NBA Free Agency: Lakers And Nets Improve While Pelicans Take Step Back

Lonzo Ball

The NBA has the best offseason out of all the major sports. The draft and free agency are full of trades, surprises, and WTF moments. It’s the only sport where a simple emoji could spark free agency and trade rumors. The offseason is a reality show that belongs on Bravo.

We’re a few days into free agency and some teams have totally reshaped their roster in both good and bad ways. Here are my biggest takeaways.

Lakers And Nets Somehow Get Better

The rich truly get richer. The Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets have the two highest odds to win the championship, and rightfully so. The Lakers have LeBron James and Anthony Davis and the Nets have Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving. Superstars can win you championships. This ain’t rocket science. That being said, the Lakers and Nets both improved their roster over the past week.

Let’s start in Los Angeles, where the Lakers traded Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and a first-round pick for the most polarizing player in the game, Russell Westbrook. With LeBron and AD choosing to load manage throughout the regular season, Westbrook and his insane motor will be able to carry the load on nights where the top stars sit out. LeBron might need to talk with Russ about how he needs to perform in the playoffs, but Westbrook’s talent will be necessary if the Lakers want to reach the NBA Finals.

Being a championship contender means attracting ring chasers or guys who want short-term “prove it” deals to cash in next offseason somewhere else. The Lakers added Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Malik Monk, Kendrick Nunn, and Kent Bazemore. How they were able to sign Monk to a minimum is beyond me.

Across the country, the Nets added crucial pieces of their own. First, they drafted Cam Thomas from LSU, a walking bucket to serve as “Kyrie Insurance.” Despite losing Jeff Green and Spencer Dinwiddie, the Nets re-signed Blake Griffin and Bruce Brown to one-year deals. Brooklyn also signed Paddy Mills, who can still light it up in big moments. Expect the Nets to add more pieces through trades and the buyout market this season.

The Pelicans Failed Zion Williamson Once Again

The Pelicans front office is in the middle of writing a novel titled “How to Lose Your Franchise Superstar.” Seriously, what in the world is going on in New Orleans? I applauded the David Griffin hire. Truth be told, I wanted the New York Knicks to hire Griffin to run the team. I’m glad that never came to fruition.

The Pelicans entered this offseason with two major decisions looming: finding a new coach and re-signing Lonzo Ball. Firing Stan Van Gundy was the right decision, but Griffin should have never hired him in the first place. I like Stan as a commentator, but hiring him to coach was basketball malpractice.

Then, the Pelicans completed a sign-and-trade with Ball that sent the 23-year-old to the Bulls in exchange for Tomas Satoransky, Garrett Temple, and a second-round pick. This comes a week after trading Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, and two firsts (one top-10 protected pick via the Lakers in 2022) for Jonas Valanciunas and the 17th and 51st pick in last week’s draft. To top it all off, the Pelicans acquired Devonte Graham in a sign-and-trade for a 2022 lottery-protected first-round pick. Graham signed a four-year, $47 million contract. Was any other team willing to pay $47 million for Graham?

How do any of these moves help Zion? Spoiler alert – they don’t. It’s not an overreaction to say that Zion could pass on signing the rookie extension with the Pelicans and leave in free agency. That’s how badly the Pelicans have botched his first two years in the NBA.

Knicks Offseason Starting To Make Sense

It wouldn’t be an NBA article if I didn’t talk about my team, the Knicks. As usual, the Knicks offseason has been a roller coaster of emotions. Let’s start with Day 1, where many fans including myself were puzzled with their first four moves. On Day 1, the Knicks signed:

  • Nerlens Noel – 3 years, $32 million
  • Alec Burks – 3 years, $30 million
  • Derrick Rose – 3 years, $43 million
  • Evan Fournier – 4 years, $78 million

Without knowing any of the guarantees and options, all of these moves left me confused.

This was not about the players. I love Noel, Rose, and Burks. I can defend overpaying for Fournier in today’s NBA. However, who were the Knicks bidding against for these players? Who was going to pay Noel over $30 million? The same goes for Burks and Rose. It reminded me of the time the Knicks outbid themselves by almost $20 million for Tim Hardaway Jr. Why not sign these guys to 1-and-1 deals or even 2-year deals to keep flexibility for the future? I like Noel and Burks, but it’s fairly easy to find defensive-minded big men and microwave scorers off the bench.

After a day, details started to come out about the contracts. The Knicks were only on the hook for 2 or 3 years because the last years of each deal are a team option. I still wasn’t thrilled with the contracts, but my outlook started to become more positive.

