2018 NBA Free Agency Primer

Ahhhh yes my friends we have finally made it. It is NBA offseason time BAYBAAAAAAYYYYY!!! The most interesting offseason in ALL OF SPORT! Now before the NFL stans get their panties in a bunch and talk about how great that fun little offseason is, let me say this: Has an NFL player ever agreed to a deal with a new team, his former teammates catch wind, they fly to Dallas, lock him in his house and don’t let him leave until he reneges on the deal he just agreed to and comes back to his old team? Mind you all while it plays out live on twitter for the Millions to enjoy? A. No it hasn’t B. Nothing has ever come close to that and C. That’s maybe only like the 5th most interesting thing happen in the last 4 years of NBA free agency. The NBA offseason is drama at purest and Woj is the doctor that hooks that shit up to my veins. This offseason looks no different. We’ve got LeBron on the prowl, the NBA’s most interesting man Boogie Cousins unrestricted, and the Lakers are looking like they want to get back into the Free Agency game. Hate the Lakers all you want (oh, and I do), but when they have cap space and assets they always make things fun to watch.

2 seasons ago when everyone in the league thought the cap was going to shoot up 20 million over the next few years, things went a little crazy. Long story short, it’s gone up, but not at the pace everyone thought; so my best guess would be that the numbers this summer aren’t going to be as wild as they’ve been for those upper mid tier guys (sorry to the Allen Crabbe’s of the world, you’re not ever going to see 18 million again). That doesn’t mean it isn’t going to be wild. 5 of the top 20 players in the league are either going to be free agents or opt out of their current deals, and there are a lot of teams that are on the come up that have assets and want to make noise. I’m going to give you MY idea of what a successful offseason should look like for every NBA team.

ATLANTA HAWKS: Let the tank flag fly, baby!

They’ve waived the white flag on the next 2 seasons, and who can blame them? Atlanta has to be the largest populated small market city in the NBA. Fans just don’t really care even when they’re good because no one is really from Atlanta, and the NBA is a pretty city centric league, meaning if your not living in the city, you’re probably not going to a bunch of NBA games. They had a good draft although they should have just swung for the fence with Doncic, and their only activity this offseason should be to find a taker for Bazemore and facilitate larger trades to either take on money for assets, or get a young player back in return. Max cap space: 11 million

Boston Celtics: The Midas Touch.

First things first, Fuck these guys. Second, has any team outside of the Warriors managed asset accumulation better than the Celtics? They were able to basically acquire 3 max contract guys (Horford, Irving, and Hayward) in 2 seasons, all while drafting in the top 10 and flat out landing studs. The toughest decision will be on what to do with Marcus Smart, but honestly you just have to trust that Ainge will figure it out. He’ll probably just sign and trade him to Brooklyn for their next 4 years of 1st round picks and the cycle will just continue. They could even try to get funky and get another max player with all the assets they have because they are still 14 million away from the luxury tax, and there are even whispers of LeBron to Boston although it’s highly unlikely. My guess is they just re-sign Smart and see what they would look like with Irving and Hayward back in the fold with the young stars. Max cap space: -7.5 million

Brooklyn Nets: Find an Identity

The Nets are just sadness man. They have essentially botched every big decision since they’ve moved to Brooklyn. They’re just starting to recoup some assets since Ainge snatched their wig all those years back. I like Atkinson as head coach, and getting Russell from the Lakers was a savvy move, but they don’t have anyone they can point to as their up in coming star. It’s a team of role players and it may stay that way until they can get some of their picks back. They’ve already traded and bought out Dwight’s contract, so they have some room to play with. They should try to sell high on Dinwiddie and try to find a contender willing to trade a late pick in a future draft for Carroll. Keep quietly acquiring assets under the rug until you can make that one big move. Max cap space: Unclear after Dwight Buyout terms, but could be 15-20 million

Charlotte Hornets: Become sellers.

It already looks like Charlotte is well on its way, dealing Fright Coward, sorry excuse me, Dwight Howard in a deal centered around Timofey Mozgov. If that doesn’t signal the death of Dwight as a viable NBA player I don’t know what will. They fired Clifford, who in my eyes is a hell of a coach, but due to injuries, his own health issues, and team composition wasn’t able to put everything together. They have nice pieces that teams are going to be calling them about, and they should absolutely listen. Kemba has been the face of that franchise since they were the Bobs (no bullshit, they were named after their first dumbass owner who was named Bob and was apparently very vain). The point guard market is very strong right now, so it’s going to be tough to get what would be perceived as equal value, but if I’m the Pacers, I do everything I can to replace Collison with Kemba and create a really strong backcourt. Teams are going to call about Marvin Williams (Do it Bucks) and most likely Lamb as well. Hell for the right deal I would even trade Monk. They’re stuck paying Batum a billion dollars and are still paying too many low to mid tier guys 10 mil plus. Who would have thought Michael Jordan would have been such a shit owner? I bet if LeBron owned a team he would never….nope I’m not gonna do it, whew that was close. Max cap space: -10.7 Million

Chicago Bulls: Try to wait one more year.

