We’re still waiting on Kawhi Leonard, but in the meantime, here are some grades and a look at most of what went down on Sunday night and Monday in regards to NBA free agency. We also have a lot of free agency coverage with Mike Gallagher's fantasy losers, Jonas Nader's fantasy winners, and Tommy Beer getting our Free Agent Tracker going.
I don’t care that Kevin Durant won’t play for a year. I don’t care that Kyrie Irving may poison the locker room and ruin all the good vibes the Nets are feeling. I don’t care that D’Angelo Russell (Warriors) will probably never forget and could exact his revenge on these guys a year from now in the playoffs. And I don’t care that DeAndre Jordan is overpaid and his career is winding down (which doesn’t matter because of Jarrett Allen). What I do care about is that Sean Marks rebuilt this franchise in record time and spit in the face of neighbor James Dolan while doing it. Dolan’s Knicks were supposed to get KD and Irving. Dolan’s Knicks are the Mecca and kings of New York. Dolan’s Garden is where the stars want to go play. The Knicks exemplify the NBA and the Nets are just a red-headed stepchild that moved from Jersey to Brooklyn. Well, not any more. Brooklyn changed up all that thinking on Sunday and they’re probably still partying like it’s 1999 as you read this. I also love the Garrett Temple move to help mellow Irving’s locker room presence, and love the fact Caris LeVert is going to be healthy and ready to go. Oh, and let’s not forget they also landed Atlanta’s throwaway piece of Taurean Prince, who still has a lot to prove, as well as a ton of upside. No one knows how this is going to play out over the next three or four years, and the Nets may never win a title. But as far as making a splash in free agency and going all David and Goliath on Dolan and Steve Mills? How do they not get an A+?
The team I’ve probably heard the most “look out for them next year” comments about are the Jazz. Ricky Rubio is in Phoenix (of all places) and Mike Conley is the new starting point guard in Utah. Donovan Mitchell is back, baby. Underrated Joe Ingles should start at SF and the Jazz swiped Bojan Bogdanovic out of Indy, where he’ll start over dearly departed Derrick Favors, who now looks like the Pelicans starting center. And then there’s Rudy Gobert who will now be backed up by Ed Davis – aka Boss – who is the epitome of a gritty player who does the dirty work. If Bogdanovic can truly handle playing out of position at the 4, Mitchell bounces back, and Conley finds new life, the Jazz might be the best team in the West.
The Sixers shipped Jimmy Butler to Miami, which I thought was a good move, but I’m hearing from Philly fans that they loved Jimmy and didn’t want to lose him. In any case, they re-signed Tobias Harris to a massive deal and, out of nowhere, signed Al Horford to play power forward and help out in the middle when Joel Embiid is resting. They also got Josh Richardson in the Jimmy deal, although there are still some kinks being worked out around that one, and re-signed reserve F Mike Scott. With a starting 5 of Ben Simmons, Richardson, Harris, Horford and Embiid, anything is possible for this team. They will, however, miss the sharpshooting of J.J. Redick, who joined the Pelicans. The Horford get makes this an easy A.
In a summer that you lose (arguably) the best player in the league, it shouldn’t be this easy. It reminds me a little bit of when the Colts said goodbye to Peyton Manning, but I didn’t really care because, well, here comes Andrew Luck. So far, that hasn’t really panned out, although last year was encouraging. Nonetheless, it’s hard to be too upset about seeing Anthony Davis leave (Lakers) because here come Zion Williamson. The Davis haul brought them Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart from L.A., and while I’m still not really sure exactly just how good or helpful any of those guys are when it comes to building a good basketball team, I don’t really care, either. They still have Jrue Holiday (stud) and C Jahlil Okafor (promising) and then added sharpshooter J.J. Redick and center Derrick Favors to go along with their other intriguing rookies, SG Nickeil Alexander-Walker and C Jaxson Hayes. The Pelicans were never as good as they should have been with Davis, and there are no guarantees that they’ll be as good as they should be with this collection of lost Lakers, kids and papa Favors, but you have to give them a ton of credit for doing the most with what they had. It should be fascinating to watch this team in the upcoming season, whether they’re amazing or mediocre.
The lost Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala (Memphis - which broke fans’ hearts), but it was going to happen eventually. Klay Thompson (knee) won’t play this season, but basically signed him for life, and then, out of nowhere, landed D’Angelo Russell as part of a sign-and-trade, who can play shooting guard while Klay recovers. To me, it was about the best they could do, and now they’ve got a potential three-headed monster in Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Russell. There are more roster casualties coming (DeMarcus Cousins for starters) and we have no idea what they’ll fill in the holes with, but things could actually look a lot worse in GSW land than they do right now. Unlike a lot of folks, I loved the D-Russell get.
The Bucks lost Malcolm Brogdon (Pacers) and re-signed Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, and then added Wesley Matthews on the cheap, and Robin Lopez, as well. And they still have Eric Bledsoe, a bunch of adequate shooting guards, and a guy named Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Brogdon loss hurts, but maybe not as bad as some pundits think.
