NBA 2K17: The Winners and Losers from Free Agency
Baseball has the "Hot Stove League." Soccer has the "Silly Season." The NFL is year-round, and now, the NBA's offseason is nearly as good as their regular season. From the moment the NBA Finals end, we as fans go straight into offseason mode starting with the NBA Draft. Once the dust settles and the Celtics make the last of their seemingly infinite picks, we dive straight into free agency. Last year gave us the DeAndre Jordan saga, and this year it's all about KD and that new TV money.
Teams are just about to be able to officially sign all these players agreeing to deals, so let's look at early returns.
Key Addition: Kevin Durant (2yrs/$54 million with a player option), Zaza Pachulia (1yr/$2.9mil), David West (1yr/vet minimum)
Key Losses: Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli
Easily the most coveted free agent in this year’s class, KD had his choice of attractive suitors. The Thunder, Spurs, Heat, Clippers, Celtics and Warriors all made strong pushes for KD, with the scoring phenom inking with last year’s runners-up. Much of the blame for this year’s Finals loss fell on swingman Harrison Barnes as he continuously chucked up brick after brick from long range. Insert KD into a lineup of a team that won a record 73 regular season games and the Warriors immediately become the front runner next year.
NBA 2K Impact: Pain for all who enter
Key Additions: Jeff Teague (via trade from Atlanta), Al Jefferson (3yrs/~$30 million), Thad Young (via trade from Brooklyn)
Key Losses: Ian Mahinmi (Wizards), George Hill (Utah via trade), Solomon Hill
After bouncing back from a horrific injury, Paul George returned to his all-star form, but GM Larry Bird quickly realized if he wanted to make a run at Cleveland, he would need to surround PG13 with better talent. Insert Jeff Teague in place of the more off-ball George Hill, and the Pacers look to have a suitable running mate who can break defenders down off the dribble, something Hill struggled to do at times. Where Teague brings quickness, Al Jefferson brings power and low-post moves. He's not the force he once was during his early days in Charlotte, but Big Al can still give you a double-double if he fights off the injuries that have plagued his career thus far. If anything, he will be a good mentor to youngster Myles Turner who showed flashes last year of becoming a quality big.
NBA 2K Impact: I'm not sure how much better this team becomes in real life because the pieces are sort of a weird fit, but in 2K they should be more fun as Thad Young is always really solid. Teague has a tricky shot, but he's super dangerous off the bounce.
NBA Players in General
It's a great time to be an NBA free agent as teams are splashing some serious cash. With the salary cap increasing due to the lucrative new TV deal, NBA players are reaping the benefits and cashing in. Players like Jeremy Lin and Matthew Dellavedova are now being paid like high-end starters used to get paid, and this trend should only continue next season (please let's not have a lockout!).
Key Additions: Dwight Howard (3yrs/~$70mil), re-signed Kent Bazemore (4yrs/$70mil)
Key Losses: Al Horford (Celtics), Jeff Teague (Pacers-trade)
Two years ago the Hawks won an Eastern Conference-best 62 games with a balanced squad led by Teague, Al Hoford and Paul Milsap. The Hawks took a step backwards last year and in turn, handed the keys to the ship over to Dennis Schroder and signed the once likable and charismatic Dwight Howard. After reaching the Finals back in 2011, Howard has since helped get Stan Van Gundy fired, cried his way to and from LA, and clashed with James Harden ultimately helping to get Kevin McHale fired in Houston (although McHale and the Rockets organization should be at fault too). In the meantime, he’s picked up serious injury issues robbing him of his explosion. All this seems to be forgotten as the hometown kid returns in what may be his last shot at redeeming his career. While Horford was no stranger to injuries, his reputation and hard working demeanor will be missed.
NBA 2K Impact: The Hawks also have two first-round wings and Malcom Delaney to welcome into the fold, but this team either get better or worse depending on how you play 2K. If you like pick and pop with Horford, this team got worse. If you like pick and roll/oop with Dwight, then the team got more enjoyable.
