The 2015 free agency period for the NBA is finally at a close. There hasn’t been much news from the NBA this offseason, certainly not as much as there has been in football. In fact, the only real news we’ve had in the offseason has been the 2015 NBA Draft. But next to the draft, the free agency period is the association’s primary method of rounding out the teams and determining what new sources of talent each team will be able to incorporate into their strategies for next season.
In other words, the 2015 free agency period is one of the primary determining factors when trying to predict how each team will perform during the 2015-2016 season. It isn’t the only factor by far, but it certainly plays a role. As such, we’d like to discuss some of the most talked about signings during the 2015 free agency period, as well as some of the talent that surprisingly did not get signed, and how this all might stand to affect the 2015-2016 season.
Major Players in the 2015 Free Agency Period
Everyone was pretty infatuated with LeBron James during this last postseason, and it’s hard to blame them. But the King James acclaim overshadowed the rise of another prominent NBA player with a lot of talent: Anthony Davis. It was reported in March that he had an efficiency rating of 26.6, which put him in the same league as legendary players such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and David Robinson. The following month, he averaged 30 points and 10 rebounds in his first four playoff games, something that only Abdul-Jabbar, Chamberlain, and Bob McAdoo have done before. He also has a pet marmoset named Meek. That’s neither here nor there, but it certainly doesn’t make him less awesome.
Anthony was rewarded for his awesome talent during the 2015 free agency period, when the New Orleans Pelicans re-signed him with the most expensive contract in the league, a five-year contract at an estimated value of $145 million. And he won’t be the only power forward returning to his team for a lot of money. Kevin Love had opted out of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers in favor of making himself available for the 2015 free agency period, but watching them play in the 2015 NBA Finals (not to mention seeing the five-year, $110 million contract they offered him) made it clear that his heart was with the Cavs.
The Detroit Pistons re-signed point guard Reggie Jackson with a five-year contract worth $80 million. This isn’t quite as much as the contracts secured by Love and Davis, but it’s enough to surprise point guard John Wall of the Washington Wizards. Wall is a stronger player than Jackson in terms of points, rebounds and assists, but they are now making the same amount of money for their efforts. And while Jackson’s point average is only a few points higher than that of forward Aron Baynes, the Pistons only offered Baynes three years at $20 million to leave the San Antonio Spurs and play ball with them instead.
Oklahoma City forward Enes Kanter, whose numbers go head-to-head with Jackson’s pretty well, was offered four-year, $70 million deal by the Portland Trail Blazers. Not only did the Oklahoma City Thunder match the offer in order to keep him (their previous contract gave the Thunder first rights of refusal), but they did so at a potentially great cost. It puts them several millions over not only next year’s salary cap, but also the luxury-tax threshold. ESPN crunched the numbers and found that Oklahoma City will be paying nearly $97.9 in salary this season, while also owing a massive luxury tax payment of $24,144,691. That makes matching Kanter’s offer look like a risky move, and Oklahoma City might have to find a way of lowering their numbers. But, at least it’s for a player that ESPN described as “actually pretty good.”
One of the more surprising moves during the 2015 free agency period was made by center DeAndre Jordan. Originally, he had made plans to leave the Los Angeles Clippers in favor of joining the Dallas Mavericks. Now, however, he has gone back on his plan to join the Mavs. He’ll be making $88 million on a four-year contract to stay in Los Angeles, although Mark Cuban had reportedly told people the day before the contract was signed that Jordan would not be headed to Dallas. This is because Mavericks officials had tried to contact Jordan the day prior through phone calls and text messages, but never received a response. Had Jordan gone to Dallas, he would have been signed to the same four years, but at $8 million less.
There were some who believed that the 2015 free agency period would see a lot of one-year contracts, and that we’d have players such as Marc Gasol, Draymond Green, Brandon Knight and LaMarcus Aldridge available for the 2016 free agency period. But that wasn’t the case, as all signed multi-year deals. The most notable one-year contracts were Rajon Rondo ($9.5 million with the Sacremento Kings) and Dwyane Wade ($20 million with the Miami Heat). Aside from that, most of the best free agents found long-term homes.
Who Wasn’t Signed (But Should Have Been)
Matthew Dellavedova has made a decent name for himself while playing guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Such a good name, in fact, that he decided to make a few demands. He didn’t want much over $4 million per season, which isn’t much compared to some players’ salaries, but it was enough for Cleveland to decide that they were better off without him. Delly may have a lot of fans, but they’ll have to wait to see where he plays next.
One of Delly’s teammates, power forward Tristan Thompson, was also due for a new contract during the 2015 free agency period. But even with teammate LeBron James saying that Thompson has what it takes to be “a Cavalier for life,” and even with GM David Griffin saying that he wants Thompson to come back for the 2015-2016 season, nothing could be worked out. In fact, LeBron wasn’t going to re-sign until Thompson did, but apparently he got impatient since he signed anyway. Thompson now has little leverage, and will have to hope that he gets poached by another team in the future.
