Winners and Losers of Free Agency
On July 4th, 1776, the original 13 colonies rejoiced the beginning of the United States…Murica! The settlers no longer had to deal with the tyranny of Great Britain and were finally free.
On July 4th, 2016, the NBA free agents rejoiced as the league’s salary cap was boosted to $94 million and Kevin Durant shocked the world with his decision to join the Golden State Warriors.
It has only been a couple of days since free agency began and I have already sat here wondering what the hell some of these teams are thinking. It blows my mind that guys who you literally have to google are making more than $10 million per year.
I can’t wait to see how many of these teams regret these deals in a couple of years.
This NBA free agency period has been insane! I wanted to write about several teams and players, but that would be entirely too many words and posts to create. I decided to just put it all in one post.
Let’s begin with the winners …
Boston Celtics – Winner
While I positioned the Celtics in the losers bracket for the NBA Draft after refusing to make a trade, general manager Danny Ainge certainly gets a big W for signing center Al Horford.
I absolutely love the move to grab one of the league’s best centers. I can’t wait to watch the pick roll executed with Horford and point guard Isaiah Thomas. Boston won 48 games last year and still have a ton of draft choices for the next few years along with enough cap space to sign a major free agent next off-season.
Does this make them a contender in the eastern conference? Absolutely it does. Big win for the Celtics here.
Mike Conley – Winner
Dude signed the richest contract in NBA history to stay with the Memphis Grizzlies. That guy obviously wins. I have always liked Mike Conley, but I probably wouldn’t give him 5 years for $153 million. Either way, Memphis loves Mike Conley and made sure to keep one of their key players, which brings me to my next point…
Memphis Grizzlies – Winner
I know they broke the bank to keep Conley, but it didn’t stop there. They were able to make a splash and sign forwards Chandler Parsons and James Ennis.
Parsons is coming off a rough year with Dallas, but he can certainly help Memphis offensively and be an efficient scoring option, something they always seem to lack. He can keep the Griz from getting stagnant offensively.
Ennis could be a solid option off the bench as he averaged close to 16 points per game last year with the Pelicans.
Unfortunately for Memphis, they dealt with the injury bug last year especially with Marc Gasol. Considering their style of play, that is a massive loss. Assuming they have a relatively healthy season, look for them to make some noise. I would gladly take a starting five of Conley, Tony Allen, Parsons, Zach Randolph and Gasol.
Atlanta Hawks – Winner
I may be the only person who thinks the Hawks made a good splash adding center Dwight Howard to replace Horford. I am giving Howard a pass at his last two stops because it included playing alongside two guys who let their egos get in the way far too often (Kobe Bryant and James Harden).
Howard still managed to average a double-double last year in Houston. Howard is still a great rebounder and I am anxious to see how he is in a system where he will actually get some offensive touches. Maybe it is bold, but I think Howard may revive a treacherous downfall to a promising career.
Additionally, the Hawks were able to resign wing Kent Bazemore. Two solid moves by ATL.
Golden State Warriors – Winner
July 4, 2016, the day the Golden State Warriors became the biggest villains in the NBA when the hottest free agent on the market, Kevin Durant, signed with the team who knocked him out of the playoffs.
The Warriors now have a roster that contains four players who are arguably in the vicinity of top 15 in the league. WOW!
The Warriors gave up forward Harrison Barnes and more importantly center Andrew Bogut, which proves that small ball is here to stay. Although, I am not sure that will benefit the dubs. At least, they take Durant away from everyone else.
San Antonio Spurs – Winner
While everyone was salivating from anger or joy over the Kevin Durant signing, the Spurs slipped under the radar and snagged forward/center Pau Gasol.
With Tim Duncan mulling retirement, the Spurs found a hell of a back up plan and a significant upgrade at this point in their respective careers as Gasol averaged 16.5 points and 11 rebounds for the Chicago Bulls last season.
What I love about this is you now have two towers in Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge who can stretch the floor and centerpiece Kawhi Leonard as your big three. This is a perfect counter for what the Warriors did when they got rid of Bogut. The Warriors struggled when facing lengthier line ups and got rid of their best option at center.
San Antonio is playing chess as per usual.
Russell Westbrook – Winner
If there was still any doubt in your mind about who’s team this is, doubt no more. Russell Westbrook is running the show in OKC now. I could not be happier. Are they going to win a title? No probably not. Are they going to make playoffs and be a 4th or 5th seed? Bank on it. He will get his moment in the sun before becoming a free agent. I fully expect him to average 31 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds per game and make a strong case for MVP.
Unless OKC knows for a fact that Russ is staying put, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to try and trade him.
If he does elect to test the waters of free agency, no one will fault him for leaving. He gets a fresh start. I just don’t see a scenario where Westbrook loses long term as a result of KD leaving.
Every Free Agent – HUGE Winner
Because of the salary cap spike, players who you may have never even heard of capitalized on huge deals north of $10 million per year. Of course we had the insane Conley deal I already touched on.
