Real Talk: 2016 NBA Free Agency Panel- Guest Stars Edition

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It’s been long established this free agency period was going to be unlike any that we have seen before, thanks to a new TV deal between the NBA and ESPN and Turner networks, which has precipitated the single largest salary cap increase in league history.

The aforementioned deal is worth $24 Billion over nine years, and goes into effect for the 2016-17 season.

Television rights have a huge impact on Basketball Related Income, and as per the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, 51% of BRI must go to player salaries. This raised the salary cap by a staggering $24 million, jumping from $70 million for the 2015-16 season, to a record breaking $94 million for 2016-17. For reference, in a typical year the salary cap goes up about $2 million.

With all teams in the league suddenly having more money to spend, the result has been a sort of free agent feeding frenzy.

Get that paper, Mike.

Get that paper, Mike.

To get a different perspective on how teams have fared throughout the league, I decided to get some outside input. So I assembled an excellent panel of NBA writers to give us their thoughts on the moves we’ve seen so far.


Guest Stars:

Joe MullinaxSite Manager for and host of GBBLive

Adi JosephDeputy Editor for

Josh EberleyContent at NBA’s HoopMag

Buddy GrizzardContributor for

Josh ColemanFounder of and host of 3 Shades of Blue Radio


1.)What do you consider to be the most underrated move so far in this free agency period? Conversely, what do you think is the most overrated move so far?


Joe Mullinax: A bit of a homer answer, but I really believe Chandler Parsons to Memphis has been underrated as a signing. Yes, it was costly, and yes, his injury history is a fair reason to be concerned.

The Grizzlies have never had a talent on the wing like Parsons, though. Rudy Gay may be more athletic, but no perimeter player has had the combination of spacing and versatility along with size like Parsons has. His offensive game and fit is perfect in Memphis, and he should only make life easier for the other key Grizzlies.

As far as an overrated signings, Dwyane Wade to Chicago stands out for me. Between him and Rajon Rondo, there are real issues for Chicago with perimeter shooting. They must be hopeful that younger players and bench pieces can tie up loose ends as far as shooting is concerned.

Adi Joseph: I really like what the Pelicans did in signing E’Twaun Moore and Langston Galloway. It’s easy to see it as a redundancy, but they are the types of players of whom you don’t mind having two. Both of them should be able to play alongside Jrue Holiday or Tyreke Evans, and I consider them both upgrades on Norris Cole.

As far as overrated (and thus skipping the obvious Timofey Mozgov and Evan Turner deals), the move that I’ve seen praised a lot but doesn’t add up to me is the Wizards signing Ian Mahinmi for four years and $64 million. Mahinmi is a good center, but the Wizards probably already have a better center in Marcin Gortat. The Polish Hammer is not that much older, on a better contract and much more proven as a starter. The biggest issue is that, unlike Nene or their lead target, Al Horford, Mahinmi can’t really play next to Gortat, so they’re splitting 48 center minutes.

Josh Eberley: Believe it or not, I’d say the Chandler Parsons signing by Memphis. A healthy Parsons is worth the dollar value, he’s an efficient scorer who can play on the ball some, but more importantly it changed the franchise direction. If Parsons doesn’t re-sign, there’s a good chance Conley walks, if Conley Walks Memphis is forced into a rebuild. The Grizzlies franchise was hanging by one finger from the side of a cliff and the Parsons signing launched a series of events that will now see the Grizzlies once again competing for the next few seasons.

Parsons is also the high efficiency wing the Grizzlies have spent a decade looking for. They were never going to land a Kevin Durant or LeBron James, this was an A+ off-season for the Grizzlies.

On the other hand, I shook my head on the Bradley Beal deal. The Joakim Noah, Timofey Mozgov, and Evan Turner signings were not pretty to put things delicately but none of them got superstar money. Beal got franchise player money and there’s a legitimate chance he’s on a minutes restriction forever. We are headed into an uncharted era of the NBA with these insane contracts, that said, this still didn’t make sense to me.

No one wants to lose an asset for nothing, ask Oklahoma City. However, the Wizards may not even be a playoff team. What are they paying Beal that absurd amount of money for, to be the ninth seed?

Buddy Grizzard: The most underrated free agent signing was Bismack Biyombo to the Magic for four years, $70 million. His addition along with Serge Ibaka, acquired via a trade that sent Victor Oladipo, Domatas Sabonis and Irsan Ilyasova to the Thunder, instantly solidifies the Magic as a team with strong rebounding and rim protection. It creates a bit of a log jam with incumbent starting center Nikola Vucevic but what matters is that the Magic secured the breakout player of the Eastern Conference playoffs, Biyombo.

In Game 7 of the Raptors’ second round series with the Heat, Biyombo erupted for 17 points, 16 rebounds, two blocks and a +25 that trailed only Kyle Lowry‘s +31 for the game-high. In Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, as the Raptors won to tie the eventual world champions 2-2, Biyombo averaged six points, 20 rebounds and 3.5 blocks including a franchise playoff record 26 rebounds in Game 3.

