NBA Free Agency: Winners and Losers Following the NBA Lockout

Bob BajekAnalyst IIIDecember 20, 2011

NBA Free Agency: Winners and Losers Following the NBA Lockout

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    NBA teams frantically scrambled to pick up free agents or to make trades to strengthen their rosters the last couple weeks.

    Some teams are emerging as winners and some as losers, and the NBA's landscape has drastically transformed.

    Some teams, like the Chicago Bulls, made key signings to strengthen areas of need. Other teams, like the Milwaukee Bucks, did not.

    Finding out who struck NBA gold and who simply struck out is just a few clicks away.

Winner: Portland Trail Blazers

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    The Portland Trail Blazers lost a star player in Brandon Roy, but the Blazers recovered in time to ink former Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Jamal Crawford to a two-year, $10 million contract.

    Crawford, a combo-guard who won the 2009-10 Sixth Man of the Year Award, is a good scorer and can make up for the production that left with Roy.

    Crawford can easily drop 15-20 points a night when he has a hot hand, and he will play well with Raymond Felton, Wesley Matthews and LaMarcus Aldridge. 

    Despite re-signing the oft-injured Greg Oden, the Blazers made an underrated move in acquiring former Chicago Bulls center Kurt Thomas.

    The 39-year-old Thomas provides solid insurance for not only Oden, but for starting center Marcus Camby, should he get injured. With the Bulls, Thomas played well in 37 starts when Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah were injured. He is a strong post defender who also has a nice mid-range jumper.

    These two moves strengthen both the Blazers' backcourt and frontcourt, while keeping them contenders in their Northwest Division and the Western Conference.

Loser: Houston Rockets

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    The Houston Rockets have been trying extremely hard to get a solid center to replace the production lost when star Yao Ming retired.

    The Rockets were involved in a three-team trade with the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Hornets that was nixed by the NBA. Houston would have received the Pau Gasol from the Lakers, while trading Kevin Martin and Luis Scola to the Hornets.

    Besides not getting Gasol, the Rockets also lost out on a pair of free agents they were targeting in Nene Hilario of the Denver Nuggets and Tyson Chandler of the Dallas Mavericks.

    Nene re-signed with the Nuggets while Chandler became a richer man with the New York Knicks.

    These snubs are forcing the Rockets to look at former Sacramento Kings Chuck Hayes, a 6-foot-6 "center" who is an average at best.

Winner: Indiana Pacers

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    The Indiana Pacers are an up-and-coming NBA team. Signing New Orleans Hornets power forward David West and trading for San Antonio Spurs point guard George Hill on draft night were huge moves.

    West, an All-Star forward, is a solid player who can score 18 points and grab eight boards a night. He is a strong post player, who can score down low and has good ball-handling skills.

    While West is only an average defender, the Pacers could have center Roy Hibbert check more athletic forwards.

    The biggest part of acquiring West, is that Tyler Hansbrough can now come of the bench.

    Meanwhile, Hill increases the Pacers' backcourt depth. He will back-up starting point guard Darren Collison, and he could fill in for shooting guard Paul George if he struggles.

    Hill gives the Pacers more athleticism and vast postseason experience that he obtained while with the Spurs.

    Another underrated move was the re-signing of backup power forward/center Jeff Foster. Foster is a bruiser who defends the post well and forces players to think twice in driving to the hoop.

    These additions could make the Pacers the second best team in the NBA Central Division, behind the Chicago Bulls.

Loser: Golden State Warriors

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    The Golden State Warriors were not able improve their team at all during free agency.

    The Warriors offered Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan a $42.7 million contract to shore up their center situation, since Andris Biedrins is not the answer.

    However, Jordan was a restricted free agent and the Clippers matched the Warriors' offer.

    The Warriors were also after Tyson Chandler, but lost out on signing the center to the New York Knicks.

    The Warriors then made a splash and signed former-bust Kwame Brown to a one-year, $7 million contract. That seems to be way too much money to shell out for a player who has only been below-average thus far.

    In a smaller move, Golden State also traded forward Lou Amundson to the Indiana Pacers for guard Brandon Rush for some backcourt depth.

Winner: Chicago Bulls

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    The Chicago Bulls seemed only one player away from the NBA Finals last year, but they may have picked him up in former Detroit Pistons shooting guard Richard Hamilton.

    The Bulls were striking out with potential additions, as the Orlando Magic's Jason Richardson re-signed with his team and the Phoenix Suns' Vince Carter inked a deal with the Dallas Mavericks.

    Restricted free agents like Marcus Thornton of the Sacramento Kings and Nick Young of the Washington Wizards stayed with their respective teams, as well.

    Other options at shooting guard included the Golden State Warriors' Monta Ellis and the Denver Nuggets' Arron Afflalo, but these trades would require the Bulls to give up either Taj Gibson or Omer Asik, along with maybe a couple first round draft picks.

    Signing the 33-year-old Hamilton allows the Bulls to fulfill a huge area of need without sacrificing any talent. Also, Hamilton is a solid scorer who dropped 14 points a night last year, about 10 points higher than former-starter Keith Bogans.

