NBA Free Agency 2012: Biggest Winners and Losers This Offseason
Just over a week into this year's free-agency window, there are some front offices that are going to be popping the Cristal when all is said and done and others who are going to want to hide under a rock until the 2012-13 season is over.
Some of the moves over the last week have gone down exactly as expected, while others have come out of nowhere, but if nothing else, at least the action has been exciting to watch as it has unfolded.
Here's an early look at some of this offseason's biggest winners and losers during free agency.
Winner: L.A. Lakers
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There was no team that pulled as surprising a move as the Lakers did when they came to terms on a sign-and-trade agreement with the Suns' Steve Nash.
Rumors had persisted for days that Nash's decision was between the Raptors and the Knicks, but Kobe Bryant and the Lakers came out of nowhere to land the biggest free-agent coup thus far.
Bryant even did some recruiting work of his own in order to convince Nash to sign.
In Nash, the Lakers get a veteran point guard who can direct traffic and score with equal proficiency, and most importantly, they have the player who gives them the one piece of the puzzle they were missing against the Thunder.
Nash, in return, gets what he's always wanted: a terrific shot at winning a ring.
The Lakers have made the biggest improvement of any team so far—and they haven't even landed Dwight Howard (yet).
Winner: Brooklyn Nets
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The Nets haven't been able to land Dwight Howard quite yet, and they might never be able to.
But still, they can breathe easy now that they have Deron Williams locked up for the near future—and that, more than trading for Howard, was the ultimate goal this summer.
The point guard, arguably the best in the NBA, turned down Dallas and decided to stay with the Nets and (hopefully) help them grow into a formidable Eastern Conference powerhouse.
And now that he has Joe Johnson to help him out, it shouldn't be too difficult.
Right before getting D-Will to commit, the Nets also acquired Johnson via trade from the Hawks, finally getting the frontcourt presence they desperately need to compete.
Winner: New York Knicks
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The Knicks lost out on Steve Nash, but unlike some of the losers during this year's free-agency period, they got right back on the proverbial horse and made the necessary moves to fill a big hole in the backcourt.
In their most significant move, they swept Jason Kidd right out from under the Mavericks, getting the veteran point guard to ditch Dallas for a chance to win with Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony.
The details haven't all been hammered out, but Kidd will either sign outright with the Knicks or arrive via a sign-and-trade, according to ESPN.com.
And New York wasn't done yet: It also acquired veteran Marcus Camby in a sign-and-trade deal with the Rockets, right after re-signing Steve Novak to a four-year deal (per the New York Times).
Now, the only remaining step is re-signing restricted free agent Jeremy Lin, then it's a resounding win all around for the Knicks.
Winner: Miami Heat
It's hard to believe the Heat could get any better after steamrolling the rest of the league en route to an NBA title this year, but oh, they could.
And they turned to one of their biggest Eastern Conference rivals for the one missing piece they needed.
In an unexpected turn of events, Ray Allen—who was a huge component of the Celtics' championship run in 2008—rejected Boston's two-year, $12 million offer in favor of the Heat, who could only offer him their mid-level exception of about $3 million.
But hey, a chance to win a ring with LeBron James is worth it, at least to Allen.
Jesus Shuttlesworth may be 38 when the next season starts, and he won't start for Miami, but he'll still be a huge factor for the Heat in 2012-13 as a lights-out, long-range shooter who can spread defenses and help LeBron and Chris Bosh get to the rim with even more efficiency.
To the rest of the Eastern Conference: Good luck.
Winner: Boston Celtics
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Even though they lost Ray Allen, the Celtics didn't lose overall.
Their most significant goal this offseason was getting Kevin Garnett to return for at least one more year, and they exceeded that goal, getting him to ink a brand new three-year deal.
After the Celtics selected Fab Melo in this year's NBA draft, it was immediately apparent that the young Syracuse center would need an excellent mentor in order to succeed over the long term in the league, and that mentor will be Garnett.
But in addition to mentoring the young future of the Celtics frontcourt, he'll be a key component of it in 2012-13. KG proved over the course of the last season that he's far from done in the NBA, especially after experiencing a career rejuvenation of sorts when he shifted from the 4 to the 5.
And after the way the 2011-12 season ended—in seven gritty games against the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals—he'll be hungrier than ever for another ring.
The Celtics also made a huge acquisition in agreeing to terms with veteran guard Jason Terry, who is more than capable of filling whatever hole Ray Allen left behind.