Biyombo is offensively limited but functioned well on a Raptors squad with plenty of offensive weapons. He rebounds at such a high rate that it gives extra possessions to be typically finished by more talented offensive players. The Magic presents a similar scenario with plenty of offensive talent but no defensive identity prior to the acquisitions of Ibaka and Biyombo. Orlando doesn’t need him to score. They just need him to rebound, protect the rim and give extra shots to their talented offensive arsenal.

Honorable mention goes to Seth Curry, who signed with Dallas on a measly two year, $6 million deal and Jared Dudley, who went to Phoenix for a very reasonable three years, $30 million. Dudley was among the top handful of wings available. He stretches the floor and guards multiple positions. Steph’s younger brother has shown flashes of real talent and is a threat to make a leap for the Mavericks. He could end up being their Kent Bazemore, a player who emerges from the bottom of one team’s rotation to reach new heights with a new team.

The most overrated signing was Ryan Anderson to the Rockets for four years and $80 million. The Hawks got Dwight Howard for just three years and $70.5 million while the Rockets let him walk to sign a stretch four who doesn’t protect the rim and will have trouble switching on pick and rolls. The Rockets are among the most three-happy organizations of the modern pace-and-space era, so the signing makes sense. But Houston may come to regret spending superstar money on a one-dimensional player.

Josh Coleman: Underrated: Orlando bringing Evan Fournier back for a less than market value deal of 5 years, $85 million is THE underrated move in an offseason full of hem for the Magic. I expected the multi-talented wing to get at least $10 million more than that in this kind of market. Instead, they retained him at a discount (relatively speaking), and were able to pick up a few more solid role players.

Overrated: Miami keeping Hassan Whiteside. It’s easy for me to say this since I believe Whiteside himself is overrated, but even if I didn’t — what does it benefit Pat Riley and Co. to re-sign him if he loses Dwyane Wade and fails to sign anything resembling a top-tier free agent? I foresee this massive contract blowing up in the Heat’s faces.


2.)Who was the most surprising free agent signing?


JM: Kevin Durant to Golden State. It was the path of least resistance and of course it makes sense to join the dominant Warriors, but for a guy who was one game away from putting them away on his now former team, a team he literally helped build? Was still quite a shock.

AJ: I’m still in disbelief that Timofey Mozgov ended up as one of the first players off the board and one of the most well-paid centers. But again, enough of that. I’m intrigued by the Rockets signing Eric Gordon, a shooting guard who can’t really guard small forwards and doesn’t seem like a good fit next to James Harden. That’s especially true because they also signed Ryan Anderson and Nene, two other injury-prone players.

JE: It’s definitely Timofey Mozgov to me. It was a bad deal, it was too much money over too many years. More than anything though, it just kicked off this bonkers free agency in the wildest way.

Durant’s decision surprised me, him leaving didn’t. You don’t meet with 20 percent of the league unless you’re seriously considering leaving.

BG:The Bulls’ signing of Dwyane Wade sent shockwaves through the NBA as no free agency decision has since LeBron’s in 2010. Nothing can compare with this mind-bending move. But since that answer is so obvious, I’ll go with Zaza Pachulia‘s decision to go to Golden State on a cheap, one year, $2.89 million deal. The Warriors lost Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli as casualties of the cap clearing needed to add Kevin Durant. For the Warriors to get a starting-caliber center for the room exception was a massive coup and could have an outsized impact on Golden State’s prospects to return to the NBA Finals.

JC: Portland giving Evan Turner $75 million. The signing itself was shocking in the manner of “They signed WHO?!? For HOW much?!?” For the Blazers to compound that by then matching the offer sheet that Allen Crabbe signed with the Nets is just an absolute head-scratcher by Neil Olshey.


3.) In your opinion, which team should be the most improved in the upcoming season, based on their free agency decisions; which team will potentially feel the most negative effects from their free agency decisions?


JM: Utah and Memphis stand to improve. The Jazz have supplemented their young core with older, experienced veterans, while Memphis has gotten younger and improved their ability to space the floor. Plus, in Memphis’ case simply being healthier should help. On the other side of things, OKC losing Durant takes them from a Finals contender to a team fighting for their playoff lives in the West. Russell Westbrook will be a blast to watch, though.

AJ: The Warriors improved the most, obviously. That happens when you not only sign Kevin Durant, but also keep several of your key supporting pieces. Obvious choice aside, I really like what the Pistons did. They added Boban Marjanovic, who doesn’t really help fill a need but is enormous and fun and all that, and Ish Smith, who should be a good backup point guard, on cheap deals. Jon Leuer will be a nice rotation player on a decent contract and could even start. And keeping Andre Drummond for the next five years was the obvious first goal.

The Hawks made a mistake, in my estimation, in deciding to value Dwight Howard over Al Horford. They kept Kent Bazemore at an OK price, but they didn’t get better on the wings when they needed to, and they didn’t find a solid backup for Dennis Schroder. These moves could end up leading to the end of this nice, overachieving Hawks team of the past three seasons.

