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NBA Free Agency 2018: Under-the-Radar Grades

With so many deals in free agency, it's easy for some to get lost in the shuffle. The Crossover is here to grade all of the under-the-radar deals from this summer.

Head still spinning from after the crazy start to free agency? Ours too. With so many new contracts being handed out, it's easy to lose track of who all is going where, for how much, and for what reason. Here are our first impressions (and grades) for some of those moves that flew under the radar.

Tyreke Evans agreed to sign with the Pacers on a one-year, $12 million deal. This arrangement is emblematic of its time, in that it makes a sensible match without long-term consequence. More than half the deals made this summer have been for just one year. There is a collective want on the player side to take advantage of a bigger free agent market next summer, and a want from the teams to dabble in that market. Contracts like this are the result.

2018 NBA Free Agency: Grading Every Deal

In Evans, Indiana adds just the sort of secondary ball-handler it needs to take a step forward. Darren Collison and Cory Joseph can help a team maintain order. Evans shakes things loose. His offense is aggressive and unpredictable enough to throw opponents off-balance, particularly now that he's knocking down threes and long twos with regularity. If a fit is made, the Pacers can look into bringing Evans back next summer, when they'll be able to remake the majority of their roster around Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, and Domantas Sabonis. If not, there's no harm done beyond this season and a smart try. Grade: B

Dante Exum agreed to re-sign with the Jazz on a three-year, $33 million deal. Exum got paid. This is a surprising deal considering Exum's injury history and the market factors involved, but less so in light of Utah's need for upward mobility. As it stands, the Jazz are a very good team without an obvious path forward. Exum, 22, could help blaze a new trail. He remains one of the most fascinating defensive prospects in the league: a 6'6" point guard who can flummox a superstar like James Harden in a playoff game. His offense is still far too wild to be reliable, but that's what the three years are for. Consider this an investment. Exum has had anything but a typical developmental experience, as he played just 179 total games over the last four years. Given time to settle, Exum could turn out to be quite the player—and an ideal fit next to Donovan Mitchell. Grade: B-


Avery Bradley agreed to re-sign with the Clippers on a two-year, $25 million deal. Bradley did well for himself here after a lost season. Most of the teams with an interest in signing him weren't in a position to offer this rich a contract. Functionally speaking, this is more of a one-year deal with an option attached; the second season of Bradley's new agreement will be largely unguaranteed, which works to the benefit of everyone involved. Bradley still gets paid (he's guaranteed around $14 million, should L.A. release him next summer), while the Clippers maintain the flexibility to pursue any available stars. In the meantime, Bradley fits with the professional, competitive ethos the Clips are cultivating as a franchise. Grade: B-

Ersan Ilyasova agreed to sign with the Bucks on a three-year, $21 million deal. Milwaukee needs viable bigs and it needs shooters, so why not swing for both? One can imagine Ilyasova filling in for Milwaukee much as he did Philadelphia: stretching smaller lineups as a spot center, slicing through crowds to pick up offensive rebounds, and boosting the defense with his drawn charges. The Bucks were short a few functional role players last season and paid dearly for it. Ilyasova helps to fill that void, all while his contract is structured (with a non-guaranteed third season) to help mitigate any long-term risk. Grade: B

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Seth Curry agreed to sign with the Trail Blazers on a two-year, $5.6 million deal. Before a leg injury took Curry out of sight and out of mind, he had carved out a role in Dallas with his canny scoring out of the pick-and-roll. Curry might not have the speed to blow by defenders, but there's enough shake in his game to make way for a pull-up jumper. Curry, to the surprise of no one, can shoot. Stash him in the corner and he'll keep the floor spread. Put the ball in his hands, though, and Curry can flex the threat of his shooting to generate offense in a more active capacity. Adding another small combo guard isn't ideal for Portland, but the skill set involved makes Curry a very sensible get. Grade: B+

Mario Hezonja agreed to sign with the Knicks on a one-year, $6.5 million deal. We have yet to see Hezonja pull his game together for more than a few weeks at a time, though those stretches—along with his overall profile—are tantalizing enough for a closer look. The Magic under Scott Skiles and Frank Vogel are the only team Hezonja has ever known. A fresh start could do wonders, particularly if the Knicks can get Hezonja to play the looser, more confident game that coincides with his best performances. Hezonja will likely be uneven at best, though you take that chance with a 6'8" wing who moves this well and can shoot a bit. Grade: C+

Elfrid Payton agreed to sign with the Pelicans on a one-year, $2.7 million deal. A budget addition that allows New Orleans to upgrade its roster elsewhere. So many of Payton's limitations melt away when evaluated as a near-minimum-salary player rather than a potential franchise cornerstone. Payton has it in him to force the action and read the defense, finding the right play from beneath a swirl of bodies. If only he could shoot. New Orleans, if nothing else, at least has the template for that shortcoming in place after relying on Rajon Rondo last season. Payton has some of the same basic qualities to his game, if without the same verve. Grade: B+

