NBA Free Agency Roundup: Vol. 4

Leaving Wade County

This is the volume of this NBA Free Agency bonanza I didn't think I'd write. After diving into the Kevin Durant sweepstakes, I thought the real news of free agency would be done. Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat would dance like they have the past few years and then Wade would've signed and that's not really much to write about. It's a footnote at best.

Except he didn't.

Wade was on the market after his best year in three years and was getting offers significantly higher than the 2-year/$40 million offer that was on the table. Was Denver a real threat at over $50 million over two years? The Bucks were perhaps a little more serious of a threat as a young, up and coming team, but the threat of Wade going home to Chicago was apparently very, very real.

In the end, Wade signed for $3.5 million more per year and the second year is reportedly a player option. There's no reason the Heat shouldn't have made the moves to make that work. It was simple. They either had to get Hassan Whiteside to take $3.5 million less (which, based on his tweet, he might have done) or traded Josh McRoberts. McRoberts isn't a nothing considering Miami has no idea if Chris Bosh is going to play, but it's more important to have Wade.

The Heat made the wrong business decision. They made the wrong basketball decision. They made the wrong personal decision.

Franchise reputations are important and the Heat took a blow in that department yesterday. Pat Riley can't sell loyalty any more. Dwyane Wade was the franchise. Over $3.5 million in the most absurd cash happy market in league history, they let the franchise walk.

Now the Heat go from a team that could be in the second tier of the east behind the Cavs to a potential lottery team. If Chris Bosh was healthy, the Heat are every bit as good as the Celtics and Raptors. That's a giant if, and perhaps Riley knows it. Perhaps he knows it's not even an if, and Bosh will be forced into retirement by his life-threatening medical condition. In that case, at least there is some basketball argument here to re-start the re-boot as soon as possible, adding a lottery pick next season to Bosh's impending cap space, Whiteside, Goran Dragic and Justice Winslow to what he's selling to free agents next year. 

However Dragic, Whiteside and Winslow in his sophomore year (depending on his growth) might just be enough to challenge for the playoffs in the east. It's not like this team is going to be at the top of draft next year. It's also not a guarantee that they can recoup Bosh's money because he still might be cleared to play. Why not at least keep Wade for one more year and save face?

That's the question I can't answer. Saving face mattered here. Riley and the Heat weren't interested.

As for where Wade is going, it makes sense only on a personal level. Wade spoke this morning as he co-hosted "Live with Kelly Ripa" about growing up in Chicago, dreaming of playing for the Bulls. Kids watching Michael Jordan all over the country grew up dreaming of playing for the Bulls, but to do it in Jordan's backyard had to take it to a different level. That's even more so when you're actually good enough that your dreams of playing professional basketball aren't far-fetched.

Now Wade will get to hear his named called over the famed "Sirius" intro music at the United Center. The problem is it'll be some time after Rajon Rondo.

The Bulls roster construction makes zero sense. At this point Jimmy Butler is a better version of Wade (better than Wade now, not Wade in his prime). He's a big shooting guard (who will now start at small forward, which he's capable of) with a complete game. He's got better three point range than Wade, but they are similar players who want the ball in their hands. Nobody gets the ball in their hands when Rondo is on the floor. He's a ball dominant assist hawk who, history tells us, is more concerned about getting his numbers than he is at stacking wins.

I watched him play up close for the 5 months he was in Dallas. Despite being a virtual genius, he is not that as a basketball player. He doesn't make the right play. He tries high-risk passes, often to no avail. He destroys offensive flow because of his inability to shoot. He's not a good defender because gambles far more than any player should. He's just not a good basketball player, but he is a high usage one. That is a horrible formula.

Now add in Wade, who is still a high usage player, and the plan to turn over the keys to Butler is hard to see. There's also a really good chance that Wade declines off a solid 2015-16 campaign because he's 34 years old and will turn 35 during the season. He'll have nights he's great. He'll also have nights where he's really bad.

This is all under a head coach who wants to run a pace-and-space system that involves ball movement and shooters. His three most high profile players don't fit that role. Butler can get hot, but is only a career 32% three point shooter and shot just under that number last year. Wade shot 7-44 on three pointers last season, a paltry 15.9%. Rondo was actually a respectable 36.5% on 170 attempts, but is 28.9% shooter from deep in his career.

The Bulls feel like a mess and have since the last year of the Tom Thibideau era. In many ways, the former coach still looms over the franchise. Derrick Rose and Joacim Noah's exits help, but Thibideau helped shape Butler. Rondo and Wade certainly give them a new identity, but their identity is 2011 Eastern Conference champions. The great irony there is they were the #1 seed in 2011 before Rose tore his ACL, which is why many have made the same joke about the Knicks who acquired Rose and Noah.

Rondo is on a one-year deal and Wade is a two-year deal with a player option, so both might only be around for a single year. The one thing I can defend the Bulls on is that this doesn't hurt them long-term and if they weren't going to be good (they weren't), they might as well be interesting. They now have big names and have a chance to fight for the playoffs if Wade is healthy and productive. It was going to be somewhat of a lost year anyway. Now they'll at least have a reason for fans to come to the arena.

