Aside from the Playoffs and All-Star Weekend, NBA Free Agency is one of the most celebrated events in a given season. It’s a time where teams make moves to further the advancement of their respected franchises, whether that be moving vets in order to attain young players or draft picks, or signing a stud that can elevate your team to the next level, Free Agency is an exciting time for all fans of the NBA. Last year, Kevin Durant shocked the world when he announced his plans to sign with the powerhouse Warriors. So far, the 2017 NBA Free Agency period has not disappointed. Here’s my take on some of the top winners of Free Agency so far.
Oklahoma City Thunder, A+ : It has been a very eventful year for the Thunder; after losing the face of the franchise with the departure of KD last July, I would say that OKC has done a great job of rebuilding their team into a Western Conference contender. First things first, congrats to Russell Westbrook on taking home his 2017 Kia MVP trophy, it was well deserved. Yet even with the reigning MVP on his team, Thunder General Manager Sam Presti was not satisfied, so he went out and nabbed one of the biggest free agents of 2017 in small forward extraordinaire, Paul George. In a trade that can be described as nothing short of a world class finesse, Presti sent Victor Oladipo, his 84 million dollar contract, and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana for Paul George. While losing solid young pieces hurts OKC, the acquisition of George is an obvious win for the Thunder; PG13 is now going to be able to provide Westbrook with some much needed help as an elite two way player that can provide a spark on both ends of the floor. On a more low-key note, OKC also signed stretch four, Patrick Patterson on a three year 16.4 million dollar deal. Patterson is a guy who can play effectively alongside Westbrook and George as a shooter who can space the floor (shot 36% from three in ’16-’17). The Thunder were also successful in retaining defensive stud, Andre Roberson on a nice affordable deal ($30 million for three years), in addition to signing backup point guard Raymond Felton to a minimum salary. On a grand scale, OKC should be an easy lock for a Playoff spot next year, and this is in large part due to the actions they took in this years Free Agency period. Signing two excellent shooters in Paul George and Patterson will create a more efficient offense for Billy Donovan and the Thunder players, as it will force defenders to respect their man and open up lanes for attacks in the paint. With these excellent moves, I see OKC’s ceiling as a vicious defensive team with potential for the three seed in the West.
Boston Celtics, A- : The Celtics entered this years Free Agency with high hopes and grand ideas of superstar signings, signings that were meant to help the C’s dethrone the Cavaliers…And while Free Agency may not have gone as well as Boston would have hoped, Danny Ainge and the Celtics front office execs delivered in one major way. That delivery came in the form of Gordon Hayward. The former Utah Jazz forward joined the Celtics on a four year 128 million dollar deal that shifts Hayward from a good position in Salt Lake City, to an excellent one in Boston. The combination of Isaiah Thomas and Gordon Hayward should be a seamless fit in Brad Steven’s “position-less” offense, as their ability to shoot from anywhere on the court will allow for both of them to suck in defenders while the other gets free for a clean look. I also believe the pairing between Al Horford and Hayward will be nice, as they can create a deadly pick-and-pop system with the potential to amount to a lot of threes. Hayward is also a very solid and versatile defender, capable of sticking in front of guards as well as bodying up some power forwards when necessary. Looking at the big picture, the Celtics earned this signing with the moves they have been making since the deconstruction of the big three years ago. Yes it is true the Celtics did lose an instrumental part of their squad with the trade of Avery Bradley to Detroit, but this move was necessary in order for Hayward to sign. And for all those who believe Hayward will hinder the development of young teammates in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, stay patient, this is a good problem to have as you have two young players who will be able to develop and learn as understudies to a great wing player. The loss of Amir Johnson hurts the already weak physicality of Boston, and when he was on his game, Kelly Olynyk was a nice backup piece, but a piece that can be replaced, hopefully with someone with a passion for rebounding and playing defense. Expect the Celtics to be a top seed in the extremely depleted Eastern Conference, barring injury of course.
Philadelphia 76ers, A : Philly is another team that has had an eventful offseason; after making moves landing them the number one pick and selecting the guard out of Washington in Markelle Fultz, the Sixers front office has made a bevy of nice moves to bolster their roster. Philadelphia is a team with two ball dominant guys in Ben Simmons and Fultz, neither of which is an elite shooter, so what did Bryan Colangelo and Philly’s front office do? They went out and sign one of the best shooters in the League in J.J. Redick. The former Duke Blue Devil shot an incredible 42.9% from three this past season, bringing an elite shot as well as some veteran wisdom to this young group of ballers in the City of Brotherly Love. Redick is joining the 76ers on a one year 23 million dollar contract. Philadelphia also increased their veteran presence with the signing of Amir Johnson on a one year $11 million deal; Johnson is a good rim protector and a respectable rebounder, I only hope he doesn’t interfere with the development of Dario Saric. Finally, the Sixers also signed rookie Furkan Korkmaz who played in Turkey over the last few years. Korkmaz is a skinny yet versatile player who can shoot the lights out when hot, and is a solid on-ball defender, I am excited with this signing as you can never have too much youth (Korkmaz is 19) , and shooting. Philly won 28 games in the 2016-’17 season, I expect that number to increase by at ten in this upcoming year, as they are legitimate Playoff contenders in the softened East. Those of you who believe in the process, keep on believing!
Sacramento Kings, A-: For years, Sacramento’s front office made bad decision after bad decision, further plunging the Kings franchise into mediocrity and irrelevance. Yet, after an excellent draft night where they snagged De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles, and Frank Mason III, it would seem Vlade Divac and the Kings management have turned over a new leaf. And this upward trend has spilled over into free agency, as Sacramento has made some excellent moves on their way to rising from the depths of the NBA. The Kings are a young team in the West looking to make ascend in their conference, a task that is easier said than done. While it will take years for the Kings to return to their previous form as a contender, Sacramento’s front office is clearly preparing their exceptional young core for the future with some of their recent signings. Since the start of Free Agency, the Kings have signed veteran point guard George Hill, Zach “Z-Bo” Randolph, and Vince Carter. Zach Randolph is an excellent player who can still provide consistent post-up offense as well as some top notch rebounding, but I believe “Z-Bo’s” greatest contributions will come off the court for the Kings. After seeing that Randolph signed for two years, $24 million, I realized that he will be around the young Kings big men like Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein for two years, mentoring them and helping them improve as bigs in the League. George Hill had an excellent year with Utah, and is a consistent two-way player who will be crucial in holding down the fort for the Kings while the young players develop. Hill signed a three year, $57 million dollar contract with Sacramento. As for Vince Carter, a player well-known for his excellent locker room presence, his one year $8 million dollar deal is a perfect fit as I expect him to bring the Kings together in the upcoming season.
Honorable Mentions: The Houston Rockets have had a very good offseason, as the addition of CP3 will only enhance the high-octane offense in H-Town. The Nuggets signing of Pul Millsap is a great one, as he is an ideal counterpart to Nikola Jokic. The Warriors have also been swift in both signing good pieces to improve their roster, while retaining many of their current players.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more.
All Stats/Information via BasketballReference.com/ESPN.com
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