Aron Baynes agreed to re-sign with the Celtics on a two-year, $11 million deal. A specialist of a sort who fills a niche within the Celtics roster. Baynes could see his playing time pinched with the return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward; even if he doesn't compete for playing time with those two stars directly, their effect on the rotation—and Al Horford's positioning, in particular—could cost Baynes some burn. They'll still call on him to bruise around the paint, to steady the defense, and, apparently, knock down corner threes with unexpected proficiency. Grade: B

Gerald Green agreed to re-sign with the Rockets on a one-year deal for $2.4 million (the veteran minimum). Green is about as explosive a scorer as could be found for the minimum, which more than justifies his continued stay in Houston. With the way the Rockets run their offense, it's essential to have shooters who, 1) do not hesitate, and 2) can get their shot off even when pressured. Green fits the bill. Unfortunately, his poor defense also makes him effectively unplayable against the Warriors, the very team the Rockets have aimed to dethrone. The broader application of Green's skill set makes this a worthwhile deal all the same. Grade: C+

Kevon Looney agreed to re-sign with the Warriors on a one-year deal for $1.6 million (the minimum salary). Even Golden State's mistakes seem to turn out fine in the end. Looney advanced enough in his third season to make Warriors GM Bob Myers regret declining Looney's team option. Not only will Looney be back on the roster anyway, but he signed at a lower salary that will save millions in tax penalties. Looney is a safe, unexceptional choice. He also makes good sense for the back-to-back champs in a safe, low-variance role. Grade: C+

Omri Casspi agreed to sign with the Grizzlies on a one-year deal for $2.4 million (the veteran minimum). The story with Casspi is the same as it ever was: If he is actually willing to take shots, he can be just the sort of freewheeling, ball-moving catalyst every team needs on the wing. That he so often hesitates or refuses outright helps explain why he was available for the minimum—along with the red flag that came from the curious way he fell out with the Warriors. At this price point, you take Casspi's skill level and court awareness and hope for the best. Grade: B-


Derrick Rose agreed to re-sign with the Timberwolves on a one-year deal for $2.4 million (the veteran minimum). Rose was actually one of the best players on the floor for Minnesota's lone playoff series in 2018, though that says more about the Wolves than it does Rose. The MVP is gone from his game. These days Rose is a fairly standard backup, albeit with more explosive potential—and more baggage—than most. Bringing him back for the minimum is harmless enough, though Tom Thibodeau's steadfast belief in Rose (who isn't even the best reserve point guard on his own team) bears a constant risk of overexposure. Grade: C

Raul Neto agreed to re-sign with the Jazz on a two-year deal for $4.4 million. Neto, above all, plays hard. He comes into the game with an energy ideal for a backup point guard—the kind that, on the right night, can change the complexion of a game for a few minutes at a time. Nothing in his game calls for a starting role or suggests the potential for one. That's fine. There's value in reserves, like Neto, who seem to understand exactly who they are—and who leverage their abbreviated minutes to compete at the highest level they can. Grade: C+

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Nik Stauskas agreed to sign with the Trail Blazers on a one-year deal for $1.6 million (the minimum salary). It's hard not to juxtapose the arrival of Stauskas with the departure of Pat Connaughton, an exchange that costs Portland slightly. Stauskas is the better shooter but the less dynamic creator—a concern given the way the Blazer offense stalled in the playoffs when Damian Lillard was trapped out of the pick-and-roll. Assuming he can knock down threes consistently (which isn't a given), Stauskas will be fine. If not, he won't have much traction in a potential playoff rotation. Grade: C-

Salah Mejri agreed to re-sign with the Mavericks on a one-year deal for $1.6 million (the minimum salary). The addition of DeAndre Jordan, who has missed 13 total games over the past eight years, will leave little opportunity for Mejri this season. Still, it never hurts to have another playable center around in case of emergency—particularly one liable to get under the skin of everyone he plays against. Mejri is limited, but limited sounds about right for center in deep reserve. Grade: C

Michael Carter-Williams agreed to sign with the Rockets on a one-year deal for $1.8 million (the minimum salary). Houston does great work on the margins of its roster, culling value from cast-off veteans and G-League standouts. Then, every so often, they take a heat check. There is nothing in Carter-Williams's recent basketball history to suggest he might be worth a roster spot on a contending team. Dare I say Houston could do better than an injury-prone guard who shot 35% from the field over his past two seasons. Even in the most charitable reflection, this is a truly baffling move. Grade: D-