By Jim Brighters, NBA Editor, The Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – As we hit mid-July on our calendars, or cell phones as it may be, the draft is behind us and LeBron James made his decision. We are past the home stretch.
It’s been a great summer for some, solid for others, adequate for a few and miserable for a handful. Let us examine.
It’s amazing how important geography plays some times.
James felt a sense of purpose and wanted to return home. The decision came down to something as simple, yet as complex as that.
The Cavs also snared Andrew Wiggins with the first pick in the draft. Some of us in the profession love his potential, while the occasional pundit doesn’t see superstardom. No matter which side of the spectrum you call home, it’s undeniable that Wiggins’ athleticism and defensive prowess make him at least a productive professional. (Certainly better than Cleveland’s last first overall pick.)
Wiggins’ value to the Cavaliers may ultimately come in the form of being the centerpiece in a deal to acquire Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves. If that can happen, and Love agrees to stay long-term, which, reports say, he would, then the Cavs are set up to be title contenders for the next four years.
And Cleveland should make that deal. I love Wiggins like he was a nephew and think he could be one of the game’s best, but to get Love, who is only 25, would make this team a force.
In year two of the rebuild, the C’s drafted Marcus Smart and James Young, re- signed Avery Bradley and acquired a top-10 protected first-round pick from the Cavaliers and Tyler Zeller, a young big man I haven’t given up on yet.
And the first-rounder and Zeller came for basically taking Marcus Thornton for one season. Boston gave up nothing but a trade exception.
That’s a great bit of work, even if they slightly overpaid Bradley.
With the Smart selection and re-signing of Bradley, Rajon Rondo is definitely expendable, so let the best teams offer the most and Danny Ainge can make this reclamation project a playoff squad by next season.
In any universe where Jodie Meeks is worth a three-year, $19.5 million contract, he should be deemed a winner.
NEW YORK KNICKS
Phil Jackson suffered a black eye when Steve Kerr took the Golden State Warriors coaching job. He kept his other eye clear when Carmelo Anthony signed a max deal to stay.
The Knicks are rebuilding in a long-term way. Next offseason, when Amare Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani come off the books, Jackson will have plenty of loot to attract some big names to pair with Anthony.
Plus, Jackson made a very nice trade acquiring a veteran point guard in Jose Calderon. He got a second-round pick out of it and knocked it out of the park with Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early. Book it, he will play solid minutes for the Knicks.
Losing James is a gigantic blow. The best player on the planet left the organization after four seasons, four championship appearances and two titles.
Franchises never recover from that. Look at the Cavaliers. They lost James, got the first pick in the draft three times in those four years, went through a handful of head coaches and finished 16 games under .500 last season.
So, good luck searching for optimism, Heat fans.
But in the wake of James heading home, Pat Riley availed himself pretty nicely.
Chris Bosh spurned the Houston Rockets and a huge contract for a mammoth one to stay in South Beach. Dwyane Wade will be back it seems and he’ll be alright financially after opting out of $41 million guaranteed.
Luol Deng was a great pickup. He’s not James, but he’s got the same skill set. It’s just not as abundant. Deng is a legitimate scorer and awesome wing defender. Plus, his deal is only for two years, so maybe James will want to come back by then.
Miami’s second-largest problem this offseason were the moves made prior to the most famous sports essay in a long time. Josh McRoberts is a capable pro, but as the major move of an offseason, he’s lacking. McRoberts will put up better numbers alongside Wade and Bosh. However, he is not a missing piece. Danny Granger is winding down his career. He showed glimpses last season, but his lot in life is as the eighth man on a team.
Riley made the most of what he had left after LeBron bailed. He deserves credit for that and for keeping Miami’s playoff hopes alive. It will be a huge hurdle to overcome with James back home.
They didn’t get Anthony. The reason was financial, but in terms of basketball. In order to free up the proper cap space, Chicago didn’t want to lose Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson. That’s sane.
But the Bulls really could have used Anthony. That sentence is idiotic considering he is one of the best players in the league, but his scoring, especially in the fourth quarter, would have made the Bulls an easy choice for Eastern Conference champion, if not NBA titleholders.
Instead, the Bulls signed Pau Gasol, who will form an impressive frontline with Gibson and Joakim Noah. That trio will be formidable and if Derrick Rose returns healthy, Chicago will be an instant contender in the Eastern Conference.
Also, bringing Kirk Hinrich back on the cheap wasn’t shabby.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
The Clippers were wise to avoid overpaying Darren Collison to be a backup point guard, which is all he is anymore.
