NBA Free Agency Roundup: Vol. 2

After a mid-day lull, NBA free agency has picked up again. It's roughly 6:15 pm EST on Friday July 1st and more big names have moved. In fact, we've actually had guys move as opposed to the massive re-signing list from this morning. All figures are reported by multiple outlets, so pretend wherever you get your news broke it first and give them credit. No deals are final until signed on or after July 7th. Round 2 of thoughts...here we go!

Chandler Parsons (MEM 4-years, $96 million): I'm astonished at how the Chandler Parsons is story has played out. It's really a tremendous soap opera with a lot of characters and moving parts. None of those are more important than DeAndre Jordan. If Jordan stays committed to the Mavericks last year, who knows how differently this season plays out. It's one of the great NBA what if's of the last few years.

As it happened, Parsons hurried back from knee surgery and slogged through the first part of the season out of shape. First reminder: he tried to play through that injury in the playoffs the year before and probably made things worse. Second reminder: being out of shape is what happens when summer is spent rehabbing, so I'm not putting that on Parsons. He was in as good of shape as he could've been. The team (smartly) kept him on a minutes restriction and Parsons didn't play well until suddenly he did.

When he finally broke through the fitness barrier, he caught fire. From January 6th through his final game on March 18th, Parsons averaged 17.8 ppg on 52% shooting and 45% from three. He also pulled down 5.8 rpg and dished out 3.2 apg. In the middle of that was an even more intense hot streak where he averaged 20.5 ppg and shot 51% from deep over a 20 game stretch. Obviously that kind of shooting isn't going to be sustained over the course of a season, but being safely over 40% is certainly in Parsons repertoire.

The Mavs made it clear that they didn't want to pay him max money. The market made it clear that was what it was going to take. The Mavs focused their efforts elsewhere and that in its own right had to be enough to turn Parsons off. Memphis and Portland were left bidding and in the end the thought of going to Memphis with Mike Conley appealed more than a potential Portland pairing with Dwight Howard.

If Parsons can stay healthy, Memphis gets a hell of a 4th best player if you consider Marc Gasol, Conley and Zach Randolph all better. Parsons and Randolph (at this point in his career) are probably pretty close to the same level. The point is they've got four really good players and Tony Allen as a defensive ace still on the roster and a few younger pieces. Depending on how they're able to fill out the roster and how they gel under new coach David Fizdale, the Grizzlies could be competing for home court next year. They could also get bit by the injury bug again and be battling for the 8 seed. Them's the breaks in the super tight and ever improving western conference.

Mike Conley (MEM, 5-years, $153 million): He's just a really freaking good player. He'd be an all-star if he didn't have to beat out eight other great point guards per year. It's the deal that needed to be done to keep a good core together and now adds in Parsons. Gasol/Parsons/Conley are locked up for the long-term now too, so while they feel like they've been around for a while, they've still got plenty of years ahead to try and add and move from really good to championship level.

Evan Turner (POR, 4-years, $75 million): This is the biggest "whaaaaaaaat?!" deal of the day. Even with the new money, this is a lot of cash for a player who is inconsistent and doesn't really fit in Portland. Turner can be a really effective player in the right role and has been the last two years for Boston. In fact, he was really good last year in Boston and had a knack for making big plays. He needs the ball in his hands to be successful though and Portland already has two guys who fit the same bill. CJ McCollum and Damien Lillard can spot up as shooters, but you'd rather them be making the decisions.

In an ideal role (like if he was on a championship level team), Turner is a big part of a great bench unit. He's reportedly been told he's going to start. The Blazers need help on their front line, so I'm surprised they spent this amount of money on an undersized wing player, but we'll see how it plays out I guess. I like Turner. I don't like him at this price.

Matthew Dellavedova (MIL, 3-years, $38 million): It's a little steep, but overall a pretty reasonable deal in the new market for a very solid backup point guard. Dellevedova is a good defender who doesn't try to do too much offensively (most of the time; he can get a little lob and floater heavy) and shoots it at 40%+ from three. Is it a steal? No. Is it an overpay? Not really. It's very Matthew Dellavedova. Just solid.

