The NBA’s free agency period officially kicked off just over a week ago (July 1), but doesn’t it feel like we’ve been on a wild and strange journey filled with twists and turns for over a month now?
Now that the dust has settled on the emoji-filled courting of DeAndre Jordan and the NBA’s mandatory week-long moratorium is behind us, let’s take a look back at the most intriguing and flat-out weird storylines from the week that was.
The LaMarcus Aldridge Sweepstakes
From the very onset of free agency everything centered around what the longtime Trail Blazer was going to do. A pair of the NBA’s marquee franchises (Lakers, Knicks) were waiting in the wings to get their shot at wooing the multi-skilled big man in addition to the likes of San Antonio and Phoenix setting up meetings.
The Lakers would whiff on their first attempt at luring Aldridge to La La Land by focusing their pitch on everything but basketball. And, yeah, Kobe was there too. The prospect of playing for the Knicks was so unappealing that Aldridge simply cancelled his meeting with their brass and Phoenix made a slew of interesting personnel moves to make room for the big man, but none of it mattered. Despite the Lakers’ last ditch effort to save face, the Spurs worked their magic by pouncing on Aldridge’s desire to win now and signed the all-star to a four-year, $80 million deal.
Spurs Ain’t Dead
Speaking of the Spurs, the reports of their demise were greatly exaggerated.
After locking up wing players Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to cap-friendly deals as soon as the NBA free agency stoplight turned green, Coach Pop and company made a strong impression on the prize free agent of this year’s class. It was so strong in fact, they were able to get LaMarcus Aldridge to turn down not only the glitz and glam of New York and Los Angeles, but the $109 million payday the Portland Trail Blazers could offer him.
If that wasn’t enough, San Antonio convinced veteran brute David West to take a massive pay cut and found its Cory Joseph replacement in Ray McCallum by giving away practically nothing to the lowly Sacramento Kings. When you’re good, you’re good.
Checking in LIVE with Sacramento Kings’ fans: pic.twitter.com/YKJCUPYs4G
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) July 3, 2015
The Kings not only inexplicably traded the valuable contracts of Carl Landry and Jason Thompson and the untapped potential of Nik Stauskas to Philadelphia along with a protected first-round pick, but they also granted the Sixers the ability to switch first-round draft picks with them in TWO subsequent drafts.
They also outbid themselves for the services of embattled point guard Rajon Rondo and used the newly created cap space to nab Marco Belinelli and Kosta Koufos to help them “win now”. If the Kings were in the Eastern Conference these moves might be somewhat justifiable, but sacrificing the future to be a fringe 8-seed in the gauntlet that is the Western Conference doesn’t seem appealing to me.
And this is not even counting the pre-free agency drama surrounding Boogie Cousins and new head coach George Karl. Kings fans should get a free pass to choose another team. I’m not even joking.
Other than teams vying for LaMarcus Aldridge’s services, the circus surrounding DeAndre Jordan’s free agency will be the most enduring story from this off-season. Who am I kidding? The Great Emoji War of 2015 spurred on by DeAndre’s indecision will be THE only story anyone remembers from the 2015 edition of free agency. Grantland explains everything that went down along with the ramifications of DeAndre’s decision to re-sign with the Clippers better than I ever could, but here’s a VERY brief synopsis of the last week for DeAndre:
- DeAndre blindsides the Clippers by verbally committing to sign with the Mavs
- The Clippers, refusing to lay down, put the full-court press on trying to convince DJ to change his mind (during the NBA’s mandatory moratorium period)
- Emojis are tweeted out
- DeAndre changes his mind, wants to return to the Clippers
- DeAndre is held hostage by the Clippers
- Chris Broussard embarrasses himself by inaccurately reporting about the Clippers meetings and Mark Cuban’s involvement during this entire drama
- Mark Cuban calls out Broussard on Twitter
- The drama continues…
Believe me, there is plenty I left out from that explanation and it still sounds absolutely insane.
The Lakers And Knicks Go Big…And Go Home
These aren’t the names fans of both franchises expected to see on their roster in 2015-16, but that’s reality both “big market” teams have to deal with. Fielding a competitive basketball team matters more than ever to marquee free agents in today’s parity-driven NBA and fans have to realize the allure of playing in big markets isn’t necessary to enhance your brand anymore. Instead of relying on tradition and non-basketball advantages, teams like the Lakers, Knicks and Celtics (who more-or-less struck out despite a warchest of assets) will have to get ahead in today’s landscape with shrewd personnel decisions…like the rest of the NBA.
Money In The Bank
Players like Jimmy Butler, Anthony Davis, and Kevin Love all chose security over higher-risk, higher-reward short-term deals, setting up a potential windfall for fringe star players like Eric Gordon, DeMar DeRozan, Chandler Parsons, and Danilo Gallinari next off-season. Someone has to take all that money NBA teams can offer, right?
It wasn’t too long ago it appeared the pieces were finally coming together for the star-crossed Trail Blazers franchise. Seriously, it wasn’t that long ago that the Blazers were in the upper echelon of the Western Conference. Now due to untimely injuries and their best player seeking a better opportunity for a championship, Portland is left with this…
To be fair, a Lillard-Batum-Matthews-Aldridge-Lopez starting five is nice, but it’s not going to win you four series in the playoffs. The good news is that Portland still has Damiean Lillard, who they signed for a five-year max deal, to build around and they are more than likely avoiding the dreaded “rebuild on the fly” process that the Denver Nuggets have tried over recent years. If you’re not great, you need to get terrible real quick in order to build yourself up again in the NBA.
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