By Aaron Callaghan
Many believe the start of free agency to be 6pm eastern on June 30 in the US of A.
Free agency officially begins when the first volley of Adrian Wojnarowski tweets hits the timeline for the world to see which player is going where. Like a heavy mounted machine gun capable of mowing down all in sight, ‘Woj Bombs’ are delivered with an eerily similar velocity and affect on the reader. For many fans a free agency ‘Woj bomb’ can ruin your day or perhaps make your next four years delightfully enjoyable - Where my Brooklyn fans at?
It is time to hit on five key free agency machinations or whatever interests me as I go, there are no rules here at The Unsportsmen.
1. Durant and Kyrie - the Brooklyn way.
It would remiss of me to bury the lede, so here it is - Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant reunite in Brooklyn, rekindling their All-Star weekend ‘bro-mance’ this time in the same city over four years.
Whoever had the vision to move the New Jersey Nets from East Rutherford/Hoboken to the ultra trendy and liveable Brooklyn was a genius in making the Nets an actual free agent destination in 2019.
In terms of basketball nirvana Irving and Durant compliment each other beautifully, their championship timelines match up to make this a win right now, as soon as Durant returns from the torn achilles, the Net’s will champion heavyweight contenders. Kenny Atkinson has proven himself a more than capable head coach and is one of the more revered young coaches in the league and should be able to maximise the Nets featuring Durant and Kyrie. Brooklyn’s front office led by Sean Marks, New Zealand’s own NBA champion Sean Marks expertly turned the Brooklyn Nets entire trajectory around from the mess left by the previous regime, using their salary cap as a dumping ground for bad contracts to collect assets, shrewd drafting and talent acquisition through smart trades. Mark’s forward thinking was the precursor that allowed the two max slots to be available and land two superstars.
2. Basketball is Jazz
Justin Zanik and Dennis Lindsey knew the Jazz needed more scoring, coach Quin Snyder’s ball movement, every player touches the ball system can often get bogged down when the first option of the set doesn’t materialise, leaving an inexperienced Donovan Mitchell the only option to bail them out by attempting to create off the dribble, so the Jazz went out and got some scoring depth to take the pressure of Mitchell in trading for Mike Conley and prized free agent Bojan Bogdanovic.
These two moves are Western Conference changing moves and come at a time when the door to the NBA finals through the Western Conference is slightly ajar with the Golden State Warriors injury concerns and loss of Kevin Durant.
Bogdanovic will allow the Jazz to close games with quick, three point shooting small ball lineups with super switchy wings like Ingles, Crowder and Bogdanovic. For Aussies the news is not all good with Bogdanovic likely to take some of Ingles minutes.
3. Processing …..
When a general manager gives up great young assets or picks to get an expiring free agent, it is death for the general manager to let that free agent walk so it should come as no surprise that the Philadelphia 76ers are bringing back Tobias Harris on the full boat five years 180 million.
What a save by Elton Brand, it was looking shaky for a second there.
Phewww that’s a lot of money for a 26 year old and that's the good thing, Harris will only be 31 when his contract is up. Harris has been improving year after year in the league.
I'm a move no one seen coming was the addition of big man Al Horford, a game changing addition for the sixers who now have an Embiid insurance policy, a second unit guy and can close games with Embiid. Horford gives the Sixers so many more defensive matchup options. With Horford signing the Sixers have the option to give Embiid the Kawhi Leonard treatment and rest the regular season perhaps playing around 65 games and less minutes.
At the time of writing the 76ers will have a young core of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Al Horford - an Eastern Powerhouse.
The real question from many pundits and analysts is about how much one believes in Brett Brown’s coaching ability.
Time will tell and the clock is ticking loudly because the 76ers have an Eastern Conference winning roster now.
4. The Knicks … Geezus.
“Sell the team Dolan” chants are growing louder and the drum is beating faster. General manager Steve Mills is not entirely blameless in all of this however team governorship sets the organisational direction, as New York strikes out on the marquee free agents so far and for all intents and purposes stuck out on free agency after setting themselves up as a double max slot destination by moving a great young, yet disgruntled asset in Kristaps Porzingas to clear cap space before the 2019 trade deadline.
So that did not go well for the Knicks. Sure, Porzingas was ready to move on, the Knicks too, however Dolan and Mills would love to take a mulligan on that one.
As it was the Knicks signed 83 million dollars worth of Taj Gibson and Julius Randle. Oooooft.
Perhaps the most egregious part of the Knicks saga is the reporting from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that Knick’s governorship were not prepared to offer Kevin Durant the full boat due to his achilles injury - that my friends is inexcusable. We are talking about a top 15 guys ever, it’s simple, just pay the player to rehab for a year then push the chips in for a three year sprint at the championship.
I’m done talking about the Knicks, I’ll let Stephen A. do that for me.
5. Mr Sarver you are so tight you squeak when you walk
The Phoenix Suns, to pinch a Winston Churchill quote, are an enigma wrapped in a riddle. Perhaps the people in Phoenix with boots on the ground have an idea of what the plan is but the rest of us punters and pundits are none the wiser. After years of searching for the point guard of the future, the Suns get Ricky Rubio at the overs of 3 years 51 million dollars.
As a Suns fan, I don’t mind the move. The Suns had cap space and a need for a point guard.
Friend of the The Unsportsmen and discontented Suns fan Jordan D, wrote in to voice his concerns.
Rubio a more traditional point guard in terms of running the offence and shooting less than say a Kyrie Irving or Steph Curry, Rubio an outstanding passer and incrementally improving shooter. Rubio’s biggest strength coming out of Europe 10 years ago was his open court vision running on the break, the Suns could do worse than get up and down the court.
Rubio takes the ball out Devin Booker’s hands which when they play together isn’t great as Phoenix’s only means of half court offence was Devin Booker high and side pick and roll. Booker has been improving quickly as a pick and roll ball handler and scorer. I don’t ultimately see Rubio’s fit next to Booker as a bad thing, Rubio takes at least some opposition defensive focus and attention away from Booker.
On the opposite end of the floor stopping opposing guards may be an issue which makes Kelly Oubre important in restricted free agency and aiming for at least some modicum of competency from Josh Jackson and Mikal Bridges important.
It has been lean times of late in Phoenix for competent free agents joinging the Suns. Over the years some reasonable names have signed on for the desert life Danny Ainge, Danny Manning, Rex Chapman, Grant Hill, Tom Chambers and Steve Nash.
The last good free agent to lob in Phoenix? Is it too sad to say P.J Tucker in 2012 had signed a deal to play in Russia, before taking a spot on the Suns summer league team and playing well enough there to sign a two year deal. Before that probably Grant Hill.
That is sad.
There is no reason to be optimistic in Phoenix but … but … but … Devin Booker, Ricky Rubio, DeAndre Ayton and interesting pieces like Mikal Bridges and the possibility of bringing Kelly Oubre back.
Who am I kidding though, it still feels like a 26 win team.
Half the fun of the NBA is free agency and trade deadlines. The NBA is by media cycles a 12 month per year sport, maybe only August, in the dog days of the northern hemisphere summer does the NBA slow down but the off court action is just as interesting as the on court play. It is also sobering to see the salaries being thrown around, the life altering money and then reflecting on your situation - heck I’d kill to be offered Danuel House Jr’s - 11 million over three years. Yep that would do me nicely, I could spot up and watch Harden dribble …