by Darren Collins
This year’s NBA free agent pool has to be one of the deepest in years. Big names like DeAndre Jordan, Kevin Love and Marc Gasol made it clear that they were willing to test the waters. The new trend in the league is for players to join title-contending teams; a guy of Lamarcus Aldridge‘s stature agreeing to a deal with the San Antonio Spurs may seem like a sudden power shift, but it’s also not surprising. However, with so many teams pushing to sign a superstar, some teams can be left without one. Here are biggest winners and losers so far this free agency period.
BIGGEST LOSER: PORTLAND
The Portland Trail Blazers would have to be the NBA’s biggest losers so far. Not only did they lose Aldridge, who is arguably the best power forward in the game, but they also managed to lose 80% of their starting lineup. In a questionable move, the Blazers dealt crafty wingman Nicholas Batum to the Charlotte Hornets a couple of weeks ago. In exchange, they received guard Gerald Henderson and forward Noah Vonleh, neither of whom brings the same assets as Batum did.
As if it weren’t crazy to think that Wesley Matthews, Aaron Afflalo and Robin Lopez would all sign with new teams, sure enough they did. In fact, it seems as if all three left for worse teams than what the Blazers were just a few weeks back. Matthews signed with the Dallas Mavericks, who are still working to become contenders. Then Afflalo and Lopez both signed with the New York Knicks, who were flat-out awful last year.
On the brighter side, the Trail Blazers were able to lock down their new franchise player, Damian Lillard, who signed an extension for more than $120 million. From here, they can try to land the right players to at least compete as they did previously, or go into rebuilding mode, which seems more likely.
BIGGEST WINNER: SPURS
The biggest winner this free agency by far has to be the San Antonio Spurs. Not only did they lock up one of the best two-way players in the league, Kawhi Leonard, for the next 5 years; they also were able to retain three-point specialist Danny Green and future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan.
But wait, there’s more: the Spurs somehow reeled in the biggest free agent catch of the season in Lamarcus Aldridge. No one could argue that they lost key pieces in Tiago Splitter (who was traded to the Atlanta Hawks) and Marco Belinelli (who signed with the Sacramento Kings), but that’s beside the point. More fascinating is how this franchise has done it once again, adding yet another All-Star caliber player. Lamarcus Aldridge could be the start of a third generation of Spurs’ great big men.
HONORABLE-MENTION LOSER: MAVERICKS
The Dallas Mavericks’ failure to sign defensive anchor DeAndre Jordan, even after reaching a verbal agreement with him, cannot go unmentioned here. Despite the fact that it was apparently just a change of heart that had nothing to do with the Mavs, they are still losers in this situation. What makes it worse: while they were putting all their eggs in one basket, nearly every free agent center on the market that’s worth a starting spot was being signed. Dallas fans have to be irate about how this whole thing unraveled, as they literally dropped from title contenders to perhaps a non-playoff team in matter of hours. But with a billion-dollar mind like owner Mark Cuban’s, there always a way of things working out.
The Mavs still have possible moves left before going into the season. There’s also the option of tanking, which Cuban is on record saying he would consider if they didn’t land any free agents. Tanking would be incredibly tough for the Mavs, however, considering they have a pretty decent “big three” in Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons, and Wesley Matthews.
Although there have quite a number of signings so far, the NBA free agency period is far from over. And as bad as any given team may seem right now, everything can change with one signing or trade. The race for an NBA Championship is becoming more and more interesting with each signing.