Our NBA Free Agency Extravaganza rolls on with reaction and analysis of this year’s free agent signings. Today, we’re discussing the big name free agents who chose to stay put. Enjoy!
1) The Cleveland Cavaliers re-signed Kevin Love to a five-year deal worth $110 million.
So Love Actually decides to stay in Cleveland (see what I did there?). Many people were expecting Love to take his talents elsewhere since he didn’t seem to be a great fit with the Cavs. Coach David Blatt had a difficult time maximizing Love’s ability in his offensive scheme, so the PF was often stationed at the three-point line. While Love can certainly shoot the three-ball, he’s more comfortable in the post and in pick-and-roll situations.
Although Love has expressed discontent at times in Cleveland—apparently he and LeBron aren’t the best of friends—I think he realizes the Cavs’ potential. He can win championships (multiple) on a team with LeBron, Kyrie, and Tristan Thompson (who will presumably re-sign).
Plus, his season was cut short due to an injury, so perhaps he feels he has unfinished business in Cleveland. What would the Cavs-Warriors series have looked like if Love and Kyrie were healthy? Love wants to stick around to find out.
Needless to say, this was an important sign for Dan Gilbert and the Cavs. Love is an all-star who can score and rebound in bunches. His most glaring weakness is his defense, which Love must work on during the off-season. If both Love and Kyrie can’t defend their positions, the Cavs will be forced to sit at least one of them down the stretch—which is certainly not ideal.
Should Love have chosen to walk, trading Andrew Wiggins for a one-and-done dude would have been really, really stupid. Lucky for the Cavs, Love is willing to try again.
Cleveland is in a terrific position. They’ve managed to keep their core in tact. LeBron, Kyrie, Love, Thompson, Shumpert, and Mozgov will all return, and they signed former Cavalier, Mo Williams. And apparently, the Cavs aren’t even done yet. They’re looking to move Brendan Haywood’s expiring contract (yes, the important part is the contract, not the player) and perhaps Anderson Varejao for Joe Johnson.
That would be four perennial all-stars in the Cavs starting five.
Although the Cavs are projected to cross the luxury tax threshold, it seems Dan Gilbert has learned his lesson. You sometimes have to go all-in if it means a chance at a title (which he chose not to do in LeBron’s first tenure, driving him to D-Wade, Chris Bosh, and the Heat). And boy, does the city of Cleveland deserve it.
2) DeAndre Jordan verbally agrees to max deal with Mavs… then ends up re-signing with the Clippers for five years, $88 million.
This is a tough one to swallow for Mark Cuban and the Mavs. With Monta Ellis and Tyson Chandler on their way out, Dallas was poised to strike gold during free agency. And they did, in the 7’0’’ hulking, warlock form of DeAndre Jordan.
Though it’s difficult to picture the Mavs beating the Warriors, Rockets, or Spurs with the addition of DeAndre, the big man would have helped Dallas in a lot of different areas. He’s an all-defensive player, an incredible rebounder, and an outstanding finisher around the hoop. He also impressively finished fifth in the NBA in win shares with 12.8, demonstrating his serious value.
Having to contain both Dirk and Jordan down low would have been a challenge for any team. The two would have drawn so much attention, opening things up on the perimeter for guys like Chandler Parsons and new addition Wesley Matthews. See Ben Farber’s piece for an in-depth look at how DeAndre would have impacted the Mavs.
But all of that is a mere fantasy now. Stevie Wonder’s hit “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” never rang so true, as Jordan decided at the last minute (after verbally—not contractually—agreeing to sign with the Mavericks) to return to the Clippers. Rarely does a player commit then change his mind, but DeAndre did just that.
The stories coming out about that ill-fated Tuesday night are bizarre. There was apparently a quarantine, a serious lack of communication, and a young woman (Doc Rivers’ daughter) who came in to save the day. Basically, it was I Am Legend, minus the genetically re-engineered virus and Will Smith, although I’m sure Smith would play DeAndre beautifully in a film adaptation of the saga.
Hollywood was the more appealing choice for DeAndre in the end. He has more of a chance to win with established all-stars Blake and CP3 than he would have with an aging Dirk Nowitzki and an inconsistent Chandler Parsons. Not to mention, the Clippers could offer more money and years.
