NBA free agency is in full swing and we’re starting to see which teams are serious about competing in the 2017-2018 season. While this year’s free agency market isn’t as exciting as last year’s Kevin Durant move, there have been some very interesting transactions, and a trend I see developing for the future. One thing is for sure: players are now very much in control of their own destiny and NBA teams are now in the position of competing for their attention. This week, I’m going to hit the highlights, but if you want a complete list of free agency transactions and availability visit http://www.nba.com/freeagents/2017.
Previous team: Los Angeles Clippers, New team: Houston Rockets
The Los Angeles Clippers have been very active in free agency this off season, and their 2017-2018 roster will look entirely different than it did just a couple of months ago. This year, both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin declared their eligibility on the FA market piquing the interest of almost every NBA team in the league. MVP candidate James Harden made a case to Paul to join he and the Rockets in their pursuit of a title, and Paul decided to throw his old team a bone by opting in to his contract to allow the Clippers to make a trade. In exchange for Paul, Los Angeles received Patrick Beverly, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Darrun Hilliard, DeAndre Liggins, Kyle Wiltjer, a protected first round pick next year, and cash considerations from Houston.
I am in the minority with my opinion here, but I believe Paul and Harden on the same team won’t be as great as people think. Combining two superstars who like to be the center of attention will be a tough adjustment. One person will have to concede. The question is, who will it be? Adding Paul to the roster gives Houston more fire power and ball movement which is always a good thing, however losing Beverly will cost the Rockets on the defensive end–a cost I they can’t afford to pay. Houston’s defense is famously bad, and we all know Harden simply won’t defend. Paul is also not known for stellar defensive prowess so the Rockets will need to come up with a plan to fill that need. You can’t win a championship without playing a complete game. Offense puts fans in seats, but defense wins titles.
The Clippers, on the other hand, are going to be seriously tough next season. I will go into more detail on this later, but adding Beverly and Williams to their growing arsenal is going to make them very tough to beat.
Previous team: Atlanta Hawks, New team: Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets have desired Millsap for a long time now, and they were finally able to capitalize on bringing him to Denver as a free agent. After an unsuccessful draft, the Nuggets found themselves with a plethora of forwards with little to no experience and a lingering problem on defense. Denver had plenty of cap space to go after Millsap, and they showed they were willing to pay through the nose offering the 32-year old power forward a three-year $90 million dollar contract with a third-year team option. Millsap’s age has likely made him less desirable to other teams in the league, but he fits well in Denver given his defensive focus, and veteran experience.
The Nuggets are jam-packed with young talent that will need a couple of years to develop, and Denver wants to make a run at the playoffs next season after missing the mark several years in a row. Millsap gives the Nuggets that opportunity and he should fit in very nicely with point/center Nikola Jokic who is a superstar in the wings. Denver’s main problem right now is a crowded roster. They will need to clear players out of the way in order to be able to center in on their playoff goals next season. Millsap will bring the Nuggets an average of 18.1 points, and 7.7 rebounds per game.
Previous team: Denver Nuggets, New team: Los Angeles Clippers
Continuing the Nuggets’ story, Denver lost 28-year old forward Danilo Gallinari to the Los Angeles Clippers this week. Moving Jusuf Nurkic to the Portland Trail Blazers earlier this year, and now Gallinari to the Clippers, the Nuggets appear to be the most altruistic team in the NBA, and hell-bent on making other teams in their conference better. I say that the Nuggets lost Gallinari because even though the deal took place in a three-team trade with Jamal Crawford, Diamond Stone, and LA’s 2018 first-round protected pick headed to Atlanta, the Nuggets received a meager 2019 second round draft pick in return for what was arguably the best player on their team for many years. Denver, you’ve been had. I could not be more disappointed in this deal–this is simply bad business.
The Clippers, on the other hand, are plotting to take over the world after acquiring Beverly, Williams, Gallinari, Milos Teodosic, and re-signing Griffin. Gallinari, Williams and Tedosic give them fierce fire power and Beverly and Griffin provide tough defense (even though I hate Beverly’s game). I remain skeptical about Doc Rivers as a coach, but the Clippers will undoubtedly be a contender in the 2017-2018 season.
Previous team: Utah Jazz, New team: Boston Celtics
Last, but not least, the most buzzworthy free agency move this summer has been Gordon Hayward‘s decision to move to Boston and play with his old college coach Brad Stevens once again. The Celtics are on the cusp of something truly remarkable, and adding Hayward to the roster makes competition in the Eastern Conference interesting once again. Other teams will have a hard time double teaming Isaiah Thomas now that Hayward wears green, and their shooting power will rival the LeBron James/Kyrie Irving duo. Hayward brings in an average of 21.9 ppg while Thomas averages 28.9 compared to James with 26.4 and Irving with 25.2. Jazz fans have commenced with the Hayward jersey burning, but it’s irrelevant in the light of what he can accomplish out East.
However, Boston still has a problem on defense. Second-year Jaylen Brown is going to be a star and I suspect he’ll also be a strong candidate for defensive player of the year in a couple years’s time, but the Celtics still need a tough big man under the rim. The Celtics did not re-sign Kelly Olynyk (who is so-so in my book anyway) so they will still need to fill that void before the season begins in just a few short months. If I had to pick a favorite Eastern Conference team it would be the Celtics hands-down, so I’m really excited to see what next year has in store for them.
Most of the star players have already made their 2017-2018 commitments, but there will certainly be interesting trades in the coming weeks. Keep an eye out for who is making the most aggressive deals–those are the teams who are serious about making a name for themselves in the 2017-2018 season.