On July 11th, free agents in the NBA became eligible to officially sign new deals at different organisations, sparking the first changes of the summer in the league. For those of you not familiar with the NBA landscape I’ll provide a quick summary of what the “Free Agency” entails.
In the NBA, there are no real noteworthy transfer fees to speak of, instead teams operate using a league-wide salary cap and they trade player contracts and draft picks to change their rosters and attempt to improve. The teams who exceed the salary cap become subject to what is known as the “luxury tax,” which is paid to the league and divided up to the other teams operating under the salary cap.
There are many small print rules and stipulations to getting around the cap, but for now we won’t get into that. The Free Agency period is essentially when players’ contracts reach the point of expiry, or the point where they become eligible to speak to other teams. In this scenario players are either
- Restricted Free Agent
- Unrestricted Free Agent
Essentially, an unrestricted free agent may sign wherever he pleases. However, a restricted free agent may agree to a contract with another organisation, but if his team chooses to match the offer he must re-sign with his current team. Now, to the fun stuff!
Movers and Shakers
Despite not being a free agent, Dwight Howard is still dominating the news and rumour mill with regards to his potential trade from the Orlando Magic, but at the time of writing he is yet to move and his chief suitors, the Brooklyn Nets, have just resigned their own centre, Brook Lopez. The terms of his signing mean that the Nets cannot trade Lopez until January at earliest, so Howard’s future is clouded in uncertainty.
Of course any discussion of Dwight Howard is an excuse to have another look at the most awkward press conference ever, so here it is:
However, the Nets have succeeded on other fronts as well; re-signing Deron Williams for a reported $98 million over 5 years, arguably the most important signing this free agency period had to offer. Gerald Wallace has also re-signed and a trade has been completed for six-time All Star Joe Johnson.
With these moves, the Nets have at least put themselves in position to compete in the playoffs again, after 5 years of failure. While the signing of Howard is delayed, perhaps indefinitely, the Nets are at least in position to start their tenure in Brooklyn off with an era of respectability.
Steve Nash. The two-time MVP who drinks from the fountain of youth found his way to the Lakers in a shock sign-and-trade agreement that nobody saw coming until the last minute. Adding his vision and ability to score will only strengthen a Lakers starting five already boasting Kobe Bryant and (for now) Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
Until Howard has signed somewhere on the dotted line, expect nothing less than constant speculation surrounding the future of Gasol and Bynum, whilst Metta World Peace (the artist formerly known as Ron Artest) has already been in trouble with Lakers management for being too liberal in his Twitter activity regarding potential trade action.
The Lakers may or may not be finished in this free agency, but either way, the addition of Steve Nash is certainly a piece which will put the Lakers back into contention to challenge more effectively for Western Conference supremacy again.
How does the best team in the NBA get better? Apparently it’s easy; just sign the best three point shooter in league history. Ray Allen signed on the dotted line alongside the mercurial talents of Rashard Lewis as the Heat’s roster got deeper and struck more fear into the hearts of their rivals.
Mark Cuban broke up his 2011 title winning team in the hopes of landing Deron Williams and Dwight Howard this year to give Dirk Nowitzki the chance to add to his sole title before he rode off into the sunset. Chandler, Terry, Kidd, Butler and Barea have all gone, Williams has signed with Brooklyn and Howard is going nowhere near Dallas. It looks like the Mavericks are in for a long road of disappointment and a total rebuild is surely on the cards.
Houston tried desperately to put themselves in position to trade for Howard, but appear to have come up short. At the moment they will struggle, but if the Lakers remain in play to take Howard, Bynum or Gasol could yet wind up in Houston as part of the deal, which could provide a shot in the arm for the franchise still feeling the disappointment after Yao Ming’s career was cruelly disrupted by injury.
And Everyone Else…
The Celtics have arguably improved this summer, signing Jason Terry to improve bench production and will have Jeff Green back after he missed last season with heart problems. The big question was and still remains whether the old warhorses, Garnett and Pierce, can continue to get it done over a season and deep into the playoffs while Rondo pulls the strings.
OJ Mayo is potentially the most interesting free agent left on the market and if he lands in the right situation could finally fulfil his potential. Javale Magee is in a similar situation, but early indicators are that he will remain in Denver.
OKC are busy working out how to keep James Harden and Serge Ibaka in town without breaking the bank and the Chicago Bulls will be crossing their finger, toes, legs, arms and every limb they can find in the hope that Derrick Rose returns the same player as he was before that ACL injury in the first round of the playoffs.
There is still plenty of potential for change, an Olympics with a star studded USA team seeking Gold and the prospect of Anthony Davis and the new draft class in the NBA Summer league before the 2012/13 season tips off. Basketball never stops.
What’s not to love?