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Biggest Questions Thus far in NBA Free Agency

NBA Free Agency
Credit: Ringer illustration/Getty Images

It’s only been a few days since NBA free agency began, but of course, the league is as simple, yet confusing as ever. There have been many signings that are leaving people scratching their heads. There are plenty of questions and concerns for the NBA with many of the headlines this free agency. Time to break down exactly what these questions are and what is concerning in the NBA right now.

 

What’s the market for Jabari Parker?

Restricted free agent Jabari Parker has not yet signed an offer sheet. There were multiple teams that said they were interested in him as well. The 76ers, Pacers, Kings, Bulls, and Hawks were the teams that were most interested in the young stud. However, those teams have been dwindling down the past few days. The 76ers no longer have the cap space to get Parker since getting Wilson Chandler from the Nuggets. The Kings have said they are no longer interested in Parker and would rather pursue restricted free agent Zach LaVine. The Pacers have spent a good chunk of money in free agency, so Parker may be out of the picture. However, the Bulls and Hawks could be the most likely destinations.

The Milwaukee Bucks haven’t exactly been all in on Parker in recent months. His lack of playing time early in the playoffs shows that. With new head coach Mike Budenholzer’s schemes, Parker’s ISO offense and non-existent defense won’t mesh well. Milwaukee would love to keep Parker this season and perhaps trade him at the deadline. Best-case scenario for the Bucks would be to do a sign-and-trade for Parker. This way, they can get something in return, like role players or a center, and hopefully shed a bad contract as well.

Free agency hasn’t been that exciting for the Bucks, but their one move was bringing in Ersan Ilyasova. This could be a sign of Jabari Parker being slowly pushed out. The biggest issue for teams signing Jabari is asking what his worth is? With two ACL tears, and never playing a full season, is he a reliable player to go after? Parker can definitely bring offensive firepower to any team, but at what price? I would either expect a sign-and-trade with a playoff team like Indiana, ot keep an eye out for the Bulls to make a move, mainly because they have cap space and Chicago is Parker’s hometown.

 

Are the Lakers losing free agency?

Despite signing LeBron James, what in the world are the Lakers doing? Instead of getting Paul George, Kawhi Leonard (which could still happen) and/or DeMarcus Cousins, the Lakers signed Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, and JaVale McGee. They also managed to let go of Julius Randle in the process. Yet, they managed to re-sign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

This is not what LeBron James had in mind when joining the Lakers. The Lakers have managed to sign players who can’t shoot, are headaches, and simply don’t make sense for LeBron. Re-signing Caldwell-Pope wasn’t the worst move, but we all know that LeBron needs shooters around him and Kentavious is not that. Signing Rondo was a head-scratcher because Lonzo Ball is basically that especially with the fact that they both can’t shoot the ball. Signing McGee was much more of a position-filler than finding a quality center to pair with James. Perhaps a stretch 5 would have been better, but nope, they got McGee. Also, signing Lance Stephenson was alright since he can make his own plays here and there, but still isn’t much of a weapon.

Next, the Lakers just simply let Randle walk away. Obviously Randle isn’t the shooter that LeBron needs, but his ability to score by himself and his high rebounding numbers will be greatly missed. Finally, the Lakers seemed to have not even given DeMarcus Cousins a chance. Yes, Cousins is hurt, but the Lakers could have easily offered him better than what he signed for at Golden State. James needs another star and even with Cousins coming off of injury, he could have been a huge piece to the Lakers’ puzzle. The Lakers simply need more shooters, more creators, and more prime talent. Perhaps the 2019 summer will be the time for that.

DeMarcus Cousins

Credit: Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports

Should we be mad at DeMarcus Cousins or the NBA for him going to the Warriors?

Many people are furious with DeMarcus Cousins because he chose to sign with the Golden State Warriors and ring chase. Even though Cousins will be coming off of a major injury, he is still an elite center and an All-Star that averaged over 25 ppg last season. When he tore his Achilles, it seemed as if his stock immediately plummeted.  The Warriors took full advantage of this and decided to sign the big man to a one-year deal worth $5.3 million. A huge pay cut for Cousins who would have been considered a max contract-type player if he didn’t tear his Achilles.

Cousins is taking his best chance to win, while being hurt at the same time. Although that may infuriate a lot of people, it makes total sense. The real issue here is that nobody really reached out to Cousins to offer him a deal. The Lakers, and others, should have been drooling at this opportunity but decided not to.

However, the Pelicans did try to sign Cousins to a two-year, $20 million contract after his injury. He turned it down and the Pelicans then took the deal off the table. The only real explanation for him turning down the contract was that he felt he could make more money in that second year than the contract gave him. $10 million wasn’t enough to convince him to sign a two-year deal.

Going back to all the other teams, even if the salary cap is low on the other 28 teams or just the teams above, they still should have taken this chance on Cousins. The blame needs to be on the other teams. They all allowed this abomination of an entire starting lineup of All-Stars to happen. You can’t hate on DeMarcus for taking his best contract with the best team when no one else wanted him. All teams, especially the Lakers, should be furious with themselves for shifting the competitive balance of the NBA even more for the worse than it already was.

