The Pulse of the NBA

11:52 AM, Jul 9, 2012   |    comments
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New York, NY (Sports Network) - The free agent frenzy was at a fever pitch last week with rumors and speculation changing by the second. So I'll just stick with the facts with some quick observations about some of the prominent signings.

STEVE NASH - LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Look what Nash did for the likes of Marcin Gortat, Jared Dudley and Channing Frye in Phoenix and you could just imagine the impact he'll have on Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.

Does his arrival in Hollywood mean the Lakers will leapfrog the defending Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder? I'll just say if the Lakers had Nash for their second-round meeting this past season against OKC, I think L.A. would have come out on top.

The Lakers blew a seven-point lead in the final two minutes of Game 2 and lost 77-75. The point guard tandem of Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake combined for seven points and no assists in 51 minutes.

In Game 4, the Lakers coughed up a 17-point lead and lost, 103-100. Sessions and Blake played a total of 56 minutes and totaled 15 points and six assists.

My contention is that with Nash, those leads would have been even larger and it would have been a lot less likely the Thunder would have rallied for wins with Nash running the Lakers' offense.

DERON WILLIAMS, JOE JOHNSON - BROOKLYN NETS

As bad as Joe Johnson's contract is - four years remaining for $90 million - and as much as he's getting overpaid, his acquisition in a sign-and-trade with the Atlanta Hawks is the reason Deron Williams decided to stay with the Nets.

The big question remains whether Dwight Howard will be joining them in Brooklyn. The addition of Howard would make the Nets instant title contenders. But even without the game's top center, the Nets will field an entertaining and competitive team in their new home.

RAY ALLEN - MIAMI HEAT

Talk about a perfect fit at a very reasonable price (three years, $9 million).

Allen is the NBA's all-time leader in 3-pointers made (2,718) and 34th in career 3-point percentage (40 percent). He shot a career-best 45.3 percent on 3-pointers last season, and he should get plenty of open looks playing with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Like the Lakers, it's a matter of the rich getting richer.

JASON TERRY - BOSTON CELTICS

The former Maverick's arrival in Beantown probably contributed to Allen's departure.

Terry is not on Allen's level as a shooter, but he's still really good and is a more diversified offensive player who can create his own shot off the dribble. And like Allen, he comes with plenty of playoff experience and is known for his clutch shooting in crunch time and is appropriately nicknamed "The Closer."

JASON KIDD - NEW YORK KNICKS

This turns out to be the consolation prize for the Knicks, who thought Nash was coming to the Big Apple before he decided to join the Lakers.

The Knicks needed a difference-maker, somebody better than Carmelo Anthony to put them in the upper echelon of the league, but Kidd is no longer close to being that player.

The 10-time All-Star no longer has the ability to break guys down and get into the paint, highlighted by the fact that over the last two seasons he got to the line only 105 times in 128 games. And at the same time, his perimeter game has falter badly. Kidd shot just 36 percent from the floor in each of the past two seasons, and is not nearly as accurate from 3-point range as he used to be.

QUICK DRIBBLES

With some time to really absorb what happened in the recently held NBA Draft, let's take a look at the best value picks based on talent and where the player was selected.

MIAMI HEAT (ACQUIRED BY PHILADELPHIA 76ERS) - ARNETT MOULTRIE (27TH OVERALL)

It's beyond me how an athletic, 6-foot-11 power forward who can rebound and has a sweet stroke could fall to the bottom of the NBA Lottery, but that's exactly what happened to Moultrie.

It's ridiculous that Kentucky's Terrence Jones, who played in the SEC as Moultrie did, and wasn't nearly as good a player, was selected nine slots higher by the Houston Rockets.

Moultrie has better size and is flat-out more skilled. Jones has absolutely no right hand and has trouble scoring going to his right whether he's in the post or facing the basket. Moultrie, who led the SEC in rebounding with 10.5 per game, is a far superior shooter who also can finish with either hand around the rim.

To magnify the difference in their shooting abilities, all you have to know is that Moultrie shot 78 percent from the line while Jones was flat-out bad at 63 percent.

I think you can even make the case that Moultrie will be a better NBA player than North Carolina's John Henson, who was selected 14th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks.

The bottom line is that at 27, I think Moultrie was the steal of the draft.

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER - PERRY JONES (28TH OVERALL)

The Baylor forward probably would have been a high lottery pick had he entered the draft following his freshman season, but he saw his stock plummet this year following another lackluster season and a medical red flag with his knee that was reported prior to the draft.

However, I think the Thunder got excellent value with his size, athleticism and a pretty good skill set.

Neither Jones nor the Thunder are concerned about his reported knee issue.

"My knee's fine, it didn't affect me at Baylor," Jones said at his introductory press conference.

"It's a previous injury he had prior to coming to Baylor. He's played two years (since) and has been incredibly consistent with it and it's just something we have to watch as we go forward," Thunder general manager Sam Presti said. "If there's anything that comes up from it, we'll be proactive, but going into the situation we're thrilled and we're looking forward to having him compete this summer."

Jones admitted after the current season that he lacked confidence, but it's no longer an issue. The great thing about being with the Thunder is there won't be the pressure of coming in and being "the guy" and he should really benefit from playing with the likes of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

HOUSTON ROCKETS - JEREMY LAMB (12TH OVERALL)

I thought Lamb was a top-10 talent in this draft and at worst the No. 3 shooting guard behind Bradley Beal and Dion Waiters. Both Terrence Ross and Austin Rivers were drafted ahead of Lamb, but I think Lamb is clearly better than Ross and like him over Rivers, too.

Ross doesn't have the breakdown ability you look for in a two-guard like Lamb, while Rivers doesn't shoot the ball nearly as well as Lamb and doesn't have his tremendous length.

Lamb shot a phenomenal 60 percent on his two-point attempts last season and 81 percent from the line. Rivers shot just 48 percent from the field and 68 percent from the line. And his foul shooting percentage wasn't an anomaly because in his senior year in high school, he shot 70 percent.

The point is that players who are really good shooters don't shoot that kind of percentage from the line.

DENVER NUGGETS - QUINCY MILLER (38TH OVERALL)

I had Miller as my sleeper pick prior to the draft and the Nuggets certainly got good value by nabbing him at 38. Here's part of what I wrote about the Baylor forward last week:

I watched extensive video of him in high school and saw a few Baylor games this season, and he showed me enough flashes to believe he's more skilled than a number of players who are projected to go higher.

I like his size (6-9), his ridiculous length (7-1 wingspan) and a killer crossover dribble that we didn't see much at Baylor.

He's not only got the ability to create his own shot, but he can operate in the low post with good footwork and a nice jump hook.

With the Nuggets stacked at small forward, Denver will have time to bring Miller along slowly and, hopefully, reap the benefits down the road with his second-round selection.

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