Wow. What an absolutely unbelievable week in NBA Free Agency. First of all, we apologize for our terrible predictions in our preview column. While Kevin Durant going to the Warriors is obviously the biggest headline, we did not even list Dwyane Wade leaving Miami as a possibility. Clearly things change fast in the NBA, so we should know to prepare for anything and everything.
Now that all of the big names have landed (apologies to Dion Waiters), we can turn our attention to how these signings will impact the league next year. To do this, we decided to answer some burning questions for our readers.
What does Kevin Durant going to the Warriors mean for the league?
Nick Bair: While I cannot wait to see the Warriors play next season, I hope the Warriors leave room for some drama in the league for the next few years. With four All-NBA caliber players in their starting lineup, it is easy to pencil them in as a dynasty already. Now we said the same thing about the 73 win Warriors in April, and look what happened to them in the Finals. Nothing is certain. I would not be surprised if other teams try build their own superstar teams in the near future like we saw with the 2008 Celtics, 2011 Heat, and even the 2015 Cavaliers. LeBron could lure some of his banana boat crew to Cleveland or the Spurs or Clippers could somehow pull another star onto their already talented rosters. An MVP caliber player joining a historic team probably only happens once in a lifetime, but that will not stop other teams from at least trying to create some magic of their own.
Randy Haines: I think this could actually be good for the league. Like the LeBron/Wade/Bosh Heat, everyone will have an opinion on this team one way or another. Every game will be must see TV, every loss will be over analyzed and every win will be downplayed as if they are supposed to go 82-0. The only real issue is their geographic location. 10PM East Coast start times are going to be brutal for many fans, as well as my already questionable coffee addiction.
Who will become the “Kevin Love” of the Warriors?
NB: Hate to say this, but I think Klay Thompson will actually suffer the most. He will be asked to do less on offense and could potentially fall out of rhythm like Love did in Cleveland. While he is a much better defender than Love, it is possible that his defense will suffer some as well if he loses confidence on the offensive end. The two former MVPs (Curry and KD) will get theirs, so I think the soft spoken Klay will be the odd man out.
RH: I think it has to be Klay. There are only so many shots to go around. Unless Kerr really staggers his substitution patterns to the point Klay actually gets most of his playing time with the second unit, Klay’s shots per game will fluctuate more than late 2000’s Kobe when he was trying to prove a point to the media.
Besides Durant, which signing so far helps its new team the most?
NB: I like Pau Gasol to the Spurs, Dwyane Wade to the Bulls, and even Dwight Howard to the Hawks, but this has to be Al Horford signing with the Celtics. It fills one of Boston’s biggest weaknesses and gives them a crunch time scorer to compliment Isiah Thomas. The Celtics position themselves with Toronto as the top contenders for Cleveland in the East. While I do not think this move puts them in the same class as the Cavs, it definitely inches them closer and the addition of another star (Boogie? Russ?) could put them right there with the Cavs.
RH: I will actually go off the grid here and say Chandler Parsons to Memphis. A team that desperately needs players who can shoot and create offense gets an underrated offensive player. As long as his knee holds up, the Grizzlies may actually end up being fun to watch this season.
What is the riskiest contract handed out in the past week?
NB: I am still selling timeshares on the Harrison Barnes Trash Island. After the Mavericks whiffed on Hassan Whiteside (another risky candidate) and Mike Conley, they panic maxed out Barnes (4 years, $94 million) who will surely disappoint the fans in North Texas. Poor Dirk will have to play out his twilight years watching Barnes miss open shots in the 4th quarter. A real shame.
RH: I actually think it is Whiteside (4 years, $98 million). He was already an erratic player when he was playing for peanuts. A team throwing tons of money at someone and expecting them to become more mature rarely works. See Andray Blatche, Javale McGee, Andrew Bynum, O.J. Mayo (RIP to his career), eventually Dion Waiters, the list goes on. I smell trouble in South Beach.
Does life make sense anymore now that Dwyane Wade has left Miami?
