We all expected fireworks from the 2016 free agency period. With the cap jumping to unprecedented heights, we all knew an explosion of money was coming. But not many of us would've predicted the ridiculousness we have experienced in just the first 24 hours of the 2016 bonanza. I'm a very critical person, so I love to judge everything and everybody, even if in a year, I might have egg plastered all over my face. But here's what I thought of all the free agency action from day one alone:
The Pistons are having themselves a low-key offseason, but a great one at that. They started off by locking down their biggest priority, Andre Drummond, to a 5 year max deal. A necessary move to make for your franchise player and the guy that you've based your entire roster around. That in itself is good enough to secure their place among the winners of NBA free agency so far, but their only other move was the thing that lands them on this exclusive list.
Signing Ish Smith, to a 3 year, $18 million contract, may seem like a gamble in any other free agency, but in this one it's a bargain. Considering that D.J. Augustin just got $27 million over 4 years from Orlando, signing Ish Smith who single-handedly saved Philadelphia's season from becoming the worst in NBA history to nearly 1 million less per year and for one less year of commitment, is great.
Smith fills the role of backup point guard which has haunted the Pistons for a while now. Last season they tried to fill it with an injured Brandon Jennings and Steve Blake who should be in a retirement home. Now, they finally have a second ball-handler to run their offense when Reggie Jackson is out of the game, on an affordable contract that still leaves enough cap space to chase after another role player to further their playoff push.
Look, the Mike Conley deal is big. It's the biggest in NBA history so far and for a guy that has never been an all-star, he probably doesn't deserve it. But if Memphis didn't offer him the full max, they probably would've lost their point guard to either Dallas or San Antonio, who offer a better chance at winning. Keeping Conley extends Memphis's closing window again. Many will say that they should blow things up, but this is short-sighted, doesn't take into account the tiny market the Grizzlies play in (and the importance of keeping competitive for a team like that), nor does it allow the Grizzlies any chance at winning a title until they are able to strike it lucky in the draft again. At least this way, they are in the mix and should some unforeseen circumstances occur, they could be in the contender picture.
But the big news for the Grizzlies was the signing of Chandler Parsons. The signing of the versatile forward signals a change in direction for Memphis going forward. It seems to me that the signing is one that new coach David Fizdale will use to introduce new elements of shooting and versatility, both things that were extinct for the past 5 years due to the grit 'n' grind style. Parsons' ability to switch defensively, play either forward spot and shoot the lights out will all be of value to a Grizzlies team bereft of those things.
It's even better when the Grizzlies are reportedly aggressively pursuing another wing. According to reports, they have been wanting to dump salary to improve their $8 million in cap space to sign someone like Eric Gordon. A signing like that would make a great offseason, spectacular.
Everyone In This Free Agency Class
Evan Turner just got $70 million over 4 years. Timofey Mozgov, who couldn't get off the bench for the Cleveland Cavaliers throughout the entire second half of last season, got $64 million over 4 years. Mike Conley, who has never made an all-star team, just signed the richest deal in NBA history to date. Then, there's this:
Let's just say it's a good time to be an NBA basketball player and it's a GREAT time to be a free agent. The money is flowing thick and fast and everyone is getting paid. Say, if the Sixers need a guy to come in on the veteran's minimum, I'm always available. If you need a guy to come in and be a towel waver, sign me up! I want in on that cash.
In what is becoming a formality of every NBA offseason, the Mavericks struck out on their superstar targets. The Mavs walked into July 1st with high hopes of landing one or both of Mike Conley and Hassan Whiteside. Conley never seemed realistic from the beginning, but Whiteside's meeting reportedly went well, giving hope to Mavs fans throughout Dallas. But then, in the most Mavericks way possible, he decided against the move to Texas to stay in Miami for 4 more years.
Is this the year the Mavericks finally commit to a rebuild? After striking out on stars yet again, surely, the Mavs aren't too far away from just shutting the door on their constant exercise on the NBA's treadmill of mediocrity. Or will Mark Cuban do what he always does. Will he cobble together a roster filled with second-tier free agents and put together a .500 or above season just so he can prove the critics wrong.
My guess is he'll go with the latter.
Los Angeles Lakers
$16 million per year on a guy who couldn't get minutes over Channing Frye or Richard Jefferson on the Cavs? Come on, Mitch Kupchak, that's not exactly what Laker fans were after. Not only is his salary bloated, but his fit next to budding star, Julius Randle is highly questionable. Both aren't particularly mobile and one of them will have to defend the perimeter defensively and neither can shoot, creating a clogged offense for everyone in Luke Walton's offense.
Then there's the realization the Lakers just are not the destination they used to be. Kevin Durant and Hassan Whiteside both didn't even bother to meet with the Lakers. Even if they never had a chance at getting either, not getting a meeting is potentially the worst thing to happen to the Lakers this offseason.
The Magic traded Tobias Harris for cap space to go after some big fish, then decided to use the money they saved with that trade on Jeff Green and D.J. Augustin, for a combined $22 million for the 2016-17 season. That's questionable to say the least. Rob Hennigan had dreams of Chandler Parsons and Al Horford. He ended up with a guy that got replaced by Cameron Payne in Oklahoma City and someone that has disappointed his entire career. Was that worth trading away Tobias Harris, especially when you didn't only spend what his salary was worth but $6 million extra? Almost certainly not.
Then again, the Evan Fournier signing was quality. I thought for sure he was going to get the max. I would've bet my life savings on it, but it's lucky that I didn't, because for some reason or another, he took a large pay cut. This is the only shinning light in a bad free agency period for the Magic so far.
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