NBA Free Agency: The Good, The Bad, The “Um… What?”

NBA Free Agency: The Good, The Bad, The “Um… What?”

The NBA Free Agency period kicked off exactly a week ago with plenty of players turning in their former teams jerseys in exchange for a bolstered new paycheck. We saw many players stay in their respective cities for colossal numbers as the NBA salary cap increased for the first time in part of a four-year overall increase. 

As we transition into a new era of average players being over paid because of salary cap expectations from teams, here is a complete list of some of the best, worst and head scratching signings/trades that were made so far this summer…

The Good…

Center – Al Horford 
Boston Celtics – 4 yrs./$113 million
2015-16 Season – 82 games, 15.2 PPG/8.1 RPG/3.2 APG

One of my favorite signings from the NBA free agency comes with veteran Center Al Horford. Horford, who previously spent his time with the Atlanta Hawks is considered to be the fourth best player overall in this years free agency pool according to CBS Sports. The signing initially had intentions of being a bait for NBA Superstar Kevin Durant. The Celtics lost out on the bid for Durant, but should feel accomplished in getting a premier center. The compliment of All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas will finally give Boston the ability to run an effective pick and roll combination. One of the most underrated parts of Horford’s game is ability to shoot the deep ball. He averaged just below 35% from three-point range while some of the most dominant guards in the game couldn’t compete with that. Horford’s durability, leadership, and playoff experience is something the Boston Celtics desperately needed. Brad Stevens has one of the most exciting teams in the NBA moving forward after drafting eight new players in the 2016 draft to stock pile with the ever-growing talent he already had.

Forward – Kevin Durant
Golden State Warriors – 2 yrs./$54 million
2015-16 Season – 72 games, 28.2 PPG/8.2 RPG/5.0 APG

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The signing that shocked the world, one of the best players in the NBA decided to leave the team he spent his first nine season with to join the super team in San Francisco. I have to say I was utterly shocked that he left Oklahoma City where he was considered the godsend of athletes in their state. Many believe that Durant’s decision to move to Golden State will ultimately diminish his overall legacy in the league. Contrary to what LeBron James has done in this league, Durant is joining forces with the best single season NBA team to ever step on the court (minus a few players, the core is still intact). While I do not blame Durant for making the decision to move to a team where they have proven to win, holding a 3-1 lead in the 2016 NBA Finals and ultimately losing out to the Cleveland Cavaliers on their home floor in-game seven. The real question to ask yourself is this, does Kevin Durant have more pressure on him to win this year than any other year before? What happens if they end up missing out on the goal of a championship? The reports of his rifts with All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook with one year remaining on his contract might have been the tipping point in his decision. I have reason to believe that Westbrook will not stay in Oklahoma City after the 2016-17 campaign concludes. Ultimately, I am happy for Durant who wants to win a championship but I question his loyalty to an organization that was merely one win away from reaching the NBA Finals where he was almost a non-factor. The upgrade that Golden State is getting over Harrison Barnes is astronomical. The Golden State Warriors went from being the most loved team in the NBA to the villains much like the “Big 3” in Miami. My last thought has nothing to do with the Golden State Warriors or Kevin Durant, rather the NBA’s negligence in allowing for teams to create “super squads”. It takes away from the excitement that is competition, attention and competitiveness. If I were an NBA team in the Western Conference, you might as well give up now. Oh yeah, they also have unanimous MVP Stephen Curry. This should be interesting.

Center – Pau Gasol
San Antonio Spurs – 2 yrs./$30 million
2015-16 Season – 72 games, 16.2 PPG/11.0 RPG/4.0 APG

Did you honestly expect anything less from the San Antonio Spurs? Pau Gasol fits perfectly with this team and the style that has pushed them to be one of the most successful franchises in the last decade. What Gasol can offer to the team is someone who has proven with the Chicago Bulls that he can still start and give quality minutes on the floor. While Gasol has not been the most effective defensive player on the floor in recent years, his numbers are well above his overall career averages. Gasol provides the perfect connection of low post offense and is a phenomenal passer. The decision from long time Spurs legend Tim Duncan on whether or not to retire gives the Spurs the option to fill the void with Pau Gasol. I don’t know how much Gasol has left in the tank (36 years old) but the short, two-year commitment can provide Coach Popovich with some options other than Boris Diaw at the center position. I think this was a match made in heaven for both the Spurs and Gasol. Even if Gasol does not get the initial green light in the starting role, he might be more effective coming off the bench. Gasol’s offensive talent will give him the ability to put up 10-15 points a night against second and third tier players, providing a break for guys like LaMarcus Aldridge.

