Hey Memphis Grizzlies fans. With free agency pretty much coming to a close after an unprecedented cap increase and spending spree, it's time to look at the winners and losers of this 2016 NBA free agency.
WINNER: Golden State Warriors
C'mon, this was too easy. Kevin Durant. KD, one of the best scorers of our time, joined two of the best shooters the NBA has ever seen, fresh off a 73-win season. It's blowing my mind. Whatever you think of Durant for making the move to the team that beat him this past season, he's no doubt changed the landscape of the Western Conference. The Warriors' starting lineup is definitely the most menacing in the NBA this season, and their small ball lineup will be all but unstoppable late game, as they can now roll out a lineup of Curry-Thompson-Iguodala-Durant-Green and just tear teams apart with their shooting and versatility. It's really unfair.
Another shooter who can create off the dribble and get points in a hurry? Unfair. Slotting him in with Draymond Green? Also unfair. I mean just thinking about this, the screen and roll two man game with Durant and Green will be deadly, with both of them having the ability to pick and roll, or pick and pop. And the sets that will be run off of Durant with Curry and Thompson?
I'm sure we're all curious to see what the Warriors will do this upcoming season.
LOSER: Los Angeles Lakers
At this point we know the Lakers aren't and haven't been in a position to secure a big free agent for a number of years. That's sad, but I'm not here to bemoan that fact. Once again, the Lakers misread this free agency market. Their first signing (in fact the first signing of free agency) was Timofey Mozgov, a 7'0 behemoth of a center who is slower than he used to be, 30 years old, and was glued to the bench for the Cavs during their title run. So what do the Lakers do? They take Mozgov, slap a 4-year, $64 million contract on him, and slot him in as their starting center.
I thought the Lakers were finally free of the Kobe Bryant situation and were going to roll with their young core? What happened to that? It would have been D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, and a young, budding center or a center in his prime, like Hassan Whiteside or Bismack Biyombo, not a past-his-prime center who is on a lengthy contract during which he'll most certainly decline. It doesn't make sense, especially when the league is going more and more towards small ball, and shooting or athletic bigs are all the rage. Sorry Lakers, but Mozgov doesn't possess those attributes.
The Lakers also signed Luol Deng to a 4-year, $72 million dollar contract, and while I like the idea of him tutoring Brandon Ingram and still giving some solid play, the number of years on that deal is concerning.
WINNER: Utah Jazz
Going into the offseason, the Jazz needed a veteran point guard and a good shooting wing, and they did the job on both counts. The Jazz flipped their #12 pick for George Hill, a veteran guard who can play solid defense against other point guards, shoot the ball at a high percentage, and mentor Dante Exum on how to properly be a floor general. Even better, the Jazz have just enough cap room to give him an extension if they so desire. If that were the only deal the Jazz made, it would be a success. But there's more.
They also signed Joe Johnson to a 2-year, $22 million dollar deal, and picked up Boris Diaw in a dump-off trade with the Spurs. Joe Johnson is 35, but is still a very capable player at this point in his career, and is able to use his size, shooting and playmaking ability, and just general basketball savvy to his advantage. He can swing between the 2-3-4 positions, and has enough positional versatility to give other teams problems, especially with a talented roster like the Jazz will have around him. Boris Diaw brings veteran leadership, slick passing, and a funky low post game.
All in all the Jazz lineup will definitely be much better spaced, and with Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood, and others they will have some good kick out options on offense this year. Good pickups by Utah, as they will definitely compete and may actually make the playoffs this year.
WINNER: Dwight Howard
You just had the worst year by far of your NBA career, but you were handed a 3-year, $70.5 million dollar contract with your hometown Hawks. What a time to be alive, am I right Dwight?
LOSER: Orlando Magic.
Oh Orlando, what's going on? You traded away a budding talent in Victor Oladipo, a good shooting big in Ersan Ilyasova, and a prospect with an NBA pedigree in Domantas Sabonis. Now you get back shot blocking extraordinaire Serge Ibaka, but you add him to a crowded front court of Nicola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, oh, yeah, and newly signed Bismack Biyombo, all of whom will be battling for minutes. You had the promising talent of Tobias Harris locked up on a multi-year deal, then you traded him, and gave all that money you would be paying him to...Jeff Green, on a one year deal. Grizzly fans, I will say no more. Jeff Green, I wish you well.
LOSER: Chicago Bulls.
Derrick Rose is gone. So is Joakim Noah. The goal is to get younger and faster. Jimmy Butler is your centerpiece. So...welcome 30-year-old Rajon Rondo and 34-year-old Dwyane Wade? What's going on? This would have been a great move back in 2010, but that time has been past. Now for the Bulls the floor is cluttered with two ball-dominant, non-shooting players that both possess big egos and also sport the worst shooting back court in the Association. Who will have the ball in the clutch? Can Fred Hoiberg find a system to get the best out of his playmakers? Will Wade's health hold up? How about the Bulls' shooting? Are you really ready to hand your franchise to Jimmy Butler? Will Wade and Rondo let that happen? What are the Bulls' plans for the future?
All I'm seeing from these Bulls is a whole lot of questions.
LOSER: San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs couldn't match up well with the Warriors last season. They've now lost Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw, and replaced them with Pau Gasol, who is still quite productive but is also 36 and has never been a stopper on defense. It doesn't help that the Warriors nabbed Kevin Durant while the Spurs stayed mostly stagnant. With Tony Parker now 34 and fading, and with Manu Ginobli and others being long in the tooth, I'm sure we're all curious to see if this is the year that the Spurs' train of success rolls off the tracks. They do of course still have Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. They will be tested this season.
LOSER: Oklahoma City Thunder.
Kevin Durant is gone. Ibaka is gone. Westbrook's future is in question. The season ahead is definitely murky for the Thunder, who have just lost their franchise star of nearly a decade and must now look to a life without Durant. Russell Westbrook definitely has the green light to go crazy now, but has very little talent around him at this point. Victor Oladipo is good, but with where he is at in his development, he may be better suited to a supplementary role, not the much bigger one he'll have here in OKC. Steven Adams is solid, and Ersan Ilyasova can man the power forward spot if he sticks on the roster, but the drop-off from Durant to Andre Roberson is very real, and almost painfully so. Whether the Thunder can convince Westbrook to get a contract extension or trade him away before he becomes a free agent next season remains to be seen.
WINNER: Your Memphis Grizzlies
#1 goal: Retain Mike Conley. Check. Next, acquire some shooting. Check. Snag a major free agency fish, the biggest in your history? Check. By getting both Mike Conley back to the only home he's ever known and grabbing Chandler Parsons, the Grizzlies have the opportunity (depending on how this upcoming season goes) to really lay the groundwork to becoming an attractive free agency destination. Mike Conley brings his leadership, shooting, and other intangibles that we all know and love back to his home. Chandler Parsons brings shooting, playmaking, versatility, and that star potential that he can grow out here in Memphis.
Picking up Troy Daniels as a shooter definitely doesn't hurt matters either. Toss in the fact that the coaching staff is solidified and seems to be headed in a positive direction along with a good draft, and we can definitely see the Grizzlies making some noise in this Western Conference provided everyone stays healthy (*knocks on wood*).
There are plenty of other winners and losers out there, and just like NBA trades, some of them have to sit for a while until we see the product on the floor and then go from there. The 2016-2017 NBA season will definitely be unlike any one we have seen, and it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out. But I'm curious, what did you think were the best and worst signings this NBA offseason? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Until next time Grizzly fans, keep grinding.