The pendulum of parity appears to be swinging in favor of lower market teams with the Golden State Warriors winning the NBA championship this season, the San Antonio Spurs having spent the greater part of the last two decades as a model franchise and the Cleveland Cavaliers as the early favorite to win the NBA chip next season. While the NBA draft lottery is often looked upon as the remedy for the palcity of talent in major market franchises like the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and even the Boston Celtics. But its called a lottery for a reason and theres no guarantee that any of the top ten selections will ever be all-stars, let alone help their respective teams reach the top of the NBA mountain top.
But NBA free agency is a panacea for those that have the clout, cash and upward mobility to entice talented players on to their rosters. Free agency also provides the ability for teams to completely refurbish their respective rosters in order to take a step forward in competitiveness, or a step back to reshuffle the deck.
Though NBA free agency officially kicked off as of 12 midnight on Wednesday, the rumor mill has been spinning out of control since the end of the season. Though there was never any doubt that he would leave Cleveland after a season, LeBron James has opted out of his contract and is taking a wait and see approach on resigning with the team. In the interim, PF Kevin Love recently announced that he does indeed plan on returning to the Cavs next season and SG Iman Schumpert re-signed for four-years, $40 million. For their part the NBA Champion Warriors have re-signed PF Draymond Green. Heres is an abbreviated list of the free agent moves with commentary and a grade from The Shadow League. Thus far, Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge, two of the most sought after players in free agency, have remained undecided thus far; but Gasol looks to be leaning towards re-signing with the Grizzlies.
SG Dwyane Wade agreed to a deal for one-year $20 million to return to the Miami Heat next season. At 33-years-old it would seem that Wade has significant tread left on the tires, but the axle might be a little off. D-Wade missed significant time over the past four seasons yet is looking for long-term stability. He’s been instrumental in Miami winning the three titles that it does have. You can’t blame him for wanting Miami to show a little appreciation. When Wade is on the court he’s still a very, very hard cover.
PF Anthony Davis is officially the future of the funk as far as NBA all-stars are concerned, and the New Orleans Pelicans made sure they locked him in long term with a Dr. Evil-esque sum of $145 million over five years. Whats not to like? Elite in every facet, Davis is projected to one day surpass Tim Duncan as the best power forward ever. Lofty praise, but lofty skills as well.
2014 NBA Finals MVP and 2015 Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard agreed to a five-year $90 million deal with the San Antonio Spurs, but was there ever really any doubt? Like flatulence in a Taco Bueno lobby, SF Kawhi Leonard has proven to be silent but deadly. Leonard is a versatile lockdown defender and is emerging as a takeover scorer as well.
PG Damian Lillard agreed to an extension with the Portland Trail Blazers for the sum of $120 million over the next five years. To me, Lillard is something of an enigma. Yes, hes great in the regular season and has a knack for scoring. However, he gets flambed every time an all-star counterpart came to town. His position has guard in the title yet he cant defend a light post. Additionally, Lillard fell to pieces against the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs. That meltdown was not indicative of someone deserving a contract like this.
PF DeAndre Jordan spurned the Los Angeles Clippers and signed a deal for four-years, $80 million with the Dallas Mavericks. Energy, explosiveness, blocked shots and rebounds, Jordan will alter the defensive landscape in the Southwest Division for years to come. Rumor has it that Jordan wanted to become a integrated piece in the offense. No low post moves, no perimeter shot and poor free throw shooting spells doubt for this writer. But, hey, you never know.
Greg Monroe signs a max deal with the Milwaukee Bucks for three years, $50 million. Who said nobody would go be willing to suffer the cold and relative isolation of Milwaukee to play basketball? At one time it seemed like hed be more like to go to New York but that was obviously pie in the sky for Knicks fans. While not very athletic, Monroe is a capable scorer around the basket, an above average rebounder and a very good passer for a big man.
SG Monta Ellis signs a four-year, $44 million deal with the Indiana Pacers. Undersized for an NBA shooting guard, Ellis can score in a blink off the dribble or from downtown. However, hes either incapable or uninterested in playing defense against his larger, more athletic counterparts. Never been much of a passer either despite playing the position often in Dallas early last season.
