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Fran Blinebury

Fran Session

Boston's signing of Rasheed Wallace (right) puts the Celtics back in the title picture.
Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Celtics' shrewd move for 'Sheed tops summer's best buys

By Fran Blinebury, for
Posted Jul 22 2009 9:41AM

These are the hot, broiling days of summer where things are sizzling everywhere from the beach to the barbecue grill to the steamy gyms with no air conditioning.

It's the time of the year when most teams have a warm feeling about their off-season moves.

Three weeks into the annual free agent roundup, everybody who's opened their wallet likes to think they got the deal of the century. Or at least their money was well spent.

But there's no doubt that some free agency changes stand out most. Here are the top five cash pickups:

No. 1: Rasheed Wallace, Boston Celtics

Two years ago, GM Danny Ainge set the Celtics on the path to winning championship No. 17 with his wheeling and dealing for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. This time he might have put them back on track for No. 18 by convincing the 14-year veteran Wallace to climb aboard for the mid-level exception.

While the core of the Celtics' hopes, of course, rest on Garnett's recovery from knee surgery. Wallace gives Boston much-needed depth in the form of a versatile power forward who can still fill it up in bursts at the offensive end and be a defensive stopper when motivated. With Leon Powe's physical status up in the air and Glen Davis still hanging out in the free agent ether, this was exactly the addition the Celtics needed.

While there's no doubt that Wallace can be nuttier than a class reunion of squirrels and quite often a royal pain, few have ever questioned his talent or his willingness to play smart and unselfishly in the right situation. Getting off a sinking ship in Detroit and getting a chance to win another championship in Boston will re-ignite the old flame.

No. 2: Antonio McDyess, San Antonio Spurs

This is a perfect fit like a foot inside a custom-made boot. It seems like the Spurs have been searching for some frontline scoring punch ever since David Robinson took his Admiral's stripes into retirement.

Even though he'll be 35 by Opening Night, McDyess still has the moves and the youthful enthusiasm to take the court every night and get a double-double.

He's a solid citizen who will fit right into the Spurs' locker room and never miss a beat. Imagine what it will be like now that Tim Duncan can go to the bench for a breather and San Antonio still has a power forward who can keep the pressure on by hitting the mid-range jumper or attacking the hoop. After the trade for Richard Jefferson and the steal of DeJuan Blair on draft night, McDyess made it a 3-for-3 summer in the Alamo City.

No. 3: Ron Artest, L.A. Lakers

Flip the pages of the calendar back a few months and there was Kobe Bryant catching Artest in the throat with an elbow. There, too, was Ron-Ron running down the court and getting right up into Kobe's grill with a heavy dose of don't-pull-that-on-me back-talk.

Now it's all hunky dory in La-La Land as Bryant and Artest embrace for a run at a title together. Truth is, Artest has had his eye on the Lakers for quite some time and was looking for a way to wind up in L.A. It's also true that the door would not have been opened had Trevor Ariza accepted the Lakers' offer for virtually the identical contract.

Artest gives the Lakers another long-armed defender to fill Ariza's role and whole lot more proven offensive ability, not to mention that swagger that the Lakers, even in winning a title, often missed. Will he accept being the third option in the offense?

L.A. will likely live to regret this by the end Artest's five-year contract. But right now, Artest is that edge who could keep the Lakers' repeat hopes sharp.

No. 4: Brandon Bass, Orlando Magic

While most of the attention went to the Magic essentially swapping Hedo Turkoglu for Vince Carter and matching Dallas' offer sheet to Marcin Gortat, the signing of Bass cruised under the radar.

The 6-foot-8 power forward has a live body, a nose for the ball and will get his belly up into an opponent at the defensive end. He put up 8.5 points and 4.5 rebounds while playing less than 20 minutes a night off the Dallas bench last season and you get a sense that there's more in there.

While Carter is expected to replace the scoring pop of Turkoglu and Gortat keeps covering Dwight Howard's back, the acquisition of Bass could be significant. It allows Rashard Lewis to move back to his natural position (small forward) and gives the Magic another banger on the boards.

No. 5: Ben Gordon, Detroit Pistons

It wasn't the kind of move that, like the first four, will have his new team in the thick of the championship scramble. The Pistons still have plenty of other holes to fill to get back to that level. But GM Joe Dumars wasted no time and roping himself probably the best free agent on the market.

At $55 million over five years, Gordon brings to the Pistons the kind of you-can't-stop-this talent that Allen Iverson used to carry. The question is whether Gordon can co-exist better in the Detroit lineup with Rip Hamilton than Iverson did. Of course, if they can't, Gordon is the 26-year-old who'll stay on as the franchise big gun for the foreseeable future.

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