NBA Free Agency Minus the Players Who Matter
By: Ben Wittenstein
If you’re looking for more news or insight on LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and/or Chris Bosh, this is the wrong article to be reading. The subsequent article is about the free agency moves that have actually occurred throughout the Association and has nothing to do with the speculation, supposing, guessing, guesstimating, or garbling that is linked with the Big Three of free agency (BToFA) at the moment.
Despite what it may seem like, there have actually been some impactful moves that have taken place since July 1. And while the BToFA seems to have put much of free agency in a holding pattern, some key players have disregarded them and found their own teams.
Note: No signings are official until July 10th when the moratorium on free agents and trades is lifted.
Gordon Hayward-RFA* (4 years/$63M with Hornets):
After a solid draft by the Utah Jazz, they were feeling pretty good about their 2014-15 season. They had a solid young backcourt of Trey Burke and rookie 18-year old Daunte Exum as well as having a solid center in Derrick Favors (Favors had a 19.01 PER last season). It looked like this team’s stock was slowly inching up until the Charlotte Hornets decided to force it back down by offering lots of money to their main scorer. A possible loss of Hayward wouldn’t be totally devastating to the Jazz, however it would leave a large hole in not only a go-to scorer but leadership, as well.
Charlotte, with its recent loss of Josh McRoberts to the Heat, get’s a solid wing scorer and a perimeter player they desperately need. Hornet’s owner Michael Jordan knows that his team has a chance of getting a good seed in a depleted Eastern Conference and is being aggressive by getting some more offensive firepower to go with a surprisingly good defense. This signing, if it sticks, will help take some of the scoring pressure off Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson and allow coach Steve Clifford to run more complicated offensive sets that involve Walker being more of a catch and shoot type player. Of course, this could all be moot if the Jazz decides to match the Hornet’s offer, which they’ve said they will. Now the question is, is someone like Gordon Hayward worth north of $15M a year? For many elite teams, probably not, but for teams trying to pull themselves out of the bottom of the NBA, he’s worth the money.
Shaun Livingston-UFA* (3 years/$16M with Warriors):
It’s hard not to root for someone like Shaun Livingston. After all the issues that he has been through concerning injuries, to see the comeback he’s made the last year and a half has been more than fun to watch; he’s earned every penny of the $16 million that he’s going to receive from the Golden State Warriors. Last season with the Brooklyn Nets, Livingston had an unexpected breakout year, helping cover for an oft-injured Deron Williams and was one of few bright spots on an extremely overrated basketball team. The loss hurt the Nets, however they were able to get Jarret Jack, which should help fill the hole Livingston leaves.
Golden State, on the other hand, fills the position of backup point guard, a position that’s lacked talent there since, ironically, Jarret Jack left in 2013. Being a natural floor general, Livingston’s gameplay with fit in nicely with the run and shoot style play of the Warriors. Livingston is a great ball handler but even a more willing passer, which can produce an interesting backcourt with Curry and/or Thompson. Without having to handle the ball as much, Curry will have the freedom to roam the court trying to get a good spot to catch and shoot. Even with Livingston playing point, floor spacing won’t be too much of an issue if either Thompson or Curry is playing alongside him. Depending on if Thompson leaves or not, Livingston will provide some security in the backcourt for new coach Steve Kerr to rely on.
Josh McRoberts-UFA (4 years/$23M with Heat), Danny Granger-UFA (2 years/$4.2M with Heat)
With the possibility of losing King James, the Heat went into panic mode to try and do everything they could to bring him back. They drafted a LeBron favorite, Shabbaz Napier and tried to reload a team that looked fairly depleted during last season’s finals. The reloading comes in the form of McRoberts and Granger. McRoberts is coming off one of the best seasons of his career and is just the type of player the Heat was looking for. He’s someone who could come off the bench and provide a solid 20 minutes of play for them a night. Even at 6’10, McRoberts is a stretch four and has seen a slight improvement in his three-point shot. Moreover, if Chris Anderson decides to take his talents away from South Beach, this Heat team will be missing a rim protector, which McRoberts is most certainly not.
To some, this looked like a way to replace Chris Bosh should he leave, but this isn’t the place for speculation. With the possible loss of Udonis Haslem to free agency, the McRoberts signing is surly an insurance signing that was not only safe, but smart as well.