Al Jefferson (IND, 3-years, $30 million): This is the biggest head scratcher of the day. There's no way he couldn't have gotten more money. It's not exactly a perfect fit in Indiana considering they want to play uptempo, but at this price it's a total steal for the Pacers. It's always nice to have a safety net and Al Jefferson is an offensive safety net. When all else fails, dump it down to him on the block and let him work. You're going to get a good shot. He's a nightmare defensively, but an old-school coach in Nate McMillan got an old-school player in Jefferson at an old-school price. Like. Did his agent know the cap just went up $20 million or nah?

Solomon Hill (NOP, 4-years, $52 million): He's just entering his prime at 25 and has "grown up" in a well coached system under Frank Vogel in Indiana. Statistics tell you he's an impact defender, but defense can be a fit as much as offense can. Can he still have that impact in a new scheme? Past that, he's gotta become a better shooter. He's shot it around 32% from three the past two years and ESPN reports that the Pelicans are bringing him in to be their new "two-way small forward." You can't be a 3-and-D guy if you can't shoot the three. It's a risk, but one that's probably worth it for the Pelicans, who aren't going to spend their money elsewhere. It's not a massive deal considering the new cap. No strong opinion here. I get it. I don't love it, but I don't hate it. I get it.

Evan Fournier (ORL, 5-years, $85 million): This is a very solid deal in the new market for a young, developing player who becomes even more necessary in Orlando with Victor Oladipo's departure. He's gotten better every year and is still only 23. He's 6'7" and has played both SF and SG for Orlando. Last year he shot 40% on nearly 400 attempts from three. In fact, he's one of 6 players to shoot 40% or better on 390+ attempts. The others? Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, CJ McCollum, JJ Redick and JR Smith. That's pretty elite company as a shooter and Orlando just got him for the same price as the Blazers got Evan Turner. Advantage Orlando.

At this point I don't expect much to happen until Kevin Durant signs. We likely have to wait on Al Horford until then as he might wait to see if pairing with Durant in OKC is an option. Dwight Howard could also sign in the next couple of days. His landing spot is interesting and unpredictable. More to come when there are more signings!

 

What is success? (NBA edition)

I saw a tweet this week that spawned a thought. The thought is more a philosophical question that can be applied to literally any situation in life, but we'll mostly stick to sports. What is success?

The tweet came from a Mavericks fan to my former colleague Chuck Cooperstein, the Mavs play by play man. The pessimistic fan asked "what's the point of making the playoff? They're going to lose in the first round."

Allow me to answer: you make the playoffs. 

On the surface, this seems like quite the logical thing than anybody with even a minute understanding of sports should be able to figure out, but defining success in sports is far from simple. For some teams success means winning a lot. For some teams it's winning some. For some teams it's not winning at all. It's complicated. It's nuanced. And at this time of the year, it's particularly in focus for the NBA.

For the Mavericks, making the playoffs is a remarkable success. Dallas thought they had made a key addition in DeAndre Jordan last summer before the Clippers center changed his mind and decided to return to Los Angeles. That left the Mavericks with newly signed Wes Matthews coming off an achilles injury, Chandler Parsons coming off knee surgery and Dirk Nowitzki somehow still being a very good player despite being 482 years old in NBA years. Instead of being a legitimate threat to get to the 2nd round of the playoffs, the Mavs were stuck being good enough to have no shot at keeping their draft pick, which had to fall in the top 7 to not be sent to Boston to complete the Rajon Rondo trade.

Since being bad didn't have any benefit, why not see how good you can be? Despite battling injuries all year, they made the playoffs again. That should be celebrated. That's an accomplishment. That's success.

For the Warriors, making the playoffs is nothing special. Their goals are different. They're only goal is a championship. That was until they got off to the best start in NBA history and all of a sudden, the record for most wins in regular season history was on the table.

Success is a moving target, in life and in sports. When someone reaches a goal, they set a new one. When circumstances change, goals change. Rarely do plans actually work out exactly as someone lays them out. For the Warriors, the goal didn't change. They just added a new one.

The NBA's regular season is long. It starts in October and ends in April. Sometime in November or December, everyone realized the Warriors had a chance at 73 regular season wins because they hadn't lost yet and the wins were starting to stack up. At that point their season became a really long family vacation. You can't wait to leave, but by the end, even if you know you'll look back fondly, it's just time to go home.

