NBA Free Agency: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

As early as July 1st, the doors of NBA free agency opened up, allowing every NBA franchise to negotiate reputable contracts with a free agent in the market. This season’s free agent pool is paired with the NBA’s highest-ever cap, reaching up to $94.14 million. Already, free agents have been dealt with outrageous contracts – some that are too much for the overall worth of the player. Anyway, there’s a lot of money to spend and contracts to sign. Here’s a detailed look into the good, the bad and the ugly of the recent free agent signings

The Good

  • Celtics acquiring Al Horford at a max price worth $113 million for 4 years: Outside of Kevin Durant, center Al Horford was the next biggest free agent to get a hold of this off-season. Boston was a leading candidate for both the Horford and Durant sweepstakes as they possessed a very unique circumstance entering free agency. For the past three seasons, the Celtics had been a team that contained a bountiful of complimentary players to fit its roster, but never obtained a franchise piece. This was especially true this season, where Celtics grinded through Eastern Conference competition without a consistent post player to go along with their already stellar defensive front-court. With the addition of Horford for the next three years (fourth year is a player option) this makes Boston one-step closer to becoming serious threats in the East.
  • Magic matching a max-offer to pick up Bismack Biyombo for 4 years, $72 million: Bismack Biyombo proved to be an integral part of Toronto’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals this season, by dominating on the boards and showing his worth as a rim-protector. However when free agency hit, the Raptors were at a crossroads of whether it was appropriate to overpay for their emerging center. As it turned out, the Magic were willing to pay Biyombo a starter’s salary at $72 million over four years with coach Frank Vogel likely having a say. Orlando will have two of the NBA’s best shot-blockers with him and Serge Ibaka, so making shots disappear will be their specialty. If the Magic do indeed try to trade Nikola Vucevic, Biyombo has a great chance to be a top-five shot blocker and a top-10 rebounder in his age-24 season.
  • Hawks re-signing Kent Bazemore for 4 years, $70 million: Retaining a player who has yet to make a sizeable impact at the next level is a serious gamble. But that’s exactly what the Hawks did when they re-signed SF Kent Bazemore for roughly $17.5 million a season. Atlanta burned their two draft picks two weeks ago in order to ensure Bazemore will be ready to take on a bigger role in 2016-17 now that SG Jeff Teague has moved on to Indiana. Bazemore ran the offense a lot more in 2016 and the Hawks are banking on his potential, especially as a consistent perimeter scorer as he connected on 36.4 percent of 3’s this year.
  • Magic keeping Evan Fournier for 5 years, $85 million: The Magic went over the top to clear out cap space, so there was almost no chance they were going to miss out on retaining the Frenchman. In his first season as a starter, Fournier averaged a career-high 15.4 points per game and shot 40.0 percent from the perimeter. Now that Victor Oladipo is gone, the 23-year-old wing should get plenty of shots headed his way. He’ll get minutes in the mid 30s with coach Frank Vogel at the helm.
  • Hassan Whiteside settling with a max-deal for Miami worth $98 million through 4 years: Miami was in dire need of locking up its franchise center for the foreseeable future, especially with the current uncertainty of fellow guard Dwyane Wade. After losing small forward Luol Deng to the Lakers, re-signing the 27-year old center was the Heat’s best option in order to restore its front-court depth, which is still razor-thin. Coming into free agency, Miami only contained Chris Bosh and 33-year old Amare Stoudemire as the team’s second and third options down-low. In the 53 games Whiteside started in this season (playoffs included), he averaged 13.1 points, 11.3 rebounds and basketball’s best 3.2 blocks per game. There’s certainly a lot of risk involved with this deal – by putting so much stock into a franchise player – but Whiteside is an intriguing gamble after completing his most productive season in the NBA.
  • Grizzlies agreeing to terms with Chandler Parsons at $94 million for 4 years: For a team that swung for the fences on draft day. Memphis doesn’t appear to be inclined to the “rebuilding” process just yet. The Grizzlies might have overpaid to acquire Parsons, but his value as a stretch-four is exactly what Memphis needs to alter its aging roster. Parsons was one of the most efficient players after the All-Star break last year and should have more shots going his way. After the break last year, only three of the 100 players with at least 30 minutes per game had a better true shooting percentage than Parsons (Stephen Curry, Hassan Whiteside and DeAndre Jordan). This bodes well for Memphis who ranked at the bottom of the league in scoring. The mere downside on the deal is that Parsons carries some risk with his knee, however that can be downgraded with his emerging potential at just 28 years-old.

