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Winners and losers to this point in NBA free agency

Jul 7, 2013, 11:00 PM EDT

Los Angeles Clippers Introduce Chris Paul Getty Images

Teams began entering into agreements with free agent players shortly after midnight Eastern on July 1, but due to a league-imposed moratorium on activity, no deals can be officially signed until July 10.

We’re almost there, and plenty of the top names available have indeed been swooped up by teams looking to make a splash next season. While there are still some major impact players left on the market, let’s take a look on some of the winners and losers to this point in the free agent sweepstakes.

WINNER: Houston Rockets. Dwight Howard chose Houston as the place he’ll sign for the next four seasons, even though his deal contains an opt-out after three that could either see him walk, or sign an extension to remain there into the twilight of his career. In addition to Howard, the team is locking up shooters like Francisco Garcia and guys that can contribute meaningful minutes off the bench if called upon like Omri Casspi.

It remains to be seen if Houston is done making moves, or if they’ll look to do something with the contracts of Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik. But for now, pairing Howard with James Harden is a huge win for the Rockets organization.

ALSO A WINNER: The Lakers. It’s true that the Lakers wanted Howard to stay in Los Angeles, and were willing to see their payroll exceed $90 million next season (even before luxury tax penalties, which would have been massive) to make that happen. A max contract for five years was what the Lakers happily would have offered for Howard’s services, but now that he’s gone, the reality that he was never a match for the franchise can finally be allowed to sink in.

Howard didn’t enjoy playing with Kobe Bryant, felt marginalized in Mike D’Antoni’s system, and never embraced the pressure of playing for a franchise where championships were not only expected, but demanded. Shaquille O’Neal was right about Howard to a certain extent, and even if he had chosen to stay with the Lakers, trouble would have been brewing in that relationship very soon, and it would have caused more harm than good for both sides.

The Lakers have nothing to do in free agency but wait a season until they have an almost completely clean slate from a salary cap perspective, but it seems as though they dodged a bullet where Howard was concerned, despite the organization’s best efforts to sign him.

LOSER: Milwaukee Bucks. We qualified these characterizations up top by saying it’s as of right now, with plenty of time left for things to change. But at the moment, Milwaukee isn’t looking all that sharp. The Bucks traded for J.J. Redick at the deadline last season, only to deal him away to the Clippers in the three-way trade that sent  Eric Bledsoe to the Suns, which netted Milwaukee nothing more than a couple of future second round draft picks.

Combine that with Monta Ellis appearing as though he’ll leave, along with the yet-to-be-resolved situation with Brandon Jennings, and it’s been a rough go of it so far. The team did add O.J. Mayo as a more cost-effective (but less dynamic) replacement for Ellis, and signed a solid veteran big man in Zaza Pachulia. But none of that screams improvement for a Bucks squad that finished six games below .500 last season, and it appears as though they’re grabbing players to fill roster spots without much of a long-term plan for success.

LOSER: Utah Jazz. The Jazz had two high-quality, unrestricted free agents in Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. There were rumors that at least one would be dealt at the trade deadline last season, because it would have made sense to get some assets in return for guys you weren’t planning on signing once the season was over.

The trade deadline came and went, however, and both Jefferson and Millsap remained on the roster. Utah fought for the final playoff spot in the West, before ultimately succumbing to Houston and the Lakers to finish the season as part of the group of teams in the draft lottery.

Now, Jefferson has chosen Charlotte, and Millsap has agreed to play in Atlanta. The Jazz, meanwhile, chose to start from scratch by taking on the bad contracts of Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins from the Warriors.

WINNER: The Clippers. There was no question that Chris Paul would stay in the big market of Los Angeles and take all of that guaranteed money that staying with his current team would provide. But the Clippers tried their best to screw things up by having ownership publicly hang Paul out to dry where Vinny Del Negro was concerned, and Paul wasn’t at all happy with how that whole saga played out.

It’s amazing, however, what a few shrewd moves can do to quickly change those perceptions.

The Clippers managed to get Doc Rivers to leave the Celtics to become their head coach, before going out and solidifying the roster in hopes of making a deeper postseason run next year. L.A. retained Matt Barnes, added Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick in the trade that sent Bledsoe out of town before his salary demands became too unmanageable, and then replaced Bledsoe with a similar but more reasonably priced version of a backup for Paul in Darren Collison.

EYE OF THE BEHOLDER: Nets, Pistons, Bobcats. The view you have on the moves that these three teams made largely will depend on your opinion of how to best go about building an NBA franchise.

If you’re of the opinion that you need to get worse before you can get better, by bottoming out to clear cap space and then earning high-lottery draft picks in order to secure a young and talented roster, then it’s more than likely you’re not in favor of the moves made by these franchises.

Let’s start in Brooklyn, where the Nets are never going to pursue that model as long as billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov is running the show. He favors immediate success and relevance above all else, so bringing in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to add to a starting lineup already featuring Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez is pretty much going to be the way things are done in Brooklyn for the foreseeable future.

The bench depth, along with just how effective Pierce and Garnett can be at this late stage of their respective careers, will be serious questions in terms of just how far the Nets can go during a run through the postseason. But on the flip-side, they’ll be a top-four team in the East, and will be extremely intriguing to watch.

As for the Bobcats and the Pistons, both teams made similarly big moves to add star power immediately instead of waiting (or in this case, continuing) to try to rebuild in the conventional way. Charlotte added Al Jefferson from the Jazz, and Detroit went out and got Josh Smith from the Hawks.

Neither of these moves make a ton of sense when you consider the rest of the players currently in place on the respective rosters. But at some point, teams need to stop being terrible in favor of being just bad in order to give the fans a certain level of hope, and give them a top-level talent to root for while adding a few more wins to the season-long struggle to develop the youth for the future.

  1. casualcommenter - Jul 7, 2013 at 11:23 PM

    The Lakers lost Dwight Howard (an All-Star) and Earl Clark (a good young role player), and they’re winners in free agency? Huh?

    If both Carmelo and LeBron decide to stay with their own teams in 2014 rather than join a 40 year old Steve Nash and 35 year old Kobe Bryant (who has vowed to play another couple of seasons), the Lakers will have no superstars to sign in 2014 with all that cap space you mention.

    So by “winning” in free agency this year, according to this site’s logic, the Lakers “won” a season of being too good to truly tank (courtesy of having Kobe, Nash, and Pau on the roster), but nowhere near good enough to truly contend without Howard (the Lakers last year were awful defensively with Howard on the bench), likely followed by unsuccessful pursuits of Carmelo and LeBron.

    • j4db - Jul 8, 2013 at 12:07 AM

      As a Lakers fan, I agree. Nothing we did this offseason leads me to believe the Lakers came out as “winners”.They failed to re-sign Clark, they failedto atleast do a sign-and-trade to get something back for dwight, and they haven’t signed any free agents that would feel the holes we have at PG, SF, and now Center. And the front office is banking on a superstar signing with the Lakers. Lebron and Melo are already on championship-caliber teams! I don’t understand why people keep thinking that they would leave to play for the lakers which has lesser assets. So I’m not really sure where this organization is headed.

    • johnsmith1973 - Jul 8, 2013 at 1:07 AM

      Yes because the Laker’s need to unload some people on contract to lower the payroll so they do not have to pay 30 million in luxury taxes for going over the limit on salary. Second, going next season 2014 they already have a 40 million in cap space and if Kobe is willing to take less money that they can afford to buy Lebron James, Carmelo together or George and Hebert. Players need money and they are going where the money is if you care to notice.

    • zacksdad - Jul 8, 2013 at 10:36 AM

      I know after reading that losing an all-star center for nothing and you are a winner. I stopped reading the rest of the article, how can continue when this logic is applied.

      I guess Jimmie Buss must write under this pseudo name. He thinks he won, yet I bet Jeanie and Phil know the truth.

