NBA Free agency has been pretty lit so far. Most of the big names stayed put, including Curry, Durant, Lowry, and Griffin, but also there have been some big waves too. The big moves haven’t all come from free agent signings, but trades as well. We will get into the bigger moves and hand some grades out so far into this free agency period.
Gordon Hayward, SF, UTA-BOS: Grade-A
Hayward was the biggest name left on the open market, and like many projected ending up wearing the green and white when it was all said and done. Gordon has been a high commodity, and a 3 team race of the Jazz, Heat, and Celtics all had the strongest pitches.
The Jazz made all the moves to try and convince Hayward to stay. They traded for a pass first PG, Ricky Rubio, and signed Hayward’s buddy Joe Ingles to a pretty big contract. Utah was also the team who could give him the most money, almost 60 million more than any other team could offer. The big issue here is the West is so loaded. Do you think a team consisting of Gordon, Rubio, Rodney Hood, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert could really crack a top 4 seed?
The Heat came strong with the old would you rather live in South Beach or Boston or Utah? Also the fact they have a young rising team in the weak East is a good selling point. They have a big man in Hassan Whiteside, and scoring from Goran Dragic, Waiters Island, Justice Winslow, and Tyler Johnson as well. If they added Hayward that might be a team that is on the rise in the Eastern Conference, while everyone else is waiting for the LeBron Era to be over. Plus Pat Riley usually gets who he wants.
The Celtics had a similar pitch to Hayward that the Heat had, but the big kicker had to be Brad Stevens. Stevens was the college coach of Hayward when they were at Butler. Brad was the first to offer Gordon out of high school, even before he was the size he became late in high school. Gordon was loyal to Brad, and why not show that loyalty again by joining him in Boston, but this time for a boatload of money. Hayward did end up signing a 4 year 128 million dollar contract to play for Boston.
I really don’t like to see big talents leave where they were drafted, especially to Boston, but the fit just was too perfect for Hayward and Boston. He is back with his old coach; he is surrounded by a young team, and in a weak Eastern Conference that they were the #1 seed in. Now the Celtics add Hayward and Jayson Tatum to a #1 seed 2016-2017 roster, but is it still enough to knock off the Cavs now? Maybe not, but after the Bron era ends, the Celtics could be the next dominant Eastern team. Then all you have to worry about the Warriors…
Chris Paul, PG, LAC-HOU: Grade-D
Paul wasn’t going to be back in LA after many rumors came out about Paul not being happy with management and Doc Rivers. CP3 wanted the Clippers to go after his buddy Carmelo Anthony at the trade deadline, but they never really did. Doc Rivers’ son Austin would have been part of that deal and that was a no-go. After that came out the real contenders for Paul was the Spurs and the Rockets.
The Spurs were always the favorite in my eyes, but my eyes don’t mean shit in the NBA. The Spurs have a solid team, and if not for Kawhi Leonard’s injury in the Western Conference Finals, they would have had a real shot at beating the Warriors. You add a player like Chris Paul to that mix and now things get even more interesting.
I never saw the Houston interest after James Harden was moved to the point guard role, and almost won the MVP, all while getting the Rockets a #3 seed. I guess that really didn’t play a role though, because Paul was involved in a sign and trade for a 1 year contract worth 24.2 million dollars. So it looks like both Houston and Paul are taking a flyer this year to see how this experiment works. The Rockets might not be done either, because they are also in the mix for Carmelo Anthony. Melo did come out and say he would waive his no-trade clause for a move to Houston, so you would have to think before Paul signed these two buddies had a conversation. Even if they add Melo, does it make the Rockets better? Sure, on paper they have a three headed monster, but in the way each of them play I don’t know if will work out. The Rockets were so good last year because it was the Harden show, and by surrounding him with shooters. Now you will have a team of 3 stars that each love to have the ball in their hands at all times. We will wait to see if this wild experiment works in Houston, but I can see it crashing and burning.
Paul Millsap, PF, ATL-DEN: Grade-B
Millsap is a very underrated player, and it shows by how many teams were interested in his services. He can stretch the floor as a 4, and is a very good rebounder. He fits perfectly on any team looking for starting 4 spot, and Denver was his choice. The Nuggets are on the rise, but their problem is they play in the loaded Western Conference. They have some big time scorers like Jamaal Murray, Nikola Jokic, and Gary Harris. Murray and Jokic are the big upcoming stars, but Denver needs to build around them with solid vets like Millsap, who’s a perfect fit. All of those guys including Millsap can spread a defense out, and really put a hurting on you from downtown. The Nuggets made a smart move here and are on the rise, but may be 1-2 guys away. The Nuggets have been trying to land a superstar like Kevin Durant who they went hard after last year, and Kevin Love this year, but have come up short. Another year under the young guys belt and the addition of Millsap could help their chances next year or even at the deadline if they try to add another big piece.
JJ Redick, SG, LAC-PHI: Grade-A+
They aren’t saying, “Trust The Process”, in Philly anymore. Now it’s just called “The Process”. This Sixers team is now built to make a lot of noise in the East, and adding Redick helps that push in a big way. The Sixers have a ton of talent on their team with Embiid, Simmons, Fultz, Saric, Okafor, but no any knock down shooters. Now they add one of, if not the best knock down shooter, the NBA has seen. All of the sudden boom you have a legit contender at a playoff spot. Philly also has a ton of space so paying JJ for 1 year at 23 million dollars is no problem for them. It also helps that the fit is absolutely perfect. If this team can just stay healthy, they have a chance not only to make the playoffs but be a top 4 seed out in the East. All the talent is there, now they just have to stay on the floor to make this process happen.
Jeff Teague, PG, IND-MIN: Grade-C+
After coming off a bad injury in Atlanta, Teague had a very solid year with Indiana. He was very efficient with the Pacers, and will look to continue that with the rapidly growing T-Wolves. After trading Kris Dunn and Zach Lavine to the Bulls for Jimmy Butler, and Rubio to the Jazz for a 1st rounder, the T-Wolves needed a new point guard. Teague was their first choice and they got him for 3 years 57 million dollars. I thought Rubio was the perfect fit for this team because of his 9.1 assists per game last year, and he’s surrounded by Butler, Wiggins, and Town, but I guess not. Now Teague still had 7.8 assists per game which is very solid, but Teague will also give them a little more explosiveness to the rim and a bit of a better 3 point shooter at 36% instead of Rubio’s 30%. Teague brings more of scoring option at the point guard role which I guess is the way to the Wolves wanted to go. With the addition of Teague there are a lot of scoring options on this team, and should be a team to watch out west.
Free agency is still very underway, but the big names are off the board, but there are still big names on the trading block like Melo, and Kevin Love. Also, there are a ton of players still out there, that could help a team win, either as starters or role players. As you saw in the finals this year, a good bench goes a long way and the Warriors 2nd squad demolished the Cavs 2nd team. There’s still plenty of time to improve your team, but in the meantime enjoy the rookies in the Summer League, and wait for our final offseason grades.