The 2015 offseason was an eventful one for acquisitions. Several of the NBA’s biggest names were up for free agency, and many of them left their original teams for greener pastures. Other key players swapped squads via trade.
So how are those notable faces in new places doing? After six weeks of regular-season action, it’s time for a check-in.
We’ll be looking specifically at guys who ranked in Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 Players. Each of them will receive a grade on an A-to-F scale based on their 2015-16 performance compared to expectations, not necessarily against their contract.
Wesley Matthews, Dallas Mavericks
Per-game statistics: 12.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.2 blocks, 11.4 PER, 0.074 win shares per 48 minutes
Matthews rushed back from his Achilles surgery recovery, playing the season opener when he was originally expected to return around Christmas.
While he hasn’t been great, the 29-year-old 2-guard has shown flashes that he’ll pick things up, like his 36-point explosion (including 10 threes) against the Washington Wizards Sunday.
He probably won’t ever be worth the four-year, $70 million contract he got this summer, but there’s no denying he’s an above-average player.
Josh Smith, Los Angeles Clippers
Per-game statistics: 5.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.4 steals, 1.3 blocks, 13.4 PER, 0.047 win shares per 48 minutes
The Clippers’ bench has been a disaster so far, and Smith has played a role in that. He remains a plus defender, as opponents have shot just 40.9 percent with J-Smoove defending.
However, his offensive production is extremely underwhelming. A smaller role theoretically means better per-minute production because of reserve-level competition and fatigue not being an issue, but Smith has been inefficient, and his usage isn’t all that high.
He is one of the X-factors for this Clippers squad. If he is an effective player by the time the postseason rolls around, Los Angeles will be a lot tougher to eliminate.
Roy Hibbert, Los Angeles Lakers
Per-game statistics: 7.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.4 steals, 2.0 blocks, 15.2 PER, 0.083 win shares per 48 minutes
It’s kind of astounding to think what the 3-18 Lakers might look like without Hibbert protecting the rim. Per Nylon Calculus’ rim protection metrics, he ranks 10th in points saved per 36 minutes. Considering he plays more minutes (27.1 per game) than all but three of the players ranked above him, you know his impact there is pretty significant for a bad Los Angeles squad on both ends of the floor.
On offense, meanwhile, Hibbert has been efficient, but he rarely gets the ball. Any Lakers fans who were expecting 15 points per game from the 7’2″ center despite him having to play with a trigger-happy group of perimeter players were fooling themselves.
Lou Williams, Los Angeles Lakers
Per-game statistics: 13.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.2 blocks, 15.2 PER, 0.083 win shares per 48 minutes
I don’t know what sort of boost Los Angeles was expecting from Williams. He’s a ball-dominant volume scorer who expends the majority of his energy on the offensive end — just like Kobe Bryant, Nick Young, D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson.
Whatever the Lakers were wanting, I don’t think Lou is providing it. He’s scoring 13 points per game on decent efficiency, but playing the porous defense we’ve come to expect from him.
Next to the brick fest Bryant is putting on, however, Williams has actually looked pretty effective, so that’s something.
Amir Johnson, Boston Celtics
Per-game statistics: 7.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.2 blocks, 15.2 PER, 0.142 win shares per 48 minutes
The athletic Johnson has been a solid addition to the Celtics’ frontcourt with his inside scoring and defense, helping them to a 12-9 record and the third-best point differential (plus-5.4) in the NBA.
But, according to Marc D’Amico of the team’s official website, the lift the former Raptor has provided with his personality has been huge, as well. Celtics head coach says “he’s just an energy-raiser. Those guys are really important to have on your team.
Robin Lopez, New York Knicks
Per-game statistics: 7.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.2 steals, 1.2 blocks, 12.2 PER, 0.056 win shares per 48 minutes
The hoopla surrounding rookie sensation Kristaps Porzingis has somewhat overshadowed the fact that Lopez has had an underwhelming start in New York. The 27-year-old center is solid as usual on defense, but his offensive contributions have been meager and inefficient.
At least, the Knicks are a decent 10-12 and Lopez is entertaining NBA fans with his ongoing rivalry with mascots around the league.
Deron Williams, Dallas Mavericks
Per-game statistics: 15.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.3 blocks, 17.2 PER, 0.135 win shares per 48 minutes
The Williams signing was an interesting one for the Mavericks this summer. Dallas was already old, slow and injury-prone, and it brought in another player who fit all three labels.
However, the 31-year-old D-Will has performed as well as any reasonable person could expect this season. Although inconsistency is an issue, he’s played in 21 of the 13-9 Mavericks’ 22 games and is producing at the level of an above-average point guard.
Let’s just hope he stays healthy.
DeMarre Carroll, Toronto Raptors
Per-game statistics: 12.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.2 blocks, 11.5 PER, 0.066 win shares per 48 minutes
Most people called Carroll’s four-year, $60 million an overpay for the now-29-year-old small forward. He was a solid three-and-D guy, but not super young, and he wasn’t elite at either of the two roles he took pride in.
Those reactions have been validated with a quarter of the NBA season elapsed. The Raptors are playing well and sport a 13-9 record, but Carroll has found it difficult to get good shots in an offense that isn’t quite as reliant on ball movement as the Atlanta Hawks’ was.
On defense, he’s been fine, just not a game-changer like some had billed him to be heading into the season. Unfortunately, for the Toronto faithful, he’s now out indefinitely with a knee bruise.
Tiago Splitter, Atlanta Hawks
Per-game statistics: 5.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.3 blocks, 11.6 PER, 0.082 win shares per 48 minutes
Arriving from San Antonio basically in return for cap relief, Splitter was going to help beef up the Hawks’ frontcourt if he could stay healthy.
