With another very entertaining NBA free agency in the books, it’s time to take a look at some of the teams who really helped themselves in free agency and some of the teams who hurt themselves.
WINNER: Golden State Warriors
They signed Kevin Durant.
LOSER: Oklahoma City Thunder
They lost Kevin Durant.
WINNER: Boston Celtics
The Celtics greatly improved from where they were before free agency began, even though the position they were in was still pretty darn good. They managed to take care of the main reason they couldn’t take the extra step in the playoffs. That missing piece was a legitimate big man to stabilize the front court. By signing top free-agent center Al Horford to a hefty four-year, $113 million contract the Celtics made their lineup that much more dangerous. Placing Horford into a roster consisting of All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas, up-and-coming shooting guard Avery Bradley, and legitimate role players in Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk makes Boston a lot more well-rounded. Add in third overall pick Jaylen Brown and Boston becomes that much more of a threat in a relatively wide open Eastern Conference.
LOSER: Los Angeles Lakers
This offseason as a whole was a very important one for the Lakers. After getting off to a nice start by signing Luke Walton as their new head coach and drafting a potential superstar in Brandon Ingram, free agency was very disappointing. Hoping to lure marquee free agents with the glamour and fame of Los Angeles to go along with their young but very promising core, they failed. After this plan didn’t work out it seems as though Jeanie Buss and the Lakers pulled a pair of desperation moves to try and fill out their roster. It was smart, however, to resign Jordan Clarkson who is a legitimate combo guard just entering his prime years. Despite overpaying him, he is a young but very talented player who has gotten better every season.
Now, Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng aren’t bad at all, but they were severely overpaid and their numbers just don’t match their new salaries. I mean come on, Mozgov averaged 6.3 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per game, and now he is making $16 million a year! That’s a little absurd if you ask me even with the extremely high salary cap. That’s a lot of money for someone who’s 30 years old and got benched in favor of Tristan Thompson. Then you sign 31-year-old Luol Deng to a 4-year, $72 million contract. Deng has been a great player for a long time, but he is now entering the declining years of his NBA career. The Lakers will be paying Deng $18 million until he’s 35 years old! Oh boy. The Lakers still have their talented young core and added some veteran leadership, but they just paid two declining role players superstar-level money.
WINNER: New York Knicks
The Knicks made some drastic changes to their roster this free agency, and it was important for them to do so coming off a disappointing season and with no draft picks. A lot of people might say the Knicks are losers due to injury risks, but I think the new roster is a lot more respectable and can really take this team deep into the playoffs if everyone stays healthy. Now, the new pieces Phil Jackson has added do have lengthy injury histories, but they still added some legitimate weapons and I don’t think that injuries will be a major problem for the Knicks. After adding Derrick Rose via trade, they started off free agency by bringing in his Chicago teammate Joakim Noah. Noah will replace Robin Lopez as the starting center and despite a rough couple of season, I belive he will flourish on his hometown team. With many scoring options in Melo, Porzingis, and now Rose, it was very smart to add a defensive center, or one of the best defensive centers in the game. Noah is basically a better version of Lopez, and Noah is a phenomenal passer as well.
The Knicks then found their shooting guard in journeyman Courtney Lee. Lee is the perfect finishing touch to that starting five. He isn’t a big scorer, but he doesn’t need to be relied on as a scorer for the Knicks. He is a reliable scorer and great defensive guard who helps the players around him thrive. They paid a lot for him, but he will prove to be a smart signing in order to accomplish the Knicks’ playoff dreams. Then the Knicks added backup point guard Brandon Jennings. This was definitely the Knicks best move of the entire offseason. Jennings can and should be a starter in this league, but an Achilles injury has taken him back a little. I am confident he can return to his explosive self, however, and put up serious competition for Sixth Man of the Year. Also by re-signing small forward Lance Thomas, the Knicks brought back a loyal player who can play both sides of the court very well. Good job Phil Jackson.
LOSER: Orlando Magic
The moves that the Orlando Magic have made just leave you scratching your head. Going back to the trade deadline last season, the Magic have managed to get rid of some of their most talented young pieces. They traded Tobias Harris for Brandon Jennings, who’s now a Knick, and Ersan Ilyasova, who’s now a Thunder. Free agency was worse. Before free agency, the Magic thought it would be smart to trade arguably their best player in Victor Oladipo, a lottery pick that ended up being Domatas Sabonis, and Ilyasocva for Serge Ibaka. Huh? You give up two talnted, young players and a reliable role player for an oft-injured power forward entering the final year of his contract? No no no. Ibaka is a great player, but he just isn’t worth that much. I also don’t see the killer need for him when they already have Nikola Vucevic at center and a rising young star in Aaron Gordon.
Then the Magic decided to sign a bunch of veterans to highly overpaid contracts to compliment the Ibaka trade. Yes they did re-sign Evan Fournier, who played well last season, but for $17 million a year? You could have just kept Oladipo and formed a dynamic young combo of him and Mario Hezonja. Then veterans such as Jeff Green, Bismack Biyombo, and DJ Augustin were brought in to add some depth to this lineup. Green is only on a 1-year deal, but he is getting paid $15 million. Biyombo, who will come off the bench, is making more than Vucevic as he receives about $18 million a year for 4 years. Then you sign DJ Augustin, a journeymen guard, to a 4-year, $29 million contract where he makes about $7 million a year. That is a lot to commit to somebody who’s now playing for his 8th team entering his 9th season. I just don’t understand what Alex Martins has in mind for this team by throwing away young talent for overpaid veterans.
