Aldridge Makes His Decision
LaMarcus Aldridge has agreed to join the San Antonio Spurs on a four year-$80 million deal (player option for fourth year). The 29 year-old big man was the prize of this year’s free agency and his agreement with the Spurs is no surprise. Aldridge averaged a 23/10 last season on 47% shooting and he even upped his three point shooting to 35%. Aldridge is one of the premier bigs in the league and he immediately brings the Spurs, who might have finally become too old, right back into the title conversation.
The pairing of Aldridge and Kawhi in San Antonio will give the Spurs a future once Duncan retires. But Duncan is still here. He announced his return earlier in the week and will play alongside Aldridge at least for this season. Despite losing Tiago Splitter, Aron Baynes, and Marco Belinelli this offseason the Aldridge signing makes up for their departures, especially if the Spurs can convince Manu to run it back one more time.
It remains to be seen how Aldridge (1.7 apg) will fit into the Spurs fast-paced, passing offense, but I’m sure Pop will figure out a way to properly use the 4-time All Star within the confines of one of the league’s best offenses. The Aldridge signing has indeed shifted the balance of power in the West, and with the Spurs now actively pursuing David West, everybody should be licking their chops at a potential Warriors-Spurs playoff matchup.
Knicks Bolster Frontcourt
The Knicks have not had the free agency they were hoping for, but Robin Lopez is not a bad consolation prize. Lopez is an above average rim protector, who, though is not a great offensive weapon, is one of the better players in the league at scoring as the roll man, per NBA player tracking data. At $54 million over four years, Lopez’s contract seems a little hefty at first glance, but the impending salary cap jump will make the contract look better. The Knicks needed someone in the middle and have no motivation to tank again this season, due to their lack of 2016 first rounder. The Knicks also signed backup Orlando center Kyle O'Quinn to a 4 year - $16 million deal, and Derrick Williams to a 2 year - $10 million deal. With these moves the Knicks have solidified their starting core, and given themselves a chance to surprise some teams in the East.
Wes Matthews off to Dallas with Deandre
Portland lost another key to their team when Matthews agreed to a four year-$52 million deal with the Mavericks, after turning down a more lucrative offer (4/65) from the Kings. $13 million a year for Matthews could wind up being the bargain of the entire free agency. Matthews was likely in line for a max contract before tearing his achilles, and derailing the Blazers season in the process. At 28 years old, Matthews is good shooter and a plus defender, the epitome of a “3 and D” guy. Alongside Chandler Parsons, Matthews will space the floor for the Mavericks around Dirk’s midrange game and newly acquired Deandre Jordan in the middle.
The Mavericks are still several pieces away from competing for titles, but snatching up Jordan and Matthews could make them the winners of free agency. The Mavs had cap room to spend this offseason with the departures of Tyson Chandler, Monta Ellis, and Rajon Rondo, and they used it on younger players who fit roles they needed. Though the Mavericks will likely not contend this season due to what will likely be shaky point guard play and a very shallow bench, the Mavs have set themselves up for success next summer. With the cap set to jump, the Mavs will be able to add the pieces they are missing from this year’s team and make one or two final pushes for a title before Dirk retires.
The Summer of Vivek Continues
After striking out with Monta Ellis, Tobias Harris and Wes Matthews, the Kings finally landed a free agent when Rajon Rondo agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $10 million. We all know how bad his tenure in Dallas was, but the Kings must have remembered his days in Boston when they committed eight figures to him. We know what Rondo is at this point in his career. He is a point guard who can’t shoot, but also no longer attacks the rim hard. He can be a strong defender when he wants to be and he can run an offense when he feels like it. Rondo is probably past his days of diving on the floor recklessly and throwing up 13-12-15 nights, but if he wants to keep himself in the league he will need to have a good year in Sacramento. This is a 'prove-it' deal for Rondo, who hopes he can thrust himself back into the ranks of the NBA's elite.
