The 2014 free agency period is winding down with most of the top free agents now off the board. Out of the top ten players in Hoops Rumors’ 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, only Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe, both restricted free agents, have yet to find a home for next season.
The biggest news this offseason was of course when LeBron James elected to return his talents to Cleveland–a move not many saw coming. The other big name, Carmelo Anthony, also surprised a few experts when he elected to re-sign in New York, and not leave for Chicago or the Lakers. Those two players were the undisputed prizes of this year’s free agent class.
But which player who changed teams, not named LeBron, was the best signing so far? I’m only including the deals where the player signed with the team outright, which means players involved in sign-and-trade deals aren’t being included in this poll. I also left off Chandler Parsons‘ signing since his average annual value was much higher than the other non sign-and-trade contracts. Here’s the rundown of the main choices:
- Luol Deng: Deng went from the Cavaliers, where he was replaced at small forward by LeBron, to the Heat where he in turn replaces James. Deng signed a two-year, $20MM deal that included a player option for the second year. Deng’s career numbers are 16.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 2.5 APG over ten NBA seasons. His career slash lines are .457/.329/.773. Deng will bring defense and tenacity to a Heat team that will have to adjust to life after LeBron.
- Lance Stephenson: During the first half of the 2013/14 season, Stephenson looked like a lock to return to Indiana. It was during the second half, after the trade that sent Danny Granger to the Sixers for Evan Turner where the wheels began to come off. There were reports of a practice altercation between he and Turner, and Stephenson’s on court production fell off as well. This was then followed by numerous playoff incidents, including the infamous “ear blowing” incident with James. After turning down a five-year, $44MM offer the Pacers made, Stephenson eventually landed with the Hornets, where he signed a three-year, $27.5MM deal. Stephenson had a career year last season when he averaged 13.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG and 4.6 APG.
- Paul Pierce: Pierce was signed by the Wizards after the sign-and-trade deal with the Rockets for Trevor Ariza was completed. Pierce will bring his experience to a young and talented Washington squad that is looking to go deeper into the playoffs next season. Pierce signed a two-year deal worth roughly $11MM. The veteran out of Kansas has averaged 21.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG, and 3.8 APG for his career. His lifetime shooting numbers are .447/.370/.807.
- Pau Gasol: There was some heavy competition for the former Laker’s services with the Knicks, Spurs, Thunder, and Heat all angling to sign the seven-footer. But in the end, Gasol opted for the Bulls, and the opportunity to play for a playoff contender in the much weaker Eastern Conference. Gasol signed a three-year, $22MM+ deal with Chicago, where they hope his offensive skills can help improve the team’s woeful scoring and lead to a deeper run in next year’s playoffs. In 13 seasons, Gasol has averaged 18.3 PPG, 9.2 RPG, and 3.3 APG. His career slash line is .515/.247/.750.
- Spencer Hawes: The signing of Hawes gives the Clippers some needed frontcourt depth and his ability to stretch opposing defenses with his jump shot will add to an already formidable offensive team. Hawes was also being pursued by the Suns and the Trail Blazers, but decided that the Clippers offered him the best opportunity. His deal is for four years, $23MM. Hawes’ career averages are 9.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.0 APG and 1.1 BPG. His career shooting numbers are .465/.361/.703.