NBA Free Agents 2012: Offseason Winners and Losers
Nash to LA was one of many surprising off-season departures.
Despite the fact that the 2012-2013 free-agent signing period is only three days old, there has already been a flurry of transactions throughout the league. Amidst rampant speculation on Dwight Howard's destination, this offseason has seen multiple marquee free agents choose new destinations, as well as a couple of complete roster overhauls.
While there are still a number of quality players treading water in the free-agent pool, including OJ Mayo and Carl Landry, the majority of this offseason's cream of the crop have already found new destinations.
While there are still plenty of pieces to be moved around in the next few months, I'm going to focus on the teams that have made major moves or solidified their rosters for the upcoming season. Let's start by taking a look at the 2012-2013 winners.
Offseason Winners: New Atlanta Hawks GM Danny Ferry Does the Impossible
With Danny Ferry's arrival, Atlanta swiftly cleared loads of cap space.
The Atlanta Hawks, with over $100 million in cap room tied up by Marvin Williams and Joe Johnson, were destined to playoff purgatory—the unenviable position of being a low-seeded playoff team doomed for imminent failure against the East's best squads.
In a matter of days, Danny Ferry washed it all away. Whether the Hawks are able to rebuild to become a viable contender remains to be seen. However, the fact remains that Danny Ferry did what many believed to be impossible by unloading Joe Johnson's hefty deal upon the spend-first, ask-questions-later Brooklyn Nets.
Johnson was the Hawks' designated leader and perennial All-Star, but still considered by many to be a colossal underachiever given his price tag.
Williams, on the other hand, is widely panned as a disappointment after being selected at No. 2 by the Hawks, in front of All-Stars and franchise cornerstones such as Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Andrew Bynum and Danny Granger. Hawks fans' apathy towards Williams is magnified by his career averages of 11.5 points and 5.3 rebounds.
In addition to shedding Johnson and Williams, the Hawks picked up Lou Williams, one of the better, less-discussed free agents on the market. He should provide a scoring punch to make up for the loss of Johnson, and could be a great option off the bench, similar to his tenure in Philly.
Ferry should already receive consideration for Executive of the Year, as he offloaded two of the more unfathomable contracts in the league in exchange for expiring deals, while providing Atlanta with boatloads of cap relief in the future.
Lakers Sign Former Nemesis Steve Nash
Steve Nash will take some off the offensive pressure off of Kobe.
By giving up two first-round picks in 2013 and 2015, as well as a couple of second-rounders in 2013 and 2014, Los Angeles immediately revitalized their team by securing one of the most crafty distributors in the history of the game.
While four draft picks might seem like a steep price to pay for a defensively-challenged 38-year-old point guard in the twilight of his career, the Lakers most certainly came out the victor.
Nash's high basketball IQ and precision passing will alleviate a lot of the pressure for Kobe to create offense, and will translate to plenty of open looks for Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and even the fading Metta World Peace.
Los Angeles may not be better off than the reigning Western Conference champion Thunder, but it certainly puts them in title contention conversations.
"Where Brooklyn At?"
The returns of Deron Williams and Gerald Wallace were a huge gamble that the Nets won.
The answer to that question? Firmly entrenched in the mid-to-upper echelon of the Eastern Conference.
No other team received a greater profile-boost simply by re-signing their own free agents than the newly minted Brooklyn Nets. In addition to trading a glut of expiring contracts for Joe Johnson, the Nets were able to re-sign Deron Williams and Gerald Wallace, both of whom were far from guarantees.
Brooklyn was greatly chastised for their risky moves under the reign of Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.
They traded multiple draft assets and Devin Harris for what could've amounted to a year and a half of Deron Williams, and followed by relinquishing a lottery pick to Portland for Gerald Wallace, who was set to become a free agent.
With both players officially under long-term contracts, Billy King and the Nets fanbase can now breathe a collective sigh of relief.
After pulling out of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, Brooklyn re-signed promising seven-footer Brook Lopez to a max extension. While a bit pricey, Lopez is one of the best low post scorers in the league, and should rebound nicely from a season in which he was limited to only five games due to injury.
If the Nets are able to secure Kris Humphries' services, they will feature one of the strongest starting lineups in the NBA. Quite the turnaround for a team that went 22-44 over the previous season.
From Jesus (Shuttlesworth) to Judas, the Heat Introduce...Ray Allen.
Allen provides the Heat with another perimeter threat.
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Suffering through an ankle injury that hindered him throughout the entire postseason, Ray Allen and the Boston Celtics came within one game of returning to the NBA Finals.
Even without starting point guard Avery Bradley and other key rotation players, the aging Celtics nearly upended the heavily-favored Miami Heat.
After winning the series, and eventually the NBA title, the Miami Heat stuck Boston with yet another dagger—the signing of Beantown sharpshooter Ray Allen. Allen agreed to terms on a deal for the mini mid-level exception, which will pay roughly $3 million a season over three years.
Even handcuffed by salary restraints, evil wizard Pat Riley was once again able to pull off a free-agent coup, signing Allen and Rashard Lewis to strengthen the Heat's perimeter shooting.
