This was intended to be a rapid fire/quick take on the big free agents that switched teams this offseason so far but 2000 words later it’s less rapid and quick than I thought. I tried not to ramble or be overly thorough about individual free agents so I think the length of this article is just a testament to how many players actually changed teams and how much the League has changed over the course of a week. There’s weren’t a lot (if any) superstar players that changed teams but a lot of role players and complimentary pieces that are necessary for any team.
How could this have worked out any better for the Spurs?
Coach Greg Popovic met with LaMarcus multiple times before LMA finally decided to sign with the Spurs, I think those meetings were a two way street. Pop needed to see if LMA was a good fit for the Spurs just as much as they were for Aldridge to see if he wanted to be part of the Spurs family.
The Spurs are a family. Their basketball team is like the softball game at the reunion. We’ve all been there. You walk around to all the uncles and cousins and say, “Hey you want to play?!” Some years you’re lucky if you get 6 fielders, an all-time pitcher, and a catcher from the other team. Other years you have to play 4 outfielders and each person only ends up batting twice the whole game. This year the Spurs were able to recruit a couple of distant relatives that played professionally and were able to get old uncle Manu off of the couch and back on second base.
Adding David West seems almost like overkill but I think he has a real place in San Antonio. The Spurs lost both Tiago Splitter to make room for LMA and Aron Baynes to free agency they were really thin up front, West deepens their bench, and deepening a bench on a team with old players is invaluable.
The Mavericks are building something really good in Dallas. They have an All-Defensive unique center in DeAndre Jordan, a versatile forward that can shoot and make plays in Chandler Parsons, and a 3-and-D wing in Wes Matthews. It’s a great threesome of supporting pieces to carry the franchise from the Dirk Era to whatever is next. Oh wait… this is what I started writing three days ago before the Emoji-Gate or Lob City Committee happened.
The DeAndre saga was the most insane day of NBA Twitter that I can remember. Even the Lebron Decision and Homecoming didn’t live up to the DeAndre Lock-In House Party. If you weren’t on twitter on July 8th, 2015 then here’s a good recap of everything that happened on AOL.com (of all places)
The main thing is that DeAndre Jordan officially resigned with the Los Angeles Clippers and Mavs fans are furious. As far as the Wes Matthews signing goes I think it’s still a good high risk/high reward move for the Mavericks. Wes is a great three point shooter and a good defensive player. He’s coming off of an Achilles injury and at this point the Mavs should just take their time with him. I don’t think Wes will play for most of the 2015-2016 season.
Staying on a Clippers quickly, and it’s on the record that I don’t like the Clips, I like both of these moves for their team. The Clippers should have thrown everything they had at Pierce last offseason, he’s a known commodity as a veteran presence in the locker room, and the Clips needed that last year. As far as Lance Stephenson I think it’s a calculated risk. We have to look at these moves holistically, would you trade Spencer Hawes and Matt Barnes for Paul Pierce and Lance Stephenson? Yes.
I’m writing a full column on the Bucks and how they’ve rebuilt and what Greg Monroe means to this franchise so I’ll keep this brief… Greg Monroe is a great fit for a defensive-minded team in need of some scoring both in the post and facing the basket. It’s amazing that we’ve gone from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar demanding a trade out of Milwaukee to big time free agents actually wanting to go there.
The Kings were the laughingstock of the League a few weeks ago and heading into the draft, not a lot has changed since then but you have to give them credit for taking risks and adding real talent. After the Lakers struck out on Jordan, Monroe, and Tyson Chandler I thought they should go after Koufos so I like that signing. Especially since it’ll give Willie Cauley-Stein some room to grow before he’s thrown into the fire. I like the signings of both Belinelli and Anderson because they replaced potential shooting in Nik Satuskas with actual three point shooting. Stauskas?
Then there’s Rajon Rondo. I made the case for Rondo to go to the Lakers a few months ago and I think a few of those reasons apply here. He has the highest potential of any of the free agents that were available for the Kings, he might be able to get Boogie Cousin’s attention, and he might be a good fit with George Karl… Ok those are big ‘mights’ but I still like the signing mostly because it’s only for one year and it’s not like he can mess up their chemistry anymore than it already is right…? Right???
After losing 3/5 of their starting 5, trading away the 4th and then signing the 5th to the biggest deal they possibly could the Blazers look extremely different. It was clear LaMarcus Aldridge was going to leave and so the Blazers decided to clean house and start all over rebuilding around Damien Lillard. The deal for Al-Farouq Aminu deal was one of the first deals reported when the July 1st Moratorium period began, (this is a week where teams can talk to players and discuss potential deals but nothing can be signed and made official until July 8th, cut to Mavs fans sobbing and nodding) I was almost in shock at how much money Aminu’s deal was worth. Then after more deals came in I had to adjust my thinking and standards for deals. The NBA salary cap is going way up, last year it was at $63mil it this year it will be at $70mil, $89mil in 2016, and possibly $108mil in 2017.