    • qadrir - Jul 8, 2013 at 1:02 PM

      Remember every writer needs to write a positive comment about this holly franchise. You cannot do blasphemy against Lakers or any of its start franchise players i.e KB, or you will forever be condemned to abyss of NBA hell.

      • Anoesis - Jul 8, 2013 at 4:33 PM

        “…holly franchise.” Christmas season begins earlier every year.

  2. saint1997 - Jul 7, 2013 at 11:24 PM

    I’d argue Jazz did the right thing. Why be a marginal 8 seed when you can develop Kanter and Favors all while being in the running to grab Parker or Wiggins in 2014 to pair with Burke and Burks?

    • JMClarkent - Jul 7, 2013 at 11:56 PM

      I agree. They made mistakes last year at the trading deadline, but what they have done in free agency so far is the way a small market gets itself out of mediocrity NBA hell.

  3. rickyspanish - Jul 7, 2013 at 11:57 PM

    “Howard didn’t enjoy playing with Kobe Bryant, felt marginalized in Mike D’Antoni’s system, and never embraced the pressure of playing for a franchise where championships were not only expected, but demanded.”

    How can any writer with respect for his craft write something so baseless? While it may be true, Howard has never said this. You’re acting like Howard came out and told everybody the pressure was too much, he didn’t. Your willingness to put words in another man’s mouth is reckless. Shame on you Mr Blogger, shame.

    • 00maltliquor - Jul 8, 2013 at 12:01 AM

      I hear you rickys and see where you are coming from. Nonetheless the writting is allllll over the wall bro. It’s not THAT baseless.

    • 00maltliquor - Jul 8, 2013 at 12:07 AM

      Plus, if it was really that off base Howard would come out right and vehemently deny and detest such chatter. He ain’t saying nathan.

    • bigmeechy74 - Jul 8, 2013 at 2:49 AM

      Shame? Can’t you find something else to get this offended about? Pick your battles. Jeez.

      • rickyspanish - Jul 8, 2013 at 4:13 AM

        There’s plenty that irks me, friend. This is a sports blog, it’s probably not the best venue for other pressing topics. While I understand the negative responses to my comment, think about this – when you’re reading news, would you prefer factually based commentary or would you rather read about the inner workings of a man’s psyche by an armchair psychologist? I’m not saying you’d be a fool to enjoy the latter, but I personally find it irresponsible to assume what others are thinking without any facts. I’m not offended by what Mr Blogger wrote, I just feel that pretending to know what another human is thinking to be silly.

    • jeepguy6 - Jul 8, 2013 at 11:08 AM

      Ricky, you probably believe that Howard had nothing to do with Stan Van Gundy fired too huh?

      • jeepguy6 - Jul 8, 2013 at 11:09 AM

        “Getting Stan Van Gundy fired” that is.

  4. 00maltliquor - Jul 7, 2013 at 11:58 PM

    Love the eye of the beholder section. Winners. Losers. Eyes of the beholder. I like. Agree with everything in the article. Although I’d add in DAL as a loser because three years ago they won the ultimate prize, then didn’t re-sign the guys that got them there. Tried to chase big name FA’s the past two years, swung and missed big.

    • loungefly74 - Jul 8, 2013 at 12:11 AM

      ive been on vacation the past 4 days…what did I miss?

      agree…the Mavs have really nothing to show for after all that chopping they did.

      the Lakers are winners? okay…I see his point. we may have a “down year or two” but they will be back!

      • 00maltliquor - Jul 8, 2013 at 12:18 AM

        4 days? A LOT.

        D12 is gone, btw. Hope you had a blast on vacay. Download the nbc sports app, we’ll be with you everywhere you are with the touch of a button, LOL!!! I also recommend scoremobile app. I get text every time someone agrees to a deal. Best app out there for sports fans/maniacs (like me.)

      • loungefly74 - Jul 8, 2013 at 8:04 AM

        just a quick trip outta town during the holiday. no biggie. i’m messing with ya , man…i was able to get like 1G speed on the phone in BFE. hehe. yeah, i got “scorecenter” downloaded…but i will check out “scoremobile”…(i dont think thats the same, right?)

        oh, yikes! 23 thumbs down! the pitchforks are out tonight! hahahaahah!

