Free agency in the NBA focused on one and only one thing… How to create a team that could compete against the Golden State Warriors. How did the top competitors do to close the gap?
Although the Cavs tried to sign one of the top free agent players, they failed. Paul George went to OKC, Chris Paul went to Houston, and Jimmy Butler went to Minnesota. They did re-sign Kyle Korver (age 36) and added Jose Calderon (age 35). Additionally, they fired their GM, David Griffin, right before the NBA draft and the beginning of free agency. LeBron was very fond of Griffin. Also, Chauncey Billups, a close friend of LeBron, turned down the GM slot. Something bad is brewing in Cavs-land. There still remains the possibility of adding Carmelo Anthony who stated they he would waive his no-trade clause if he were moved to either the Cavs or Houston. In the case of the Cavs, it would be a straight-up Anthony for Love trade. The big question is if the Knicks want Love on their team. They haven’t had any “love” on that team for a very long time. If the Love for Anthony trade does go down, will the Cavs be improved? In my opinion, at this stage in their careers, Love is a better player than Anthony. Thus, the Cavs will not have closed any gaps on the Warriors. However, with or without Anthony, the Cavs are still the best team in the East.
The Celtics went hard after both Paul George and Jimmy butler but lost both bids. They did land Gordon Hayward who is re-united with his college coach, Brad Stevens. It hasn’t yet been determined who the Celtics will have to give up for the Hayward signing. Regardless of who they lose, the Celtics became a better team and have closed the gap on the Cavs.
The Rockets got a boost by the Chris Paul signing. Having said that, they had to give up 7 players (Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Darrun Hilliard, DeAndre Liggins, Kyle Wiltjer, a protected first-round pick next year and cash considerations). This reminds me of the Hershel Walker trade between the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys where the Cowboys got 5 players and 7 draft picks. As we all know, the Cowboys became a dynasty and the Vikings became the Vikings. It is fitting that two ball hogs (James Harden and CP3) are on the same team. They’ll have nobody to pass the ball to but that’ll be fine with them. The Rockets instantly became a worse team and will fall in the middle of the pack in the West.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers lost CP3 but added a boatload of players from the Rockets. They also re-signed Blake Griffin to a large contract. In my opinion, the largest addition to the organization was the signing of Jerry West. He was the mastermind in huge CP3 trade that brought 7 good players to the Clippers. It is a great first step in re-building the Clippers and I applaud the move. They have closed the gap on the Warriors but are still far away from being able to compete with them.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder added Paul George to their roster and gave up Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. George is a great player but nowhere near the player that Kevin Durant is. OKC was not able to beat the Warriors with Westbrook and Durant so they will not stand a chance with Westbrook and George. Also, George is a one year rental as he will bolt for the Lakers next year when he becomes a free agent. Thus, OKC gave up a good guard in Oladipo and a potentially good center/power forward in Sabonis for renting George for one year. OKC just became a worse team.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs tried very hard to unload LeMarcus Aldridge but found no buyers. They did not sign any free agents but did re-sign Patty Mills to a hefty contract. They stood pat which is not necessarily bad as they are loaded with talent. Having said that, they may lose Manu Ginobili to retirement and an old Tony Parker ended his season with a serious injury. The Spurs need to get younger to be able to compete with the Warriors.
Of the Warrior competitors, the Timberwolves improved their team the most. They added Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague along with trading Ricky Rubio to Utah for their 2018 first round pick. The Wolves were a team of the future before these signings with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. They became an instant playoff team with their new additions. In a two or three years, I believe that they will be one of the top 5 teams in the NBA and will continue to close the gap on the Warriors if they keep this team together.
Golden State Warriors
The world champion Warriors became a better team with their signings if you can believe that. Although some of the teams listed above became better, the Warriors lapped everyone. First and most importantly, they re-signed all of their key free agents (Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Kevin Durant, and signed Steph Curry to a max contract). The Warriors are never happy with standing pat even though they are the class of the NBA. They added Nick Young (6-7 off guard with length) and Omri Casspi (6-9 forward with length). They both shoot at better than 40% beyond the 3 point line. The Warriors are hoping to add to their lead when the second team is on the floor with Young and Casspi. Lastly, it looks likely that Zaza Pachulia will return and there is an outside chance that JaVale McGee may also come back after testing the free agency waters.
I must also mention that Kevin Durant sacrificed his salary to allow the Warriors to re-sign all of their free agents. He made it known that he will re-sign with the Warriors only after the other free agents were taken care of. You won’t find any super stars in any sport who did what KD did. He is the ultimate team player. The Warriors will take good care of KD next year by giving him a max contract.
Lastly, I must also comment on what the Warriors did in the NBA draft. Last year, they bought the rights to Patrick McCaw from the Milwaukee Bucks who drafted him in the second round. This year, they bought the rights to Jordan Bell from the Chicago Bulls who drafted him in the second round. Thus, a championship team having no draft picks in the last two years added 2 good players to their roster.
The biggest winner in free agency also happens to be the best team in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors.