Of course, it should be noted that no team is able to officially sign free agents until July 11th, when the league’s moratorium period ends, but players can verbally commit to a team before that date. Expect more drama in the coming days, with the destinations of Dwight Howard, Ray Allen and Jeremy Lin still very much undecided. In the meantime though, here are the top-5 moves of the summer thus far
5: Lamar Odom to the L.A. Clippers
This may seem like a strange choice at first. The Clippers’ only piece of business so far has been to acquire the biggest bust of last season, Lamar Odom, in a four-way deal involving Dallas, Houston and Utah. That said, I really like Odom on this Clippers team.
As has been mentioned many times before, Odom is a very fragile guy emotionally. How he performs on the court almost always hinges upon what’s going on in his life away from basketball. Last year Odom wasn’t happy. He moved away from the Lakers—a team that he had previously taken a pay cut to stay with—after initially being part of that nixed Chris Paul trade. He felt extremely betrayed and was never comfortable in Dallas. Odom’s head just wasn’t in the game.
Coming back to his beloved Los Angeles (this time to the team that drafted him) should get Odom back into the groove. Don’t forget, this is the same guy that won the 6th Man of the Year Award just a couple seasons ago—surely the game hasn’t passed him by in that short period of time. A refocused Odom will be just what the Clippers require. Last year they were extremely stagnant offensively when Paul and Griffin were on the bench, and Odom, as their 6th man, should give them a dynamic scoring and rebounding presence.
4: Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics
Less than a year ago it appeared as though Garnett’s days in a Celtics’ uniform were numbered. The Celtics were struggling, under .500 before the all-star break, and there was talk that Danny Ainge was getting ready to blow the team up and start over. Not so fast.
After a wretched beginning, the Celtics turned their season around. They were one of the best teams in the NBA after the all-star break and were one game away from making the NBA Finals. A large part of their success was due to the hugely unexpected, and age-defying performances of Garnett. During the second half of the season, but particularly in the playoffs, Garnett was absolutely immense. In-fact, at times it looked like we were witnessing a vintage KG—the 2004 MVP version. Garnett was putting up 20-10s throughout the post-season and was once again the vocal leader for a gutsy Celtics team.
Despite his fantastic efforts, however, many still felt that Garnett was playing his last season as a Celtic. Not the case. Garnett has verbally agreed to sign a 3-year deal, reportedly worth around $34 million. Those close to the Celtics say that according to Garnett, it was a choice between the Celtics and retirement. That’s loyalty for you!
Given the fact that Garnett showed little sign of slowing down, once he got used to the rigours of the schedule, this is a good piece of business for the Celtics. Throw in Jason Terry, who the Celtics also verbally agreed terms with, and the possible re-signing of Ray Allen, and that title window may just stay open a little longer.
3: Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets
This was the most surprising move of the summer so far. Joe Johnson’s contract, quite frankly, seemed untradeable. The Hawks still owed the enigmatic shooting-guard $90 million over the next four years, and he was set to make almost $25 million in the 2015/2016 season alone—at age 35 no less! There seemed to be no way that Atlanta’s new G.M. Danny Ferry, could convince someone to take on that awful contract. But convince someone he did.
As it turns out, the Nets were eager for some star power to begin their new life in Brooklyn with. The Nets traded a host of expiring contracts to Atlanta, plus DeShawn Stevenson in a sign-and-trade, for Johnson’s services.
And to be honest, this may be one of the few NBA trades that manages to please both sets of fans. For the Hawks, they’ve managed to clear Johnson’s crippling contract off the books and can now begin a long overdue rebuilding process. Intriguingly, they now possess enough cap room to take a run at signing Howard, who is an Atlanta native.
For Brooklyn, they now possess a legitimate all-star in Johnson. Admittedly, Johnson can be inconsistent, and sometimes infuriatingly passive, but he has tons of talent, and may rise to the occasion under the bright lights of New York. Most importantly, the acquisition of Johnson may have convinced a certain all-star point guard to re-sign with the team.
