“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.” – Yogi Berra
I kept warning everybody last year about the contracts that were about to be given out to free agents in the coming years but no one would listen. But even I was surprised at the outrageous contracts given to the lights of Timofey Mozgov, Solomon Hill, and such. I mentioned in my blogs last year that the Knicks got a great deal signing Robin Lopez to 4-year $52 million deal last summer and friends of mine thought I was a fool because he was barely a starter in their eyes let alone an All-Star to be making $13 million a year. One year later, they realized I was right. Several contracts signed last summer to Lopez, DeMarre Carroll, and Enes Kanter, to name a few, were done by teams knowing that they wouldn’t look like such an overpay in the coming years. But what we witness this summer was ludicrous.
While I’m all for players getting their money’s worth and the owners to pay up because it’s been unbalanced for many years, I’m hoping in the next CBA negotiations the players, teams, and owners find a common ground. The common ground needs to limit crazy spending and figure out a way where teams actually have an advantage in keeping their own free agents (a little too late for OKC, I know). They also need to increase the rookie contracts and might as well increase the salaries of D-League players too. But that’s the down the road. For now, I have enjoyed the free agency frenzy thus far and can’t wait for next year’s as well, mainly because I feel my Knicks will truly to be position to lure a star player this year but more on that later. For now, here’s a list of five winners and losers of this year’s free agency.
Top 5 Winners and Losers from NBA Free Agency
*NOTE: These two lists are my opinion and my opinion only.
5. Miami Heat
Maybe I shouldn’t be so harsh on the Heat because they lost Dwayne Wade, who’s 34 and probably wouldn’t be worth the max considering his fragile body but there something to be said for loyalty. Wade sacrificed money and leading role many times throughout his Heat tenure and was never the highest paid player on the team. He was only asking for two-year deal but above all else, they look like they’ll miss the playoffs and be better off rebuilding.
4. Los Angeles Lakers
They started the ridiculous contract trend with a bang by being the first team bid against themselves and hand out a 4-year $65 million dollar contract to Timofey Mozgov. But they didn’t stop there, a few days later they signed Luol Deng to a 4-year $72 million dollar deal. Even if the current market, these were overpays. I understand they needed some veterans to help their young players during their rebuild but it wasn’t necessary to sign them to four year deals. Since they’re rebuilding, they would’ve been better off signing Bismack Biyombo to play center instead. Also, why sign Deng when you’re first round draft pick (#2 overall) plays that position. The days of Hollywood enticing free agents are over. Luckily for them, they do have young pieces but I don’t think Russell Westbrook will doing any cartwheels next summer to join his home state team like many Lakers fans are hoping.
3. Dallas Mavericks
They started free agency hoping to lure the top available point guard (Mike Conley) and center (Hassan Whiteside) away from their respective teams only to have those teams keep their players by offering max deals. They also lost one of their own key players, Chandler Parsons, who himself got a max deal. They “rebounded” by re-signing a washed up Deron Williams (at least it’s for one year), traded for Andrew Bogut (and in turn helping Golden State clear space for Kevin Durant), and agreed to a max contract with Harrison Barnes. This seems to happen all the time with the Mavericks. They start with high hopes to end up signing players to just be good enough to make playoffs but not good enough to be contenders. At least, they did the right thing by giving Dirk Nowitzki one last big contract after all the years he sacrificed for the team, both physically and financially. Good for him. Maybe that will be a decent sales pitch for them in the future.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
They tried unsuccessful to get Durant to join them to create a “Big Four” with CP3, Blake, and Jordan and instead end up overpaying the coach’s son ($11 million a year allowance) and bringing back Jamal Crawford (nice guy, great bench player, but he’s 35). The Clippers fortune might only get worse next summer when both Griffin and Paul can exercise their player options to become free agents.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
They lost Kevin Durant to their conference rival and are likely to lose their current best player next summer because of it. There was no other choice for number one. (More on Durant to GS later).
5. Memphis Grizzlies
They were able to keep Mike Conley (owner of the largest contract in league history now) and added Chandler Parsons. Along with a healthy Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, I expect the Grizzlies to be the biggest threat to dethrone the Golden State Warriors in the West because if there’s one way to beat the Warriors, it’s inside.
4. New York Knicks
Am I being a little biased? Sure, I am but hear me out. They have upgraded three of starting positions by adding Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee, and Joakim Noah. Both Noah bring defensive presence and leadership needed for them to become contenders again. At first, Noah’s deal seemed like a slight overpay but now seems fair, ditto for Lee. Signing Brandon Jennings to one year deal for $5 million is tremendous value and fills a big need as a backup to Rose, whose injury history is well documented. They also brought over 2015 second round pick Willy Hernangomez to backup Noah and resigned Lance Thomas, a unhealded player who is versatile and is the type of glue guy every team needs. Most importantly, they kept their cap space for next season and making these moves will make them more attractive for free agents to consider joining next season.
3. Indiana Pacers
They did most of their work through trades before free agency adding Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young who are both great pieces (and great value contracts) in their quest to play smaller but the icing on the cake was adding Al Jefferson to a 3-year $30 million contract which is great value compared to what others received. Jefferson will be key come playoff time as a big man who can score. With Paul George back healthy and playing at an elite level, I see them as the second biggest threat to challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers in the East, the first being…
2. Boston Celtics
Their future already seemed promising with so much young talent and a bright young coach in Brad Stevens. They seemed in position to make a big draft night deal but didn’t. Durant considered them for a bit but ultimately said no. But Boston did add the second biggest free agent, Al Horford. Horford is an underrated defender and is joining a great defensive team but it’s his scoring that is needed. In the playoffs, it seemed like Isiah Thomas was the only one who could score for them but now he has help. Boston looks ready to make a leap and has tremendous upside going forward. If the Thunder decide to deal Russell Westbrook, Boston seems a logical spot because they have so many young pieces and other assets.
1. Golden State Warriors
I don’t like Durant’s decision but this isn’t a blog about my opinion in regards to his decision. The Warriors have made the Finals back to back years and now with the addition of Kevin Durant, they should be making several more Finals appearances going forward. Financially, Durant actually left some money on the table by leaving OKC. The Warriors basically swapped Harrison Barnes for Durant and while they’ll lose a great defensive presence in Bogut, they’ve added some quality big men in David West and Zaza Pachulia on short cheap deals. Expect more veterans to jump on the wagon as well as they did with the Miami Heat years ago (I’m talking about you Ray Allen!). The pressure is definitely on Durant and the Warriors to deliver now but there’s no question who the number one winner of free agency was.