Then, the Knicks signed Kemba Walker, who was bought out by the Thunder. The number is 2 years, $8-9 million. This is a great flyer for a point guard that’s averaged over 19 ppg since 2015. Is he an injury risk? Sure. But Kemba and Rose are the two best point guards the Knicks have had in over 15 years. Kemba is a low-risk, high-reward point guard. It’s a huge upgrade, and that can’t be overstated.

Finally, Julius Randle signed a team-friendly 4 year, $117 million extension. Randle could have bet on himself, played out his option, and signed a max extension worth more than $200 million next year. However, Randle wanted to give the Knicks flexibility to bring in another star.

The Knicks weren’t going to get the franchise-altering superstar this offseason. However, the culture continues to improve. The team now has young assets, draft picks, and tradeable contracts that could bring in a superstar within the next two years. That’s a win. I feel much better about the Knicks offseason this morning than I did on Monday night.

Quick Hitters

  • The Chicago Bulls are trying to become a playoff team. So far, they’ve added Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and DeMar Derozan in addition to Nikola Vucevic, who they aquired at last season’s trade dealine. With Zach Lavine as the centerpiece, the Bulls should make the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
  • The Miami Heat might have soldified themselves as the third best team in the East. The Heat traded for Kyle Lowry, re-signed Duncan Robinson and Victor Oladipo, and signed PJ Tucker and Markieff Morris. The Heat are going to be insufferable with the refs, but they’ll also fight the other team on any given night.
  • Do the Celtics know free agency started this past Monday night?

What is your biggest takeaway from the start of NBA free agency? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

The Brooklyn Nets Have A Big Problem

Brooklyn Nets

After the Brooklyn Nets traded for James Harden, they cemented themselves as the most talented team in the East. Adding Harden to a team with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving seems like an NBA 2K cheat code.

Things got off to a promising start when Harden posted a 30-point triple-double in his debut, finishing the game with 32 points, 12 rebounds, and 14 assists. KD chipped in 42 points to beat the Magic, 122-115. The duo then followed it up by combining for 64 points in a 125-123 win over the Bucks.

The biggest elephant in the room is not Kyrie. Despite what transpired with Kyrie off the court, from missing games to partying without a mask, his talent speaks for itself on the court. The Nets are more talented with Kyrie than they are without Kyrie.

The Nets’ problem is not Kyrie. The problem lies down low. They have serious issues in the frontcourt.

The Nets became a better team with the addition of James Harden. However, it came at a price. It’s similar to Thanos’s situation in the soul realm after snapping his fingers to wipe out half the population.

For the Nets, Gamora is Jarrett Allen, the talented center the Nets traded to the Cavs in the Harden deal. Allen is a true throwback center. Allen is a great rebounder (10.5 per game), a true rim-protector (seventh in the NBA with 1.8 blocks per game), and a stout defender. He was the perfect complement to Durant and Kyrie because he wasn’t going to take away any of their shots. Plus, he can clean up and score at the rim.

It’s funny how things fall into place as Allen’s first game as a Cav came against his former team. Allen had 12 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 blocks in a 147-135 2OT win over the Nets.

The Nets may not be able to stop a nosebleed with their current roster. Deandre Jordan, who must start now with Allen gone, is a shell of his Lob City self. Jordan is the only true center on the roster. The backup center, Nicolas Claxton (in my best Snoop Dogg voice, “Who?“), is hurt. They desperately need more big men.

After every single move the Nets make, they need to ask themselves this question. Can this team beat the Lakers? Right now, the answer is no. The Nets Big Three will put up points, but who is going to guard Anthony Davis? If Deandre Jordan and Nicolas Claxton guard Davis in a series, AD is putting up 40 and 20 every night.

The Nets are trying to add frontcourt depth. They recently signed Norvel Pelle to a deal. Once again, it still doesn’t answer the question as to who stops Anthony Davis. The Nets will be buyers at the trade deadline and buy out the market. Potential names of interest could be Bismack Biyombo, Ed Davis, or PJ Tucker.

A small ball five of KD, Kyrie, Harden, Joe Harris, and Jeff Green can win games. Heck, it can even win the East. However, it’s not beating the Lakers in a 7-game series.

The Nets need to address their front court before it becomes a big problem in the playoffs.