SG Arron Afflalo agrees to a two-year, $16 million deal with the New York Knicks.Afflalo is an above average slasher and shooter. He also has the ability to lock in on defense as well. Hes not a transcendent offensive threat but could easily put up 16 points per game for a Knicks team with major offensive holes in their roster.
Draymond Green rolls marries his prom date as he agrees to a five-year, $85 million deal. Green is the perfect example of a tweener who made good on his opportunity. Deemed too slow to play small forward, too small to play power forward, Draymond Green has put his own interesting twist on the so-called stretch four position but not only being able to consistently hit the three pointer but, unlike many other stretch fours, he has no problem going inside and banging with the monsters and trolls of the NBA painted area.
Kevin Love re-signs with the Cleveland Cavaliers for a five-year, $110 million deal. A major off season acquisition that was supposed to help win the Cavs a championship sooner rather than later, Love suffered through much speculation regarding his chemistry with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving during the regular season. But he endured. However, a shoulder injury suffered against the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs ended his season. Though hes a third option, and an expensive one at that, theres no doubt that he is an upper-echelon NBA player who can stretch the floor and rebound. Also, Love is a better position defender than anyone gives him credit for being.
SG Jimmy Butler is smiling his way all the way to the bank after agreeing to a five-year, $90 million deal with the Chicago Bulls. Butler was offered an extention for four years, $40 million last season but turned it down and bet on himself to show and prove that he is an elite shooting guard in the NBA. In the immortal words of Biz Markie, Damn it feels good to see people up on it, cause I remember when at first they wasnt, now guess what they caught from my cousin?
Surefire hall of fame small forward Paul Pierce, known for his clutchness and fire, will join former Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers with the Los Angeles Clippers on a three-year, $10.6 million contract. Born and raised in Los Angeles, there are reports that Pierce took a pay cut to finally play in his hometown.
One-time defensive player of the year Tyson Chandler agreed to a four-year contract worth $52 million with the Phoenix Suns. Though a bit long in the tooth at 32-years-old, Chandler is a still a more than capable defender, shot blocker and rebounder. Considering the Suns need all those attributes in abundance, it looks like a win-win situation.
SG Wesley Matthews signs four year, $64 million deal with Dallas Mavericks. While not nearly the scorer that Ellis is, Matthews is a better defender and better rebounder. Also, doesnt need to dominate the ball to be effective.
PF Thomas Robinson signs two-year deal with the Brooklyn Nets for the veterans minimum, with a player option for the second year. A lottery pick just four years ago, Robinson has struggled to find a niche in the NBA. Hes the size of a small forward but cant dribble or shoot so Portland played him a lot at power forward but he has no moves around the basket. However, he is an energy guy who doesnt have any problem with giving maximum effort.
PG Shane Larkin signs with the Brooklyn Nets for tw0-years, $3 million. Injuries early on, as well as inconsistent play, have caused Larkin to be bounced on and off the bench repeatedly throughout his career. Can he hit the midrange shot? Is he a capable floor general? Is he really a combo guard in disguise? Nobody really knows. Low risk acquisition for Brooklyn.
C Ed Davis slides over to the Portland Trail Blazers for three years, $20 million. Davis tantalizes observers with his flashes of strength, athleticism and shot blocking. However, doesnt seem to be able to his a shot outside of eight feet on a consistent basis. But hes a decent replacement for Robin Lopez, who wasnt relied on for much scoring either. Davis production is certain to go up with minutes.
C Robin Lopez has tentatively agreed to a four-year, $54 million deal with the New York Knicks. A capable shot blocker and defender who can get you a double-double in the right situation, Lopez will help immediately. Just what the doctor ordered for a Knicks franchise with no immediately apparent wing defenders.
Heres a list of other notable signings thus far:
PF Paul Milsap agreed to three-year, $59 million deal to stay in Atlanta.
PG Brandon Knight has agreed to a five-year, $70 million deal to remain in Phoenix.
SG DeMarre Carroll has agreed with the Toronto Raptors on a four-year, $60 million deal.
SG Danny Green and the Spurs have agreed to terms on a four-year, $45 million deal
PG Goran Dragic will remain in Miami after agreeing to a five-year, $90 million deal.
We will continue to keep you posted as moves are made in the NBA off-season.