It’s Free Agency season in the NBA again and that only means one thing: Teams with title aspirations try to put themselves in position to attract the biggest names on the market.
There’s usually a “knee-jerk,” and “copycat” approach that also accompanies Free Agency. The NBA Finals always precedes the Free Agency period, and team executives/front office management tend to use the reigning champs as their template for success and which direction their team should head.
This year’s reigning champs are the Golden State Warriors, and the secret to their success was “small ball.” It wasn’t via Free Agency but heck, even the Lakers bypassed on the heavily coveted and 6’11” Center Jahlil Okafor for the smaller point guard D’Angelo Russell.
But sometimes the best move is the one that you don’t make. And so far, the teams that were close or on the brink to winning a ring have just done that. And if they didn’t take care of business “in house”, they added the right complimentary pieces.
As of Day 2 in the Free Agency, these are my Top 5 Teams making moves during the period:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers:
Key signings: Kevin Love (5 years/$110M); Tristan Thompson (5 years/$80M); expected to re-sign: LeBron James
Back when the Cavs were 19-20 and struggling, everyone complained that Kevin Love wasn’t a good fit for the team. Love was criticized as being a glorified spot up 3 point shooter and many questioned his value. Fast-forward to June in the Finals against Golden State and his absence/lack of offense could not be overstated. Tristan Thompson did a stand-up job of trying to fulfill the role of Kevin Love (becoming a dominant rebounding force and defensive presence) and in the process earned his new contract. A healthy Cavaliers team appears to be loaded and should be favored to win next years title.
2. Golden State Warriors:
Key signings: Draymond Green (5 years/$85M)
You know the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it.” If you just look at Green’s numbers without context, you would think his production is average to good at best. Yes he can do everything on the court fairly well yet he doesn’t do it exceptionally well. But there are a lot of factors that play into a team winning a championship, and one of those factors is chemistry. I’m not sure if Green’s emotion and being a vocal leader would work well with another team, but it does for the Warriors. Draymond essentially got rewarded $85 million for his intangibles.
3. New Orleans Pelicans:
Key Signings: Anthony Davis (5 years/$145M)
This number seems extremely massive but considering the Pelicans were able to sign a Top 3 player before the new NBA Salary Cap hits in 2016, New Orleans saved a lot of money! Davis is also 23 years old so he may only be scratching the surface of his unlimited potential.
4. Los Angeles Clippers:
Key Signings: Paul Pierce (3 years/$10M)
Paul Pierce’s homecoming may have gone under the radar but I think this was a big acquisition for the Clippers. At only $10 M, the Clippers are arguably the biggest bang for their buck. Pierce is at an ideal location and situation at his advanced stage of his career. He can’t carry teams like he used to, but he’s more than capable of putting a team on his back and closing out the 4th quarter, and that’s just what the Clippers need!
5. Indiana Pacers:
Key Signings: Monta Ellis (4 years/$44M)
Two years ago, the Indiana Pacers were in the Eastern Conference Finals battling the Miami Heat for a chance at the NBA Finals. One month after that series, Paul George gets injured in Olympic competition, Lance Stephenson signs a FA deal with the Hornets, and the Pacers 2014-15 season went down the drain. Well George is coming back and Monta—a proven scorer in this league—should help Indiana get back in serious contention in the East.