Aminu gives them a good defensive and versatile player that has a lot of room to go. I really wanted the Lakers to resign Ed Davis, he’s another good defensive player and rebounder that has room to grow. Mason Plumlee is the same, and Noah Vonleh has the most room to grow and could be a really good stretch four in the future. There’s a theme in all of these moves though, future. This team is rebuilding and all these moves support that direction.
The Knicks were also a laughingstock in the League after drafting Kristaps Porzingis basically contradicting the direction that team President Phil Jackson had set for the team saying they would make the playoffs last year. I like all of these moves for a team that thinks they can make the playoffs, however, I don’t think the Knicks can make it next year. There’s just not a strong enough identity for that kind of improvement, even with Carmleo back from injury. This is a good case of a team adding a lot of good parts to a system that isn’t running on full capacity.
Chandler was my second choice for the Lakers after DeAndre Jordan and he does a lot of the same things I said he’d do for the Lakers but for the Suns. He gives them a veteran defensive presence to help mentor Alex Len and the rest of the team and a stopgap rim protector for the time being. Mirza Teletovic basically replaces Markieff Morris’ twin brother and can hopefully grow into an actual stretch four.
The Pacers are another team that lost a lot of key pieces and is rebuilding on the fly. Unlike the Blazers, the Pacers are in the Eastern conference and could totally make the playoffs next year after adding these pieces. Monta Ellis gives them someone else to handle the ball to take pressure off of Paul George and Jordan Hill will hopefully stop taking so many long range jump shots and just play defense and rebound. Losing West hurts and I think the Pacers were too harsh on Roy Hibbert in making him a scapegoat but a change of identity could be really good for this team after that collapse at the end of 2014 and then the hard year without Paul George last season.
The Raptors stole DeMaree Carroll from the Atlanta Hawks and very quickly we’ll see if Carroll was a product of the Hawks Spursian system or just a good player that has improved a lot in the last few years. Cory Joseph is a great backup point guard for Kyle Lowry, completely different than Lou Williams whom he replaced. Luis Scola is an interesting grab for ‘The North’ because he doesn’t play defense that well but he is a decent back up and replacement for Amir Johnson.
As I was putting together the Cavs depth chart for my season preview I saw their one big hole was backup point guard, Mo Williams gives them just that. A good backup point guard that knows Lebron and apparently thinks of Cleveland as home.
There was no question in any hardcore NBA fans’ mind that Lebron was going back to Cleveland after he opted out of his contract at the end of June. However, something weird happened when he did opt out. I work at a restaurant in Cedar Hill, a city about 30 miles south of Dallas, and there’s a woman that comes in every single day that I talk to about sports frequently. She’s very knowledgable but sometimes she has really weird opinions based off of no facts and I really need to figure out how to get her on a podcast.
This past week she was convinced that Lebron James was leaving Cleveland after hearing he opted out of his contract and it made me think. What if the NBA’s offseason and player movement becomes too complicated for casual fans and the NBA starts to become a niche sport like Golf and Tennis? The NBA is as popular as ever and the fact that players move so frequently has helped a lot. Trades and free agent signings are entertaining, predicting how a team will play after it has acquired new talent is why I want to be a sports writer/broadcaster. It is getting pretty complicated though. Just with free agency there’s a start of free agency then there’s a week where no one can sign but all these players are reportedly agreeing to go to teams and then we learned this week they can go back on those agreements whenever they want to until they can actually sign. I think the NBA will pass the NFL in popularity in the next ten years but there’s a chance this could be a big problem in it’s ascension.
The Hornets were on the other end of the deal that sent Lance Stephenson to the Clippers. I didn’t like that move for them especially after they just let go of Matt Barnes for the well traveled Luke Ridnour who still doesn’t know where he is… Taking my own advice and looking at these moves as a whole changed my opinion. Nic Batum is better than any player that was available for the Hornets, then the combination of Hawes, Lin, and Lamb really help build their bench that was pretty bad last year.
This whole article has been about the players that have changed teams but I have to mention the Warriors again. They’re retaining their whole core to “run it back” next year and that’s pretty rare. Most of the time a team gets to the Finals and gets a lot of publicity and then a couple of players outplay themselves and other teams overreact and over pay for them. The Warriors were able to keep Draymond Green, Leandro Barbosa, and Mo Speights because they were able to unload their highest paid player, David Lee, on the Celtics. Which I like for both teams. Gives the Celtics a playmaker and someone to run the offense through and give the Warriors cap relief.
I’ll write extensively on the Lakers soon because their my team and I’m really excited about them and eventually there will be less to write about as the summer goes on. Here’s my quick take on their signings for now. I like adding Lou Williams, initially I thought that signing Lou meant that Nick Young and/or Ryan Kelly were going to be traded. Williams is the shorter but younger better version of Nick Young on the basketball court. He’s one of those great 6th man-irrational confidence type players that is needed on every playoff team. Brandon Bass has garnered rave reviews from all over the League as a great veteran presence and defender and the Lakers need that badly. I think his contribution won’t be seen in the box score or even on the court but in the locker room and practice floor.