The Bulls are going to have a shit ton of money. They only pressing decisions they will have is what to do with LaVine coming off an ACL, and how much to overcharge it’s fan base to the point that they just come to random Bucks games instead that don’t involve the Bulls, and start verbal confrontations with a certain handsome as fuck redheaded man. Not saying that happened, just using it as an example if you will. Markkenen is actually good, and he and Carter Jr. will have a nice inside outside 4/5 combination. They’re not yet good enough to use all that cap to lure a big time free agent in 2018, but if they can be patient and not waste it on mid to upper mid tier guys like the KCP’s, Favor’s, and Avery Bradley’s of the world they should be ready to pay someone and contend by next summer. Max cap space: Potentially up to 39 million(!!!)

Cleveland Cavaliers: Pray to whatever heathen Gods you believe in to keep LeBron.

It’s really where the entire NBA offseason stops and starts. LeBron is his own entity. His own sun in which the NBA universe revolves. If he stays, it’s a damn near guarantee they’ll go to he ECF again. If he leaves, it’s the Dark Ages in Cleveland again. Max cap space: -38 Million (have fun paying JR Smith and Tristian Thompson!!)

Dallas Mavericks: Give Dirk the farewell tour he deserves and try to make the playoffs.

Making the playoffs is essentially the creed of every Mavericks season, but due to some free agency missteps (and kidnappings) paired with some injuries, they’ve been pretty bad. The Mavs seem to be linked to just about every big free agent every offseason non named LeBron, but they’re probably one season away from being big time free agency players again. The Doncic trade was awesome, Dennis Smith Jr. looks like he could be a good player, and Harrison Barnes can get buckets. They’re linked to Deandre Jordan again this summer, but I don’t know if cap relief and low/mid tier prospects would get that trade done if Deandre opts in to his player option. Would Jordan be enough to get them the 8th seed? Maybe. Maybe not. But they have the potential for 31 million in cap space. My gut says they would be the most likely team to sign a few mid tier guys on short term deals for above market value to give Dirk another (short) playoff run. Here is a fun video of Dirk. People forget Dirk was an absolute KILLER. Max cap space: Potential for 31 million 

Denver Nuggets: Find out if the future #2 star is already on the roster this upcoming season, or make it happen this summer?

The Nuggets have been slowly building to this point for about 3 seasons. They have done a very admirable job of asset acquisition with few misses (RIPIP Mudiay). Jokic just got paid like he should, and the Nuggets are hot on the heels of being a playoff constant for the next few seasons. Every successful playoff team basically needs two stars now; is that player already on the Nuggets roster? Gary Harris is about to be paid like one at 16 million, Trey Lyles and Jamal Murray are really nice young complimentary players, but are they ever going to develop into the 2nd in command to the Joker? If Denver feels like the player is already in the roster, they should be a fringe playoff team in a tough west. But they have the ammunition to make something happen. The question is if they feel like this is the summer to pull the trigger. Could they risk giving guys up to get a rental of Kawhi Leonard and try to convince him to stay like the current Paul George situation? Do they get into the sign and trade game with some of the top restricted free agents? Very interesting team to keep an eye on. Max cap space: -4.8 Million

Detroit Pistons: Prepare for the next 4 years being the 8-11 seed in the East.

Whew. It’s gotta be tough to be a Pistons fan, right? I feel like they’ve had solid players, but they’ve always just been too good to get a high draft pick to pair with Drummond, and just bad enough to either barely make the playoffs or miss it by a few games. This my friends is called basketball purgatory and it’s the worst place to be in the NBA. The Blake Griffin trade was an obvious “save my job” trade by Van Gundy, Blake is on the wrong side of his “hall of very very good” career and will make an average of 35 Million until 2021(!). The Pistons need to cut as much money as they possibly can, see if they can find a trade partner for Drummond (He’s maybe the worst “star” in the NBA), trade Reggie Jackson for future cap relief, and prepare for a very shitty winter. Max cap space: -16.9

Golden State Warriors: Sit back and count your rings.

