The smoke has cleared on NBA free agency, and through the bluster of the expanded salary cap, teams made some key additions and improved their rosters.
Some top free agents — Kevin Durant, Al Horford and Dwyane Wade — are heading to new teams, but many of the middle-of-the-pack targets stayed put and received hefty raises (thanks to a $94 million cap).
As teams in each conference chase the Cavaliers and Warriors, the sense of urgency seems greater to find that missing piece to become a contender.
Here’s a look at some of the winners and losers in free agency:
They lost in the last minute of the Game 7 of The Finals, then picked up Kevin Durant, the most coveted free agent on the market. That alone, however, won’t assure them a second title in three years, but it tilts the scales significantly in their favor. To get Durant, they had to part with Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut and Mo Speights, but getting one of the best scorers in the league will make their small lineup more formidable.
It’s New York, and they’re getting a lot of attention for their moves, which included bringing in Joakim Noah (four years, $73 million), Courtney Lee (four years, $48 million), and Brandon Jennings (one year, $5 million), along with Derrick Rose (trade). The Knicks have big names to add to Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis, but they gambled with their financial commitment to Noah and faith Rose can bounce back from injuries.
They were in limbo about whether Tim Duncan would retire, so picked up Pau Gasol to fill the gap. It was a nice consolation prize to replace one of the best power forwards in history. Gasol can stretch the floor, but will be a liability defensively. But at two years and $32 million, it’s worth the risk. They overpaid for Manu Ginobili (one year, $14 million), but needed to keep the band together for one more shot at The Finals. The hidden gem could be reserve center Dewayne Dedmon (two years, $6 million).
Signing Andre Drummond to a max deal was a formality. Much like they did in their trades for Reggie Jackson and Tobias Harris, the Pistons were practical and looked ahead to the skyrocketing salaries to get bargains. Ish Smith (three years, $18 million) could be a steal at backup point guard, and Jon Leuer (four years, $42 million) could be the long-sought stretch forward coach Stan Van Gundy covets. Boban Marjanovic (three years, $21 million) is a stopgap for when backup center Aron Baynes decides to opt out next summer.
They made prudent moves — Jeremy Lin (three years, $38 million) — without overpaying. Whether he’ll be as productive as he was elsewhere is unclear, but it’s a value bet. Trevor Booker (two years, $19 million) is a good pickup, as is Luis Scola (one year, $5.5 million). Coupled with their draft, they can vault themselves out of the basement in the East.
Four years and $64 million for Timofey Mozgov? Worse than that was getting Luol Deng for four years and $72 million. There are several pairs of players worth $136 million — not them. The Lakers have plenty of young talent in Brandon Ingram and D’Angelo Russell. The best move was locking up Jordan Clarkson (four years, $50 million).
Beginning with its draft-day deal for Serge Ibaka, giving up Victor Oladipo and Ersan Ilyasova, the Magic has been in a bit of a tizzy. It paid a steep price to get Bismack Biyombo to pair with Ibaka, but where’s the offense? Evan Fournier (five years, $85 million) got a big payday, and D.J. Augustin (four years, $29 million) will be a good addition.
They lost Al Horford — and replaced him with Dwight Howard (three years, $71 million)? They hope Howard feels more at ease returning to his hometown, but it’s a big gamble. Then they forked over $70 million for Kent Bazemore for four years. Jarrett Jack is coming off a big injury, but could be a shrewd move. They also jettisoned Jeff Teague.
Allen Crabbe is not a starter, but he’s a piece they need off the bench — and they paid a hefty sum (four years. $75 million). But then they overpaid for Evan Turner (four years, $70 million) and held on to Meyers Leonard.
It lost Kevin Durant, which is a huge, franchise-crushing blow. Now, it likely will have to trade Russell Westbrook before he leaves after next season. It was a few minutes away from reaching The Finals, but appear to be in dire straits. After getting Victor Oladipo and Ersan Ilyasova from the Magic, the Thunder didn’t add any other pieces.