Honorable Mentions: Al Jefferson, Indiana Pacers; Harrison Barnes, Dallas Mavericks; Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat; Dwayne Wade, Chicago Bulls; Brandon Jennings, New York Knicks;

The Bad…

Center – Timofey Mozgov
Los Angeles Lakers – 4 yrs./$65 million
2015-16 Season – 76 games, 6.3 PPG/4.4 RPG/0.4 APG

You have to be kidding me… right? This is just a terribly dark, twisted joke… right? These are just some of the questions people all across social media have asked after recent NBA Champion Timofey Mozgov signed his deal to join a young, athletic team in Los Angeles. The fact that Mozgov isn’t even considered to be one of the best at his position let alone a dominant player leaves me wondering why the Lakers would commit four years to a guy who played less than 20 minutes THE ENTIRE NBA FINALS. He certainly is not going to score more than a few buckets a game, maybe grab you a few rebounds along the way and you think his worth is close to that of Dwight Howard? Howard, obviously not someone who would look to a return to LA, but giving a guy who has never been an All-Star and can barely hold his own on the floor is infuriating for Lakers fans. The Lakers who drafted the second best talent in the 2016 NBA Draft are looking to move past the Kobe Bryant era and their first decision post-Kobe was to sign Timofey Mozgov? A young core of Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and DeAngelo Russell are suppose to carry the Lakers into the next step in rebuilding. Do you really think Mozgov is going to appeal to the likes of top free agents next summer? Mozgov and forward Loul Deng will now be making a joint $137 million over the next four years… *insert dumpster fire gif here*

Guard – Jeremy Lin
Brooklyn Nets – 3 yrs./$36 million
2015-16 Season – 78 games, 11.7 PPG/3.0 APG/26.5 MPG

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Lets be honest, “Linsanity” was a nice public relations move on the part of the New York Knicks a few years ago, but since then Jeremy Lin has not been the same player he showed at Madison Square Garden. Lin, who had the second worst statistical season since he debuted in 2010 is now getting PAID. The Brooklyn Nets have been nowhere near a competitive team and their unproven potential to draw in major free agent talent makes sense why they would sign Lin. The Nets attempt to form a super team in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Deron Williams, and Joe Johnson sizzled out as a complete disappointment for a team struggling to attract fans. Lin is going to eat up minutes for a bottom tier team, I just cannot believe a below average point guard is guaranteed more money than proven veterans such as Al Jefferson or Pau Gasol. This contract stinks worse than the one Omir Asik received from the Houston Rockets a few years ago. Good luck Brooklyn, with whatever it is you are attempting to do.

Point Guard – Austin Rivers
Los Angeles Clippers – 3 yrs./$35 million
2015-16 Season – 67 games, 8.9 PPG/1.5 APG/.438 FG%

This deal is similar to the Jeremy Lin deal with a few exceptions, Austin Rivers is only 23 years old and has room to grow. The talent that surrounds Rivers (CP3, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan) can set Austin Rivers up to be pretty successful if he is given the opportunity from his father to play. You have to believe that some type of leverage was pulled from Doc Rivers in order to keep his son on the team. While I don’t necessarily agree with the amount of dough Rivers is getting, the potential for success is higher than other guards (Lin, Dellavedova). In a year where the salary cap increases and you have talent to be competitive it confuses me why the Clippers would pull out their checkbook and write Rivers $35 million. I guess if you look to a below average point guard with some upside to back up Chris Paul is what you are after, the Clippers struck gold. Long term, Chris Paul may very well leave Los Angeles during free agency next summer could give Rivers the opportunity to shine (ha) in the future. Not much to say on this deal other than when your father is the coach of the team, you get taken care of.