Delly and Thompson weren’t the only Cavs who had trouble with contract negotiations. Cleveland guard J.R. Smith, who apparently posts his highest shot totals after the release of Lil Wayne albums, also became a restricted free agent in time for the 2015 free agency period. He decided to turn down a $6.4 million guarantee, hoping that he could get a multi-year deal. Cleveland, who would be way over their salary cap if they had agreed to every deal requested by Delly, Thompson and Smith (and might still surpass it without them), could not play ball. They are, however, still looking for ways to bring him back.
Andre Miller, 39-year-old point guard for the Sacramento Kings, is probably getting close to retirement as it is. Most think of basketball as a young man’s game and, while Miller still has something left to offer, the fact that the Kings have gone this long to move on re-signing him (when they only got him from the Washington Wizards in February of this year) does not probably bode too well. He was one of the players that the Houston Rockets were rumored to have an interest in, so he might be departing Sacramento not too long after arriving there in the first place. Hopefully he finds a team he can call home for a few years before he calls it quits on the sport.
The thing about the rumor regarding the Rockets and Miller is that rumors abound whenever trades are in the air, and the 2015 free agency period has been no exception. One of the other names you might have noticed in the above-linked list of Houston signing rumors was Josh Smith. That same article mentions the Los Angeles Clippers as a potential home for Smith, which is exactly where he wound up. After being released from the Kings, he signed a deal with the Clippers for just one year at $1.5 million. He enjoyed his time in Houston, but he’s on to different pastures. He may have a team, but he still makes it into the “not-signed-but-should-have-been” section of this article due to the sheer lunacy of Houston failing to sign a good player who was willing to except a salary that seems so much lower than that of some other athletes.
There’s one other player who makes this list for the same reason as Smith, and that’s Jeremy Lin. Since the days of “Linsanity,” he hasn’t been the player he used to. The Los Angeles Lakers totally lost faith in him, and so he had to find a new home. But it seems ridiculous that they wouldn’t re-sign a player who still has a lot of star power (even if a lot of people think his 15 minutes are up). He’s now signed a two-year, $4.3 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets. He’s hoping to up his game next season, so maybe he’ll get a better contract further on down the line.
Outlook for the NBA’s 2015-2016 Season
We mentioned earlier that there were some who expected the 2015 free agency period to result in a large number of one-year contracts, creating an excellent class of free agents for 2016. Of course, we also mentioned that this is not quite how things went down. So how will that affect the coming season? Well, before we get to that, let us first talk a bit about how it will affect the next draft.
There were some teams that, even with the heightened salary cap, could not do much during the 2015 free agency period. This means that they might suffer during the season as a result, and will need to make up for it by the time the next draft rolls around. The Brooklyn Nets, who re-signed Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez, didn’t do too well in terms of new acquisitions aside from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. The Boston Celtics didn’t add much star talent either, but it is predicted that they might have as many as four first-round draft picks next year. So even if they don’t do spectacularly well this season, they have a shot at picking up some real talent. The Philadelphia 76ers also secured a first round pick from the Los Angeles Lakers next year. Then there’s the Denver Nuggets, who will definitely need to make a solid draft pick since they did not make any trades or sign any free agents during the 2015 free agency period.
The above teams might not perform too well this season. But while we might not get to see an all-star cast of free agents next year (although LeBron could be shopping around, having only signed a one-year contract), we will get to see an excellent 2016 NBA Draft and an awesome 2016-2017 season. That doesn’t mean that this season won’t be entertaining, just that teams like Denver and Boston might not add much too it.
The San Antonio Spurs, however, will add a lot to the coming season. They’ve retained free agents such as small forward Kawhi Leonard and swingman Danny Green (with one of the best contracts around, making sure he’s paid decently while providing great value for what the team is getting). They were also fortunate in that power forward/center Tim Duncan elected not to retire. Having also gained players such as LaMarcus Aldridge, and with arguably the best player they lost being Aron Baynes, there’s a good chance that we’ll see even better things from the Spurs this season than we saw last season. And that’s saying something.
There is one team that some people think might make an even bigger splash than the Spurs during the 2015-2016 season, and that’s the Memphis Grizzlies. And this belief is attributed to just two acquisitions: small forward Matt Barnes and power forward/center Brandan Wright. This belief is based upon a complicated formula for predicting the number of wins that each team will achieve next season, and Barnes and Wright have boosted Memphis to six wins over the Spurs (and only two under the Golden State Warriors, who are predicted to have the most in their conference).
Speaking of Golden State, our recent champions didn’t really do much during the 2015 free agency period. But they didn’t really need to. They kept their best players, and they used the salary cap increase to pay them more and keep them happy. We’re not sure what we can expect to see from the Warriors in the coming year, but they’re going to be fighting tooth and nail to defend their title. Luckily, some of the other trades and signings this offseason indicate that they’ll have a lot of healthy competition.