The free agency moratorium lifted Tuesday evening at 10:01 p.m. MST and now everything that has been bandied about in various news reports will become official. How are each of the teams faring so far? Here’s a team-by-team look at the early signings, starting with the Eastern Conference.
Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks were the one team that had more cap room than the Utah Jazz, and Atlanta decided to use their money in a very different way. A team that seems to perpetually reside in the middle tier of the NBA decided to restock with veterans. They signed Utah Jazz forward Paul Millsap (two-years, $19 million) and DeMarre Carroll (two-years, $5 million). Those are both solid moves. The Hawks are essentially substituting the always-in-trade-rumors-guy Josh Smith with Millsap, a good replacement. The two years was surprising to me, while the $9.5m/year seems about right. Carroll is a nice pick-up as an energy guy off the bench. The Hawks also re-upped former Jazzman Kyle Korver to a four-year, $24 million pact. That seems like a lot of years and a lot of scratch, although shooters like Korver tend to age well. Also, he is coming off one of the best seasons of his career. They lost Smith, Zaza Pachulia, and yet another ex-Utah player in Devin Harris.
Boston Celtics: No free agency news, but they traded their whole roster for Brooklyn’s bench. And added a coach younger than most of last season’s Celtics roster.
Brooklyn Nets: After making the trade of the off-season (all due respect to the Jazz and Warriors) in acquiring Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry, the Nets looked poised to make a run at the Miami Heat in the East. As a result, and because they are severely seeped in luxury tax ($72-$74 million by many reports for 2013-2014), they are being selective in their free agency. They re-signed last year’s surprise in Andray Blatche and tall point guard Shaun Livingston to league minimums. Blatche is still being paid via his amnesty agreement with the Washington Wizards; he bolsters the bench. Livingston will play behind Deron Williams and despite the horrific injury early in his career, he has settled in to a nice back-up point guard role. C.J. Watson left.
Charlotte Bobcats: Naturally I was hoping that each of last year’s Jazz free agents would land in good situations. Truth be told, I have mixed feelings about Al Jefferson inking a three-year, $41 million contract with the NBA’s lowliest franchise. I’m happy in that he will step right in and be the leader. But I was hoping he would have at least waited until the Dwight Howard drama was resolved. My guess is that teams that are itching for Andrew Bynum now would’ve been seriously interested in Jefferson. From the Bobcats’ vantage point, they need to do something to escape their losing ways. Al adds a low-post presence in a woeful front court, and will most likely put up 20+ ppg. That said, that seems to be a bit too much money (three years is fine). They also re-signed Josh McRoberts for two-years, $6 million. That’s a decent guy to have off the pine. They renounced (finally) DeSagana Diop and Byron Mullens, as well as Reggie Williams and Jannero Pargo. What will we ever do without Diop’s monstrosity of a contract?
Chicago Bulls: Mike Dunleavy signing a two-year, $6 million contract is the best signings of free agency. He brings perimeter shooting, heady passing, and some scoring off the bench to the Bulls. Great signing at a bargain price. Nazr Mohammed will come back an extra year. He still has something in the tank. Juwan Howard will one day (perhaps a dozen years from now) pass along the mantle of the NBA’s vet to Nazr. Marco Belinelli was an excellent find last summer, so his leaving for the Spurs is a blow. The Bulls also severed ties with Richard Hamilton. Not sure how much more Rip has to offer.
Cleveland Cavaliers: While the Anthony Bennett pick still has me scratching my head, it’s clear the Cavs are gunning for the playoffs. They added some nice players in Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark. Jack was a main catalyst to the Warriors’ success last year, and Cleveland hopes he can reprise a similar role behind Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. He signed a four-year, $25 million deal, which seems about right (even for a 29-year old third guard). Clark took advantage of the surreal Lakers’ situationlast season to finally emerge. He brings versatility and front court depth to the table. At two-years, $9 million, his contract might be a touch high, but if given the opportunity, he might prove to be a steal. Omri Casspi left for Houston, but he never played in Cleveland.
Detroit Pistons: Josh Smith is an intriguing signing. He has All-Star talent (and probably should have made at least one All-Star roster, if not two), is tremendous on help defense, and has AK47-like versatility. Added to the pair of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, Smith gives them one of the best (if not the best) young front courts. That said, he needs to operate inside, so spacing could get cramped. Combo guard Will Bynum re-upped, which was smart. He can score and lead the second unit well. On a side note, I always thought the bullish Bynum would’ve been a favorite for Jerry Sloan. Jose Calderon departed for Dallas, ending his brief sojourn in Detroit.
Indiana Pacers: After giving Miami all it could handle, the Pacers have gone out and had a tremendous off-season. By being a contender, they too could be very deliberate with their signings. C.J. Watson will be integral to their success. After a season of D.J. Augustine’s perplexing play, Watson will add a nice punch behind George Hill. Chris Copeland, who the Jazz clearly had interest in, also helps shore up a shallow bench. His versatility and outside shooting (42% 3s) will be very welcome. Most importantly, they re-signed power forward David West. His quiet leadership was as much a driver for their playoff run as anything. His three-year, $36 million deal seems like a bit much, but he too has a game that will age well. Add in a healthy Danny Granger and they could again be the Heat’s main challenger. They lost Jeff Pendergraph to the Spurs, which has to make one worry a bit. After all, it’s the Spurs…
Miami Heat: Re-signing vital reserve Chris Andersen to a one-year pact was essential. His play was instrumental, especially because it keeps Joel Anthony on the bench.
Milwaukee Bucks: It is hard to decipher what the Milwaukee Bucks are doing. They have been the epitome of mediocrity for decades. They’ve had a few nice squads, but seem to be eternally locked into a low postseason seed. They handed O.J. Mayo (who some said was a Jazz target) for three-years, $24 million. That is a lot of money to pay for a guy who may score for you, but may not do so efficiently. He doesn’t strike me as one who will help lead the Bucks to anything but middling success. They also brought back to former Bucks in Pachulia and Carlos Delfino. I can understand each of these signings individually, but when viewed big-picture, it’s all confusing. If anything, they should’ve brought back Dunleavy.
New York Knicks: Losing Copeland to a rival is tough, but they couldn’t afford to have him back. They re-signed Pablo Prigioni to a three-year deal, a bit surprising for a 36-year old. He is a steady back-up. J.R. Smith and the Knicks belong together, for better or for worse. They got him for four-years, $26 million, which really is a nice deal for what he brings to New York.
Orlando Magic: Nothing happening here.
Philadelphia Sixers: Ditto. They did lose Dorrell Wright to Portland, but the chances of him returning to Philly were slim.
Toronto Raptors: With Orlando and Philadelphia, Toronto will naturally be mentioned as a team on the tank. Their only splash has been adding little-used Julyan Stone from Denver.
Washington Wizards: This is a team on the rise and one that will most likely make the Playoffs this season. Besides adding Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr. to the mix via the Draft, they got former Jazz point guard Eric Maynor for a song to back-up John Wall. Maynor, when healthy, can provide nice play off the bench. They re-signed Garrett Temple and Martell Webster. as well. Webster was a big help last season with his shooting. They paid the mid-level exception, which was a lot more money than I was predicting. Whatever the case may be, they are going into “postseason or bust” mode in DC.
Stay tuned for a recap of the Western Conference.