The NBA this off-season has been filled with an obscene amount of star players changing teams, being traded and being released. What does all this mean? The obvious thing that jumps off the page is the depressed economic conditions which have contributed to fewer staggering contracts, like the $85 million deal Elton Brand signed last season.
If Allen Iverson can only command a roughly $6 million, one-year contract this off-season, what could Baron Davis have gotten this summer? I'm guessing not much...
The NBA is definitely getting older, and it's interesting to look at the teams who are trying to stockpile youth (Minnesota, Memphis, Sacamento), and the veteran teams who are attempting to pull off that one last magical run to a championship (Orlando, Dallas, San Antonio) by adding or re-signing a key veteran All-Star.
There were two appalling decisions made this summer, and it's with great regret that my hometown Orlando Magic made both moves. First, they traded away a promising, proven shooter in Courtney Lee (remember Dallas and the Devin Harris trade) and in return received an electrifying player in Vince Carter.
The downside is twofold: Carter is old, and he has a bloated contract. I also believe that Magic GM Otis Smith should have stayed true to his word, chiefly that paying a back-up center (Marcin Gortat) $6 million per season is a bit excessive. Altering team chemistry like the Magic had is a precarious situation. Hopefully it works out for them, sans Hedo Turkoglu.
The best moves made this offseason included re-signing a pivotal point guard, and obtaining a former superstar in Shawn Marion. The Dallas Mavericks under Mark Cuban have rarely been afraid to spend money for their players, and re-signing Jason Kidd was critical to their 2009-2010 NBA season, especially considering what they gave up for him.
But getting Marion was icing on the cake for a team already boasting stars like Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard and Jason Terry. It's a little premature to crown them Western Conference champions, but I think they will offer strong resistance to the Lakers with a starting lineup of Kidd, Terry, Howard, Marion, and Nowitzki. Not starting Jason Terry would be a disaster for the Mavericks, in my opinion.
Another team that still came out winner despite not making a big signing was the Portland Trail Blazers. I truly believe two years down the road, they would regret having $10 million per season tied up in Turkoglu. They lost Channing Frye, but their core of Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge still holds a promising future for a team that is just starting to mature.
Other thoughts from the free agency signing period:
Best Free Agent Signing: Rasheed Wallace, PF, Boston Celtics (from Detroit Pistons)
Wallace will begin the season coming off the bench, but you can bet come crunch time, he will be out there with the Big Three competing for another championship. His veteran experience is priceless, and he provides insurance in case Garnett becomes injured again.
Most Underrated Signing: Brandon Bass, PF, Orlando Magic (from Dallas Mavericks)
Orlando doesn't really have a starting PF, so Bass may just find himself starting with Nelson, Carter, Lewis and Howard. Not a bad starting 5, but drastically different from last season's championship squad.
Most Overrated Siging: Hedo Turkoglu, SF/PF, Toronto Raptors (from Orlando Magic)
Hedo played out of his mind, maybe because it his just his year, or maybe because it was a contract year. I feel he was a bit overvalued and somewhat of a "system" player in Orlando. Only time will tell.
Most Valuable Free Agent to his new team: Ben Gordon, SG, Detroit Pistons (from Chicago Bulls)
Gordon is young and can score in bunches. Detroit is almost starting over, and Gordon is a solid foundation block.
Least Valuable Free Agent to his new team: Charlie Villanueva, PF, Detroit Pistons (After all, why did Milwaukee let him walk away for nothing)
Villanueva has always been overrated in my opinion. While he's not exactly the second coming of Erick Dampier, I'm willing to bet Joe Dumars regrets this signing halfway through the preseason.