From Sacramento’s side, this is an interesting signing. Though many expected Rondo to wind up in Sacramento, a lineup with Cauley-Stein, Boogie, and Rondo is not all that appealing, despite being surrounded by Rudy Gay and Ben McLemore, both average three point shooters. Teams sag way off Rondo when he has the ball which clogs the paint. This will be even more pronounced in Sacramento because of the inside positioning that Willie and Boogie will have on offense. Sacramento picked up Marco Belinelli on a three year-$19 million deal to help with these spacing issues, but it’s tough to imagine Belinelli playing heavy minutes. The Kings also gave Kosta Koufos $33 million over four years. Ahh, the Kings...
Washington Tries to Deepen Its Bench
Washington grabbed Jared Dudley in a trade with Milwaukee and followed that up with a one year-$2 million deal with Gary Neal. Both are very good outside shooters and will help provide minutes off the bench this season. The departure of Paul Pierce will thrust Otto Porter into the starting lineup. Porter made big strides at the end of last season but I’m not sure if he’s ready to play big minutes yet. A draft day trade landed the Wizards Kelly Oubre, but he is a work in progress, Dudley and Neal will help right away and provide valuable minutes for a team trying to compete in the Eastern Conference.
Rockets Bring Key Pieces Back to Houston
Pat Beverley and Corey Brewer will both be back in Houston. Beverley signed for $25 million over four years while Brewer agreed to a deal worth $24 million over three years. At $8 million a year, Brewer is a little bit of a stretch (he only shot 27% from three this season), but he plays solid defense and should up his three point shooting playing a full season in Houston considering the number of open shots their offense produces. Beverley’s defense was sorely missed in the Rockets playoff run and getting Beverley back at just over $6 million a year is a really good contract. The Rockets will have Beverley and Donatas Motiejūnas back from injury and project to be a team to watch out for in the West.
Crowder Re-Signs with the Celtics
Jae Crowder will be back in Boston after signing a 5-year/$35 million deal. There seemed to be little interest in Crowder, but that did not stop the Celtics from throwing $7 million a year his way. Crowder showed his defensive prowess during the Celtics first round series with the Cavs by taking on the responsibility of covering LeBron. Crowder only shot 29% from three this season and he is undersized at 6’6” playing mostly against small forwards, but he works hard and plays within himself and the offense. He’s also only 24 years old. Celtics fans have had little to cheer about this offseason but they will be happy to see Crowdah back with the Celts for the foreseeable future.
Tobias Harris Re-Signs in Orlando
Tobias Harris' restricted free agency flew way under the radar. Many expected teams like Boston or New York to court Harris, but they decided to look elsewhere in free agency. The only team to make a serious run at him was the Kings, and he smartly turned them down. Add him to the list. Harris will return to Orlando on a 4 year - $64 million deal and will be the offensive leader on one of the most intriguing, young teams in the NBA. At $16 million a year Harris is no bargain, but with the cap explosion and Harris’ potential as a playmaking four who can space the floor it’s a good deal for both sides.
Wade Stays in Miami
No surprises here. Wade inked a 1 year-$20 million deal to remain in Miami. With Dragic, Deng, and Wade back under contract and Bosh returning, the Heat will be a team to watch in the Eastern Conference. After a disappointing season, the Heat are a few bench pieces away from being contenders in the lowly East.
This is the perfect compromise between Wade and Pat Riley, after what looked like a serious rift between the two. Wade demanded max money, which would've prevented the Heat from having max cap room in the coming summers. But how could Pat Riley possibly betray Dwyane Wade? The man is a hero for Miami basketball, someone whose worth goes beyond dollar signs. Yet Riley has never bent under pressure, and it looked like compromise may never have come.
The one-year deal is perfect, because it pays Wade the max while not affecting cap room in the coming seasons. The Heat can still make a run at Durant, Westbrook, and whomever else they desire, while Wade can be content with his contract. After the success Wade and Riley had experienced together, it would've been terrible to see it come to an end over $2 or $3 million. Luckily, clear heads prevailed, and Wade doesn't need to find a new home.