NB: If Wade left the Heat for MIlwaukee or Denver, I might be more mystified. But leaving for his hometown Chicago Bulls, one of the premier franchises in the league, seems like a reasonable move for him. Pat Riley and the Miami brass took advantage of Wade’s loyalty and championship sacrifices for too long and seemed to finally get burned (no pun intended). My hot take/theory though: Pat Riley did not want Wade back after they whiffed on Durant and is happy to start rebuilding without him. I am looking forward to seeing the Bulls have the worst pure shooting backcourt in recent history (Wade and Rondo) and definitely looking forward to the Heat taking a step back, hopefully putting both teams behind the Wizards in the standings.
RH: This could be the second time in the last three offseasons that Pat Riley’s ego costs him a superstar. You can only ask a guy like Wade to take so many pay cuts before he gets fed up. I think the Heat are in serious trouble this season if Chris Bosh cannot play. From the Chicago side of things, I guess anytime you have a chance to form one of the worst three point shooting back courts of all time in a league that is shooting more and more threes every year, you have to do it right?
What are the Knicks and Lakers doing?
NB: Even though the Knicks signed the 2011 All-Stars five years too late, I still kind of like what they did. Derrick Rose has a one year tryout for the team. If he gets his mojo back, they can re-sign him. If not, they will have cap space next year to sign a new point guard. Joakim Noah still has some juice in him, even if he was overpaid, and will pair nicely with young Kristaps. As far as the Lakers, I do not mind them getting a veteran and great locker room presence in Luol Deng. Especially for a locker room that has been poisoned by Nick Young and company the last few years. Mozgov was a serious overpay for his on court production, but he will make great commercials in Hollywood. I will give both big market franchises a pass (for now).
RH: The Knicks are just the Knicks, getting players way past their prime is what they do historically. The Lakers, however, spent their cap like a degenerate would have spent his first paycheck after a big raise. Mozgov was one of the first signings announced after free agency started, who were they bidding against? Was there some secret pro team in Moscow that was throwing part ownership of the franchise at him? That signing really set the tone for how crazy free agency was going to be.
How do you rate the Wizards offseason moves?
NB: I am cautiously optimistic about the Wizards. They did not make any egregiously terrible moves like maxing out Joakim Noah, Dwight Howard, or Ryan Anderson. They will have flexibility moving forward and can let their young core develop with a new coach that has a history of developing young talent. Trey Burke is a low risk move. Tomas Satoransky, who scouts say is an excellent on-ball defender, has the chance to make an impact from Day 1. Ian Mahinmi is big and athletic. Adding some decent role players and NBA bodies is helpful too. Plus we lost Nene, a huge addition by subtraction. The Wizards get a passing grade in my book, even if they missed out on #KD2DC and Al Horford.
RH: I like getting Trey Burke for basically nothing, that’s really all I can say for this offseason. Being one of the last two teams in the running for Al Horford was kind of fun, but deep down I knew what the outcome would be. Outside of robbing another team in a trade (preferably the Kings for Boogie), I just do not see how this team gets significantly better anytime soon. This has to be the most disappointed I have been in the Zards in a long time. The only real positives I can take from this offseason is that Nene is no longer around and as of now the Wizards still have their first round pick in next year’s draft, although I am sure Ernie Grunfeld is working on a way to trade it as we speak.
Now that some dust has settled on Free Agency, which star player is most likely to be traded in the next few months?
NB: Sam Presti has to start listening to big offers for Russell Westbrook. Presti has always been a proactive GM (See Harden, James) and it might benefit him greatly to shop Westbrook while his stock is sky high this offseason. The Thunder still have a solid roster, but will struggle to compete with a healthy Warriors or even Spurs team next year. If Westbrook is likely to leave in free agency, Presti should get what he can for him in a trade now and start the rebuild in OKC. The Celtics, Lakers, and maybe even Minnesota or Phoenix could offer pretty decent packages for Rusty. Will Presti pull the trigger?
RH: Is it crazy to say Dwight Howard? How long will it take until he is unhappy and becomes the most passive aggressive player in the league again? Going from Al Horford to Dwight Howard has to be one of the biggest team chemistry downgrades since the Pistons traded Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson (Sorry AI, you are still my guy).
Don’t worry too much NBA fans, only 108 more days until the regular season tips off…
-Nick Bair and Randy Haines
Photo Credit: David M. Russell/Disney/ABC Home Entertainment and TV Distribution via AP