With most of the big names signing deals over the weekend, the NBA Free Agency Frenzy is basically wrapped up. Apart from a possible Carmelo Anthony move, I don’t have much investment left in the guys still on the market. So, in case you were out celebrating the holiday like I was and missed the headlines (or if you haven’t seen my past 2 posts in which I correctly predicted most of the signings: Part 1 and Part 2)… allow me to recap. Let’s take a look at what went down during NBA free agency this past week.
The Paul George Saga finally ends in the most fitting way possible… a surprise trade to Oklahoma City. I use the word “end” loosely, because I know his name will be thrown around quite a bit next season when he is a true unrestricted free agent. But for now, we must analyze how this helps the Thunder and the Pacers. Here’s my take: it doesn’t.
The only thing I like is that a deal finally got done, and we can finally stop talking about it. Unfortunately, nobody wins in this trade. The Pacers are taking on more money for long-term control of Victor Oladipo, whom I really like, but he’s obviously not even close to the realm of caliber that George possesses. But the main reason I don’t like this trade from Indiana’s perspective is because it seems like they panicked and signed off on a deal too soon. There were plenty of other suitors with a lot more to offer, and I don’t agree with settling in their situation. While it’s nice that they got something for the departing George, I think they missed a huge opportunity.
As for the Thunder, while they become moderately competitive in the short-term, once things don’t work out this year (I’ll get to that in a minute), they will be left with an organization stuck in the cellar for at least a decade – I’m not exaggerating. Listen, Chris Paul and James Harden will be great together. Paul can play with anybody, as he’s an exceptionally adaptable PG. Russell Westbrook is NOT. He played very well with Kevin Durant in OKC, don’t get me wrong… but what happened when Durant left? The Thunder became Westbrook’s team and he more than earned the MVP honors with 42 triple-doubles. So now the Thunder grabs another strong, sharp-shooting, small forward to presumably make their team stronger. And yeah, it does on paper, but at the cost of making their best player weaker. So whether or not they win the extra 5 or 10 games, they are still the 3rd or 4th best team in the loaded Western Conference, and will ultimately fall short of their lofty goals.
So, then what happens? Paul George won’t want to re-sign to a sinking ship… he will leave in free agency. Likewise, Russell Westbrook will be sick of mediocrity and opt out of his contract and enter free agency himself. Therefore, the Thunder will lose their only 2 legitimate players and be left with literally nothing with which to build. The only way they can save this from happening is to realize the mistake they’ve made and trade George before the deadline to a desperate, competitive team that might over-buy. Then, before Westbrook takes advantage of his player option, offer a sign-and-trade like the Clippers offered Chris Paul. I hope GM Sam Presti recognizes the reality of Oklahoma City’s situation, and takes action before it’s too late…
He’s baaaaack! The first of a multitude of re-signings saw Blake Griffin earn a max deal in L.A. There’s not much to say. The Clippers had a ton of excess cash after trading Chris Paul, and Griffin wanted a max deal. So, this was a great job on both sides getting it done and forming a relationship for the next 5 years.
The downside is that the Clippers aren’t good enough. Again, stuck in the West, they can barely hope for a playoff spot with their current roster. The reward for a 6-8 seed is a date with the Warriors, Rockets, or Spurs on the road. If that’s the Clippers goal, so be it. But in the end this deal doesn’t accomplish anything except a more stable look at their future.
Kyle Lowry is in a similar position as Griffin. Because of his age, ability, and playing style, he had limited options this offseason for his asking price. As I said prior to his signing, despite a less-than-attractive offer from Toronto, it was his best choice. I love that he can continue to dominate with DeMar DeRozan, but the re-signing only keeps the Raptors in the same situation as last year. No step back, but no progress either.
Meanwhile, they are still not as good as the Cavaliers, and the Celtics have made great strides to improve. That leaves the Raptors as the 3rd best team in the East if everything goes their way where, of course, they would wend their way to a 3rd-straight elimination by the Cavs in Round 2 of the playoffs. Again, if that’s Toronto’s goal, so be it. As long as their roster looks the way that it does, nothing will change, and they can continue to look forward to getting ousted early in the playoffs every year.
This 3-year, $90 million signing makes a lot of sense. Millsap was in talks with the Nuggets, Suns, Kings, and Hawks, but ultimately chose the Nuggets due to their young core and upside for the future. After missing the playoffs by just one game last year, Millsap can definitely put Denver over the edge and extend their season in 2018 assuming they effectively clear out the excess salaries to meet the cap space requirements.
This decision was made easier by Millsap’s claim that his other top contender, Atlanta, failed to make an offer. He also said that he felt very comfortable in Denver and that they made a compelling pitch. Despite the abrupt end in Atlanta, it seems as though all sides are very content with the proceedings. While Atlanta is in rebuild mode, they are luckily in the very weak Eastern Conference, and Millsap can stay somewhat competitive in the stronger Western Conference. However, like I said about the Clippers, I wonder how long the Nuggets will be content with a low playoff seed.
Finally, the decision we’ve all been waiting for… Gordon Hayward. As ESPN put it… should he choose Money, Respect, or Power? The Heat’s Pat Riley offered Hayward everything he could ask for. Great beaches, great fans, great atmosphere, oh yeah… and a max contract. The Jazz had the ability to offer Hayward more money long-term, but most would agree that Salt Lake City is no Miami, and he would certainly have earned some respect from everyone who has followed his story.
However, in the end, Hayward decided to move to Boston and join Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford as the next powerful Big 3. With so much speculation leading to this decision, there is already plenty of talk about what this means for the NBA. In my opinion, it doesn’t change as much as you might think.
Hayward adds a secondary option that can flat-out shoot, and he’s a great defender that can make the Celtics competitive on both sides of the ball. While that’s great news for an excessively deep Celtics team, they already earned the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference last year. So, all they can really do to improve is beat the Cavs. Does Hayward do that?
I’m still not sure. At best, they are now equals, and Boston has a 50/50 shot at winning Game 7 against the Cavs to advance and lose to the Warriors in the Finals. I’m cautiously optimistic that Boston will try to trade a few of it’s excess players that it can no longer afford in exchange for a big-time big man. If they trade 2 or 3 forwards and another depth position plus a draft pick or two, there isn’t a team in the country that could say no. Obviously, that’s not the fairest deal of all-time, but the Celtics have the room to do it. Adding one final piece can put Boston over the top and give them a shot at taking down Golden State. Until then, the dynasty will live on.
UPDATE: The Celtics are rumored to be trading Avery Bradley and a 2nd round pick to the Pistons for PF Marcus Morris. Bradley has shown in recent years that he is an excellent guard with amazing defensive skills, so while I’m happy that Boston got their big man, I would’ve tried to keep Bradley for his last year under contract as a 6th man. Nonetheless, they have met the NBA-mandated budget restrictions and filled out their well-rounded roster… job well done.
With the NBA news stories wrapping up, it’s time for me to move back to the MLB. If you’re looking forward to more NBA coverage, be sure to tune back in around October for my full NBA preview and predictions. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions or comments regarding all things basketball.
Until then, please enjoy my midsummer baseball reports, All-star reactions, the long-awaited trade deadline mayhem, and an update on who can play in October. Cheers!