So, LeBron and Carmelo signed, but we all knew that. Here’s to helping you pick up the pieces on some of the other things that happened; good, bad, and otherwise.
(This may get out of hand because this kind of stuff gets me excited, so bear with me).
Nick Young- Lakers (4 years, $21.5 million)- So the Lakers didn’t lure Carmelo to town, what better to do than get mini-Carmelo for a reasonable price? Young averaged 17.9 PPG on an awful Lakers team, but somebody had to take the shots, right? The reason I compare them is because of their shooting abilities and their love of the 3-point shot, maybe a little too much. We’re not sure exactly how much Kobe has left at age whatever he is (old), but I doubt he’s worth the $25 million per year they’re paying him. Young is a solid backup plan because if nothing else, you still have to score more points than the other team to win a game. Just over $5 million/year seems like a great deal for a guy who wanted to stay in LA, he gets buckets.
Darren Collison- Kings (3 years, $16 million)- Collison will be the de-facto starter in Sacramento because of a recent Isaiah Thomas trade to the Suns, but that’s not all bad for the Kings and their questionable roster plans. Collison is not one of those questionable moves, as he was a very, very, very, very, very reliable backup to Chris Paul with the Clippers/Scorpions last season. He is admittedly a pass-first PG, which they desperately need on that roster. He’ll be a guy who looks to pass versus their ex-PG Isaiah Thomas, who looked to score and held the ball too much every possession. The Kings didn’t want to pay starter money for Isaiah Thomas, so they didn’t. They may or may not have one of the worst front offices in the association, but this move looks to be a solid one for a guy who’s still only 26, and will finally get his chance to start.
Kent Bazemore- Hawks (2 years, $4 million)- Who??? *Looks him up* Why would you even pay a guy that averages 6 PPG?! Well because of this, he’s an athletic freak who has great size, and, wait for it………potential. After being traded from the Warriors to the Lakers at the tail end of last season, he went onto average 13 PPG, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds per game over the final 23 games of the year. Sure, right now he may be more known for his bench celebrations (here: LINK), but before long you’ll appreciate the raw talent of his game, both on the court, and on Twitter- he’s a funny guy. He’s 24 and in the middle of his development, which is probably good he got out of LA before Kobe ruined that too. 43/34/60 splits aren’t good at all, but like I said, this is about developing potential in a young guy, and he’ll have a great shot to in ATL, where he could even get the starting nod next season over an aging Kyle Korver, who could be just as effective off the bench. Bazemore’s 36-minute per games are pretty good looking should he ever find his role in that lineup.
Paul Pierce- Wizards (2 years, $11 million)- The Washington Wizards are a young, unproven team on the rise. If you need evidence of that, check out their playoff run this season, as many of their young guys had breakout performances, especially Bradley Beal. The best thing for a young team is veteran leadership, a guy who’s been there and done that before, and what hasn’t Paul Pierce done before? He’s been on bad team (Celtics), he’s been on great teams (Celtics), and everywhere in between, including a layover in Brooklyn last season. We talked about Kobe not having much left, but how much does the Truth have left in his legs at age old? Last year with a loaded Nets lineup, he played 28 MPG in 75 games while shooting it at 45/37/83 splits, a nice season overall coming off the bench for a playoff team; throw in 5 boards and 3 assists and you’ve got a pretty good 37 year-old dude. 28 minutes played is one thing, but can he get that number up and still be productive, especially starting as you’d think the Wizards will ask him to do. His clutch play is legen…dary, one of the best ever, and he’s still got a 15 PPG year left in him, especially with all the trailing 3’s he’ll hit next year by not being able to keep up with the younger guys.
