NBA free agency 2016: winners and losers (so far)
The 2016 NBA Free Agency has been filled with twists, turns, and of course, money. According to Bleacher Report, more than one billion dollars have been agreed upon in principle by teams and players in the first day alone, with stars like DeMar DeRozan and Hassan Whiteside committing to deals north of 100 million.
But have all deals made been worth the dough? Let’s weigh in on the contracts agreed upon and see which teams got their money’s worth.
Advanced statistics courtesy of NBA.com/stats.
1. Los Angeles Lakers – Re-signed Jordan Clarkson for 4 years, $50 million
Here is one of Lala Land’s best moves (we’ll talk about the bad ones later) in free agency’s early stages. The 24-year old Fil-Am combo guard was one of LA’s bright spots in their darkest season yet - where the 16-time NBA Champions experienced their worst regular season record of all time at 17-65 and lost 20-year veteran Kobe Bryant due to retirement.
Clarkson was second to Bryant in team scoring with 15.5 points a game and led the team in minutes played. He also led in field goal percentage for Lakers guards (44%) and was second to D’Angelo Russell in steals per game (1.1) and three-point percentage (35%).
All that upside for just 12 million dollars a year. Chump change in today’s NBA.
2. Toronto Raptors – Re-signed DeMar DeRozan for 5 years, $139 million
People might argue that $27 million per year is too much for a player who regularly disappeared with teammate Kyle Lowry in big playoff games, which earned him the moniker “DeFrozen.”
However, this signing is crucial for a once-mediocre team well on its way to becoming title contenders – having already reached the Eastern finals last season where DeRozan bounced back with multiple 30-point performances. The Raptors simply can’t afford to lose the face of the franchise when they can afford his services anyway.
For a team that has had a history of letting superstar guards leave for greener pastures such as Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady, it’s nice that they kept someone at home for once.
3. Miami Heat – Re-signed Hassan Whiteside for 4 years, $98 million
For a contract 100 times bigger than his last one ($981,000), Hassan “Blockside” is keeping his talents in South Beach.
After a fruitless journeyman career which saw Whiteside suit up for teams such as the Sichuan Blue Whales of the Chinese Basketball Association and Al Mouttahed Tripoli in Lebanon, the NBA finally witnessed the full capabilities of the blocking machine last season, where he registered career-highs across the board, most noticeably in points (14.2) and blocks (3.7 - a league-high and a 1.1 jump from last season). He also entered the playoffs for the first time in his career while playing for the Heat.
Whiteside staying would be a great boon for a franchise missing a legitimate center since Shaquille O’Neal in 2006. Despite winning the NBA Championships in 2012 and 2013, the LeBron James-led Miami Heat severely lacked a reliable post presence and had to gamble on playing small-ball, a once-unused tactic that has since been utilized by the 2015 championship-winning Golden State Warriors.
Eight teams and several countries later, Whiteside is finally where he should have been years ago.
4. Detroit Pistons – Re-signed Andre Drummond for 5 years, $130 million
In a league and era dominated by superstar guards and forwards, a superstar big man is hard to come by, and the Detroit Pistons have found just that.
In just one season, Drummond upped his averages in points (16.2 from 13.8), rebounds (a league-high 14.8 from 13.5) and steals (1.5 from 0.9) – enough to earn him his first All-Star nod. Most importantly, he also led the Pistons to their first playoff appearance since 2009.
With a well-oiled squad of fellow up-and-comers like Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris, Stanley Johnson and Reggie Jackson, Drummond and the Motor City will look to continue revving up in playoff contention and prove that last season’s entry was no fluke.
5. Indiana Pacers – Signed Al Jefferson for 3 years, $30 million
Larry Bird just can’t seem to stop winning.
Amid the pool of max contract signings, the Celtics legend and the Pacers' President of Basketball Operations managed to nab Jefferson from the Charlotte Hornets for cheap. This move comes in the wake of a slew of moves made by the Pacers, surrounding NBA 2K17 cover guy Paul George with quality players like Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young.
Adding a big like Jefferson gives the Pacers a lot of options to work with in case some players go down with injuries, seeing that he had no qualms with being relegated to bench duty during his time with the Hornets. Being a scoring big man, Big Al (12.3 PPG last season) could also serve as the mentor the upstart Myles Turner needs.
With the East jacking up its frontlines with the previously mentioned re-signings of Whiteside and Drummond, Jordan Hill and Ian Mahinmi just won’t cut it if the Pacers look to make a deep playoff push.