 

Why would the Pelicans take Randle over Cousins?

Julius Randle’s contract with the Pelicans is two-years, $18 million. This contract is essentially less than the reported contract the Pelicans offered DeMarcus Cousins during the season. That contract was worth two-years, $20 million. Not a huge difference, but a difference nonetheless. The odd thing though is that it seems the Pelicans took this deal off the table and didn’t offer Cousins another contract once free agency began.

Did the Pelicans know they were going to get Randle instead of Cousins? It seems that way. It was almost instantly after Randle was released by the Lakers and became unrestricted that the Pelicans had signed the young power forward. If this was what they wanted all along, why did they want Randle over Cousins? They don’t have to worry about health with Randle is one thing. New Orleans may have felt that Randle was the better fit. Randle doesn’t have to start to be happy, but Cousins does. New Orleans can then stagger Randle and Anthony Davis so Davis can play his preferred position. If it is ever needed, Randle is good enough to play alongside Davis in a game and his ego won’t demand the ball like Cousins may have.

It seemed as though Davis and Cousins had a good relationship on and off the court. It’s surprising that they felt the work-in-progress forward in Randle would be a better fit next to Davis. New Orleans seems a little dysfunctional at the moment–signing Randle instead of Cousins and losing Rajon Rondo as well. Pelicans have high expectations this year and what they have done in free agency so far is already disappointing. I’m not exactly sure how Elfrid Payton and Julius Randle are an upgrade from Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins.

Kawhi Leonard

Credit: Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports

Will Kawhi Leonard get traded soon?

It seems more and more likely that Kawhi Leonard will be staying put this summer. And if this happens, it is actually a win for San Antonio. As of right now, teams want Kawhi because they think they can get him and that he would improve their team a lot. Which is completely obvious, as Kawhi is a top-5 player in the league when healthy. With free agency happening at the same time, teams will be hesitant on Kawhi. Plus, teams are focused on guys that they can actually sign without losing assets at the same time.

The Spurs asking price might be too high for some teams right now, but what San Antonio needs to remember is that almost no matter what happens this summer, they should keep Kawhi on their payroll until February. Why so long? Unless the Celtics, Sixers, or Lakers give them the “Godfather Offer,” the Spurs may never get their asking price. Waiting until February, right before the trade deadline, will force teams that want Kawhi to push even harder. If any of those teams listed above are struggling, they may get desperate and offer much more than they originally wanted.

In order for the Spurs to win the Kawhi deal, they must get exactly what they want and nothing less. Waiting so long for a team to underachieve will force their hand. San Antonio can then take advantage of their weakened team and get virtually whatever they want. If they wait, they just might get the “Godfather Offer.”

 

What is OKC doing with their payroll?

Free agency went full force on the Thunder this summer, as they are now the first team to in NBA history to owe $300 million in salary and luxury tax. They hit this mark after re-signing Raymond Felton on a one-year, $2.4 million contract. Time to break down how they got to this disgusting point.

OKC had already spent just under $117 million on salary thanks mainly to Westbrook’s $35.3 million, Anthony’s $27.9 million, and Adams’ $24.1 million. Then, free agency began and OKC went on to sign Paul George, who will make $30.5 million this year. The Thunder also decided to bring back Jeremi Grant, whose 2018-19 salary will be $8.3 million. Nerlens Noel also will be making $1.6 million. With all these signings, the Thunder now has $159.7 million.

With all of this salary, it puts the Thunder into the luxury tax. Their total tax bill is around $150 million. Not exactly sure what the front office was thinking on this decision. They didn’t have to spend this much to fill the roster. The guess would be that in case that Carmelo Anthony has an outstanding bounce-back year, that the team would be ready to compete fully. Most people would deem that impossible with how he played last season, but crazier things have happened. Next summer, Anthony and Felton will be off the payroll. That will decrease their salary a little more than $30 million.

 

Hey Portland, why so many guards?

This problem goes deeper than just free agency. This issue began when the Trail Blazers decided to draft two guards in the NBA draft. They selected Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr. They decided to not go with drafting big men despite them potentially losing Ed Davis and Jusuf Nurkic. Portland did end up losing Ed Davis to the Brooklyn Nets.

Ed Davis going to the Nets reportedly made Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum furious. They felt that Portland could have done more to keep him, which is not something you want to hear as a Portland fan since it seems the team might be shopping out some of the star players. If the star players are more disgruntled than usual, it may be easier to move them out of Rip City.

Next, the Trail Blazers decided to sign Seth Curry to the squad for two-years, $5.6 million. Another odd move, as the Blazers just drafted two guards. This seems like an all-new definition of small-ball. What would make things even odder, is if they resigned Shabazz Napier for next couple of years. Let’s just hope it doesn’t get to that point.

Portland now needs to focus on how they can get Jusuf Nurkic back. They should prepare to sign-and-trade Nurkic to ditch some bad contracts and hopefully get a big man in return. Dwight Howard will now be off the table, as he intends to sign with the Washington Wizards. Some credit is due to Portland, as they tried to do a sign-and-trade with New Orleans for DeMarcus Cousins. Portland needs to get their roster figured out soon. They also need to stop getting all these guards and get some big men!

 

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