Backdoor Cut: Quick Thoughts on NBA Free Agency so far (Non-Knicks & Lakers edition)

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By E. Marcel Pourtout, Editor

Music to listen to: Prelude – Kiara (live) by Bonabo

The Knicks and Lakers deserve their own collective post which will be written this weekend. For now though, here are our “quick thoughts” on NBA free agency:

-San Antonio has obviously been the overall “winner” in this free agency period. I try to avoid the traditional “winner and losers” column when evaluating professional sporting activities such as the draft or free agency period. Everyone looks good on paper and we won’t have a clearer picture of how things will look until games are actually played. However, the Spurs have taken advantage of this summer, using its guile to make major moves.
The headliner was signing top free agent LaMarcus Aldridge to a four-year, $80 million deal. He’s one of the top forwards in the league, will average 20 points and 10 rebounds easily and most importantly, fits in smoothly within San Antonio’s system. Aldridge has a strong outside shot for a post player and can also take it inside. He also knows how to play along side an interior post player as we saw with Robin Lopez in Portland. Defensively, he’s not strong but will be with San Antonio as a supplementary defender. Aldridge also will have comfort playing in Texas so the adjustment to playing in another city shouldn’t be major.
Signing Danny Green to a four-year, $45 million deal is damn near robbery. I was surprised seeing some believe that this was an overpay. In two years, having an elite three-point shooter that isn’t a liability on the other end at this price range will be a major luxary. Getting Kawhi Leonard, the current NBA Defensive Player of the Year and who some think is a top-ten player in the league to sign for five years, $90 million will look like stealing the entire bank in the future.
David West taking a one-year, $1 million deal is interesting because he left millions on the table but he still has another good year in him and provides depth on the bench in the front court.
Speaking of the front court, the best power forward of all-time still isn’t officially signed. Tim Duncan will retire a Spur and is on a year-by-year basis at this stage of this career but the money is looking limited. Would Duncan, take a two-year, $4 million deal for the good of the team. That’s humbling and honestly insulting but that’s what we’re looking at with the salaries unless San Antonio gets really creative.
Manu Ginobili also needs to sign his contract as well. The Spurs still have work to do but have had a stellar summer.

-Golden State is still the best team in the NBA. The Spurs have made their moves and a certain team in the Eastern Conference looks like a legitimate title contender aw sell but the Warriors are still the top squad in the league.
Signing Draymond Green to a five-year, $85 million deal is a steep price to pay for your restricted free agent but he’s one for the top two-way players in the league that you can actually see improvement from. Its scary that a player who put up a triple-double in an NBA Finals contest and plays defense can get better but that can happen.
Trading away David Lee to Boston for Gerald Wallace does hurt the depth but free up money. I like the re-signing of Leandro Barbosa to retain the backcourt depth.
The reality is that as long as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson play at their expected levels, Andrew Bogut can stay healthy (a major ask for sure) and Harrison Barnes continues his maturation, all championship hopes will still come through Oakland.

-Cleveland is that team in the East if everyone can stay on the court. The Cavs have made their moves by retaining what was already in-house. Kevin Love re-signs for five years, $110 million. Iman Shumpert comes back for four-years, $40 million. Timofey Mozgof, welcome back. That doesn’t even bring into account Tristan Thompson and LeBron James who will each make north of $15 million per season on their next deals.
All of this makes Cleveland the top team in the East, no questions about that. However, as we saw in this past season’s NBA Finals, the entire team has to stay healthy to truly be a title contender.
Love, Shumpert, Kyrie Irving have each missed significant portions of seasons due to injury. I worry about their overall long-term health, even James who’s a frickin cyborg from the future with his durability but eventually even he has to slow down at some point. It may not happen in 2015 but it will happen.
Money is obviously no object for Cleveland, especially when talks of bring Joe Johnson and his $22 million salary in 2015 to the team. However, before we crown the Cavs as champions after this free agency period, proceed with caution.