WINNER: Indiana Pacers
In my opinion the Pacers did the best job of improving their roster as a whole. They already had a respectable starting five, but changes were needed. They got major upgrades at the point guard, power forward, and center positions who can contribute right away and make the roster that much better. By trading for Jeff Teague the Pacers got themselves an All-Star level point guard and one of the best playmakers at the position. He can immediately step in and thrive while helping his teammates thrive as well. Then by trading for power forward Thaddeus Young, you get a quality power forward who is only 28 years old. He was very productive for the Nets last season on both ends of the floor, averaging about 15 points and 9 rebounds. He is a guy who can also serve as a great mentor to Myles Turner, who came off of a very promising rookie season.
By signing Al Jefferson to a 3-year, $30 million deal, the Pacers found themselves a big upgrade over Ian Mahinmi. Jefferson is the perfect fit for Indiana. He provides plenty of experience, a wonderful veteran presence, and his game is one that president Larry Bird likes a lot. He is a leader and his game will translate very smoothly to Indiana. What Bird has done is made the Pacers substantially better by adding top-notch veterans and giving up virtually nothing. This is a team that can now be considered a very strong threat to the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference.
LOSER: Memphis Grizzlies
For the Grizzlies it’s not so much that they lost or failed to add any impact players, it’s that they just threw money around like it was a dog’s chew-toy. They accomplished their main goal, re-signing Mike Conley, so I credit them for doing that. Despite his injury concerns, he is a star who is often highly underrated, or at least was. That all changed this offseason. Conley is now the highest paid player in NBA history. What did you say Alex? You must be joking, right? Nope. Mike Conley, who has never made a single All-Star team, is getting paid more than Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook combined. Ah, there’s nothing like the NBA.
Memphis then added forward Chandler Parsons, who has had big injury concerns the past couple of seasons, to a 4-year max contract worth up to about $95 million. Parsons when healthy is a great player and he was probably going to get a max contract from another team if it wasn’t Memphis, but still. Is he really worth that? No. But sadly that’s what today’s league has come to. If healthy this will look to be a nice signing since Parsons is in his prime and is a very good shooter. These signings can make the Grizzlies look smart if they stay healthy, but if the injury bug bites them again they’re screwed.
WINNER: Utah Jazz
The Jazz, like the Pacers did a very nice job of attacking multiple weaknesses and filling out their roster with proven veterans. They received point guard George Hill as part of the 3-team trade that sent the 12th pick to Atlanta. Hill serves as a great mentor for Dante Exum while he brings some great shooting and playmaking to the starting lineup. Then, in free agency, the Jazz really filled their roster with a pair of proven veterans with lots of playoff experience.
They added a real quality reserve in Boris Diaw via trade, who has shown really good passing skills, defensive versatility, and high quality shooting percentages throughout his 13-year NBA career. He is a guy who will serve as a sensational backup to Derrick Favors and is the kind of player every team wants to have due to his experience and multiple talents on the court. Then to top it all off with the signing of long-time veteran Joe Johnson, they managed to add another fantastic reserve who is a quality veteran that has proven he still can play at a high level. Despite being 35 years old, Johnson averaged about 12 points, 4 assists, and 4 rebounds per game. After being overworked in Brooklyn, he was dealt to Miami mid-season and showed new signs of life in a complementary role. The Jazz filled a lot of their weaknesses and added both a quality starting point guard, and some talented veterans who provide some much-needed depth.
LOSER: Miami Heat
Pat Riley had himself a rough offseason. He managed to re-sign star center Hassan Whiteside and schedule a meeting with Kevin Durant, but he lost a pair of quality players, including their most prized possession for the past 13 years. He lost the man who has carried and lead this team, shown loyalty and the will to win, and has become the greatest athlete in Miami sports history. All because Riley wouldn’t pay him what he rightfully deserved. After taking less money to improve the team around him multiple times, the one time he asks for more money results in him leaving the only team he’s ever known. Congratulations Pat Riley, you really messed up. Not only that put you also lost a pair of veterans who performed well for you in Luol Deng and Joe Johnson. Now this team is facing some really major problems. No matter what anybody says, they aren’t a contender anymore. They are a 7th seed at best.
They still have the trio of Whiteside, Chris Bosh, and Goran Dragic to go along with promising rookies in Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson, but Bosh is having some serious medical problems that can possibly force him to retire. Even if he doesn’t retire he and Dragic are getting up there in age, and it’s still unknown if Whiteside can be that main guy for the Heat. This team will look a whole lot different than last season, and it’s not a good thing. They really blew it by losing Wade and now it leaves a scar in Wade’s time with the Heat which is exactly what nobody ever wanted to see.
WINNER: All NBA Free Agents
Mozgov got $64 million. Solomon Hill got $48 million. Kent Bazemore got $70 million. Nicolas Batum got $120 million. Conley is the highest paid player in league history. The list goes on and on. I can’t wait for next offseason.
Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go work on my jump shot.