THE dust has settled, the dotted lines have been signed and training camps around the country are underway! The new NBA season is fast approaching and with it comes a chance for every team to return to some form of normalcy. The championship landscape hasn’t changed significantly since the Lakers won it all 54 days ago (yes, it’s only been 54 days), but a lot of rosters look drastically different following the free agency period. The FA moves came thick and fast once moratorium was lifted with some signings lauded for their seemingly great fit while others left us scratching our heads.
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DeMarcus Cousins, Houston Rockets
THE idea of a healthy Boogie Cousins on the Rockets certainly raises a few eyebrows. Career averages of 21.2 PPG and 10.9 RPG look good on paper, but it would be unfair to expect the same production in 2021. Despite his recent injury woes though, there’s no reason why he can’t be a handy rotation player and contribute to a successful Rockets season.
JaMychal Green, Denver Nuggets
NOT exactly a headline signing, but Denver needed to address their forward stocks after losing both Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee to Detroit. Green brings with him a 39% clip from downtown and the defensive presence to help Denver combat some of the bigger bodies out West.
Josh Jackson, Detroit Pistons
THIRD time’s the charm right? Coming out of Kansas there were plenty of questions surrounding Josh Jackson, but it’s still surprising to see him on his third team in four years. The former 4th overall pick has struggled to find his niche at the top level and failing to thrive in Detroit may draw a line through his chances of being a star in the NBA.
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Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors
CASUAL NBA fans don’t know a lot about Chris Boucher, but they could do by the end of next season. With Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka departing Toronto’s frontcourt, Boucher will have the opportunity to expand his role and become a larger part of the Raptors’ success.
Jeff Teague, Boston Celtics
EVEN at the age of 32, Jeff Teague is a good addition to Boston’s second unit. The journeyman point guard brings 11 seasons of wisdom to an inexperienced Celtics backcourt who are eager to keep their title-winning window open. A reliable backup PG that can contribute in the postseason is never a bad investment.
25. Rajon Rondo, Atlanta Hawks
The Deal – 2 years, $15 million
FRESH off a title with the Lakers, Rajon Rondo is on the move again, this time joining an Atlanta team chasing their first playoff gig since 2017. Rondo won’t be a huge difference-maker for the Hawks, but when All-Star Trae Young needs a spell it’s nice to know they have someone capable of stepping into a playmaking role.
24. Marc Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
The Deal – 2 years, $5.3 million
THE loss of JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard was never going to derail the Lakers and adding Marc Gasol certainly softens the blow. While the 35-year old isn’t the same force that once patrolled the paint for Memphis, he is more than capable of playing his role in a championship side – see 2019 Toronto Raptors.
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23. Kris Dunn, Atlanta Hawks
The Deal – 2 years, $10 million
I might be the last one who owns Kris Dunn stock and a change of scenery may kickstart him into action. A dynamo on defence boasting a 6′ 9″ wingspan, Dunn is a virtual zero on offense – shooting just 42.2% from the field and 30.6% from 3 during his four pro seasons. Dunn did post career-high shooting clips a season ago for what it’s worth, although it’ll be hard to make a massive jump in production now he’s fighting Young and Rondo for minutes.
22. Malik Beasley, Minnesota Timberwolves
The Deal – 4 years, $60 million
IT’S unfair to say Beasley isn’t worth $15mil annually – the dude did average 20+ PPG in 14 starts with the Timberwolves before play was suspended. However, after drafting Anthony Edwards it would’ve been smarter for Minnesota to address some of their defensive shortcomings with their free agency $$$. Beasley is a solid defender, but until he shows he can get stops alongside a combination of Russell, Edwards and Rubio, he’s being overpaid.
21. Jordan Clarkson, Utah Jazz
The Deal – 4 years, $52 million
SPEAKING of overpaid, Jordan Clarkson is another bucket-first guard that cashed in on a hefty new deal. An automatic 15 points off the bench, Clarkson has made a living scoring in bunches for the Lakers, Cavs and now Jazz. Still, nearly $13 million a year is a lot of money to pay a sixth man who isn’t likely going to get any better.
20. Rodney Hood, Portland Trailblazers
The Deal – 2 years, $21 million
THE clean segues between players continue with Rodney Hood not so different from Malik Beasley and Jordan Clarkson. An Achilles injury derailed Hood’s 2019-20 season, however, handing him a two-year deal to shore up their second unit makes sense for the Blazers. Locking in Hood and some other handy depth pieces is a big reason why some view Portland as big winners in free agency.
19. Aron Baynes, Toronto Raptors
The Deal – 2 years, $14.3 million
With Gasol and Ibaka flying the coop, Toronto addressed their need for a center with the savvy signing of Aron Baynes. While Baynes, 33, is now on his 5th team in an 8-year career, he is coming off a career-best campaign for the Suns in which the Aussie big man nearly made more 3’s than he had in his previous seven years combined! He’ll provide much-needed support for Pascal Siakam in the frontcourt if he can replicate his success from deep.
