The Return of the King has rather hijacked all other NBA free agency moves over the past week or so. Aside from LeBron James returning to Cleveland what else has been happening in the NBA over the weekend? Quite a lot actually….
Melo remains a Knick
Carmelo Anthony was strongly linked with a move away from New York this postseason, with Chicago and LA (Lakers) being touted as his most likely destination. With Melo dragging his feet waiting for LeBron to commit some place, LA took themselves out of the race.
Following productive meetings with the Knicks, including Phil Jackson and new head coach Derek Fisher, Anthony decided the best option for him, and his family was to remain in New York. Early reports suggest that Melo was offered the max deal of $129 million over five years, but that he accepted a few million dollars less to help the Knicks improve the roster around him.
Melo’s belief that Phil Jackson will build a championship team appears to be the motivating factor in his decision to stay. Melo staying in New York does not make them a championship contender immediately, but it is the first step in the right direction.
Pau Gasol moves to Chicago
Everybody knows that Pau Gasol was not on top of Chicago’s wish-list this offseason. The Bulls made a serious run at Carmelo Anthony, but ultimately they fell short. Bringing Gasol to the Windy City surely means the end of Carlos Boozer’s underwhelming stint.
Boozer never quite got a handle on Tom Thibodeau’s complicated system. Boozer was a defensive liability, so much so that he was rarely used in late game situations. Gasol represents an upgrade over Boozer in pretty much every department. Gasol is a greater passer, rebounder, scorer and defender than Boozer.
Chicago’s primary target this offseason was a player who can create on offense, something Chicago sorely misses in Derrick Roses absence. Gasol may not completely tick this box, but matching Gasol with Joakim Noah produces arguably the NBA’s greatest frontcourt duo.
Chicago’s success is still totally dependent on Derrick Rose’s return from injury. Anybody who dismisses the addition of Gasol to the Bulls should hold their reservations for another couple of months.
Paul Pierce moves to the capital
There is so much to like about this move for all parties involved. Washington took a massive step forward during the 2014 playoffs when they showed the league that they have the potential to contend for a championship. Washington just lacked a little bit of experience and composure this season, two things that Paul Pierce has plenty of.
Washington’s key players, John Wall (23) and Bradley Beal (21), are very young and lack postseason experience. The supporting cast of Nene, Marcin Gortat and others also lack postseason experience.
Pierce is a player who has won a championship. He knows how to get over the line. Pierce has had many postseason setbacks so he understands how to overcome adversity. Pierce will bring an experience and leadership that will benefit the Wizards hugely.
Along with that Pierce is still, at the age of 36, a magnificent basketball player. He will go a long way to filling the void left by Trevor Ariza’s departure. Pierce may not be able to play starters minutes for the entire season, but he is a great player for Washington to call on in key moments of big games. This is a great pickup for the Wizards.
Trevor Ariza to Houston
Similar to Chicago, Houston were eyeing up a move for a big name like Melo, LeBron or Chris Bosh this off season. They were even briefly linked with Toronto PG Kyle Lowry. In the end the Rockets added Trevor Ariza from Washington via a sign-and-trade. In Dwight Howard and James Harden the Rockets have a variety of options on offence. If the 2014 playoffs showed us anything it is that James Harden is a liability on defence.
In Ariza the rockets have picked up an athletic player who is a very strong defender. Ariza is a significant upgrade for the Rockets on the defensive end of the floor. Ariza averaged 14 PPG for Washington last season so he is capable of contributing on both ends of the floor. Following the departure of Chandler Parsons to Dallas, the Rockets will hope that Ariza can gel quickly and help them secure a spot in the Western Conference playoffs.
Luol Deng signs with the Heat; Chris Bosh re-signs
Following the departure of LeBron James, the Miami Heat wanted to work quickly to assemble a roster for next season. First order of business was to secure the services of Chris Bosh, who was generating interest from Houston. Bosh signed to a $118 million, five-year contract. Following this the Heat held discussions with Luol Deng.
Deng was getting attention from many teams including Dallas, Atlanta and LA. In the end Deng decided to sign with the Miami Heat, hoping to join Bosh and Dwyane Wade in an attempt to return to the NBA Finals for the 5th straight season.
It is impossible to replace LeBron James, but the signing of Deng is an excellent move by the Heat. Deng is a very good player who will contribute on both offence and defence.
The Best of the Rest
In the early stages of free agency Kyle Lowry signed a deal which will keep him with the Toronto Raptors for the next four years.
Gordon Hayward got paid big money to stay with the Utah Jazz. Utah matched the contract offered to Hayward by the Charlotte Hornets, giving the player $63million over four years.
Chandler Parsons swapped Houston for in state rivals Dallas. Parsons agreed to a 3-year, $46million contract with the Mavericks.
Lance Stephenson has yet to decide where his future lies. All indications suggest Stephenson will resign with the Indiana Pacers. The LA Lakers and Charlotte Hornets are possible destinations.
Eoin Purcell, Pundit Arena.
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