Loser: Dallas Mavericks
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There is no team that got kicked harder and more often than the Mavericks over the last week.
First, they lost the Deron Williams sweepstakes, which was the biggest blow of all. Then, they failed to trade for Dwight Howard (at least, so far). Then, they didn't get Steve Nash, and to add insult to injury, both Jason Kidd and Jason Terry defected to the Knicks and the Celtics, respectively.
So what's left for the Mavericks? Not much.
Dirk Nowitzki has to be wondering what, in the name of God, Mark Cuban is going to do to keep this team competitive, and potentially acquiring Ramon Sessions (per ESPNDallas.com) isn't a suitable answer.
At this point, if Dirk goes down, this team is going to be finished.
In fact, it might be finished even if Dirk is healthy all year, considering how much better other Western Conference teams have become.
Loser: L.A. Clippers
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The Clippers were one of the biggest disappointments during the 2012 postseason, as it became very obvious that Blake Griffin and Chris Paul—when they weren't 100 percent healthy—couldn't get the job done against the best teams in the Western Conference.
They may have acquired Jamal Crawford and Chauncey Billups, but it's safe to say the Clips needed to make a bit more of a splash than signing two aging vets in order to stay competitive in the Pacific Division.
And after signing those two, they didn't even give Ray Allen a shot, which, in retrospect, may have been a big oversight.
The Clippers have long been the redheaded stepchild of basketball in Los Angeles, and for good reason. The Lakers are tough to compete with, and there's no way the Clips could've known their crosstown rivals were going to make a genius move during free agency.
But still, that doesn't excuse the fact that they're going to have just as tough a time competing with the Thunder and the Lakers as they did in 2011-12. They may have gotten a little better, but it's not enough.
Loser: Philadelphia 76ers
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The Sixers were so close to pulling off the unimaginable during the 2012 postseason. First, they took down the top-seeded, Derrick Rose-less Bulls, and then they took the Celtics to seven games.
Close, but no cigar.
On the bright side, it became clear that the Sixers weren't far off from being able to compete in the Eastern Conference.
But what have they done during free agency thus far?
They've signed...Nick Young. And that, we can all agree, is not going to be enough to push the Sixers past the Celtics, Knicks, Heat, Hawks and the other Eastern Conference powerhouses they're going to be competing with yet again in 2012-13.
What's worse is the fact that the Sixers—in letting Lou Williams escape and waiving Elton Brand—have gotten worse, not better.
At some point, they might have to just trade Andre Iguodala and commit themselves to the idea of a rebuilding year (or two, or three).
Loser: Indiana Pacers
The Pacers' offseason dialogue has been dominated by Larry Bird's stepping down and Donnie Walsh's stepping in.
And though Indiana seems to have accomplished its offseason goals in keeping George Hill and re-signing Roy Hibbert, how intelligent are those moves in reality?
The Pacers are in a similar situation to the Sixers, though admittedly, at least a little bit better off. They're close to being a competitor in the Eastern Conference, but they're not quite there, and what they're missing is an established veteran presence that can help shape this team full of young talent into a contender.
But committing nearly $100 million to Roy Hibbert and Hill may not be the way to go for a team that doesn't exactly have unlimited resources.
Both players are young and both have potential, but they are also unproven—particularly Hibbert, who has certainly improved throughout his four years in the league but is far from a dominant center in the NBA, as evidenced by the Pacers' second-round loss to the Heat in this year's playoffs.
A huge portion of the Pacers' assets could be tied up between two players for the next four to five years, and if even one of them doesn't work out, this could come back to haunt this team.
Losers: Houston Rockets
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Granted, the Rockets' epic whiff in this offseason began long before free agency.
The Rockets seemed to be stockpiling picks prior to this year's NBA draft, probably in an effort to land Dwight Howard in a trade.
That didn't work out, the Rockets were left with three incredibly questionable first-round selections, and after trading point guard Kyle Lowry to the Raptors for Gary Forbes and a first-round draft pick, you have to wonder what this team is thinking.
Given their abundance of first-round draft picks, the Rockets were in a position to make a big trade prior to the draft that would have allowed them to bring in some veteran help, and they could have bolstered the roster by signing some key role players during free agency.
Instead, they've gotten worse since trading Lowry, and they still lack the frontcourt presence they truly needed to obtain during this offseason.