The Pacers inked Malcolm Brogdon to a four-year, $86 million deal, which is risky. But he had a great year last season and has only scratched the surface of what he’s capable of. And with Darren Collison retiring and Ricky Rubio going to Phoenix, it was a move the Pacers simply had to make. They’ll miss Bojan Bogdanovic (Utah), but that will allow Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner room to fully breakout, added T.J. Warren, whom they stole from Phoenix, and will have potentially the best defensive backcourt in the NBA once Victor Oladipo (knee) is fully recovered from his knee injury. I also like their draft pick of Goga Bitadze, and once this team figures it all out and starts rolling, they have a chance to do some real damage in the East.
PG Goran Dragic was traded, then he wasn’t, but the Heat are still working on finding him a new home, which means they’re going to need a point guard. Maybe Justise Winslow will be the guy again this season. They also sent Josh Richardson to Philly and Hassan Whiteside to Portland, but added Jimmy Butler. The Whiteside move clears the way for Bam Adebayo to have a big year, while the Butler add did a lot to make up for the loss of Dwyane Wade (retired). Maybe getting Butler was worth an A, but they lost a lot, too.
The Blazers lost Al-Farouq Aminu, Enes Kanter and Meyers Leonard, and added Kent Bazemore, Mario Hezonja and Hassan Whiteside, while re-signing Rodney Hood. They have a plethora of small forwards, still have one of the best backcourts in the league, will get Jusuf Nurkic back, and have Whiteside to fill in for him until that happens. Whiteside’s attitude is a big question mark, but he’ll give them contract flexibility next year and a solid fill-in this year. I like what’s happening in Portland.
The Rockets missed out on Plan A with Jimmy Butler (Heat), but still have Chris Paul, Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers, James Harden, P.J. Tucker and Clint Capela, which is a playoff roster. Sometimes less is more, and the fact that Capela’s not likely to go anywhere is huge.
The Celtics brought in Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter, and lost Kyrie Irving (if you want to call it a loss), Terry Rozier and Al Horford. Getting Kemba was a big deal and he should enjoy playing for Brad Stevens, but it’s a new system and a better team so Kemba’s fantasy value could take a small hit in Boston. Kanter’s arrival in Boston is probably good for the team, but bums me out a little in fantasy, as I was ready to go all in on C Robert Williams this year. Either way, between the draft and free agency, it’s been a solid summer for the Celtics, even though they didn’t get their man (Anthony Davis).
The Suns basically lost T.J. Warren for nothing and replaced him with Ricky Rubio, had a questionable draft, and also added Frank Kaminsky and Dario Saric They still have building blocks of Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker to pair with Rubio, Kelly Oubre and Josh Jackson, and if they didn’t keep making questionable moves, might finally be building on something. Rubio could feast here in fantasy.
The Magic added Al-Farouq Aminu and re-upped Nikola Vucevic, but they’ve got a large hole at point guard and I’m still not sure if Aaron Gordon is really good or kind of bad. Either way, I think they could have added someone who is a better fit than AFA.
The Bulls added Tomas Satoransky from Washington to compete with Coby White and Kris Dunn for the starting PG job, still have Zach LaVine, Otto Porter and Lauri Markkanen, and added Thaddeus Young from the Pacers. The Young-Markkanen timeshare could get messy, and the loss of Robin Lopez should clear the way for Wendell Carter Jr. to have a potential breakout season once he’s healthy. I don’t hate what the Bulls did, but I don’t love it, either.
The Hornets let Kemba Walker walk for nothing and then signed Terry Rozier for $58 million, which is, um, a little ‘scary.’ Frank Kaminsky is now in Phoenix, and the starting lineup looks something like Rozier, Malik Monk, Miles Bridges or Nicolas Batum, P.J. Washington or Marvin Williams, and Cody Zeller, Bismack Biyombo, or Willy Hernangomez. It’s not a great day to be a Hornets fan.
The Wolves were hoping for D’Angelo Russell and to move Andrew Wiggins’ massive contract, but really didn’t do much of anything. They did add Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham late, but neither contract is guaranteed and we don’t know how long they’ll be around. I like Napier as Jeff Teague’s backup for a year, but, unfortunately, it feels like we’re just going to continue to watch the prime of Karl-Anthony Town’s career be wasted for a team that’s mediocre, at best. In fact, mediocre might even be too kind at this point.
No big free agents. A ranting and raving fan base (check out the videos posted by Michael Rappaport (eff bombs galore) and Stephen A. Smith (just a sad man)) if you want to see how the fanbase is feeling. And then they went on a power forward shopping spree, nabbing Julius Randle, Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis when they already have PF Kevin Knox and center Mitchell Robinson, who just needs to eat without being hassled by Portis. Elfrid Payton was brought in to back up Dennis Smith Jr., Reggie Bullock was brought in to start at shooting guard, Mario Hezonja is gone, rookie RJ Barrett will have to fight for minutes with Knox, and well…it’s just a disaster. And with the PR hit James Dolan and company are taking this week, I see almost no chance they get their guy (Giannis Antetokounmpo) in a couple years when he’s a free agent. Just a total loss for one of the NBA’s once proudest franchises.
Lakers & Clippers: ?
Kawhi Leonard is the key for both of these teams, as well as the Raptors, but he is showing no interest in making a decision in a timely fashion. Let me know when he wakes up from his long winter’s nap.