    With Hamilton coupled with Rose in the backcourt, the Bulls will be a dangerous team on offense.

Loser: Dallas Mavericks

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    The Dallas Mavericks tried to strengthen their team to help them repeat as NBA champs, but they failed to do so.

    Furthermore, the Mavericks lost center Tyson Chandler to the New York Knicks. This move hurts the center position, as backup Brendan Haywood fills in as the starter.

    Mavericks’ power forward Dirk Nowitzki's offensive production could decline as well. Chandler helped Nowitzki with post defense, taking on the harder assignments so Nowitzki could concentrate more on scoring.

    The Mavericks also lost swingman Caron Butler to the Los Angeles Clippers and back-up point guard J.J. Barea to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    Owner Mark Cuban was able to trade for Los Angeles Lakers power forward Lamar Odom. But Cuban also made the mistake of unloading shooting guard Rudy Fernandez to the Denver Nuggets.

    Phoenix Suns shooting guard Vince Carter replaced Fernandez. While Carter can score, he is 34 years old and his play has been declining. Meanwhile, Fernandez is only 26 years young, and he could have been a long-term solution at the 2-guard spot.

    While snagging Odom was a smart move, losing Chandler, Fernandez, Butler and Barea could have adverse effects on the Mavericks.

Winner: New York Knicks

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    The New York Knicks could have easily been losers in this NBA free agency period, but they made out like bandits.

    It didn't start out well for the Knicks, as they were forced to amnesty top point guard Chauncey Billups to make financial room to add center Tyson Chandler.

    While Chandler was a strong upgrade at center and gave the Knicks the league's top frontcourt, New York lacked a real point guard to lead them to victory, as Toney Douglas is too inconsistent. 

    However, the Cleveland Cavaliers used the amnesty clause on starting point guard Baron Davis as well. The Knicks moved in and signed Davis, who provides talent similar to that of Billups.

    After Davis returns from a back injury, the Knicks boast one of the NBA's top starting lineups with Davis, Chandler, Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Landry Fields. 

Loser: New Jersey Nets

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    The New Jersey Nets had been trying to land NBA superstar Dwight Howard, but the Orlando Magic ended trade talks.

    Howard is a dynamic center who provides both explosive offense and defense. Howard would also be the type of player who could persuade Nets point guard Deron Williams to re-sign with the team long-term.

    Other players the Nets targeted but missed out on were Caron Butler, Jamal Crawford, Tyson Chandler and Nene Hilario,

    Signing forwards Sheldon Williams from the New York Knicks and Ima Udoka from the San Antonio Spurs were minor moves.

    The Nets did amnesty the underachieving Travis Outlaw, but that will not be enough, as the team hasn't improved its talent level.

Winner: Los Angeles Clippers

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    Who would have ever thought that the Los Angeles Clippers would make out like bandits during any free-agency period? 

    No one, not in a million years.

    The Clippers!?

    Well, they proved just about everyone wrong as they made the strongest acquisitions.

    When the New York Knicks amnestied point guard Chauncey Billups, the Clippers jumped right away and claimed him off waivers. Dallas Mavericks swingman Caron Butler was inked to a deal as well, as the Clippers strengthened themselves at both the 2 and 3 positions. 

    The biggest move, though, was executing a trade with the New Orleans Hornets to land point guard Chris Paul.

    The Clippers sent shooting guard Eric Gordon, center Chris Kaman and forward Al-Farouq Aminu and Minnesota's unprotected 2012 first-round pick to the Hornets for Paul. The Clippers also got two future second round picks.

    Right now, Paul and Clippers power forward Blake Griffin are poised to become one of the NBA's top duos, while being surrounded by a strong supporting cast.

    Los Angeles still boasts a strong bench as Mo Williams and Eric Bledsoe remain on the team.

Loser: Los Angeles Lakers

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    Surprisingly, the Los Angeles Lakers could be the biggest losers of NBA free agency.

    The Lakers attempted to trade both Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom in a three-way trade to obtain the New Orleans Hornets Chris Paul. However, NBA commissioner David Stern squashed the deal and left the Lakers hanging.

    Instead, the Lakers traded Odom to the Dallas Mavericks for a protected first round draft pick and an unprotected second round draft pick. LA was also unable to obtain the Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard via trade, so losing Odom for almost nothing was certainly a foolish move.

    Odom was a Sixth Man of the Year recipient who could post a double-double any night. He provided significant length and defense at 6'10." He was also capable of being a post player.

    The trade wasn't a good public relations move for Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who condemned the trade, as Odom is a valuable contributor on the court who provided good "team chemistry."

    The Lakers answered by signing Indiana Pacers Josh McRoberts to fill in for Odom's absence. McRoberts is not nearly as athletic or productive as Odom, and he will be beat by better big men.

    Also, the Lakers could not solve their need at point guard. Besides Paul, Los Angeles was also not able to sign Chauncey Billups or Baron Davis after they were amnestied.

    With an aging Bryant not having a suitable backcourt mate to lighten his load, the Lakers will probably fail in the playoffs again.

    Bob Bajek is a Featured Columnist for the Chicago Bulls. He is also a freelance reporter and can be followed at Patch.com and Twitter.