Uhhhhhh…I got nothin’.

Houston Rockets: Now or never

Shit or get off the pot for the Rockets. You were a CP3 injury away from winning the finals most likely. You’re linked to LeBron. You have a huge decision to make on Capela who might be a open market max because of his playoff run. CP3 is signaling he will be back. Could this team as currently constructed beat the Warriors? I guess we will never know, but the Rockets could theoretically move the albatross contract of Ryan Anderson and get some ammunition to attack the Warriors again. The hardest thing for the Rockets will be to retain its stellar role players off the bench who might get a slight bump in pay this summer. Max cap space: Potential 21 million

Indiana Pacers: Oladipo has finally arrived. Turner is a stud. Who will be banana number 3?

Pacers had a great 2017 and Oladipo had a magnificent season and has finally reached his potential. They were some funky calls in that game 7 against the Cavs in the first round, so the Pacers could have been an easy 2nd round team. Any team that wants to make the leap needs that 3rd banana player; maybe not exactly a star in a true sense, but is an above average player that has one or 2 elite level skills. The Pacers will have some space, but it’s not quite enough to sign any of the premier free agents. I’ve mentioned Kemba Walker. Can they get in on Deandre Jordan? They have Turner, but he is a stretchy center and could potentially guard the 4. I think Indiana would be best served to be active in restricted FA market, targeting Randle, Parker, or Gordon; maybe not absolute studs, but good NBA players that have their flaws, but are still young and have shown flashes of star material. Max cap space: 12.5 million

Los Angeles Clippers: Raise the white flag on the mid 2010’s Clippers and trade Deandre Jordan.

It’s time. It’s sad but its time. This team had the talent to win a title but it is over now. Trade Deandre. Trade Tobias. Do whatever you can to either take on salary this season to clear it all out for next summer. There draft was ok I guess, but there isn’t a star in sight. They have sneaky potential for a very good summer of 2019. Max cap space: -13.5 million

Los Angeles Lakers: Turn yourself back into the Lakers that attracted this type of fan

You’ve got the assets. You’ve got the space. You’ve got the rings. Rumor is LeBron has already decided on LA so he can initiate the trades so he can get who he wants. Gonna be fun to watch the fireworks.

Memphis Grizzlies: Find a way to trade one of Gasol, Parsons, or Conley.

I absolutely LOVED the grit and grind Grizzlies. Z-Bo and Gasol did what you were not allowed to do in the modern NBA, and they were a mainstay for 50 wins for 4 seasons, which is basically an eternity in NBA years. Z-Bo is gone, and all of Gasol, Conley, and Parsons have all had major injury issues. Those three players combine for about 75 million against the cap, and its time to move on. Gasol probably provides the most value, but at this point in his career with that cap hit, its maybe a solid prospect and a pick. The point guard market is flooded and Conley may not fetch as much as he could 2 seasons ago, and Parsons has turned himself into a 20 million dollar albatross. They need a new core, and I don’t see one current player on the roster that fits in. Max cap space: -4.9 million

Miami Heat: See Dallas Mavericks.

Just try to give Wade one more run, then figure out your shitty cap situation. Max cap space: -19.3 million

Milwaukee Bucks: Just don’t fuck this up.

I have said this for the last 2 off seasons, but this is the most important summer in Milwaukee Bucks history. You simply cannot ruin your cap any more than you have with Delly (9 mil per til 2019) Henson (10 per til 2019) and Snell (11 per til 2020). They cannot continue to pay guys off a hot playoff/average guys 10 million a year. They don’t move the needle enough for a team looking to move into the next echelon of playoff teams, and handicap you when you are actively looking for moves to make find a partner for your all world superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. They should probably trade Jabari and sever the ties, because there is no number that he comes back on that makes all parties comfortable and he’s not going to take his QA and risk a 3rd ACL. Coach Bud isn’t going to take guys not playing hard on defense, and that doesn’t bode well for Jabari. Bledsoe is expiring and may not have much value after his showing in the playoffs, Khris Middleton who is objectively fantastic will absolutely decline his player option for 13 million and deserves a raise. There are younger assets that other teams could want to help you win now in Thon and Brogdon, but those players are probably more valuable to the Bucks than anyone else. Can they attempt to just hope Middleton will re-sign for 18-20 million and call it good? He has a skillset that doesn’t really age (dude is going to straight murder guys at the YMCA deep into his 60’s). Can they get in on Kemba? They were linked to Deandre Jordan last season. Kyle Lowry and Mike Conley are interesting fits next to Giannis, but are both going to make over 30 million dollars. They’ve done well to get Bud in the fold, but the clock on Giannis is ticking. Don’t fuck it up. Max cap space: -2.4 million

Minnesota Timberwolves: Find someone to convince Thibs to play his bench.

