Well here we are, the first week of the NBA free agency is in the books and so far we have gotten some pretty good deals in the making. All-Star players have returned to their teams, and role players have decided to take their talents elsewhere to further extend their careers. Here are the deals that went down throughout this shortened week one of free agency:
NOTE: None of these deals are not 100% complete. They are all verbal agreements and will be officially completed on/after July 10th
Jodie Meeks agreed to a deal with the Detroit Pistons (3 years/$19+ million)
Cartier Martin agreed to a deal with the Detroit Pistons (1 year)
Shaun Livingston agreed to a deal with the Golden State Warriors (3 years/$16 million)
Marcin Gortat agreed to resign with the Washington Wizards (5 years/$60 million)
Avery Bradley agreed to resign with the Boston Celtics (4 years/$32 million)
Ben Gordon agreed to sign with the Orlando Magic (2 years/$9 million)
Patty Mills agreed to resign with the San Antonio Spurs (3 years/$12 million)
Lionel Hollins agreed to become the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets (4 years)
C.J. Miles agreed to sign with the Indiana Pacers (4 years/$18 million)
Kyle Lowry agreed to resign with the Toronto Raptors (4 years/$48 million)
Sebastian Telfair agreed to sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder (1 year)
Darren Collison agreed to sign with the Sacramento Kings (3 years/$16 million)
Thabo Sefolosha agreed to sign with the Atlanta Hawks (3 years/$12 million)
Chris Kamen agreed to sign with the Portland Trail Blazers (2 years/$10 million)
Dirk Nowitzki agreed to resign with the Dallas Mavericks (3 years)
Steve Novak was traded from the Toronto Raptors to the Utah Jazz for Diante Garrett and a future 2nd round pick
Patrick Patterson agreed to resign with the Toronto Raptors (3 years/$18 million)
Spencer Hawes agreed to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers (4 years/$23 million)
Lavoy Allen agreed to sign with the Indiana Pacers
Toronto Raptors: Toronto has had the best free agency performance thus far. They may have given Lowry a bit more money than deserved, but the important part is that they kept him and will have him leading this young rising team for the next four years. Resigning Patrick Patterson for three years also gives them a strong rebounder and defensive presence. On top of that, they also dumped Steve Novak which opened up even more money for them to spend in free agency.
Los Angeles Clippers: Signing Spencer Hawes may not seem like much, but bringing in another big man who has the ability to produce a double double gives some relief to Griffin and Jordan. He is a solid backup center that brings more stability to this front court.
Washington Wizards: I really do like Marcin Gortat and he was an absolute beast last season in Washington, but at 30 years of age this is a risky contract. 5 years and $60 million dollars is right alongside the Lowry deal and I do not see those players on the same level mainly because of Lowry's youth. This deal helps Washington retain their solid big man, but it further prevents them from chasing stronger pieces to help this team get to the next level quicker.
As of Thursday, the hunt for Carmelo Anthony got a little bit clearer when he received max offers from two teams. Those teams were the Los Angeles Lakers (4 years and 95 million) and the New York Knicks (5 years and 129 million). The hunt got even clearer when we found out Melo is expected to agree to the Knicks offer soon (but who knows). The Lakers dropped off a lot of contracts at the end of the 2014 year which granted them plenty of money to play with without losing Kobe Bryant. Phil Jackson and his Knicks dumped off Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler to really open up their cap space so that they could give Melo a pretty max deal offer. Both teams are in need of someone like Melo to get them back (or start to get them back) to an elite status like they once were. Melo is a gifted pure scorer and can even grab a decent number of rebounds every night depending on where you place him in the lineup. He is a consistent All-Star and deserves a large amount of respect for that, however this is a lot of money to throw his way. Call me crazy, but I do not think Carmelo Anthony is worth a four to five year max contract at this point in his career for any team in the NBA
Now before I go into further explanation let me say that when it comes to deserving players that should or could be offered a max long term deal, my list is very small and they have to satisfy all or at least a few of these requirements:
Considered in the top five players in the league at the current time
Have won or made it to the Finals as a leading member (cannot be the only satisfied requirement)
Won an MVP award (cannot be the only satisfied requirement)
Can visibly play both ends at an elite and efficient level
Member of an All-NBA First Team
Under the age of 28 (cannot be the only satisfied requirement)
The players that satisfy at least two of those requirements in my mind are LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, and Russell Westbrook as my "right on the line candidate". In my mind those are the top six players in the league and all of them satisfy at least two of the above specifications. Many of you will give me hate because I listed Russell Westbrook over someone like Carmelo or Kobe, but he shows an immense amount of promise when his head is on straight and more importantly he is only 25 years old. Each of these guys can score at a high level, defend at an elite level (aside from Griffin to an extent), and they have shown consistency on both sides of the floor overall. I would talk about why Kobe isn't on this list, but in reality anyone that is questioning why he is not on the list is just not being completely honest to themselves about the Black Mamba actually being human and getting too old, but lets get back to Melo.