-Atlanta on paper is a better team right now than it was last season. The popular opinion in Atlanta right now (at least listening to local sports talk radio which was a mistake in the first place) is that the Hawks have regressed and resting off of winning 60 games during the regular season. That’s not true.
Losing DeMarre Carroll to Toronto hurts because he was the team’s best overall defender and show that he could be a consistent double-digit scorer especially in the postseason. However, signing Paul Millsap to a three-year, $59 million deal was more important because it kept the flexibility of the Hawks’ system in tact. Traded for Thiago Splitter gives Atlanta more interior presence on both ends compared to departed Pero Antic.
Initially, I wasn’t sure of bringing Tim Hardaway, Jr. but he can play both guard spots and improves the bench.
Atlanta is also banking on a healthy season from Thabo Sefolosha to fill the small forward spot which may be asking for a lot. If he stays on the court, he provides the same value that Carroll does.
Furthermore, expect improvements from bench players Dennis Schroder, Mike Muscala, Mike Scott, Shelvin Mack, Kent Bazemore who are all under team-friendly contracts.
Jeff Teague is entering his peak at point guard which is good while Kyle Korver dealing with injures in his early 30’s isn’t good I’ll admit.
Other teams in the East have improved but Atlanta is still one of the top squads in the conference.

-Chicago is at a crossroads. When you sign Jimmy Butler to a five-year, $90 million deal with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah still on the roster, a message has been sent.

-Who’s going to lob the ball to DeAndre Jordan in Dallas? Respect to Jordan for getting a four-year, $80 million deal with the Mavs he would have never gotten with the Clippers but this is a risky move for him the player. The bank account is certainly fuller right now but leaving Chris Paul and Blake Griffin for whatever they have in Dallas is risky.
Rick Carlisle is an excellent coach, Dirk Nowitzki is a Hall of Famer and I actually like the Wesley Matthews signing (four years, $57 million) if he can recover from the torn Achilles (good luck to him for real on that one). However, Jordan is limited on the offensive end and the Dallas system requires cutting, passing and other skill sets from the big men that I’m not sure he has.
I think it will work out in the end for the basketball side of things for Jordan but it may be a slow start.

-Let’s hold off on putting Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals. Signing Goran Dragic for four-years and $90 million looks overpriced right now and will be for the rest of that contract. The Dwyane Wade one year, $20 million deal isn’t a win for either side. Chris Bosh is till on the books for a pricey extension. HassanWhiteside is a bargain right now but due for a massive extension.
The starting line up for Miami of Dragic, Wade, Deng, Bosh and Whiteside is a playoff team but I can’t trust those guys to see the court together consistently due to injury histories.

-New Orleans kept it simple. (In Hubie Brown voice) Say you’re the Pelicans. You lucked into one of the top-five players of the league who still can’t rent a car on his own and just turned 22. He’s Tim Duncan with a long-range jump shot and better ball handling skills. He plays defense. He has no issues on or off the court that we know of. You play in frickin New Orleans which should be an attractive free agent destination spot in the future but you need a franchise player for stability. You hire Alvin Gentry who may or may not work (Editor note: I disliked this hire greatly) but he’s at least coached in the league so there’s that. What do you do with this special talent?
You sign Anthony Davis to a five-year, $145 million contract.

-Can he get a Hard Knocks for the Clippers during training camp? Any locker room with Paul, Griffin, Paul Pierce and Lance Stephenson controlled by Doc Rivers would provide primetime entertainment. The verbal arguments between these personalities will redefine volatile. Can Showtime or Starz get on this?

-No idea what Phoenix is doing. If Brandon Knight (five years, $70 million) and Tyson Chandler (four years, $52 million) make it through their entire contracts, I’ll be majorly surprised.

-Mixed reviews for Milwaukee. The Khris Middleton five year, $70 million deal is OK if he develops into a top player. Greg Monroe’s three-year, $50 million deal is strong.

-The most dysfunctional franchise in the NBA lies in Sacramento. Traded away Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry and Jason Thompson to Philadelphia for nothing is bad. Only getting a one-year, $10 million commitment out of Rajon Rondo doesn’t help your cause either. Kostas Koufos (four-year, $33 million) and Marco Belinelli (three-year, $19 million) are placeholding contracts for guys who won’t be difference makers.
Throw in the tension between ownership and current head coach George Karl, the uncertain future of top player DeMarcus Cousins and the inexperience of new front office manager Vlade Divac, it’s a mess in Sacramento and this free agency period showed that.

Those are my thoughts, what are yours?

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