The Timberwolves were flat out tired once the playoffs came around. 4 out of the Wolves starting 5 were in the top 20 in minutes played in the regular season. That just cannot happen. They aren’t going to have cap space, and they don’t have many assets that aren’t part of the core that could fetch much of a return. Could Dieng be the odd man out? Teague is a Thibs favorite, but he makes the most sense in a deal that could get you something if not at least cap relief. Just have to hope that Jimmy will be healthy all year long and that Thibs finally (hopefully) learns his lesson with minutes. Max cap space: -15 million

New Orleans Pelicans: Is Boogie the one? He might have to be.

The Boogie/Davis pairing in New Orleans had, lets just say mixed reviews. They treaded .500 basically the entire time Cousins played before his injury, and took off immediately after he went down. Davis is a once in a generation player so they have to make moves to keep him interested in staying in NOLA. It would be a tough pill to swallow to let Cousins walk without getting anything in return, but it’s difficult with such a small sample size to see if he and Davis will really work. The Pellies don’t have an advantageous cap situation, so they have to attack this offseason with a bit of tact. Signing Boogie off a lower body injury entering his age 28 season could prove catastrophic, but it might be the only thing they can do.

New York Knicks: (In my best Tony Soprano voice) Who cares these guys fuckin’ STINK!!!

Most poorly run franchise in the NBA easy, and top 3 worst run franchise in all of sport. You play in NYC, you have the MSG, but you have a piece of dog shit for an owner. Fat Phil told them he would only spend about 30% of his time in New York and 70% in a mud hut in Montana smoking peyote. They still gave him a shit ton of money to try and trade KP, and sign Lamar Odom…Take it from here Stephen A!!! They legitimately thought you could build around CarSMELLO Anthony. What idiots! They deserve everything they get. Fuck the Knicks. Max cap space: 3.7 million

Oklahoma City Thunder: Do what you can to keep PG-13, or blow it up.

This is easy, if PG walks you have to blow it up don’t you? You gave Russ the money, just let him do his triple-double thing in peace. It’s clear he has no plans on playing nice with others, so why even make it a choice? Let him have his triple doubles and 42-45 win seasons.

If PG stays, buy out Anthony and make a push for a pure shooter. Andre Roberson was hilariously bad on the perimeter last season, and although he is a very good defender, they needed that extra wing threat from 3. Max cap space: -36 million barring a Anthony buyout

Orlando Magic: Sort out your 4’s and 5’s. Find your core.

Orlando has been really really sad since prime Dwight Howard left. They just haven’t found anyone to build around, and the one guy who finally started showing signs in Aaron Gordon, is now a restricted free agent looking at a 20 million dollar a year salary. Is he that good a player? Not yet, but he could be. That’s Orlando’s dilemma. The last player they had that with was Oladipo; they sold on him, and he flipped a switch and entered the NBA elite. They’ve drafted guys with tons of athletic upside in Bamba and Isaac, but combined with Gordon they all look like they’ll play the same position. Orlando has decent assets a contender may like for a rental in Ross or Simmons, but the return may not be more than highly protected future picks. Orlando needs to find some building blocks, and I’m not sure it’s on the roster yet. Max cap space: 15.2 million

Philadelphia 76ers: Push all your chips to the middle.

You’re the new hot team. You have your stars in place. You have very nice complimentary players. You have a potential for 30 million in cap. Make a LeBron Push. Make a PG push. Trade for that Leonard rental. See if you can pry away an aging star. It’s not often a team has this many pieces in place with this much cap space left over, and Philly is set to make some major moves this summer. Max cap space: 30.5 million

Phoenix Suns: Just play it cool, hotshot.

The suns got their man in Ayton during the draft, and have one of the best young up and coming stars in Devin Booker. They have some solid young assets where they could attempt to make a big push for an established scorer to pair with the young Suns core, but I think they should wait and see how things shake out. They’ll have some cap space, but they should be more focused on sucking up expiring’s and acquiring more assets to make a push for next season. Many of their young players with potential (Chriss, Bender, and Ayton)  play the same position. They have the timeline to see how they all fit together with Booker before making a splash as early as next summer. Max cap space: 21.2 million

Portland Trail Blazers: Last chance to see if the Lillard McCollum pairing is going to work.