Jordan Farmar can be as good as Collison. They may have spent a little more than they expected.
The really strong signing was Spencer Hawes. He is not Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but Doc Rivers and company could not have found a better backup big man. Hawes can shoot the 3-pointer and should see 20-25 minutes a night playing behind Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. That was a position in dire need of filling.
Hated the C.J. Wilcox draft choice, though.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Does anyone want to play there? Anyone besides Nick Young, that is.
The Lakers were flush with cash and couldn’t land a big free agent. Anthony visited, and apparently left impressed, but his signature occupies a contract to play for the New York Knicks.
LeBron never looked there. Gasol fled. They still have no coach. They signed Jordan Hill for $9 million a year. And Kobe Bryant will make $25 million a season to play for a really bad team.
The Lakers’ acquisition of Jeremy Lin wasn’t terrible, but this summer had to be alarming for Bryant, Mitch Kupchak and the Buss family. The fact that this organization is basically an afterthought to free agents shows how bad things have gotten.
Take Anthony, for example. Discounting the money and familiarity, the Knicks are a much better situation than LA is. The Knicks will have cap space next season to start getting back to notoriety. .
Bryant’s contract is an albatross in trying to rebuild. His attitude is such that he doesn’t want to sit through the process, but there’s no choice here. The talent level is Bryant, Lin, Young, Hill, a broken down Steve Nash and Kendall Marshall, who will be a third point guard and only posted good numbers in Mike D’Antoni’s system.
Julius Randle was a great draft choice and Jordan Clarkson was a steal in the second round. But the up front talent right now is weak. There legitimately are no backups to Young or Randle at the forward spots.
And with their cap space this offseason, they used essentially all of it on Young, Hill and the Lin trade.
This team desperately needs to become relevant soon. How that happens escapes me. Unless this group amazingly overperforms, then maybe there’s a chance. I don’t see it.
This offseason has been littered by baffling moves from the Magic.
First, Orlando did well in the draft, taking Aaron Gordon and trading for Elfrid Payton. Those were two very high-quality selections, but even those came at a price.
The Magic passed on Dante Exum to take Gordon, who is an athletic freak. For Payton, Orlando gave the Philadelphia 76ers back their first-round pick that came to the Magic in the Andrew Bynum deal.
Orlando waived Jameer Nelson to free up room for Payton. Wise move. Nelson is more past his prime than a gallon of milk bought in January.
They traded a very good two guard in Arron Afflalo to the Denver Nuggets for Evan Fournier and the 56th pick. If Orlando wanted to move Afflalo for more time for young players, fine. My problem is, I can’t believe they couldn’t get more for him than Evan Fournier and the 56th pick.
The Magic cut some unnecessary parts, rescinded a qualifying offer for E’Twaun Moore, then spent their money foolishly.
Ben Gordon got two years and $9 million for being terrible and mailing in his last few seasons. That contract may be a chip in a trade come winter, but if that’s not the case, it’s the worst deal of the summer.
Channing Frye is a fine shooting big man, but at four years, $32 million, it’s fiscally unwise. With up front spots going to Nikola Vucevic, Gordon, Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson and Mo Harkless, where does he fit? He’s better than most on that list, but if the plan is to give younger guys more minutes, doesn’t Frye’s signing fly in the face of that logic? Didn’t Orlando move Afflalo and cut Nelson for that exact reason?
Contradictory logic and overpaying equal a bad summer.
REMAINING FREE AGENTS
Evan Turner apparently caught the eye of Minnesota and Boston lately. A friend, a pro-Turner guy, asked me with a month to go in the season if Turner might be out of the league this upcoming season. I thought about it for a minute.
Greg Monroe’s name hasn’t been spoken much. Common logic says the Detroit Pistons would match any offer, but a talented young big man should attract more interest than Monroe has gotten.
Eric Bledsoe probably has many suitors, but nothing concrete. With the Phoenix Suns acquiring Isaiah Thomas, does that mean they’ve moved on from Bledsoe?
And Lance Stephenson, where’s his market? He turned down a five-year, $44 million offer from the Indiana Pacers, but Stephenson may not have any other options.
He could listen to the Charlotte Hornets and he’d make for a great addition to their already strong defensive unit. Stephenson could also hear a pitch from the Lakers, who probably don’t have enough money. It’s looking more like he’ll have to consider whatever the Pacers are offering.