Honorable Mentions: Jared Dudley, Phoenix Suns; Jon Leuer, Detroit Pistons; Solomon Hill, New Orleans Pelicans; Loul Deng, Los Angeles Lakers; Ian Mahinmi, Washington Wizards;

The “Um, What?”…

Center – Joakim Noah
New York Knicks – 4 yrs./$72 million

2015-16 Season – 29 games, Season Ending Shoulder Surgery

The most passionate, outspoken and energetic players in the NBA decided to leave the team that drafted him back in 2007 received heavy money for an injury plagued center. Earlier this summer, former Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose was shipped out of Chicago to New York entering his contract year. Rose and Noah have been long time teammates who have been developed a strong relationship in their time with Chicago. What surprises me the most is the amount of money the Knicks offered an injury prone, aging center. The new look of the Knicks could end up looking like a middle of the pack playoff team who relies heavily on the health and performance of their overpaid players. Noah, a beloved star in Chicago, receives a contract worthy of his talent if he can stay healthy. The key words, “stay healthy”. I am happy for Joakim receiving the money, just glad the Bulls let him find that contract elsewhere. Noah’s health is a huge liability, coming off a season ending shoulder surgery along with the other nagging ailments he has dealt with over his career. The Knicks are in desperation mode, trying to stay relevant as their superstar Carmelo Anthony begins to age.

Forward – Bismack Biyombo
Orlando Magic – 4 yrs./$72 million
2015-16 Season – 82 games, 5.5 PPG/8.0 RPG/1.5 BPG

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Before the 2016 NBA Playoffs began, the name Bismack Biyombo is not a name that your average fan could list off. The more than average NBA fan might not be able to even tell you who he is. Biyombo, 23, who made a name for himself in the Playoffs netting 13-18 rebounds per game has given the Magic a reason to rely on his growth. The Magic, who recently moved one of their most valuable assets in Victor Oladipo and added Serge Ibaka, are looking to build a young team based around athleticism and hopeful talent. The fact that Biyombo averaged less than six points per game and only eight rebounds per game is the head scratcher. Getting paid for a performance merely served off the injury to Jonas Valanciunas could potentially lock the Magic into another wasteful contract. The Magic’s thought being Biyombo is young, athletic and can rebound the ball. That’s fine if you are looking for a slightly above average rebounder, but to place the amount of money they have invested into Biyombo leaves Magic fans wondering where this team is headed. Young NBA hopefuls take note, if you are lucky enough to make the playoffs and have a few decent games, NBA teams will serve up a more than generous payday.

Point Guard – Mike Conley
Memphis Grizzles – 5 yrs./$153 million

2015-16 Season – 56 games, 15.6 PPG/6.1 APG/.476 FG%

Turn and ask someone close to you who they think is the highest paid player in the NBA… Names like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Stephen Curry, Dwayne Wade might be the more common answers. Nope. Mike Conley. Mike Conley has signed the largest contract in NBA history. Ever. While LeBron James could have easily done this by signing long term deals, he opts to sign shorter deals making his overall worth higher. Mike Conley has never been an All-Star before (even though many believe he has been snubbed for many years), he is one of the most productive point guards in the NBA. Memphis could not afford to lose one of their stars and paid the price for it. The contract and money is mind blowing for NBA fans and players around the league, but the standard is now different. The Memphis Grizzles also doled out $98.5 million to Chandler Parsons to join a “competitive” team. I wish the best for Conley but the money he was given is absurd. Conley, more deserving than some of the other stars in the league who got paid this summer (cough, cough Bradley Beal cough, cough) but at what point is the value of above average players worth the lengthy contracts?

Honorable Mentions: Rajon Rondo, Chicago Bulls; Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards; Nicolas Batum, Charlotte Hornets; Kent Bazemore, Atlanta Hawks; Evan Turner, Portland Trailblazers;

Plenty of players are still left on the NBA free agent market, most of them average to below average bench players who are going to look to make similar money to the ones listed above. While it might take some time for the NBA and its fans to adjust to the high payout for ‘efficient’ players, it begs the question… Would you rather see the players get paid or the owners who recently signed a television contract with Turner Sports and ESPN for $24 billion dollars. I’ll take the player’s side every day.

Written by Jordan Maly (@JMalyWIUX)

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