Once the big news of where LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony were going to sign ended up dying down, the rest of the NBA free agents started falling like dominoes one by one. The Miami Heat signed forward Loul Deng while keeping two-thirds of their 'Big 3' in guard Dwayne Wade and forward Chris Bosh. Forward Pau Gasol left the Los Angeles Lakers to join the Chicago Bulls and guard Lance Stephenson left the fleeting Indiana Pacers to join an emerging Charlotte Hornets squad. So with free agency beginning to wind down in the NBA, it's time to take a look back at the top winners and losers so far of this free agency period.
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1.) Cleveland Cavaliers: Is there really any other choice here? Sure it took several years of misfortune, terrible seasons, ousted coaches, and lottery draft picks; but the Cavs all of a sudden were filled with talented youthful players and a large amount of cap space that was enticing enough to convince LeBron James to leave South Beach and return to the shores of Lake Erie. Add in the signings of guards Mike Miller and James Jones, and the amount of shooters make the Cavs look like the 2014-2015 version of the Miami Heat. There will be even more excitement in Cleveland if the Cavs are able to pull off a trade for Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, as is rumored.
2.) LeBron James: It's might be true that LeBron wanted to come back to Ohio merely to help the city of Cleveland win their first major sports championship since the 1960s. But let's admit it, a more talented roster full of potential breakout players like Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins plus the extra amount of cap space and future 1st round draft picks were probably bigger factors in LeBron leaving Miami. He is hailed as a hero once more and has turned back into being the biggest and most beloved star in the NBA. He will also get to reap the benefits of a new salary cap change through the CBA in 2016 that will allow LeBron to make way more money than he ever could in Miami.
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3.) Chicago Bulls: By amnestying forward Carlos Boozer and effectively replacing him with former Lakers star Pau Gasol, the Bulls are now neck and neck with the Cavs as the best team in the Eastern Conference provided that point guard Derrick Rose is actually able to come back healthy after a second knee operation. Yes, the Bulls couldn't land Carmelo. But by landing Gasol, they add an improved post player who can shoot mid range jumpers and space out the offense. The potential of a Bulls rotation with Rose, Gasol, center Joakim Noah, forward Taj Gibson, guard Jimmy Butler and rookie guard Doug McDermott could mean that the Bulls finally have the offensive firepower to match their brawling defensive intensity.
4.) Washington Wizards: Yes I'll admit that I'm a huge Wizards fan as I'm typing this down
(the Andray Blatche-Javale McGee era was a dark time indeed), but after an impressive playoff run last year, the Wizards made some moves to make a run for the top of the Eastern conference. Despite losing forward Trevor Ariza to the Houston Rockets, the Wiz were able to bring in Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce who can still defend top small forwards in the league and make big shots in crunch time. Add that to forward Kris (formerly known as Kardashian) Humphries, forward DeJaun Blair and a returning core of point guard John Wall, guard Bradley Beal, forward Nene, and center Marcin Gortat, this Wizards team is deeper and better than what most people think.
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5.) Commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA, as a whole: This is the first time in awhile that the national media is still talking about the NBA in late July, over a month after the Finals had ended. In the midst of World Cup soccer action and the heart of baseball season, basketball has remained in the public eye in a large part due to the LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes. With more positive attention on the league than ever, Commissioner Adam Silver has to be pleased with his first year on the job so far.
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1.) Houston Rockets: Again, no surprise here. The Rockets and General Manager Daryl Morey arguably won the last two summers of free agency by acquiring all-star guard James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder, for just about nothing, in 2012 and center Dwight Howard last year. The plan was at first to go after Carmelo and when that wasn't going to happen, go after Chris Bosh. The Rockets traded away center Omer Asik and guard (former sensation!) Jeremy Lin in order to create cap space for Bosh. Everything was going according to plan when the Rockets offered Bosh a four year/$90+ million deal. LeBron signed with Cleveland and we all believed Bosh was going to Houston. Instead, Bosh signed for more money with the Heat and the Rockets lose talented forward Chandler Parsons to the Dallas Mavericks. They acquired forward Trevor Ariza from Washington, but it doesn't otherwise appear that Houston is anywhere closer to competing for a championship than it was over a month ago.
|courtesy of bleacherreport.com|
2.) Los Angeles Lakers: At least the Rockets still have Harden and Howard to fall back on, but the Lakers biggest acquisitions this offseason have been forward Carlos Boozer off of amnesty waivers and Jeremy Lin from the Rockets. Boy, how the mighty have fallen. The Lakers have vastly overpaid to keep guard Nick (Swaggy P?) Young and forward Jordan Hill. Guard Kobe Bryant's max deal is hurting this team and if he can't play at one hundred percent, the Lakers will finish near the bottom of the league again for the next few years. Gasol left for the Bulls and guard Steve Nash might only have one year of basketball left in him. Rookie forward Julius Randle will probably have a tough year ahead of him.
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3.) Indiana Pacers: With Lance Stephenson leaving for less money to the Charlotte Hornets, the weaknesses of the Pacers are still open for the rest of the league to look at. Yes, forwards Paul George and David West and center Roy Hibbert will be back next year. But with the way this team fell apart at the end of last season, Stephenson was the only one that played with some kind of heart. The starting backcourt right now of guards George Hill and C.J. Miles is just not good enough to compete for a top seed, even in the East!
4.) Joel Emblid: I like 76ers rookie center Joel Emblid as much as the next guy and think that he can actually be a strong force when he comes back from injury. But trying to tweet at LeBron to get him to play in Philadelphia when they never had any realistic chance of getting him and then publicly unfollowing him when he doesn't join your team is just a pathetic look.