Other beneficial free agency moves:

  • Lakers retaining Jordan Clarkson for 4 years, $50 million
  • Andre Drummond staying put in Detroit for $130 million for 5 years
  • Nicolas Batum being kept in Charlotte for 5 years, $120 million
  • Raptors re-signing DeMar DeRozan at max-price for $145 million over 5 years

The Bad

  • Mike Conley re-signing with Grizzlies for 5 years, $135 million: The Grizzlies and Mike Conley worked out the richest contract in the history of the NBA. For Memphis, parts of this deal made sense as they wanted to solidify the point guard position long-term, however the chances that 29-year old Conley prospers all five years is pushing it. Conley’s games-played have dropped in each of the last three seasons – starting from 73 in the 2014 regular season to only 50 in 2016. Not to mention, he witnessed a drop in scoring for the last two. Conley is still the best PG in terms of assists-to-turnovers, averaging a 6:1 ratio per game.
  •  Knicks reaching a max-offer to Joakim Noah for 4 years, $72 million: This deal all depends on Noah’s health long-term. The Knicks coughed up lot of money to give to an often injured, 31-year-old center. On top of only playing in 29 games in 2016, Noah turned in awful shooting numbers of 38.3 percent from the field and 48.9 percent from the line. The change of scenery could help Noah, who has a history of playing with a chip on his shoulder.
  • Evan Turner signing for Portland for 4 years, $70 million: Portland’s acquisition of Evan Turner from Boston was hit-and-miss. It’s a hit because Turner can easily fit in as the Blazers’ primary defender along the perimeter, as his high-usage rate made him lethal under Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens. It’s a miss simply because Portland severely overpaid on a SG/SF that can’t space the floor quite as well as others on the team (such as Allen Crabbe, CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard). Turner’s true value is to defend multiple positions and contribute occasionally on offense. As it turns out, the Blazers will be counting on Turner to be a primary scorer and that’s a role he hasn’t yet developed into. This past season, Turner averaged 10.1 points and shot woeful 24.1 percent from downtown.
  • Hawks landing Dwight Howard for 3 years, $70 million: After losing center Al Horford to the Celtics, the Hawks  tried to fill the void at the 5 position by picking-up Dwight Howard for three years. The length of the contract Atlanta handed Howard wasn’t the problem in this deal, actually, it was the price. $23 million per year for a center whose production has declined each of the past three seasons – seeing his PPG mark regress from 18.7 in 2013 to 13.8 in 2016 and his RBG from 12.4 to 11.2. Howard is on the down-side of his career and it’s crazy to think the Hawks upgraded their front-court by acquiring him.

Other not so good free agency moves:

  • Nets acquiring Jeremy Lin for 3 years, $36 million
  • Luol Deng to Lakers worth $72 million for 4 years
  • Rockets reaching a max settlement with Ryan Anderson for 4 years, $80 million
  • Bradley Beal staying in Washington for 5 years, $128 million

The Ugly

  • Bucks signing Matthew Dellavedova for 4 years, $38 million: It was almost as if Milwaukee didn’t learn from its mistake on draft night when they selected project Thon Maker out of high school 10th overall. Instead, the Bucks compounded matters by handing PG Matthew Dellavedova a max-contract for THIRTY-EIGHT MILLION DOLLARS!!!! Dellavedova finished out his contract with Cleveland this past season and averaged 7.2 points and 4.4 assists per game through 24 minutes of action. He took a back-seat to the Cavs’ Finals run as he saw only 10 minutes of playing time during the entire playoffs. Right now, the Bucks’ move makes no sense as it appeared they were already settled with Michael Carter-Williams at point. Guess not.
  • Timofey Mosgov to Lakers for 4 years, $64 million: Mosgov became the very first unrestricted agent to get signed by a team this off-season, which is saying something for a guy who saw four DNPs in the final 10 games of the postseason. Part of this move fits the Lakers schematics as they were in desperate need of a center, however for the price they got one at is outrageous. To put into terms how much the Lakers overthought Mosgov’s market value, understand this: Mozgov’s annual average salary will be in the neighborhood of John Wall, a starter who is classified as one of the better PG’s in the NBA. Mosgov is at best a third-option center, averaging just 6.4 points and 4.4 rebounds a night, this is something that Los Angeles paid starter money towards.

Other really, really bad free agency moves:

  • Solomon Hill to Pelicans  worth $48 million for 4 years:
  • Al Jefferson to Pacers for 3 years, $30 million:

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