    • uncledrew22 - Jul 8, 2013 at 10:22 AM

      Mark Cuban rolled the dice and they came up snake-eyes.

  5. blakegriffin32 - Jul 8, 2013 at 12:04 AM

    Terrible article. Lakers–winners? Seriously?

    They’re doomed for the foreseeable future. And way to hang the clips out to dry. “Clippers did their best to screw things up” shut up. Everyone wanted Vinny gone and they should have. That doesn’t make anyone a coach killer or hard to coach–it makes them a smart basketball mind (unlike the man that is Vinny del negro. It’s no accident no team is even talking to him about a job. I mean come on. The only thing redeemable about him as a coach was his magic hair and even that isn’t much). What a hack of an article.

    • 00maltliquor - Jul 8, 2013 at 12:09 AM

      Yes. Seriously. Winners. And unless you consider only ONE measly year a “foreseeable future”, we are in better position now then a week ago.

  6. tv63 - Jul 8, 2013 at 12:27 AM

    Polakoff is a complete idiot to say Lakers are winners. Must have got a huge bonus to write that line of crap. By ALL accounts everywhere in the sports world and analyst all agree LAKERS ARE THE BIG LOSERS #1. Getting a 40 year old point guard, gave up future draft picks, refused to get young players, getting D’Antoni to coach BIGS was a train wreck waiting to happen and it did! How stupid was this GM last year.

  7. jwithat - Jul 8, 2013 at 1:35 AM

    people who think Lakers is NOT a winner need to ask themselves had Gasol, Brynt, or even Nash gone to another team what would that team get? nothing but a big A! what people aren’t getting is that these 3 are still great players and no right thinking opposing team would take them lightly.

    you heard it here, by some point in the playing season the lakers will be 3rd or 4th in the west standings, and all you naysayers will eat your words!

  8. pariseinminnesotabichez - Jul 8, 2013 at 2:46 AM

    TWolves aren’t winners? They basically stole K Mary

  9. pariseinminnesotabichez - Jul 8, 2013 at 2:47 AM

    K Mart*

    • uncledrew22 - Jul 8, 2013 at 10:24 AM

      Kevin Martin is a chucker who doesn’t play a lick of D. I’d say they’re losers.

      • Kevin S. - Jul 8, 2013 at 3:42 PM

        Kevin Martin is the exact opposite of a chucker. He’s an ultra-efficient wing who doesn’t use a ton of possessions. “Chucker” generally refers to a guy who takes a ton of shots and only makes a low-to-middling percentage of them. Try again.

  10. soundsofsuccess7 - Jul 8, 2013 at 4:14 AM

    Thank you for recognizing Dwight leaving LA as a win for them.

    That contract would have been ridiculous for a slightly above average player with zero leadership ability at all. Guy took a dump on the court last year and fouled out of his last game to close the book.

    Thank god the Dwightmare is out of LA.

    • cthunder67 - Jul 8, 2013 at 2:31 PM

      It’s only a win for them in terms of the Luxury tax. A lot of so called Laker fans want to blame DH for everything and label him a clown or as you said “a slightly above average player with zero leadership ability at all” But real Laker fans know the problem is Kobe and management. 1st management gave up future picks for aging veterans such as S. Nash who never could play a lick of D. 2nd they fired a defensive minded coach for D`Antoni to run his system that wasn’t a fit for the personall the team had. Lastly, everyone knows it’s not easy playing with Kobe, ex teammates Shaq and Bynum to current teammates Gasol and MWP have all stated. But overall the Lakers are losers and will be for the foreseeable future.

      1) If they wanted to keep DH they should have went out and got coach that could run a system where he would fit in.
      2)They would have been better off doing a sign and trade than letting him leave for nothing. Now Gasol is the starting center – good luck with that one.
      3) Letting Earl Clark walk was a mistake.
      4) Banking on 2014 that Carmelo, James or George will come to the Lakers is wishful thinking.

