Two weeks ago, we covered the free agency scene in the Eastern Conference. And a lot has happened since then, as there were some notable additions made out East:
But now, let’s move West and analyze the moves made by the Utah Jazz’s in-conference competition. Many teams made some dramatic moves that could move the needle in the West. Here’s the rundown.
Dallas Mavericks: So Dallas essentially dissembled a championship team in pursuit of some marquee names (Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, Chris Paul), only to fall short in every instance. They could’ve gone the rebuilding route, but instead they made some interesting moves…and interesting could be interpreted in many ways. It seems like some moves out of desperation. They signed point guard Jose Calderon (four years, $29M), combo guard Monta Ellis (three-years, $30M), center Samuel Dalembert (two-years, $7.5M), and Wayne Ellington (two-years. $5M). It appears the Mavs are trying to compete, but while these are nice players individually, they do not make the most sense collectively. Moreover, these contracts cut into the next few off-seasons’ play money. It seems very unlikely that Mark Cuban will ever settle for a rebuilding effort. Lastly, they got Israeli guard Gal Mekel, someone the Jazz were rumored to like a lot.
Denver Nuggets: It has been a rough summer for Denver fans. Coach of the Year George Karl got fired, Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri headed back to Toronto. They lost an Olympian in Andre Iguodala. To keep things going, they made some equally interesting additions in J.J. Hickson and, via sign-and-trade, former Utah guard Randy Foye. Hickson was a double-double guy, but played absolutely atrocious defense. Foye set three-point shooting records, but also shot a mere 39.7% from the floor and offered little outside of his perimeter marksmanship. The Nuggets still have a lot of talent, but they took a step down this off-season.
Golden State Warriors: Clearly, the Iguodala acquisition was a big move by Golden State. By agreeing to a four-year, $48M sign-and-trade, the Warriors showed they are trying to build upon last season’s momentum. Iggy will add a lot with his elite defensive and playmaking skills. They did give up a lot for him (five draft picks, cash, $24M in expiring contracts, and essentially Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack). The Warriors then made some decent vet signings in combo guard Toney Douglas, forward Mareese Speights, and center Jermaine O’Neal (Juwan Howard’s heir apparent). It will be intriguing to see how it all comes together. Undoubtedly Jazz fans will be eagerly watching scores from the Bay Area with 2014’s draft pick in mind…and especially with key guys with injury issues in Stephen Curry, David Lee, and Andrew Bogut.
Houston Rockets: They got some guy named Dwight. That was obviously the biggest signing of the summer. Howard is coming off a down season riddled with injury, scrutiny, and potentially some discord. That said, he is still the premier defensive force in the NBA and the league’s best center. By pairing him with a young, electrifying core of James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik, and Jeremy Lin, Houston is immediately a force to be reckoned with. They added some outside shooting in Omri Casspi, Reggie Williams, Aaron Brooks, and Francisco Garcia, following the Orlando model that worked well for Howard.
Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers are among the off-season’s most aggressive. In fact, it could be argued that they have enjoyed the most fruitful one. First and foremost, the re-upped the one and only Chris Paul to a max contract. This easily sits as one of the greatest moments for this franchise: an elite guy actually decided to stay. They then made a bold move in adding J.J. Redick (four-year, $27M) via sign-and-trade, along with vet Jared Dudley. They re-signed key reserve (and main source of toughness) Matt Barnes to a decent three-year, $11M deal. They then added stretch big Byron Mullens, point guard Darren Collison, and Ryan Hollins to bolster the bench. That is an impressive display of depth, shooting, and talent. That said, they may need some help defensively up front, especially since DeAndre Jordan’s weaknesses render him a liability in the fourth quarter.