Big Men, New Cities

The two other big moves that never got covered in the three previous volumes of free agency roundup are Al Horford going to Boston and Dwight Howard going to Atlanta.

Horford joins a Celtics team that was in play for the 3-seed until the final day of the regular season. They become the second best team in the east, so long that they can replace Evan Turner. That might not seem hard, but Turner was excellent for them last season. He was their primary ball handler and decision maker in a lot of late-game situations. Horford's going to fill that offensive void and then some, but he'll do it in a different way and that specific skill (a decision making perimeter player) is an important one to have.

Horford also makes the Celtics more appealing for another star player. He's a perfect #2 player, so if a #1 level star becomes available, Danny Ainge has a great sales pitch for that star to stick around. It also sets them up well for the loaded free agent class of 2017.  If they can play cap space and asset trading right, they might be able to form a big three that competes with Cleveland as LeBron enters his 15th year in 2017.

Howard replaces him in Atlanta and the Hawks are unquestionably worse. Dennis Schröeder is a total wildcard. Howard is a giant question mark with his inconsistency and injury history. They're probably good enough to make the playoffs, and it was a good signing for Atlanta that keeps them competitive, but I would rather have Horford seven days a week and twice on Sunday.

Hoffman Show: NBA Free Agency Roundup Vol. 3

Volume 3 of NBA Free Agency analysis comes in audio form the day after Kevin Durant agrees to sign with the Warriors. 

Segment 1 - Durant's decision is shocking, but not maddening
Segment 2 - What KD's decision means for the Warriors and Thunder
Segment 3 - How did we get to his point with NBA Free Agency?
Segment 4 - The Mavericks free agent story is "rinse, wash, repeat"

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!

 

NBA Free Agency Roundup: Vol. 1

It is currently 12:30 pm EST on Friday, July 1st and free agency has been simultaneously exciting and boring. Many players have already committed to teams, however very few have changed addresses. Well, they might change addresses. They can afford better houses now. But they're not changing teams. Some thoughts on some of the signings so far:

Hassan Whiteside (MIA, 4 years, $98 mil): Probably the best move for him. I liked what Whiteside wrote in The Players Tribune. He's played on eight teams all around the world and wasn't ready for a ninth. Some stability will do Whiteside good. The staff knows what to do with him. His teammates know what to do with him.

Dallas made some initial headway and offered a lot of the same to Whiteside. Dallas has structure and stability, but can't offer the familiarity that apparently was a plus to Whiteside. That's good. Him coming in thinking he's going to be the guy to save the day isn't exactly what what I'd want if I were the Mavericks. The question now becomes does he see himself differently in Miami? If so, that's trouble. If not? Money well spent.

This is exactly why Whiteside terrifies me. I'd be terrified at passing up on a uniquely elite talent, but also be terrified to pay a guy with a head case history. The Heat win, now time to see if they win.

Nicolas Batum (CHA, 5-years, $120 million): This was simple. The Hornets offered Batum a five-year max and no other team could match, so he returned. Other teams would've offered the four year max, but the ability to offer that extra year was all the Hornets needed to keep around a key part of their core. They'll be good again. Smart, solid move for all.

Bradley Beal (WAS, 5-years, $128+ million): A fully guaranteed five year deal is a lot of money for a player who's been injured as often as Beal. That said, he's still only 22 years old and the Wizards training staff knows him better than any other team would and others would've lined up for his services. The hope is that as he gets older and his body matures he'll stay healthy. When healthy, he's an exceptional player. He's a two-way two guard who can do pretty much everything offensively. There's a reason he was a top-3 pick. The Wizards didn't really have a choice because they weren't getting better any other way.

DeMar DeRozan (TOR, 5-year, $145 million): Good for DeRozan and good for the Raptors. He's helped build that team and franchise into a legitimately good team. Are they a championship level team? No, but with DeRozan and Kyle Lowry in place, very good management and a rabid fan base, they're an attractive spot for a player to go if they're okay with playing in Canada and the frigid weather that goes with it.

Andre Drummond (DET, 5-years, $130 million): Drummond's great at what he does (rebound and generally be an enormous human being) and will continue to get better under Stan Van Gundy. He was a restricted free agent, so he was never going anywhere. Good job by the Pistons to just get it done without any funny business. Drummond knows he's appreciated. Not much to see here.

Joakim Noah (NYK, 4-years, $72 million): This is a joke. This is the Knicks being the Knicks in every way possible. They've been signing players who are three years past their primes to long contracts for a decade and a half at this point and no matter who's in charge, they never seem to learn. Noah's intangibles are worth having around. He might even be healthy after shutting it down early last year, but he's a 7-footer who's 30 years old and has logged over 18,000 combined regular season and playoff minutes. A four year deal is absurd. If they paid him for two years? Sure. A four year deal? So Knicks.