The Miami HEAT- Let’s talk about the moves from a team who lost the biggest free agent prize of them all after LeBron went home. Not all was lost with this team after LeBron’s departure, as they still managed to make out alright with their signings, players who should help them capture the 4/5 seed in the East next season and a (fingers crossed), second-round matchup with the Cavs. I would have talked about Danny Granger, but since LeBron left, he won’t be as big of a factor, so let’s leave him out of this. Other signings included the re-signings of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers, all important pieces of the puzzle in Miami, yes even Mario. The outside signings included Josh McRoberts and Luol Deng, who will be immediate starters for this team. I for one love what the Heat did with their offseason, not counting the part where LeBron left, of course. Chalmers was bad/terrible/awful in the playoffs last year, but a guy who knows the Spoelstra offense and can make some 3’s is definitely important to have in this lineup. Bosh was a huge signing for the Heat, who were reeling and found some stability after losing LeBron. Bosh is an all-around player on offense, who fell in love with the three last year, but can get back to his 25 PPG self from the Toronto days, which they’ll expect him to do, and I expect of him as well. He’ll have more space to play with too. Did they overpay him? Yes, but you can’t blame them while scattering for some kind of viable basketball-playing option in the wake of The Decision 2.0 (he should have done another show, but that’s not the point). Wade will retire a member of the Heat after this 2 year deal is up, but there’s no reason to think he can’t be mildly effective in the right cases. He won’t get as many open layups, but he’ll have more opportunity to create his own shot, as he’s always been one of the best at that. I’d expect him to be jump shot-heavy this year. McRoberts will join Bosh in the frontcourt and form a formidable passing duo from those spots, and for a bargain price of 4 years/$23 million. Deng was another big signing for Pat Riley and the Miami Mafia, bringing in another scoring option. He’ll directly replace LeBron, as if anyone could do that, in the starting lineup. Deng is important because he’ll be the LeBron of the offense, kicking out to open shooters. As long as Pat Riley is working his magic, the Heat are a playoff team, and a minor Cleveland upset away from the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals.
Jodie Meeks- Pistons (3 years, $19 million)- Yes, that’s right, Jodie Meeks will be getting paid over the next three years while playing for the Detroit Pistons. Why? Well, that’s a little harder to explain. Apparently Detroit only looked at his 15.7 PPG with the bad/awful/terrible Los Angeles Lakers last season, because someone had to take those shots. He’s a career 43/38/88 splits aren’t exactly great for someone known as a 3 point sharpshooter, but the Pistons must have seen something with the style he plays that fits in with what Coach Stan Van Gundy wants to do with that team. Last season in LA, he was asked to do a ton more on offense, and delivered to the tune of those 16 PPGs, while his first season is LA, he was a 3-point specialist, shooting over 65% of his shots from beyond the arc. He’ll be in that same 2012-13 Meeks role in Detroit, which will remain to be seen how well overpaying him pays off for one of the more talented rosters in the East.
The Orlando Magic- Channing Frye and Ben Gordon are the two that we’ll be focusing on here with the Magic, signing them both for a combined $41 million. More than anything, these guys will help round out the bench and put them over the minimum salary requirements for the salary cap. The Magic are a young, rebuilding team with many good pieces in place, including Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris, which oddly enough play the same positions as these two guys they signed. Frye signed for 4 years, $32 million, which is a lot for a guy who stunk up until 3 years ago in Phoenix, mostly because he was looking at open threes all over the place. He’s 6-11 and doesn’t rebound well for a guy who’s 6-11, his splits look like Jodie Meeks at 44/29/82, but is a much more reliable defender, having the size advantage on almost everyone he comes up against. His best season was a 12.7 point, 6.7 rebound season in 2010-11 with the Suns, but he’s 4 years older now and I’m not sure those old numbers could have gotten him $8 million/year. Ben Gordon signed for 2 years, $9 million, which is good for a guy who A) hasn’t been good since his Chicago days, and B) hasn’t cared much since then either. He was benched for good after 19 games with the Bobcats last season, and hasn’t started a game in the previous two seasons. He’s a career 40% three-point shooter and the Magic think that he can be that again without someof the Chicago and Detroit pressures weighing on him. Still, $4.5 million/year could be spent other places, like guys who have played an NBA basketball game since February, which was where Gordon’s last game action came. If anything, the Magic gained guys that can, and will, bomb it from downtown after losing over half of their 3-point shooting, by attempt, from last year. Some veterans on the club could help the three young draftees the Magic picked up.