The injury-prone 30-year-old has, unfortunately, not stayed healthy. He’s currently working his way back from a hip injury and has missed eight of Atlanta’s games. But even when he was on the court, he struggled to finish at the rim and accumulated by far the lowest rebounding rate of his career.
The Hawks needs boards, so Splitter will have to throw his weight around some more when he gets back on the court.
Paul Pierce, Los Angeles Clippers
Per-game statistics: 4.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.2 blocks, 5.6 PER, -0.001 win shares per 48 minutes
Paul Pierce was brought in, specifically, to space the floor with his shooting ability, but he has not done so. He’s at 30 percent from the floor overall and just 24.6 percent from three on 3.1 attempts per game. The 38-year-old is also too slow to defend anyone one-on-one on the perimeter anymore, so he’s not helping there.
There’s really not much else to say, except that The Truth has made people who said the Clippers bench would be good look like liars.
Monta Ellis, Indiana Pacers
Per-game statistics: 11.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.5 blocks, 12.4 PER, 0.062 win shares per 48 minutes
Not many people would have expected it, but Ellis has made more of an impact defensively than offensively for the Pacers so far. Opponents are shooting 41.8 percent against him this season, which is slightly below their averages against other players. Ellis, always a competent ball thief, is also a force in the passing lanes.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t quite make up for a poor offensive showing. Ellis doesn’t have the outside shooting ability to space the floor, and his only use right now is as a creator to salvage broken plays at the end of the shot clock.
But the Pacers are 12-7 and second in the Eastern Conference, so good for them.
Nicolas Batum, Charlotte Hornets
Per-game statistics: 17.0 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.6 blocks, 18.0 PER, 0.127 win shares per 48 minutes
I guess all Batum needed was a few more touches.
In Portland with the Trail Blazers, the 26-year-old swingman was the No. 4 option in an offense featuring LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews. Now, Charlotte is using him in a 1A-1B-1C situation alongside Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker, and it’s resulted in a surprising 12-8 for Steve Clifford’s Hornets.
According to SB Nation’s Yaron Weitzman, “his shooting and playmaking inject more punch and spacing into Charlotte’s attack. The Hornets no longer rely on Kemba Walker isolations or All Jefferson post-ups. They now have much-needed diversity instead of resorting to one-on-one play. It’s no accident that the Hornets are scoring 105 points per 100 possessions when Batum plays and just 100 when he sits.”
The 3.3 turnovers per game are an issue, but everything else has been good.
Ty Lawson, Houston Rockets
Per-game statistics: 7.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.2 blocks, 8.6 PER, -0.022 win shares per 48 minutes
Yuck, yuck, yuck.
Lawson has been an undisputed disaster in Houston, losing his starting spot after 11 games after contributing to a 4-7 start for the Rockets. Interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has brought Lawson off the bench ever since taking over for Kevin McHale, and it’s helped the Rockets somewhat recover with six games in their last 11 contests.
Having Lawson play big minutes next to James Harden was a terrible fit. The 28-year-old point guard is small and a bad defender, and he and The Beard only made each other look worse on that end when playing together. Both guys’ ineffectiveness playing off the ball made them a lot less fearsome offensively than they should have been.
It’s ironic that Lawson and Emmanuel Mudiay, Lawson’s rookie replacement in Denver, are the two worst point guards in Real Plus-Minus this season.
Greg Monroe, Milwaukee Bucks
Per-game statistics: 15.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.0 blocks, 22.5 PER, 0.153 win shares per 48 minutes
Monroe is putting up basically the same stats as his last season with the Detroit Pistons, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.
He doesn’t have to share the paint with Andre Drummond anymore, which should theoretically help his numbers. But he’s also sharing possessions with young, rising stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker, which would make it more difficult to dominate inside.
Overall, it’s just been an alright start for Monroe, but you’d like to see a bit more from his team as a whole. Monroe’s defense has been maybe a little bit better than expected, and it’s still resulted in the 26th-best defensive efficiency in the NBA.
The Bucks are off to a 9-13 start and have the fifth-worst point differential (minus-6.1) in the league. Monroe and Co. have to improve on that.
Tyson Chandler, Phoenix Suns
Per-game statistics: 5.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.8 blocks, 11.9 PER, 0.100 win shares per 48 minutes
It may be disingenuous to refer to Chandler as a two-way center now. Taking out three solid double-figure scoring games, he’s averaging 3.3 points on just 33.3 percent shooting this season. He’s Joakim Noah with slightly better finishing around the rim, but without the great passing ability.
The defensive-minded center has just not played well overall for a team that’s not making a concerted effort to get him looks near the rim, and now he’s dealing with a hamstring injury. You could say Phoenix’s 2-6 record without him on the bench (after going 7-7 with him playing) is a sign that his defensive contributions were vital, but the Suns have still been 2.0 points per 100 possessions better with him off the floor.
Phoenix’s decision to give the 33-year-old Chandler $52 million over four years is not looking good so far.
LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs
Per-game statistics: 15.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.3 steals, 1.3 blocks, 19.0 PER, 0.169 win shares per 48 minutes
Just looking at Aldridge’s ho-hum numbers would lead you to believe he’s been a disappointment in San Antonio. That hasn’t been the case.
While the Spurs would probably like a bit better offensive efficiency from the All-Star power forward as he becomes more comfortable in his new digs (he currently sports a career-low 50.3 true-shooting percentage), his rebounding and defense have been excellent. It’s a great sign for San Antonio that his shooting struggles haven’t affected his contributions in other areas of the game.
Aldridge is No. 2 in minutes per game for a team with the fourth-best point differential (plus-11.9) in NBA history. That has to count for something, right?