  11. thenoffer - Jul 8, 2013 at 7:34 AM

    Didn’t even mention the Warriors and they signed one of the best FA’s on the market.

  12. metalhead65 - Jul 8, 2013 at 7:36 AM

    the lakers will be winners only if as expected they tank next season and wind up in the lottery. go on try and convince me if they wind up in the lottery that they and not some franchise like the the bobcats that have been desperate for years will wind up with the # 1 pick. on second thought do not because you and I both know that is what will happen, there is no way the league will let one of the marquee teams flounder for more than a year and will ensure they come up with big prize.

    • Kevin S. - Jul 8, 2013 at 9:29 AM

      Yeah, just like the last time they were in the lottery and they landed all the way at number 10! Unless you want to argue that the league threw them that knowing what Bynum would turn into, lose the conspiracy theories.

  13. dcangelo - Jul 8, 2013 at 7:57 AM

    Charlotte signing Al Jefferson was a good move. I understand the concept of “getting worse before you get better” but at a certain point in time—-and for the Bobcats/Hornets (please, can’t we start calling them Hornets now and ditch the stupid Bob Johnson reference?), that point in time is now. The Pittsburgh Pirates spent 20 years explaining why they were trading decent players for “prospects” because “You have to get worse before you get better.” Stupid. Yes, you can spend one or two seasons blowing up the roster to start over—-then you need to start drafting smart and signing people who can make the team better. Jefferson can make Charlotte more competitive, NOW. In practice, for games, in the locker room—-you bring in a good player and others will respond. Bring in another good player and you start to attract better talent in general—-the team stops being a laughingstock/doormat and starts to be taken seriously.

  14. 1972wasalongtimeago - Jul 8, 2013 at 8:32 AM

    We’ll find out the winners and losers today at 1pm when Pearl Jam announces their upcoming tour schedule. Although we’re a long shot, lets hope the fellas decide to take their talents to South Beach! Surfing’s good here Ed!

    • 1972wasalongtimeago - Jul 8, 2013 at 1:22 PM

      Guess we’re the losers. Brooklyn looks like the big winner with two shows. Guess that’s why they invented airplanes

  15. lemfaxx - Jul 8, 2013 at 9:06 AM

    Lakers.,., hmmn… They are fine but not a winner… Utah i guess thats the best move for them… Nothing else.

  16. BigBeachBall - Jul 8, 2013 at 9:25 AM

    Just lost the number one center to free agency. Winning.

  17. davesmall1 - Jul 8, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    The Lakers have a history of being able to attract high-profile superstar players from other teams. They didn’t draft Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, Kareem, Pau Gasol, Shaq, or Ron Artest. They did draft Magic Johnson with the first pick in the draft.

    Will great players continue to fall into their lap? Is the lure of Hollywood that great?

    Miami is a very comfortable place for LeBron and his compadres to play and hang out. Nice weather, nice beaches, virtually unlimited $$, etc. Why leave to join an aging Kobe in L.A.?

    Carmelo is from New York and wanted to go back there when he was in Denver. I doubt he’s going to want to leave. Brooklyn’s owner is showing a willingness to spend big money to win now. They have a new arena. Life is good in NYC for Carmelo.

    Time for the Lakers to face facts. The Lakers are the new Bobcats. They’re going to have to rebuild the old fashioned way via the draft.

    • rc33 - Jul 8, 2013 at 12:24 PM

      ‘melo’s from Baltimore. His wife is from NYC.
      I mean, living and playing in SoCal has obvious appeal and that matters. But if that’s what you want, signing with the Clippers (and their elite PG and everyone-wants-to-play-for Head Coach) seems like the better alternative right now.
      As far as the the Lakers being a premier organization? Well, they still are. But that’s fickle, fleeting and won’t necessarily amount to anything next off season.

      • marcusfitzhugh - Jul 8, 2013 at 4:55 PM

        Actually when Melo was born, his parents brought him home to the red hooks housing projects in Brooklyn – part of NYC. He didn’t move to Baltimore until he was 8. Later, he attended college at Syracuse – also in New York. Melo is “from” New York.

