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. Knicks waive Ricky Ledo

    Jul 31, 2015, 9:21 AM EDT

    Ricky Ledo AP

    Guard didn’t show much in short stint in New York

  2. NBA lands in Africa trying to put down roots, which is all about youth programs, infrastructure

    Jul 31, 2015, 8:35 AM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptu5nzjmmwjlotdhnzrhn2iwytixngrhnwi2yzqwyjzk AP

    “One thing to come out of this will be more camps, more clinics, more games, more youth competition, and from that you get into infrastructure, and building more courts.” —Masai Ujiri, Raptors GM and native Nigerian

  3. Mark Cuban says trading for Rajon Rondo was tough call, “came down to a coin flip”

    Jul 31, 2015, 7:59 AM EDT

    Houston Rockets v Dallas Mavericks Getty Images

    “And the coin flip was as much about, is there going to be anything else that we could do? Because we knew we had to do something.” —Mark Cuban on trading for Rajon Rondo.

  4. Pau Gasol on Fred Hoiberg: “I think we’ll play with a better flow offensively”

    Jul 30, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT

    Pau Gasol Pau Gasol

    Hoiberg has a much stronger offensive reputation than Tom Thibodeau.

  5. Blazers waive Brendan Haywood after acquiring him from Cavs

    Jul 30, 2015, 10:43 PM EDT

    Brendan Haywood, Michael Beasley Brendan Haywood, Michael Beasley

    Portland received Mike Miller and two second-round picks in addition to Haywood.

  6. Report: Kings expected to hire Nancy Lieberman as assistant coach

    Jul 30, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    Austin Toros v Texas Legends Austin Toros v Texas Legends

    Lieberman would be the second female assistant coach, after Becky Hammon

  7. Report: Hawks’ Mike Scott arrested for felony drug possession

    Jul 30, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT

    Mike Scott Mike Scott

    Scott was charged with possession of marijuana and MDMA.

  8. Josh Smith clarifies “harder on me” comments in Players Tribune essay

    Jul 30, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Clippers Introduce Free Agent Signings Los Angeles Clippers Introduce Free Agent Signings

    Smith says he was talking more about family stability than money in his controversial comments.

  9. Tony Parker says for Spurs this is “last crack at it to try to win it all”

    Jul 30, 2015, 5:40 PM EDT

    Tony Parker, Tim Duncan Tony Parker, Tim Duncan

    In what will be the last year for Duncan and Manu Ginobili, not to mention David West’s long career, there will be plenty of desperation and energy in San Antonio.

  10. Flip Saunders: Kevin Garnett will start for Timberwolves

    Jul 30, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT

    Kevin Garnett AP

    Will Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Pekovic or Gorgui Dieng start beside him?

  11. Flip Saunders still maintains he planned to keep Kevin Love until Andrew Wiggins offer

    Jul 30, 2015, 1:48 PM EDT

    2013 NBA Draft Lottery Getty Images

    Timberwolves apparently weren’t just going to trade Love for whatever they could get

  12. Mark Cuban: NBA would have punished Tom Brady more harshly than Roger Goodell did

    Jul 30, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    Mark Cuban

    Suspending Patriots quarterback for a quarter of the season was bare minimum for Mavericks owner

  13. Report: Team USA uncertain whether Dwight Howard, John Wall will attend minicamp

    Jul 30, 2015, 12:07 PM EDT

    Dwight Howard, John Wall AP

    Jerry Colangelo said attendance was mandatory to be considered for 2016 Olympic team

  14. Adam Silver: NBA on track to play regular-season games in Africa

    Jul 30, 2015, 11:22 AM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwm0ndlhnjzlyjziyjk4otqxymqym2y5yzrintq4yjm1 AP

    NBA commissioner confident Africa will get a preseason game

  15. Thabo Sefolosha: Too soon to say when I’ll play again

    Jul 30, 2015, 10:31 AM EDT

    Thabo Sefolosha AP

    Hawks wing says his leg and ankle feel better

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Bryant (2655)
  2. B. Haywood (2232)
  3. I. Thomas (2125)
  4. A. Randolph (1853)
  5. M. Miller (1813)