Free Agency Review: Winners & Losers
We’re almost one month through free agency and due to the salary cap increase, most NBA teams have been throwing money at players. There have been a couple teams that have vastly improved through free agency, while others have significantly declined. There have been great bargains and incredibly questionable signings. With free agency mostly being completed, which teams and players improved their stock and who sent themselves to NBA purgatory?
Dirk Nowitzki (2 years, $50 million)
Nowitzki is the biggest winner of the 2016 NBA Free Agency period. After deciding to take less money in previous years to allow the Mavericks to sign other pieces, Nowitzki finally received the money he deserved and will most likely retire a Maverick.
C.J. McCollum (4 years, $106 million)
After a breakout season, McCollum immediately cashed in on his increasing value. McCollum is now in the top payment-echelon of NBA shooting guards and rightfully so. McCollum, along with Damian Lillard, gives the Blazers a powerful one-two punch in the Western Conference for many years to come.
Kevin Durant (2 years, $54.5 million)
Any time a superstar joins Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green for $27 million per year, he wins. Durant left Oklahoma City for the team who defeated him in the Western Conference Finals. While Durant won’t receive the maximum amount of money available, he placed himself in the best possible position to win a title.
Dwyane Wade (2 years, $47.5 million)
Much like Nowitzki, Wade has consistently taken pay cuts to allow the Heat to sign other superstar free agents. He was never the highest paid player in Miami, even after winning three titles. This offseason, when Wade decided to cash in on his value, Pat Riley decided to let him walk. Now, Dwyane Wade will be playing in his hometown with a much deserved large contract.
Timofey Mozgov (4 years, $64 million)
Mozgov, after wining an NBA title in Cleveland, received the most lucrative and insane deal in this year’s free agency. Mozgov barely appeared in the Cavaliers’ playoff run and looked like a shell of himself whenever he did. Mozgov was the first free agent signed this summer and will be living in Hollywood with a hefty paycheck for the next four years.
Mike Conley (5 years, $153 million)
The Memphis Grizzlies were the biggest spenders in this year’s free agency period. As a result, Mike Conley received the largest contract in NBA history. Conley, while a great point guard, is now receiving more money than two-time MVP Steph Curry and NBA Champion Kyrie Irving combined. Conley is a winner because he received much more money than expected and remained in Memphis, where he is loved.
Chandler Parsons (4 years, $94 million)
Parsons, who has struggled with injuries since leaving Houston, received a max-salary deal from Memphis. Most NBA GMs were reluctant to give Parsons a large amount of money, considering the risk he brings. Now playing with his first All-Star point guard, Parsons will need to prove his worth by staying healthy, improving his three-point shot, and exerting a large amount of energy on defense.
Harrison Barnes (4 years, $94 million)
Barnes received a max-salary contract, just not from the team he was expecting. As a result of Kevin Durant’s signing, Barnes signed with the Dallas Mavericks. After competing in the NBA Finals the past two seasons and being apart of the greatest regular season team in NBA history, Barnes will be co-leading a trying-to-get-younger Dallas team with Dirk Nowitzki.
Festus Ezeli (2 years, $15 million)
Also a result of the Kevin Durant signing, Ezeli was allowed to walk away from the Bay Area. Ezeli demolished his free agency stock with his poor performance in the NBA Finals. Luckily for him, he is joining a Trail Blazer squad with a lot of young talent and the ability to potentially start. Still, like Barnes, Ezeli was forced to leave a great situation in Golden State.
Leandro Barbosa (2 years, $8 million)
The Kevin Durant signing also affected Barbosa, who played very well in the Finals and appeared to be safe in Golden State. Yet, because of his age, Barbosa was allowed to walk and signed with Phoenix, who drafted him. Barbosa will likely back up Brandon Knight and will be a veteran leader for a tremendously young team in the desert.
Andrew Bogut (traded to Mavericks to clear cap for Kevin Durant)
The last domino to fall from Golden State’s record-setting regular season team was Bogut. The Australian was traded to Dallas to complete the cap makeover in Golden State. Bogut played great in the first three games of the NBA Finals before suffering a knee injury, which sidelined him for the rest of the series. Bogut will start beside Nowitzki in a veteran, yet very slow front court.
Dion Waiters (2 years, $5.93 million)
In a market where average players were being paid large numbers, Waiters was the exception. The former Oklahoma City shooting guard was denied $6.8 million next season when the Thunder rescinded his restricted contract. Now, by signing with Dwyane Wade-less Miami, Waiters will have the opportunity to compete for the starting position he believes he deserves. Yet, he will no longer be on a team fighting for a NBA title.