Had DeAndre chosen to re-sign with the Clippers immediately, it wouldn’t have been a big deal at all. Committing and then backing out was totally unprofessional and childish.
Although the whole situation made DeAndre look bad, it was the Mavs that were affected most by his indecisiveness. The time they spent pursuing DeAndre could have been used to go after other free agents.
The Mavs will have to wait until next year’s free agency to make any noise. Knowing Mark Cuban, he’s definitely got a pitch for KD ready to go.
3) Jimmy Butler re-signs with the Bulls for five years, $90 million.
The Bulls are competitive every year. Despite endless injuries to (used to be) star point guard and former Most Valuable Player Derek Rose, Chicago always seems to have an answer. Jimmy Butler was their answer in 2014-2015.
Butler, who was the thirtieth overall pick by Chicago in 2011, had an outstanding season. He improved dramatically from the previous year in every major offensive category, most notably raising his points per game average by seven. Butler’s defense remained superb, and he again received NBA All-Defensive Second Team honors. He was even selected to his first all-star game and won the NBA’s Most Improved Player. Not a bad showing by Jimmy G Buckets.
The guy can score, shoot the three-ball, defend multiple positions, and carry his team when he needs to. He proved that he could fill the star role while Derrick Rose was injured, finishing sixth in the NBA in win shares (11.2) and leading the Bulls (along with Pau Gasol) to the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
The one knock on Butler is that he’s missed at least fifteen games in each of the last two seasons. Tom Thibodeau’s coaching style of essentially doing the exact opposite of the San Antonio Spurs (i.e. running guys into the ground) certainly didn’t help matters. New coach Fred Hoiberg will hopefully restrict the millage on Butler at least a little bit so that he can stay on the court and continue to produce at a high level.
There were rumors that Butler was interested in heading to L.A. during free agency, but ultimately he chose to stay where he’s been for his entire NBA career. Butler has grown so much since his rookie year with Chicago. It’s nice to see him remain loyal to the team that groomed him.
Butler has a very bright future, and it was an important signing for the Bulls. It keeps them in contention in the Eastern Conference. The one problem with the Bulls, again, comes back to their health. In order for them to be successful in the playoffs, they must rely on a healthy and very effective Derek Rose. At this point in his career, after the torn ACL and two torn meniscuses, that’s impossible to count on with Rose. An awkward cut along the baseline could spell the end of D-Rose’s season (or his career).
There are so many things that need to right for the Bulls to be able to have a shot at making the finals (i.e. beating the Cavs): D-Rose needs to be healthy; Jimmy Butler must keep improving; Nikola Mirotic has to turn into an all-star or reach a level close to that; Pau Gasol must remain healthy and effective; and role players (like recently re-signed Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Aaron Brooks) need to produce offensively. It would also help if LeBron or Kyrie went down with a major injury. The Bulls really need a lot to happen for them!
I see yet another second round playoff exit in Chicago’s future.
4) D-Wade re-signs with the Heat for one year, $20 million and Goran Dragic returns for five years, $90 million.
Are there any legitimate championship contenders in the Eastern Conference aside from the Cleveland Cavaliers? The Bulls possibly, but as we’ve outline, a lot needs to go right for them. The Wizards and Bucks will both be better, but it’s hard to envision either of them reaching title contender status. I don’t see the Hawks playing as well as they did last season, but they can certainly make some noise. Enough noise to beat the Cavs, though? I strongly doubt it.
The Miami Heat is the one time in my mind that has emerged as a serious threat to LeBron James and the Cavs.
After LBJ took his oversized headbands back to Cleveland, Pat Riley and the Arisons went straight to the drawing board. They signed a hodgepodge of solid free agents, including Chris Bosh, Luol Deng, and Josh McRoberts, which gave the Heat some life. In the middle of the season, the team acquired point guard Goran Dragic to help boost the their backcourt.
Plagued by injuries, the Heat missed the playoffs. However, key pieces will return and their starting five will contain Dragic, Wade, Deng, Bosh, and phenom Hassan Whiteside. Shabazz Napier, McRoberts, and newly acquired free agents Amar’e Stoudemire and Gerald Green (who they got for a significant discount) will come off the bench. Staying healthy of course remains crucial for the Heat, but that’s not a bad squad! In fact, it’s a very good squad filled with guys who will compliment each other nicely. And you can count on Coach Spoelstra getting the most out of his personnel.
