Though the league appears to be held hostage by Kevin Durant’s trade request, the NBA’s free agency got off to its typically chaotic start, contenders circling the league wheel and deals to bolster their rosters. Let’s take a look at some of the under-the-radar signings from the early rush of the offseason.
Danilo Gallinari, Celtics: B+
Pretty smart move for them Celts, who arguably had the best offseason of any team in the league. Simply put, Gallinari is an absolute sniper from afar. He shot nearly 42% on catch-and-shoot threes last season and should have a lot of those looks playing off Boston’s dynamic wings. Gallo should be versatile enough to play alongside him Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown while they also spell them in certain lineups. And he’s a nice offensive option if you’re one of them Grant WilliamsRob Williams or Al Horford doesn’t have it all. The only thing stopping this from becoming a total home run is that Gallinari could present some challenges in the playoffs. The beauty of the Celtics is their lack of targets for opposing attacks. Gallo will likely be the weak link in most postseason lineups, but defense at any other position should be able to cover up any potential problems.
Gary Payton II, Blazer: A-
A very solid signing for that blazer, who signed GPII on a three-year deal worth $28 million. Paying less than $10 million a year for a fullback of Payton’s caliber feels like a steal. GPII was meant to give Portland some much-needed defensive tenacity, and despite his relatively small size, Payton showed up golden state He can still defend bigger players and find ways to fit in offensively. He can pick up perimeter scorers while setting up screens, cutting the ground, and running Damien Lillard in attack. This is exactly the sort of addition that the Blazers often lacked during the Lillard era, and it also serves the purpose of taking a key factor away from the warriors. The only downside might be finding Payton, 29, with the right minutes Fernee Simons, Josh Hart and possibly rookie Shaedon Sharpe in the rotation as well. His flexibility on defense should help with this easy puzzle.
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Lonnie Walker IV, Lakers: C-
I’m not so sure about this one. On the one hand, good for them lakers for the addition of a younger, up-and-coming player following their fascination with over-the-hill vets last summer. On the other hand, leaving Walker, an underperforming defender, to full taxpayer middle class doesn’t seem wise. The Lakers are in dire need of two-way wings to complement their stars. While finding these types of players is easier said than done, players like Bruce Brown or Otto Porter Jr. would be more effective than Walker in this situation. He’s a capable goalscorer, but defensive metrics paint a very poor picture of someone struggling in both space and screens. Walker will be a downgrade of Malik Monk, which the Lakers were limited in their offerings. Los Angeles may have been bargain-hunting, but it feels like they’ve been able to find a player who’s less of a liability in a playoff series.
Otto Porter Jr., Birds of Prey: B+
Porter Jr. goes really well with what the birds of prey want to do, which is basically flooding the league with length, athleticism and shooting. Porter Jr., a career 39.8% three-pointer, is perfectly cast as a 3-and-D player. Along with Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, and Pascal Siakam, Nick Nurse will have a bevy of defenders to throw at opponents, all of whom need to be respected to some degree on the other end of the floor. And for a team that’s been severely lacking in depth for much of last season, Porter should be a seamless plug-and-play part of Toronto’s rotation. If there’s a slight catch to this deal, it’s that Porter isn’t necessarily a floor raiser or a missing piece signing here. I’m also curious to see how many minutes he actually plays with the crowd on the wing for the Raptors (don’t forget Scottie Barnes!). However, there’s nothing wrong with making a smart, sensible commitment.
Bruce Brown, Nuggets: A
This could be one of the better under-the-radar signings of the summer. The Nuggets have done a good job of retooling their rotation this offseason, especially in anticipation of the return of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. Brown will be a welcome defensive presence on a team whose stars are all mostly offensive. Brown is small but still adept at guarding larger wings. Put him on the pitch with you Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell Popeand Denver actually has some sand around the perimeter.
Offensively, it’s hard to imagine a better team for Brown to play for. He shot 40.4% on threes (mostly wide open) last year and he should get similar looks when he plays against Murray, MPJ and Nikola Jokić. Even if teams don’t respect Brown’s outside shot, the Nuggets are well equipped to overcome him as they can shoot from any other position. In a way, Jokić will make Brown’s life even easier than KD and Kyrie because he no longer has to play with a non-spacer in the middle. (It will be fun to see Brown screening for Jokić.) This is a great match for both sides. Expect Brown to be a key part of Denver’s playoff rotation.
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