The summer of 2010 featured the most irritating and amazing NBA free agency of the last fifteen years when LeBron James — the most salivated over high school prospect of all time — hit the market after being totally embarrassed by the Boston Celtics. James, who had received little in the way of help from the perpetually inept Cavaliers front office, decided — sorry, ‘Decided’ — to take his talents to South Beach, and the new Big 3 (James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh) were formed. There was a great gnashing of teeth and an army of fists shaken, but the Heatles were able to parlay their free agency union into four straight NBA Finals appearances, going two-for-two on basketball’s biggest stage.
The year 2014 hasn’t been quite that exciting, but it has been close. With the LeBron-to-Cleveland rumors refusing to go away (mostly, we suspect, because of ESPN’s ability to hatch and self-perpetuate stories out of thin air), Carmelo Anthony’s potential departure from New York, and the rest of the uncertainty around the missing pieces for championship teams and windows of contention and players finally getting paid, the NBA has been all abuzz with chatter. So much so that we’ve almost missed some of the Summer League Games — which are on NBA TV, and provide a good look at the various draft picks in action. But, with almost a week of free agency underway, even if it doesn’t become official until July 10, here are the winners and losers so far.
The Winners So Far
The Dallas Mavericks, who were able to engineer enough space to sign a max free agent (although they haven’t yet) by signing Dirk Nowitzki to a Tim Duncan-esque $10 million/year contract and shipping out José Calderón, Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington, and Samuel Dalembert for Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton. Felton is also a winner here, since Texas has significantly mellower gun laws than New York. Also victorious: the San Antonio Spurs, who were able to resign Boris Diaw as well as gain confirmation that their own three stars — Duncan, Ginóbili, and Parker — would all forgo retirement to play another year.
On the individual player front, Boston’s Avery Bradley (four years for $32 million), Detroit’s Jodie Meeks (three years, $19 million), and Washington’s Marcin “Gunner’s Seat” Gortat (five years, $60 million) each made out like bandits, assuming the finalized deals are close to what’s been reported. Remember: nothing’s official until July 10, when the moratorium is officially lifted. Honorable mention goes to Kyle Lowry, who’s resigning with the Toronto Raptors for an alleged 4 years and $48 million.
Also worth noting: the Los Angeles Clippers were able to seamlessly secure the services of backup point guard Jordan Farmar when their backup point, Darren Collison, left for Sacramento. Good job, Clippers, even if you’re still entirely too owned by Donald Sterling for our liking.
The Losers So Far
This was supposed to be the beginning of the second year of the Dwight Howard era in Los Angeles. Instead, they’re reduced to offering Carmelo Anthony a max deal that’s about $30 million dollars short of what he can get from the Knicks, hoping that Kobe can come back even fractionally healthy, and watching their players leave for greener pastures — beyond Farmar and Meeks, they’ve also lost Chris Kaman to Portland. Its possible to look at those names and see players who are career backups, but remember that they were playing a lot of minutes for the Lakers that year. The Lakers have a bleak future ahead, especially if they don’t get ‘Melo.
The Miami Heat are also failing to make much of an impact, with any delay to the resigning of their Big Three opening up real or imagined fissures in their organization and their ability to keep the gravy train rolling. We still think James to Cleveland is a fanciful result driven by sports media’s desire to generate discussion, however baseless, but the radio silence out of Miami is slowly becoming deafening. On the player’s front, we’re not sure that Lance Stephenson made the right move in turning down a reported $44 million over five years to stay with the Pacers — he may have shot himself in the foot with that one.