The Tip-Off
Published in

The Tip-Off

Day 3 2020 Free Agency: Winners and Losers

As more and more players come off the market on the third day of free agency, teams continue to look for ways to strengthen, though some fall short compared to others.

Credit: SB Nation

Winner: The 2017 Draft Class

Credit: Bleacher Report

Though not free agents themselves, both Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum inked massive 5 years $195 million deals to say in Utah and Boston respectively. For both these players the question was more “when will it happen” as opposed to “will it happen”.

Michell, who averaged a ridiculous 36.3 points per game in 7 playoff games this year, will look to build off a Conference Semi Finals appearance in 2018 with the Jazz, as they look to climb into the elite category of the West. Tatum on the other hand, was just 2 games away from an NBA Finals this past season, and 1 quarter away from the Finals in 2018. After an up and down sophomore season, he has firmly cemented his place as not just an elite scorer, but an admirable defender also. Tatum also has Gordon Hayward to thank, as his departure meant the Celtics had the money to go out and pay Tatum now as opposed to next season.

These max extensions beg the question though, when will the other All Star talent from the 2017, Bam Adebayo, get his (deserved) max money deal? And will the Heat prioritize getting star power elsewhere before paying their man?

Loser: Denver’s Wing Rotation

Credit: Denver Stiffs

For a team that is fresh off a (surprising) Conference Finals berth, the Nuggets have stayed relatively quiet in free agency, content to run it back with the same group. Except that same group will be without their two best wing defenders: Jerami Grant who turned down a 3 year $60 million extension to sign for Detroit, and Torrey Craig, who was cut due to roster limitations and signed with another contender in Milwaukee.

Though the Nuggets did manage to sign Clippers wing Jamychal Green to soak up some of those minutes, and bring back forward Paul Milsap, it may not been enough for the Nuggets. Milsap, now 35, looked less and less valuable as the playoffs went on, and at times was benched for Grant and Craig in their series’ against both Los Angeles teams. Green on the other hand, is a nice wing piece, but has nowhere near the athletic ability of Grant nor the defensive IQ of Craig. While the Nuggets do have the young scorer Michael Porter Jr on the wing, the Lakers proved time and time again how much of a defensive liability he can be. And with Murray and Jokic already on the roster, scoring isn’t what the Nuggets need necessarily on the wings, it’s defense. Though a minor loss that the Nuggets did to themselves by cutting Craig, it could come back to bite them in the playoffs if they see a team in the West with prolific forwards (and the chances of running into one of those teams is high).

Winner: Lebron James

Credit: Lakers Daily

Life must be pretty good for Lebron James.

Fresh off his fourth title and fourth Finals MVP, the Lakers superstar has had time to kick back and relax while the Lakers go out and absolutely crush it in free agency. From Schorder to Harrell to smaller deals like Wesley Matthews, Rob Pelinka and his staff have seemingly gotten every call correct. And they added to that again last night by managing to secure the signature of a player whom they once drafted — Marc Gasol.

Gasol, who’s older brother Pau has won 2 titles in LA, signed a two year deal with the purple and gold. As a result, the Lakers had to trade “starting” center Javale McGee to the Cavs to shed some salary, getting back Jordan Bell and Alfonzo McKinnie in the process — two players James knows well enough after going against them in Golden State. Gasol, while 35, does still have value on a contender, and gives the Lakers another big who can handle the ball and initiate plays from the post. He is the perfect type of player to play alongside Lebron, as he takes some of the pressure off him, which is sorely needed considering James will eventually decline in play. A five man lineup of Matthews, Pope, James, Davis and Gasol, with Schroder, Harrell and the rest of the Lakers supporting class on the bench is most definitely better than the team they won the championship with, and should scare most (if not all) of the teams in the league.

The Lakers have had the perfect offseason so far, and through this master class of a free agency, they might as well call up the NBA Finals and book their spot at the table already, because it’s time for them to feast on what’s looking like title number 18.

Loser: Sacramento Kings (most likely)

Credit: Bleacher Report

Meanwhile, while the Lakers continue to win in free agency, another California team isn’t enjoying the same fate. Before free agency started, the Kings and Bucks agreed to a sign and trade in principle for Bogdan Bogdanovic, where the Kings would receive Donte Divencenzo, Ersan Ilyasova and DJ Wilson. However, the trade broke down due to Bogdanovic wanting to enter the market, and there were reports saying the deal was never agreed upon.

Fast forward a couple of days later, and the Serbian guard has reportedly signed and offer sheet with the Atlanta Hawks (who also keep winning), worth 4 years $72 million. Now, it would be fair to say the Bucks also lose in this scenario, considering they don’t get their man. But considering Milwaukee still get to keep their 3 players, while the Kings get nothing in return, and it’s easy to see where the Kings went wrong. Throughout the season, Sacramento had an issue where they had two prolific 2 guards, Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield, but not enough minutes to play and start them both. The Kings could have traded either of them at the deadline, but chose to wait until free agency to see if a deal would emerge, which it did, until they essentially forgot to check in with the player who the deal was hinged upon. Not a great look from Sacramento, and these aren’t the type of moves that will break the NBA’s longest playoff drought at 13 years. The only consolation now is if the Kings match the Hawks offer sheet, and manage to find another trade partner.

Jury Still Out: Toronto’s Front Court

Credit: Toronto Star

Toronto came into free agency with a trio of starting caliber free agents on the market, and it was unlikely they were going to resign all 3 of them. They managed to pay Fred Vanfleet the big money, but lost both Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol to LA teams in the process. Attempting to fill a massive hole in the front court, the Raptors pivoted to sign New Zealand center Aron Baynes to a 2 year $14 million deal. On top of this, they resigned center Chris Boucher to a similar deal.

While it does seem like the Raptors will regress this next season, it would seem silly to think so one dimensionally. They’ve always found a way to stay competitive after losing key pieces, and look no further than this past season for evidence of that. After losing 2 starters on a championship team (Danny Green and Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard), the Raptors managed to win 53 games and had a real shot of defeating the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the East Semis. Now the pressure is on Paskal Siakam to be the leader in the front court, and for younger talents such as Chris Boucher and newly acquired DeAndre Bembry to develop into a useable piece in the playoffs. Or on the flip side, Masai Ujiri could find a trade either during free agency or during the season to give them help in the front court. It’s very likely the Raptors are not contenders in the East next year, but if a 2–0 deficit in the 2019 East Finals taught the world, it’s to never count them out.

*all stats were found on basketballreference.com unless stated otherwise

*game footage and photos used are not owned by me, they are property of the NBA is used for educational purposes

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store