We are less than 20 hours into free agency. Over 40 players have signed contracts. $3 billion has been spent. Hopes have been dashed, and prayers have been answered. There are winners and there are losers, and it’s time to discuss who got a Snickers and who got toothpaste on Halloween.
Rozier is reaping the benefits of an incompetent management team in Charlotte. The Hornets disguised losing Kemba Walker for nothing as a sign-and-trade for one of the NBA’s least efficient point guards. Rozier shoot under 40% from the field, under 36% from 3-point range and only averaged 9 points per game. To say he is inefficient would be an understatement, and it is hard to see how those percentages rise on team with less spacing than the Celtics provide. So, you would expect a point guard who isn’t an above average scorer to be an elite passer, right? Well, Rozier contributed less than 3 assists per game. Nonetheless, the Hornets rewarded the 25-year-old guard with a $58 million contract paying him an average annual value of $19.3 million. With the offensive production Rozier exhibited as a result of the absence of Kyrie Irving in the 2018 playoffs, the Hornets believe Rozier will flourish as a consistent starter. While I see the value in Rozier’s defense (he allowed opponents to shoot only 44.2% from the field), they’re jumping to a conclusion that lacks consistent tangible evidence in its foundation with this contract.
The Nets traded, basically, a lifetime supply of first round picks for an aging trio of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry. After the three were gone, the Nets were without first round picks and without talent. Not ideal. But with the core of Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, and Joe Harris, and with the development of D’Angelo Russell into an all-star, the organization proved that they had the coaching and management leadership needed to be a winner — and that attracted free agents. In less than three hours, the perceived little brother of New York added Kyrie Irving (4 years, $141 million), Kevin Durant (4 years, $164 million), DeAndre Jordan (4 years, $40 million), and Garret Temple (2 years, $10 million). In less than 24 hours, the Nets took over New York.
Indiana didn’t add sexy names, but they added elite role players. Jeremy Lamb, who made 34.8% of his three-point attempts playing out of his best role as a second option on a Hornets team with no spacing, will thrive as a tertiary option on a much better shooting team. 3 years, $31.5 million is a steal for the Pacers. Indiana wasn’t done, though. They also went out and added perhaps the best 3-and-D role player in the entire NBA in Malcolm Brogdon. Brogdon had an astronomical true shooting percentage of 61.4 this season, making him one of the most efficient shooters from the field and amongst the most reliable free throw shooters in the league. On the defensive end, Brogdon allowed his opponent to shoot just 44.4% from the field and joins Victor Oladipo to form what is arguably the best defensive backcourt in the NBA, thus deepening one of the league’s three best defenses. While I believe $85 million over 4 years is a slight overpay, Brogdon is a great basketball fit for the Pacers.
The Pacers are winners for another reason that is not realized by the production of what they added on day 1. In adding excellent wing depth, the Pacers will allow Victor Oladipo to focus primarily on being a point guard. If you recall, Oladipo’s breakout came when the Pacers put the ball in his hands in his first season with the club. He thrives being the primary ball-handler and option, and these moves assure that he is in position to assume that responsibility. I’ve been skeptical of the legitimacy of Oladipo’s sudden rise to stardom, but these moves are making me begin to think otherwise.
The first thing to understand is that the Sixers are acting within the window of Ben Simmons’ and Joel Embiid’s primes. They opted to keep the younger wing of the two they added this past season, re-signing Tobias Harris to a slight overpay of $180 million over 5 years and signing-and-trading Jimmy Butler to the Heat for younger and better-fitting shooting guard Josh Richardson. As for Harris, he has yet to hit his prime and has the potential, with what the Sixers have to command defensive attention at point guard and center, to go from an average three-point shooter to an elite three-point shooter. Josh Richardson is a high-energy defensive wing who can switch 1 through 3 and, with Simmons and Embiid as the focal point of the offense, can become an above-average three-point shooter. As of now, however, he is a Robert Covington clone with a better off-the-dribble game (yes, very Sixer-esque).
Now, on to the big move. The Sixers ripped Al Horford from the Celtics on a 4 year, $109 million deal. While Horford is 33 years old, his game has aged well. He is not prolific, but he is consistent. He adds incredible size to a lineup that already features Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and, thus, gives the Sixers the best starting 5 in the NBA. His strength, IQ, and ability to switch 4-5 creates a likelihood that the Sixers will be the best defensive team in the NBA. Offensively, Horford is an excellent passer with a knack for finding open cutters and shooters. This will allow Brett Brown to operate the offense out of the high post if Ben Simmons is off-ball. When the team needs spacing, Horford is a capable-enough three-point shooter to stretch the floor on a pick-and-pop. Big Al also contributes an excellent post game under the basket and will create matchup problems for the opposition next to Embiid. Looking at the big picture, Al Horford allows the Sixers to manage Embiid’s load as the season progresses. While Embiid will carry the team on both ends, they can rest him and not get played off the court. If Embiid has to miss time due to an injury (knock on all the wood you can find), the team will not collapse like it did this season. Ultimately, the Sixers recognize that a healthy and rested Embiid can lead them to the promised land, and signing a center of Horford’s caliber indicates that they are trying to maximize Embiid’s health come playoff time. Perhaps the most important point, Horford serves as an excellent mentor for molding Joel Embiid. He will help mold the 7’2″ center into a more sustainable player by showing him how to take care of himself off-the-court and holding him accountable.
