NBA free agency is a week old and already it’s pretty clear we’ve got some winners and losers. It’s been a crazy past few days, with some unexpected trades, massive contracts handed out and a lot of player movement. The league has changed a lot in the past week.
With all the big names off the board, here’s my look at the losers from the NBA’s offseason thus far.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers lost Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets and only got for spare parts in return, then signed the oft-injured Blake Griffin to an insane five-year, $173 million deal. Look, Griffin is a nice player, but he’s 28, hasn’t been able to stay on the floor consistently over the past few years and his scoring (21.6 per game) and rebounding (8.1 per game) numbers have dropped off from his peak in 2013-14. His shooting percentage also dropped to a career-low 49.3 percent in 2016-17.
Without Paul, the Clippers look like a bottom-tier playoff team at best. They’re stuck paying Griffin a ton of cash and have no one to get him the ball. In the final year of his deal, Griffin will be making a ridiculous $39.204 million. There’s just no way to justify him every making that much cash as a 32-year-old.
I get that Griffin is their guy and (along with Paul and DeAndre Jordan) has been the face of the franchise for years now. But Steve Ballmer brought in Jerry West ostensibly to help the franchise make smarter decisions. Giving Griffin $173 million was the opposite of that and could hamper the team’s efforts to improve over the next few years.
Adding Danilo Gallinari via sign-and-trade — while shedding Jamal Crawford’s awful contract — was a decent move, but Gallinari will be making $65 million over the next three years and does nothing to fill the team’s barren backcourt. The NBA is a guard-driven league and the Clippers now have to replace Paul and J.J. Redick with some combination of Patrick Beverley, Austin Rivers and Lou Williams. Yeesh.
The Golden State Warriors have re-signed all their key pieces and other teams have gotten better. The Cavs have…re-signed Kyle Korver and added Jose Calderon. Oh, they also dumped popular general manager David Griffin, Chauncey Billups turned down the chance to replace him, and they missed out on Paul George and Jimmy Butler.
So we can all agree LeBron James is totally leaving next summer, right?
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs really wanted to convince Chris Paul to join Team Pop, but never got the chance. Instead, he’s going to be running with James Harden on a division rival. San Antonio couldn’t even make a pitch to Kyle Lowry, who re-upped with the Raptors. The Spurs can’t seem to unload LaMarcus Aldridge on anyone, could lose restricted free agent Jonathon Simmons and have missed on every big free agent/trade target on the market.
San Antonio has been sitting still, while the Warriors re-signed everyone, and the Nuggets, Timberwolves and Rockets all got better. Gregg Popovich is going to have to flex those coaching muscles big-time next season.
Yes, the Celtics finally got their man by landing free agent Gordon Hayward, but when you consider what could have been this offseason, it looks like a disappointment so far. Boston missed on Paul George, didn’t make a viable offer for Jimmy Butler, and traded out of a spot where it could have landed Markelle Fultz. Sure, the Celtics ended up with the most NBA-ready player in the draft in Jayson Tatum, but he also has the lowest ceiling of this year’s top prospects. I like Tatum, but the Celtics had Fultz and let him go.
Now, with Hayward on board, Danny Ainge has to figure out what to do with a ridiculous amount of wings that all need playing time. Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown and Tatum are all stacked on the roster behind Hayward. Again, the Celtics could have had Fultz — who was easily the best player in this year’s draft — and passed on him to add assets they will almost surely not be able to fit on their current roster.
If you have all those assets, you eventually need to do something with them. Ainge has failed to do so over the past two years, and had he failed to land Hayward this offseason would have been a complete disaster. Unless there’s another big trade on the horizon that could somehow put the Celtics on par with the Cavs and Warriors, I have to categorize this as a disappointing offseason.
Ricky Rubio flew from Spain to San Diego in an attempt to convince Gordon Hayward to re-sign with the Jazz and all he wound up with was a bad case of jet lag. Oh, and he was traded from a young, dynamic, ascendant Minnesota Timberwolves team to the Jazz, who lost their franchise cornerstone and key cog George Hill in the span of a few hours.