That's where the Warriors are now. They're clearly exhausted, scraping together wins against teams they literally beat by 50 earlier in the season. They've also lost twice at home, something they didn't do all year until last weekend. The goal of championship is still at the top of their list, but along the way they'd love to get to 73. They've got two more wins to go. If they don't get it, it's nearly impossible to say that the regular season hasn't been successful. They've already assured themselves one of the two winningest regular seasons in the history of the sport. Of course that's successful, even if they don't reach their goal of breaking the record.

For the Warriors, success depends on their first goal. They must win another championship. Falling short of that is a failure by anyone's standard based on what Golden State has accomplished and what they're capable of. The funny thing about success being a moving target, is it often moves back to where it started. While the focus is on the regular season record, the determination of success hasn't moved one bit for Steph Curry and co.

That concept of moving goals and moving success brings us to the other end of the NBA spectrum: the 76ers. Sam Hinkie resigned from his front office position this week as Philadelphia continued to bring in other people around him. Hinkie wrote in his resignation letter that the changing dynamic didn't leave him in a position that he felt he could make the best decisions for the team.

Hinkie's plan to rebuild the 76ers was much maligned, but it was also misunderstood. The biggest misunderstanding was his definition of success.

Winning in the NBA actually isn't that hard. Winning championships is nearly impossible. The margin between a good team like the Mavericks and a championship team like the Warriors is massive. Hinkie wanted to build a championship team.

In order to do that, he gutted the roster and maximized his means of acquiring a star player (which you need at least one of, if not two to win a title) via the draft. In the meantime, he didn't care about how his team did. He knew he needed that player.

Upon his resignation (which wasn't forced by ownership directly, although the moves they made around him were the reasons he resigned), many analysts brought up teams like Orlando and Denver to say "you don't have to be so extreme to rebuild" as the Sixers have been the last three years.

Orlando and Denver have acquired some nice pieces. None of those pieces are the championship piece that Hinkie wanted. Sure, they've got better rosters and if they can either pick a winner later in the draft, get lucky and win the lottery or acquire a superstar player via trade or free agency, the superior roster helps them be in a position to win faster. With Orlando, this is even feasible as they've been a free agent destination in the past. With Denver? They better hope for the luck option.

Meanwhile the Sixers have the highest odds ever at the number one pick and might wind up with two picks in the top 5 this season. Every plan involving a lottery and talent evaluation also involves substantial luck. Why not give yourself the maximum chances to get lucky?

That's not to say Hinkie was perfect and didn't make some mistakes. He could've potentially had better players already with better scouting. He underestimated the human side of player development in having no veteran presence in his locker room. However his long-term plan often came under attack for the wrong reasons.

People failed to understand his definition of success. He didn't want to his team to be good. He wanted them to be great. He knew that would take time. He ran out of time.

Success is a funny thing. It can be defined by a person for themselves. It can be defined by others. It can be defined by precedent and history. It can be defined by smashing precedent and making history. It can be clearly defined. It can be misunderstood. All of those things are no more easily found than in pro sports at a season's end.

5-3 Mavs Magazine

This is the final edition of Mavs Magazine for the 2014-15 season! Thanks to all for listening all year long, and especially to those of you here. It's one thing to listen because you're in your car and I'm on the station you normally listen to, but to actually take the time to find the podcast is a whole other level of dedication as a listener. I appreciate that. I'll try to write on occasion in absences of the show during the off-season, so keep checking back!



Segment 1 - The End of an Era?
Segment 2 - Jay Allen, Rip City Radio (Portland)
Segment 3 - Marc Stein, ESPN
Segment 4 - Marc Stein, thank you and goodbye

4-18 Mavs Magazine

The playoffs are here!



OPEN - "A Season of Change"
2:20 - Three Things I'm Looking For
11:30 - Chuck Cooperstein, Voice of the Mavs
26:00 - Amin Elhassan, ESPN NBA Front Office Insider
36:13 - Tim MacMahon, ESPN.com Mavs Reporter
46:24 - Calvin Watkins, ESPN.com Rockets Reporter
56:30 - Mike Tirico, ESPN
1:12:46 - Closing Thoughts