In the 2017 NBA offseason, many teams took big swings. Seven of the top 35 players, according to Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), changed teams this summer – five via trade and two via free agency.
Those are the moves that grab the big headlines. But in a way, they aren’t the moves rival general managers and fans will be jealous of by the time the All-Star break rolls around.
Sure, the Cleveland Cavaliers will be jealous that the Boston Celtics were able to sign Gordon Hayward, but the Cavs never could have realistically afforded it. The Washington Wizards should be mighty jealous that the Denver Nuggets reeled in Paul Millsap, but Millsap would have had to choose the Wiz.
The deals that front offices around the league will be beating themselves up over are the guys who were neglected by the league – the guys who were available to any team that wanted them at a reasonable price. Ultimately, one team would walk away with offseason win in signing an underrated player.
The NBA is a league controlled by superstars, and therefore superstar-caliber players are nearly impossible to acquire. What makes the difference between good and great teams is not just their ability to acquire superstars, but their ability to consistently fill out their roster with good players on cheap deals.
The summer of 2017 was filled with those great under-the-radar signings. Here’s a few of the best contracts that didn’t make big headlines:
— Jonas Jerebko (@JonasJerebko) July 17, 2017
Teams that want to compete for a championship right now are desperate for guys who can shoot from three and compete defensively. That’s what makes Jerebko’s status in the league right now such a mystery.
The former Detroit Pistons forward has consistently shot 35 percent or better from behind the arc throughout his career and his advanced metrics will tell you he’s been crucial to the success of every team he has been on. He’s no lockdown defender, but he is intelligent and athletic enough to stay on the floor in the playoffs.
He was inexplicably left out of the Celtics’ playoff rotation during his whole tenure in Boston. When his free agency rolled around, that really hurt him. While the Cavs wasted roster spots on guys like Jeff Green, Derrick Rose, and Jose Calderon — all unplayable against the rival Golden State Warriors — Jerebko unceremoniously signed a contract at a great value for a team nowhere near the title conversation. Good for the Jazz, bad for the rest of the league.
Does anybody know if there’s good BBQ in Boston? Asking for a friend 🤔☘️
— Aron Baynes (@aronbaynes) July 9, 2017
Aron Baynes – Boston Celtics, one-year, $4.3 million
After the Celtics pulled off the signing of former Jazz star Gordon Hayward, everyone thought their offseason would effectively be done. How wrong we ended up being.
Baynes was the absolute perfect guy to fill out the Celtics roster. He is going to slide perfectly into the role Amir Johnson, now with the Philadelphia 76ers, played last year. The only difference; Baynes can actually play basketball still.
Expect Baynes to get the occasional DNP-CD throughout the regular season and postseason, but when he is needed, he will be extremely needed. Baynes was an extremely valuable rebounder and rim protector for the Pistons last year, two areas where the Celtics were severely lacking. Most crucially, the ninth year big man made the Pistons ten points better per 100 possessions when he was on the court last season.
Free agent Jodie Meeks has agreed to a two-year, $7 million deal with the Washington Wizards, league sources tell The Vertical.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 2, 2017
Jodie Meeks – Washington Wizards, two-years, $7 million
The reason Meeks was available at such a cheap price is no mystery; he has a hard time staying healthy.
He missed over half of the 2016-17 season due to an injury to his thumb, a troubling injury for someone whose only above-average quality is his shooting.
But this is the perfect type of low-risk, high-reward signing a team in the Wizards’ position needs to make. This contract is informed by two factors for the Wiz: their cap sheet is absolutely stuffed, and they were a borderline championship contender last year being held back by one of the worst benches in the league.
If Meeks is healthy, his career 38 percent shooting from deep will immediately improve Washington’s bench. If he isn’t, his small contract can be easily waived or moved.
Free agent forward Omri Casspi has agreed to a one-year deal with Golden State, league sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 4, 2017
Omri Casspi – Golden State Warriors, one-year, $2.1 million
Of course, when all is said and done, the champs remain the champs.
New Warriors forward Omri Casspi, much like Jerebko, is the type of player every good team is looking for. He’s a lights out three-point shooter who will compete in multiple positions on defense, and he comes on a minimum contract.
Casspi has managed to consistently shoot at a great clip from three with the most miserable franchise in the league, the Sacramento Kings, for the past few years. Now he will probably be the worst shooter on the floor every time he plays, in an offense where the ball never stops moving.
If you listen closely, you can already hear Mike Breen saying, in his best playoff voice, “Casspi, from three…. Bang!”