I think my friend and contributor to the blog, Richard Fischer said it best…
“If I am not a free agent, I am going to my agent and figuring out why not and how I am going to become one.”
Now on to the losers…
Los Angeles Lakers – Loser
The lakers continue to struggle making any monumental splashes in free agency after the Dwight Howard fiasco. They can’t even get the stars to sit down and meet with them. It is pathetic, honestly. The tables have certainly turned in Los Angeles.
So far this offseason, the Lakers have inked center Timofey Mozgov and small forward Luol Deng to four-year deals combining for $136 million. By the time those deals end, both guys will be well into their mid-30s so I am not sure why they committed to either for that long, especially Mozgov.
In 2014-15, Mozgov averaged 10 points and 7 rebounds. Not too shabby for the big fella. However, last year his role was completely diminished when he was healthy. The Lakers were a little too eager to sign a center. $64 million to someone who doesn’t have a proven track record of being a day to day starter is just too risky for my liking.
For the record, I blame Kobe Bryant just as much as I blame Jeannie and Jim Buss for the Lakers’ downfall. Somewhere, the late Jerry Buss is looking down asking how they got here?
New York Knicks – Loser
You traded for Derrick Rose. The Knicks are about six years too late to that party.
Now you sign Joakim Noah to a 4 year $72 million deal? I don’t dislike Noah, not even a little bit. He has always been one of my favorite players, but he is well past his prime. This deal would have been great three years ago.
They also “heavily” recruited guard Eric Gordon and failed.
The Knicks are an even bigger joke than the Lakers at this point. At least the Lakers have a young core of talent. The Knicks just keep reaching for guys well past their expiration date.
They also managed to sign Brandon Jennings. So essentially you have a team that consists of three guys who love shooting 15+ times per game (Rose, Anthony, Jennings).
They are toast. Can’t wait to watch this train wreck. I feel awful for Porzingis.
New Orleans Pelicans – Loser
I know hindsight is 20/20, but the Pelicans’ front office continues to make some head scratchers. Part of that is because Owner Tom Benson is hanging on by a thread. I honestly believe there is no pressure coming from Benson or whoever is doing his work for him.
Aside from Davis’ massive deal, I can’t think of one move I really love at this point.
I wish the Jrue Holiday deal never happened. Give me the picks and Nerlens Noel. Holiday is rarely healthy. When he is, he is fantastic, but you’re only worth something if you can get on the court.
Eric Gordon is finally out. Thank God. What an awful max deal that was.
I like Tyreke Evans, but he is getting paid too much and he is not a guy who is adding wins to a team. You don’t want him as a focal point. He needs the ball entirely too much to be effective.
Omer Asik getting paid $60 million is a joke.
Now they go out and sign wing Solomon Hill and guard E’Twaun Moore. Expect their struggles to continue as they float in the middle of the pack and don’t make the playoffs, the worst place to be.
Best case scenario for Pels is a trade that involves Tyreke Evans, but I don’t see them getting much for him.
Chicago Bulls – Loser
They were fortunate enough to get Derrick Rose off their back, but they gained an even bigger problem in enigmatic point guard Rajon Rondo. This guy is a walking soap opera from anti-gay slurs toward officials to not getting along with teammates and coaches. There is a reason he has been on four teams in the last two years.
Dallas Mavericks – Loser
They get a pair of the Warriors former starters with center Andrew Bogut (trade) and forward Harrison Barnes (signed 4 year $94 million deal). However, those guys aren’t making you anymore relevant than you already are. Barnes and Bogut will round out the starting five, but I don’t see those two helping them back to the postseason.
They whiffed on getting center Hassan Whiteside and Mike Conley, so those were desperate moves by the Mavs.
Thunder – Loser
Do I need to explain?
Kevin Durant – Loser
He left a Thunder team, who got infinitely better after making a huge trade, to join the 73-win Warriors. This just makes him look weak. If Durant doesn’t thrive (I won’t bet on that one) or the Warriors fail to win it all (I will bet on that one), fans will destroy him. I will be joining in on that.
This is the same douche who slighted two-time MVP Stephen Curry not once, but twice during their playoff match up. Now you are joining forces with him.
It is also the same ass hat who once criticized other players for joining forces.
What makes this worse than when LeBron left Cleveland is the fact that Thunder have actively put the talent around Durant, but he could never get the job done even when the proverbial ball was in his court. Case in point, blowing a 3-1 lead.
This only proves the one thing I have said about Durant all along, he is mentally weak.
You know the feeling when you’re having a great time at a friend’s party, but then that one person who you can’t stand walks in so you decide to leave? That’s how I feel about Durant joining the Warriors. Thanks for ruining the party you douche.
The part of this that drives me batshit crazy is that I have seen media members defend this move. You major network journalists are the most fickle people in sports. Remember when LeBron did this and you made him out to be the anti-Christ? To every dorkchop defending Durant, my middle fingers salute you.
Even if he would have left the OKC for someone like Boston, San Antonio, New York or either LA franchise, I would say ok. But you left OKC for the Warriors. I can’t wait to watch you fail some more.