Lance Stephenson- Hornets (3 years, $27 million)- This guy turned down $8.5 million/year in Indy to take $9 million in Charlotte. We’ll have to see if it pays off, but Lance apparently does not like the stable organization that Indy offered and would rather take the extra $500,000 on a maybe up-an-coming team in Charlotte. The most interesting thing about Lance is that nobody knows just how good he can be, which made these offers very interesting from each team, all culminating around the same range. In his defense, Stephenson will have a much larger impact with the Hornets than he had with the Pacers, being option 4 or 5 with Indy, and immediately turning into option 1 or 2 in Charlotte. 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists were his numbers in Indy last season, while he’s got a line of 9, 4, and 3 for his career. You don’t usually see guys this young come into free agency, and that’s why the Lance story is such great poetry. That and he’s a international man of mystery and bafoonery also add to the fairytale. I think Lance is a great talent with a lot to bring on the court, unfortunately he gets himself into some trouble with the media and his boneheaded plays when he tries to take over the game himself. This happens all too often, so maybe MJ can teach him something about being the 2nd best basketball player of all-time. See what I did there? Also, Lance is probably the only guy in the league with an And1 sponsorship deal, just for fun. (Fact check: Isaiah Canaan of the Houston Rockets also sports the 1).
The Houston Rockets- Biggest losers this off-season could be the Rockets, not a good sign after being the 4-seed in the tough Western Conference last year. They missed out on Carmelo after he, more or less, opted back into the Knicks. They lost out on Chris Bosh, who would have been the championship piece to the puzzle, after he re-signed with the Heat on a max deal. They lost Jeremy Lin, which is probably good for them actually, and lost Chandler Parsons after they didn’t match the Mavericks offer of 3 years, $45 million, a huge price to pay for Parsons, something the Rockets just couldn’t do. They signed Trevor Ariza to take his place, but he’s old and not as athletic as Parsons. They’re the biggest losers of the off-season, and yet are a top 5 team in the Western Conference. They have the best center in the league, and the best (???) shooting guard in James Harden and are a few bench updates from cracking the top 4. Oh, throw out Omir Asik to the Pelicans after a money-clearing deal on day 1 of free agency, and you’ve got…….one of the best teams in the West? Makes sense.
Eric Bledsoe- He’s a restricted free agent, but the Suns have brought in a PG to maybe replace Bledsoe in Isaiah Thomas, previously of the Sacramento Kings, who they gave a 4 year, $27 million deal earlier this month. This makes Bledsoe semi-expendable, although he’s one of the best young guards in the game and led this Suns team to a near playoff berth in the West. The Suns definitely have money to spend should a team make an offer sheet to the young guard, coming into the off-season at over $32 million to spend. He currently has zero offers on the table and the Suns reportedly ‘hope and expect’ him to return without much action this off-season. Last I heard, the Milwaukee Bucks were trying to put together an offer sheet for the young guard, but that may have fallen through with the waiver claim of Kendall Marshall. I’d expect Bledsoe to be back in Phoenix next season, and for many to come. He’s not yet a max deal guy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a $15-18 million contract extension is in the works in Phoenix, apparently not coming this off-season though.
Greg Monroe- Young big men are rare in the league, but Greg Monroe and his restricted free agent tag wouldn’t believe it if you told them. Around the league, there has not been much interest, only the Suns have talked about bringing him in. Maybe the league knows something we don’t and would rather have a shot at him in unrestricted free agency after next season, since it’s unclear exactly what the Pistons will do with him when that time comes. He also has zero current offers on the table and looks to be back in Detroit for another season of clogging up the lane for Josh Smith. It bring up a couple interesting questions about floor spacing, teams moving away from traditional big guys, and others, but all in all, Monroe will be back with the Pistons for the next season. After that, it’s anyone’s ballgame. Stay tuned for the summer of 2015 to see where Monroe will land.
Mo Williams- Why is he on this list? Williams is a great guy off the bench with a ton, a ton of experience on playoff teams and backing up various places around the league. 44/39/87 splits are nice for a guy off the bench, a spot starter, a career backup, whatever you want to call him. He may not be Eric Bledsoe, but he’s a solid veteran presence that a team can use to their advantage. Are you listening, Golden State?
There you have it, an NBA article that was a few weeks overdue, but right on time, as it turns out. It will be interesting to see what happens in each situation outlined above. Sure, it got out of hand and lengthy, but hopefully you enjoyed it enough to read to the very end.