        As for moving to LA, it may happen, but I don’t see it. Since they own his rights, no one can offer Melo more cash than the NY Knicks, LA is not a bigger NBA spotlight than NY, and Melo is not going to get more endorsements in LA than he will in the city. So what exactly is the incentive? Laker fans should concentrate on finding “the next big superstar” and stealing him. The current ones are already spoken for.

  18. hannsta - Jul 8, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    Lakers winners? Its like doing the whole boombox outside a girl’s window thing, then coming back and saying “It went great! I found out she wasnt the right girl for me anyway, and there will be plenty of other girls in the future.”

  19. caeser12 - Jul 8, 2013 at 10:36 AM

    Lakers: Lose their Center, who they swaore was the missing link, now everyone is glad he’s gone, (go figure),waiting on their Superstar to recover from an Achilles Injury, retain the one Guy the ENTIRE Laker “nation” wanted to get rid of (Pau, who should ask to leave), STILL have Mike D’Antoni as Head Coach, and Jimmy Buss as the Decision maker= Winners?

    Bizarro World.

  20. fm31970 - Jul 8, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    So Lakers lose the best free agent available and they’re deemed winners since they’ll win fewer games and be less talented next season…okay. The Bucks let Eliis walk (team killer, inefficient scorer, plays no defense) and they “lose”? WHAT!?!? Reddick was a rental, plain and simple. Everyone knows that and nobody expected him to re-sign the the Bucks when they traded for him, even the Bucks. Jennings wouldn’t be a huge loss either, as he’s gotten worse every year he’s been in the league. I guess addition by subtraction only makes sense if you’re the Lakers…

  21. rc33 - Jul 8, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    You gotta be flat-out high to think the Lakers are a big winner. Counting on LeBron coming your way” Good luck with that. And I think there’s little reason to believe ‘melo’s bailing on the Knicks and leaving NYC. East Coast kid, his wife is from NYC; it’s where he wants to be.
    More importantly, The Lake Show is over. Jerry’s gone and you’ve got Buss-the-way-way-lesser running the ship now. And that’s not even taking into account the obvious rebuild, regardless of their 2014 salary cap flexibility. Not quite as appealing.
    The Lakers still have cache but as the Celtics are finding out, it’s a season-to-season thing w/ regard to free agents and how they view things going forward.

  22. peripateopneuma - Jul 8, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    If the Mavericks get what is claimed, they have beefed up their guard play substantially, still have role players on the wings, and need some 3s and a 5 to make it happen. And if Bynum is healthy, they have the five. They would be competitive immediately. AND if they can gel in time, dangerous.

    Duh wight Howard is a whiner. It’s always someone else’s fault when he’s not happy.

    Losers push blame on others. He’s not a leader, he’s a whiner. Houston just became much more vulnerable. This is NOT a Hakeem Olajuwon. This isn’t even a Yao Ming.

    • cthunder67 - Jul 8, 2013 at 2:38 PM

      You may not like DH but to say that Houston just became much more vulnerable because he is playing for them. Shows just how clueless you are. Sure, they aren’t winning a Championship in the next 2 years. But adding DH to a lineup up with Lin and Harden makes them a pretty good team.

  23. ibeiannn - Jul 8, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    what about the trailblazers? we basically traded nothing to get robin lopez, thomas robinson, earl watson, dorell wright and we’re still not done… besides free agency, we also drafted cj mccollum and allen crabbe, better watch out for the trailblazers!

  24. eoneil32 - Jul 8, 2013 at 1:22 PM

    What about Neil Olshey and the Blazers?

  25. themonetizer - Jul 8, 2013 at 5:39 PM

    Disagree with the writer’s assessment of the Bobcats’ move to get Al Jefferson..yes, the team is rebuilding, but you also need some established vets to help lead the way and teach the younger stars with potential…Jefferson makes a ton of sense for a team that was near the bottom of the league in a lot of categories, including rebounding..they are now bigger with the addition of him and Zeller.

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