Recapping the Frenzy

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As the Dust Settles: Who Are the Winners and Losers of Free Agency?

There is no better offseason in sports than the NBA’s offseason.

This offseason may turn into one of the most memorable offseason of all largely in part to the quick turnaround due to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s crazy to think that the NBA Draft was just a week ago and training camp is set to kick off in less than seven days.

That did not stop many teams from making key moves which inspired our list of free agency winners and losers!

Winners – Los Angeles Lakers 

We have to acknowledge the champs first.

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are surely feeling confident as they are set to enter the upcoming season. That confidence must be pretty high considering they may just be a better team this season than they were during their championship winning season.

Kind of crazy, but let’s take a deeper look.

Superstar forward Anthony Davis will be back and it is only a matter of time before he signs a new deal with the team. The only roadblock left to cross here is the terms and conditions, similar to what you overlook when downloading an app on your smartphone. The point is, it’ll get done.

What else did the Lakers do?

They brought back Markieff Morris on a dirt cheap deal (just look at what his twin brother received from the Clippers as a reference). They re-signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, added a veteran defensive presence up front in Marc Gasol, traded for Sixth Man runner-up Dennis Schroeder, and also found great value in free agent signings Montrezl Harrell and Wesley Matthews.

Not a bad offseason for the champs.

Losers – Denver Nuggets

After stumbling their way into a Western Conference Finals berth, the Denver Nuggets have done little to better themselves this offseason.

They re-signed aging veteran Paul Millsap, but lost Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, and Torrey Craig. Only thing they have to show for their free agent losses is JaMychal Green who was brought in on a two-year deal. Of course, the trio of Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic, and Michael Porter Jr. is exciting, but surely there were bigger plans heading into the 2020 offseason.

Winners – Atlanta Hawks

I LOVE this team!

There may not be a single team that has had a better offseason. The Hawks and general manager Travis Schlenk have addressed seemingly every glaring hole on the roster.

Depth, shooting, and defense were all question marks heading into the winter and all three issues were adequately answered.

On the shooting front, the Hawks added Danilo Galinari and essentially stole Bogdan Bogdanovic from the Milwaukee Bucks. On the defensive end, they drafted high-upside big man Onyeka Okongwu out of USC in the lottery, while adding Tony Snell, Kris Dunn, and Solomon Hill – all versatile defensive-minded players. The Hawks offseason didn’t end there as they added some championship pedigree in the form of Rajon Rondo.

The Hawks anticipate continued growth from Cameron Reddish, DeAndre Hunter, and Kevin Huerter, and I anticipate a playoff appearance from this young and exciting Hawks team!

Losers – Charlotte Hornets

The Charlotte Hornets have been plagued with salary cap mismanagement for years.

Poor free agency decision and simply bad roster construction ideologies have become the two calling cards of the Michael Jordan-led organization and there is no light at the end of the tunnel in sight. Nic Batum opted into the last year of his very expensive deal, but the Hornets have chosen to waive him to make room for the oft-injured former All-Star Gordon Hayward. They now have found themselves a new questionable and risky long-term commitment.

For how much you may ask?

The 30-year old swingman is due to earn $120-million over the next four years.

Hold this ‘L’, MJ.

Winner – Fred VanVleet

The Toronto Raptors gambled on a undrafted senior out of a mid-major college and that bet paid off.

This offseason, Fred VanVleet inked the largest contract ever signed by an undrafted player in NBA history at four-years, $85-million.

If that is not a win, I simply don’t know what is. Raptors know full well that there aren’t many players more deserving of such a pay day. VanVleet’s journey to stardom was unconventional to say the least, but the undersized point guard grinded on his game in the G League with the 905 and transformed into an invaluable part of the first championship-winning team in Raptors’ history, even earning a Finals’ MVP vote.

A job well done by Fred ‘Bet on Your$elf’ VanVleet!

Losers – Golden State Warriors

Bringing in Kelly Oubre is a nice move from a basketball sense, but boy was it a pricy move for a team already strapped up salary wise.

The plan for 2020-21 was simple.

Back at full health, the goal has always been to return to championship prominence with their core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. They added second overall pick James Wiseman into the fold and Canadian Andrew Wiggins was set to enter his first full season with the Warriors.

That was the original plan, but the reality is that the Warriors will have to go through yet another season without Thompson who tore his Achilles last week. There is no replacement for Thompson and the loss may have turned the Warriors from a championship contender to a team that should not even be considered to crack the conference finals.

Winners – Portland Trail Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers have refused to give up on their core of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, and it might pay off this coming season.

The big talking point is of course that the Blazers will have a healthy Jusuf Nurkic back from the start of the season. What is especially exciting is that Portland will surrounding their star trio with the newly acquired Enes Kanter and Robert Covington, and four key signing in Harry Giles, Derrick Jones Jr., Carmelo Anthony, and Rodney Hood.

With another year of development from young guards Gary Trent Jr. and Anfernee Simons, the Blazers have many interchangeable pieces and can present a multitude of different looks for opponents from a lineup perspective, whether it is going small with Robert Covington at the five or going big with Nurkic and Giles on the court simultaneously.

Head Coach Terry Stotts has options this seasons and it will be interesting to see how he deploys them!

Losers – Houston Rockets

Daryl Morey and Mike D’Antoni left and everything seems to be falling apart.

Russell Westbrook has an atrocious contract that may be impossible to move, while James Harden is clearly unhappy in Houston and may force a trade sooner rather than later. The Christian Woods signing was nice, but trading Covington is the type of move that makes you question what the plan in Houston is.

Chaos is the only way to describe the ongoings in Houston and if the goal is still to compete this season, they are not off to a good start.

Honourable Mentions

  • Winners:
    • Philadelphia 76ers for moving Horford’s contract
    • Phoenix Suns for adding Chris Paul and revamping the entire roster making a playoff appearance extremely possible
    • Miami Heat extended Bam Adebayo while continuing to make smart salary cap decisions to create flexibility for next offseason
  • Losers:
    • Milwaukee Bucks for butchering the Bogdanovic sign-and-trade and failing to receive a long-term commitment from Giannis Antetokounmpo
    • The biggest move made by the Indiana Pacers were replacing Nate McMillan
    • Washington Wizards overpaid for Davis Bertans and seemingly have created tension between the organization and star point guard John Wall

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