18. Marcus Morris, L.A. Clippers
The Deal – 4 years, $64 million
CALL me a hater, but $64M to keep Marcus Morris around isn’t a signing I’d be rapt about if I was a Clippers fan. Defensively Morris showcased his talents in the bubble while shooting an impressive 47.5% from behind the arc in 13 playoff games. It sounds like a lot to cough up for a rotation piece, but Morris will step into a larger role in 2020-21 following Harrell’s exit – giving him a chance to make me eat crow.
17. Jerami Grant, Detroit Pistons
The Deal – 3 years, $60 million
JERAMI Grant ensured someone was going to pay him this offseason as the do-it-all forward proving his worth by defending some of the best forwards in the league during the playoffs. I wouldn’t say that level of defence and second straight season shooting 38%+ from three warrants $60mil in guaranteed money, but Detroit disagreed. The Nuggets were reportedly willing to pay Grant the same dough, but he opted for a chance to play a ‘larger role’ in Motown. Detroit will be hoping he embraces the opportunity.
16. Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz
The Deal – 3 years, $30 million
UTAH could do worse than by bringing Derrick Favours back to town after his 51 game hiatus in NOLA. Rudy Gobert can sign an extension any day now, but his uncertain future meant the Jazz were in need of a capable plan B at center. Favors has spent 8 1/2 of his 10 pro seasons with Utah for averages of 12.1 PPG and 7.4 RPG and while those numbers don’t jump off the page, paying the veteran big $10 million a year is a fair deal for both parties.
15. Derrick Jones Jr, Portland Trailblazers
The Deal – 2 years, $19 million
I expected there to be more interest in the high-flying, long-limbed forward that is Derrick Jones Jr. Portland managed to pry the young gun away from Miami for the mid-level exception (MLE) and there’s no reason why the 23-year-old won’t keep improving. Alongside fellow new Blazer Robert Covington, DJJ joins a formidable forward combo that can cause chaos on defence, in transition and of course, above the rim.
14. De’Anthony Melton, Memphis Grizzlies
The Deal – 4 years, $35 million
THIS deal is more of an investment in De’Anthony Melton’s future rather than his resume thus far. Arriving in Memphis after a brief stay at the Suns, Melton forced his way into the rotation last season thanks to his ability to get stops. Should Melton up his shooting numbers (career 39.7 FG%, 29.4 3P%) then he could overtake the likes of Dillon Brooks and Grayson Allen as Memphis’ next starting two-guard.
13. Gordon Hayward, Charlotte Hornets
The Deal – 4 years, $120 million
BISMACK Biyombo. Lance Stephenson. Marvin Williams. Nic Batum. Gordon Hayward? Charlotte loves to waste money in free agency and paying an injury-prone 30-year old forward ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS (!!!) may see that trend continue. Featuring in 49% of all possible games during three years for the Celtics isn’t a ringing endorsement for Hayward, but the Hornets swingman is far from a lost cause. If he can stay on the court, there’s no reason why Hayward can’t build on his 17.5 PPG average from a season ago and repair his reputation in the process.
12. Jae Crowder, Phoenix Suns
The Deal – 3 years, $30 million
IF the trade for Chris Paul wasn’t a signal that Phoenix was all in on a playoff pursuit, the free agency period made their intentions clear. Jae Crowder was their most noteworthy signing bringing with him an ability to defend multiple positions, including bigger forwards and centers in short stints. If he can do that and shoot three-pointers as he did in the bubble (38.5% on 200 attempts), Crowder should help the Suns’ 11-year postseason drought come to an end.
11. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Los Angeles Lakers
The Deal – 3 years, $40 million
FOR a few dollars more, the Lakers brought back their own 3-and-D weapon in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. KCP’s struggles with the Lakeshow were well documented, however, once the playoffs rolled around, all his past failures were forgotten. Does that make him worth $40 million over the next three years? Probably not. Letting KCP walk wasn’t really an option though, and L.A. didn’t have to shell out too much to keep him in uniform.
10. Davis Bertans, Washington Wizards
The Deal – 5 years, $80 million
WASHINGTON forked out a lot to keep one of the league’s best shooters, a move that is justified when you consider big men who can space the floor don’t grow on trees. The former Spur relished a fresh start last season, finishing with career-highs in every major category while shooting the 6th best three-point percentage in the league (42.4%). Creating lanes for Washington’s All-Star guards to use by spotting up behind the arc should make Bertans worth the $16M he’ll earn annually.
