NBA Free Agent Frenzy: Three Best Signings Become No Big Deal

Kenny SteinCorrespondent IJuly 9, 2008

This off-season, I was predicting two things:

1) The SuperSonics would stay in Seattle for two more years. 

2 ) At least one team would try to duplicate the Boston Celtics' formula.

There is a very good chance I will be 0-for-2 on those predictions.

For a period of time, I thought that at least the second statement would come true when the Clippers signed Baron Davis. For a few days, the Clippers had one of the best starting 5's in the NBA.

The pairing of Davis with Elton Brand sounded electrifying. If they could both stay healthy, the Clippers would have one of the top big men and one of the top point guards in the league; a pairing that could easily rival any other in the Western Conference.

But it wasn't long before there were rumors of Brand taking Davis' roster spot on Golden State. Alas, maybe the Clippers weren't making a change for the better after all.

But at least the Warriors appeared to be heading in the right direction.

Yeah, not so fast on that prediction either.

Instead, it appears that Brand will be headed to...Philadelphia?

For a few days, the Clippers had Davis, Brand, and Corey Maggette all on the same roster. Nobody ever thought they would retain all three, but two out of three isn't bad. No, two out of three plus Chris Kaman and Al Thornton is a straight up playoff team with home court in the first round. 

 Brand (career scoring average of 20.3),  Davis (17.1), and Corey Maggette (16.1), were three of the top free agents available. In addition, the Clippers had the best shot at retaining two of them. They had already signed Davis, so the last thing to do was make sure he had a formidable scoring teammate.

Maggette scored 22 points a game last season and was poised to remain at an elite scoring level for some time. Instead, he'll be headed to Golden State, of all places.

Los Angeles Clippers. Golden State Warriors. Philadelphia 76ers. 

L.A and Golden State missed the playoffs last season. Philadelphia did hold a 2-1 series lead against Detroit but got trounced in the final 3 games of that series.

At one point in time, it seemed the Clippers were the Celtics of the West. Now, they are left with just Davis, Kaman, and Thornton as legit starters. Only one of those guys is a proven commodity. The Clippers showed that they indeed do not intend on changing their penny-pinching ways. And again, will miss the playoffs.

At another point in time, when it appeared the Warriors were the leaders to get Elton Brand, they had moved from the ninth seed to a playoff team. Even after losing Davis, they still would have had Monta Ellis, Steven Jackson, Al Harrington, Andris Biedrins, and now Elton Brand. 

But instead they added Corey Maggette. Who fits in where exactly?  If you rotate Jackson, Harrington, and Maggette, does anybody notice a difference?  The Warriors again are an eigth seed at best. Plus, with the Western Conference getting older, wiser, and better, they'll probably miss the playoffs for a second straight season.

Which brings us to the 76ers. They probably advanced much farther than the Clippers or Warriors did after these signings. 

First of all, they didn't have to lose anybody to gain anybody. They already had the most cap space and are in the Eastern Conference, where the battle of the third best team won't be that hard to win. 

Maybe even the battle of the second best team, unless the Pistons do in fact start to reassemble that team.

But there is also a reason that the Sixers had so much cap space: They are not that talented and they lack experience.

Andre Iguodala is perhaps one of the best young players in the game. Athletic, and well-rounded, he could form a nice duo with Brand. However, he could also regress.

Playing second fiddle didn't seem to work out too well for him when Allen Iverson was in town. 

It's possible that his game will mature and he'll just get better with Brand now manning the middle. But Iguodala has been "the man" in Philly for the last year and a half. Does he even know how to throw it down low? When was the last time the Sixers had a big man that could score?

Outside of those two, Philly has point guard Andre Miller, center Samuel Dalembert, and forward Thaddeus Young.

And not much else.

When Brand and the Clippers were finally relevant in the 05-06 season, it was because they had veterans. That was a team led by Sam Cassell and Cuttino Mobley.

Andre Miller is no Sam Cassell. He's a question mark every time out, as far as what he's going to do. 

Dalembert could produce at a Kaman-like level, but not even  Kaman usually produces at a Kaman-like level when he plays next to Elton Brand.

So, where does this leave the Sixers?  Probably somewhere around the fifth or sixth seed and a first round exit.

Unless Brand performs at a 24 PPG level for 70-80 games while the team gets production from a player other than Iguodala, the Sixers won't be much better than the other middle-tier teams of the Eastern conference. 

In the end, after the three biggest free agent moves of the off-season were complete, no team advanced their playoff hopes much.  No team made the Celtic-splash we had been waiting for. Furthermore, the Clippers have their fans waiting again for next year.


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