reclamation project, not because you have evidence that he’s really any good. His plus/minus numbers have been disastrous in two of the last three seasons, and defenses in both Milwaukee and Chicago played like the Raptors last season when Warrick was on the floor. Observers of both teams complained that Warrick, for all his athleticism, never showed commitment to fundamentals or a firm understanding of where to be and when.
Half his shots are jumpers, but he’ll hit only 35 to 38 percent of those jumpers, according to 82games.
One bright spot: He can crash the offensive glass and draw some fouls, and the C’s could use that.
• Josh Howard. There may not be a more intriguing free agent. His numbers fell of a cliff last season. He shot a ‘Toine-esque 40.5 percent from the floor. His PER dropped well below the league average. It’s unclear whether he should really be shooting three-pointers, he’s a shaky passer and he has rebounded like an average shooting guard over the last two seasons.
And yet….the numbers before 2010 were so good, even in 2009, when his game started to slip. He can attack the rim and get to the line without turning the ball over, and he has legitimate range out to 20 feet. And those plus/minus numbers—they were fantastic every season from 2006-09. Did that have more to do with Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd and Jason Terry than with Howard? Maybe. The adjusted plus/minus system at Basketball Value—which seeks to answer exactly these sorts of questions by adjusting for the quality of teammates and opponents—paints Howard as one of the most valuable Mavs in both ’08 and ’09.
Howard might miss the first month of the season (or a bit more) recovering from ACL surgery, so he’ll come cheap and may be willing to accept a one-year deal at a reduced rate to prove himself again and set up for a long-term deal under the new CBA. Having two guys miss the start of the year rehabbing from knee injuries is a bad thing, and it might preclude the C’s from signing Howard; it’s not like the team can play the vets 40 minutes per game while they wait for everyone else to get healthy.
But at a discount? Howard is undeniably worth a look.
What do you guys think? What other names do you like? Chances are, we’ll have something on those names later this week.