Key Additions: Timofey Mozgov (4yrs/$64mil), Luol Deng (4yrs/$72mil), re-signed Jordan Clarkson (4yrs/$50 mil)
Key Losses: Kobe Bryant (retirement)
The post-Kobe era in Lakerland isn’t off to the best start. After selecting Brandon Ingram second overall in this year’s draft, the Lakers once again missed out on every high-profile free agent. Hometown kid DeMar Derozan stayed in the North (although both sides reportedly had limited interest), Hassan Whiteside stayed in South Beach, while KD visited the Clippers even if they would have had to move a lot around to sign him. This seems to be the trend as past attempts at players like Melo, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, LeBron, etc. have all ended in failure. So what did the Buss family do? Went out and gave $16 million to Mozgov and $18 million a year to the veteran Deng -- all while using up enough cap space to essentially halt their chances of signing two players to max deals next season if their recruiting did end up working out. While Deng will be a good mentor to Ingram, and there are still some giants out West (Aldridge, Cousins, etc.), the Lakers haven’t done much to improve upon last year’s 17 wins. Perhaps with KD gone in OKC they will make a run at Russell Westbrook via trade (or wait until free agency), but given the recent track record the Lakers might screw that up as well.
NBA 2K Impact: Another tough one to judge because it's up to Brandon Ingram and how he plays in the game. Either way, Deng is easy to get comfortable with so he's a win for the video game Lakers.
Key Additions: Ian Mahinmi (4yrs/$64 mil), Andrew Nicholson (4yrs/$26mil), Trey Burke (trade w/Utah), re-signed Bradley Beal (5yrs/$128 mil)
Key Losses: Nene (Unsigned), Jared Dudley (Suns), All Hope for KD2DC
The Wizards went all-in on KD to DC. From clearing cap space and signing his former coach Scotty Brooks to hearing fans chant KD2DC in the Verizon Center, the Washington Wizards didn’t even get a meeting with the Seat Pleasant, MD native. After re-signing often injured shooting guard Bradley Beal to a max contract, the Wizards scrambled and wound up giving Ian Mahinmi $16 million a year after the center posted a career-best 9 points, 7 rebounds and 1 block a game averages. Hardly the splash Wizards fans like myself hoped for as the team took a major step backwards missing the playoffs and ultimately firing Randy Wittman.
NBA 2K Impact: All things considered, I don't think much changes here for 2K players. Mahinmi or Gortat are sort of interchangeable in terms of what they bring on the court. The team maybe even drops back just a bit because Nene and Dudley leave the team with less shooting.
Key Additions: Derrick Rose (via trade w/ Bulls), Joakim Noah (4yrs/$72mil), Brandon Jennings (1yr/$5mil), Courtney Lee (4 yrs/$50mil), re-signed Lance Thomas (4yrs/~$5.1mil per year)
Key Losses: Arron Afflalo (Sacramento), Langston Galloway
Perhaps the most important person on the Knicks roster this year will be their athletic trainer. Rose, Noah and Jennings all arrive in The Big Apple with serious injury baggage. Derrick Rose, a former MVP, returned to a semblance of himself in the second half of last season once the double-vision (stemming from a training camp elbow by Noah) wore off. Considering what the Knicks had to give up for him, this move is a win-win, especially with Rose in a contract year and hungry to prove his naysayers wrong (the lure of a huge contract is extra motivation). Noah, the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year, has been a shell of himself the last two seasons due to age and injury concerns as well. At $18 mil a year, I have to question how much he has left in the tank. Effort and passion won't be lacking, but can he improve upon his putrid shooting last season? Lastly, adding the mercurial Jennings, coming off a torn Achilles himself, gives the Knicks depth at PG in case Rose should succumb to the injury bug again. At $5 million, Jennings is another well-calculated risk by Phil Jackson who is starting to gain the trust of Knicks fans as he guts the roster from top to bottom.
NBA 2K Impact: This team will be used by a ton of people next season. It's a wonderful video game team, no question. So while this version of the Knicks may really only be "good" for one season in real life before those Noah and Lee contracts start to look onerous, the Knicks will probably be the definition of "video game good" in NBA 2K17.