Despite the fact that the reigning NBA champions are already pressing into the luxury tax, Miami once again did the unthinkable by signing the best free-agent shooter available, while leaving other teams to ponder what could possibly be done to defeat them.
Bobcats Fans, Rejoice!
Kemba Walker and company finally might have a reason to smile.
You've gone from having the worst team in NBA history to just being below average! Yeah!
Okay, maybe that isn't necessarily something worth celebrating, but at least it's a step in the right direction. That being said, Charlotte needs to walk a few more miles in that direction, as they were completely off-the-map awful last season.
After posting a 7-59 record, Charlotte rebounded by selecting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the No. 2 pick in the draft, got the better end of a deal with Detroit that landed them former Sixth Man of the Year Ben Gordon, picked up Ramon Sessions and lodged the highest bid for Brendan Haywood.
Outside of signing Kidd-Gilchrist, none of those moves could be considered flashy, or even a blip on the league's radar.
But it's a step towards legitimizing a franchise that tormented its fanbase by trotting out a starting lineup featuring Gerald Henderson as its centerpiece. I repeat, Gerald Henderson was Charlotte's best player. And you thought your team had it bad.
Throughout the offseason, Charlotte has taken baby steps towards returning their franchise to an upright position. While Gordon, Sessions and Haywood aren't exactly the cream of the crop, they're all solid players capable of contributing immediately.
The Bobcats are more than likely bound for lottery territory again next season, but a few more quality additions could have them clawing their way out of the cellar.
Offseason Losers: Farewell, Bench Mob...We Hardly Knew Ye
Omer Asik may wind up in Houston.
After two successful seasons in which the Chicago Bulls held the league's best record, the front office has decided to go in a different direction, effectively reducing the league's most fearsome bench to Taj Gibson, POTENTIALLY Omer Asik, and the corpse of Kirk Hinrich.
Guards Ronnie Brewer and CJ Watson were both informed that their options would not be picked up, and Kyle Korver was recently traded to the Atlanta Hawks...for a second-round draft pick and a savings of $500,000.
Defensive juggernaut Omer Asik has signed an offer sheet with the Houston Rockets, and while his departure is far from a foregone conclusion, the diabolical structuring of the contract makes it difficult for Chicago to re-sign him without going deep into the luxury tax.
While Jimmy Butler is expected to be a cheaper, similarly effective replacement to Ronnie Brewer and Hinrich will prove to be a suitable replacement for Watson, the Bulls are left with a scoring void after losing Korver.
While Korver was a defensive liability, he was instant offense, shooting 44 percent from downtown, good for 10th in the league. For a team that already struggles to produce on offense, losing Korver is a significant blow.
With Korver, Brewer and Watson on expiring contracts, Chicago should've been able to find a suitor or two willing to take on the players in exchange for a decent shooter and a chance at future cap relief. The Bulls were seemingly unable to do so, and allowed three solid rotation players to walk for virtually nothing.
Chris Kaman and Darren Collison...Just as Good as Deron and Dwight?
Nowitzki is now surrounded by veterans on expiring deals.
Clearly, the answer to that question is no. Since winning the 2011 NBA title, Dallas has allowed Tyson Chandler, JJ Barea, Caron Butler and Jason Terry to walk in hopes of freeing up cap space to sign Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, or potentially both.
D-Will re-signed long term with Brooklyn, and Howard is currently stuck in limbo with the Orlando Magic. After whiffing on signing marquee free agent Williams, Dallas directed their attention towards former show-runner Steve Nash.
Nash shocked everyone by signing with the Lakers, and the Mavs were once again left out in the cold.
In a free-agent market dictated primarily by point guards, Dallas struck out with seemingly every one of them, including Goran Dragic and Jason Kidd, their own starting point.
In an effort to recover, Dallas picked up free-agent center Chris Kaman, won the bidding war for amnestied power forward Elton Brand, and traded for speedy point guard Darren Collison.
While the attempt to salvage their offseason was admirable, Dallas have to be considered losers this summer, given their lofty expectations.
Dwightmare on Church Street
Orlando is treading water until Dwight's eventual departure.
The Amway Center is located on Church Street in downtown Orlando...Dwight Howard is causing the front office headaches...Freddy Krueger. Take a second and let it all sink in.
After opting in for another run with the Magic, Dwight Howard has since asked for a trade...AGAIN. The best big man in the NBA is sure to net Orlando a decent return, but until then, he's doing nothing more than taking up space and ruining the team's chemistry.
With his imminent departure, Howard will leave a hole in the middle far too big for Orlando to sufficiently plug. As of now, there is no resolution, and while Rob Hennigan can be applauded for his patience, uncertainty looms over one of the East's contending teams.
Dwight drama aside, the Magic have one major bright spot in the form of the league's reigning Most Improved Player, Ryan Anderson. That is, until they deemed his contract too expensive to match, sending him to New Orleans in a sign-and-trade for young center Gustavo Ayon.
This now leaves the Magic with Jameer Nelson, one of the bottom-10 starting point guards in the NBA, to run the team. Pending a Dwight Howard deal, the most that Magic fans may have to look forward to is a lottery pick in the upcoming draft.