2: Steve Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers
I guess there’s just something irresistible about playing for the Lakers. Perhaps it’s the perpetual sunshine, the chance to mingle with celebrities, the beautiful Pacific Ocean, or maybe playing in front of the legendary Jack Nicholson every week. Or maybe it’s a little matter of donning the colours of one of the most storied franchises in NBA history—joining a team that once featured legends like Baylor, West, Chamberlain, Kareem, Magic, Worthy and Shaq.
Well, actually, for Steve Nash, Canada’s greatest ever basketball player, it was more a matter of playing for a contender, and being close to his kids in Phoenix. The Suns were happy to repay Nash’s services to them by carrying out a sign-and-trade deal with the Lakers, that sent Nash to Los Angeles for 2 future 1st round picks and 2 second round picks.
At 38-years old, Nash is coming off one of his best seasons in the league. He averaged 12 and 10 for a team that had no 20-point scorers, and no players with the ability to create their own shots. In L.A., Nash will have a far better supporting cast. A Nash-Bryant-Gasol-Bynum core sounds pretty tantalizing and Nash should be able to generate easy buckets in the half-court for the Lakers’ two uber-talented big-men.
It remains to be seen, however, how he meshes with Kobe. Nash needs to get the ball to be effective, and Bryant can be reluctant to part with his favourite possession. However, if Kobe’s smart (which he is) he’ll realize that Nash will save him a lot of physical hardship, and will extend his career by getting him the ball closer to the basket.
Are the Lakers now good enough to get past the likes of OKC? Unlikely. But Mitch Kupchak is undoubtedly making every effort to get Kobe that 6th ring, and they’re a far better team now with Nash on the roster.
And before we move to number 1, spare a thought for Raptors fans, who might have assumed they were in pole position to land Canada’s favourite son. Toronto offered the most money for Nash (3 years, $36 million), and even extended an offer to Landry Fields (way too much money), in order to prevent the Knicks from executing a sign-and-trade with Fields, that would’ve given them extra leverage in a deal with the Suns. Bryan Collangelo missed out, however, and Toronto moved on to pursue Kyle Lowry. As that young Miami Heat fan once said: “Good job, good effort!”
Boy, Nash is going to look strange in purple and yellow.
1: Deron Williams to the Brooklyn Nets
The Nets’ risky piece of business to trade for D-Will, when he was at the end of his contract with Utah, has paid off handsomely. After a long, protracted courtship, in which Brooklyn had to compete for Williams’ services with the team from his home town, the Dallas Mavericks, the Nets finally got Williams to commit to a 5-year deal worth about $100 million. Because of the terms of the C.B.A. the Mavericks could only offer Williams a 4-year deal worth $75 million.
Williams actually broke the news of the re-signing himself, beating all the NBA insiders to the punch, by posting a picture of the Nets’ new logo from his Twitter account. Williams may have been convinced to re-sign with the Nets because of their other summer acquisitions. The re-signing of useful swingman Gerald Wallace, and most importantly, the blockbuster trade brining all-star Joe Johnson to the team, probably persuaded Williams that Brooklyn was serious about putting a team together that could challenge for a championship. Other than Dirk, Dallas simply doesn’t have the pieces that would’ve convinced D-Will that he was better off in his home town.
From Brooklyn’s perspective, the re-signing of Williams is huge. He’s a top-5 point guard in the NBA—a dynamic scorer and passer who, if surrounded by the right players, can lead a team deep into the playoffs. The duo of Johnson and Williams now makes Brooklyn a very attractive destination for a certain Mr. Dwight Howard—reportedly he wants to sign there. Whether Brooklyn actually has the pieces necessary to convince Orlando to trade him there is highly debatable. Whatever happens with Howard, however, the core of Johnson, Wallace, Williams and the talented young guard, MarShon Brooks, make the Nets a shoe-in for the playoffs next year. Things are looking up Jay-Z.