The first night of NBA free agency came and went, and as always, it did not disappoint its fans. Besides the usual allotment of big-money contracts to stars and role players alike, the Paul George sweepstakes came to a swift end when the Pacers traded him to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. That left other teams out in the cold wondering why the Pacers settled for an inferior offer to theirs. The George blockbuster was the headliner of a busy night in the league. Here are the winners and losers from the first few hours of the free-agent period.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder entered the 2017 free agency period staring down at a hefty luxury-tax bill, a bloated cap for years to come, and Russell Westbrook looking at one year left on his contract with no sidekick in sight. With one bold and swift move, it all changed in a heartbeat. Westbrook now has his sidekick in PG-13– Paul George, which hopefully helps to commit for the long haul. What made this deal even better is that the Thunder actually trimmed salary by removing Victor Oladipo’s four-year, $84 million deal off the books. With George in the fold, they found a secondary star whose off-ball game and defensive tenacity meshes perfectly with Westbrook’s aggressive style. Now, this could all blow up if George leaves after one season, but give Sam Presti credit for making this move and going for it.
2. Philadelphia 76ers.
Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, Robert Covington, and on down the line…..trusting the process. Then, GM Bryan Colangelo wants to bring in some veterans to help the kids, and one would think he will mess with said process. Well, he didn’t, and the Philadelphia Sixers got their veterans. They landed J.J. Redick for one year at $23 million. People may think it is a bit of a stretch to pay that much for one season. But, the Sixers have the cap space, Redick fits a position of need, and he’s one of the best shooters in the game. And with this one year deal, they get that cap space back for next summer. Redick gives the 76ers shooting that spaces the floor for Simmons and Fultz. He’s also a perfect mentor off the court and will show the young kids the work ethic and mentality needed to show them what it takes. They also snuck in the signing of Amir Johnson to a one-year, $11 million deal for some frontcourt depth.
3. Golden State Warriors
Face it people, the band is not breaking up anytime soon. The Golden State Warriors front office showed why they are the best in the business. First, they signed Shaun Livingston to a three-year, $24 million deal. Then, Andre Iguodala stayed on to the tune of a three-year, $48 million deal. Stephen Curry became the highest-paid player in NBA history, tendering a new supermax deal worth $201 million. Kevin Durant has already stated he is willing to take a hometown discount to continue the shopping spree. It’s looking like the next three years are going to be sweet music to the Northernrn California franchise.
1. Indiana Pacers
This is what happens when your team is between a rock and a hard place. Now, it is possible that both Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis will show more outside the shadow of Russell Westbrook. However, Oladipo has that fat $84 million contract. Sabonis replicates Myles Turner’s skill set. And they received NO draft picks? Look, the market was cool for George, as he has stated his long-desired goal of landing in Los Angeles, but Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard should have just let George’s contract expire, rather than accepting this small of a return.
2. Boston Celtics
Danny Ainge’s most recent offer for George was a better one than the package Oklahoma City presented, but apparently, the Pacers were not interested. The Celtics reportedly wanted to pull off the double swoop of landing Gordon Hayward in free agency and George via trade. Well, that didn’t work out as planned, with Hayward not signing on Day 1 and going to Miami for their pitch, and George landing elsewhere. Ainge may have the last laugh in five years, with all his draft picks and future cap room, but there’s a huge price to waiting for the perfect opportunity instead of pouncing on repeated good ones.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
Jose Calderon………really? He turns 36 this summer, he can’t defend any of the league’s top 50 point guards, and he has never won a championship. I am not sure how signing him really helps the Cleveland Cavaliers odds at beating the Warriors. They failed to trade their backup shooting guard, Iman Shumpert, after reports surfaced that they were just about to send him to the Rockets. That’s going to be an awkward conversation whenever Shumpert gets back to town. There is a lot more work to be done to say the least, or else the ship may sail after this season.