Lillard and McCollum are very good players. Lillard is top 25 and McCollum slots somewhere in the top 50. I’ve talked about it here before, its very important to have 2 stars to even be competitive anymore, and Portland has that. The only issue is fit. They both essentially do the same thing, and their skillsets overlap. The team has been public about wanting to keep them together, but they can’t keep wasting Lillard’s superstar skillset on first round exits in the playoffs. He’s the best of the two, and a package surrounded around McCollum could get Portland a nice return. Nurkic will be an interesting sign and trade candidate to pave the way for Collins, but they are up for some tough decisions this summer. If the right trade comes along, is it worth another likely 1st round exit in a tough Western Conference to see if this is the season to see if it works and miss the boat on McCollum’s trade value? Max cap space: -12.5 million

Sacramento Kings: Convince Vivek Ranadive’ to stay away. Very far away.

Owners that meddle are the worst. They think they’re doing they’re best to help their team, but often times it winds up hurting them in the end. I dealt with this as a Bucks fan with Herb Kohl. Guy is a Wisconsin Legend. Employs thousands of people across the state of Wisconsin and across the country. Gives basically all of his wealth away. Should have a statue built outside the new stadium that he covered 50% of the bill for and didn’t have to. But he was a meddler with a playoff mandate that cost the bucks by putting them in NBA purgatory for a decade. Vivek is trodding down the same road. He meddles in draft selections. He meddles in actual coaching of the team. He wanted the Kings to try a 4 on 5 defense because he saw it in his kids youth league. You hire people to handle these situations. Even if your GM is a chain smoking giant, you need to let he and his people handle drafting, free agency, and coaching hires. Max cap space: 24.5million

San Antonio Spurs: Don’t settle on a Kawhi deal. If it’s not perfect, don’t make it.

One of the major story lines to the NBA season was the Kawhi injury and his dissatisfaction with the Spurs organization and their handling, of his handling, of his injury. Every sign points to them trading him this off-season, but they still have the 200 million dollar ace up their sleeves. They can offer him the highest contract, and walking away from that would be a little insane. If the Spurs receive low-ball offers, they should hold on to him in hopes that the super-max contract will make him forget all about a tough 2017 season. Kawhi is a top 15 player, and they should receive at least what Indiana got for Paul George in terms of value. Max cap space: 9.5 million

Toronto Raptors: Wait to see if LeBron heads west.

They were flat out embarrassed by LeBron. With their best team in franchise history, they got blown of the court. If LeBron stays in Cleveland, it may be time for them to make the tough decisions on Ibaka, Lowry, or even Derozan. Derozan is the best of the bunch, but when it came to crunch time in the playoff series with Cleveland, he reverted back to his old self (shooting long 2’s, getting loose with the ball). He walks a fine line between super star and star, but if he can’t be trusted when it matters in a series you hold home court in against the weakest LeBron led team of the decade, the Raptors could be a surprise team to blow things up.

If LeBron leaves, they are probably slotted anywhere from 2-5 in the East and have another second round run in them. They have a deep bench, and could maybe move an asset for a veteran wing with toughness like they had with P.J. Tucker in 2016-17. Max cap space: -26 milion

Utah Jazz: Find an elite stretch 4, but don’t rock the boat too much.

The Jazz have moved along nicely from losing out on Gordon Hayward. Donovan Mitchell immediately assumed the go to scorer role and thrived; he’s one of the more exciting young players in the game. Gobert bounced back from an injury and bolstered this team to a surprising 2nd round exit. The role players are set with Crowder, Ingles, and Rubio but with Favors probably headed elsewhere, the Jazz have a unique opportunity to attack a position of need, a score first athletic stretch 4. Two restricted free agents, Parker and Gordon fit that mold. They have their weaknesses, but the Jazz could offer strong packages in a sign and trade for either one of those two without breaking up the core of Mitchell and Gorbert. Max cap space: 11.6 million

Washington Wizards: Gone to cap hell in a hand basket.

Once seen as the hot team on the rise two seasons ago, the Wizards have dealt with injuries and rumors that their dynamic duo of Wall and Beal might not like playing with each other. They are hancuffed with zero cap space, are paying Otto Porter 25 million over the next 3 seasons (not that he’s bad, he’s an elite 3 point shooter and can play 3 positions, but he’s maybe top 50?). They’ve already traded Gortat, and they could potentially make some smaller moves. My guess is they’ll wait til next summer and won’t be much of a player this year. Max cap space:-25.5 million

So thats it. 4800 words on something that will be proven wrong in 24 hours!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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