One of the most fascinating NBA free agent signing periods was just preceded by one of the deepest drafts in years and I tell you, It was a doozy.
The Miami Heat had no idea that they would actually lose all universe player Lebron James to the Cleveland Cavaliers until the very end. Along those same lines N.Y. Knick star Carmelo Anthony vacillated back and forth between the Knicks, The L.A. Lakers and Chicago Bulls before finally deciding to return to the Knicks who, coincidentally could afford to pay him the most money.
Prescient issues were thrown around like say the Chicago Cubs in late August and among them were: The emergence of smaller markets in the power dynamic including of course Cleveland along with Indiana, Portland, Oklahoma City, Milwaukee and rapidly rising New Orleans. The new CBA made it tough to put together super teams thus spreading the talent around. San Antonio’s model for growth becoming a barometer of success around a league which has been accused on more than one occasion of following the leader. Teams will now have to choose players wisely and develop them accordingly.
Some of the winners:
Spent most of Lebron’s absence working through his agent in hopes of preparing for his eventual return. Financial flexibility and incredible luck ( three number one picks in four years) allowed the CAVS to offer a young and talented team in need of leadership. Can you believe that the CAVS can put LeBron in a position not unlike Tim Duncan as he ages. Kudos to Lebron for exercising vision personified as he fights the good fight for a sports town with real and long suffering fans.
Why don’t free agents love Chicago ? Could it be the weather, the owners tight pockets, a mad man coach, The Cubs ?
This could be a breakthrough year as the Bulls planned carefully to draft the man they wanted all along, Creighton’s Doug McDermott who should flourish under coach Thibodeau’s tutelage. After failing to get Carmelo Anthony (for money no less) the Bulls nabbed free agent Pau Gasol, a 34 year old seven footer who will make more of a difference than most realize.
A big part of the Spurs success is their incredible team sacrifice and chemistry.
The Bulls are second to them in that department with the Cavaliers coming on strong. The core is intact and newcomers Gasol, Mirotic and McDermott along with a newly commited ( if you count summer league) Tony Snell the Bulls have upgraded their dire need for scoring. Oh, and did I mention Derrick Rose is healthy now.
In what some describe as the grift of the century Dallas signed unrestricted free agent Chandler Parsons with a three year 46 million dollar contract that also boasted a 15% trade kicker making it extremely tough to match.
The Houston Rockets left themselves open and the Cuban took advantage. Dallas, the same team that took San Antonio to seven games in last years playoffs now have Tyson Chandler and up and coming All Star Chandler Parsons. Throw in coach Rick Carlisle ( perhaps the league’s second or third best coach) and you have the makings of a championship contender.
New York Knicks,
They kept Carmelo Anthony. I could leave it there but deciding to return to New York was wise for a number of reasons most notably Team president Phil Jackson’s status as the resident super star whisperer.
Phil has already made moves to improve the teams shooting and chemistry. The Knicks will be free of the salaries of Amare Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani next season and in play for what looks like another wild free agency period. Draftees Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo are excellent players and are part of a solid future. At the current pace the Knicks should be in contention for the conference title in a year. This process amounted to a sort of crossroads for Melo. New York is his town through and through and it was high time that he made a stand ultimately becoming part of the solution.
Oh, and an extra 30 mil never hurt anybody.
Anytime you lose the best player on the planet you have to be considered a loser. The Heat rebounded keeping Chris Bosh ( for max money no less ) and adding Loul Deng but at this stage they are prolonging the inevitable. At the end of game five of the finals LeBron gave out appropriate hugs to the winners, paused, threw back his shoulders, lifted his head and walked directly to the tunnel. Heat president Pat Riley had to sense that his star was resolute in moving on. Days later Riley conducted what many consider to be a bizzare 55 min press conference challenging Lebron to man up and stay in Miami. It was too late. The faux Heat fans should be proud of winning two titles in four years so they can now arrive late to games and cheer on a 45 win team.
Tough calling any team that boast James Harden and Dwight Howard losers but in what seemed like the blink of an eye the Rockets went from potential championship contenders to a middle of the western conference team with limited depth.
General manager Daryl Morey acted prematurely by unloading Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin, a first round pick and leaving forward Chandler Parsons open to a poison pill contract gladly engineered by the Dallas Mavericks. Morey, who had been accustomed to leaving rival GM’s in his dust made his move too soon incorrectly assuming that Chris Bosh statement( If LeBron leaves Miami I am going to Houston) was a commitment.
Losing Parsons was particularly painful as he could score long distance, off the dribble, finish strong at the rim, run your offense, play above average defense, recruit, assist in maintaining a good locker room and I hear drove a mean bus.
Honorable mention on the winning side,
Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, why ? Cat just seems to be on a roll.