Timofey Mozgov (LAL, 4-years, $65 million): Mozgov is one of the strangest players I can think of in the NBA. He's enormous. He's like 7'2". He's mobile. He's athletic. He can even shoot it a little. He protects the rim. He also couldn't get on the floor when the games mattered for the Cavs. His basketball IQ apparently isn't very high and that matters if you want to win. That said, it can only get higher with more playing time, especially under a high-IQ coach like Luke Walton. This is a lot of money. If I was a good team, I wouldn't spend this money on Mozgov. The Lakers aren't good, so what the hell? Why not? Take a swing with a 7'2" bat!

Jordan Clarkson (LAL, 4-years, $50 million): Clarkson and D'Angelo Russell are the Lakers backcourt for the future. Don't screw that up. It's pretty simple. Good job, Lakers!

Jeremy Lin (BKN, 3-years, $36 million): This is a good deal for Brooklyn and I'm not real sure what Lin is doing. I think he could've gotten more and probably gotten it from teams who are going to be spending the entire year of the NBA's basement. While I've never met/talked to/pretended to know Jeremy Lin, it would seem that going back to New York mattered to him. His star still burns there, even if it was from time with the other team in town.

Check back later for volume 2 as the next wave signs. It looks like Al Jefferson is about to sign in Indiana. Chandler Parsons and Dwight Howard are considering reuniting in Portland. Lots more to come!

NBA Free Agency and The Art of Self Awareness

Sports Self-Awareness, Bad

Self-awareness goes a long way in sports and in life. Knowing what you are and what your limitations are can be essential to achieving success whether "you" are a person or an entity, like a sports organization. The Lakers have none of this.

It's nice that they want to front the image of still being the Lakers, the NBA's premier glamour franchise and second most successful franchise in league history. None of that matters because right now their roster is barren and their ownership is divided. After over 30 years of the best ownership in sports under Jerry Buss, his death left the franchise in the hands of his children. Jim and Jeanie Buss have acted in ways - both in basketball decisions and public comments - that have made ownership a deterrent for potential free agents instead of one of the main reasons one would want to sign there.

That leads to last night when I checked my phone and saw an ESPN alert that the "Lakers not giving up hopes of landing Kevin Durant, confident they can get a meeting with him. -Chris Broussard."

I laughed out loud, because it is laugh out loud funny.

Durant's a low-key guy who has been able to build rockstar status while playing his basketball in Oklahoma City. He was Klay Thompson having an out of body experience from going to the NBA Finals. The other team that is considered the favorite to lure his services is Thompson's team. You know, the team that beat Durant's Thunder on the way to a Game 7 NBA Finals loss thanks to things that have been voraciously covered on this blog after completing the best regular season in NBA history.

The Lakers won 17 games last season, down from 21 the year before.

This is a franchise that has a history of being #blessed. They got Wilt, Magic, Kareem, Shaq and Kobe all to magically, somehow land in their laps. There were strokes of genius. There were strokes of luck. Thinking Durant is coming is a stroke of stupidity.

There's no reason he'd want to come. He's 28 years old. He wants to win a championship now and is upset he hasn't won one already. Why the hell would he go to a team that hasn't won enough games to sniff the playoffs if you combined their previous two season totals into one?

He wouldn't, which is why the only thing LA team that will be on his radar will be the Clippers, who, despite a wretched history, are the good team in southern California now.

Sports Self-Awareness, Good

On the other end of the self-awareness spectrum and the exact same side of the rankings are the Philadelphia 76ers. They've been awful (on-purpose) and know it. They would like to be a player in free agency, but know that pipe dreams are wasted energy. They know they have to target specific players and will have to over pay them. That is exactly why they are planning to throw maximum money at Harrison Barnes.

The Sixers are somewhat trying to build what the Warriors did. While they don't have anywhere near the shooting prowess Golden State does (they barely have any shooting at all), they have a number of "position-less" players, including #1 overall pick Ben Simmons.

Brining in Barnes is smart. His value has come down some thanks to his paltry finals performance, but he'll still command high dollars. He was a highly touted recruit out of high school who was productive in college, even if not at the level everyone expected. He's been productive in the pros as well, with that production coming as at least a 4th offensive option thanks to three of the ten best players in the league sharing the floor with him at most times. The burning question is what can he do if given more responsibility? 

The Sixers wouldn't be afraid to give him more of that responsibility considering they're still a few years away from the playoffs as their stable of young talent develops. Barnes could help set the culture, bringing what was expected in Golden State with him. While his NBA Finals performance was ghastly, his character is beyond reproach and he's accomplished more in the NBA than anyone on the Sixers roster. He can defend multiple positions and would fit into their style of play.

Of course going from a 73-win team to a 72-loss team that's won 47 games total the last three seasons might not be what Barnes wants to do, even if he sees the potential. He seems like a guy who values winning over money and fame. Will he take an absurd discount? No. He's not a dummy, but if he can get comparable money in a better situation he's likely not heading to Philadelphia.

From the Sixers standpoint though, it's a very reasonable goal with no downside. No one is going to laugh at their arrogance for chasing after Harrison Barnes. It's a smart idea that has a chance, even if it's a small one. Put more directly - it passes the self-awareness test that the Lakers so miserably fail with their fawning over Durant.