JE: The Warriors obviously benefited the most overall but you won’t see that in their record. The Memphis Grizzlies will likely win 10+ more game this upcoming season, the New York Knicks might be a train wreck but that train wreck will be mediocre which is a far cry from the 32-50 they were last year. Final answer; none of the above! I think the Utah Jazz will be the most improved team next season. Adding George Hill and Boris Diaw via trade, signing Joe Johnson to play on the wing, and with some luck having a healthy team should drastically change the result of their season.

No internal back and forth on this one. The Oklahoma City Thunder are already significantly worse, they are going to fall off the edge of the playoff map and I’ll add that’s before they inevitably move Russell Westbrook. Durant leaving hurts, but Durant leaving with Westbrook on an expiring deal is a kill shot. The Thunder are going to go from title contender to middle of the pack over night, truly unfortunate for their passionate fan base.

BG: The Magic have vaulted themselves into playoff contention with the additions of Ibaka and Biyombo. The Knicks likewise made a splash with the additions of two-way wing Courtney Lee, backup point guard Brandon Jennings and presumptive starting center Joakim Noah. As long as those players remain relatively healthy, the Knicks should also challenge for a playoff berth.

But nobody improved more than the Golden State Warriors with the addition of Kevin Durant and the ridiculously-cheap signing of Pachulia. Those moves could decide the next NBA champion, so nobody did it bigger in free agency.

While the Sacramento Kings loaded up with former Grizzly wing Matt Barnes, former Knick shooting guard Arron Afflalo, former Wizards wing Garrett Temple and journeyman stretch four Anthony Tolliver, the Kings have done nothing about the departures of point guards Rondo and Seth Curry. The NBA’s most dysfunctional organization is rapidly wasting DeMarcus Cousins‘ prime and may be forced to trade him since he will likely have little interest in staying beyond the final two years of his deal. The Kings lucked into Cousins in the draft after the 76ers took Evan Turner second and the Timberwolves took Wesley Johnson fourth. But Sacramento has accomplished nothing in six seasons with arguably the league’s best center. And now it looks like their carriage is about to turn into a pumpkin.

JC: I think the Boston Celtics will show the greatest improvement of any team based upon their acquisition of Al Horford. Finally, they have a centerpiece worth building around. While Horford isn’t a superstar, he is a leader, both on the court and in the locker room. I think this could ultimately work out better for them than their attempts to trade for Kevin Love.

The aforementioned Miami Heat will probably fall the furthest of any team next year. Losing Wade in the manner they did will surely affect them significantly, likely leading to a tumble down the standings and out of playoff contention.


4.)How would you grade the Grizzlies free agency moves?


JM:  A. The most successful offseason in team history, between the Draft and Free Agency. They have prepared themselves for life after Zach Randolph and Tony Allen while still being as competitive as they probably can be as their “Grit and Grind” era ends. Now they must take this momentum and develop under new Head Coach David Fizdale. Games are won on the basketball court and in the weight room and film room, not on draft boards and at contract signing parties. The pieces are in place for another successful season, perhaps another run at the Western Conference Finals. There are many miles to go before that vision is realized, however.

AJ: They took risks, but I liked the risks. Mike Conley isn’t worth all that money, but in this market, he was going to get paid close to it by someone else if you let him. This scenario is better. Chandler Parsons has the potential to be exactly what the Grizzlies have needed for years, if he can stay healthy. Troy Daniels and James Ennis were nice, low-key bench additions. The Grizzlies are relying on a lot of older and/or injury-prone players now, but it all pays off if they can make it back to the Western Conference finals, which these additions definitely will help them do. They just need to stay healthy. So I’d give them an A-.

JE: Hilarious, I sort of answered this earlier but the Grizzlies had an A+ off-season. I did a segment on a station in Memphis after the season and I said then, if the Grizzlies kept Conley and added a B level player they hit it out of the park.

Again, Memphis isn’t a superstar destination. Signing their own fringe All-Star and adding another borderline All-Star that fills a position of need is more than anyone could’ve hoped for.

BG: You have to give the Grizzlies an A+ for retaining Mike Conley, possibly the most talented member of this free agent class not named LeBron or Durant, and signing Chandler Parsons. The latter carries some injury risk but Memphis is not known for attracting free agents.

For the Grizzlies to retain Marc Gasol and Conley, two of the best in the world at their positions, over the last two seasons while adding a free agent wing of the quality of Parsons is phenomenal, given the team’s small-market limitations. Losing Barnes, a tough 3-and-D wing, hurts. But if the gamble with Parsons pays off and he’s able to remain relatively healthy, most observers won’t notice Barnes is gone.

JC: A – I’ve never given them a grade higher than a B- before, but Chris Wallace and Co. earned this A. Re-signing Mike Conley, nabbing Chandler Parsons, bringing back James Ennis, and tabbing Troy Daniels to be the designated shooter — these are moves that indicate a clear direction and purpose. More importantly, these aren’t retreads. For the most part, they are youngish guys who can be counted upon for the next 4-6 years, if needed.

Aimee Stiegemeyer
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