NBA Free Agency Report: Part 2

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Photo: Keith Allison/Flickr/Creative Commons 

LeBron James may still be on the market (well, sort of), but most of the available marquee free agent names have now been snapped up. In part two of our free-agency breakdown we look at another five new signings that were agreed to in principle over the weekend. Remember: no deal can be officially finalized until July 9, when the moratorium period ends.
 
(Check out the deals that went down last week right here.) 

LaMarcus Aldridge signs with the San Antonio Spurs
(4 years, $80 million)

For the better part of a decade the San Antonio Spurs have been minor participants in free agency—tinkering around the edges of their always potent, championship-level roster. The Spurs just haven’t felt the need to go after any marquee free agents during the Tim Duncan era. Not so, this year. This summer the Spurs went out and grabbed the biggest free agent available, LaMarcus Aldridge, beating out many teams in the process (including those hapless Lakers). Aldridge, a Texas native, is a career 20-10 machine; a ridiculously versatile offensive player with slick post-up skills and possibly the best mid-range game in the league.

With Tim Duncan likely entering his final season later this year (although we’re sure it’s been said before) and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili past their primes, R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich wanted to ensure that the Spurs could remain successful while transitioning from the old guard to the new. Kawhi Leonard (whose new deal was agreed to earlier in the week) will be the face of the franchise going forward, but Aldridge gives the Spurs a potent presence in the frontcourt—both with his scoring and on the boards—as Duncan winds down his Hall-of-Fame career.

The Spurs may have lost in the first round of the playoffs last season, but heading into the 2015-2016 season they’ll be one of the favourites again. The rich get richer.

DeAndre Jordan signs with the Dallas Mavericks
(4 years, $80 million)

Last season DeAndre Jordan blossomed into one of the most explosive big men in the league. While his candidacy for Defensive Player of the Year—consistently trumpeted by his coach, Doc Rivers—may have been overblown, Jordan established himself as a genuine rim protector, a gobbler of rebounds at both ends of the floor and a brutally effective pick-n-roll finisher. In fact, when Blake Griffin went down mid-way through the season with injury, Jordan really came into his own, upping his offensive production and establishing a great chemistry with point guard Chris Paul.

Jordan could’ve stayed in Los Angeles and signed for more money with the Clippers, but inside sources claim that he had some misgivings about Rivers’ roster going forward and preferred to sign a shorter deal with the Mavericks, returning home to Texas. The Clippers have a massive hole to fill now. The Mavericks for their part went all out to impress Jordan—Mark Cuban, Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons went into recruitment overdrive, while the team even went so far as to record messages from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and wide receiver Dez Bryant (Jordan is a huge Cowboys fan) urging Jordan to sign with Dallas. As it turns out, the elaborate sales pitch was well worth the effort.

Tyson Chandler signs with the Phoenix Suns
(4 years, $52 million)

With the Mavericks going all-out to sign DeAndre Jordan, veteran centre Tyson Chandler, who had just finished his second stint with the team, became surplus to requirements. Just like he did back in 2011, Chandler left Dallas to sign with another organization—this time, the Phoenix Suns. Chandler still has plenty left in the tank—the Mavericks essentially just went with a younger version of Chandler—and when healthy he’s an extremely high-IQ defender who can roll to the rim and finish explosively.

The Suns will be more than happy to snap up Chandler on what looks to be a very reasonable contract. The team had a difficult 2014-15 campaign after being the feel-good story of the year a season earlier. But Phoenix still has a talented, young core in place, led by the backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight. Even though the front office swung and missed in their attempt to convince LaMarcus Aldridge to come to Arizona, the addition of Chandler brings much-needed defensive acumen and leadership to the team.

Rajon Rondo signs with the Sacramento Kings
(1 year, $10 million)

If there’s any team that could do with some leadership right now it’s the Sacramento Kings. The organization has been a mess for more than a decade, but the dysfunction has reached farcical levels this off-season. Coach George Karl overstepped his mark, insisting that the team trade star man DeMarcus Cousins, which in turn led to rumours that owner Vivek Ranadive was on the verge of firing Karl, his fourth head coach, instead. Once the dust settled (although the Karl-Cousins rift is far from over) the Kings traded valuable picks and young players to the 76ers in order to open up cap room for a big free-agency splash.

Freeing up cap-room for yourself is all well and good if it results in a major star coming to your team, but the biggest fish that the Kings have landed so far is past-his-prime point guard Rajon Rondo. Three or four seasons ago Rondo was one of the best guards in the league, but injuries have caught up with him and a disastrous season with the Mavericks drastically cooled the market on the four-time All-Star. The Kings are hoping that Rondo can rekindle his old Celtics form, but his lack of shooting and difficult temperament will have fans in Sacramento adopting a wait-and-see approach to this signing.

Dwyane Wade re-signs with the Miami Heat
(1 year, $20 million)

Another player who signed a one-year deal—with an eye on hitting free-agency once again next summer when the salary cap goes up—was long-term Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade. Wade has been a member of the Heat since the team drafted him back in 2003 and has won three NBA championships on the way to establishing himself as one of the best shooting guards in NBA history. But for a while this season it looked as though Wade would finally depart from South Beach. Wade opted-out of the final year of his previous contract, looking for a more lucrative deal having already sacrificed money twice in his Heat tenure in order to accommodate the signings of LeBron James back in 2010 and Chris Bosh last season. The Heat, for their part, were worried about doling out too much money to Wade considering his age and injury history.

Despite the brief impasse, however, Wade sat down for a seemingly productive meeting with Pat Riley and team owner Micky Arison towards the end of last week and ironed out an agreement for next season. Wade got the $20 million he was asking for, plus a chance to hit free agency again next season, while the Heat will feel like the brevity of the contract minimizes risk on their part. Wade’s knees have become increasingly suspect over the last few years, but when he’s on the court, he remains a very effective player. Savvy fakes and great footwork (in other words, the quintessential old-man game) offset what he’s lost in speed. Wade should pair up nicely again with point guard Goran Dragic, who agreed to a big deal last Wednesday.
 
 
 
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