Will the Nets win the NBA Title? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

NBA Free Agency Contracts Show How Broken the Current NBA CBA is

NBA Free Agency Kawhi Leonard Kevin Durant Khris Middleton

NBA Free Agency is finally upon us. Everyone, myself included, desperately wanted to know where all the top players would land. Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, D’Angelo Russell, and Kemba Walker are getting new massive contracts. And they’re all getting $140+ million. They’ll be able to buy nearly whatever they want and have generational wealth. However, NBA players (much like NFL players) are still getting swindled out of big-time contracts. I get that it’s tough to feel empathy for millionaires. But listen to this. In 2020, the new salary cap is only 109 million dollars, with a 132 million dollar tax line. And the NBA collective bargaining agreement severely limits elite pay. It doesn’t make sense that some of these talents are earning similar contracts as good, not great, players. Take this in. Kawhi Leonard, two-time NBA Finals MVP, will make the same amount as… wait for it…

Khris Middleton. 

Are you kidding me? Most sports fans have to Google Khris Middleton to even know what team he plays for. And that’s the crux of the NBA CBA. Max-contracts and the salary cap deflate contract values of world-class players. Khris Middleton, Tobias Harris, and Jimmy Butler will all make the same as Klay Thompson next season $32.7 million. It’s baffling.

Yes, the CBA is good for the fringe, bench, and solid starter players. But it truly hurts the best of the best. This is America. For goodness sake, we are bred in capitalism here. It’s why Shark Tank is such an incredible show. People want to know that the best can earn the most. Talent and hard work equate to financial success. But, speaking of Shark Tank, owners like Mark Cuban are still, somehow, avoiding paying players what they are worth.

Max Salaries Prevent Superstars Never Receive Their True Value in NBA Free Agency

For comparison, take Mike Trout. If he doesn’t even earn another contract, his career salary is 521 million dollars. Obviously, the best baseball player, possibly of all time, earned that contract. But, it’s much different in the NBA and NFL. Look at Tom Brady (the GOAT quarterback with 6 rings) and LeBron James (Top-Five NBA player of all time). Their career salaries combine for 614 million dollars. Trout is earning 85-percent of what Brady and James combine for. Which is absolutely ridiculous considering the revenue the NFL generates. 

But that’s how it is. It’s why top players in the NBA hold out for contracts and why an NBA lockout is looming. Because players like Khris Middleton, Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler, Gordon Hayward, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, and Kawhi Leonard should not get the same pay. Some of these things are not like the other. Thompson and Leonard set themselves apart season after season with elite play, both offensively and defensively. They’ve come through in the clutch and showed that they are difference makers. Great players drive ticket sales, team merchandise, and ratings. For those reasons, they deserve to get theirs.

With how much money owners make and elite players don’t, it’s certainly a broken system. When the next CBA is up, get ready for an NBA lockout. 

Brooklyn’s Finest: Kevin Durant And Kyrie Irving Sign With The Nets

Kyrie Irving Kevin Durant Brooklyn Nets NBA

Brooklyn, stand up. You just pulled off the heist of the summer. Kevin Durant was expected to take meetings throughout the next couple of days and then make a decision on his next NBA team. That didn’t happen. On his sports business network, The Boardroom, Durant announced that he would be signing with the Brooklyn Nets on the first day of NBA Free Agency.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BzWZV18lRxx/

For Nets fans, it gets better. Kyrie Irving is also signing with the Nets.

Brooklyn did the damn thing. Knicks, who? Six years ago, the Nets made arguably the worst trade in NBA history when they traded an abundance of players and 1st round picks for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. In six years, the Nets were able to erase their mistake and build a franchise that is set to make a run at a championship in the next few years. Sean Marks, the GM of the Nets, should have a statue of himself outside the Barclays Center.

Although many teams and fans (myself included) prefer their teams to tank, Brooklyn did the complete opposite. The Nets hired a coach, Kenny Atkinson, who was capable of building young talent and inspiring players to reach their full potential. The Nets took a chance on D’Angelo Russell, who after being run out of LA, showed his true potential by making the All-star game last season. With a young and inexperienced roster, the Nets won over 40 games and made the playoffs.

Now, the Nets signed two superstars that will allow them to take the next step towards a championship. If Kawhi Leonard leaves for Los Angeles, the East will once again be wide open. Milwaukee and Philly would be the favorites, but the Nets and Raptors would not be far off. The Nets should compete for a playoff spot this year with Kyrie and then when KD comes back in 2020, the Nets should be the favorite to make the NBA Finals.

Where Brooklyn at? Well, they’re going to be at the top of the Eastern Conference and maybe the entire NBA in a few seasons. Better days are ahead for the Brooklyn Nets.