A while back we looked at some of the biggest names to switch teams in free agency this past offseason. Now, let's take a look at some of the top free agents from the class of 2011 who wound up back with their teams and see how the deals have paid off so far:
- Marc Gasol signed a four-year, $57.5MM offer sheet with the Rockets, but the Grizzlies matched it even though it meant they'd be well over the cap and flirting with luxury tax territory this year. So far it looks like it was worth it, as he's averaging career highs in virtually every relevant statistical category and made his first All-Star Game this year. The 27-year-old's improvement helped mitigate the absence of fellow post player Zach Randolph for much of the season. The only negative has been his 48.8% shooting from the floor, which barring improvement will represent his first season shooting below 50%. Still, the struggles of Nene Hilario and DeAndre Jordan, the market's other top centers this past offseason, make Gasol's deal look smart.
- The Nuggets did an about-face on Nene Hilario's signing so quickly that team president Josh Kroenke had to deny they weren't looking to get rid of him all along. Nene missed most of training camp as he and the team hammered out a five-year, $65MM deal. That missed time, coupled with injuries, helps explain a dip in scoring and a jump in turnovers in his play for Denver this year. Since his trade to the Wizards, he's shown signs of breaking out of the funk, averaging 14.8 PPG and 9.3 RPG. Though the numbers are from a tiny sample size of six games, they would be career highs if extended out over an entire season.
- The Warriors had to have thought they were sure to have DeAndre Jordan this season when he inked a four-year, $43.04MM offer sheet with the team in December. Clippers GM Neil Olshey swallowed hard and matched the offer, however, locking up the 23-year-old long-term despite more promise than production in three previous seasons. His averages in points (7.7), rebounds (8.4) and blocks (2.2) are up, but that's largely been the result of increased minutes, as his per-36-minute numbers are mostly consistent with where they've been throughout his career. His PER, though, is at 17.2, well above the 14.8 PER he posted last year, so his progress seems to be a matter of which stats you trust. The question of whether the Clippers can trust Jordan to deliver on his contract, however, is yet to be resolved.
- Tayshaun Prince might have fit in well with a contending team looking to add a veteran with championship experience. Instead, he re-signed with the Pistons for four years and $28MM. He's responded with 12.8 PPG, his worst scoring average in eight years, even though he's taking a career-high 13 shots a game. His PER of 12.6 suggests he's having his worst season since his rookie year, when he was only on the floor for 10 minutes a night. The only consolation for GM Joe Dumars on this one is he's making less per season than Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, his much-maligned signings from the summer of 2010, as well as Rodney Stuckey, who's become a more efficient scorer after inking a three-year, $25.5MM deal before the season.
- Compounding the misery for Dumars is the play of former Pistons draftee Arron Afflalo, whose points per game number is up for the fourth straight season after re-signing with the Nuggets for $36.75MM for five years. He's been a fixture in the starting lineup for Denver ever since coming over from Detroit three years ago for the bargain price of just a second-round pick, and Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri was willing to pay a premium to keep Afflalo even though he's not a top-tier shooting guard. His 14.2 PPG this year reflects the increased offensive load he's been carrying as the team deals with a multitude of injuries and another shakeup at the trade deadline. His steady improvement and willingness to commit to the team long-term may prove worth the price.