9. Danilo Gallinari, Atlanta Hawks
The Deal – 3 years, $61.5 million
NO team short a worse clip from three last year and signing Danilo Gallinari should help ATL fix that problem. $60M is a fair chunk of change to sacrifice, but like wine from Gallinari’s homeland, the sweet-stroking forward appears to be improving as he ages. In the last two seasons, Gallo has posted the two highest PPG averages of his career and Atlanta will be hoping he can maintain that trend in 2021.
8. Tristan Thompson, Boston Celtics
The Deal – 2 years, $19 million
THE center position has been heavily scrutinised in Boston with a revolving door of characters unable to cement the spot as their own. The Celtics have relied on the likes of Daniel Theis, Al Horford and Enes Kanter most recently, but Tristan Thompson brings a different style to the big man position that should aid Boston. A rebounding monster, Thompson provides the C’s with a bruiser who is willing to bang down low and be the player who performs all the nitty-gritty, one percent plays – something every true contender needs.
7. Joe Harris, Brooklyn Nets
The Deal – 4 years, $75 million
DON’T be tricked into thinking Joe Harris is ‘just a shooter’ with the Nets guard more than capable of getting to the rack and performing on defence. Brooklyn was still forced to pay a premium to keep Harris and with their championship window well and truly alive, you can justify why that wanted to keep him rostered. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving finally set to be unleashed next to one another, expect Harris’ catch-and-shoot numbers to increase as he aids Brooklyn’s quest for a title.
6. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Atlanta Hawks
The Deal – 4 years, $72 million
WHILE the Gallinari signing helped address Atlanta’s shooting woes, the Bodgan Bogdanovic deal is the one I’m in full support of. His wide range of offensive skills should complement All-Star guard and scoring sensation Trae Young, giving the Hawks a potent mix of capable shooters across the board. Lineups with Young, Bogdanovic, Gallinari, Collins and Capela will cause a lot of trouble for lacklustre Eastern Conference teams, which only helps the Hawks playoff push.
5. Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Lakers
The Deal – 2 years, $19 million
NABBING Montrezl Harrell for the MLE was a bargain for the Lakers and stealing him from their crosstown rivals only made the deal that much sweeter. There’s no denying L.A. got great value by signing Harrell to such a cheap deal, even if the fit is questionable. Technically, Harrell is only receiving a backup center’s pay-check, but you wouldn’t blame him for wanting to be involved in closing lineups. Time will tell how Los Angeles plans to deploy him, but weakening their foes across the hallway and improving their depth in the process is a big plus for the Lakers’ quest to repeat.
4. Goran Dragic, Miami Heat
The Deal – 2 years, $37.4 million
GORAN Dragic wasn’t going to let the NBA media moguls handle his free agency decision – announcing his return to Miami on Twitter just hours into free agency. It’s clear how important Dragic is to ‘Heat Culture’ and his injury in Game 1 of the Finals left Miami fans pondering what if scenarios. Regardless of the past, Dragic should be the primary ball-handler for a Heat team out to prove 2020 was no fluke. A team option in year two of this new contact also gives Miami plenty of flexibility should a certain Greek player become available…
3. Serge Ibaka, L.A. Clippers
The Deal – 2 years, $19 million
THIS might be my favourite offseason signing with a stable veteran in Serge Ibaka a huge plus on both sides of the ball for the Clippers. Out to make amends for their disastrous 2020 bubble experience, L.A. will have to establish the right culture – especially if they want Paul George and Kawhi Leonard to extend their contracts. Ibaka brings with him a wealth of postseason experience (144 career playoff games) and we saw how well things worked out last time he and Kawhi shared a frontcourt. At 31, I don’t expect the Congolese icon to move the needle significantly, but Serge still has plenty on the tank to contribute to a winner.
2. Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors
The Deal – 4 years, $85 million
17.6 points, 6.6 assists and 2.7 made three’s are impressive averages from a first-year starter, but what’s more impressive is ‘that’ starter’s new contract. VanVleet has made plenty of fans in recent years as he worked his way through the ranks, culminating in a contract that puts him amongst the highest-paid guards in the NBA. I don’t expect him to take another massive leap in productivity next season, but as Kyle Lowry draws close to the end of his playing days, VanVleet gives Toronto a guard with All-Star level talents who can help usher in a new era.
1. Christian Wood, Houston Rockets
The Deal – 3 years, $41 million
HOUSTON believe that Christian Wood can answer their frontcourt issues and a three-year, $40 million dollar contract is a cheap enough dice roll to find out if they’re right. With uncertainty around their title-winning window, even if they lose premier scorer James Harden that shouldn’t drastically change Wood’s impact. The former Piston excelled once Andre Drummond left the franchise at the trade deadline last season, averaging 22.8 PPG and 9.9 RPG from 13 games before action was halted. Those numbers will be hard to replicate full-time, but for the first time in his career, Wood will have a chance to prove his production in February was no accident.
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