Carmelo Anthony is a 7-time All-Star, an NBA scoring champion (2013), and has made the All-NBA Second Team twice (2010, 2013). He is a career 25 ppg scorer, and posted just over 27 ppg in 2014 along with 8.1 rebounds. Those are some really nice stats and accomplishments for any player, but he does not meet even one of the requirements above to be worthy of a max deal in my mind. He is a top ten player, hasn't ever made it to the NBA Finals, has never won an MVP, can't really play the defensive end of the floor very well, and is 30 years old. Set aside most of those facts and the most important part here is his age. You can say he has not had the right team, or he's been playing behind Kobe/LeBron/KD's shadows, or even that he just got unlucky a lot of the time, but regardless of all of those statements he is still entering his 12th NBA season and time is not going to go any slower. Melo played 38.7 minutes last season to reach those averages and even though that is what he had to do with the team around him, there is no way he can play at that same level for the next four years. He has a one sided approach to the game and even though scoring is the main focus of the game, he needs other options. At some point, he will not have the energy to put up numbers like that every night and once that happens people will start to see the important holes in his game.
On the other hand if you give Carmelo a team that is worth playing with, he will not have to work so hard offensively and it probably will not wear on him as much. Put him on a team where he only needs to worry about his scoring and there will not be issues at all. Somewhere like Chicago would be great for him because there he can hide behind the Bulls' already elite defense or even Houston with Dwight Howard. However in LA and New York, Carmelo would be the leader (or co-leader) of that respective team which means he will still have to try and shoot the lights out every night and rely on that over a full well-rounded game. Is his scoring valuable? Of course. He is one of the best in the league at what he does, but to me that is not worth a long term max deal at his age. It is not a dreadful decision by either team to offer him this in their times of need, but in the long run I do not think they will get what they want out of it. I do honestly want Carmelo to win, and I think he could in Chicago or Houston rather than the Lakers or Knicks. However with the lack of cap space and willingness to pay him so much, Bulls and Rockets may miss out on this chance. Again we know that Anthony is expected to accept the Knicks offer and stay with Phil Jackson but we never truly know. Anthony said originally that he wants to to win now rather than take a load of cash and soon enough we will finally see if he can walk the walk and pick a team that can accomplish just that.
Even people that live under a rock know that LeBron James recently opted out of his current contract with the Miami Heat to become a free agent. In doing so, the world of basketball (and sports in general) has grabbed a front seat to see where he possibly could end up playing, especially now that free agency has officially started as of today. Will he go back to South Beach with the Big Three and take another shot? Will he return to his hometown and the Cleveland Cavaliers? Could he end up in Houston alongside Dwight Howad? We have been hearing the same repetitive (and honestly obnoxious) questions flying around every single day and now we have finally gotten to the time frame in which an answer will surface soon enough. However this opinion piece is not about where he could end up, who he will bring with him, or even how will the fans react like most articles concerning this topic are about. This article is me explaining to all of you why I think this action by LeBron and his reasoning for it is the smartest impactful decision King James has ever made in his career thus far. Not only am I impressed by what he did and what chain reaction he caused from it, but this can be the reason he goes back and wins the Finals once again next June in the same place he decided to go to just four years ago. After the Spurs soundly destroyed the Miami Heat both emotionally and physically, it was clear to me as a Heat fan that they were exhausted and just did not have nearly the amount of drive that San Antonio did the entire series.