David West (1 year, $1.55 million)
Before signing with the Spurs, West turned down $12 million with the Pacers to chase a title. Yet, after one season in San Antonio, West declined his player option and moved out to the bay. In the 2016 playoffs, especially against the Thunder, West appeared lost. His jump shot has declined and it seems age is catching up with him. By ring-chasing, West is losing a lot of money in a market where he could still be paid a respectable contract.
Golden State Warriors
Whenever a team is consistently competing for a title, recently set the regular season record for wins, and are still able to sign one of the top-five players in the league, they win. Golden State added Kevin Durant this offseason and will obviously be the favorites to win in 2017. They were also able to resign Shawn Livingston, who has developed into one of the best, if not the best, backup point guards in the league, while also adding veterans David West and Zaza Pachulia.
After losing to Toronto in the first round of the playoffs, Larry Bird fired Frank Vogel and pledged to change the roster into a fast-pace offensive team. It took Bird nearly two months to fulfill his promise. The Pacers traded for Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young and added Al Jefferson (3 years, $30 million) and Aaron Brooks (1 year, $2.5 million) in free agency. Jefferson will bring a veteran presence and help guide Myles Turner, while Brooks has been a very reliable backup point guard in the past. Larry Bird deserves a high-five for the seamlessly easy transition from a defensive-heavy team to an offensive powerhouse.
The Mavericks greatly improved their roster with the additions of Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, and Seth Curry. When the Mavericks gave Barnes a max deal, it seemed like a longshot. But, when Kevin Durant announced he was moving to the Bay, Dallas pounced on the 2015 NBA Champions’ available players. Barnes will give the Mavericks a healthy, direct replacement for Chandler Parsons. Bogut replaces Zaza Pachulia, who signed with Golden State and provides Dallas with great rim protection. Seth Curry had an impressive string of games with the Kings and will be a solid backup point guard to Deron Williams.
After countless seasons ending in Derrick Rose-caused disappointment, the Bulls traded their former MVP point guard to New York for Robin Lopez and Jerian Grant. To replace Rose, the Bulls signed Rajon Rondo. In the most shocking move of free agency, Chicago was able to sign Dwyane Wade. By signing Wade and Rondo, the Bulls will improve next season. But, Chicago fans get ready; the Bulls have created the worst shooting starting five in NBA history. Regardless of their other questionable moves, the Bulls are winners in free agency with the signing of hometown hero, Dwyane Wade.
The Celtics were able to strengthen their front court by signing Al Horford. Boston still has cap room and has been rumored to be shopping their draft picks (from the Nets) and a couple players for Blake Griffin or Demarcus Cousins.
Golden State Warriors
By signing Kevin Durant, the Warriors had to trade/release many of their key pieces from their record-setting season. The Warriors lost Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Leandro Barbosa, Marreese Speights, and Festus Ezeli. Last season, the Warriors’ bench made them very hard to defeat. Now, Golden State will rely on their starters destroying teams early to take the pressure off their bench. They aren’t doomed, but the Warriors will have to (and most likely will) adjust to not having the best bench in the league.
Oklahoma City Thunder
When Kevin Durant announced he was joining the Warriors, the Thunder immediately fell out of the title contention conversation. To make matters more questionable, Russell Westbrook won’t sign a contract extension and will become a free agent next summer. The Thunder rescinded their contract with Dion Waiters and later in the week, he signed with Miami. By not resigning Waiters, the Thunder have the cap space to offer Westbrook the largest amount of money next summer. If Oklahoma City is able to resign Westbrook and add another star, they will survive the tragic loss of their hero. But, losing Kevin Durant makes them losers in this year’s free agency.
Is this a surprise? It seems like every offseason, the Nets make questionable moves or no moves at all. This year, the Nets attempted to sign Tyler Johnson and Allen Crabbe to large deals, only to be matched by their respective teams. As a result, the Nets signed Jeremy Lin, Luis Scola, Donald Sloan, and Joe Harris. The Nets will most likely become the worst team in the NBA. Brooklyn intended to attract the top free agents to play across the river, but now, they have become the laughing stock of the NBA.
By hiring Mike D’Antoni and signing Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, and Nene, the Rockets have officially decided to abandon playing defense in the 2016/17 season. Houston’s moves will certainly improve their offensive firepower, but the loss of outsider Dwight Howard will eliminate any hint of Houston’s remaining defense. In a league transitioning to three-point heavy offensive success, the Rockets’ moves could help them sneak into the playoffs. But, most likely, it will end in disaster and embarrassment.
New York Knicks
The Knicks will most likely be back in the playoffs next season. But, their offseason moves have eliminated them from any future success. The Knicks will be filled with veteran players, which will give Madison Square Garden some life. But, to be honest, I along with many other NBA fans, have no idea what Phil Jackson’s plan is.