Los Angeles Lakers: They swung for the fences and lost. They acquired a superstar who did not want the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles. It was a tough blow for a team that doesn’t lose these type of free agents. This, coupled with Kobe Bryant’s injury, have naturally tempered expectations in Hollywood. They have done their best with limited finances, adding some decent guys to minimum contracts: former lottery pick Wesley Johnson, gunner Nick Young, and Robert Sacre. They brought back Jordan Farmar, who was a solid back-up PG in his first LA stint. And lastly, they added Chris Kaman, who will provide solid scoring off the bench.
Memphis Grizzlies: They’ve been quiet, but effective. They re-signed Tony Allen, one of their defensive studs. He, along with Marc Gasol, is the heart and soul behind Memphis’ stellar defensive persona. They also brought back Jon Leuer to a minimum contract.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Minnesota seems stuck as the team that each summer makes some bold moves in hopes of finally making it back to the Playoffs, only to see injuries deter that. Perhaps this off-season changes that cycle? They obtained Kevin Martin (four-year, $28M) to provide shooting and former T’Wolf Corey Brewer (three-years, $15M) to bring defense. Chase Budinger, a Rick Adelman favorite, returns. Lastly, Ronny Turiaf was added for front court insurance. While these are nice complementary pieces, Minnesota’s postseason aspirations hinge on the health of Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, and Nikola Pekovic.
New Orleans Pelicans: While some teams are playing for the 2014 Lottery, there are some doing everything they can to avoid it again. New Orleans is one of these. They too are among the instigators in free agency, securing via sign-and-trade swingman Tyreke Evans. While four-years, $44M seems a bit rich for my taste, no doubt Evans adds a needed scoring element to a team that sometimes struggled putting points on the board. They also brought by athletic, rebounding small forward Al-Farouq Aminu for $3.7M and added shot blocker Greg Stiemsma after he was waived by Minnesota. They are also in the running for Greg Oden.
Oklahoma City Thunder: They drafted five guys, but have yet to add anyone via free agency.
Phoenix Suns: Ditto. Except Phoenix added a half-dozen guys through the Draft and trades.
Portland Trailblazers:They have posted one nice off-season thanks to a solid Draft and some shrewd trades. As far as free agency is concerned, they added a shooter in Dorell Wright and a sage vet in Earl Watson. For a team with a pitiful bench last season, they are already much improved (although their projected reserves have struggled in summer league play).
Sacramento Kings: Carl Landry is their main free agency pick-up. He was one of the main sparks behind Golden State’s run, and he was compensated accordingly by the Kings to the tune of four-year, $26M. He will provide scoring, but it’s a bit head-scratching given the group of bigs Sacramento already has (DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson, Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes).
San Antonio Spurs: Few people are talking about the Spurs’ off-season. When will people ever learn? While their moves are quiet, they are the exact moves that keep San Antonio coming back ready to fight for a ring. In the no-suspense category, they brought back Manu Ginobili (two-years, $14M seems like a tad much, given his struggles). They also have Tiago Splitter long-term, thanks to a four-year, $36M deal. Marco Belinelli and Jeff Pendergraph are two solid bench guys who will undoubtedly thrive in the Spurs’ system. After all, it’s the Spurs.
Utah Jazz: Last but not least, our Utah Jazz. After obtaining six guys via trade, the Jazz quietly brought in John Lucas III to back-up Trey Burke. Lucas is not going to wow anyone (and many on social media were frustrated to not see Jamaal Tinsley return), but he’ll keep things going when Burke is resting. Two years ago, he was vital cog for the Bulls’ bench, averaging 7.5 ppg (40% FGs, 39% 3s, 88% FTs) and 2.2 apg in just 14.8 mpg. He’ll be just fine.
So, there you have it. The complete run-down for the NBA’s blistering free agency period. There are still some solid guys out there (Brandon Jennings, Mo Williams, Pekovic, Gerald Henderson, Kenyon Martin, Drew Gooden, Mike Miller, Linas Kleiza, Brandan Wright, and so forth), so stay tuned as teams fill out their vacancies.
Who do you think made the most impressive free agent additions? The most perplexing? Feel free to share in a comment below.