The Spurs earned their rings in every single way this year and 90% of the credit goes to how they played. The other 10% goes to a beaten up, old, and unmotivated clump of players that just didn't show up in the one series you have to show up in. It was clear that if the Heat ever wanted to return to the Finals anytime soon, let alone win it, they would need to retool their entire roster and reevaluate their approach to the game. We all could see this, but nobody saw it better than LeBron James. James is 29 and although he still has plenty of basketball left in him, he knows his prime could be approaching its' peak after the next four years or so and that his legacy could be hit hard like before if he hit a stretch of not being on a team that is good enough to play on his shoulders and win a championship alongside of him. He knew what he had to do in order to keep his chances of going back to the Finals high and that was to opt out and become a free agent. It did not take long for us to find out why he opted out of his contract either. He wants the Heat to restock their roster with players that bring back more life and hunger that the current team does not have. Whether that means bringing in younger players, a stronger presence down low, or a better bench, James made it clear that if he is coming back to South Beach there better be a team that is worthy of playing at the highest level.
This simple act caused a chain reaction of a couple actions that have proven that what LeBron did really served to be a wake up call for Pat Riley and the Heat administration. They brought in Shabazz Napier, who was LeBron's favorite player in this year's NBA Draft, and more importantly Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and even Udonis Haslem opted out of their current contracts for the following year as well. A person who does not know much about the sport in terms of team cap space may look at this as an abandon ship act from everyone on the Heat, but in reality this was an incredibly smart move by everyone.
At this point, the Miami Heat now only have one person under contract this summer and that is Norris Cole who is also currently on trading block. With all of these players opting out on top of the already expired contracts that exist on the roster, the Heat have fifty five million dollars in cap space to use this offseason. That is a lot of money that this team gets to play with and they have now opened up themselves enough to where they can do just what LeBron wants them to do. In order to do this efficiently though, they will need to resign the Big Three, and who ever else they want to bring back with even bigger pay cuts that they had originally taken to place together in the first place. The catch here though is that LeBron James is demanding a max deal no matter where he ends up.
Now before you go all crazy and think he is such a selfish guy for demanding such a thing, understand that LeBron has NEVER been the highest paid player on ANY team he has ever been on. That may seem unbelievable but it is very true. As the best player in the world, he deserves a max deal to be quite honest. I am no huge Bron fan by any stretch, but he has definitely earned that type of deal. You may also think it is unfair because then both Wade and Bosh would have to take very big pay cuts compared to what they have made their entire careers in order to keep LeBron, but that is not to crazy to ask either. Both players, especially Dwyane Wade, have slowed down productivity wise and maybe do not deserve the top dollar they once had. Dwyane Wade is my favorite player and he always will be, but his knees are hitting him hard and it is time that he takes a smaller cut so younger talents can join the squad.
Now from all we know, there is still a chance that he could go somewhere else because that is just how free agency works. There is no promise that the Heat can bring in an even stronger team with better pieces which may cause him to leave. I think it is unlikely with all that the Heat have been doing to prepare, but it is still possible. LeBron James will always be hated by people for leaving Cleveland the way he did and that is also a good reason to expect that he is favoring Miami to prevent more heat because he "abandoned" another team to go win. Aside from the max deal, this action by LeBron was both for his own hunger to win and for the Heat who know they have things to fix this offseason. It was a smart move and literally has no downside in terms of James' success. I do think he wants to stay in Miami but if he does not then he will still get a max deal and play on a contending team. He is giving Miami a strong chance though and if this all works out, it could raise his legacy onto another level in a couple of years and I cannot wait to see how it and NBA free agency as a whole plays out throughout this exciting NBA summer.