The Sixers also re-signed fan favorite Mike Scott to a 2-year, $9.8 million contract. Yes, Scott vibes with the fans like no other. But, he’s also a strong fit on the court. He shot 40% from beyond the arc splitting the season between the Clippers and the Sixers. But at 6’8″, he provides that three-point shooting while being able to switch 3-4 on both sides of the ball and play center in a small-ball lineup. He’s not going to stuff the box score, but he is going to be a gritty glue guy who will help with spacing.
@ArtOfTheTakePod, the Sixers are the team to beat in the East.
Success in today’s NBA looks like a never-ending supply of mobile athletes who have the size to defend multiple positions and can step out and knock down the deep ball. The Magic got the memo. They added Al-Farouq Aminu (6’9″, 34% from beyond the arc) for $29 million, re-signed all-star center Nikola Vucevic on a steal of a contract (4 years, $100 million), and re-upped with one of the NBA’s most dangerous bench scorers (15 points per game) in Terrence Ross for $54 million over 4 years. While this might not seem like a ton, the Magic already had wing depth that made them a matchup problem. Adding Aminu and retaining two significant pieces of their success this past season when it looked like both might sign elsewhere is certainly a winner.
The Hornets are going to try to pull the wool over the eyes of their fans by saying they got something back for Kemba Walker. The reality is that Michael Jordan went cheap on the franchise player, failed to trade him at the deadline to a contender knowing they would have to pay him max money eventually, and lost him for nothing. As if losing Kemba for nothing wasn’t bad enough, they then worsened the situation by giving Terry Rozier an untradeable contract. The Hornets are maybe a 20-win team now, and they’ve given the keys to an unproven guard who likely won’t make them much better even if he flourishes.
The Pistons have a ton of money locked up in Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, yet they really don’t have any shooters to surround their two best players. They didn’t have much cap space to sign players, but they used valuable money on….(drumroll) Derrick Rose. While Rose shot 37% from three-point territory this past season, they paid $15 million over 2 years for a point guard who has consistently shot below 30% from beyond the arc throughout his career. I’m not saying Rose is a bad player — he’s not. I am saying this is a poor use of limited money for a team that so desperately needs shooting.
New York Knicks Fans
They thought they were getting Zion Williamson. They thought they were getting Kyrie Irving. They thought they were getting Kemba Walker. They thought they were getting Kevin Durant. Their owner didn’t even offer a max contract to anyone. They got nothing. And next summer’s class is not strong. The process never ends for the Knicks.
The Rockets cannot get out of the Chris Paul contract. Whether he is feuding with James Harden or not is unknown. But what is known is that Paul cannot stay healthy and is on one of the worst contracts in the league even when he is healthy. On paper, the Rockets would’ve been more formidable if they acquired Jimmy Butler from the Sixers. That fell through, and now they’ve resorted to re-signing Danuel House (3 years, $11 million) and Gerald Green (1 year, unknown dollar value). Even worse, Daryl Morey may have ruined his relationship with his starting center, having almost traded the big man if the Butler deal went through. Now, the Rockets are running it back with the same lack of depth that they had previously and a disgruntled center. If they couldn’t get out of the west before, I don’t see how they are going to get out of the west with Chris Paul one year older.
The Suns failed to draft a point guard despite having the 6th overall pick. That led many to believe they would make a move for D’Angelo Russell. Instead, they opted to give Ricky Rubio, who can’t shoot, $51 million over 3 years. Sure, Rubio can pass, but what’s the point if the team can’t shoot? The Suns were the NBA’s worst three-point shooting team last season, and now they have locked themselves into a point guard who can’t shoot. By the way, this hurts Devin Booker’s progression — while Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson were capable shooters in college, they have yet to prove that they are significant threats from beyond the arc at the next level. If Bridges doesn’t progress mightily and Johnson struggles, defenses will leave Rubio, Bridges, and Johnson open and throw double teams at Booker. Adding Rubio not only fails to solve an issue, but it also hurts the growth of the team’s best player.