Here they are, the five best underrated NBA signings for the 2013 off-season. You won’t see Dwight Howard’s name or Iggy’s familiar four letters on here unless they are being compared to these contracts. So find out where GMs look to take the next step because the names you see on the marquee outside MSG are not the only names that matter in the NBA. You have to have a good bench, and doing that while retaining cap flexibility is of the utmost importance.
5. Monta Ellis 3-years, $25 million (3rd year player option)/Jose Calderon 4-years, $29 million
So, having said that, let’s get started with a couple of players that are somewhat famous and starters. The odd couple indeed. Monta Ellis is a shooting guard that has drawn the ire of the advanced stats community while still being labelled as a dynamic scorer by pundits and announcers alike. Jose Calderon is a point guard lauded for fantastic shooting numbers and free throw shooting but not viewed as an upper echelon player because…well he isn’t exciting.
I LOVE this pairing though. Despite what many would have you believe, Monta Ellis is not useless and he has skills that many other NBA players don’t possess, the ability to create his own shot anywhere on the court. He has the handles, basketball smarts and physical ability to get a shot off with a defender draped all over him. The problem is that Ellis hasn’t found a shot that he doesn’t love.
Calderon doesn’t take a high volume of shots and, just maybe, he is TOO picky. His teams might be well served with the dead-eye shooter taking more shots. But, while Calderon has some shot creation ability, it doesn’t approach that of Ellis. The great eye is also a curse, he isn’t going to take many bad shots, but he isn’t going to take many shots overall either.
I am extremely intrigued by Dallas this year as the combination of these two will amount to a definite negative on the defensive side of the ball, but if Monta can rein it in just a little bit, these two could make a sweet opposite attracts dynamic next to Dirk.
4. Martell Webster 4-years, $22 million (Year 4 partially guaranteed)
Three and D. The new fancy moniker for a player that knows how to shoot the three and play defense, 3-D for short of course. You may notice that several players on this list might fit into this mold but I picked this contract in particular because of the vitriol that it has drawn from fans and commentators.
But what does he do? He comes in and shoots almost 60% from one corner and 42% from the other, two of the most important shots in the modern NBA. No, he probably won’t start in Washington because of the presence of Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal, but he will be a solid contributor off the bench, and likely at the end of games for his shooting.
Webster’s defense is the truly underrated side. He has a defensive rating (points per 100 possessions) of 106 and a defensive win shares (flawed but useful base idea stat about how much help a player contributed to a team’s total defense) of 2.4. For comparison…Luol Deng has a 105/3.3, Iggy 105/3.2, BronBron 101/4.7. The last one was more for comparison’s sake than to say he is near that level. But for $5.5 million/year, you’re getting a player that is a good portion of what a player like Deng or Iggy contribute, without some of the more dynamic offensive attributes (that mostly applies to Iggy) like ball-handling and passing.
3. Marco Belinelli 2-years, $6 million
Doesn’t Belinelli just FEEL like a Spurs player? Doesn’t this just stink of I’m going to get more than anyone else would have out of this player. For $3 million/year, San Antonio and Coach Pop will get a player that has the ability to handle the ball and shoot here and there.
This is more of a feel pick, which goes against everything I stand for, but I just can’t believe that Pop won’t get every penny worth of basketball out of this $6 million contract. Belinelli was underrated as a Bull and will turn into a downright bargain for the Spurs.
2. Matt Barnes 3-years, $11 million
The perennially underrated Matt Barnes finally got a multi-year deal after years of jumping around. He has found a home with the Clippers. The second-round pick has been traded, waived and signed more times than most players. He may be 33, but his tenacity for defense should carry into his mid 30’s well, much like it had for Metta World Peace.
Let’s take a look at a slightly different view of shots than we got from Belinelli. Vorped.com provides this and it is beautiful. Threes and the basket. Threes and the basket. THREES AND THE *%#$*^# BASKET! Barnes only converted on about 33% of his threes, but shot a much better 40% from the left corner and 46% from the left-wing, not to mention 62% at the basket, a very good number for a non-center.
We already went over the defensive rating and defensive win shares with Webster, so where does Barnes rank here? 105/2.1. It seems his team defense was likely better, but his individual defense was slightly worse than Webster. The key here is that Webster is getting $5.5 million for his 2.4 win shares while Barnes is getting $3 million for his 2.1 win shares. I’ll take the cap flexibility plus the tiny drop off any day. Matt Barnes has a good chance of playing some crunch time minutes if things don’t work out in the front court.
1. Dorell Wright 2-years, $6 million
If you want cheap defense plus shooting while holding your cap flexibility you have to find guys on short, low salary deals that can still play. You can have a few $5 million players, but the Miami Heat have shown us that the formula is a few top salary guys and then fill in with tiny salary where you can. But you HAVE to get it right.
Portland is not at this stage of team management, but the Wright signing was in that type of vein. He had a 105/2.1 last season for his defensive line and shot a respectable 37% from all areas of three. However, as you can see, he shot 43.1% and 38.9% from each corner and 41.2% from straight away.
His shot charts match ideal shooting areas from the floor and his ability to defend could make this a fantastic underrated signing. If Portland doesn’t blow it up, we might see a playoff team here, but don’t judge this deal by Portland’s W-L record. You’ll have to watch to see if these contracts are worth their weight in dollars.