The Heat have the potential to make it deep into the playoffs and KO the Cavs.
Think about that Eastern Conference Finals series for a moment? LeBron takes on his old team and best friend, D-Wade. You can bet Pat Riley would chop off a leg to see his team oust LeBron—of course, that leg would probably be LeBron’s.
5) Draymond Green re-signs with the Warriors for five years, $85 million.
The heart and soul of the Warriors is coming back. Draymond Green inked a huge deal with Golden State that keeps the team’s championship foundation in place.
By re-signing Green, which was close to a guarantee from the start (there were rumblings that he might be interested in going to Detroit, near where he played college ball and grew up), the Warriors ensured that they will be in title contention for a long time. Not only that, we may even get to see another one of Green’s free-styles over E-40’s “Choices” if the Warriors win the chip again.
Green is an important leader and mouthpiece on a team with soft-spoken superstars Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. He’s feisty, he’s an intimidator, and he’s a First Team All-Defensive player. Green can defend every position on the floor and knock down the three-ball when teams are focused on Curry.
Big win for the Dubs and big win for Draymond.
6) Marc Gasol signs five-year, $110 million contract extension with the Grizzlies.
Marc Gasol is the best all-around center in the NBA. He can post up, run the pick-and-roll, knock down a mid-range jumper, and pass with the best of them. And that’s just his offensive abilities! Gasol is a premier rim protector, and he won Defensive Player of the Year in 2013.
Gasol and Zach Randolph might be the best frontcourt tandem in the league. Together, they’re unstoppable on the glass and within ten feet of the hoop. Had Mike Conley been healthy during last year’s playoffs, the Grizzlies could have given the champion Warriors a run for their money.
The Grizz have been active during the off-season, looking to create that championship roster. They signed big man Brandon Wright (three years, $18 million) and traded for tenacious forward Matt Barnes, but are still in desperate need of perimeter shooting. Adding a guy like Steve Novak would be immensely helpful.
Look for the Grizz to come back hungry next season. I predict they finish in the top-four in the Western Conference in 2015-2016.
7) LeBron James signs two-year deal worth $47 million.
No surprise here. Do you think James ever gets tired of having to “make decisions”? His second year is a player option, so probably not.
8) Paul Millsap chooses the Hawks over the Magic; signs three-year, $58 million contract extension.
The Hawks were definitely the NBA’s biggest surprise last season. True team basketball led Atlanta to the best record in the Eastern Conference. They were somewhat reminiscent of the 2004 Pistons in that every starter figured prominently and equally in the team’s success.
Free agent forward DeMarre Carroll left to sign with the Raptors in a mind-boggling deal (four years, $60 million). All eyes turned to all-star forward Paul Millsap who was arguably the Hawks’ best player last season. Losing him would have been a huge blow, and it would have shot Atlanta back down to mediocrity.
Luckily, Millsap re-signed, and the Hawks will remain in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. But that’s about all—they’re in the picture, but just in the peripheries.
Millsap says he stayed because he wants to build off of last season. Atlanta will not find the same success they did this past season, as foreshadowed by their lackluster second half.
Millsap will keep the Hawks afloat. They won’t reach the finals, and they most likely won’t even make it to the conference finals. Atlanta finds itself in an all-too-familiar position—basketball purgatory.
9) Patrick Beverley (four years, $23 million) and Corey Brewer (three years, $23.4 million) will return to Houston.
The Houston Rockets made it to the Western Conference Finals last season and did it without one of their key pieces. Patrick Beverley tore ligaments in his left wrist in March, requiring him to undergo season-ending surgery.
As one of the best defenders in the league, Beverley could have really helped slow down Steph Curry who ran roughshod over the helpless Rockets. With Beverley in the lineup, Houston’s defense is so much better. He’s a game changer.
Since Beverley was forced to sit out during the playoffs, other Rockets stepped up. Corey Brewer was one of those guys. He demonstrated his offensive value by drilling huge threes for his team when they needed it most. Brewer became an important scoring option down the stretch and was arguably the x-factor for Houston’s deep playoff run.