Honorable Mentions: Brooklyn Nets – Jeremy Lin (3 years, $18 mil), Milwaukee Bucks – Matthew Dellavedova (4 years, $38 mil), Detroit Pistons – Ish Smith (3 years, $18 mil)
1. Los Angeles Lakers – Signed Timofey Mozgov for 4 years, $64 million
Here is the other head-scratching move that the Lakers have made and also the bad one. Sure, it has been previously mentioned that it is difficult to find a reliable big man and that the salary cap has gone up, but that doesn’t mean that a team should jump the gun and throw 64 million dollars at the first guy available who is above seven feet tall.
The Russian giant may have significant playoff experience and good stats to back it up, but with numerous big names left in the free agent pool, it’s puzzling why the Lakers would look down the list this early on.
2. Los Angeles Lakers – Signed Luol Deng for 4 years, $72 million
Kobe Bryant must be pissed by now.
One day after committing to signing Mozgov, the Lakers make another eyebrow-raising move to crown Bryant’s replacement at small forward – snatching the 31-year old Deng from the Miami Heat.
Since his All-Star seasons with the Bulls, Deng has been on a steady decline, placing just 8th in the team’s overall Player Impact Estimate, 10th in Offensive Rating and 16th in Defensive Rating.
Having 15 other teammates edge you out on defense is inexcusable when you’re supposed to be a defensive specialist.
3. New York Knicks – Signed Joakim Noah for 4 years, $72 million
The New York Knicks are adding emphasis on the “New” part of their name, being the team to make the first big move of the offseason by trading a slew of players for the Bulls’ mainstay Derrick Rose. Unfortunately for them, that’s where the fun ends.
Now that they have signed the former All-Star Defensive Player of the Year as their starting center to replace Robin Lopez, the Knicks have now the most unpredictable team in terms of health. They could go toe-to-toe with Cleveland in the conference finals or fall like the 2013 Brooklyn Nets super-team.
With their starting lineup now stacked with injury-prone stars like Carmelo Anthony (missed 52 games in two seasons), Rose (missed 244 games in 5 seasons) and Noah (missed 53 games last season), one might wonder if Phil Jackson is putting too much faith in fragile stars.
This team would be competing for championships if only it was 2011 all over again.
4. Atlanta Hawks – Signed Dwight Howard for 3 years, $70 million
LeBron James just won a championship for his hometown. Atlanta will try the same. A product of the Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, Dwight Howard will now test the waters of his hometown to the tune of 24 million dollars a year.
Howard is just the newest out of the questionable big men signings this offseason, assuming the Hawks never even tried to re-sign Al Horford.
Despite how the Rockets under-utilized him, Howard is not a bad player – far from it. On paper, his imposing size and history of defensive prowess make the 3-time Defensive Player of the Year seem better than Horford. But looking deeper, it is actually Horford who has the better Defensive Rating* (98.4 to Howard’s 105.1).
*Basically, the lower your DefRtg, the better you are as a defender.
Horford is also way better on the offensive end, being able to hit anywhere from the post up to the 3-point line – a rare and valuable asset for a big man. He is also a more reliable free-throw shooter than Howard.
Most importantly, Horford has already mastered the Hawks’ system, having been in Atlanta for his entire 9-year career.
Given all these factors, let’s just hope that Horford rejected an extension from the Hawks. That would make the Howard signing way more sensible.
5. Memphis Grizzlies – Re-signed Mike Conley for 5 years, $153 million
Last but not the least, we turn the spotlight to the biggest contract signed in NBA history so far – a guaranteed $31 million per year for none other than… Mike Conley. Not LeBron James. Not Stephen Curry. Not Kevin Durant. Mike Conley.
Here is a player whose biggest achievements in 9 years with the Grizzlies are an NBA All-Defensive Second Team selection and a Western Conference Finals appearance back in 2013.
No All-Star selections. No All-NBA teams. No seasons leading the league in scoring, assists or steals at a ripe age of 28. Multiple early exits in the playoffs despite having Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, two former All-Stars, as teammates (3 if you still consider Vince Carter to be relevant).
This is it. He is in his prime. Mike Conley got his money for being nothing but a good player.
Somehow, the Grizzlies pounced on his free agency as if he is the second coming of Magic Johnson.
(Dis)Honorable Mentions: Washington Wizards – Bradley Beal (5 years, $130 mil), Portland Trailblazers (4 years, $75 mil). Memphis Grizzlies – Chandler Parsons (4 years, $95 mil). – Rappler.com