Early Winners and Losers of 2013 NBA Free Agency

D.J. Foster@@fosterdjContributor IJuly 10, 2013

Early Winners and Losers of 2013 NBA Free Agency

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    The NBA's free-agency moratorium period is a misnomer. Despite teams being unable to actually do anything, that's still when the majority of the action goes down. All the big-name players have made their decisions, and now, we are just waiting on the formality of signing papers.

    The wait will come to an end today as the signing period officially opens on July 10.

    Although there's still work to be done by teams filling out rotations and rosters, here's an early look at the winners and losers of 2013 NBA free agency

Losers: Los Angeles Lakers

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    Hey, at least the Los Angeles Lakers are the luxury-tax champions, as Marc Stein of ESPN stated, right? After missing out on Dwight Howard and using the lone exception available on the oft-injured Chris Kaman, the Lakers are in a tailspin with no real way to pull out. 

    While it's certainly possible that the Lakers can lure veteran free agents to Los Angeles like they have for years and years, they can no longer sell visions of championship rings to prospective free agents.

    With Kobe Bryant recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, Metta World Peace likely amnestied out of town and a nonexistent supporting cast around Pau Gasol, the Lakers look very, very vulnerable.

    As soon as Howard jumped ship to Houston, the Lakers became the biggest loser of the offseason. It's hard to see that changing, as the assets just aren't there.

Winners: Los Angeles Clippers

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    The Los Angeles Clippers offseason was a beautiful display of a positive trickle-down effect in acquisitions.

    The Clippers made a bold move by trading with the Boston Celtics for head coach Doc Rivers, and then everything else fell in line. Chris Paul didn't even visit with other teams, instead opting to announce his intent to sign before free agency even began. 

    Locking up Paul for five years is obviously the most important move, but after the Clips traded for J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, they signed Matt Barnes and Darren Collison with the mid-level exception, which was really an incredible value.

    The Clippers surrounded the game's best point guard and distributor with much better shooters while bringing in high-effort defenders to plug into Rivers' defensive system. While that defense may still be a question mark, the Clippers did the very anti-Clippers thing by making aggressive moves.

    By their standards and those of the league, they absolutely knocked it out of the park this offseason.

Losers: Dallas Mavericks

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    Teams need to have a plan. The Dallas Mavericks lost out on Dwight Howard (and Chris Paul), and now, yet again, it's just a mad dash for talent. Jose Calderon is a very good player and excellent shooter, but does he accomplish anything other than making the Mavericks slightly less mediocre?

    That's the problem. Ideally, Mark Cuban and company would be able to separate their heads from their hearts and make the right business decision by trading Dirk Nowitzki and starting a rebuild. Instead, they'll battle it out for a No. 8 seed or first-round playoff exit while Nowitzki loses his trade value. 

    Calderon and Devin Harris will be put to good use by head coach Rick Carlisle, who likely had no interest in a rebuild. The players the Mavericks added are good, but they won't change the present or future outcome for the team, and that's the problem.

Winners: Houston Rockets

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    The Houston Rockets won the Dwight Howard sweepstakes through years of acquiring assets, maintaining flexibility and making smart trades.

    Rockets general manager Daryl Morey seems to have the Executive of the Year trophy all but locked up at this point, as he's managed to acquire arguably the best players at their respective positions (James Harden, Howard) in back-to-back offseasons.

    Howard may be a high-maintenance superstar both in terms of personality and on-the-court needs, but the Rockets are the perfect franchise to accommodate him with whatever he wants.

    With Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin both still on the roster, don't expect the Rockets to be done now that they have signed Howard. Morey is never done, and his lack of complacency is a huge reason that one of the game's most dominant players will be wearing red this season.

Losers: Denver Nuggets

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    What a truly brutal offseason for the Denver Nuggets. 

    Masai Ujiri, a promising young general manager who built an exciting roster, bolted for Toronto. NBA legend and 2013 Coach of the Year George Karl got fired. Andre Iguodala left town for a conference foe.

    Kosta Koufos, a pretty solid center, was traded for a stretch 4 (Darrell Arthur) who has serious limitations as an all-around player. Then, as the cherry on top, the Nuggets signed another offense-only 4—whom you don't want playing the 5—in J.J. Hickson. All this, even though the Nuggets already have a 4—who can't play the 5—in Kenneth Faried. 

    The Nuggets are clearly reeling, and although there is still some promising young talent on the roster, it's fair to wonder if last season's best home team is even a playoff team this year.

Winners: Golden State Warriors

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    Weaken a conference rival? Check. Add a killer wing defender and distributor to the sharpshooting duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson? Check. Add depth, athleticism and positional flexibility? Check, check, check.

    The Golden State Warriors took care of a lot of items on their shopping list by snagging Andre Iguodala away from the Denver Nuggets after clearing the necessary cap space in a trade with the Utah Jazz. 

    Iguodala is one of the game's best perimeter defenders, and his size and well-rounded set of skills will allow the Warriors to use him in a variety of ways. Whether it's David Lee or Harrison Barnes at the 4, Iguodala can work with both and allow the Warriors' potent offense to keep on humming.

    Golden State's offseason wasn't all about Iguodala, though.

    Talented stretch big man Marreese Speights will replace Carl Landry at a friendlier price, and Toney Douglas is one of the most underrated backup point guards in basketball. Toss in a suddenly revived Jermaine O'Neal and the Warriors added depth despite losing two big bench pieces in Landry and Jarrett Jack.

    It's early, but the offseason's busiest team will be a force in the real season, so long as everyone can stay healthy.

Losers: Detroit Pistons

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    Josh Smith is not a small forward. Repeat: Josh Smith is not a small forward.

    The Detroit Pistons decided to give Smith $56 million over four years anyway, despite the fact that Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond probably can't take the floor together if spacing is at all considered.

    The likely outcome of this signing is that Drummond will be buried in the rotation and not get all the minutes he should in order to develop. That's a shame.

    Although Smith is a very good passer and defender, his shot selection leaves a whole lot to be desired. Will Smith help Monroe and Drummond develop? Possibly, but not if he's taking their minutes or chucking up shots as a small forward with no range, and those seem to be the two likeliest outcomes.

    Ultimately, though, the big problem is general manager Joe Dumars pushing in his chips far too early. With an incredibly young roster nowhere near title contention, the Pistons should have grown slowly, together, while compiling assets for the future and maintaining flexibility.

    Instead, Smith's contract and poor fit could end up stunting the natural progression of the Pistons franchise.

Winners: Indiana Pacers

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    The Indiana Pacers may not have made a huge splash, but for a team right on the doorstep of winning a title, they made the right moves.

    Re-signing David West was a must, even though his $36 million deal over three years is steep. The fact that Indiana was willing to spend the necessary money is a good sign for their future, however, even though the Pacers will have to do some salary shifting down the line.

    Aside from keeping one of the best starting units in basketball together, the Pacers also upgraded one of the league's worst benches.

    Getting Danny Granger back and healthy will already help, but stealing solid scorer C.J. Watson away from Brooklyn and stretch forward Chris Copeland from the New York Knicks serves the dual purpose of weakening conference foes while improving the roster.

    Just like in the regular season, the Pacers were quietly very good this offseason. They're a legitimate title contender next year.