By holding onto Beverley and Brewer (and likely re-signing mid-season acquisition, Josh Smith), the Rockets are sticking with a formula that worked. They were the perfect compliments to MVP runner-up James Harden and Dwight Howard. Another year with the same core guys will only improve the team.
Houston will be title contenders for years to come.
10) Brook Lopez (three years, $60 million) and Thaddeus Young (four years, $60 million) are headed back to Brooklyn.
Best case scenario for the Nets: they stay healthy and grab the seventh or eight seed in the East. Worst case scenario: they miss the playoffs. Expect the ladder. Their future is certainly looking bleak for the Brooklyn Nets.
Remember the trade where the Nets acquired Paul Pierce and KG? Well, both guys are far away from Brooklyn now, and the Nets gave up four (that’s right, four) future first round drafts picks to get them. Sounds like a mid-2000s Knicks move! Just call Mikhail Prokhorov the Russian Isiah.
11) Reggie Jackson signs five-year, $80 million deal with the Pistons.
In a league filled with talented point guards, Reggie Jackson gets lost in the mix (although his name certainly makes him stand out).
The Pistons traded for Jackson in the midst of the 2014-2015 campaign after Brandon Jennings went down. Jackson played well, averaging a little over 17 PPG and 9 APG. That being said, I don’t see the combination of Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond leading the Pistons anywhere, even in the Eastern Conference.
Although they recently added Marcus Morris and veteran Danny Granger, the Pistons will struggle to make the playoffs. Stan Van Gundy has the tough task of figuring out how to utilize his two points guards—Jackson and Jennings (a.k.a. J & J Security)—together. I don’t see them meshing well, mostly because they both need the ball in their hands to be effective.
It appears more Motown mediocrity is on its way.
And check out how John Wall feels about making the same amount of money as Reggie Jackson. He provides an interesting take on the new CBA.
12) Thunder match Blazers offer sheet to Enes Kanter, sign him to a max deal for four years, $70.
The Thunder are in a dangerous position. Kevin Durant will be a free agent after the season, and Russell Westbrook is set to become one the following year. The 2015-2016 campaign is an enormous part of OKC’s pitch to their superstars, and management understands that.
The team is bringing back big man Enes Kanter who averaged 19 PPG and 11 RPG after being traded to the Thunder mid-season. It was an important re-signing, but OKC will be forced to do something that they’ve always been firmly against—pay a luxury tax fee.
A few years ago, a key Thunder player asked for a max deal. OKC, considering the limited financial resources at their disposal, refused to “show him the money” because they didn’t want to cross the luxury tax threshold. That mystery man is James Harden, and he has become one of the best players in the world.
So here’s what the Kanter deal means: The Thunder were more okay with giving a max deal to Enes Kanter than they were to James Harden three years ago. They’ll pay the luxury tax fine for Kanter, but were unwilling to do so for Harden. Whoops. Letting Harden go looks even worse for the Thunder now than it did before.
We can also interpret this deal in another way. It demonstrates how desperate the Thunder are to retain Durant and Westbrook. They will empty the bank and travel into luxury tax land to try to assemble a team that has the best opportunity to win a championship now.
A starting lineup of Westbrook, Waiters, Durant, Ibaka, and Kanter is great on paper, but there are still many question marks. Can Durant and Westbrook finally figure out how to play together? Will the two remain healthy? Are the Thunder deep enough? Can they actually compete with the Spurs, Warriors, and Rockets? Will Dion Waiters make sacrifices to better the team?
I believe the Thunder have all the ingredients (minus a bench guy or two), but can those ingredients fit well enough together to make the perfect championship stew? My inclination is no. However, if new coach Billy Donovan is able to figure out a way to utilize his extremely talented guys effectively and turn them into a cohesive unit, the Thunder will be very dangerous in the Wild West.
Other important re-signings that will be touched on more tomorrow:
Kawhi Leonard signs a max deal with the Spurs for five years, $90 million.
Khris Middleton re-signs with the Bucks for five years, $70 million.
The Suns and Brandon Knight agree to a five-year, $70 million contract extension.
Tim Duncan will return to the Spurs on a two-year deal worth $10.4 million.
Be sure to check out tomorrow’s Free Agency Extravaganza piece! It will review the biggest free agents who decided to take their talents to new cities.