Granger is now going over to the dark side. The team he called the “Yankees of the NBA” in 2011 will be his new team in 2014. While Granger has shown flashes of being a star, knee and leg injuries have kept him from reaching his ceiling. Clearly, the Heat hope he can escape his injury ridden past and become the 25.8 points per game scorer that he was six years ago. This probably won’t become a reality, but if Granger can score 10-15 ppg, he’ll be a solid weapon off the bench for Heat.
Marcin Gortat-UFA (Re-signed: 5 years/ $90M with Wizards)
In what was a relatively quick decision, the Wizards got back a main part of their success from last year. Gortat was the anchor to their frontcourt last year and was one of the reasons the Wiz made it as far as they did. The Count Olaf lookalike lead his team in rebounds and was a vocal leader in the locker-room. His re-signing was a huge bonus to a team that is on the threshold of being quite relevant (and a possible threat) in the Eastern Conference. Everyone knows the Wizards backcourt is strong with the combination of John Wall and Bradley Beal. But the frontcourt, lead by Gortat, was a big reason why Wall and Beal were able to be successful; Gortat’s rebounding was a big facilitator in starting fast breaks where Wall and Beal shine. His presence down low also helped fellow frontcourt mate Nene successfully shoot the Chicago Bulls out of the gym from mid-range in the first round of last year’s playoffs.
Next season will be a big one for the Wizards. If they can resign Trevor Ariza, the ceiling for this team can possibly be a top three seed in the East. Signing Gortat was a big step to get there and now they need to focus on their bench if they want to show that last year was no fluke.
Kyle Lowry-UFA (4 years/$48M with Raptors)
There were plenty of rumors swirling around the Twitterverse about Lowry going to the Heat through a sign-and-trade for Chris Bosh. Clearly, that didn’t happen and Lowry is now going to be a Canadian for four more years, making 51,135,360 Canadian dollars.
The Raptors are an interesting team. After losing Rudy Gay, they went on a tear going 41-22 after the trade and saw the team’s stats go up. Ball movement was better and there was a more even balance in the scoring. Lowry had a lot to do with this resurgence, as well. He had a 20.20 PER and averaged about 18 points and 7 assists a game. His leadership along with his scoring helps keep the Raptors in the playoff hunt only to lose a tough series to the Nets in seven games. If the Raptors lost Lowry, they would have taken a giant step back, especially after getting a lot of heat for drafting the virtually unknown Brazilian forward, Bruno Caboclo. As long as they can put out a similar team as last year, this is a team that will be competitive all year long.
Kyrie Irving-UFA (Re-signed: 5 years/$90M with Cavaliers)
There was some doubt from some pundits early on that Kyrie would resign with the Cavs after all the bad draft decisions they have made in the past. But luckily for Dan Gilbert and incomprehensibly for everyone outside of the Cleveland Metropolitan area, Kyrie wanted to remain in Cleveland. Through all the reports of him and Dion Waiters not getting along, Kyrie seems to want to make it work with Waiters and now his new teammate, Andrew Wiggins. With this signing, the Cavs have established their superstar for the next five years and brought in a soon-to-be star in Andrew Wiggins. If Kyrie can stay healthy, this team can open some eyes come next season.
Ben Gordon-UFA (2 years/$9M with Magic)
Why any team not name the Bulls would want to pay Gordon this much money is beyond me. Clearly, they see something in him that others don’t or they’re just willing to look past his sub-par play and poor attitude he’s had in recent years. My guess is that the Magic hopes to bring in a seasoned veteran who can help “lead” a team of young players looking to bring this Magic team out of the NBA’s basement.
There’s no doubt that Gordon can shoot, and maybe that’s what they’ve brought him on to do, not on the court, but off it. The Magic’s start pick in 2013 was Indiana’s Victor Oladipo who plays Shooting Guard for the Magic. Oladipo is athletic as hell but when it comes to shooting three’s, he can struggle. This Orlando front office probably hopes Gordon can help turn Oladipo into a quality perimeter shooter, which would make him so much more dangerous. Essentially, my belief is Gordon is getting paid to be a glorified shooting coach and locker room leader and nothing more.
*RFA-Restricted Free Agent
**UFA-Unrestricted Free Agent