Skip to content

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Ricky Rubio never talked to Kevin Love about staying with Timberwolves

    Sep 14, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

    Minnesota Timberwolves v Orlando Magic Minnesota Timberwolves v Orlando Magic

    “If he wanted to leave, there’s no reason to talk to him about it,” Rubio said.

  2. USA celebrates gold medal with lots of dancing (except Derrick Rose)

    Sep 14, 2014, 6:59 PM EDT

    James Harden James Harden

    The celebration was more entertaining than most of the game.

  3. Too much World Cup MVP Kyrie Irving for Serbia to handle as USA wins gold easily 129-92

    Sep 14, 2014, 5:18 PM EDT

    2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup - Day Fourteen Getty Images

    With the win the USA is automatically qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

  4. Brooklyn Nets top 10 plays of 2014 season (VIDEO)

    Sep 14, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    Brooklyn Nets v Toronto Raptors - Game Five Getty Images

    Lots of Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston, both of whom left Brooklyn this summer in free agency.

  5. Report: Earl Clark gets training camp contract with Memphis

    Sep 14, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    Earl Clark, Miroslav Raduljica AP

    It’s a long shot, but he’s at least got his foot in the door somewhere.

  6. Hornets coach says team needs to add ‘another big guy’ following Noah Vonleh’s injury

    Sep 14, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    Noah Vonleh Noah Vonleh

    Vonleh will miss all of the preseason, and his new head coach believes that will cost him an early opportunity to enter the rotation.

  7. FIBA not expecting to change World Cup format following Australia’s intentional loss

    Sep 14, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    2014-FIBA-Basketball-WorldCup

    It was obvious that Australia threw the game against Angola to try to avoid Team USA in the tournament for as long as possible.

  8. Gordon Hayward calls time with Team USA a ‘confidence booster’

    Sep 14, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    Team USA Showcase Getty Images

    Hayward attended training camp, but didn’t make the final cut to be a part of the 12-man roster.

  9. Carmelo Anthony reiterates he’s excited to play in triangle offense

    Sep 14, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    New York Knicks v Toronto Raptors Getty Images

    Anthony can thrive in the triangle — if he moves the ball.

  10. FIBA World Cup USA vs. Serbia preview: Serbia no pushover but Americans should grab gold

    Sep 14, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup - Day Eleven Getty Images

    Serbia looks on paper to be just another speed bump between the USA and gold.

  11. Derrick Rose on his FIBA World Cup performance: ‘I would give it an A’

    Sep 13, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT

    Derrick Rose Derrick Rose

    Rose has averaged 5.4 points per game on 27.3 percent shooting.

  12. France beats Lithuania to win World Cup bronze

    Sep 13, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    Nicolas Batum, Jonas Valanciunas Nicolas Batum, Jonas Valanciunas

    Bronze was a quality finish for the defending European champions.

  13. New Hawks CEO posts open letter to fans: ‘We are very sorry’

    Sep 13, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    Danny Ferry Danny Ferry

    Read the entire letter from Atlanta’s new CEO, which details plans on how he intends to change the team culture.

  14. Carmelo Anthony says nobody would want to play for Hawks

    Sep 13, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    Philadelphia 76ers v New York Knicks Getty Images

    Anthony was very direct in his assessment of the racially insensitive remarks made by the team’s GM and ownership.

  15. Rudy Gay upset over ‘dirty play’ that caused him to suffer a fractured jaw in Team USA’s win over Lithuania

    Sep 13, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    DeMarcus Cousins caught an elbow too, and the teams had to be separated once the game was over.

Featured video

How has sale of Hawks made other NBA owners nervous?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Ferry (3470)
  2. D. Rose (3227)
  3. J. Valanciunas (2419)
  4. K. Bryant (2383)
  5. L. James (2359)
  1. G. Monroe (2061)
  2. P. George (2043)
  3. K. Irving (1901)
  4. R. Allen (1808)
  5. C. Billups (1754)